At the forefront of innovation for the restoration industry is our customer, Xcelerate. Continually looking for new ways to improve how restoration contractors, insurance companies, commercial players and homeowners can work together, Xcelerate developed restoration job management software that streamlines daily operations, increases profitability and enables greater control over every aspect of business for restoration contractors.
We caught up with Rachel Stewart, founder and CEO of Xcelerate, to learn more about the inspiration behind building the software, how Matterport has contributed to ongoing success and what it’s like to be a female leader.
What was the inspiration developing the Xcelerate software?
Xcelerate was designed to make life easier for contractors and also help them become more profitable. We wanted a solution that is easy and enjoyable to use and would streamline the entire claims management process.
There are an inordinate number of milestones, dates and hours that need to be tracked throughout the claims process. Restoration contractors have to keep track of ongoing project details and communications, travel time, on-site time, milestones, events and so much more. Beyond this, there are many phases of the process that need to be documented, such as uploading work authorizations then moving the job into production.
We developed Xcelerate so that contractors don’t have to worry about tracking all of these things – we built our job management software to intuitively track and organize each step of the process, communications and documentation. We wanted it to be incredibly easy for end-users, creating a central hub encapsulating everything they need to know about each job to be effective, efficient and productive.
We wanted to address the many inefficiencies we were seeing throughout the claims process. We wanted to create something that didn't yet exist. I didn’t have a technology background, but I knew exactly what restoration contractors needed, and I knew exactly what I wanted to build. So, we brought onto our team some of the best and brightest in technology for an awesome marriage with our deep understanding of restoration to build Xcelerate.
How did you get into the restoration industry?
When the recession hit in 2008, I was a stay-at-home mom taking care of my – then – three children, we now have four. To help keep our finances stable, I started working as a bookkeeper and office manager for Titan Restoration owned by Russ Palmer, a former classmate of my husband. I did have some QuickBooks knowledge, but I had never actually been a bookkeeper.
What I lacked in experience, I made up for in vision and drive.
I began getting the books in order, reconciling data and finding anything that was missing. I have always really liked puzzles, and this felt like a big puzzle: getting things all situated and putting processes in place.
When I came in, Titan had just hired a consultant and were putting together a five-year plan to grow the business, then the owner was going to exit. We did that in two and half years instead of five years.
At that point, the owner decided to merge with another company instead of exit. He wanted to manage the high-level aspects of the business and move away from day-to-day operations. As we progressed with the merger, I got the sense that the owner didn’t truly want to go from being the sole owner of his business to one of six owners. I felt that he would be happier choosing someone to run the entire operation, but still own the business and be involved at a high level.
My intuitions were correct. So, we began to recruit. Two weeks later, they decided that I would be the right fit for the position. While I had never managed people, I had more love and vision for this company than anyone they could hire externally. They knew that if they invested in me, I'd give one hundred percent. That was in 2010, and we've grown quite a bit since then.
What advice do you have for others, especially women, taking on new positions for which they don’t have extensive experience or background?
When I got into restoration, I didn’t have any previous experience, but wholeheartedly threw myself into learning about it and today I have a deep understanding. In order to grow and make this business more scalable and profitable, there needs to be a technology piece. I had zero experience in technology, but now I’m the CEO of the most innovative restoration job management software available.
Shifting from running a restoration company to running a software company has required a lot of growth and a big leap of faith. But it was something that I felt really needed to be done in order to create needed change in the industry. The same can be said of every great endeavor any of us embark on. I had discovered a secret early in my career was something that has been invaluable to me as I approached the next stage in my life. If you wait until you're qualified – if you wait until you have enough experience – then you will be waiting forever.
No matter your experience level, there will always be the next thing that you have to learn and tackle to master. I actually wrote a book on this topic called “Unqualified Success: Bridging the Gap From Where You Are Today to Where You Want to Be to Achieve Massive Success.”
I don't believe that anybody is ever truly qualified. If you want to keep growing, then you’re not qualified for that next stage. My advice to women is: don't wait for opportunity. Dive in and show your value as you're doing it, and the opportunities will come to you.
The way that you overcome any barriers to moving forward is to just jump in, get moving and learn as you go. Surround yourself with people in the industry who have done it before and ask a million questions. Be hungry to learn and grow.
Another factor that helped me grow tremendously was surrounding myself with many mentors. The owner of Titan Restoration, the restoration company that I worked for, was always big on networking. He was really supportive of me going to trade shows and industry events and learning from other people. Brenda Gallion, owner and co-founder of Five Star Restoration & Construction, Inc., is one of my amazing female mentors.
How have you integrated Matterport into both Titan and then the Xcelerate solution?
Titan Restoration has six Matterport Pro2 cameras in-house that we use for scanning sites at different points in time from beginning to end. Once a site has been scanned, our in-house desk estimator writes the estimate – they can even get accurate measurements from the scan. Once the estimate is complete, another estimator then works with the homeowner and negotiates it with the insurance company.
Xcelerate launched our first beta in December of 2018, and since then have launched to the entire restoration industry. Matterport has been fantastic for managing claims in Xcelerate. Every day our water division manager can go and check out the 3D tour of every new loss that comes in, then be able to walk through the 3D tour to provide feedback on what needs to be done at the site. Being able to see where the source of loss was and see how the house is laid out through the 3D tour in combination with our notes and readings has been incredibly helpful.
We’re able to review estimates after they come back with all of the documentation in one place, and estimates can easily be reviewed side-by-side with the 3D tour. Anytime you send an email it automatically connects the 3D tour.
What successes have you seen so far?
Having everything in one place and being able to get a high level view has made the claims process so much more efficient and we can close claims faster. We probably saved ourselves 40% of our time in the process. Once insurance companies get the estimate, Matterport has helped to eliminate the back and forth of negotiating an estimate – the 3D tour has provided a way to document and validate a claim in a fair, objective way. Insurance companies can take a look at the documentation, see everything and move forward.
Selling has also been different because our estimators used to always be onsite forming a relationship with the insured party. Working remotely has taken that piece out of it. Estimators aren’t going back out to the job site as often, that “kitchen experience” has been taken out of it. We’ve been adapting to how we can still create that in a virtual environment. Now contractors can pull up the Matterport 3D tour on a Zoom meeting and walk homeowners through the entire house, while still being able to see each other face-to-face. We love being able to provide a very personal customer experience.
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
Like many other industries, COVID-19 has been really disruptive in terms of trade shows this spring and summer. We had a full lineup of shows and events where we were going to speak.
We were going to get great visibility, but obviously that changed. But because Matterport has enabled estimates to be done remotely, we’ve still been able to secure a lot of meetings.
Having that technology integrated within your job management system so that you can actually get a visual of a job with the 3D tour along with the notes, documentation, authorization – everything that you need to manage your job. It's been really powerful.
Once they see the software, it's a no-brainer. Integrating with technology like Matterport has helped our contractors stay productive while working remotely and streamline their entire workflows.