Principal Quality Assurance Analyst
Bobby Head to Retire from ECi/DDMS in December 2017
After 20 years with ECi Solutions/DDMS and a long list of leadership roles, Bobby Head is set to retire this month and call it a career. It has been an exceptional career, marked by technological innovation, customer advocacy, and most of all, a driving intense passion for making a difference for dealers and colleagues alike. When he retires on December 29, Bobby Head will become the first official retiree from DDMS.
Alan Margulis: After reading about you, I see you’ve been a passionate advocate for dealers, a mentor for your colleagues, and a conduit of communication between the two that has strengthened ECi’s brand in the marketplace. Congratulations on a retirement well-earned. You must be enjoying the moment.
Bobby Head: Thank you. I am.
Margulis: It looks like before you started here, you were a customer of DDMS, but you also created your own proprietary system, or maybe a version of DDMS?
Bobby Head: I had developed my own system for the office supply company that I owned at the time. I purchased a packaged software system written in Basic. I did modifications and specific programming to automate certain aspects of my business and to make others more efficient and to optimize overall profitability.
Margulis: I have heard that you had a 90% success rate at closing sales. What makes you so effective?
Bobby Head: I’ve always had a sales function, whether direct or to support the sales teams. The primary reason I was effective was that I was a dealer for 23 years before I came to DDMS. I understand dealers and I’ve always been able to relate what the software could do for them. I get them to feel at home, I speak their language, and I feel their needs. I can give them immediate answers, not only for what we can do to fix problems, but what’s the best way to do it using our system.
Margulis: In what year did you technically start working for DDMS and how were you hired?
Bobby Head: I sold my business in January of ‘97. DDMS found out that I had sold my company and the DDMS president at that time asked me to come on board and help develop the furniture division.
I used to be a sounding board for Dave (Ferren). I talked him into creating the Executive Advisory Council (EAC). I was one of the original members of that council and remained a member until I sold my business in 1997. The input and creative collaboration that we received from the EAC was actually what gave DDMS its mobility to continue to grow and get ahead of most competitive software in the industry for many years.
Margulis: What do you consider your greatest career achievements?
Bobby Head: I have always been highly ambitious and successful in anything I have undertaken. At 14, I learned to play guitar and paid my way through college with four different rock bands. You’ve got to have a full passion for what you want to do or you’ll never be a success at it. I bought my first office supply company at the age of 23 and was very successful. I wasn’t an enormous dealer in volume, but I was one of the most profitable dealers I knew. I was constantly involved in organizations like OFDA and NOPA, and on committees to understand what was going on in the industry. I knew from comparing my business to others’ that my business far exceeded any of them in profitability. I sold my business because I wanted to go in a different direction. I had three daughters in college at the time. That’s when I got a new direction in the furniture industry.
Margulis: How about your greatest contributions to ECi and DDMS?
Bobby Head: I took the furniture division and made it extremely successful for DDMS with a lot of work and passion. I excelled at everything I’ve touched. In the early years, I learned the report writer and convinced Dave to create a proc writer. I always envisioned different ideas and tried to make them happen, and they benefitted the dealer every time. I wrote procs with Dave’s new tool. A “proc” takes the place of the keystrokes on a keyboard. When you launch a proc, it automates all the tasks that you would do manually, which was very influential to the features that were developed for DDMS. It was all about automating manual aspects of the business, saving dealers’ time, and increasing their profitability. Just by simplifying and automating tasks on the system, that gives them more time to focus on work that can grow their bottom lines.
Margulis: What will you miss most about ECi? About our customers?
Bobby Head: Sitting down with dealers to determine what they wanted to accomplish, and then developing a formula to enable them to do it more efficiently than what they had been doing. Our mission has always been to make the dealer more efficient.
Margulis: Who influenced your learning and development?
