My History with Contact Management systems

Well, I might as well start by explaining my fascination with Contact Management Software.  I have been hooked on the concept since the eighties.  My first shot with them was on a Commodore 128.  Yep.  I had one.  And to top it off, I wrote a Contact Management program on it.  It was a bitch to do and it was never worth the time that I put into it.  But I learned a ton.

Then I moved to the Macintosh.  I think it was 1985.  My first Mac was a Mac+ with a 9″ b&w screen and an external 20 meg hard drive.  Seriously.  512k RAM.  And the creme-de-la-creme of database engines – Microsoft Works for Mac.  Oh my!  What a device.

I soon found out that MS Works was what you would call a ‘flat file database’.  It could only have one table and there was no way to relate to tables outside of that one.  So you had to have dozens of fields and you could not create lists.  Again, I poured time and money into this platform and got nowhere.

Then I moved to a product called FoxPro.  Now, for the first time, I had a relational database.  But it was a bitch to program in and i got nowhere.

Then came FileMaker and FileMakerPro.  WOOT!  Relational databases and really much easier to program for.  Lots of drag and drop capability.  So, I built a huge database structure for Contact Management in FileMakerPro and lent up selling the program to a company called Thunderbird Entertainment.  The managing partner at Thunderbird went on to create a company called Perri Entertainment and he took the program with him and built a multimillion-dollar business while using my little program to run the whole company.  It was amazing.

About that same time, I started building another Contact Manager program that I called CAT.  I built the first renditions of it for a Reno plumber called Paschall Plumbing.  CAT stood for Contacts, Activity, and Time.  The object was to create a dispatch system that a plumbing company could use to set up appointments for the plumbing technicians to go out on.  Now that I had a really strong understanding of how relational databases could work together, I was set on making a system where tracking time was also key.  This was pre-1990 and I doubt that Jim Paschall, the owner of Paschall Plumbing, would even remember the system.  I should ask him sometime if he remembers the nightmares we had in getting the system to work and the maintenance that it required to handle the loads.   But Paschall Plumbing survived it and they never found a reason to sue me over it – so all was good!

After the CAT system, I was ready to give up on writing my own CRMs (CRM is another acronym used in the arena and stands for Contact Relationship Management.)

I began looking at tools being built by stronger companies. ACT! (ironic right), Maximizer, and Goldmine, just to name a few.  I became a Gold and Platinum Reseller/ VAR / Consultant for many of these products.  I came to love Goldmine.  I was BIG in that arena and loved it. Right up until Goldmine sold their company and product to some European company which was a pain in the ass to deal with.  All of a sudden, they wanted big dollars for you to be an official consultant.  They also wanted maintenance fees for every customer – even though the consultants (like me) were the ones doing the maintenance.  Ugh.  So I walked away.

So now that I’ve told you all this, I can say that the important thing for me is this – I look at CRM systems like Salesforce, PipeDrive, ACT!, etc. with a knowledge base that comes from more than just a user.  I come from a background of having written systems and done hundreds of implementations.  So as I write about them here, I have more knowledge than most.  I’m like a master plumber of CRMs.