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ScheduleLeave / Jobs & Hiring / United Kingdom

Try to do some form of keyword and market research - Interview with Ryan Musselwhite of ScheduleLeave

Hello ! Who are you and what are you working on?

Hey! My name is Ryan Musselwhite and I am the founder of ScheduleLeave. I'm a senior web developer with a passion for creating web applications. I work alongside my co-founder Artur Kozak who is also a passionate senior web developer.

We are both currently working on ScheduleLeave, aiming to become a market leading leave & absence management platform. Our goal for the platform is to be easy to use, yet offering the most diverse functionality on the market, for a reasonable price businesses can afford.

Our product is now live with several paying clients. The target clients are generally smaller businesses (sub 500 employees) who are trying to easily manage leave requests / approval and tracking of leave across their team, department, office, organisation or company.

What motivated you to get started with? How did you come up with the idea?

Throughout various organisations which we have worked at in the past, we always found limitations to the current software available on the market, it's generally quite a stagnant market with little to no innovation for new features and functionality. 

We decided to produce our own software, with a large long term roadmap to offer the same functionality which the rivals have, plus a lot more additional functionality which we felt was lacking. One of the main aspects we struggled with when looking at the current rival software on the market, was around tracking and reporting on sick leave / other types of leave, this is a key item we added early on with our advanced reporting section within our platform.

Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?

- Initial idea started back in December 2018

- MVP launch in in February 2019

- First paying client in June 2019 due to the 2 month trials and a lot of customer churn

- Latest release was in July 2019 which added Slack integration and a unique feature for multi-stage approval, which most if not all of our rivals don't offer at this point in time

- We are now primarily focusing on marketing activities whilst working on our product roadmap

What has been your biggest failure or struggle?

Marketing and adverts have been very difficult to get right, we rely on them to gain new clients until our SEO has improved enough to naturally rank higher for the keywords relating to our platform. Marketing as a whole is a new area for the both of us, so until we progress further in this area, our client growth will be slow.

And what has been your biggest achievement or success?

Outpacing our main rivals functionality in a very short time frame. There were a lot of hurdles to get over and some things were harder than we originally anticipated but we now have a very robust platform which we can build on for future functionality and ultimately to gain more clients.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Quite a few clients came outright with the functionality they needed but were unable to find with any of the other rival software vendors. If an item had enough interest, we added it to our roadmap and then landed those clients.

We are always friendly and respond quickly to any questions or support requests as well, which I think has helped us retain our existing client base.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Initially it was all quite simple, an idea and a shared Google document with a list of high level functionality plus a mood board of designs we thought would put us ahead of our rivals for UX/UI.

These translated into multiple Trello boards: App / Servers / Marketing. We continued to add more items over time to these boards and bit by bit, released them across multiple versions. We are now on version 2.1 at the time of writing this.

The next stage is growing our clients with a better marketing strategy.

Did you use Betalist or PH or other Startup Launching Platform for Launching ? How was that experience ?

Not at this time, our main focus currently is adverts and SEO

What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We offer a free 1 month trial with no obligation to buy. We operate on a cost per user per month model at £0.90 per user ($1.16). The only revenue growth at this stage is via adverts.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? What are your goals for the future?

The biggest challenges thus far have mostly been around Stripe integration for reoccurring payments and getting our Slack integration approved.

Our goals for the future are mostly around selling more and in a more predictable fashion, plus looking into other sales channels like emails, LinkedIn and improving our overall SEO for organic growth.

We have a large roadmap still which we would like to implement over time for additional features and functionality, to keep our platform ahead of the rivals.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The platform is fully up and running with paying clients, we haven't yet reached the break even point, as we are putting a lot more money into our advert spend to try and speed up future revenue growth.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Lots! I personally learned a lot about VueJS and PWA. Artur gained a lot of knowledge from the Stripe and Slack integration.

Every day we both learn more about marketing and generally how to launch and run a business end to end.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Our main platforms and tools are: DigitalOcean for hosting / VueJS for front-end / Lumen for back-end / Sentry.io for error tracking / Stripe for our payment provider / Google tag manager for analytics

Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?

It's a bit cliche but Elon Musk. His ability to juggle so many different organisations at the same time is very impressive. The amount of times he has come close to bankruptcy, it is incredible that he is still operating.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The Tim Ferris podcast as well as the tech podcast Syntax.fm for keeping up to date with technology changes.

What’s your advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneur who are just starting out?

Try to do some form of keyword and market research into your competition before going too far with an idea. Many have similar product ideas but it can be very hard to execute them if you're in a crowded space.

Where you can, aim for niche products and markets and try to utilise any insider knowledge you may have which most outsiders wouldn't.

Try to remember, building an application is one thing, selling it however, is a different skill all together.

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