Bobby Head: Dave Ferren, the owner. I learned a lot of what he wanted the dealer to get out of the system. But I’ve always been independent. In the early years of software development, we always had ideas, and we would just hash them out in the room. We’d even holler at each other, and at the end of the day, we came up with the best solutions for everybody.
Margulis: Have there been any moments or events that had an impact on your career?
Bobby Head: Losing my wife was an emotional time and made me change the direction I was going in. It pushed me into more of a quality control area. Having been out to dealers and seeing some of the areas they struggled, I wanted to be sure the software was the best it could be when it went out the door.
Margulis: Chris Androlia referenced your “crazy sayings,” but didn’t clarify. Maybe you could leave our readers with a few for old time’s sake.
Bobby Head: I think what he was referring to were the words “Bingo” and “ ’Pologize.” I used them in all my demos and sales presentations to make a point or to cover up when the software caused an error. I also had the ability to make the software do exactly what it needed to do to solve the customers’ problems. We were always creative. We made the dealer happy and made it work for them. That was always the ultimate goal, and you do it the way you have to do it.
Margulis: When you look back now, what do you appreciate most about ECi/DDMS?
Bobby Head: When my wife got sick with cancer, our leadership team said you do what you’ve got to do. Work from home for now. That’s important. That gave me the time to be a caregiver and accomplish everything I needed. When she passed away, I came back to the office for three days a week. It gave me the freedom to do what I needed to do. I have always appreciated the generosity and kindness of the company for the way they treated me. Also, I am the very first employee that ever retired from DDMS. That means a lot to me.
Margulis: You’re sitting in a position many of us would like to find ourselves in someday. Can you tell us about your retirement plans?
Bobby Head: You know what, I’ve got a pretty blank slate. My priority is my grandkids. I have five grandchildren, ranging from in age from 3 to 9 years. I’ve traveled most of my life for the company. At one time, I was traveling 38 weeks a year. I’ve been anywhere and everywhere I’ve wanted to go. I’m finding the places that I enjoyed when I traveled. I will be traveling quite a bit with Linda, she is retired from American Airlines and we will travel on her passes, so that will enable me to get out a lot.
Margulis: It’s been an honor to reflect on your career with you at this milestone in your life Bobby. I wish you the best of luck in your retirement.
Bobby Head: I can’t thank our dealers and ECI\DDMS enough for all the great memories. Thank you.
Colleagues Offer Perspectives and Memories of Retiring Bobby Head
Bobby taught me the furniture business. I had never had the business experience, only software support experience. His knowledge made all the difference and he is always happy to teach.
Bobby was influential in making the DDMS contract furniture product what it is today—feature rich and reliable, with the ability to manage the smallest of dealerships to the largest, one of the largest in the world in fact. If a problem turns up, he does not let it live long. Everyone in support, development, and QA has heard him say “Major problem!” He will not rest until the issue is resolved. He is passionate about our product and cares about the people who use it to run their businesses. He will stop what he’s doing to help anyone with a question or issue and will always see it through to resolution. Sales can tell you how instrumental he has been for demos and how his passion comes through. He’s even just ‘stopped by’ to see our customers when he was on the road to see how they were doing. Be sure to ask him about those trips.
I’ll miss hearing him say “Beta software, ‘pologize”(several employees do a good impression of this) at our conferences, along with the Mark and Bobby show. If you’ve never seen those two together at a conference, you’ve missed some entertainment. I’ll miss all of his stories about his own dealership, our customers, our ‘shows’ as we call them, his grandkids… just all of it. He’s part of my DDMS family. I still haven’t accepted that he’s not going to be here.
I learned of his passion for the products we provided and his commitment to the industry and the dealer network that his career was built on. There is no person I have met that has the passion and pride for a product that Bobby does.
Our relationship continued to grow and my respect for his knowledge and drive has continued as I transitioned into the Quality Assurance department. I was in a position at this time to work closer with Bobby on the development end of the product and was included in many more conversations with him about the need for new products, expansion of furniture vendor communications, and the demand for customized modules such as the Project Management module for the furniture dealers.
