We are frequently asked about the company that started www.proworkflow.com and how the solution and company came into being. Rather than rehash the story each time, I’ve outlined the story below in the form of an interview. If any editors are reading, feel welcome to contact me (Julian) through the ProWorkflow.com website if you’d like to publish this interview or want a new angle.
An Interview with ‘ProActive Software’ How did ProActive Software first start up?
The need for a project, task and time management system came from an earlier business operated by myself. I wanted to keep track of projects in my creative design agency.
I created a tool on a Palm pilot that worked great for me, but no others could access it. I enlisted the help of a developer – Alan Barlow (Co-director) to create a web based application for our team. Alan became my business partner in all this… We realized others could use it too and began to commercialize it for sale over the web. It sold well from day one and ever since it’s been growing!
ProWorkflow is now our core focus and has become a healthy fast growing independent company.Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from a need in my own business. I personally designed the first product (Alan wrote the code). We have personally designed and built the product, documentation, website, business systems and all other associated aspects of the business without any outside assistance.
Why did we want to do it?
Simple. We needed a solution to manage our projects and team. As for the business, we created ProActive Software to offer this solution to others. As it turns out, many other small/med co’s have had the same needs as us, so the solution was a good fit!What is our unique selling point?
Usability, Uptake and Price. (The main one is usability)
There are a number of competitors in the project management, task and time tracking area, all with a different spin on management efficiency. Some offer a particular ‘function’ of a business, whereas others offer ‘broad’ solutions. We’ve crawled forums over time and found a large number of dissatisfied customers with many competitor solutions. We believe that 95% of them have an unsustainable business model, or terribly designed solutions, so we focus on working with customers to create a highly usable solution that delivers true ROI.
How long have we been operating for?
Around about 4-5 years
How has business been so far?
Hard, rewarding, a great challenge and learning experience. So far, everything has gone according to plan. We normally look and strategize about 6 months ahead. Short plans are easily achievable and it allows us to change direction quickly if needed.
What kind of comments have we had from clients?
Our feedback has always been good and has continued to improve. The common comments that come through are:
– ProWorkflow has excellent usability!
– The solution delivers what it promises!
– It’s easy to learn and has great staff uptake!
– After trying other solutions, customers tell us they’re excited to have found ProWorkflow!
There’s many testimonials on this page:
How do we find co-coordinating between the 2x geographically separate partners and a distributed team?
Easy! That’s the smoothest part of the business. We’ve met in person for a total of 10 days in 5 years! That’s where technology is great. We’ve become masters of mobile phones, MSN, Skype, email, video cams, conferencing etc.
It also helps that we both know our ‘role’ in the business and we fully trust each other’s knowledge and advice.
What has been the biggest challenge about starting up the business â€“ both personally and as a business?
Firstly, as a business, the company was bootstrapped from idea through to revenue. It was all sweat equity and personal effort from the founders. We have no debt, no investors, no funding, and are profitable. This forced us to come up with innovative solutions to business and product issues. We learnt to be ‘clever’ about how we managed the business.
Secondly, personally, the biggest challenge is balancing the huge effort needed to do this, with personal time and family life. It’s very hard work when you start and there are no guarantees. It takes a lot of faith and self-belief to press forward in the early years until the cash flow stabilizes. You learn to get focused and tough.
What do we see as your biggest challenges going forward?
Definitely the biggest challenge going forward would be assembling a larger team and infrastructure in order to scale up the operation. We have a solid business model and strategic plan for resource allocation, but we’ll be further building our ‘virtual distributed team’ in multiple time zones and geographic regions, so like I said, it’ll be a fun challenge.
Which are our major markets?
Our customer base would is currently:
Do we have to adjust our mindset in order to promote the product effectively in overseas markets?
They key is not so much worrying about the fact that the markets are overseas, with technology, that’s the easy part. Rather consider the size/culture of the company you’re selling to.
Over the past few years we have been adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach to software development, but thats all about to change. The typical size company for our core product
www.proworkflow.com is 10-20 staff. However we’ve been approached many times by larger companies with 50-1000 staff. Simply put, we missed out on most of these larger sales due to the ‘structure of the app’ and our ‘sales mindset’ and approach in general. I’ve written about this in my blog and it’s worth a read for anybody selling to variable size markets. Here’s the link: http://julian101.com/archives/30
What do we want to ultimately achieve with your business/service?
I want to know that our solution is making a difference in the world. We’d like to be a ‘recognized name’ in the marketplace which would validate all the years of hard work. I’d like a manager in a design studio to say “I need something to manage my work” and for a staff member to turn around and say “What about ProWorkflow? My mates use it and love it!”
We’re setting up the company, products and sales systems currently to be globally scalable. We will then heavily lift marketing spend and should be able to support and facilitate the leads through to sales.
We’ve also just finished and are about to release an ‘Enterprise’ project, task & time management product for 50-1000+ user level companies. That’ll be released by end of year 2006 and we already have presales.
When we have the business systems the way we want them, the next move is into the Time and Attendance area and customizing the core ProWorkflow product for other vertical markets.
How do we find being a kiwi affects how you do business (if at all)?
We believe kiwis work smart and are great innovators. We are a small country with limited resources. Our techs, creatives and entrepreneurs are bought up to be ‘Jacks of all trades’. As such we tend to make our resources stretch a lot further than other countries.
Whilst being professional, kiwis also tend to have a more innovative, flexible and friendly approach to business than other global co’s we’ve dealt with.
Anything else I can think of? hmmm…
Other than ‘try our ProWorkflow solution?’ – ha ha..
I’d say… To anyone looking to build a software company, place less emphasis on technology and more on talking to your market. Rather than building a product and taking it to market, talk to the market, find out what they need and build it. Work with customers to refine the soution.
To find out more about our business and solution, visit:
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About the author:
Julian Stone, CEO – Project, Task & Time Management specialist for: ProActiveSoftware.com, ProWorkflow.com & Julian101.com
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About The Author:
Julian Stone begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting is the CEO of ProActive Software, developers and creators of the leading web based project management software http://www.proworkflow.com.