On this week’s episode of the Full Stack Leader, we talked to Vasumithra Therli, CEO at Picktime, about leadership and product development.
Vasumithra’s extensive background in software development and consulting helped him build a product-driven business with robust capabilities. His core values are staying open to feedback, embracing continuous learning, and fostering a culture of innovation to navigate the dynamic tech landscape.
In the podcast, Vasumithra discusses the challenges of transitioning from a service-oriented company to a product-focused one and the importance of effective communication and feedback in leadership. He stresses the significance of maintaining a clear vision and adapting to evolving technology trends.
Top leadership tips from Vasumithra Therli
Below is a summary of the top Leadership tips shared during this week’s interview. Listen to the episode to learn more about the thoughts behind these tips:
- Ensure efficient customer communication
- Be agile and adaptable
- Foster a collaborative team culture
- Embrace continuous learning
- Stay ahead of the competition with customer discovery
We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find more Full Stack Leader episodes here.
Part 1. On leadership and product development
Ryan: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Full Stack Leader podcast. This week, I’m here with Vasumithra Therli. He is with Picktime. He’s the CEO of a great new product that’s come out. Excited to have you here. Great to see you. And I’m going to call you Vasu. Is that okay?
Vasumithra: Yes, that’s okay.
Ryan: Wonderful. Okay, great. Vasu, welcome.
Getting into the startup world
Vasumithra: Thank you, Ryan. First of all, thank you for having me on your podcast. Let me introduce myself. I’m Vasumithra Therli. You can call me Vasu.
So here is it: I became a software developer just right after my graduation. Then after a few years, I started my software consulting firm. So, I used to help startups to bring their ideas to reality.
Now, I’m an entrepreneur trying to make a difference in the startup world. Previously, as a software consultant, I was the go-to person for startups, helping them develop and launch products successfully.
During this time, I personally saw the challenges that startups face. They don’t have much time to manage their operations efficiently because they have to juggle between different tools and different things and different ideas to run their business.
Coming up with an idea
So, this is what sparked an idea: Why not create a scheduling platform that does more than just book appointments? I envisioned a complete solution that would provide small and medium-sized businesses with all the necessary tools to streamline their operations but also make it affordable at the same time.
That is when I co-founded Picktime. It’s a game-changing scheduling platform that combines appointment management with powerful business tools. So, I turned this vision into reality. After launching Picktime into the market, it quickly gained massive recognition in the scheduling software market space.
Now, I can proudly say that we are one of the world’s leading scheduling software. We developed this platform with a focus on providing a seamless user experience and meeting the diverse needs of businesses in different industries.
Picktime is great for small and medium-sized businesses. It helps them organize their work without spending too much money. It has everything they need to make their operations run smoothly. This includes tools like managing tasks, working together, handling money, and keeping track of the customers. It also helps with marketing and sales and provides strong reporting and analytics to understand how their business is doing.
Product design with customer in mind
This solution is flexible and can grow as the business grows. Best of all, it is affordable, so businesses don’t have to spend a lot of money using it. We designed Picktime with a lot of knowledge and understanding of the very minute details of how these small and medium-sized businesses work so it can solve their problems – they need to grow in a smart and sustainable way.
So, without facing many problems, we help them to grow in a smart and sustainable way. It’s like having this helpful friend who knows exactly what you need and runs your business successfully without costing too much.
Outside of being Picktime CEO, I actively engage in the startup community. I share my knowledge and inspire aspiring entrepreneurs through speaking engagements and mentoring activities. I believe in encouraging others to embrace their innovation and pursue big dreams. Also, I always try to bring fresh ideas and use my technical skills to make a real difference.
My main goal is to understand what customers truly need and provide them with the best possible solutions. So, I want to have this positive and long-lasting impact on the world of startups and help businesses succeed in our digital-driven society. So this is me and Picktime.
From tech enthusiast to CEO
Ryan: I love that. Thank you so much for the rundown on everything.
