Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: January 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Three Guys And A Service

We recently updated Schedulefly’s “About Us” page so potential customers and partners could learn more about us, our philosophy and who we are here to serve. The page was getting wordy so I thought I’d cut some out and share it here in this post.

Our Philosophy
Lots of web businesses don’t tell you who their people are. Or they attempt to seem bigger than they are. We, on the other hand, like transparency and we are proud to be small. We don’t just say we like to keep it simple, we actually live and breath it. The business model that we have created allows us to keep our team lean and our overhead low. The less people and the less processes and the less stuff to decide on and manage – the better.

Who We Are
We’re currently three guys in three different cities in N.C. (Wilmington, Raleigh, Charlotte). We mostly work out of our houses and coffee shops. Our web and database servers live in an impressive data center in Raleigh NC. We have some occasional contract help, but we don’t believe we’ll ever have – or need – more than a handful of people around here. That’s because we believe in the value – and beauty – of simplicity. We have a simple web-based service with a familiar interface – not too many screens and buttons and settings. We have only added the stuff that really matters – thoughtful features you’ll actually use. In fact, you’ll probably even have some fun! And because we keep things intuitive, simple, and easy we don’t need many people to help take care of our customers. We don’t have investors, so nobody is breathing down our necks to grow faster. Instead we grow one restaurant at a time, and we take great care of them, and they almost all renew every month.

Who Uses Our Product
We created Schedulefly for restaurants, and we keep a laser focus on helping restaurants. We mostly serve indies, groups, small chains, and franchisees. More importantly, we serve people who like to keep things simple – and fun! They don’t want a lot of bells and whistles and layers and rules and regulations and buttons and settings. Our customers love Schedulefly mainly because its simple. Simple to deploy. Simple to use. Simple to get a new employee started. And fun for all involved. Our customers use words like “Love” and “Fun” – see for yourself.

Wil, Tyler and Wes
The Schedulefly Team

Quick Easy Above-Store Visibility & Communication

We tried to make our multi-unit dashboard both simple and powerful. Easily check scheduled labor costs for any location. Blast emails and texts to all employees. And post important documents. All with – you guessed it – one…single…click. Check it out….

http://screenr.com/Content/assets/screenr_1116090935.swf

Keepin’ It Simple & Fun,

Wil @ Schedulefly

Where Do Tens of Thousands from the Restaurant Community Come Together Online? The Schedulefly Network…

The Schedulefly Network is available to every Schedulefly user. It’s a fun, simple place to share ideas, tips and best practices, ask questions about Schedulefly or about anything (“What’s your favorite food?” was a recent post), and socialize. A quick screencast showing how folks are having fun – and getting significant value – on the Network.

http://screenr.com/Content/assets/screenr_1116090935.swf

Keepin’ It Simple & Fun,

Wil @ Schedulefly

The Busines Web Theory – Will Business Apps Ever Be As Easy To Use As Consumer Apps?

Some will, but since the requirements for building these two kinds of web applications are so different, they tend to move in different directions after the very first line of code is written. Consumer web apps are usually focused on people, ease of use and simplicity while Business web apps (especially Enterprise apps) are focused more on functionality, security, rules and tightly coupled integrations. It certainly seems like there is a trend to merge these two with the explosion of multi-tenant SaaS applications on the web (software as a service), but it’s challenging to pull off and tough to sell. One of the challenges is changing the perception that simple hosted software is not going to help a business that is complicated. Complexity seems to need complexity.

In 2006 I attended Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event. In the keynote speech, Marc Benioff talked about his theory called the “Business Web” and the idea that business software like Salesforce.com should be as easy to use as consumer websites like eBay and Amazon. This theory is inspiring. Why are web apps used by consumers so easy to use while most business apps are so complicated? You can visit consumer web sites and get your personal business done quickly and easily – yet many business applications require roll out, on site technicians and training. Why can’t business software be easy and intuitive like consumer software?

While writing this – I think back to a meeting my business partner Wil and I had with a prospect in early 2009. We flew across the country to demo Schedulefly to a prospect with a few hundred locations. We were excited for sure! We were anxious to show them how our product would make their lives easier and really simplify scheduling and communication with their thousands of staff. After seeing a demo of Schedulefly, the executives in the meeting looked at us and said: “It looks like a great product, but it seems like something is missing. It seems too easy.” We were a tad caught off guard, yet smiled and asked what they thought was missing. Maybe our demo skipped over it or maybe we moved too fast. They could not answer the question. Later that evening over a beer, Wil and I high-fived at the thought of it seeming too easy. We didn’t make the sale – but we were onto something.

