A $10 app saves hours of commuting

chip_galloway.top.jpgLandscaping company owner has cut Chip Galloway hours off his weekly travel time with a low-cost multimedia conferencing app. By Jennifer Alsever, contributing writer


(CNNMoney.com) -- Chip Galloway, the owner C&C Landscaping in Salt Lake City, used to spend hours in the car driving to landscaping projects -- time he knew would be better spent courting new clients. But if he didn't see those projects firsthand, his workers might easily make a costly mistake, like misplacing a tree or putting incorrectly sized rocks in a water fountain.

"It's usually a 10-minute visit that takes 45 minutes each way to get there," says Galloway. "There are only so many hours in the day."

screenshot.jpg
Pixetell blends Web, video and audio multimedia elements.

That changed last year, when Galloway got his hands on software called Pixetell -- a sort of 'e-mail meets voicemail meets Web conferencing' tool.

Now, for $720 a year, Galloway and five of his top employees can send detailed multimedia e-mail messages. They can shoot video and photos and describe them in a voiceover, and motion with a mouse to highlight key points in architectural drawings and spreadsheets. Project managers in the field often take snapshots of what they're working on and send them to Galloway along with their comments.

"They can say, 'Hey Chip, this is where we put this tree, what do you think?'" says Galloway, 31. "It saves me a ton of time. I can be at more than one place at once and keep the professionalism."

Because of the technology, Galloway says C&C Landscaping has reduced mistakes in the field by 75%, slashed his driving time in half, cut overhead by about 6% and kept the company's $4 million in annual sales steady despite the economic downturn.

Today, small businesses have more choices then ever before of cost-effective communication technologies.

"It's a stellar time for small businesses," says Ira Weinstein, a partner and analyst at Wainhouse Research, a Boston research firm that follows the conferencing and collaboration industry. Prices are lower, bandwidth is more available and the technology itself has improved dramatically, he says.

Witness the free beta version of Google Wave -- a cross between instant messaging and Twitter -- that lets multiple people have an online conversation with pictures, movies, games, polls and maps. A wave can be published to a blog or a Web site.

Dozens of Web conferencing services like GoToMeeting and WebEx also are available for $40 to $60 a month, allowing participants to see and chat with one another online, share documents in real time, type messages to the whole group or a few individuals, and write on a shared virtual whiteboard.

Software by Okemos, Mich.-based TechSmith, called Camtasia Studio, records your onscreen activity, your audio and Web cam video and lets you edit it into a professional video to share. It costs $300.

The company also has a free service called Jing that lets people take a video of their screen and share it over the Web, instant messenger or e-mail. For $15, users can upgrade to JingPro, which adds recordings of Web cam video to go with the onscreen action.

Galloway says he considered other services like Jing but preferred the simplicity of Pixetell. Once it's downloaded, Pixetell sits on the desktop ready to record. A user can track a sent message to see when it has been viewed and how many times, and can view any replies in a thread on the side of the message.

Ontier Inc., based in Portland, Ore., launched Pixetell in mid-2009. The company now has several thousand users, ranging from customer service agents to online merchants to day-traders, each paying $9 to $19 a month for the service.

Founder and CEO Sebastian Rapport says he came up with the idea for his software after watching his wife, a marketing consultant, struggle to communicate with Web designers. "She was literally tearing her hair out," says Rapport, 40.

Galloway now uses the software to communicate with customers, including one who lives in New York. That client's project might have normally required 20 face-to-face meetings, but Galloway has been able to do all but two of those meetings via Pixetell. His client chose to get his own $10 monthly Pixetell subscription in order to reply to Galloway's messages. (A subscription is not needed to simply view the messages.)

While in-person meetings remain vital, Galloway says he's been able to shift much of his communication into the virtual realm. To describe a complex landscaping proposal, for instance, he can build a Pixetell presentation, explaining each line on an estimate sheet and clicking links to sample pictures of stones, plants or trees on various Web sites.

"My clients can open it at their leisure," Galloway says. "They are usually blown away." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Questions & Answers



QHow does a florist sell more in this economy? We changed our business to designing weddings and events only, as the everyday flowers are not selling. We had to throw out too much product at the end of the week -- flowers are perishable! More
Get Answer
- The Flower Lady, Suwanee, Ga.
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.07%4.28%
15 yr fixed3.18%3.26%
5/1 ARM3.36%3.43%
30 yr refi4.05%4.21%
15 yr refi3.17%3.18%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:

Sections

The deal would value Vice at $2.5 billion. The online media company would also create content for the cable network, delivering a wider audience. More

Gas prices are falling to nearly $3 a gallon in some parts of South Carolina, and that will soon be common in much of the country. More

Chinese tech giant Alibaba is gearing up for a major market debut in New York that could set new records. Here are three things you need to know in advance of their big splash. More

The Coolest Cooler is the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the site's history, raising $13.3 million from over 62,000 backers. More

Five CNNMoney readers share stories about saving that you can learn from: What they would do differently if they had another chance. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.