Spring 2001
Vol 18 No. 1

Making Samford a Better Place

An Exceptional Gift

Working for the Common Good

New Business Leadership

Opening the Free Market

Trucking with Computers

Other Stories
Bellas Created 'Climate of Achievement' in Samford School of Business

Community Banking Stresses New Technology, Personal Touch

Faculty Compendium

Early Greek Influence on Jordan Strikes Jan Term Class Members

A Cappella Choir Invited to Sing in Russia

Wind Ensemble Performs at MENC Conference

Samford Students Out-Perform Peers in 'Engagement' with Learning: NSSE

Student Accolades

Samford History Prof's Book on King Jail Letter Examines Complexities of '60s Racial Scene

Humphreys Writes on Baptists and Calvinism

Book Edited by George, Smith Examines Racial Reconciliation

George Authors Doctrine Study

Tillette's Team Makes It Interesting During Seventh Straight Winner

Pharmacies Could Hold a Key to Effective Disaster Response

Cochran and Moore Write the Samford Record Book

Baseball Alumni: Send Your Name

Kenny Morgan Scholarship Winners

 

 

Trucking Business is Music to his Ears, Says Software Maestro Tom McLeod
by William A. Nunnelley

Tom McLeod '76 had never been in the cab of an 18-wheeler when he began developing computer programs for a trucking company in the early '80s. He still hasn't spent much time in a big rig, yet his company has become the nation's largest provider of trucking software.

About 400 companies use McLeod software to keep track of billing, dispatching and payroll. They average owning 126 trucks apiece, and the largest customer has 2,300. But if a company has as many as 30 trucks, McLeod markets to it.

At about that size, he says, a trucking company "just about has to have a software package written for the industry to stay competitive."

McLeod Software of Birmingham produced a total revenue of more than $31 million during the past two years. The company moved into a new 60,000-square-foot building off I-459 last fall. And this spring, it will introduce a new product McLeod hopes will make it dominant in its field.

"We have completely rewritten our programs in the Java computer language, which can be run easily on almost any type of computer," McLeod said. "We are the leading trucking software company based on number of employees [130] and revenue, but no software company dominates the field. There are about 3,800 trucking companies in the U.S., so the market is there."

The new product is multi-currency and multi-linguistic, which will enable its use in Canada, Mexico and Europe. "We're already laying the groundwork to sell this software in Europe," he said.

McLeod built his company from the ground up. And he thinks his background as a Samford piano performance major may have helped.

Tom McLeod ´76 built his company into the nation´s leading software firm for truckers. Caps represent companies he works with.

"Spending time at the keyboard was valuable, as well as being enjoyable," he said, "because it was an easy shift to computer keyboards about the time PCs were just being introduced."

McLeod spent his first six years out of Samford in sales, but decided he would be happier in something more technical. (At Samford, for example, he had taken almost enough math courses to qualify for a major.) In 1982, a business acquaintance bought him a computer and asked him to develop a program for a trucking company and several other small companies.

By 1985, McLeod had decided to stick with trucking. When he won contracts from two companies, he was on his way. He spent time at trucking companies to learn the industry. He divided his schedule between developing software and selling it. By 1990, he was selling to 50 companies and employed 12 people, mainly programmers and technicians. He hired his first salesman, and the growth accelerated.

"Another turning point occurred in '95 when we took over a competitor in Carlsbad, California," said McLeod. "We had 125 customers and they had 75, but they were endorsed by the American Trucking Association, so this gave us national exposure."

Even with potential consolidations, the future of trucking is bright, he believes. And the potential of tapping international markets makes his future even brighter. (Ironically, he said, down years for truckers sometimes become good years for software sellers. "If truckers are having good years, they don't want to take time to change out their computers. That's done during off times.")

McLeod said he was a "jack of all trades and master of none" during his younger days. He credits his wife, Annette, with teaching him to stay focused on one thing "to do it really well." That lesson helped him create his business.

"You just about have to specialize [in software], or you can't keep up," he said.

Even so, McLeod enjoyed doing choral arrangements for choirs before becoming so immersed in trucking software. For a time after college, he considered going into the business of making radio commercials. And he's proud that Samford music professor Tim Banks once used one of his arrangements for wedding music he was performing.

The McLeods' children-college senior Tommy, high school junior Tammy, middle schooler Bruce and first grader Sarah Grace-are all musically inclined.

McLeod enjoys his music still, but he's really glad he took the road into trucking.