When you’re in charge of operations, systems always need improving. COOs spend a lot of their time looking for solutions for the problems that create inefficiencies in their business ops.
“That's what a COO does. You solve the problems before people know they are problems. A COO stays ahead, far ahead if possible, of the executional teams - clearing roadblocks before they happen.”
COO and Co-Founder of CarboNet Bill Schonbrun explained, “CarboNet exists to solve the world's water crisis. Everyone and everything consumes water. Some just more than others. We believe recycled water should be used by industry, and freshwater should be left for the humans.” To do that, they provide chemicals that help a range of industries use and recycle water - from massive automotive plants to extensive municipal water systems.
CarboNet has many complex systems to manage. They have customers with chemicals that need regular replenishing and leased equipment to maintain. They must coordinate sales and field repair teams and keep everyone informed across many remote regions. CarboNet needed a serious and reliable software system to coordinate all the moving pieces in their operations.
Here’s how one COO began building custom software solutions for his entire operation, all on Glide.
Before finding Glide, CarboNet had gone through all the commercially available options. Nothing fit. “We tried and failed with a big ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system,” said Bill. “We’d put in months of work, and it just never took hold. Too large, too cumbersome, and never a good enough mobile experience.”
They turned to no code to build a custom solution.
They knew they would need a robust user interface to provide a high-quality customer experience, the ability to handle a high volume of complex data, and full functionality on mobile to reach their customers and field teams. After evaluating a number of other no code solutions that couldn’t satisfy those requirements, their search eventually led them to Glide.
“I jumped over to Glide, and I was like, okay, beautiful, here's my interface, and started building it on top of my existing data sources. Then I looked at Glide Tables, and it was like, wait, why do I need anything else? That led me to abandon everything else and quickly shift to Glide.”
Building CarboNet’s first Glide apps
Within two days, Bill had built his first app with the help of Glide’s tutorials and educational materials. He discovered he could quickly create mobile apps that could transform how his team worked instead of just directing them to spreadsheets.
The first app he rolled out to his team was an asset tracking system. His finance team needed visibility into the location and value of the pumps they had deployed in the field, and the data they had access to was often outdated or inaccurate. “The team in the field had one spreadsheet. The finance team had a spreadsheet. The commercial team had a spreadsheet,” he said. “None of them matched.”
He unified those spreadsheets into an app with separate tabs for each team. It enabled his team to do all of their record keeping on their phone in the field, and their data would be unified and updated in real-time. The result was teams that were more informed with better data and empowered by more efficient workflows.
“We went from a bunch of data sources (Excel) that didn't match, to a unified data source that did. One source of truth - and then the teams all viewed and updated that same source going forward.”
Creating a better user experience
“There are three things we care about — the best chemistry, the best team, and the best user experience. Anything else can be secondary.” Bill saw an opportunity to improve their customer ordering system and product info with a Glide app.
Their previous ordering system required customers to call in every order, and their fulfillment system was also entirely spreadsheet-based and more complex than need be. His next app was an order management tool that could replace both systems.
In the app, field teams and customers could access a complete order history with detailed information like chemical lot numbers and expiration dates and chemical usage data fed by sensors on site. They can use that information to forecast when the customer will run out and automatically trigger a reorder. The app then automatically sends an email, WhatsApp, or Slack message to everyone to let them know.
“This industry is moving towards automation, and Glide will be a huge part of enabling that. Said Bill. “Automation and communication, via Glide, will be the killer parts of this app that delight customers. And when you can delight customers, you become sticky.”
“It's not always the best product that wins. There's a world of great products that are on the side of the road because someone with a better experience beat them out. If you have the best product, like we do, and you have the best experience, you're kind of unstoppable. Glide has enabled that customer experience in ways we never thought about.”
Adding features to make their software more powerful
Bill found he was enjoying experimenting with various elements of Glide and pushing the boundaries of what users could do with his apps. “This was fun. It's exciting,” he said. “I can think about the company's problems and how to solve them in ways I had never done before.”
During these experiments, he hit upon a few key features he could build that would positively impact his business.
