Hi Stage Plan crew, welcome to LiveTrigger Magazine!
It’s so great to have you here. Thanks for sharing your story with us. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there. What is Stage Plan, when was born and it where is it based?
Stage Plan is still in its infancy, going live late 2017.
Originally, we designed it as a proof of concept – as a designer and programmer, we were more interested in the technology but after we got so far, we realised that this would be useful.
From a business perspective, this is pretty dire – we didn’t research or see if there was a need, but that was never the goal.
Our target though has always been the same – to ensure that we always keep a free version for those who need a quick plan and don’t need all the bells and whistles.
We are based in Hertfordshire/Cambridgeshire in the UK and work on it in our spare time.
Normally in the pub.
How was your 2019 so far?
We’ve learned a lot, and regularly try to get feedback from our customers and users.
We run surveys and mailshots asking for advice and help, to ensure we improve Stage Plan in the most effective way we can.
What’s the most exciting thing that happened to you recently?
Seeing who uses the site.
The variation of styles from orchestra, rap, folk to death metal has been really encouraging as we didn’t want to be a stage plan service for a certain style.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first starting the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
That research up front is really important.
When we started to add premium features and received no interest, we felt we’d wasted our time.
It’s strange because outside of this project, we’re super research heavy with UX designers and product managers ensuring market fit.
The thing is, you don’t need to be an expert in those things to get going (depending on what you’re trying to achieve).
We also didn’t really know how people wanted the plot to look.
When we started, we used more iconic representations for the instruments.
We got a lot of feedback to say that it wasn’t what they wanted and so had to re-create every instrument which was very time consuming.
We should have asked for feedback from the start in any way we could (email, in product notifications, social media).
That was definitely a lesson learned.
The other major challenge (I know you asked for one) was technical – saving to PDF.
Some companies in the same industry who offer PDF use raster images, and they just don’t scale.
We wanted it to scale so when you print it out, it remains clear.
In the programming industry, it’s called a technical spike and we should have done that first as our first few iterations of the PDF was poor.
However, our PDF is vector based so it scales and remains sharp and clear.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I think working with those who want to use the service and being agile enough to service them, instead of having a “it’s my way” type attitude is key.
Not only that, but it’s the web – you need to know how to have a good app and make it visible on the search engines.
We’ve had around 30000 plots created, and the average daily plots created keeps increasing.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You can’t do it all today, nor should you.
Yes, the world is competitive but, you need to be able to enjoy what you do.
It’s hard to balance but age and experience help with this.
I love the expression “slow down to go faster” and I think it applies here.
Slow down, understand what you want to do, that it’s validated and a real need, and deliver the smallest thing you can.
Get it right first time, or, fail fast and fail small.
This means, short feedback loops and you’re not chasing deadline weeks or months in advance, you’re only looking a few days into the future, maybe a week.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have a long term plan though.
Just make sure the long term plan is more ideas then a concrete “must do”.
The further into the future, the fuzzier it should be.
Also, take breaks.
We try to not work for more than 45 minutes without a rest.
None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I think luck – we got very lucky with some bands and their feedback.
He provided a huge email around ways to improve the service – from layout through to input list design.
Lots of other bands and artists – too many to mention – have helped us.
Be it with advice, suggestions or just chatting to us about how our service has helped them.
Good feedback really helps to know you’re on the right track.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are always thinking about what is next.
One of our long term plans is to try to offer more of a service to theatres who may need a stage plot for props more than people.
We are also constantly thinking about how to improve what we have.
We’re very rarely totally happy or satisfied with something.
Things can always be improved.
We also have recently launched a service for venues.
This allows musicians to place their instruments on a stage which has the venue’s equipment already on the plot.
This is very common for the “local musician” where the venue may already have a certain number of monitors on the stage which can’t be moved, or a drum riser etc.