The History Of DRM

The Concept

In 1983 Manny Costa, a Cape Cod oil dealer, had a million gallon business and the paperwork was killing him. So he bought a Radio Shack computer that used only floppy disks (remember them?). It came with a standard accounts receivable program.

Manny almost immediately erased the program disk. Fortunately, he knew Dave Rauscher, a local computer guy. Dave got him restarted and they began to talk.

They knew that his accounting program wouldn’t track gallons or degree days. Manny really needed a custom program but none were available for less than $25,000.00. He convinced Dave to look into the oil dealer industry.

It turned out that there were about twenty thousand oil dealers at the time. Most were in the north eastern states. Half had fewer than a thousand accounts. Half did not have a computer. It was pretty easy to figure out that the smaller dealers were the ones being left out. At the same time Radio Shack micro computers cost less than four thousand dollars, so Dave was sure he could develop a complete system, printer and all, for under ten thousand dollars.

Manny and Dave struck a deal: Manny would get a free program in trade for teaching Dave the business. Dave would own the rights to the program.

Under Construction

Six months later Dave knew how to drag a hose and Manny was becoming a better typist. The program was very basic but it did degree day forecasting, printed the tickets and got the bills out on time. Manny had been spending four hours a day on bookkeeping. Now it took half an hour.

Still, they needed to continue adding features and revising the system.

In February of 1984, another local Cape Cod oil dealer, Bob Romano, heard about the program and called Dave. Even though Dave wasn’t ready to market the program, Bob insisted that he be allowed to license the system. Then came the first of the big surprises.

Manny sold residential fuel oil. Bob sold fuel oil, kerosene, three octanes of gasoline, and diesel fuel. Dave was back to the drawing board for a long weekend.  By Monday the program would handle twelve fuels with two taxes allowed for each of them.

At the end of February, 1984 Dave did a mailing to oil dealers in southeastern New England and began to advertise in Fuel Oil News.  In March a company in Middleboro, MA began using the system.  In April another company on Cape Cod got started.

The next big surprise was the IBM PC.  IBM sold three million of them in their first year.  It was the way to go but Dave’s program was going to need major changes. He hired a programmer to do the conversion because he was busy selling.

The Selling

Dave signed up to exhibit in Atlantic City at the May “New Jersey Fuel Merchants Exposition”. But he had a problem.

Besides paying for the advertising and the trade show, he’d been running all over southern New England showing off his program. He was almost completely broke.

On the Friday before the show Hugh Campbell of Campbell Petroleum in Colchester, CT had Dave down for the third time.  Hugh decided to get the system.  They drove into Hartford and bought a computer. It took most of the day. By the time they returned to Colchester, it was too late to install the program. That would have to wait until after the NJ show. But like manna from heaven, Hugh pulled out his check book and paid Dave in advance. Dave was out of the woods.

By the end of 1984 sixteen systems had been installed. Half were using the new IBM PC.  Kathy Mendoza was answering the phone and running the office so Dave could be out selling, installing and training.  By the middle of 1985 another seventeen oil dealers had chosen DRM.

Supporting more than thirty systems was becoming a big problem.  Dave couldn’t be everywhere.  He was forced to decide on a new primary focus.  DRM was going to offer the best support in the industry.  Annual support contracts would pay a good part of his costs.  Dave would cover leads from Massachusetts.  Other than that he would stay home.  He and Kathy would answer the support calls.  It was time to hire a salesman.

In 1985 John Majkut was brought on board to travel all over the north east demonstrating, installing and training new customers.  By the summer of 1986 there were 65 DRM customers.  Thank heavens that cell phones were becoming available. Dave was one of their first customers on Cape Cod.  When he was out, he could still help his customers.  His policy was that a customer with a problem had priority over everything else including sales.

It turned out that when he told a prospect that he would have to call him right back because a user needed help, and explained the policy, potential customers understood how that policy would work for them in the future.


In June of 1986 Dave installed a system at O’Rourke Fuel in Woburn, MA. Sharon, their daughter, was left to enter her customer names. Dave would return when she was ready to start using the system.  Sharon called at the end of the month and Dave went to Woburn to give her more training.  But she had already entered the balances, posted the month of June and even sent out the bills.  She learned it all from the manual.

