Previously, we ran as a services agency. Billing a specified daily rate for a certain number of days, and selling services to use on the platform that we created. In addition, for use of our platform we would always charge a small recurring fee.
This model certainly worked in getting us to where we are today. However, we now work with public sector clients like the NHS and county councils, who don't have big budgets to spend on services. They want an Intranet that enables one trained member of staff to manage and maintain it, as they don't tend to change it very much. They can then carry out essential maintenance to keep some of the content up to date and add or remove users, so they are more self-sufficient.
A stable, scalable model
When I took over in October 2018, my aim was to scale the company. Trying to grow and scale the company as an agency operation, however, is difficult, especially when each new enterprise customer requires a substantial consideration in resources at our end.
In addition, it's challenging to get introductions within the enterprise world, and to make those conversations happen. Of course, we continue to pursue those conversations, nonetheless.
The Eureka moment: getting the idea for SaaS-based Intranet
The idea for us to provide a SaaS product came when I was listening to a series called The SaaS podcasts. I became a huge fan and listened to them while driving to work on my bike. The interviews, which are around an hour long, are with owners of companies that provide SaaS products.
They talk about their story, about the hurdles they have overcome, and about their successes. I found it fascinating and inspiring. I began thinking that this was a much better idea than an agency model, which comes with struggling to get and service the business that we need.
There was one particular podcast, by Derek O'Carroll, who was employed as CEO of a company that had been around for about ten years. This company was slightly larger than SMLWRLD, but actually reminded me so much of us.
The business was struggling with various things, including money. Their cash levels weren't great, and they were struggling with their existing ways of working, with a high volume of servicing work.
It struck me, as Derek talked about how he had come in and turned it all around, that this was our solution. The moment was so profound that I pulled over on my bike, stripped off my gear and rewound the podcast so that the next one didn't play, as I didn't want to lose my epiphany.
When I got to the office, I sat down with my colleague Rosie to explain what happened, and she was just as excited as me. We had been doing it all wrong. We needed to forget about large implementation projects and focus on a product that we could sell subscriptions for. It's quite a story now in the office that I ran in like the guy who had the Eureka moment.
After realising this, everything started falling into place. I am now giving demos of our standardised Intranets. The process is much simpler, and we can now show a useable product.
We can click through it, rather than needing to show screenshots of what other companies have done with their Intranets, or having lengthy discussions regarding the finite details of what a client might or might not need.
Where do we go from here?
We are currently in our Beta phase and have a number of SME’s trialling our product. They’re using it free of charge, and in exchange are giving us regular feedback, so that we can effectively iron out any bugs and glitches.
It’s simple, pays for itself and is much less prone to fluctuations. It is more straightforward for customers as well, who will have an all-inclusive cost that they can budget for, without needing to pay extra for the implementation, help or services.
Overall, it has been an exciting 12 months. We’ve gone from soul searching and deliberating about where we go and how we scale the operation, to hearing all of the podcast stories and suddenly realising that this directly applies to us. We’ve flipped everything we were doing and are now well on our way to having a saleable SaaS product, and the team to support us in our growth.