An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Tom Coffin, the co-founder, president, and CEO of Simply Reliable, which was honored in our:
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in St. Petersburg
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in St. Petersburg
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in St. Petersburg
- 2018 Best Tech Startups in St. Petersburg
Tell us the origin story of Simply Reliable – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Small businesses are usually started by one entrepreneur with an idea. They hire people to grow but they typically lack the tools necessary to manage that growth. The lack of repeatable process creates chaos, drives up costs, kills profits, and cripples their ability to grow.
My co-founder Jonathan Knapp and I experienced this for ourselves at our own individual companies.
We developed smartOFFICE, a complete end-to-end business management platform accessed via mobile and web. With smartOFFICE, a single software application manages people, products, and money, reducing expenses, increasing revenues, speeding up quote to cash, and improving cash flow. It is both easy to learn and to use. Our subscribers can achieve real-world savings of over $76K per year through efficiency, reducing redundancy, and better supply stream management.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Growing the business with minimal funding has been both a challenge and a blessing. We have learned how to produce, invent, design, test, and push to production an amazing, easy to learn product, as well as how to use complete business process with minimal capital raises. We have funded Simply Reliable through sales and smart use of capital, and a talented team.
What does the future hold for Simply Reliable?
The future is happening now. We are working on some very exciting next steps. smartOFFICE is an online SaaS business management solution with Android and iOS mobile apps primarily for field technician usage. Over the next twelve months, we will bring parity between mobile and online capability. This will allow small businesses to have their entire business on any platform they wish to use in order to run their business from anywhere in the world.
We are launching smartPRENEUR Academy, a self-paced learning system with a role-based curriculum to assist the small business owner in implementing process with smartOFFICE. Last year, we introduced the smartPRENEUR Blog, which provided learnings including sales, marketing, operations, labor, and process. Expanding the smartPRENEUR concept will assist the small business owner in growing his/her business and training his/her employees. Gamification will be used to make the coursework fun and help stakeholders know what level of certification the employee has sustained.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in St. Petersburg?
We participated in an accelerator program with The Tampa Bay WaVE – in fact. we still do. The CEO Mastermind concept is a great tool for startups. The WaVE utilizes this tool to help with pitches and fund raising. St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay have several accelerators that are great. The FSBDC (Florida Small Business Development Corporation) is a great resource. St. Pete’s startup week is an awesome event – I hope we are back to a live event next year, but the virtual event was great as well. People like Jeff Vinik, Arnie Bellini, and Steve MacDonald injecting time and funds into St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay is very exciting for the area.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The desire to be an entrepreneur, in my opinion, is part of who you are. It’s in your bones. You just can’t exist in the normal world. You must focus on one thing, and it must be the most important thing in your life. 100% commitment (there is no such thing as 110%). Total focus, night and day. Your friends will not understand this. You will miss baseball games. It is lonely.
If this describes you – congratulations, you might be an entrepreneur. It is the most rewarding experience I can describe. But nothing is free. What are you willing to give up?
It very rarely is about just money. If you think you are going to develop the next Facebook and become a billionaire in three years, that is a fantasy, not a plan. It’s about creating something that did not exist previously. It’s about solving pain points for people and making their life better, so make sure you choose an industry, product, or service that you love, put on your armor, and go forth and save the world.
I highly recommend that you invest time in working ON your business, not just IN your business. Utilize great resources here in the Tampa Bay area such as SCORES, the FSBDC, and accelerators like the Tampa Bay WaVE.