Trevethan’s Vision is Out of Focus.

November 21, 2005 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 

I?ve been a little busy lately. Some of you have noticed my absence, but most of you have probably been too busy yourselves to notice or care. That?s good. I hope you?ve been busy working to improve your industry, and not just spinning your wheels fixing cars and worshiping the gods of third party payers.

I?ve been working on new software. It?s like writing a long, complicated novel, only the writer, me, has to solve the mysteries and conquer the problems before the plot can progress. In case you?re wondering what new software I?m working on, it?s a body shop management system that every shop can afford.

A few things have happened recently that have pried me away from writing code. I had a long conversation the other day with a shop owner who called me frustrated about labor times, specifically, paint times and this antiquated blending crap we have been putting up with, like a bunch of ignorant morons, for decades now. Several weeks prior to that I was interviewed by some guy claiming to be a consultant/researcher for who I?m not sure, but he was collecting information about the data providers. As you can imagine, it was a lively conversation. And then the other day I received a call from the folks at Focus-write notifying me that their software was finally ready for a full test drive.

About a year ago I checked out this promising new software when they had just one vehicle available to write an estimate on, a Honda. There was no data at all?you had to enter your own information into their crippled estimating system. I did get to play with the cool 3-D graphics though. It was FUN! The people at Focus-write continued to call me regularly, offering me a lifetime subscription for the insanely low price of $1000. At least that?s what I remember the price being. I could be wrong. Anyway, I told them that until they got their database together and the software was functional enough to actually write an estimate, I wouldn?t consider it. Call me when it?s ready.

So when they called me the other day and told me they were getting ready to release Focus-write and a full version demo was waiting for me online, I was eager to see what they came up with.

Now, back when Trevethan Enterprises made the announcement that it would be taking the millions made by selling Comp-Est to CCC and starting from scratch to produce a database free from insurance industry influence I was optimistically skeptical, if that is possible. Maybe I should say I was wishful thinking. I understood the enormity of starting a database from scratch, but I also knew what a handful of bright and energetic entrepreneurs could do with a few million dollars and a dream.

Chris Trevethan had been successful selling Comp-Est to body shops only. But he used an existing database from MOTOR. All he had to do was create the interface, the software to manipulate that data, and he was ready to build his empire. Building a database is something completely different. What really got me suspicious was when they began selling lifetime subscriptions for a seemingly impossible price. If too many shops bought up front, who would they sell subscriptions to? How could they possibly support the product with that business model?

Another thing that left me uneasy was the quiet that surrounded Trevethan?s request for input from the collision repair industry. Obviously, if you aren?t out in the trenches every day repairing cars and dealing with the day-to-day crap we have to put up with, you?re not going to have a good handle on what our industry is looking for in an estimating system. Trevethan did the right thing and set up a website and solicited feedback from us, the collision repairers, about what we wanted to see in his new software. How many people Trevethan actually talked with, I don?t know. But I heard little in the way of two way communications with the people I talk to regularly.

Then came the graphics. Oh those beautiful 3-D graphics. Wouldn?t it be great if we had three dimensional photos or drawings we could zoom in on, twist and turn to see if we were ordering the correct part? Would that be cool or what? Well, anyone with any experience in computer graphics will tell you that to take a two dimensional drawing, like we?re used to seeing in a crash guide on in our computerized estimating system, and turn it into a three dimensional object that resembles the real thing is a tremendous amount of work.

Many of the two dimensional graphics you now use in your computerized estimating system or crash guide come directly from the manufacturers. Unless the manufacturers will be supplying all their three dimensional CAD drawings for every part they designed, I don?t see how it would be financially possible for Focus-write to have 3-D graphics for all the vehicles in their database. But what the hell do I know. Was Trevethan overly optimistic with his vision for Focus-write, or was he delusional, or was he, as some have suggested, trying to pull a fast one on us less than computer literate Cro-Magnan body shop rednecks?

