Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: April 2010 (Page 1 of 3)

Ooze Passion

Last week I visited two places for the first time. One was an amazing experience, so I’m happy to reveal that it was a Rita’s here in Charlotte, NC. The second place was a locally owned “healthy hamburgers” joint. I won’t reveal the name. We’ll just call it “Healthy Burgers.”

At Rita’s, I walked up to the counter and the young lady smiled glowingly and said “Welcome to Rita’s,” and I could tell she was being genuine. I simply said, “Tell me about Rita’s. I’ve never been here.” She proceeded to tell me about their custards and frozen ices and coffee drinks, telling me why each was so incredibly good. She looked me in the eyes. She smiled while talking. She spoke confidently. I was blown away. She flat out oozed passion for Rita’s. I didn’t care what I got at that point, I was just enjoying listening to her evangelize her brand.

At Healthy Burgers, I walked in and got a contrived smile and a very tired “Welcome.” Again, I said, “Tell me about Healthy Burgers.” Her response – no kidding – was “Well, we have food. We have burgers. And sandwiches. There’s are menu.” It came out like a female Steven Wright. The only reason I stayed was because I was starving and wanted to try a “healthy burger,” whatever that meant (she of course didn’t bother to tell me).

I’ll return to Rita’s – a lot. I won’t return to the healthy burger place. And that decision has nothing to do with the quality of the product, and everything to do with the experience I had and my interaction with the people. One young lady made that Rita’s come alive and gave me a memorable experience. The custard was really good – the experience was fantastic. On the contrary, one young lady made Healthy Burgers seem tired, dull, and lifeless. The burger was actually pretty good – the experience was awful.

Do you and your employees ooze passion? I promise you your customers – or former customers – could answer that question.

Keepin’ It Passionate,

Wil

Restaurant Owner Podcast #4 – "No Matter How Good Your Product Is, If Your People Are Bad Your Customers Won’t Return"

So says John Bornoty, owner of The Big Salad. Listen to John talk about selling his software business to start The Big Salad, how he started just before the economy took a dive in October, 2008 and weathered the storm, how restaurants are a “people business,” how you’ll generate a huge ROI on your employee training costs, how important restaurant technology is, and more…

Click play to listen…

http://www.schedulefly.com/player.swf

Keepin’ It Simple and Educational,

The Schedulefly Team

Is Your Staff Eating You Out of House and Home?

Restaurant teams are often like families. Working well together week in and week out creates a close bond with other staff. Like a family – you help each other often and you argue sometimes too. I’ve seen some waiter/chef arguments (during the heat of a busy Saturday night) that would rival many knock-down drag-outs I had with my sister when we were growing up.

This family like atmosphere, overall, is great. It is a big reason why great restaurants run so smoothly – people help each other and they work as a team. However, there can be a interesting side effect of the family like atmosphere. When people are not working – they often stop by. Usually they have a good reason to (especially if their schedule is hanging in the kitchen)…but they tend to linger. They stop by to check their schedule, swap a shift, jot some notes down in the request book or just to see what’s going on that evening. While they are there they fix themselves a glass of iced tea, they grab some bread out of the bread warmer, they have a cup of coffee and they definitely distract those who are there to work. Over the course of a month – this drive-by staff consumption and distraction adds up big time!

The reason I am blogging about this is because I spoke to one of our customers in Atlanta GA yesterday and we talked about this issue – and how Schedulefly has nearly erased it. They have 100 staff – almost every single one of them is in high school and a lot of them are close friends. Prior to Schedulefly, the management team was always shooing non working staff out of the kitchen or away from the host stand where the would distract people who were supposed to be setting up for the night. “Come on, shoo, get outta here…your not working tonight…go home!”

An interesting thing happened after they started using Schedulefly 3 years ago. The staff no longer stopped by to check their schedule, to get a manager to sign off on a shift change or to request time off in the book. And once the staff realized that the only people there were scheduled people who had a job to do – they stopped coming by all together. Amazing! Christine Fiorini, the GM at Partner’s Pizza, told me that in one month they save enough in drive-by food costs to pay for Schedulefly twice or even 3 times over.

After she told me this – I asked if she would talk more about it while we recorded it! It’s so good. Click play…

http://www.schedulefly.com/player.swf

Keepin’ It Simple and Fun,

Wes @ Schedulefly

Schedulefly Podcast #6 – "Schedulefly Is One of the Easier Things I Do In Managing Our Coffee Shop"

So says Sean Roberts, manager of Java Jacks coffee house in Nacogdoches, TX. Java Jacks has been around for thirteen years, and sells fresh roasted whole beans and fresh cups, along with a fun atmosphere and highly engaged, energetic employees who love to create awesome customer experiences.