It’s great to hear about where you came from and how you ultimately developed such a flexible tool. I mean, when I looked at it, one of the things that I really liked about it is it seems like it covers a lot of bases for small businesses and really that you’re using a lot of your knowledge from historically working on a variety of things to have a solution that’s pretty all-encompassing.
I really like that about it. What inspired you to create it originally?
Vasumithra: Let me share my story – a journey that has taken me from being a tech enthusiast to becoming the CEO of Picktime. Maybe this all started with my love for the technology as a child.
I was so fascinated by computers and technology. I remember spending hours tinkering with computers, teaching myself how to dismantle and assemble computers, write code, and create programs as a child. This passion for technology not only laid a foundation for my future career in the tech industry but also instilled this sense of curiosity and desire to learn.
Later in my career, I started helping startups. With this strong foundation in technology, I decided to use my skills to help others bring their ideas to life. As a software consultant, I had the opportunity to work with numerous startups and guide them through the process of turning creative ideas into successful businesses.
Identifying the need
This role allowed me to learn from diverse teams, apply my problem-solving skills, and gain valuable insights into this world of entrepreneurship. So that is when I started identifying the need. Throughout my time as a software consultant, I realized that there was a gap in the market for an all-in-one scheduling solution for businesses.
I saw this opportunity to create something that would make managing a business easier and more efficient for companies everywhere in the world. That’s what led to the birth of Picktime. I decided to take a leap and start the company Picktime. As a CEO, I was responsible for assembling a talented team and guiding them through this development process.
We faced numerous challenges along the way. But with hard work, persistence, and a collaborative approach, we were able to bring Picktime to life. By leading Picktime, I have learned the importance of effective communication. I stayed focused on a vision, and fostered a culture of innovation and collaboration.
These core values have been instrumental in driving the success of Picktime.
In sharing my journey, I think I hope I will inspire someone to follow their dreams and pursue their passion. Life is full of challenges, but with determination, belief in yourself, and willingness to learn, I think anything is possible. I encourage people to be bold, take risks, and embrace the opportunities that come your way. Thank you, Ryan, for allowing me to share my story with you today.
Staying open to feedback
Ryan: Oh, I love that. That was really amazing, and I think you said some incredibly powerful things about leadership that make a lot of sense.
But I wanted to dig a little bit deeper into one or two of those points. One of them is that you talked about great communication being a central component of leadership, and everybody’s got their own flavors and styles of communication.
You’ve worked with a lot of technologists over the course of time. What do you think are some of the best ways for you, and how have you had success communicating with technologists to build great products?
Vasumithra: The strong point I believe in is I need to be open to feedback. Accepting feedback, even if it’s negative, can help you make better decisions while building or creating a product.
While working with these technologies, I just keep my ears open, and I take all the feedback I get from them, and then people say some things are not possible. Sometimes, the technology is not even there, so we sometimes work around things to get things fixed.
Just keep it open and keep listening to feedback. Nothing is simple, so we need to always embrace continuous learning. As this world of technology is constantly evolving, we need to stay up to date with the latest trends and advancements – that’s very crucial.
So, as a leader, you should always be willing to learn and adapt to new information in order to make informed decisions and drive innovation within the company.
Validating product decisions
Ryan: That’s great. What is your favorite format for soliciting feedback from people? Cause sometimes it can be hard. Do you reach out to every person in your organization and talk to them, or do you send out surveys, or what kind of process do you go through to hear from people?
Vasumithra: Yes, exactly. We generally do surveys and polls within the team. Most of the decisions we take, if it is already clear, we go ahead with the decision.
But if you’re missing some clarity on the decision, then we would generally do polling within the team. So imagine that it’s a design change or something like that. We run a poll within the company and ask people for feedback. Sometimes, nobody likes what we are doing.
So we, again, will say, “Okay, let’s again put it on the table” and start thinking about what’s needed and maybe that we are not going in the right direction. We sometimes take feedback from our customers as well because we are a product like Picktime, serving SaaS businesses, serving small and medium-sized businesses, and we have this live customer support.
