Indianapolis-based business partners System Scale and Growth Heroes won the Digital Transformation Award during TechPoint’s 24th annual Mira Awards gala honoring the best of tech in Indiana.

WATCH VIDEO: CEO Jim Bartek of Growth Heroes and CEO Mike Sale of System Scale accept the Digital Transformation Award.

Technology is everywhere these days. It plays an oversized role in an organization’s success whether it’s in the life sciences, advanced manufacturing and logistics, energy or agbiosciences sector, in academia, the nonprofit world, retail or food service.  

But it wasn’t always that way, and more than a few companies have stumbled by either not adopting tech as it evolved or by not adopting the right tech fast enough. The Digital Transformation Award was created to recognize corporate teams that are driving digital innovation and proving the case for tech along the way. In a crowded field, System Scale and Growth Heroes stood out for their decade+ long, soup-to-nuts transformation project and how they involved System Scale’s employee-owners into the process. 

Working with Growth Heroes, System Scale digitized its entire business from marketing to accounting to the professionals who perform the company’s core services: inspecting and maintaining equipment for companies throughout the Midwest and central South United States.  

Like the old Johnny Cash song about hand-building a 1949-1979 Cadillac, they brought the company into the cloud one piece at a time. Unlike the Man in Black, they didn’t sneak pieces out of the factory until they could build their own car. They accomplished this task in an intentional, meticulously mapped out process that brought the workforce into the process. 

System Scale launched in 1979, focusing on installing, maintaining and certifying scales that could weigh anything from “feathers to freight trains.” Keeping accurate measurement and proof points of that maintenance is mission critical for these operations, so System Scale’s services are essential and tied directly to their clients’ performance, success or failure. 

In 2012, when Mike Sale was promoted to Chief Financial Officer after serving as System Scale’s external accountant, the company’s entire tech stack consisted of an MS-DOS-based accounting system for each of its offices; Dot Matrix Printers with triplicate carbon copy paper; land line telephones; countless filing cabinets to keep track of the forrest of printed paper certificates that proved to state regulators and insurance companies that proper calibration had been achieved; and rolling hills of hard-copy, hand-delivered mail.

By 2013, the digital transformation was underway, starting with implementing for Sales and Quickbooks Online to consolidate the company’s disparate accounting infrastructure. The team strategically, and with user guides, user interviews and an Agile Project Management plan, shifted one division at a time from paper and disparate systems to fully integrated in the cloud, ending just this year with a switch from telephones to VOIP telephony integration with Salesforce.

Digital transformation is ongoing, of course, but the difference in operations since 2012 is startling. It’s hard to find a piece of paper in the place these days. The company relies on Salesforce for sales, inventory, orders and purchase orders, as well as field service and work orders, including a custom offline-first iPad application for field workers. Salesforce automatically generates invoices, sales tax and commissions, which are integrated to an online customer portal dubbed CalVault, where Invoices, test certificates, and work orders can be reviewed, paid for and downloaded. Salesforce AI is used for scale failure prediction modeling. Two acquisitions in 2016 were easily integrated into the company’s Salesforce and Quickbooks Online infrastructure. 

Growth Heroes, a Salesforce consulting partner that also acts as business architects and fractional CIOs, was and remains key to the transformation. Growth Heroes established and continues to maintain digital advertising campaigns, email signature ads, a WordPress based website, Pardot marketing automation, sales, service, inventory, and finance in, integration with Quickbooks Online, custom iOS iPad application, the CalVault online client portal and its integration with bank and credit card payments, and the VOIP telephony integration with Salesforce. 

Operationally, the transformation helped produce:  

  • $250,000 in first-year return on investment; 
  • More than $1 million in extra profit per year directly attributable to the project; 
  • Marketing spend returns of $29 per dollar spent; and 
  • A reduction in Accounts Receivable balances from more than 64 to 34 days. 

Perhaps more important for an employee-owned company with an employee stock ownership program, which distributes 100 percent of profits to employees, is the transformation’s effect on share price. It climbed from $96 to $500 over the course of the digital transformation, a 23 percent annualized return year-over-year.  

Annual revenue, which dipped in 2020 due to the global pandemic, has grown by double digits in subsequent years. The company, which has an enviably stable workforce of nearly 100 worldwide employees, is now focused on its next chapter, expanding into other similar industries and markets.  

The Mira Awards judges were astonished by the results of System Scale’s long-term partnership with Growth Heroes, calling it a testament to making bold moves in business by allowing technology to drive change as a profit center versus a cost center. The partners achieved quintuple (5x) corporate growth without increasing headcount and while simultaneously reducing the need for overtime, increasing associate engagement and remaining cost neutral.  

The Mira Awards judges said the thoughtful, deliberate approach to systematic cloud migration, automation and improvement should be studied and replicated everywhere possible. 

See All Award Winners from the 2023 Mira Awards Gala.

TechPoint, the nonprofit, industry-led growth initiative for Indiana’s digital innovation economy, honored the state’s top successes and innovations during the 24th annual Mira Awards gala with presenting sponsors UKG, Salesforce and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

A total of 18 award winners and honorees were chosen from the 141 outstanding people, companies and products that were selected as nominees for their achievements during the 2022 calendar year.

Fifty-two independent, volunteer judges spent more than 850 total hours evaluating applications, interviewing nominees, and selecting this year’s winners. Judges included an impressive roster of company founders, CEOs and presidents, CTOs, CIOs, engineers and other industry professionals.

TechPoint’s Mira Awards are named after the first of the brilliant variable stars to be discovered—the Mira Star. It is also the Latin root meaning “worthy of admiration, wonderful, marvelous.” The awards represent the best of tech in Indiana each year.