Support customers. I think it’s vital to get to know your customers, get to know their needs and learn from them.
Scott Sherwood is the founder of TestLodge, an online test management tool that allows QA teams to manage their testing documentation collaboratively with ease. Scott graduated from the University of Hull in 2007 with a 1st in Internet Computing. He worked for a leading web development firm as a software developer until 2013 when he began working full time for his bootstrapped startup, TestLodge.
Where did the idea for TestLodge come from?
TestLodge was created after being inspired after reading a book by 37signals/Basecamp. The book is called ReWork and is based on their experience of bootstrapping their own business. It sets out practical tips on how to start a business from scratch and gives you the belief that it is possible to do this without funding.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts with getting small things like bookkeeping, emails and support raised overnight done. Getting these tasks out the way means that I’m organised and back up-to-date. I typically dedicate a couple of hours to development, be this improving current code or working on a new feature. I spend time on marketing tasks, responding to support items and everything else that is needed to run a business. Work does stop at 5pm but I keep on answering customer emails when they come in during the evening so customers aren’t kept waiting.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Being a developer, I had the skills to develop the product myself, so it was pretty much sitting down at a computer and designing and developing the product myself. This took a good six months until I had something that was functional and ready to use (albeit very basic). I had a few early adopters that helped provide feedback which was used to further develop the tool. I went part-time in my main job to allow more time to develop the business and only left my main job when TestLodge was more established.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Autonomous cars. I really do love cars and the car industry is going to go through a big change in the next decade. We are about to see some very clever technology which firms like Tesla are already well into developing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Not spending too long working without taking a break. Doing small chunks of dedicated work, separated by short breaks, makes for a more productive day. Concentration is at a high level and less time is wasted correcting mistakes.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’m not sure what the worst job I’ve ever had was, but something I have learnt over the years is if you’re not using your main skills and developing them further, then maybe it’s time to look elsewhere at what other opportunities there may be.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would look to go part-time sooner. Spending more time earlier on developing the product would have gotten the business going quicker. Taking longer to grow the business did have its benefits as I learnt a lot over time and it was less of a risk to leave my main job.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Support customers. I think it’s vital to get to know your customers, get to know their needs and learn from them. Don’t hand support off to someone else to handle as you’ll miss out on so much valuable information. Encourage your customers to give feedback and listen to what they have to say.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Automate as much as possible. Being a small business, it’s important to try and automate those small tasks, from sending the monthly newsletter out to allowing customers to sign up themselves. If you find that there is a common trend in support tickets, find a way for customers to do it themselves instead of having to email you. This gives customers the ability and control to do more, giving you more time to develop the improvements or features your customers want to see.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Design. The first design for TestLodge cost $100 – no joke! Yes, it was basic, but it did the job – after all I was just evaluating the market at this stage and money was tight.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Trello – I use this task management tool to help manage the tasks that all the contractors are doing for TestLodge. It allows me to easily add tasks, see what people are working on and allows us to quickly communicate with each other without filling up our email inboxes.
FreeAgent – Bookkeeping sounds like a boring job, and it is. But FreeAgent really do make it simple – by importing all transactions directly from my banks, it allows me to quickly explain them and then get on with the main tasks that I want to be doing.
Recurly – This tool sits in between a payment gateway and my site and manages the subscriptions. The functionality that they offer is fantastic and pretty much automates the whole billing process including calculating EU VAT rates and verifying customer locations.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
ReWork – It’s full of practical tips and inspiration on how to create a startup from scratch, based on their own experience. Written by Basecamp, possibly one of the most successful tech bootstrapped startups, they make you believe that you can also do things yourself without needing to raise finance.
Scott Sherwood on Twitter: @scottsherwood
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