Click below to listen to Sean talk about their painful old scheduling system, how he’s gone from needing 1.5 hours every week to create the schedule in Excel to 15 minutes in Schedulefly, how useful the Message Wall is, and how much easier Schedulefly is making Java Jacks’ staff scheduling and communication.

Click play to listen…

http://www.schedulefly.com/player.swf

Keepin’ It Simple and Fun,

The Schedulefly Team

Would You Go Into Marriage with an "Exit Strategy"?

Wes, Tyler, and I don’t have an “exit strategy” (I will use quotations for this term throughout because I think the term is silly in the first place). People always ask each of us that question. “What is your exit strategy?” I think people think it sounds sexy or cool or something. And they assume all entrepreneurs have “exit strategies.” After all, when people “exit” it means they sold their business for lots of money, and people like those kinds of stories. So the press always tells us about mergers and acquisitions, and entrepreneurs “exiting” with lots of cash and, presumably, their dreams fulfilled.

But the three of us love Schedulefly. We love what we do every day. As Wes says, “It doesn’t even feel like work.” So why in the world would we ever have a strategy to “exit” something we love? And since we love Schedulefly, we make decisions based on what’s best for our business, not based on propping our business up to be sold one day. Ironically, I’m confident that’s the only way you can build a successful business that anybody would ever want to buy in the first place.

So there’s the rub for “exit strategists.” They make decisions based on trying to grow big – quickly – in hopes of being acquired. So their decisions are by default not based on what’s best for the business. And they ironically risk never building a successful business in the first place, much less one that somebody would want to buy.

I’m confident lots of other guys would love to marry my wife. But I’m not going to take money from some guy to divorce her. No amount would be enough. I love her and I always will. I’d never want to “exit” our marriage. Same with Schedulefly.

Keepin’ It Full of Love,

Wil

An Unexpected Presidential Visit

This is really cool. One of our customers sent us a note this morning [see below]. The President, the First Lady and some friends made an unexpected visit for dinner this past weekend at their restaurant – the Corner Kitchen in Asheville NC. Apparently a call was made by someone saying they wanted to reserve a table for a special dinner and a marriage proposal…and then about 20 minutes before they arrived to eat – word spread it was the President. Pretty sneaky. The President had the Macadamia Encrusted Mahi-Mahi and the First Lady had the Lobster Tacos. Imagine the pressure of making those tasty dishes with the secret service standing over your shoulder. Oh also – apparently an anonymous team of people came in a week earlier to check things out and sample the dishes – and gave it the thumbs up to Team Obama. How do you get that job?

Nice work Corner Kitchen Team and thank you for the nice note…

———————–

Hi Wes and Crew,

I just wanted you to know that we had a surprise dinner guest this weekend when President Obama, First Lady Michelle, and four of their friends came to eat at the Corner Kitchen in Asheville, NC!

We are a small independent, with probably about 30 front of house staff. Still, things can get complicated in trying to balance everyone’s scheduling needs and make the entire operation (seem) smooth and flawless.

Thank you for providing the kind of service that allows us to be the kind of restaurant that works well enough to pull that one off!! And we did…beautifully!!

——————–

Here is a video clip from Asheville’s local news station
http://wlos.com/shared/newsroom/top_stories/videos/wlos_vid_2168.shtml

Schedulefly Podcast #6 – "Schedulefly Has Improved My Quality of Life"

So Says Steve Quarles, GM of the highest volume Hooters in the world. Steve goes onto call restaurant staff scheduling at Schedulefly a “blessing” and a “no-brainer,” and talks about how much time he and the managers save, how easy it is for the near 90 staff working at Hooters to trade work shifts now, and how much everybody likes the mobile web site.

Click play to listen…

http://www.schedulefly.com/player.swf

Keepin’ It Simple and Fun,

The Schedulefly Team

A Three Man Show…

Recently on an online forum, somebody posted this about Schedulefly: “It seems like a one man show.” The connotation is that being a one man show is a bad thing. And maybe if your software is complicated and your customers need a lot of help, then perhaps that is a bad thing. How could you possibly take care of all of them? But here’s my response to that post:

“We’re not a 1-man show. We’re a 3-man show. We purposely made Schedulefly simple, intuitive, and flexible, so we wouldn’t have to have a bunch of people to provide customer support. We don’t have many customer support requests, and new customers rarely need any training. We also don’t have sales people. You can learn more about the three of us and our philosophies on the About Us link on our site.”

To this point, check out this amazing graph:

It’s relevant because while Google has 20,000 employees, and Amazon has 24,300, and Yahoo has 13,900…..Craigslist has 30. (http://www.craigslist.org/about/factsheet). That’s right. 30. They have over 50 million users in the U.S. alone, and over 20 billion monthly page views, and they are a $100 million business. With just 30 people.

