Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dawn of a New Era in Commission River

On November 20, 2008 a new door of opportunity opened. Not only did we at Commission River unveil seven new XML plug-ins, but we did it in the most user-friendly, non-techie way possible. All one needs to do to set up a new plug-in, or remotely controlled best rate calculator, is click on an 'order' button, enter in the FTP information of the user's web site, and click on a 'send files' button. In all honesty, it took just as long to program the easy auto-install setup as it did the plug-ins themselves.

It was important to me personally to bring this new technology down to a level that a web novice could easily master. In the history of Cognigen/Commission River, the high-tech agents have always had the advantage. The only problem with that is there are a very small handful of agents that have been able to earn life-changing amounts of money in the program. Even though I personally was in this minority, I knew coming into a management role a year ago that simplification was going to be the ultimate key to success as a company. Lowering the technical bar to success was our goal, and the release of the plug-ins accomplished all of our goals with interest.

Since taking charge of this company over one short year ago, we've faced nothing but challenges. Ten days into the new job InPhonic, one of our largest vendors, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, causing us massive losses in revenue. A few weeks later, one of two secured creditors, Silicon Valley Bank, decided not to renew our line of credit. Imagine that - coming into a new company who is starved for revenue with an expiring line of credit! Add to that the massive loss of agent and shareholder confidence and you have a major problem.

Having been a part of the success days of the early 2000's, I knew what our company was capable of becoming. All it needed was a comparison shopping engine, delivered remotely to the agent's web site, and some search engine marketing tools to drive traffic. We have a terrific nucleus of agents who are ready and rearing to work - all they need is some type of technology advantage. In February 2008, we made a plan to create XML plug-ins for all technology - we just had to pull many rabbits out of the hat to keep the lights on until my programmers could get the XML plug-in project to the finish line.

We cleared a major hurdle when Adam and I decided to mortgage our reputation and create a "commission deferral program" wherein agents could elect not to get paid and earn 10% annual interest on all money they leave in our possession. We started with the top-earning agents, which all happen to be ShopforT1 closers, requesting that they defer as much as they could afford to forego. Although we opened up the program to ALL Commission River agents, a huge majority of the total pot came from these loyal ShopforT1-affiliated agents. Just three months of deferrals freed up enough money for us to pay off the entire line of credit with Silicon Valley Bank - a debt that we inherited from the previous administration. Just paying off that line did more that just right the balance sheet, it also eliminated a $15,000/month in interest charges not to mention the fact we could receive our commissions directly as opposed to SVB factoring our receivables! By keeping our expenses lean, and eliminating these interest expenses, we (Commission River, not BayHill Capital) became profitable and in control of our own cash flow this summer. Once we started making more than we were spending, we sounded the "all clear" and allowed agents who had be accumulating their commissions to begin withdrawing their savings.

Getting our financial house in order was the key that allowed us to turn our focus on the new XML plug-ins:
  • Domestic Long Distance Calculator (BottomLine)
  • GeoQuote T1/Ethernet Commercial Services Calculator
  • International Long Distance Calculator (LD, VoIP, Calling Card, Dial-Around)
  • VoIP Comparison Calculator (Business and Residential)
  • Cellular Phone Comparison and Availability Calculator
  • Credit Card Comparison Calculator

All seven of these works of art are currently on display on the re-designed Commission River web site. The official announcement was release to the investing public on Yahoo Finance. Now, the next step is to continue improving the plug-ins, helping more agents install and use the technology, and to focus all of our time, energy, and money on growing our business and expanding our reach. Only time will tell if our strategy to generating more wealth for agents will pan out. So far, so good.