Business is Music to his Ears, Says Software Maestro Tom McLeod
William A. Nunnelley
'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
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.
that size, he says, a trucking company "just about has
to have a software package written for the industry to stay
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.
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  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."
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,"
built his company from the ground up. And he thinks his background
as a Samford piano performance major may have helped.
McLeod ´76 built his company into the nation´s
leading software firm for truckers. Caps represent companies
he works with.
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."
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
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.
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.")
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.
about have to specialize [in software], or you can't keep up,"
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.
children-college senior Tommy, high school junior Tammy, middle
schooler Bruce and first grader Sarah Grace-are all musically inclined.
his music still, but he's really glad he took the road into trucking.