Bookwhen are a software business that are passionate about helping small businesses succeed through great value booking software. They're a team of largely remote workers, have passionate values and are an interesting case study of a SME working in a different but sucessful way.
We had a chat to their founder Jo Potts...
Can you give us a bit of the background of Bookwhen for those who haven’t heard of it?
Bookwhen is an online booking system for classes and courses in the fitness, activities, and training sectors. The business is bootstrapped (no external funding) which is great as we get to grow organically, focusing on our customers, without any pressure from investors.
The business started from my own personal tech goals. I jumped straight into a corporate environment out of uni, working on databases and business systems in banking and finance. It was an amazing learning experience, but I felt like my options were limited and wanted to become more focused on the product side of software. So the first iteration of Bookwhen came from a desire to learn and build new things, and the entrepreneurial factor was also a big part of it.
What is the vision statement for Bookwhen?
A smooth and intuitive booking system for bookers, organisers and developers. A well-structured and functioning business that balances value with revenue fairly. Going beyond amazing support to help our businesses succeed.
Can you tell us a little about your early growth strategy?
The focus from the start has always been to prioritise looking after the customers, and building the product they need. Those two ingredients are essential to any growth. Listening to customer feedback and helping them as much possible has earned us a reputation for great support, and organic growth through word of mouth has followed.
What challenges did you encounter early on?
Starting small without any funding was a fun challenge. I initially juggled support and development, so prioritisation of tasks was the key to success. But once the business was generating enough to expand the team, it enabled us to focus more effectively on what we were good at and things have been progressing well ever since.
What’s your approach to strategy planning now?
As mentioned, we value our customers feedback and their challenges above everything else. The support team turn the qualitative data into metrics which we use to feed into the prioritisation of the short and medium goals. We're using agile methodologies so we're able to respond quickly to changes, and reassess what we're working on as we go. So a healthy mix of long term strategy and short term goals is generally how we manage things.
Looking back, have you made any key strategic mistakes?
We never focused product development on any particular vertical market, favouring more generic solutions to problems. On the product side this has made things a bit trickier, and from a marketing perspective it makes it difficult to appeal to all the different sectors. I’d not say it was a mistake as things are going well, but perhaps selecting a particular vertical at the start would have been easier.
How often do you review your strategy?
We’re a remote first business, so we meet up every three months to discuss general strategy and set longer term goals in those meetings.
What have been some of your key strategic objectives and why?
The purpose of the business is to help our businesses succeed, so we value customer success and that drives a lot of the strategy, but as a CEO from a technical background I personally strive to make the system and product as robust and functional as possible. We put a huge amount of effort into both and I think by simply focusing on those aspects, the rest will fall into place.
How do you engage your employees with your strategy?
By recruiting people with the right attitude. We have built a team of empathetic and conscientious people who naturally fit in with the philosophy and vision of the business. So it’s not a matter of trying to persuade anyone as we are who we are. We’re all here to help our customers and enhance the product however we can.
How do you think Bookwhen will continue to succeed and grow?
If we stick to the basics of improving the system, helping customers, and building a great team, then the business will stay healthy. We’re all enjoying what we do and we’re proud to be remote first which is not only better for our personal lives, but also better for the environment - something else that we all care about in the business!
We’re keen to help our customers make their businesses succeed, so by focusing on that and providing a great service, hopefully the business will continue to grow into the future.
With your employees being remote, communication on company direction is key. What approaches do you take to communication?
We have a daily video call to discuss what we’re doing and raise any issues. General communication is via Slack, but for deeper discussions we call instead of type. Talking beats typing for making connections and getting deeper into issues. We also have a two weekly Sprint meeting to set out short term goals, and a three monthly meetup where we all meet in person.
Finally, what strategy tip would you give SMEs?
Enjoy yourself and stay focused on the things that really matter in life! Appreciate the journey.
Thank you for your time Jo!
You can find out more about their online booking system here!