We constantly get feedback from our customers as well. So we put everything all these things, and report them and then prioritize them and work along whichever is necessary.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s really great. I hear that you guys are really using a variety of different tools.
Do you feel like another topic you brought up was the importance of communicating a vision or really bringing the vision out? Is there a way in which you think about that communication style as well?
Are you, I guess, introducing people to them through presenting decks to the teams? Or is it really just around being on the floor and working with developers?
Vasumithra: So generally, like when we think about what direction we want it to go, we generally stick to a direction until, unless there is a huge reform in the technology – like, some huge changes coming in the technology.
For example, ChatGPT is one of the technologies. Things are changing super fast. So we generally try to pivot our business along the technology changes, but still, we remain relevant for the current generation or current product.
Sharing the vision with the team
Ryan: Yeah, that makes sense. But, as a vision for where you want to take the business in general, do you share that across your team, or do you let them watch as you’re developing it in the marketplace?
Vasumithra: No, we generally share it with the team. We always take feedback from our team. We say, “This is what we are trying to do,” and “How many people like it?”, “How many people don’t like it? “And if you don’t like it, why do you not like it? We take this feedback, and we, again, think through the process and see if maybe we are going in the wrong direction or the right direction, depending on that.
Again, we take the call, and then we move forward.
Moving from service to product
Ryan: That makes sense. It’s interesting, too, because you’re really learning how that kind of product-oriented communication works. I know where you came out of was this more of a service side, much more like my company Wonderment, and I think I’ve been on both sides as well, and I really think that there are some core differences in the way that that you lead and work with teams.
What would you say are one or two major things that are different from being a leader in those types of companies – in either one?
Vasumithra: Ryan, I think you went from product to service, but I did exactly the opposite. It’s, like, service to product. I think going from product to service is much more difficult than what I am doing because when I used to be in service, I used to work with different companies and different teams, and different ideas used to come along.
And then it’s always different strategies we are trying to build for different companies. Here it’s only a single agenda, a single focus. We just focus on one product. I think working on one product is (for me) much easier than working on different products – all my time and energy are going into one product.
After moving from service to product, I started giving much more time and energy to Picktime. That’s the reason why the quality of the product came really well. And people really like the ease of use because we think a lot about the way it can be used from the customer’s point of view.
Challenges that come with product variety
Ryan: Yeah. It sounds like you’re, in some ways, doing the product works as a service. Anyway, like you said, it’s about honing in focus, which I actually wanna talk about in a second.
And I know you’re right about going the opposite way from product to service – the rules are completely different in those, and it took both my partner and me a little while to learn and understand them.
But you’re right. The amount of variation is pretty significant. But as for this concept, or, I guess, this idea of a lot of variety versus a single focus, or maybe just a couple of core focuses, do you:
a) ever feel like you get bored and miss the variety? and
b) is it sometimes hard to keep that focus, which I know you mentioned was one of your other core tenants as well?
Vasumithra: Yeah, when I was doing services, like you said, every day was a challenging job because everything was new every time. The customer wanted different things, so we needed to go back and do R&D and all that. It was always new and kept us late at night doing different things.
But yeah, I mean, even in Picktime, we try to bring new modules and new feature enhancements. So these things, again, allow us to work on different new things with the latest trends.
All these new challenges, sometimes it’s a real computer science challenge we are trying to build, so when that kind of challenge comes, it takes us months to figure out, do R&D, and then finally launch the module. So, I think we have our own cup of tea here.
Balance between product and service
Ryan: Yeah. That’s great. That makes sense. I remember working in a product-oriented company where we had four or five different products as well, and sometimes I felt like it had a little bit of that agency feel to it.
So I know, as the product expands and you have more and more features and modules, then that definitely becomes more the case.
Vasumithra: Exactly. Yeah.
Ryan: How do you think that your implementation of calendar tools and organizational tools and really the way you can bring people together to work together are solving problems that you had in the first place?
Did you build a product that was really designed to service, in many ways, your own needs?
Vasumithra: First, I need to give clarity on Picktime, on exactly what it does. Picktime is, like I said, an online appointment scheduling platform that’s simplified and streamlined – we need to streamline the process of booking appointments for businesses, not just individual users.
