Empower Software Solutions has been the Workforce Management industry’s most enigmatic software company. Known both for the aggressive, top-down sales tactics of its founder and former-CEO Seth Bernstein and its growing base of happy customers including The Home Depot and The Kroger Co., Empower has those looking at buying a workforce management software solution scratching their head. Who are these guys? Where did they come from? And, where are they going?
A Brief History
Empower was founded as Empagio Software in 2007, and built through acquisitions of payroll vendor Tesseract, time and attendance software company Unitime, and workforce management solution Business Analytics Corporation (BAC). In 2009, Empagio acquired Sage Tax Compliance Business and was renamed to Empower Software Solutions.
In 2011, private equity firm Lake Capital made a major investment in Empower, becoming the majority shareholder. In January 2012, Empower hired former RedPrairie executive Jim Hoefflin as President and Chief Operating Officer. Hoefflin said, “Seth and Lake Capital liked my background and experience. I was brought on board to build upon Empower’s success in the enterprise software market.” In May 2012, Bernstein stepped down and Hoefflin was named CEO.
Empower’s workforce management solution is EmpowerWFM. This is the evolution of BAC. BAC was founded in 2002. According to Hoefflin, “It was created to address the needs in the retail enterprise market and to fill many of the gaps that existed with competitive products at the time. BAC wanted to target complex retailers because of their previous experience designing a product called eForce for Simplex, subsequently acquired by Kronos.”
Solving Complex WFM Problems
When speaking with Empower today, that theme – solving the labor problem for complex retailers – is something that is heard over and over again, and that is by design. Empower believes their strength is solving difficult labor problems, and when Hoefflin took over as CEO in late May, he focused the business on that problem.
“In the last six months there has been change in our focus and strategy,” according to Hoefflin. “Essentially, we refined our target market, understanding what we are really great at, and directed our sales, service and development energy there.”
“As a result, we trimmed our sales force for EmpowerWFM,” said Hoefflin. “The workforce management market, as we have been describing it today, consists of a comparatively contained number of companies and opportunities. We focused on the target market we wanted to pursue, and we sized our team appropriately. In fact, if you compare the size of the workforce-specific sales team (those really focused on the same product, same market) against our competitors, we are very much in line.”
“We believe we are engaged exactly where we should be. At the same time, we increased our energy and focus on existing customers, to make sure they were well cared for,” Hoefflin said. “Throughout the last few months, we have brought some impressive enterprise projects for our major customers to completion, or close to completion. It has been a monumental task, and one that we are sure will pay huge dividends for us as we move into 2013.”
New Customers, New Products
Today, more than 25 companies are using or deploying EmpowerWFM. They are carving out a niche with grocers, who typically fall into the category of “complex retailers” due to the prevalence of unions and the union’s impact on scheduling and timekeeping rules. Grocery customers include Kroger, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and Brookshire Grocery.
However, Empower is not strictly focused just on the grocery market. Specialty, big box and general merchandise retailers such as Limited Stores, Orchard Supply Hardware, and Pet Supplies Plus use EmpowerWFM. According to Hoefflin, “Empower is committed to forecasting and optimizing labor to the highest levels through our extensive and sophisticated rules engine. This allows our customers to improve their operations as opposed to altering their operations to fit our solution.”
Since Lake Capital got involved, Empower’s investment in product development has grown according to Hoefflin. “Our product development has grown substantially, both in real dollars, and in percentage of revenues, year-over-year. We are a very development focused organization. We fully expect that philosophy to continue.”
This investment has resulted in a new Task Management module which is scheduled for deployment by Under Armour and under consideration by Modell’s Sporting Goods. It has also resulted in quarterly product updates for the existing EmpowerWFM modules that incorporate new features and capabilities. The latest release includes advances in seniority scheduling, mobility integration, new workload distribution methods, and the addition of forecasting algorithms.
Looking to the Future
For 2013, Empower is looking at the synergies between their product sets. “We are focusing on the next generation of Mobility, which will be very targeted at the different roles and ways users wish to consume our applications,” said Hoefflin. He described how users will be able to access capabilities from across their product suite on a single mobile device such as tablet which provides the convenience of a smart phone but with more screen real estate to do more complex things.
In addition to mobility, next year, Empower is investing in further collaboration between its Task Management and Scheduling modules. It will expand its integration with partner Manhattan Associates, and it will introduce a new user interface for EmpowerWFM.
“Beyond 2013,” according to Hoefflin, “we will look to expand into adjacent markets, likely healthcare-related and/or manufacturing-related. Our strength is in our ability to perform complex scheduling based on sophisticated rules. It is in these types of environments where we are going to provide tremendous value.”