Friday, 16th October 2020

Q&A: Meet the Directors at Shoothill (The Specialists in Software)

For those of you interested in business management, the software industry or Shoothill specifically, today’s Q&A gives us a glimpse into what it is like to run a busy software firm from people with a combined 35 years of experience. In this Q&A we sit down with Rod Plummer (Managing Director at Shoothill), Simon Jeavons (Chief Operating Officer) and Erik Nodland (Chief Technical Officer).

First we speak with Rod Plummer (Managing Director at Shoothill).

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I oversee all aspects of Shoothill’s businesses (Shoothill itself, Shoothill Inc. and Aurora Insurance Technologies Inc. in the United States, plus Housebuilder Pro here in the UK). This sometimes means I have to flip between the US flood insurance market one minute or housebuilding in the UK the next and while this may seem daunting, I have been doing it for a very long time now and I am extremely lucky as I have a very experienced management team reporting to me, who are far cleverer than me.

What do you love the most about your job?

That I get to work with some of the most creative and gifted technical people I have ever met, and that throughout the 15 years we have been in business we have consistently been recognised as one of the UK’s most innovative software companies.

What do you find to be your biggest ongoing challenge?

The fact that web based software is constantly evolving, at an ever increasing rate, means that I have to be not only aware of the technological benefits these advances can mean for our customers’ businesses, but that we also have to understand and utilise them as quickly as possible. For example, we have already used artificial intelligence (AI) for several of our customers to deliver commercial advantages for them over their competition.

Where do you see Shoothill in five years’ time?

Not me paying any of the wages! I joke. Currently, we have major plans to expand our flood insurance products in the USA through Shoothill Inc. as well as already spinning off Housebuilder Pro as a semi-autonomous subsidiary. However, given what we have achieved over the past 5 years, I would expect to see these aspects of the business grow to be completely separate and independent entities with their own technical, support, sales, marketing and management personnel.

What would you say separates Shoothill from other software companies?

Simply put, we are not out just to make as much money as possible from our customers, but are here to ensure we deliver genuine extra value for them by coming up with new ideas on how we can improve their businesses. We do not charge more for any of this, and so we have customers who have been with us for over 10 years and so far, I don’t think we have ever lost a single customer to any competitor during the entire time we have been in business so we must be doing something right.

What might you say to a business looking into obtaining custom software?

Ask yourself these two simple questions:

1) Are your business processes unique to your business, and therefore no ‘off-the-shelf’ software package can manage it effectively for you?

2) Can you expand your business only by taking on more and more people instead?

If the answer to both of these questions is ‘yes’, then you need custom software.

Next we speak with Simon Jeavons (Chief Operating Officer & Director at Shoothill).

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Every day is different but it’s generally a combination of negotiating new contracts and partnerships, liaising with existing customers, collaborating with the team on project design and delivery or working on one of our subsidiary companies.

What do you love the most about your job?

The variation; the best bit about my job is learning about the different industries our customers work in. We have clients in insurance, manufacturing, private healthcare, house building, utilities and fashion amongst others and we really need to get under the skin of the business to learn what makes them tick and how we can improve their processes and systems through technology.

How does your job differ from Rod’s?

It’s often said that I have all the responsibility at Shoothill… but none of the authority! Rod and I work closely on all aspects of our business and I’d like to think we make a pretty good team, however Rod still does the invoicing – his one true pleasure in life!

What is your vision for Shoothill in five years’ time?

As long as we are still giving value to our customers and improving their profits through our interpretation of technology, I’ll be more than happy. I would also love our USA subsidiary, Shoothill Software, Inc. to be even more established and providing our brand of digital transformation and software development skills to the wider American market.

If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing on your first day at Shoothill, what would it be?

The first piece of ‘advice’ I gave Rod was to switch off Flood Alerts and Gauge Map because, as free services, they were costing us money rather than generating direct revenue. However, in the months that followed, major contracts in the UK, Australia and the USA all came from customers seeing our work visualising flooding data – so I would definitely tell myself not to say that!

What advice might you give to aspiring businessmen and entrepreneurs before they start their journey?

My two favourite quotes are “Innovation is the only way to win”, said by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Mark Twain’s famous line “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did”. So my advice would be – shoot for the moon, someone has to do it so why not you?

Finally we talk with Erik Nodland (Chief Technical Officer at Shoothill).

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I deal with software escalation, systems architecture, research and development.

What do you love the most about your job?

I enjoy the problem solving aspect mainly. I also enjoy the creation of something out of nothing. This still amazes me today.

What do you find to be your biggest ongoing challenge?

Trying to fit everything I want to learn in a day. I just love finding out how things work and recreating them myself. YouTube is such an amazing resource that there are so many things I still want to cover.

Where do you see Shoothill in five years’ time?

Shoothill has grown into a very well respected and established software company. I would expand the R&D side of things but that is a very difficult area and tends to need a lot of resource to make real progress. Expanding the consumer web site arm of Shoothill has great potential and I would like to see that grow to 1000 web sites in 5 years’ time. Housebuilder Pro and MFI I see as being their own separate entities entirely in 5 years and possibly already bought out by bigger firms.

What would you say separates Shoothill from other software companies?

We are incredibly agile in our software development. We can move very quickly, and we have a wide resource of knowledge. We are not afraid of taking on new challenges. We have supreme customer service and we always bend over backwards to accomodate a customer’s changes without charging through the roof as other companies do.

What might you say to somebody looking into starting up a custom software business?

The primary goal of custom software is understanding exactly what the customer needs even if the customer doesn’t. This is a necessary skill which Shoothill excels at. Going into a company and extracting their requirements is not always easy.

Thank you to Rod, Simon and Erik for taking time out of their busy lives to answer these questions. Find us on the web, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or email us at [email protected] or the good old-fashioned way, ring 01743 636300 by phone in the UK.

Ryan Lloyd, Digital Marketing Executive at Shoothill

Image: (From left to right) Simon Jeavons (Chief Operating Officer), Rod Plummer (Managing Director) and Erik Nodland (Chief Technical Officer) at Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA, 10 miles from Shoothill Inc.