Dang dead ends

It’s not even the end of January and I’m already having to change two crucial parts of this business: our bank account and our CRM. They don’t change our ability to serve our customers well, but they do play a role in keeping this business running.

The Bank

When I started MountainWP, I wanted to keep it entirely online and not locked down to any specific location (i.e., my current hometown of Harrisonburg, VA). Sure, local banks all have online services, but I opted to go with an option that was 100% online only, called Azlo.

What I didn’t realize is that Azlo was majority-owned by another bank, BBVA. I knew that they were built on top of BBVA but the curveball came when PNC bought BBVA and made the “strategic decision” to close Azlo. Awesome.

In the spirit of staying with the idea of using an online-only bank, I opened an account with Novo. It’s similar to Azlo in terms of its feature set but isn’t owned by a bigger bank. So far so good, except that I have to switch all of my services to the new numbers for billing, etc.

The CRM

I have a love/hate relationship with CRMs. I think it’s because they try to do too much. After trying a bunch of different options, I settled on a little-known one called Pigeon. It lives inside of Gmail and has the least amount of friction in creating records.

The problem is that it’s a small software project run by a single developer who doesn’t have time for it anymore. Its future is uncertain. If Pigeon is sold and ends up in the right hands, things will be alright. But it’s a key part of our work, as we use it to track support tasks and all of our non-sensitive customer records. I have to trust it and right now I don’t.

The big CRM players haven’t impressed me enough to spend money on their services, but I stumbled on an open source option called EspoCRM, from a small team in Ukraine. The company is profitable and hello, it’s open source! I’ve been test driving it on our Cloudways server (yep, self-hosted!) for over a week and it feels good. The UI could be better but it’s not uncomfortable. The friction is low, like Pigeon’s, which is what I’m after. And yes, I know Automattic has Jetpack CRM that lives inside of WordPress. I tried it when it was Zero BS CRM and wasn’t impressed.

In praise of open source

Open source software doesn’t get talked about enough. People mostly care about what software can do for them. They don’t typically think about the long game. Matt Mullenweg has a great quote that explains what I’m feeling:

“All proprietary software is an evolutionary dead-end. Open source will eventually win every market that it’s in.”

Matt Mullenweg, via The Knowledge Project podcast

This seems to be proving true for WordPress, which has captured a mind-boggling market share. It powers 39.5% of all websites as of the time of this post. WordPress isn’t going away any time soon. It can’t die (easily) because there’s no kill switch. The same goes for EspoCRM. I installed it on one of our servers and the company can’t shut it down. It might stop being updated and supported, but it won’t be shut down. The peace of mind that comes with that can’t be understated.

It should be said that I’m not against closed source (proprietary) software, but there are different things to consider when committing to using something that likely has an evolutionary dead-end.

Default image
Scott Pruett
Articles: 11

Leave a Reply