Improving workflows for remote field teams with AI
Clear notes about equipment, previous service calls, and customer details are essential, but recording written notes in the field is a big challenge. “The West Texas desert can be freezing,” Bill explained. “The idea of them taking off their gloves to go and type was brutal.”
He used Glide AI to create a voice-to-text feature that summarized voice notes into bullet point format. Field teams could also use it to reformat those notes into customer-facing messages with a sentiment adjustment.
CarboNet’s field teams got more comprehensive notes and better access to historical information to prepare before the service call or while onsite. That helped them complete their work more quickly and effectively.
“This single AI workflow makes a massive difference for them day-to-day.”
"All of these things that would take them time and brain power, that they shouldn't have to think about," said Bill. "Their job is not to think about their comments. It’s to think about what's happening on the site. They’re servicing huge equipment, cleaning insane amounts of water. Some sites clean five to six million gallons of water every day."
Reaching remote customers outside of cell service
CarboNet also faces challenges in getting messages and data through when on remote sites with little to no cell service. WhatsApp is one of the few service providers that can reliably get through in those remote locations.
They connected Glide with WhatsApp using Twilio to send important messages in real-time through their app. “People in the field would instantaneously know that something was going on and be able to react to it.”
Offline mode ensures tools are always available
Unlike a browser-based site, Glide apps can also be used while offline. “It's the only web-based platform that actually has an offline mode until you get to the massive, Enterprise-level systems that allow you to do things truly offline.”
With offline mode, field teams could take notes, and customers could reorder inventory while on site. “They’ll queue up orders, and then when they get in their cars to go home, they come through to us. The next morning we deliver. It's kind of magic.”
How Glide apps help improve CarboNet’s work
After exploring so many solutions, Bill and his team at CarboNet found that Glide could unlock their business problems in a few key ways.
No coding (or coding budget) required
“The biggest thing that it changed for me was realizing that I could solve a problem programmatically without knowing programming,” said Bill. He could build sophisticated software using Glide without having to code any of it.
He could build his own solutions without having to budget for a team of programmers. “The joke in software always was whatever your budget is for deploying software, double it, right? With Glide, the budget is basically zero.”
Freed from budget and time constraints, he was able to improve workflows large and small across the company with far fewer limitations. “That's fundamentally turned my thinking about how to deploy business tools,” he said.
Reduced software costs
When evaluating solutions, they found that pricing varied wildly, but every solution was more expensive than Glide. Some of the high-end software was over $100k a year, with at least $100k in implementation fees. Even the closest no code required them to use many expensive add-ons to reach the power that Glide apps included natively. “Their pricing was death by 1,000 cuts,” said Bill.
Minimal training needed
One of the things that made CarboNet’s new apps so effective was how quickly and intuitively his team and his customers could adopt them. “There's almost no training with these,” he said. “We roll out an app, I do a Loom video, and I get virtually no questions from people. I'm either the world's best Loomer, or this platform is just so easy that you don't need to do a lot.”
Reduced staffing costs
CarboNet’s Glide apps also help employees spend less time on record-keeping. His team can work more efficiently. “I’d say, on average, they’re each saving an hour a day,” Bill said.
Better efficiency reduces staffing costs for administrative work. “You're not spending money moving information around,” he explained. “I actually reduced my IT budget by 40% heading into next year, despite a growth target of around 100%.”
Improved job satisfaction
Better workflows (especially around annoying tasks like expense tracking and record keeping) also keep teams happier and more engaged. “From a job satisfaction perspective,” he said, “no one wants to sit down for an hour at the end of the day and do paperwork.”
“Ask any salesperson how much time a day they’d like to spend entering stuff into a CRM tool. Then duck … they might throw something at you. A lot of emotion gets wrapped up in how people spend their time, especially when it’s taking away time they could be spending earning commissions.”
One platform for many solutions
Glide’s flexibility, power, and ease enabled Bill to create simple, direct solutions for each operational problem that arose. “We have really complex flows with text, voice, video, and images,” he said. His apps serve internal teams, external clients, and multinational customers. They work off the same data and get used on many platforms, from Android to iOS to iPads and laptops.
Before long, he discovered he was creating a sophisticated range of tools built on top of the same shared business data. Together, they became much more powerful than the sum of their parts.