A year later, I can think of a few reasons why that may have happened:

1. There was no discussion between us and their IT team about software installations, or a big roll out that would require time and training. There were no “documents” to pass out explaining complicated features related to security or governance or integration. Rolling it out to hundreds of locations would surely require many people, many hours, on site visits and lots of training right?

2. There were no busy looking screens with loads of data entry fields, check boxes, drop down boxes, complex rules etc. This is likely what they are used to using. Surely, to be useful to a complicated business, the software must look complicated and need lots of explanation right? How could it be so simple and help their business?

3. They were not already using inexpensive web based software to help run their business. The systems they had implemented to date were likely expensive, difficult to install, learn, use and maintain. Schedulefly was none of these things so it was not familiar.

I’m actually glad that meeting went the way it did. We were not right for this particular business and it actually had nothing to do with our size or their size. Even though our software would have added value and made their lives easier, they didn’t feel it would because they perceived it to be too easy. They felt they needed more software. It was clear after that meeting and even more clear today that our software is not ideal for all restaurants and that’s OK. We could make it more complicated and more automated and bigger, but we passionately believe that keeping it simple and laser focused makes it more reliable and will create a bunch of happy, loyal customers in the end. We like to think of our software as software for “The Business Web”.

Are you using business software on the web yet? Let us know what you think and how it helps your business.

Wes @ Schedulefly

Share Wedding Pics with Schedulefly? I Thought Shutterfly did that…

You can post pictures on your Schedulefly Message Wall, and here’s a fun example:

http://screenr.com/Content/assets/screenr_1116090935.swf

Keepin’ It Simple & Fun,

Wil @ Schedulefly

Altruism + Schedulefly = Haitian Relief

I love this story. Empire Eats, a fantastic restaurant group in Raleigh, N.C. that runs some of the best and most popular restaurants in town, decided to donate profits from all locations this Tuesday to the Red Cross. Check out this quick clip on how they spread the word internally and externally with Schedulefly.

http://screenr.com/Content/assets/screenr_1116090935.swf

Got your own story about your restaurant’s Haitian relief efforts? We’d love for you to post it on this blog, or feel free to email it to me at wbrawley@schedulefly.com

Wil @ Schedulefly

Tired of Wasting Paper?

Our customers don’t need to print paper schedules – employees can check their work schedules on http://www.schedulefly.com, or while logged into Facebook, or on iGoogle or from their mobile device. Or they can just have their schedules emailed or text messaged right to them. So it’s nice that so many restaurants can save a couple of pieces of paper every week by not posting a printed schedule.

But what’s very cool is how they can literally save reams of paper, by storing all of their important documents on Schedulefly. Menu changes, training documents, HR documents, specials, prep lists, weekly specials, etc. The list goes on. Any document they would typically print and hand out to all employees can be stored on Schedulefly. Even better, you can view a list of employees that have downloaded the documents. Below is a snapshot of O’Leary’s Schedulefly Documents tab (O’Leary’s is a cool, fun Irish joint in St. Louis, MO: http://www.olearysrestaurant.com/). They have 39 documents posted on Schedulefly – and they never have to make copies for all of their 45 employees!

Keepin’ It Simple & Fun

Wil @ Schedulefly

More Software Is Not Always The Answer

Here’s a recent post on a customer’s Schedulefly Message Wall, which all of the customer’s employees see when they log in : “It has been noticed lately that many employees are making a habit of clocking in before their scheduled time. Please clock in no more than 5 minutes before your scheduled shift unless approved by a manager.”

I mention this because some people would like Schedulefly to systematically control clock-ins. They have a difficult time keeping their staff from clocking in early, so they use systems to eliminate the issue. And that works for some folks – especially in environments where the communication gap is large and difficult to manage. Without Schedulefly, getting this kind of critical message out to staff often and effectively is a problem.

I tend to prefer the simple process – just tell your employees not to clock in early, as our customer did here by broadcasting the message to their wall and staff’s inboxes and cell phones. But then again our system makes critical communication like this a breeze. Getting an important message out like this in front of staff is simple. In the end – this allows to management to easily enforce the message (via web, text, email) while not adding complexity to their system and the risk of management distractions when staff do indeed have a real reason to clock in early and can’t…

On this topic – we could add business logic to Schedulefly (more software rules and restrictions) to control many events like this – but we do not and it’s because we feel that leaving some enforcements up to humans makes our system easier to use, more flexible and much more reliable. We would rather lean towards a very usable, reliable system that does not get in the way of the restaurant’s ability to run smoothly. Schedulefly will always require a tad bit of human logic to be applied – by design.

