Interview with Todd Eccles (ServiceSidekick)
ServiceSidekick is a web application that allows companies to track leads, estimate and manage jobs, and invoice clients.
I interviewed Todd Eccles, ServiceSidekick founder to find out more. This interview is the hundred and second in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Todd!
How would you describe ServiceSidekick in under 50 words?
A simple and effective SaaS product for small to medium businesses to manage sales opportunities, jobs and generate invoices. We provide a highly effective way for any company to increase their revenue flows while simultaneously making their company more efficient. We also sync invoices to Quickbooks (both Online and Desktop).
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I am a passionate entrepreneur that loves to solve problems.
What made you decide to start working on ServiceSidekick?
After working at a service company with my family for 20+ years and having helped develop software there to run the company, it was an easy decision (after selling the company) to offer what we developed over the years to other small businesses around the world.
Who is the team behind ServiceSidekick? Where are you based?
Our corporate office is in San Francisco. Our team is made up of Matt Bradley and I who manage the business. The rest of the team is comprised of a very talented group of Ruby on Rails engineers and one of the finest customer service teams I have ever seen.
You started your career in the service industry back in 1992 working at your family’s plumbing company. What valuable lessons did you learn that help you today?
I learned that it is best to apply the KISS principle in business if you want to implement solutions that drive visible results to both your customers and everyone on your team. It keeps your customers happy as they are able to see immediate value in your product and also gives the team a feeling of continued success supporting the product. It is a total win-win.
There is always an inertia and a market pressure to add more and more features to a product. However, it has been serendipitous that we have focused on refining our core features rather than blindly adding new ones. In practice, while our competitors have added extra bells and whistles in their products, when it comes down to it most customers have chosen to use (and stick with) our product for its simple user experience. Chiseling away at a diamond takes time, and patience.
What technologies have you used to build ServiceSidekick?
We have a great stack of resources. We use Ruby on Rails and host our software on the Amazon Cloud (AWS). We use some great apps that help us run our business from ZenDesk, Xero, MailChimp, Totango, Sprint.ly, and Trust Commerce. Also, we are a big believer in eating our own dogfood and use our own app to manage our sales, work, and invoicing. It has been a great way to learn valuable product insights.
What was the most challenging part of developing ServiceSidekick?
The most challenging part of developing the business was solidifying the product direction early on. It took many tests to fully understand how to make our product have all the features that were required and still be easy enough for even a non-technical user. Once we learned what our customers really wanted it gave us a clear vision and made life much easier.
How long did it take to put together ServiceSidekick?
We started doing user tests as far back as October of 2006. We started selling to customers in 2007, but mainly focused on getting feedback and continuously modifying our user experience. In 2008 we officially launched. Although the product has been actively used by customers since that time, I feel we have been ‘putting it together’ in earnest since that date and will continue into the future. We learn how to make the product better every day.
I hear 2012 will be an exciting year for your customers as they will experience a new and improved application. How is development going?
It is going great. We have tried to focus on building a foundation on which to build our future. We are adding some improvements in on the CRM side that has already earned tremendous feedback from our beta customers. We are very excited for the release.
What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?
I feel as our development path for our product (and our business) has been one one of constant learning where we have put in a lot of effort to gain knowledge. It is a slow process. We could have spent our time much more effectively if we had already known what the basic rules are that govern how companies successfully develop winning products. I wish that I had understood the idea of being lean (and agile) 5 years ago, and not had to learn as a rite of passage.
Where do you see ServiceSidekick in 5 years time?
In five years I would like to see our company as a clear leader in the Service CRM market, providing the SMB with the best platform for their companies to easily manage their businesses. I would like for us to remain focused on a simple user experience that drives value far beyond our competitors.
Has ServiceSidekick got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
We planned for a somewhat slow launch, where we deliberately spent time trying to understand what we could build that our customers would get excited about. We labored over the first 25 customers, and their feedback was instrumental in helping us refine our product and marketing so we could gain addition customer traction. Now with 500+ customers and growing rapidly, our expectations have grown.
Who would you say is your biggest competitor?
We have seen many competitors come and go in the market. It might sound kind of corny, but I feel like right now we are our own biggest competitor. I look around and see companies in our space that have taken tons of funding and still have products that lack the fundamental user experience needed by the service market.
What one piece of advice would you give to new startup founders?
My one piece of advice would be this: Dogfood. Use your own software. If you do not use it, and cannot stand in your customers shoes, you will not know how to build what they need.
Can you convince the reader to start using ServiceSidekick in under 50 words?
Our original customers still use the application after 5 years. Their businesses have grown, and we have grown with them. Over $500 million per year pass through our system from small to medium sized businesses, and that number is growing. That has to make you just a little curious, right?
Finished reading? Check out ServiceSidekick!