Whether they were born into it, or discovered it on their own – everyone in the kitchen cabinet business has a story. For us at BreakFront Software we’re certainly no exception. A lot of business operations and workflow software is produced by people who have little to no experience in the field they’re developing applications for. One of the reasons why our Equilibrium (formerly Aurora) cabinet software has been a natural fit for so many in the industry is because it was made by folks with decades of experience in the cabinet business. Did you know that during the original application development, our software was used by CompanionCabinet’s founders in their own dealership?
Reinventing the cabinet business
Today on the Dealer’s Voice we invited BreakFront Software President Brent Jackson to talk about his industry background. Find out how Brent went from installing cabinets with his dad as a kid to reinventing the way dealers do business in the interview below:
Dealer’s Voice (DV): What introduced you to the world of cabinet sales?
Brent Jackson (BJ): My dad became a cabinet dealer when I was about 2 years old. So I pretty much grew up in it. As a young boy I worked (and played) in the warehouse. When I was tall enough, I would go out and help my dad install cabinets. I would hold them up on the wall, which means I was at least 54” tall with my arms extended while my dad installed them.
I would get out of middle school at the end of the day, walk 2 miles to a bus stop, take the bus ½ hour downtown, then walk another 2 miles to our dealership. I would work there with my parents until it was time to go home (usually late). I worked with my parents in all the aspects of our business as I grew up.
DV: What was your first position related to cabinet sales? How did you progress in the industry?
BJ: My first position was in the warehouse. Right after high school, my dad bought into another dealership in North Carolina. So we moved from Utah to take over the business. At that point I went to college. After college I went into consulting at Ernst & Young. I worked with many Fortune 500 companies on streamlining their operations and technology solutions. Years later, my dad wanted to figure out a plan for his retirement, so he made me a deal to come take over the business if I wanted it. I decided to take him up on it.
DV: How did you transition from cabinets to software?
BJ: Over the following years, I could see that the Cabinet Industry was lacking a true technology solutions provider that delivered results – a software company the manufacturers and dealers could trust was really needed.
The opportunity became so compelling that we decided to quit our jobs and go for it. I decided not to take over the family business, and instead helped my dad prepare it and sell it to a manufacturer and retire. Three months after his retirement he was back at it, building houses this time. My Dad’s no different than any other cabinet dealer – he can never sit still.
DV: Building a business from scratch is incredibly difficult. How did you guys do it?
BJ: We began by trying to improve my family’s cabinet dealership using the software, and immediately experienced big results. That’s when the “itch” really settled in. After all, if we could make big impacts that quickly we knew the software would catch on like wildfire.
The early years were a blur of your typical crazy start-up stories with many late nights, weekends and a great team of excited individuals who made it all worthwhile. Slowly we began working with local cabinet manufacturers to get their catalogs of data into our software, then pitching it to local dealers to start using it. After a few years, the larger dealerships started finding out about us through word of mouth.
If you do things wrong in the cabinet industry – everyone knows about it. We did things right – and then everyone started finding out about it. Business picked up heavily and by the mid 2000’s, we were having challenges meeting the demand.
DV: What were your misconceptions about the kitchen cabinet business when you started your software company?
BJ: We originally underestimated how unwilling the cabinet industry was to improve. Many cabinet manufacturers liked the status-quo and some dealers actually told us they were too busy to streamline, despite losing significant potential profit. So early on, this was an obstacle we didn’t anticipate. Usually people get excited when you can put money back into their pockets.
To combat this resistance to change, we ended up overly focusing on making software that is incredibly easy to use. This became central to our software creation efforts and our overall mission of “Be easy to do business with”, a tagline that many cabinet manufacturers and dealers have now adopted as part of their mission statements and internal projects. The cabinet industry may be slow to respond at times, but once everyone realizes the need to change, word travels quickly.
DV: What has been the most enjoyable part of the journey?
BJ: Without a doubt, it’s the friends we’ve met along the way. Those friends are our customers, partners, industry players and employees. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world – each day I get to come into the office surrounded by great friends and an excitement level which is contagious. I have to be honest – it’s not really like work anymore. It’s just plain old fun.