February 5, 2018
Shop Talk

Shrewsbury firm wants to be the pay-as-you-go COO

Andrew Langlois, founder and president of BizHelm of Shrewsbury.

Andrew Langlois

Employees: 3

Founded: 2010

Age: 53

Residence: Shrewsbury

Birthplace: Easthampton

Education: Associate's degree in turfgrass management, UMass Amherst

Three years ago, Andrew Langlois' side hustle became his passion, as he discovered a niche of helping small businesses use new technology like iPad point-of-sale systems and all the digital opportunities it afforded.

How did you get your start?

I spent 30 years in the golf course business. I managed golf courses for 15 years around Massachusetts, and then I shifted gears and moved into sales back in 1999 with a wholesale distribution company called Bisco out of Dedham. We were a wholesale distributor/supplier, largely for the landscape market. My involvement leaned heavily toward the golf course side, because of my history.

I started off as sales manager, then became vice president, and then chief operating officer. When Bisco was acquired in 2014, that led to me veering off fully into this BizHelm thing.

Yet, you started the company in 2010.

It was clearly my side hustle at the beginning. In 2010, I was doing a little consulting for my brother, Peter, who was a trained chef and had a full-service restaurant out in Hatfield.

He developed a model for a cafe. I was doing consulting work for him and the conversation came up about what he was going to do for a point-of-sale system. So, I started doing some research because the system he was using was a little too costly for the small business model he had.

What did you come up with?

At the time, iPad payment systems were just starting to come into view. I found this New York City company called ShopKeep, and we decided that would be the right product for my brother.

The ShopKeep people were trying to build a reseller network, so I signed on and dabbled in it at 4 a.m. and on the weekends, whenever I could find the time. My brother's system resulted in a very good string of referrals for my business.

After Bisco was acquired, I went all-in with BizHelm on Jan. 1, 2015.

Is your revenue just POS systems?

That makes up about one-third of what we do, but the high-level approach that we take, I'm trying to position the company as a pay-as-you-go COO for small business.

When we are doing things like replacing cash registers with cloud-based devices, I inevitably get the question. "What else can you do?" Technology isn't something most small-business owners have a passion or a high aptitude for.

We've identified the payment space as a place where small businesses have a lot of pain: contactless payment, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and all this technology businesses want to leverage.

So, that helps you sell more services?

These platforms lend themselves well to marketing, because there are customer management tools baked right into them: email, social media, web development, e-commerce, inventory management. This is all very well connected.

What is the next step for BizHelm?

By design, it has been a real gradual build. That allows us to pay closer attention to where there are other opportunities. Don't get me wrong, I would love it if the whole thing took on the hockey-stick curve.

We are in a nice spot, and there is a lot of ground to cover with so many small businesses not even scratching the surface of what technology can do for them.

How many clients are you up to?

70 clients today. Most of it spans across Massachusetts, but we also have a set of clients on Long Island. We have courted merchants as far away as California and down into the Carolinas. That is the beauty of these systems. We can configure it all remotely and ship hardware. There is no geographical limit.

The plan for 2018 is to have conversations with bigger companies, all who have a customer base of their own which collectively have a set of needs for payments technology. Some of these companies have 10,000+ clients.

Do you think you will be acquired?

That will be dictated by the companies we are having these conversations with. It's not my goal to be acquired in the near term. I'm a 53-year-old guy who takes a 30-year view on things. I didn't go into this with the idea of hitting the recliner in 10 years. That's not how I'm wired.

It is more probable a strategic partnership will happen in the next year. That lets us move to scale more quickly.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.


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