Keepin’ It Simple & Fun,

Wes @ Schedulefly

A Cool Restaurant Foursquare Story

So I was picking up lunch last week at one of my family’s favorite lunch spots in Wilmington – a small local family owned place with fantastic food and really good service. While I was waiting at the hostess stand for our soup and sandwiches – I fired up Foursquare on my iPhone to see what businesses near me might pop up. The place I was standing in popped up. It’s a small local favorite and usually has some older patrons so I was surprised they were a Foursquare venue. Old is cool – just sayin’.

Well, I tapped through to “check-in” and I noticed a guy had just checked in 12 minutes before me and was the only person who had ever checked in there. If fact, he was their Mayor! The place is very cozy and small so I quickly scanned the dining room and there he was,the mayor, having lunch with a friend. Not only was he the mayor, but he had also left a “tip” for others to “try the seafood bisque”. I thought that was really cool. Of course I tried to see what was on his table and see if he was having his favorite meal – but realized I was staring and felt like a weirdo so I turned my attention back to my iPhone.

As I started to check-in myself, our food came out. The young girl who rang me up is the same girl who always rings me up – very nice, always smiling and seemed approachable so I started a conversation that went like this:


Me: “Did you know your restaurant is on Foursquare?”

Her: “What square?”

Me: “Foursquare – kinda like Twitter except it asks Where are you? It lets you see where your friends are right now and what they like there. It’s way cooler for restaurants…and more fun.”

Her: “Hmm…ok – so why are you asking?”

Me: “Well – your busy so I’ll spare you details on what it is – but there is a guy here right now and I know his name and I know he comes here often and I even know his favorite soup but I have never seen him before in my life. He is sitting right over there. He is the mayor of your restaurant! I just thought you might like to know your mayor is present.”

Her: “[smiling – laughing] Huh?”

Me: “Ok, Foursquare lets people like that guy “check-in” when they visit your restaurant. His friends see this and can learn more about why he loves your restaurant. People get points for checking in and the person who checks-in the most is your “mayor”. It’s like a game. It’s cool for a restaurant because that guy can leave tips and to dos for others that visit your restaurant. In fact, he left a tip to try the seafood bisque and I’d love to try it. Can you change my french onion soup order to the bisque?”

Her: “Sure!”

I then showed her my iPhone and how I could see this guy was there – we looked at their venue page showing anyone who’s been there recently, who is there now, the mayor’s photo and tip he left about the seafood bisque. I could see her realizing how cool this was so she called the owner over and explained it to him. They kept nodding their heads like whoa – this is amazing – and thanked me for showing it to them. I paid and I left. As I was walking out I noticed the owner walk over to the mayor to talk to him. They were laughing and shaking hands. I suspect a free cup of seafood bisque was being poured soon after….

Restaurants – get on Foursquare, see who your loyal customers are, what they like and if they are there right now! You can also sign up as a business and post specials for your mayor and others who visit your restaurant frequently. The cool thing is that even if people are checking in next door at your competitor’s venue – their phones will know they are near you – and your specials will pop up! Come on – really? How could you not try to persuade customers at other places close by to come visit you?

Here is some more info for businesses and (for good ideas) a listing of a ton of restaurant venue pages with specials they are offering loyal customers.
http://foursquare.com/businesses/

Off to check-in at the YMCA just to keep mayor status there. Funny – many people there much more deserving of that title than me.

Wes @ Schedulefly

Ditch Happens

A customer called today and said she was so thankful to have Schedulefly, because it saves her from stopping what she is doing multiple times per day. You see, she no longer has to pick up the phone to have an employee tell her she needs somebody to pick up her shift because she got her car stuck in a ditch.

I copied her Schedulefly site activity report below. In one day alone last week, Heather approved six shift trade requests. It took her six clicks of a button on her laptop or perhaps from her Blackberry or iPhone (or any web-enabled device). No phone calls. And of course she did not have to field any calls from employees wanting to know when they are working either. That’s because her employees can see when they are working on Schedulefly’s web site. Or on Facebook. Or iGoogle. Or in their email inbox. Or as a text message on their cell phones.

Schedulefly eliminates the phone calls because, well, ditch happens!

Wil @ Schedulefly

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