Upcoming Job Scheduling, Rostering and Timesheeting App

This one has been a long time in the making. Too long.

As a result of talking to over a hundred businesses, there were loads of problems with a common theme around managing multiple mobile staff. We had a few early signups before the product was built, and then spent over 6 months developing a product.

It turns out the developers were essentially lying about their ability levels, and produced awful code. So we enlisted a new developer, who kicks serious ass, to fix all of the problems. Thankfully he has done a really good job.

We’ve had one user running his local cleaning business on the app for about two months to make sure everything is running smoothly. Now, we’re putting on a few more users.

So, we’re looking for a few local businesses who run mobile staff.

That means any business where you have staff driving around all day to different jobs. Some examples would be cleaning, aged care, handymen and garden/lawn care.

If you know someone in these industries who are using job cards or some kind of paper based system, please send them my way.

It’s free to use at the moment. There’s no contracts or catches. You get a system aimed at saving you time, and we get your input on the software. That’s the deal :)

Check out the job scheduling, rostering and timesheeting app here.

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Reject script for nuisance Twilio calls

If you’re using Twimlets to forward your calls from a Twilio number, and you’ve been getting loads of weird calls from numbers, here’s a quick fix.

<?php echo “<?xml version=\”1.0\” encoding=\”UTF-8\”?>”; ?>

<Response>
<?php $from = $_REQUEST[‘From’];
if (strpos($from,’266696687′) !== false) { ?>
<Reject />
<?php } else { ?>
<Dial callerId=”<?php echo $_REQUEST[‘From’]; ?>”>+YOUR_FORWARDING_NUMBER</Dial>
<?php } ?>
</Response>

Steps:

  • Upload that to any server with PHP
  • Go to your Twilio phone numbers and select the offending number
  • Copy your current Request Url to the Fallback Url
  • Add the URL to your script as the Request Url
  • Save

In this case we were receiving calls from +266696687 (Anonymous) so that number is being rejected in the above script.

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How networking and helping clients resulted in a product

A while back, we moved our business into the web design space. We went on to snag a few clients through networking events. Often these clients would have problems bigger than just their website.

One client asked for help in setting up a payment system where she could store her clients credit cards and charge them as she needed. But she wanted to invoice them with her cloud based accounting software, Xero.

It seemed easy enough to me. Stripe was the obvious choice for the credit card processing, simply because it is awesome. And I thought the integration should be simple enough to set up using Zapier.

After setting up Zapier to create invoices in Xero whenever a Stripe charge occurred, I ran into a problem. It turns out that you cannot create bank statement lines in Xero via the API, thus Zapier could not do it.

A little bit of research reveled a bunch of people in the Xero Community were having the exact same problem. That sounded like a good product. That day, I threw up a landing page with an email submit, and posted it in the forums and started a basic AdWords campaign. We had around 40 sign ups pretty quickly, and continued to get them over time.

Fast forward a few months, and we had a product built. For the first time, I didn’t write a single line of code. I didn’t even LOOK at a line of code. Our awesome developer (whom I also found through networking, by a referral) handled everything on that side of things.

That product is called Silver Siphon. It provides a way for businesses to set Stripe up as a bank account inside of Xero, as if it was importing a bank feed. This makes reconciliation with invoices super easy. It sounds simple, but man have we run into a load of problems.

We’ve been working with a bunch of beta users of have beaten the app to death several times, and we’ve continued to revamp it to handle large loads. These same users are now saving hours of time in data manipulation between Stripe and Xero.

The paid version of Silver Siphon launches very soon. If you’re interested in checking it out, there is a 14 day trial for you to try. Click here to check it out.

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What to expect at a Wilson Luna event: An honest review

If you’re a big Wilson Luna fan, there’s one of two reactions you’ll have to this. Either it will offend you, or you’ll feel sorry for me for not being ‘compatible’ with Luna’s teachings.