Sharing the vision with the team
We are focused on business users. Basically, we worked on every detail to make it work for various industries, including health and wellness beauty, fitness professionals, and other services. So basically, by using Picktime, businesses can organize their staff schedules, manage customer data, and offer user-friendly booking experiences for their clients.
We offer various features around booking appointments where business users can accept bookings around the clock 24/7. We send out automatic reminders and do various stuff around appointments. So, Picktime is like a small CRM.
Tackling the product challenges
Initially, when we were trying to work for Picktime, Picktime had to work for small businesses in various countries, so we had to deal with various time zones. So that was initially a really hard part for our team to figure out in the sense that even while testing, we need to change to different time zones, and people from various time zones schedule bookings and do all sorts of things.
When building calendars, we had to build the calendar from scratch – building calendars and connecting those calendars with various other third-party calendars like Google Calendar Outlook calendar, using their APIs to connect them with Picktime.
And most importantly, we have recently launched the Apple calendar, the iCloud calendar integration with Picktime. Basically, when you try to book an appointment on Picktime with the business and the business has a meeting on their iCloud calendar, we automatically remove those slots from the availability and then show what is available to the user.
These sorts of things were really challenging. Finally, yeah, now we were able to break the silence and launch them to the public.
Importance of seamless UX in product
Ryan: That’s amazing. That is so great. I really like the way that you are tackling some of the challenges and bringing an international feel to it as well. Do you feel like that quality is embedded into the kind of nature of the product itself?
Vasumithra: End of the day, again, it’s the quality and the seamless user experience. We look at the product while building, even in the user experience. We make sure we think like a user, like an end user, and we make it as simple as possible for a layman to understand and use the product.
Vasumithra: So, people just come onto the platform and then just sign up without even getting a demo. They sign up, and they set up their whole account without our help. Sometimes, we do help. But yeah, I mean, we made sure that it is that easy for a user to sign up and use the product.
Ryan: Awesome. That’s great. Well, thank you. I really appreciate you running through your history and really going through what it’s like to go from a service-oriented environment to a product-oriented environment. It’s really great to hear your feedback on that, and Picktime is amazing. Great work on building that.
Vasumithra: Thank you, Ryan.
Part 2. Top leadership tips
Ryan: Hello, and welcome back to the Full Stack Leader Podcast again. I’m here with Vasu, and we are talking about leadership, especially in going from service to product, as well as building a product that’s got a lot of robust capabilities to it.
Tip 1: Ensure efficient customer communication
Ryan: So great to have you here, Vasu, and I wanna run through with you now your top five tips. So, let’s go ahead and jump into them. What’s tip number one?
Vasumithra: My tip number one would be to always stay customer-centric and communicate effectively – for example, always prioritize customer needs, listen to their feedback, and make continuous improvements to enhance the experience of your service.
Ryan: Do you find that, to do that, you have to have a really good communication channel that covers all the different cohorts?
Vasumithra: Exactly, like Picktime is so reachable for businesses to ask for new product features or maybe help them to set up their account. So we are open on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a direct chat on our website, even through emails.
So wherever the customer wants to reach us, we make sure we bring it to one CRM, and then we try to help customers in real-time, 24/7.
Prioritising product feedback
Ryan: If they have feedback around their own industry. Do you think that, and I mean that if being customer-centric, when you’re a broad tool, somebody from a specific industry might be like, “I need more of this.” How do you address that?
Vasumithra: We constantly get feedback. We rely on customer intelligence, analytics, that’s what we call it on in the team. When we get different ideas through customers, like, we want this, we want that, we want this. So we made sure we wrote down all these ideas, and then we saw whether this fits in the general perspective.
Like, because Picktime is used by different industries, we don’t want to be serving only one particular industry. So we’ll try to generalize the idea, and then we’ll try to implement it in the best user experience way and then implement it and launch it for the customers.
