The original software development team for Mobile Defenders spun out into its own group earlier this year to provide the same level of e-commerce development to other companies.
Podsix is the latest brainchild of the founders of Genius Phone Repair, Steve Barnes, Garry VonMyhr and Jordan Notenbaum.
Earlier Business Journal stories have covered the journey of the three founders and how their original phone repair business grew into a family of companies, including Mobile Defenders, a distribution company importing cell phone and tablet parts from overseas; Tech Defenders, which was created specifically to repair and re-sell devices in use by schools; and Sonder Eatery, a farm-to-table restaurant in Hudsonville.
Throughout the growth of these businesses, the group has had to hire a software development team to work on its own enterprise resource management and e-commerce platforms. In a sense, Podsix has been around for several years, but only recently has the in-house team of software developers rebranded itself as a separate company, providing the same services but to companies outside of the Mobile Defenders umbrella.
“They (Podsix) were all employees of our companies, so we beefed up that development team … we took them out of our internal companies and created Podsix to offer the same services and products that have propelled Tech Defenders and Mobile Defenders and Genius Phone Repair to other businesses in the GR area,” said Barnes, who serves as managing partner with Podsix.
The development agency focuses on e-commerce and ERP redevelopment for growing small and medium-sized businesses.
Barnes said the Podsix team is unique because it was born into the distribution space, having previously worked in tech repair and parts supply and helping grow the family of companies to 300 employees and $75 million in revenue a year.
“There’s a lot of antiquated companies out there that are still on QuickBooks for inventory,” Barnes said. “They’re still on spreadsheets, and we want to provide state-of-the-art solutions.”
The industries Podsix serves include distribution, wholesale, manufacturing and multisite retail. Since its inception earlier this year, the group has served approximately 20 customers in West Michigan and around the country.
Podsix has a six-step approach to working with clients. The team will discover what the clients’ needs are, design a solution, develop and test the solution, implement the solution, follow up with the client, and review and scale.
Some advanced programs Podsix works on include facial recognition software for efficiency tracking, Amazon Alexa integrations with e-commerce and internet of things buttons, and integrations with e-commerce.
“The way we see online retail moving is through innovation, and technology is only going to continue to be a part of a business as it grows, and the way consumers and businesses buy is changing,” Barnes said.
As an example, voice recognition technology is becoming more of a leader in how people are buying, Barnes said. Podsix had a customer with a product that consumers often repurchase at home.
“Instead of making it a click online experience, I want it to be easy through, ‘Alexa, order this from said client,’” Barnes said.
CPR Cell Phone Repair, another Podsix client, has a website with a high visitor count, but the company wasn’t making any e-commerce sales, Barns said, so Podsix tied the inventory of the CPR franchisees to an e-commerce vendor that was tied to their locations.
With the new e-commerce system, CPR’s inventory was listed online without having to add a distribution center, and customers could order online and pick up their order in-store.
“It allows them to sell more product, get more door swings, without adding any more inventory,” Barnes said.
Barnes said big-box retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Home Depot are staying alive by adopting similar models to slim their inventory and maintain labor productivity.
“If you’re there at about 2 o’clock when there’s not much foot traffic, the workers are picking online orders,” Barnes said. “You’re seeing big-box retailers saying, ‘We’re getting rid of our warehouses, we’re going (to) leaner inventory, but we’re increasing our sales at the same time with less overhead.’”
Even as a separate business, Podsix still services Tech Defenders and Mobile Defenders, which gives it both the flexibility to continue to innovate and bring in more resources.
“Our companies are tech companies, and they’re innovating and growing fast, so that allows us to take the things we’ve learned and apply them to other places,” Barnes said.