I really hope it is the first, for the latter is exactly what you are being conditioned to believe each minute you spend in front of this NLP and sales master.

tl;dr: Avoid like the plague

Upon leaving his 2 day Entrepreneurial Intensive, my predominant emotion was sadness. A deep sadness for all the poor people that had been caught hook, line and sinker and trapped within a crazy, crazy world.

Once I made it home, it felt like my mind was recovering from a 2 day battery of intensive NLP and sales techniques. There is not a doubt in the world that Wilson Luna is a sales genius. An ethical one? I’m not so sure.

It was early on the second day where a few of us started catching on to some of the tricky things he was up to. The biggest clue was seeing how his many minions, dressed in black around the edges of the room, were acting. With their relentless single claps (what the hell is that?), yelling “yes, yes” at every second sentence, spontaneous jumping around in fits of happiness or long embraces in the middle of the talk, it was as if they were under the effect of a spell, or hypnotized. As the weekend wore on, this weird stuff just got more and more intense. It seemed that they were basically falling deeper and deeper into Luna’s trap. It was actually really scary and saddening to watch.

The Value

It wasn’t all bad though. The guy definitely has some solid business advice. None of it could be remotely classified as groundbreaking, but many people could take away a few great pointers and concepts provided they are willing to sacrifice a full two days.

The marketing will tell you that the Entrepreneur Intensive is high content with minimal selling. While Wilson is very very good at hiding his sales pitch, in reality the whole thing is just one big pitch with maybe 5% actual content sprinkled through.

I wouldn’t have gone to the event if a few people hadn’t said that the content was worth going for. Free seminars almost always suck. But somehow, he’s even convinced the minions that it is a high content seminar. These minions act as his sales army, much like other semi-cults like Landmark.

Perhaps the biggest value was in his “business teardowns.” This is where people in the audience get up and pitch their business, and Luna tears it down and explains what’s good about it, what sucks, and the direction he would go. There was definitely some gold in here. A common theme among his advice was to become a supplier or distributor of whatever it is that you do. To be in with a chance to get stood up, you parted with $100 for the VIP package, which I regrettably took. Fortunately I did have a chance to speak. However, a miscommunication resulted in being advised to ditch building software and instead do software services.

My biggest takeaway was a mindset shift in the way I see rich people. My usual reaction to a dude in a Ferrari is “fuck you rich prick”. That was turned on its head, which is a good thing in my opinion.

The Not-So Value

wilson luna portrait

Wilson Luna Portrait
(Let’s get this to rank on Google Image search too)

The biggest thing being drilled into your brain for 2 days is that you will likely not succeed in business without following Luna’s advice.

Towards the end of day one I’d even started believing this. Absolute fucking insanity.

He seems to build up a kind of “us versus everyone else” mentality, where the people in the room are almost guaranteed to succeed and everyone else not so much. He even likened signing up to his $5k program to betting on roulette with 90% odds…

You’re also being told over and over that it is wise to invest in your business’ future. You’re told (in subtle ways) that not spending money will hold your business back. Conveniently, you get many opportunities to spend $5,000 at the back of the room.

The real question is if the money will give you any actual value. My researched and honest opinion would swing pretty heavily towards a no.

That money basically gives you access to 4 seminars in Australia each year (more if you want to travel to London) and a Facebook group. I spoke to many minions who were adamant the content of each seminar was always new and valuable. When asked what kind of things changed, they really struggled. I’d be willing to bet that there isn’t a whole lot of extra content being delivered – just more NLP trickery to convince them to sign up all of their friends.

I personally know people who have dropped over $10,000 into this guy and don’t have an actual functioning business yet. Ouch.

Should you go?

You honestly may get some value out of this seminar. But there is no way it is worth 2 days of your life, especially a weekend. If you are the type of person susceptible to hypnosis, my suggestion is to stay a long, long way away from this.

And some people have even done research into the guy’s past to see if the things he claims about his business prowess are even legit. It doesn’t seem so. The whole thing could very well be a load of shit.

