Founder of TruBlue Leigh Martin has been involved in KBB business management systems for over three decades and is now getting ready to launch his latest venture
It was back in 2001 working for Mereway as IT director when Leigh Martin first wrote an application for KBB retailers.
Following further developments of the software, then called Easyquote, it split from the furniture manufacturer, continued to grow and a decade later was sold to Compusoft.
Then in 2019 Martin decided to leave the company just as lockdown started. “That was it, I was going to hang my boots up.”
Launch of TruBlue
But receiving encouragement from a number of large retailers and distributors in the market, he spotted there was a requirement for Cloud-based business management software.
“The thought of starting again was horrifying to me”, says Martin but he adds “it sounded like it had legs from a commercial point of view but also a pride point of view. I wanted to set new standards in business management software for the KBB industry.”
So, he visited the KBB Birmingham show in March, last year, to meet with retailers and find out their views on current offerings in the market.
“The idea was if I got verbal commitment for 300 licenses, that would cover the costs of developing the software. In the four days of the show, we got commitment for 900 licenses.”
Joined a week later by then Ex-EQ salesperson Trish Toms, TruBlue was formed.
Its name was taken from a WhatsApp Group of former employees and a playful nod to the former company’s logo.
Now, there is a 12-strong team working on the version one of the application, which is due to launch at the end of March.
Business management benefits
TruBlue has been designed so retailers can quote with up-to-date pricing, manage customers and sales through to completion. It also links to their chosen accounting software.
Explaining the development of the software, Martin says: “We started with a blank piece of paper and listed our priority objectives the most important being speed of updates.
“We are now at a point where we can guarantee a maximum turnaround time of 48 hours.”
However, the company also wanted to make the data more consumer-facing for quotes.
Martin explains: “We also looked at how to enhance and enrichment the data. For example, have we got images? Have we got dimensions? Have we got product spec? Have we got colours?”
According to Martin, around 97% of products included in the software, are available with enriched data “and we’ve well over 1million products listed now”.
The company also looked at software enhancements, such as being able to input products from multiple furniture catalogues in one quote and reduce limitations on how many products can be included in a quote.
But it’s the cloud-based capability that arguably offers one of the greatest benefits for retailers.
“The fact that it’s cloud-based adds all sorts of benefits. You can use it on any device – iPad, Android tablet, Mac a PC.
“It can be used anywhere you can get an internet connection, so you don’t have to be tied to the office and tied to expensive hardware”, Martin says.
In addition, he points out it can be integrated with other cloud software such as Microsoft 365, Google Calendar or Google Share.
With no charge for suppliers to feature on the software, “We’ve told them we will never, ever charge to put a catalogue on for any supplier”, says Martin, TruBlue already boasts over 300 suppliers.
These span both kitchens and bathrooms and even includes the likes of German furniture, from Hacker.
And Leigh estimates he is probably half way to having all brands included on the software, adding: “We could quite easily get to a point in a few months where we’ve got all of the suppliers for the whole KBB industry on a single platform and something that we could keep up to date, within 48 hours.”
With the recent price hikes in the industry, he highlights how important up-to-date price lists are for retailers and manufacturers, particularly in the current climate.
And to further help retailers, he has simplified the purchasing of the software, as TruBlue doesn’t have a minimum term, nor a cancellation period and licenses can be added and subtracted at will, on a monthly basis.
But is the software development where he thought it would be?
“When we first started this, we built tools to measure how long it would take to equal the market leader in terms of catalogues and it was over 10 years. That’s how long we thought it was going to take to get the data in.”
However, using automation and data conversion tools, Martin says excitedly: “That 10 years has reduced to 12 months.” And he says the short-term goal is to release version 1 of the software at the end of March.
And Martin says the reaction has been more positive than he thought, concluding “Every conversation has been extremely positive, and companies are desperate to join as soon as possible.
“We’ve recently joined De Kreis and we’re building the Water Labelling Scheme into the software.
“It’s almost like the whole industry feels the need for change and have been extremely supportive.
“It’s absolutely the right product at the right time.”