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Bill Scott wants to capitalize on `narrow window of opportunity`

Vicksburg’s ScotSystems aiming at industry standard

VICKSBURG — At Bill Scott’s home on the rural fringes of Vicksburg, where he oversees the management information systems company ScotSystems Inc., his beloved dogs take up a lot of the yard. His RV, which he uses to visit customers, takes up a lion’s share of driveway. And a large black box sitting in the corner takes up a chunk of space in his office.

However, that black box, an IBM AS400e, is in reality an efficient space-saver. At one point in time during this interview, the server was handling 160 applications simultaneously, which, amazingly, only required .4% of the CPU’s overall capacity.

“In my opinion the AS400 is the best-kept secret in the world,” Scott said. “They are in over 700,000 locations and 98% of the Fortune 500 companies. Even Microsoft has more than 200.”

The computer, and that it’s in his home, is the story of ScotSystems today. The company has harnessed more than 20 years of effort and knowledge and presented it to an entire industry at one place, at one time, with the goal of becoming the standard system in the U.S.

Scott’s journey to CEO of ScotSysytem was a winding one. A Louisiana native, as a young man joined the Air Force, where he received his only formal technical training in radar equipment. From there he worked in advertising, was even a musician, and by the 1970s was in real estate.

It was while in real estate that Scott first began to use calculators. He found them lacking. So, he started building them himself, and then began looking under the hood of computers. By the time the 1980s arrived, Scott had been building PCs and writing software in his basement for years.

Scott authored a book on his computer work which was read by a developer who had created two computer packages — one for physicians and one for oil marketers (a.k.a., jobbers). He asked Scott to come on board to market the systems, an offer that was accepted.

One industry quickly lost favor.

“I couldn’t even get in to see the doctors. I even went so far as to make an appointment for a physical just to get my foot in the door and sell a system,” he said, chuckling.

In oil marketers he found interest, but the price was prohibitive. Convinced an affordable system would find ready buyers, Scott went to work developing a system for a one-store oil company in Arkansas in 1981. It was successful, and seeing a niche he left to form ScotSystems in 1983.

Today, ScotSystems exclusively serves the jobber/convenience store, and counts customers in 120 locations scattered from Hawaii to North Carolina. It employs five.

For almost a decade, ScotSystems had approached its customers with a basic system configuration — an on-site server linked to the company’s other terminals. Scott saw an innovative alternative — an off-site server that not only linked to the stores’ computers, but their vendors’ units, too. Thus, cost and in-house technical expertise was eliminated, and jobbers and store owners would be relieved of their biggest bane — paperwork and its burden on daily operations and future growth.

What was needed was a vehicle to transmit electronically from any locale at any time.

“I had been using the Internet since 1985, I even had a message board up, but it wasn’t until about 1992, with the rise in popularity of the Web, that it began to dawn on me that the Internet could be much more than just trading documents,” Scott said.

With everything in place, Scott now set his sights on taking his 20+ years of experience in computing, as well as industry knowledge, pulling it all together and creating a business-to-business portal for oil marketers and convenience stores.

This past January, ScotSystem’s StoreReport.com was launched. Using the AS400, ScotSystem’s is now a hub for the industry, a sub-Internet, offering information management and financial accounting.

“It’s a dollar chasing a dime,” Scott said, referring to traditional forms of information and financial management in the industry. “All the stores’ invoices, sales receipts and shift records are dumped at the central office, where the companies struggle to manage it. Now, all you need is a computer off the shelf and Internet access.”

Scott said that the challenge now is to get StoreReport.com in the stores. He said the one last hurdle the industry must clear is standardization. The only way a true integration of systems will occur is if there is a set standard of rules governing the Internet that the entire industry heeds.

Thus, ScotSystems is actively pursuing investors, with a goal of $5 million in initial funding, and an overall goal of $50 million.

“A lot of the big players have said they are going to come out with a system,” Scott said. “I feel like right now we have a narrow window of opportunity to establish StoreReport.com before some big competitors come in. There can only be one system.

“There’s one thing ScotSystem’s got that nobody else in the world has, though — more than 20 years of de-bugging and testing, and inside industry knowledge.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1016.

About Wally Northway

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