Update 18/05/15

Check out this new post from Gallina for a great [heartbreaking] list of online reviews from people who lost their last money and more to the Luna.

18

A great book for software startups and entrepreneurs

There are a ton of books out there aimed at those of us in the early stages of business. It’s not often you find one that is as applicable to the software world as this book. It’s not surprising though, given that the authors are the software company that brought us Basecamp and invented Ruby on Rails. That’s about as spot on as it gets to our industry don’t you think?

Rework rocks for a few reasons.

  1. They’ve done a damn good job of keeping it short and to the point, while
  2. giving you heaps of ‘aha’ and ‘thank god, I actually am on the right track’ moments

rework front cover37 Signals have defied a lot of the traditional thinking when it comes to starting a a business. And the whole point of this book is “and you can too”. As an example, it encourages simplicity in products. You don’t have to create a product that does everything your competitors do and more – creating a features arms race. I sure as hell have been guilty of this. When we first released Chimp Rewriter it did so much stuff. Now each revision we’re basically pulling out features that barely anyone uses, and having it do the remaining stuff better. And with the development of Job On Time, it gives me a lot of faith in what we are doing -> crazy simple job scheduling for the non technical.

Some of my takeaways

  • Planning and forecasting based on guesswork is a joke.
  • You don’t (and shouldn’t be) working 100 hour weeks.
  • Staying small is actually a good thing.
  • Getting funding is a slippery slope which almost always results in you losing your company.
  • Pick something and do that something really well. Don’t do a million things. This includes stripping features sometimes.
  • Make decisions quickly in the early days. Every tool you use or decision you make does not have to be perfect.
  • Be passionate and have an opinion. It’s ok to say you think a competitor sucks and say why.
  • It’s cool if customers outgrow you. You can’t be everything to everyone.
  • Don’t obsess (or even think about) the competition
  • Delight customers
  • Hire good communicators, and only when you REALLY need to hire

————> Get Rework here. <————

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The Cure for Bright Shiny Object Syndrome

Every entrepreneur (god, that word is awful) ever must go through this.

Something in your mind changes when you start your own business. The longer you’re in it the worse it gets. You start seeing ideas literally EVERYWHERE. While walking down the street, hanging out at the shops, drinking an overpriced beer at a pub, you name it. Not only that, but people will start throwing ideas at you left right and center. Before you’ve finished a couple of beers, you’ll have at least 6 apps that would be awesome for at least one person.

All of a sudden, you’ve got a brain full of potential businesses. Inevitably, most of them will be crap (read: unmarketable or unscalable) ideas, but there will be a few gems. Most of them will be in completely different directions. You will want do all of them.
bright shiny object syndrome
A common trait among successful people is at some point, they took one thing and ran with it. If it failed, they tried something else. There are of course exceptions, but I guarantee you none of them developed 10 ideas simultaneously in a bootstrapped, sole-director businesses.

How then do you decide which idea is going to be killer? This decision can be insanely painful if you are the type who struggles to make decisions on the spot.

You’re going to look everywhere for the answer. Guess what? This one is completely on you. No one else is making the decision. Not even Google.

People can offer advice, but you better make sure it is qualified advice. Your mate saying “oh yeah that’s awesome, I’d use that”, does not count as qualified advice (unless your mates are your target audience and have money). A guy who has built multiple businesses in a similar industry probably counts. Unless you’re already well networked, you’ve got some searching to do to find the latter.

A good place to start is forums, podcasts, LinkedIn groups, or anywhere you can find either a) your target audience or b) some potential mentors hanging out.

You should also be doing your own research into market size, number and size of potential competitors, and talking to people in your target audience about the problems you are going to solve. Their reactions to the problem (not solution) you describe will be a top indication. You can look at Google Adwords to see how many people are searching for specific terms to get an idea of market size. Try plugging competitors into tools like SEMRush to see how people are finding them and what ads they are running (Hint: lots of ads generally mean lots of money)

The idea is to gather as much information about each of your ideas as possible before making a decision on which idea you think is the most valuable. There will always be the risk of failure, but you can at least minimise it by making an informed decision based on real metrics. When you rush a decision like this, chances are that a year down the track after wasting huge amounts of time and maybe money, you’ll look back and think “oh man, that was dumb.”