But yeah, I mean, not always an idea goes into production, but most of the time, we make sure if the idea is requested multiple times, and then we see if it’s the right fit on a product, we would make it a first priority and launch it as soon as possible.
In Picktime, we don’t delay. Whenever a customer requests a feature, the feature will be live in less than two weeks.
Tip 2: Be agile and adaptable
Ryan: Awesome. That’s great. Okay. How about tip number two? What do you get for us?
Vasumithra: So, as I said before about being customer-centric and communicating effectively, the tip number two would be, I think, “You need to be agile and adaptable.”
In this rapidly evolving market, you need to embrace change and be prepared to pivot when necessary to ensure your startup remains relevant.
Ryan: That is very good advice, and it can be tricky to adapt, especially when things are moving so fast, right?
Vasumithra: Yeah. I think you need to be as fast as the market is moving because this technology changes super fast. Like, you need to be ready for whatever is coming.
Sometimes, you need to be ready or expect this might be the next big thing in the market, and you need to be ready with that module. When that’s hitting the market when the people are ready for that change, we need to launch the module immediately – something like that.
Tip 3: Foster a collaborative team culture
Ryan: Awesome. Okay, great. How about tip number three?
Vasumithra: My tip number three would be you need to foster a collaborative culture within the team, like encouraging open communication, teamwork, and exchanging ideas to drive innovation and problem-solving within your company.
Ryan: Yeah. Do you think that there’s a specific set of tools that you use for that, or is it just something you’ve developed over time?
Vasumithra: We have developed it over time – we have our own methodology to take feedback from our team and then create a culture. We do various things to keep the culture and the team tight. And we are always open to feedback. We don’t just push away anything, whichever is coming from the team. -We always make sure we listen to them, and then if there is a great idea, we always take it, and then we start working on it.
Ryan: That’s great. Do you ever receive feedback that’s difficult, and you don’t know what to do with it?
Vasumithra: Yes, we did. We did receive some feedback, which was difficult. I think with the computer science challenge. There are some feedbacks which are not possible at the moment with the technology we have. Yeah, we had to keep it aside. But yeah, we can, I think maybe in the future if there is the technology advancement, if it’s there, then we can work on that kind of thing.
Tip 4: Embrace continuous learning
Ryan: All right. That’s great. Okay. How about tip number four? What do you have?
Vasumithra: Like I said, you need to embrace continuous learning. Like the world of technology as it’s constantly evolving. You need to stay up to date with the latest trends and advancements. That’s very crucial. I think maybe, as a company leader, you should be willing to learn and adapt to new information in order to make these informed decisions and drive innovation within your company.
Ryan: How do you incentivize continuous learning with your team? Like, do you offer training? Do you help inspire them to look at new things? What’s your approach?
Vasumithra: Yes, we make sure whatever is coming, any new technology, if it is nice and easy, not always, it’s easy. But yeah, if it is nice, we make sure we learn the technology, and The thing is, in technology, everything is similar. You just need to accept the way to learn. So the moment you know how to learn whatever new technology is coming, you can easily adapt and implement it in your company.
Tip 5: Stay ahead of the competition with customer discovery
Ryan: Awesome. Okay, thanks. And finally, tip number five: what do you wanna share?
Vasumithra: The most important thing is that I think you need to stay ahead of your competition, like you need to do the customer discovery.
For example, doing customer discovery can help you identify gaps in the market that your competitors may not be addressing. So you need to stay ahead of your competition. You can differentiate your product and attract more customers by doing that.
Ryan: It’s a simple one, but it makes a big difference for sure. And I think even along those lines, too, merging that kind of idea where you’re doing, using continuous learning to maybe stay ahead so that your education actually feeds that.
Vasumithra: Exactly. Exactly. So I think whatever I said before, which helps us to stay ahead of the competition.
Ryan: All right. That’s wonderful. Thanks for joining me today. Your feedback, your insights. Amazing. I’m really excited to see where the tool goes – and to see how you continue innovating over the next little bit.
Vasumithra: Thank you. Thank you, Ryan. Thank you for having me on your show.
Ryan: It’s been a pleasure.