Now I’m not comparing Schedulefly to Craigslist, but I do believe passionately and very, very confidently that we can grow our business significantly with just a few people. We have three people now, and my guess is we will have no more than four people two or three years from now. More specifically, we have around 30,000 end users right now. We could serve 300,000 users with four people.

The message here is if you keep things simple, you won’t need to hire tons of people, and that’s an accomplishment, not a problem! The Craigslist team is proud to be small. So are we – and we’ll be very proud to be not much bigger than a “one man show” for many years to come.

Keepin’ It Incredibly Simple,

Wil

"Schedulefly Is One of the Best and Easiest Things a Restaurant Can Do." – So Says Renee Shuey, GM of Murray Brothers Caddyshack in St. Augustine, FL

Murray Brothers Caddyshack is a place any Caddyshack fan should visit. We’re so excited to have them as a customer – we are huge Caddyshack fans. In fact I had to keep myself from rattling off quotes while I was doing this podcast, and I made it until the very end before I lost control. But who could get through this without calling out their inner Carl?

Renee talks about why they switched from a disjointed Excel and Word system to Schedulefly for their restaurant employee scheduling and communication, how easy it was to make the switch, how much she and her team like the Message Wall, how they have fun sharing pictures, and how happy they are with Schedulefly.

Click play to listen…

http://www.schedulefly.com/player.swf

Thanks Renee and Team!

Wil @ Schedulefly

Blaze Your Own Path

This morning I was up early launching a cool new feature for our customers and I realized how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing. I am sitting in my kitchen with my son eating his waffle and my faithful friend at my feet while I deploy some new code to our data center. I am passionately working on a product I know is making people’s lives easier and it is absolutely a blast. I have no boss (other than customers :-)), no office to report to and no meetings to attend. A standard day for me is wildly productive. I communicate with my 2 partners via email a few times a day – sometimes the phone. I’ve been working on the Schedulefly system for almost 5 years now and every day I shoot out of bed excited to work and excited to hear from customers and prospects. I am very lucky – it just does not feel like work at all.

Every entrepreneur’s story is different. Something happened in their life – somewhere along the way – that lit a fire under them to go out and start a business. Maybe they inherited their fiery creative spirit from their parents and were destined to start a business, maybe they had a scratch that was not being itched or maybe they just decided that working in a cubicle for a large company sucks. I come from a family of successful business owners – so I think I inherited most of it….although I did work in a cubicle for years writing software for large clients and while it was an incredible learning experience and part of who I am now – I never really fit in.

My parents have owned a successful manufacturing business called Patsy Aiken Designs for over 30 years. They make baby clothes. Mom designs them and Dad runs the business. They are a really great team in life and in business and I owe 100% of my creative and entrepreneurial spirit to do my own thing to them. I grew up listening to them talk about their business every night at the dinner table. They were always talking about pricing, sales and customer service – and orders and shipping and things like that. They were also always talking about power bills, and payroll, yard maintenance at their office, having clean bathrooms for staff and all the other day to day things that a small business owner deals with. The things that really matter. Everything they talked about was important and necessary and basic. I remember thinking that’s what all people do – they have a business and they wake up every day to run it.

After years and years of hearing these discussions and asking questions about why they did things and why things mattered – I remember thinking in my first job out of school that I never heard anyone talking about these things. I was never in any discussion that had anything to do with a customer or an order. I had no idea how much a customer was paying for what I was helping create. I never heard about sales or marketing or revenue. I never heard about shipping and customer service. I was trapped in a cubicle, on a team of software developers, cranking out code for “clients” I had never met. In fact – today – the word “client” makes me queasy. I’ll never use it to refer to a customer. It seems to add so much distance between me and the people who buy what I make. Honestly – in those first few jobs I really don’t even know if anyone ever really did use what I made. Most of what we created was because there was a budget for it and it kept people employed so “clients” could be billed. Great and all, but what I was creating….did. not. matter.

My sister definitely inherited her creativity and desire to run a business from my parents. She has been designing and manufacturing her own line of handbags for over 10 years. Her designs are crazy popular. So popular that magazines like Southern Living and Parenting literally knock down her door for articles. She is a press magnet. Amazing what happens when you create a product that people love. Not only do people want to buy it over and over again – they want to tell their friends and family and readers about it as well. I am working really hard to emulate what she and my parents have done by creating something that people love and feel that it makes their life better if they buy it.

So I am sitting here in “my office” thinking about those days of listening to my parents at the dinner table talking about things that matter and thinking about the path they blazed for themselves. I’m thinking about my sister and her business and the other friends and family I’ve got that have hung out their own shingle and blazed their own path. Sure there were other children’s clothing manufacturing companies and handbag companies – but none like theirs. They followed no one. Their product, their passion and the way they delight their customers is unique. Sure there are other companies offering restaurants scheduling software – but none like ours.

Blaze your own path!

Wes @ Schedulefly

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