Interview with Percy Stilwell (Resource Guru)
Resource Guru is a web based resource scheduling application.
I interviewed Percy Stilwell, Resource Guru co-founder to find out more. This is the hundred and forty second in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Percy!
Describe Resource Guru in under 50 words.
Resource Guru is a simple way to schedule people, equipment and other resources online. Companies can replace their existing scheduling systems with a great looking app that helps them get visibility of their team on one clever calendar. Companies are using Resource Guru to become more efficient and profitable.
Describe yourself in three words.
Resource scheduling pervert.
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you and co-founder Andrew Rogoff meet?
I studied fine art at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University. After graduating in ’95, jobs were scarce especially for art graduates but the internet was just getting going so I got some work experience at a place called football365.com. After that I worked in digital agencies up until 2010 when I decided, it’s now or never, if I don’t get out of this rat race soon, I’m going to get ill.
Andrew and I met 10 years ago working at an agency which then belonged to Euro RSCG. Andrew was project managing quite a big web build for a Guinness music festival in Ireland called Witness and I was launching a global Yahoo! promotion for the World Cup. I hate to say it, but I think it was as long ago as 2007 when we first had the idea for Resource Guru. We talked about it, and talked about it, then started writing up some user stories and it wasn’t until 2009 that we started prototyping it. It’s unbelievable how long these things take to get off the ground, when you’re juggling work, family and all the rest of it. But somehow we’ve got to where we are today. I think that’s where having a business partner really helps. I would never have got here by myself. We’re pretty good at keeping each other going and our working relationship is very good. Neither one of us has a particularly big ego and when we argue, it’s never personal – strictly business. We’re both reasonable guys, so we always manage to get to a resolution – so far at least! Anyway, it’s healthy to have a few arguments, otherwise it means you don’t care enough.
What made you decide to start working on Resource Guru?
We were using Microsoft Project and back then collaborative apps were in their infancy – Basecamp hadn’t been going for long. MS project was rubbish for the simple task of scheduling the team. If Google docs had existed then, we would probably have used that, but it didn’t, so we had a single resource scheduling spreadsheet on our company server and we all updated it. You can imagine the nightmare! Every agency we’ve ever worked at seems to use a scheduling spreadsheet and they just weren’t designed for the task. We decided to scratch our own itch and build something from the ground up which was specifically for the task of scheduling resources. It’s very early days for Resource Guru, and there’s plenty in the pipeline…
Where are you based? Who else is involved with Resource Guru?
I’m based in North Norfolk near the sea and Andrew is based in Pimlico, London. We spend about an hour on Skype video chats every day which is good, otherwise I think the cabin fever could begin to set in. We use a great Ruby on Rails development company in South Africa called Platform45. We have a very good relationship with them and it all works very smoothly.
How long did it take to put together Resource Guru?
It’s been a long haul! We’ve been working pretty much flat out since 2009. Most of that was spent prototyping, designing and building the app. But a large chunk of it was spent writing the business plan, raising investment, drafting the legal documentation etc
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Resource Guru?
The biggest challenge was probably designing an intuitive and simple UI for something which, once you start to delve into the nitty gritty of it, is really very complex. The calendar is probably the most custom-coded element on Resource Guru (presenting info right, different types of bookings, repeating, splits, availability, historical data etc.).
Another challenging aspect was the optimising of our database and table joins. Each account pulls in large quantities of data so it was a fair bit of work ensuring the app remained snappy while doing some pretty heavy lifting.
Who uses Resource Guru?
We initially conceived Resource Guru for creative/digital agencies but during the planning stage we spoke to people from other business sectors including architects, engineers, film production studios etc. and realised that we should make it flexible enough for any business to use. To date we have subscribers from large multinationals like JWT and BSkyB to tiny little 5 man UX shops. Our pricing makes it affordable for even the smallest teams. We also seem to be used by verticals within a company, so while the whole company might not be scheduled using Resource Guru, a project manager who’s probably fed up with a clunky system their company forces upon them has gone out to find something to help them manage their team more efficiently. We’ve recently put some testimonials live on our homepage from some of our happy users :)
How do you balance your time between your businesses and family?
I have a wife and two children who are in need of more attention! The past year has been exceptional – Andrew and I have been working 7 day weeks and most evenings. There’s only so long you can keep this up before you start losing your joie de vivre! There comes a time when you have to get things in perspective and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. That year was a sacrifice we felt we had to make to get Resource Guru up and running but now we’re trying to get a work life balance back. I think also, if you work too much, you become less effective. As our guru, Saas-Devi says, you need time off every now and then to sharpen your axe.
Do you have any new features in the pipeline that you can share with us?
We sure do! The most pressing ones are:
– Zoomed out view
– Drag and drop bookings
– Integration with other productivity apps
– Public API
– Daily email reminders to inform resources of their bookings
– The ability for users to add downtime which will ultimately make managing holidays and other downtime a lot easier
– Time tracking/recording
– Outlook/iCal integration
Aside from the new features, we want to enhance many of the current features. There’s a lot we want to do with projects, eg add timelines, tasks, budgets, rates etc. We want to have filters in reports as well as Bookings. We want users to be able to sort bookings by project or client as well as the custom attributes you can currently filter by.
Above all, we want to ensure that Resource Guru remains a simple tool with an uncluttered interface and not bloated by features. There’s plenty more in the pipeline too and not enough hours in the day!
How have you funded development of Resource Guru?
This is an interesting question as many tech startups have one or two good programmers who can actually start building the app with little or no external investment. For us, however, we needed to raise some seed finance and outsource the development. Andrew made a video blog about how we went about finding our developers.
Has Resource Guru got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
We’ve had a terrific response to Resource Guru – you only need to look at the testimonials on our homepage to see that. We also get lots of feedback in our support centre. Most of it is very complimentary but often pleading for a new feature (see new features above!). After a few months we have over 1000 users logging in on a weekly basis and I think we should be pretty happy with that given the limited marketing activity we’ve had.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Cashflow! Do we grow organically or do we get more investment and accelerate things? We’re mulling this one over at the moment…
What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting up?
Unless you’re an exceptional person (in which case you probably won’t need any advice) you’re unlikely to pull something like this off alone. Find someone you work well with. Preferably not a close friend or a member of your family. I’m not sure why, but that combination seems to go wrong a lot.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Can you convince the reader to start using Resource Guru in under 50 words?
Either you have a need for Resource Guru or you don’t. If you need to have a birdseye view of your resources and know who/what is available when, then Resource Guru is a no brainer at a starting price of only $19/month.
Finished reading? Check out Resource Guru!