Interview with Ryan Fyfe (ShiftPlanning)
ShiftPlanning is an online employee scheduling application.
I interviewed Ryan Fyfe, ShiftPlanning founder to find out more. This is the hundred and ninety sixth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Ryan!
How would you describe ShiftPlanning in under 50 words?
The web’s most easy to use employee scheduling and workforce management software for small businesses.
What made you start working on ShiftPlanning early 2009?
The initial idea for ShiftPlanning came from a mutual acquaintance that was working at a restaurant in my home-city, a restaurant where I had also worked. When I heard that they were still scheduling with paper and pen we agreed there was a better way, ShiftPlanning was born shortly after.
What technologies have you used to develop ShiftPlanning and which were the most technically challenging development problems?
ShiftPlanning is built on Opensource technologies – We use a standard LAMP stack which has really helped us to recruit and ramp up our development team. The most challenging thing that we’ve had to deal with on the technology side is scalability. Our initial product was built to prove the concept not to scale to thousands of customers. Over the past year we’ve had to pay down on a lot of technical debt which has been challenging both to our customers and to our team.
Has ShiftPlanning got the feedback and growth you expected since early 2010?
ShiftPlanning went online very early. I would say it was an MVP, not Beta (a cliche). The idea was let’s get it out into the hands of potential first users as fast as possible. We won’t charge them for it, and we’ll start getting active feedback to help shape our road-map. This was a very successful model, most of these clients are still with us today. I get asked a lot – “Who does Product at ShiftPlanning?” – Our customers.
The flexibility of your software has allowed you to target different markets, which are you focusing on?
We are truly vertical agnostic. We don’t focus on any one industry more than another and while there are a few industries that are naturally larger than others based on product/market fit, and numbers of establishments/employees our actual market distribution is still very evenly distributed. This again has really helped us with product as we have our eyes open to the needs of small businesses in all industries and all parts of the world vs. food and beverage only for example which is one of our most competitive verticals.
You offer free account set up and free training, do you see this as a long term customer retention strategy?
Our support is equally as important as our product. This keeps our churn rates down and gives us good visibility into our customers needs. We’ve made a lot of investments into process here; some of which are already shared with our clients, for example our Learning Management System was built for our team and we later opened it up for our clients to use as a part of the platform.
You’ve received over $1M in venture capital, how long did it take to secure the funding?
Fortunately, it was very fast. The funding came from existing investors.
How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors like eSchedule, Scheduly and ScheduleOnce?
ShiftPlanning is different from our competitors primarily for our vertical agnostic approach as well as having a full workforce management platform vs. just a scheduling product. Many of our competitors are also sales-driven organizations, vs. product/engineering led which creates a huge gap in our actual product in terms of end-user experience and types of scenario’s that we can handle. With scheduling in particular, every business has unique needs. ShiftPlanning is built with that in mind.
You employee around 30 people, have you had any difficulties in finding talented developers and managers?
I’ve been very fortunate to have connected early on with many very talented individuals that share the same passion for new technology and entrepreneurship. Our team has largely been built organically around them.
Finding key people is always hard especially as our needs have become more and more specialized as we grown. Remaining open to a distributed model has helped us mitigate a lot of these challenges as well as kept our efficiency at very optimal levels.
You’re continually adapting to further workforce management automation and flexibility, do you have any features in the pipeline?
Our platform has grown quickly from Scheduling first into workforce management. We’ll continue to invest in the full platform; It’s very exciting to see now that we have clients that don’t even use our scheduling product at all but are using another component of the platform; many exciting technology partners on these sides as well.
With the knowledge you have today, would you do anything different if you were to start-up ShiftPlanning again?
Make less assumptions and collect more data.
Where do you see ShiftPlanning in 5 years time?
The market leader in our space and with a much larger presence in the SaaS eco-system.
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
Be patient and persistent; There is too much focus on the overnight success stories and viral consumer products – these are the exceptions and not the rule. It can take a significant amount of time to gain product/market fit and traction.
Bootstrap as far as you possibly can. There is far too much attention/excitement around fundraising vs. around companies that are building sustainable/profitable businesses. It’s not to say that fundraising is bad, but you need to be sure you’re in a position where you can invest the money you’re bringing in at a rate that offsets the dilution and loss of control it comes with.
Can you convince the reader to start using ShiftPlanning in under 50 words?
For less than the price of coffee each day you can eliminate overtime, improve employee job satisfaction and win back the valuable time you’re spending running your business – to focus on growing it.
Finished reading? Check out ShiftPlanning!