Fun, Creative Atmosphere Helps Autosoft Thrive

WEST MIDDLESEX, Pa. – Chalked images of Sesame Street characters are scrawled on one of the large walls, and a painted image of the DeLorean automobile made famous in the 1985 film “Back to the Future” adorns an area just off a separate corridor. There is a room dubbed “The Batcave,” a foosball set in the garage area, and another room filled with an assortment of baseballs, tennis rackets and other sports equipment.

Indeed, were it not for the “fun cart” – a cart filled with snacks and some adult beverages for people to imbibe that makes its rounds every Friday – you’d think you’d entered a giant play area for kids.

But for those who work at Autosoft Inc., it’s just another day at the office.

“We wanted to make it more fun and creative,” says the president and CEO, Bryce Veon. “That’s good for product development in general.”

And that’s the core and future of Autosoft’s business – developing innovative software that enables auto dealers across the country to run their operations more efficiently, Veon says.

After 28 years in business, the company is moving to the next level, upgrading all of its dealer management systems, or DMS, software to a cloud-based platform that allows real-time data to flow in and out of dealerships.

Veon’s father, Harry, established the company in the late 1980s from the family’s basement after an auto dealer asked him to customize one of its DMS platforms. Realizing a market existed, Autosoft was established.

The new direction is likely to improve the company’s market position in the years to come, Veon says, noting there are some 18,000 new-car dealers and another 40,000 used-car dealerships that could use this product once its fully developed.

“Once we get through the rewrite, we’ll be in a completely different place in the market,” Veon says. “Larger dealerships, larger growth with lower-cost and leading-edge technology compared to everyone else in the industry.”

At least one in six dealerships across the country that represent General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and Ford Motor Co. use Autosoft’s product, says Michael Cross, marketing coordinator.

“A lot of what our software does is bring lots of different sources of information together,” he says, “and that’s what dealerships are looking for.”

The software is made up of four basic modules – finance and insurance, accounting, parts and service. The idea is to take these applications and tailor them to a cloud-based platform that is fully redundant, affordable, and most important, easy to use.

“From the beginning, we try to provide something affordable that got the job done. We also have to recognize that the software has to be easy to use,” Cross says.

Among the most challenging aspects of running a dealership is turnover, Cross notes. “They have trouble keeping technicians, service people and salespeople,” he says. “Since every dealership needs to have a DMS, you have to train new employees.” Therefore, the easier the software is to use, the less time it takes to learn the system.

Another critical need for dealers is real-time data that can be accessed anywhere – from a smartphone, iWatch, or a tablet. This is because younger buyers, Millenials in particular, are moving into the market and demanding quick response times when they visit a dealership.

“Millennials won’t tolerate a salesman going back and forth to the building just to look things up,” Cross relates. Autosoft’s new platform allows a sales associate to access dealer information such as inventory through a mobile application that can deliver an answer on the spot.

“Dealers today can close a deal in a restaurant,” Cross notes. “Some customers don’t mind being in showrooms.”

Still, Cross concedes there is a learning curve for those dealers accustomed to their old platforms, some of which haven’t been upgraded in decades. However, as the next generation of dealer ownership moves in, they’re likely to realize the value of what Autosoft develops. “Within two years, we’ll have the most sophisticated system that could get the largest dealerships in the country access to our site,” he says. “There will be no dealership we can’t touch. We’re trying to launch products before our competition ever gets close to it. We have to be nimble.”

Another barrier to entry in new markets is how common it is for Autosoft’s competitors to sign their dealerships to five-year contracts. “There are a lot of customers out there who are unhappy and festering, but we can only get them after their contract expires,” Cross says.

Autosoft has grown to 175 employees from 73 since 2012 and receives more than 1,800 job applications annually, says Richard Seger, human resources director. A many as 70% of the company’s employees work in software development or software support. “These are software engineers, business analysts, database administrators, quality assurance specialists and integration developers,” he says.

In 2014 and 2015, the company was ranked one of the 100 Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania among mid-sized companies. The salary of the average employee is nearly double the region’s average. “It’s about $60,000 a year base, and that doesn’t include bonuses,” Seger says.

Attracting talent is sometimes difficult, although there is a large pool of recruits in metropolitan areas such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Seger allows. Once an employee does come on board, it’s not likely he’ll leave any time soon. “Over the last five years, our turnover rate is less than 5%,” he says. “To bring them here, I have to be different than others. Employee engagement is one of our top priorities – we want you to be happy.”

Hence the creative, relaxed atmosphere found in the two buildings at Autosoft’s campus, Seger says. “Part of the ritual of bringing on a new employee is to put them in charge of ‘Fun Cart Friday’ so they can meet new people,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Other internal perks such as peer-to-peer recognition, tuition reimbursement for career advancement, relocation assistance, time off to volunteer, gym memberships, vendor discounts, flexible work schedules and even being allowed to wear shorts in summer appeal to new employees, Seger says. “There are dozens of little things that keep people wanting to work here,” he remarks.

Another issue is keeping the talent in this region, Veon allows. “Most kids, if they go away to school, they go somewhere else and use their talents there, such as Denver or Austin,” he says. “For us, the ramp-up has been on the product side to hire developers. Now that that’s done, it’s time to focus on the next level.”

Pictured: Along with a relaxed environment at its offices, Autosoft also offers plenty of perks to aid employee retention, says CEO Bryce Veon.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.