Another optimistic vision Trevathan had was making his estimating system completely web based. In other words, there would be no software on the user?s computer. Everything would be on the Focus-write computers and shops would access the software and the data through the internet. A great concept indeed. No more monthly CD?s to install. Hell, you could write and estimate from home or from your wireless internet connection is some mall parking lot. But are we technologically ready for that?

An estimating system is simply a database with a method of pulling the data from the database and presenting it in an understandable way and making the necessary calculations. Database access can work a computer into a sweat. Anyone who uses Pathways on a network knows how slow it can be. Imagine that over an internet connection. Google can access millions of records in milliseconds, but their records are just text links to websites. Focus-write will be accessing large amounts of detailed information and graphics. Would Trevethan be able to get that information to the estimators desktop quickly enough to make the software usable?

A few weeks ago rumor got out that confirmed my concerns. Apparently Trevethan had scrapped his plans for a new, untainted database and signed on with Mitchell. That?s right folks, Focus-write is now Mitchell with a facelift. What?s more, Mitchell already has a web based estimating product. Focus-write can?t even separate itself with that feature.

When the people a Focus-write called me last week to tell me they were ready with a full blown online demo for me to try I asked the polite gentleman about the rumor. He verified it. He told me it was a ?temporary license? they had to use the Mitchell database. I asked him why anyone should buy Focus-write if it?s just another Mitchell product. He told me it would be much cheaper. Big deal, I said, it still has the same crappy Mitchell database with their .9 paint times. Oh yes, he said, but you can call us about improper labor times and we can make changes. Where have I heard that before?

I have no idea how many shops got hustled into pre-paying for Focus-write, but I image there are going to be some pissed off people screaming for refunds. The industry is waiting for a press release from Trevethan Enterprises explaining themselves and whether or not refunds will be available to those who were expecting something other than Mitchell in a new dress.

Still interested to see just what they came up with, I went to their demo site and tried to write an estimate. I tried to copy one I had written in Pathways. ?Tried? is the keyword here. There were a few glitches that kept me from succeeding. Obviously, Focus-write, even the prissy Mitchell version, isn?t ready for the public yet. Oh well, anyone else want to give it a try? At least now they might get some Insurance Industry business. Wait! Maybe that was the reason for their decision to use Mitchell?s database. Due to Mitchell?s stingy labor times, it is quickly becoming the provider for choice for the insurance industry. Did Trevethan finally realize that collision repairers could not support his enterprise on their own? Hell, I could have told him that and saved him the embarrassment. Instead of offering something completely different, he now has just another estimating system geared toward wooing the insurance industry.

That conversation I had with that researcher several weeks ago ended with him asking me what, if any, effect Focus-write would have on our industry. I told him that if Trevethan delivered exactly as promised it would be a great benefit to repairers. We?d have a new untainted database of labor times that could prove once and for all that the information so many of us rely so heavily on is putting us out of business. Gee, maybe this guy knew something I didn?t at the time.

And so it goes. As I mentioned earlier I had a long conversation with a shop owner who was griping about paint labor times and the insurer influence on his business. Some insurance company using Mitchell?s software wanted to pay him .8 to blend a hood. It would be laughable if it wasn?t so harmful. He was beside himself. I asked him what he thought he should do about it. He felt helpless and couldn?t answer. Yup, that?ll help. Until we take control of our industry it will continue to slide on a trail of slime into the sewer. You?d think with all the information now available to shop owners that things would be getting better. Somehow, amazingly, it continues to get worse.

A just so I don?t end up looking like a jackass too, don?t expect too much from my new software. I don?t want anyone to be disappointed. I can tell you this, though. I won?t be buying any ideas or help from one of the other software companies. Good or bad, it will be original.

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Comments

508 Comments on Trevethan’s Vision is Out of Focus.

  1. Elias on Mon, 4th Apr 2016 4:59 am
  2. hi John when did he rip you off?

  3. John on Mon, 4th Apr 2016 5:46 am
  4. Spent $1500 for a “lifetime” version to fund the software in early stages and never got it. Wouldn’t return phone calls etc… I finally gave up.

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