An Interview with Bruce Franson & Don DeSmith
Ever since the 1990s, a number of our brothers have been working for Servant Systems International (SSI), a software company founded by Ted Kennedy, one of our US brothers. But recently the company has seen some major changes, so we sat down with Don DeSmith, the president, and Bruce Franson, the Chief Technical Officer, to hear firsthand about the developments.
Most of us don’t know much about SSI, so can you tell us a bit what market you operate in?
Don: When we started in the late 1980s, we tried all kinds of avenues and products. But 1992 we began working for with a franchise system called “Molly Maid”. As we developed software applications for them, we began gaining expertise in the home services franchise space. So it was only a matter of time before we acquired similar clients such as Mr. Handyman,1-800-DryClean, and Two Men and A Truck. In the 1990s we also began doing a lot of work with Domino’s Pizza and in 2004 wrote an application which is now used by about 3,000 Domino’s stores. In 2008 we began working with a Texas-based franchise company called The Dwyer Group and some of their franchise brands like Mr. Appliance, Mr. Rooter, and Mr. Electric. In 2015 Molly Maid and its parent company, Service Brands, was acquired by the Dwyer Group (since renamed Neighborly), so they have been our major client since them..
How large is SSI?
Bruce: We currently (late 2020) have 21 full-time employees, a few part-time people and interns. Over the years, this number always included a handful of S/W brothers; currently those are Don, Larry Hunt, Brian Lalonde, Dick LaCroix and Josue Quinones and I.
So what changed recently?
Don: The major part (about 90%) of SSI was acquired by ServiceTitan Inc. in November 2020. They are a large company of over 1,500 employees based in California. They serve “the trades” (e.g., plumbing, electrical), targeting small local companies and large multi-location companies , as well as franchise organizations. ServiceTitan was already servicing 4 of the Neighborly brands while SSI was servicing 3 of the Neighborly brands.
The remainder of the company (our Domino’s product) was bought by Arria, a company out of Vancouver, Canada, Scotland, the U.S. and New Zealand, in February 2021
Why did you brothers take this step?
Bruce: Over the years there has always been the question of what would happen with SSI once the original brothers such as Larry, Don and Bruce reached “retirement” age. As the elders and some of the S/W brothers involved in SSI considered the topic, the idea of getting bought out gained some traction. Then ServiceTitan approached us and within a couple of months we reached an agreement.
And a few months later, Arria came along and was interested in acquiring the remainder. It was quite simple.
What has changed with these two acquisitions?
Don: We two are, as of now, ServiceTitan employees with an understanding that we will continue to be working in that capacity for at least the next four years. Eventually we expect the large majority of all current SSI employees to migrate to ServiceTitan as well. Larry Hunt is now an Arriaemployee.
So are you happy with this development?
We are extremely happy. We were looking for a way that our work could continue, even once we retire. From what we see in Service Titans, we have very compatible company cultures and so feel like our products and our efforts are in good hands. At the same time this provides a long-term solution which is satisfactory for both our employees and our customers.
What should we pray for during this period of transition?
Most fundamentally that the Lord’s will be done in all this and that SSI would continue to bring glory to God. There are lots of relationships we need to handle, both old and new, and we could use grace in that process. We were and are committed to caring appropriately for our employees, our customers and our corporate culture: pray that we can maintain that in a good way.