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Survey says Featured

5:33am EDT November 1, 2005
Technology makes the world smaller but it doesn’t make other cultures easier to understand, says Tom Weisz, president and CEO of TMW Systems Inc.

“Business is still people-to-people and people who understand each other, and I don’t mean just language,” he says. “Business is about trust, and it’s tough to trust people who have a different kind of mindset and culture.”

The Beachwood company develops enterprise management software for the trucking industry, and with 150 employees and more than 500 customers globally, Weisz encourages his execs to “become as cosmopolitan and international as we can.” And despite cultural differences, Weisz is expecting 25 percent to 30 percent annual revenue growth this year.

Smart Business spoke with Weisz about how he balances growth and profit, and how he deals with national security issues.

How do you design a growth strategy?
Growth is a byproduct. You have a goal that you want to grow, but the strategy itself is, ‘How can we provide better service to our customers?’ ‘How do we have a better sales force and a better sales cycle?’ That’s what generates growth.

Anybody could say, ‘We’re going to grow 30 percent,’ but that’s not a strategy. Strategy is how much better we can be, depending on how much better we are. Then you can calculate what kind of growth you have.

How do you measure growth?
The ultimate measure in any company is profitability. You know what profits are, don’t you? Profits are how much customers like you.

We send out an invoice every quarter, and if they pay, that is the survey. It’s a slightly different way of looking at it, but I think it’s a real useful way.

The invoice says, ‘Are you going to pay us for next quarter to continue to do business with us?’ Some people call it a quarterly support and maintenance invoice. We’d like to call it a survey of customer satisfaction.

(The company has been doing this) for 22 years. Every quarter, there have been more people voting for us — in other words, sending us checks — than in the previous quarter. So that’s the real measure of growth.

How are the security regulations implemented after Sept. 11 affecting your company?
Actually, it’s still being worked out. I think the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration still have not finalized any rules for the security arrangements, which is kind of worrisome.

For our customers, it’s introducing a lot of uncertainty, so I think that’s the biggest issue right now.

The government doesn’t seem to be able to make up its mind on how it’s going to provide the correct level of security in an economically acceptable fashion. I can’t allay (customer) fears (but) what our company would be able to do is to help them comply with whatever regulations would come out. We provide information.

Our customers might be required to have additional reporting relationships. For example, there’s a lot of talk about having to do background checks on drivers who carry hazardous materials. Our system would be able to get information from the appropriate government authorities and provide it to the right people with the right level of security so the information doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

We do background checks on drivers. You don’t want everybody to know their Social Security numbers, but if they’re a card-carrying member of al Qaeda, then you would want somebody else to know.

The government would first have to come up with the guidelines, bounds and requirements for those types of information. There are some things in place, but there are a lot of things that are not in place.

How would you help your customers comply with these regulations?
Training, but it also requires additional computer systems. We would provide the systems and the functionality to be able to automate it — the kind of systems that would diminish the economic impact on people so that it wouldn’t cost them as much to do. For example, it takes a lot of time and money to do a background check, (and) there are computer systems that do that.

Another example: If the wrong driver picks up a load of hazardous materials, then we would be able to stop the engine. Instead of having a key in the cab of a truck, you would have to use your fingerprints.

So we would have systems capable of saying, ‘This is Truck 123. John Doe is supposed to be (driving), and all of sudden, the guy who’s putting his finger over there and trying to (start) the truck is Osama bin Laden.’ There’s technology there so that you could stop the truck, or it won’t start.

Are you implementing this system?
That technology is available but there are certain political ramifications to it so we can’t implement it. There are confidentiality concerns, privacy concerns and safety concerns.

All of these have to be ironed out. (That is) not a systems problem, it is more of a governmental problem. We do have the technology to be able to do it.

HOW TO REACH: TMW Systems Inc., (216) 831-6606 or www.tmwsystems.com