Skedsheet Blog

Where we talk about the product, calendars, organization, and business

Archive for September 2009

Priorities, progress, and other excuses

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Tapping a Pencil by Rennett Stowe - http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/2987926396It’s been quiet here.  Why?  I have a laundry list of excuses, but lots of it boils down to changes in our priorities and progress.

Priorities:  Since my job gives me the flexibility to work on lots of things, lately I’ve been concentrating on two of the things that are most important to our business as a whole: sales, and more sales.  Although I have some insights and funny anecdotes about my conversations (Q: “May I speak to Mona?” A: ”Last I heard, she choked on a chicken bone and died”), they’re not generally appropriate for this blog.

Progress:  As a whole, we’ve been concentrating on JobTracker, which means that there’s little or no change to what’s going on in the Skedsheet world.  This is frustrating to all of us, but at the end of the day, we need to spend a good chunk of our development effort on what brings us money.  This is the classic trap that  Clayton Christensen describes in the Innovator’s Dilemma.

We need to keep serving our existing customers, and we continue to bring them a higher level of service, but we’re possibly leaving ourselves open to competition from the “low end” – Skedsheet could provide a solution to companies like our customers who don’t see the value of our relatively “high end” products in the JobTracker family.

Writing on a daily or weekly basis takes focus and concentration.  When there’s not much progress to talk about, and your priorities are shifted temporarily, it’s hard to come up with good ideas on a regular basis.  Because of the priorities, it’s also hard enough to justify the time you need to spend to do it well.

Enough excuses…I’ve got a stack of half-written posts with ideas, so hopefully I’ll get back on the writing wagon.

Written by Harry Hollander

September 30, 2009 at 6:33 am

Posted in Communication

No pain, no gain

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Pain 100% sauce by wstryderWe’ve gone through hundreds of software implementations, and there are always challenges – sometimes it’s just time and effort, other times it’s a frustration, and occasionally a failure. 

One of the main reasons that we’re excited about Skedsheet is that we want to eliminate “implementation” altogether by having a software utility that’s easy enough to just get going.  But, it’s still on my mind…frequently.  Any time you decide to change something in your life or business, the process requires effort, and maybe a little pain. 

There are some steps you can take to make sure that when you’re making a change (buying software, using new equipment, changing pricing, or introducing new products), it goes smoothly.

  1. Get everyone on board early.  If your coworkers and employees don’t know what kind of change is coming, they will revolt. The earlier they’re involved in the process, the better.
  2. Be ready to break things.  Making a change to your business means breaking the way you do things today – even if it’s already broken.  This is scary, but it’s necessary because you can’t just add to what you’re already doing – that doesn’t fix things.
  3. Set deadlines.  If you don’t have a deadline for getting software implemented, it’s really easy to put it off another day. Setting hard deadlines and sharing it with your coworkers is a good way to make sure you’re accountable.
  4. Uninterrupted time.  This is probably one of the hardest, especially if you’ve got the responsibility for changing your business and the authority to actually do it… your time is in short supply.
  5. Remember the goal. Every so often you need to take a deep breath and remember why you’re making a change.  It’s to fix the problems you had before or allow you to do something new.

It’s not foolproof, because there are always going to be unexpected problems that come up in a software implementation, but having a little planning and perspective will help.

Written by Harry Hollander

September 16, 2009 at 8:28 am

Posted in Customer Service

Business plan – show me the money?

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We’ve been putting money into Skedsheet, but haven’t really thought about a business plan much.  Typically you need to think about finances, market, and plan for our products.  Here’s a swag at the finance part for Skedsheet.  Of course, the dirty secret of any business plan is that this is all a guess…

$ pillow by klynslisLet’s say that the cost of doing the beta version of skedsheet is around $100K – that’s development time, graphic design, and the direct costs of setting up a website, getting trademarks, and all of the other administrative parts of setting up a new product.  I think that’s the right ballpark. 

After that, there are the ongoing costs of running skedsheet.  We’ll need servers, which will probably start around $500/month, and grow as we’re successful.  I’m sure we won’t have all of the features right in the first version, so there’s going to be ongoing development, and I’m sure that  we’ll have to spend time on customer support, too.  Let’s say that adds up to $2000/month for each. 

Even if we’re willing to toss out the initial investment, that means around $5000 per month just to break even.   And if we want to recoup the original outlay in the first year, it looks more like trying to get $14000/month.  Zoiks! maybe instead we want to break even on the original investment in 2 years, which makes it closer to $10K/month.

While we haven’t thought about price in detail, there are a couple of strategies we can take.  We’ve ruled out having expensive software.  Even if we choose a number as low as $100/month, chances are that we’ll need a sales process, and a sales guy to convince people to part with their money.

We can’t be totally free either.  That could get lots of users, but there’s not a chance of making money for just giving away our service.  So the answer is Free + Cheap.

Is a $10/month cheap?  $1?  I think that the right model for us is to have a small group of our hardcore users pay for the costs, and allow us to give away our software to 95% of the people who want to use Skedsheet.  So if the numbers I just pulled out of the air would work out, it’d be something like:

(Paid Users) x $10 = $10000, so we’d need a thousand paid users.  And if

(Paid Users) = (All Users) x 5%, we’d need twenty thousand people using Skedsheet before it makes financial sense.

So, the next  question should be “Does Skedsheet solve a problem for tens of thousands of people?”

Written by Harry Hollander

September 3, 2009 at 7:49 am

Posted in Pricing, Strategy