Dave asked why he was there.  Sharon said that she would like to work for DRM as a sales person.  How can you fight that? 

There were 65 users with new leads coming in every week.  John was getting much too busy.  So two territories were set up.  Sharon did New York and west.  John handled New England.  By the end of 1986 another 21 users were running the DRM system.

Over forty systems per year were installed in 1987 and 1988. 


In the spring of 1989 Dave went to New Brunswick, Canada to demonstrate his software to the people at Park Fuels.  Installing a system in Canada would require a complete re-working of the DRM system. Oil is sold by the Liter not by the gallon. Degree days are based on Celsius temperatures not Fahrenheit. Every program in the DRM suite needed to be changed and tested.  However, there were lots of oil dealers in Canada.  It would be worth the effort.

Mr. Chamberlain from Park Fuels brought his wife to Cape Cod that summer to camp at the state park (he said); but, more than likely, to visit with Dave in his home town and better judge the “cut of his jib”.  In October of 1989 the software went to Canada for the first time.  Park Fuels has been using it ever since.

Another 44 systems were installed in 1989.  And the years went rolling by.  Bob Walsh came on board to program and help with the support.  Kathy left and Lucy Broman replaced her as boss of the office.


In 1997 there was an inquiry from an oil company in Alaska.  Scheduling fuel oil deliveries could be a life or death affair when night time temperatures could go down to 50 below zero and roads could become impassable in hours.  Finding a software package to meet their needs was difficult. There were no software companies in Alaska that specialized in their industry and none that would be able to go there for a demo.

The owners were sent a manual and spent weeks digesting the contents. Many long distance phone calls later, they decided to license the DRM system.

Dave spent a week traveling there and teaching them the system. "But, it was easy", said Dave. "They had just about memorized the manual. They simply had to put their knowledge to work".  Dave was allowed to stay in a beautifully modernized old miners’ cabin on the property.  He got to take a boat trip up a pretty but wild river and fly with a bush pilot up to the base camp on Mt McKinley.

Y2K The year 2000

By the year 2000 there were more than 475 oil dealers using DRM’s software.

Dave remembers the year 2000 too well.  That was the year all his competitors made buckets of bucks “solving” the year 2000 problem. 

In the 1980s and ‘90s all computer programs were using 2 digit years like ’85 or ’93.  Dates could easily be put in order by simply placing the year first.  99/01/01 was higher than 98/12/31.  However, 00/01/01 was not higher than 99/12/31.  Dave knew two things:  He was still going to be in business in the twenty first century and that he would be embarrassed to tell his customers that there was a serious a bug in his program.  The problem was fixed in the 1994 revision.

Almost every customer called in 1999 and had to be convinced that DRM software was perfectly fine.  Several required notarized letters for their banks.  Dave knew that he could have charged his customers for “fixing” the problem.  Most of his competitors made hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But DRM is in the business of supporting and helping their customers. They did the right thing and would do it again.

The 21st Century

After 2000 most oil dealers were computerized but some were getting bought up and others were just starting up.  More often than not when a small dealer was swallowed by a large one, one of the drivers or technicians would buy an oil truck and need software.  Sales leads now come in all months of the year.  Ten or twenty new systems are installed each year.

DRM can give out the names and phone numbers any of their customers as references.  That’s the most powerful sales tool there is.

Keith Phelan joined DRM as a programmer in 2003.  Keith is a Windows/database expert.  His efforts refined the new DRM-Windows product and brought it to life in 2004.  Keith is as rare a computer guy as Dave.  He had spent the previous 12 years helping fortune 500 companies build mission-critical software systems and was ready for a new adventure. Besides being a talented programmer, he is incredibly patient with customers and they seem to love him.  Keith has become a partner in DRM, Inc.

With his help the company is developing new systems for remote computing, interfaces with electronic meters, and of course as the industry evolves, new features for the system.

DRM’s primary business is still support.  Almost all existing customers have support contracts.  They get unlimited help on an 800 number.  Customer suggestions are saved in a work book for future inclusion in the program. They receive free upgrades several times a year.  They can send new office workers to the DRM office for as much free training as they need.

The customers get whatever they need.