Turning good ideas into a tangible business: A faster, better way.
September 1, 2020

Greg Sheehan has a more than useful record in establishing and running businesses and organisations.

He’s been chief financial officer and group financial controller at major corporates, led a couple of very high profile not-for-profit organisations, and was the executive head of a major political party.

Before starting PlayBooks, alongside three colleagues he began and grew the accounting and business advice company RightWay from four to 130 people between 2011-2017.

“But a software-oriented startup is a different sport to a normal business” - Greg Sheehan, Founder, PlayBooks  

“People ask why I didn’t go and hire my own people to write the programming required for PlayBooks.

“The simple answer is I have no domain expertise in software.

“I don’t know what I need to know - who to hire, what software to write it in, what’s the difference between front end and back end, where UI (user interface) comes into it, and how to go about user testing.

“These are just some of the development roles that are required. The thing is though, in the beginning  they’re not all necessarily needed all the time, and all of them aren’t required full time.”

“That’s why we went with the full service EndGame provided. It’s a lovely way to work through all the crucial elements and all the critical phases.” - Greg Sheehan

The vision PlayBooks has is to bring the world’s best expertise into every meeting an adviser has with their client. The name PlayBooks itself comes from (particularly American) sport. A playbook describes a series of ‘plays’, and a play itself can be likened to a digital card in the company’s platform.

Teamwork and learning 

The development of PlayBooks "is a story of learning, of teamwork and of overcoming challenges to create a SaaS product that greatly improves meetings’ outcomes," says EndGame’s Chief Executive, Andrew Butel.

As a platform to run meetings more efficiently and effectively and for business advisors as a resource to access and provide industry-specific advice, PlayBooks has come a long way since its initial conception in November 2019 .

"It is an excellent example of a good idea being developed, challenged, changed and tested in the real world of customer feedback and purchase." - Andrew Butel, CEO, EndGame

PlayBooks is also an example of EndGame itself investing in the startup, “in a sense providing further validation that we put our own dollars on the line to build something awesome,” he says.

Flexibility and adaptability

When PlayBooks initially approached EndGame in October 2019, it was obvious it was an idea worth pursuing. Founder/CEO Greg Sheehan carried out discovery prior to any code-based building taking place.This pre-investment stage successfully concluded that a potential market for the product definitely existed.

At times during the March - September 2020 development, the PlayBooks/EndGame team membership was very flexible. Sometimes it was one or two people, lifting to four, five or six as different tranches of funding became available. 

Greg Sheehan says that having a very customer-focused squad through EndGame’s approach has been of huge advantage. The flexibility that EndGame’s Virtual Product Team environment provided was also hugely helpful as investment ebbed and flowed into PlayBooks.

“It has been, and still is, a relationship based on trust.” - Greg Sheehan

“Sure there’s been challenges, discussions which at times have been heated, but we’ve always worked through a solution."

“Because there’s trust though we can really enjoy pursuing the elegance we’re both after.”

Strengthening the team approach

In May 2020 Tom Freeman was brought on as PlayBooks’ Head of Product.

“This strengthened the team approach,” says Andrew.

“We don’t operate under a client/vendor model. Some investors don’t realise that initially at least, you’re much better off not hiring your own full time team, that you can go much faster, with less risk and more flexibility by teaming up with what we call a Virtual Product Team (also sometimes called a Fractional Product Team)".

“Startups and new entities can get to a Minimum Viable Product stage more quickly and at better value through a VPT than by hiring your own team or completely outsourcing. Once you get to your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) stage, then think about building your own in-house team.” - Andrew Butel

Andrew says there are always challenges in software development, and it is invariably not a cheap exercise. It is also important to have the right people on a team, and EndGame/PlayBook team members did swap and change as the best combinations were formed.

“It takes time to build trust, and this is part of a normal development process,” he says.

“But if you want high performing teams, you need to have that since what you’re doing is forming, storming, performing and norming."

“When you’ve got trust though, you can provide good and honest feedback, and in doing so you develop high executing teams.”

“EndGame has a lot of respect for Greg. He has a big vision for PlayBooks, and while he’s executing his business strategy is prepared to evolve as the platform develops."

“That is, there’s lots of individual steps in achieving that vision, but he’s not losing sight of the end goal."

“His story is still unfolding, and we should celebrate that. We’re still very much working as a team, and at this stage of development this is easily the best way for PlayBooks to achieve its goal of being the go-to meeting and advice platform.” 

Maturing the relationship

Greg Sheehan says that as PlayBooks grows, it will increasingly take on its own programming people.

The company recently brought its own Chief Technology Officer (Lucy Douglas) onboard - and EndGame has assisted in this transition.

This evolution is being carried out in conjunction with and continuing alongside EndGame’s Virtual Product Team approach. It will ensure the optimum delivery of enhancements for PlayBooks in a seamless manner.

“We have loved and still love the way we’ve worked with and continue to work with EndGame.” - Greg Sheehan

“I can’t imagine a better, more cost-effective, speedier way to get our working models out to paying customers than with their team, which is totally our team", says Greg.

“It’s been a fantastic experience, and I’m sure the next phases will be just as rewarding.”

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