Witnessing the communication between Bobby and dealers showed me the respect that the dealers have for him and the trust that they put in his hands as a representative for them with ECi. He continued to push the furniture-first agenda and was always in communication with me in prioritizing the furniture needs in QA. I know it was frustrating for him, with me often telling him that I work on things as I get them, that I will do everything that I can to prioritize the work items, and that I will test according to the specs. I know that my lack of knowledge about the industry was a concern to him, but he continued to work with me to make sure I understood the market needs and the functionality that was expected.
My favorite story is about when I was traveling with Bobby, coming back from Eakes..
We flew from Grand Island to Omaha on a small plane. We did a gate check with our luggage at the airport in Grand Island and picked it up in the departure lounge in Omaha. From there, we were going to catch a connecting flight back to DFW.
All the luggage was brought out. I got my bag and eventually there was one bag left, but Bobby did not have his bag yet. The one left looked like Bobby’s, but he said it was not his because there was a lock on it and he always took the locks off bags before using them. He had just gotten new luggage for his birthday the weekend before. He did remark that the suitcase was the same brand and color as the luggage he just got, and it looked very new. I told Bobby even though the lock was attached, the luggage was not locked (it was not through both zipper tabs). He said he knew that but he knows he took his lock off and threw it away because he always does.
After waiting and hearing the boarding call for our flight, I urged Bobby to investigate a little more. He asked the lady working the gate to look for his luggage. She checked the plane we arrived on and came back and said there were no bags left on the plane. She then looked on the floor and said there is a bag there and asked Bobby if that was his. Bobby replied, “It’s not mine,” She asked what brand and color his was, and he told her. I think it was Ricardo and burgundy, and that matched the bag sitting on the floor. She looked at me with a funny look and I told her, he says it’s not his because he always takes the lock off. She said, “Well it is not locked.” Then she asked Bobby if he wanted to just look inside and see if his possessions are in there.
Now it gets really crazy. Bobby said, “I am not going to open someone else’s luggage.” Now I hear in the background about boarding the final group for our flight. She asked if it would be ok if she opened the luggage and I said “By all means, yes.” Well, there was Bobby’s stuff. Bobby said something like, “Well I guess it is mine.” I told him I was catching my flight as I started walking away.
Now for the ultimate Bobby line, as he walked up beside me. He said, and this no lie, “I wonder why someone put that lock on my luggage.”
Bobby is absolutely a key component for advancing our Furniture DDMS solution. He never balked at a chance to speak with a customer or help one in need. Often, he was the first in line to help them.
My absolute favorite story about Bobby involved September 11, 2001. Bobby was onsite at a customer’s facility during this tragic time in America. Obviously, he could not return home via an airplane, so Bobby rented a car and headed back to Texas. After he plotted his route home to Texas, he called home base ECi and asked for all the DDMS customers in the cities he would be traveling through. Bobby stopped at each dealer to make sure everything was going well and answer any questions they have about the system. If you are talking about customer dedication with a customer-first attitude, this story exemplifies it.
My other favorite joke about Bobby would be at his dealership if he found a penny on the floor, he would pick the penny up and place in cash in bank with the reverse of the entry being other income (money found on the floor). “Every penny MUST BE ACCOUNTED FOR!”
Bobby is absolutely a key component for advancing our Furniture DDMS solution. He never balked at a chance to speak with a customer or help one in need. Often, he was the first in line to help them. Many times over the years, a customer would ask for a specific report and he would hand you three other reports, saying I think these reports would also help them. He anticipated their needs beyond even what the customer requested. This type of dedication to our customers is what Bobby offered so brilliantly over the years.
I agree with Melissa. He is a key member of our DDMS Family. I will miss all of his jokes with beta software and his crazy sayings. And yes, the Mark and Bobby show at the ECi Connect Conferences were EPIC….those were fun times!