Maybe some of your ideas will have elements that overlap with each other. If you talk to enough people in a given industry, this is pretty much guaranteed. The overlap itself could be an ever better idea for your first product, and you can expand later. MVP that shit.

Eventually, you’re just going to have to make a call and hope that it is the best based on the research you have done. For Job On Time, this took me like 5 months. WAY longer than it should have, but at least I’m feeling pretty confident.

[/serious]

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No Screen Sundays

This coming Sunday, ban yourself from any kind of backlit screen. Try it just for one day. As it turns out, this is pretty damn good at a few things…

Every so often on Startups For The Rest Of Us they drop in a little life or productivity hack. Just one of the many things that make this the best podcast aimed at SaaS. Recently they mentioned the idea of No Screen Sundays. It struck a chord with me mainly because my girlfriend has mentioned my obsession with tech and ‘having to work’ on more occasions then I’d like to admit.
No Screen Sundays
It’s a bit shit when you can’t even take a minute to hang out with your partner or a mate without business stuff kicking around in your brain. Giving No Screen Sundays a go sounded like a sweet was to break this habit.

Man, was it ever.

Like almost every day, the first thing I reached for when I woke up was my phone. May as well check emails from the comfort of bed right? Right then I remembered No Screen Sundays (let’s call it NSS from now on) and chucked it back on the bedside table. I went and hung out with the girlfriend instead, who was already up making breakfast.

Since video games were out as well, I had to find something else to do. The day was spent catching up with people who I hadn’t seen in ages, watching the gf play soccer, skateboarding and picking up the guitar again. There was also attempts at fixing both the car and laptop – stuff I’d been putting off for ages.

I kinda of forgot you could get so much squeezed into one day cause half of it would be spent on work.

I’ve done two of these in a row now. When you can’t just sit down and play games or whatever, it forces you to think about other stuff you can do, old hobbies you can take up again and people you can call who you haven’t seen in ages. All of the above sound like positives to me. The added bonus is that you’ll be itching to go on Monday. Instead of Monday’s sucking, you’ll get loads done.

Give it a go.

The Rules

No backlit screens from wake up to sleep. Kindles excluded
You can use your phone to make calls or reply to messages if they relate to meeting up with someone

Some Ideas

  • Actually hang out with your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/kids/dog
  • Long lost hobbies (that thing you’ve been saying “oh yeah I want to get back into X”)
  • New hobbies – if you’re me try skateboarding and golf
  • Call friends you haven’t seen in ages. Don’t facebook them
  • Go to the pub (preferably with friends, but we don’t judge)
  • Fix something that has been shitting you for ages
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Productivity hacks – Asana and speeding up podcasts

Here’s a quick couple of productivity hacks.

What to do if you’re nowhere near a PC and you have a rad idea or remember something that you are supposed to do? If you’re like me, you’d shoot off an email to yourself and deal with it later.

This is really awful practice for zero inbox.

Enter Asana. I’ve tried a lot of task management apps in the past and haven’t liked any as much as this. One of the best parts is being able to flick of an email to a special email address that just adds it straight into your “new tasks” so you can handle it when you actually want to, rather than have it stare at you from your inbox.

The second is all about podcasts. Podcasts rock when you’re on the move, driving, waiting for public transport or whatever. The problem is it can take a 45 minute episode to get a couple of good points.

After going through a few podcast apps on Android I discovered Pocket Casts. This is easily the best I’ve used, with the bonus (and important) feature of being able to speed up playback out of the box. Listening on 1.8x is surprisingly easy, and it means you tear through podcasts and still process all of the information.

And here’s a few great podcasts to check out:

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