Web Exclusives:Features
a PAW web exclusive column

May 16, 2001:
Brian Widell '94 and Marc Chabot '97's software technology keeps freight moving

By Rob MacKay '89

They've never driven a vehicle that has more than four wheels. They don't have CB names. And they have no idea where to find the best roadside diners. But Brian K. Widell '94 and Marc Chabot '97 are dedicated truckers. As president and director of business development, respectively, of a transportation operation software provider called Profit Tools (www.profittools.net and www.liveload.net), they spend their days making freight companies run smoothly.

"Using our software, management information becomes more efficient and accurate," says Widell, an economics major. "You get a better bottom line, and it's easier for your trucking company to grow. But we also help in issues such as safety and compliance with regulations."

Based in Newmarket, New Hampshire, Profit Tools software handles the entire operation -- from order entry to freight dispatch to billing -- for small to midsize companies (those with 10 to 150 trucks). With 12 employees, Profit Tools has about 120 clients spread throughout 30 states, including constant highway fixtures such as Aqua Gulf Express, Fast Freight and Bett-A-Way, which transports Snapple products.
Not to be pigeonholed, Widell is quick to point out that Profit Tools technology can be used for just about any kind of freight business, whether the carrier is a plane, truck, ship, or any combination of those transports, which is known as inter-modal transport.
Both Chabot and Widell admit that they knew nothing about trucking before they got started in the industry. Fresh out of college, Widell was recruited by Jim Daley, a high school classmate's father who was having problems modernizing his New Hampshire-based trucking business. The next thing Widell knew, he was writing programs and launching Profit Tools, which went through a long development and testing process before hitting the market in 1999.

Chabot, a civil engineer from Maine, began his career determining the profitability of wells as an oil-field engineer in Texas and Louisiana. He then started his own asset management company. While carpooling (remember, they don't drive trucks) to Princeton Reunions in 1998, the two started talking shop, and soon thereafter, they decided to join forces as Widell bought Chabot's company.

"What's interesting is that the forming of Profit Tools was completely driven by the issue. There was a need, and we worked on the solution, kind of like solving a mystery," says Widell. "This is a constantly changing business, and it's linked to many other industries. So we're still trying to solve mysteries. That's what we do."
Chabot, who spends the lion's share of his time on the road (usually in a car) speaking to clients and analyzing their needs in order to develop appropriate software, agrees. " One of the best things about our product is that we change it to meet emerging demands," he says. "You'd be amazed at how much planning it takes to move a product from point A to point B in an efficient way, especially if you're a small company with no in-house computer programmers."

Both find their jobs fascinating and claim to be in it for the long haul. "There's a huge amount of growth potential and spillover into connected areas here," says Widell. "That's part of why it's so fascinating. It really is hard to believe that we just kind of fell into this."

Rob MacKay '89 is an editor at Timesnewsweekly, a weekly newspaper in
Queens, New York. He can be reached at robertazo@hotmail.com.