Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: May 2010 (Page 1 of 3)

The Heart vs. The Head

“I was signing up for freedom.” That response swiftly left my lips when my former partner (Bobby) in a former business (First Research) recently asked me what I was signing up for when I signed up to work with him. Bobby and I once were colleagues at a very large, national bank. We were both frustrated and tired of being so low on the totem pole, and having so many people telling us what to do and how to do it and when to do it. Reports. Rules. Processes. Deadlines. Unrealistic goals. We both felt boxed in. If you work for a large business, you know the story.

Bobby came up with an idea for a business, and asked me to leave the bank with him and help him start it. But as frustrated as I was, I passed. I didn’t have the courage to make the move. Seemed like too much risk. After all, I had a “good job” with “great benefits” at a large company. I fell victim to my head, to conventional wisdom. So Bobby left and got First Research started, and I stayed closely in touch with him. Each time I spoke to him and listened to him tell me passionately about what he was doing and successes he was having and mistakes he was making, I filled with envy. It made me hate my job more and more every time I thought of the freedom he had. It made me feel more and more suffocated, more and more frustrated. Something was burning inside me. It was a battle between my heart and my head. My heart told me I had to leave my job, I had to find freedom. My head told me I would be crazy to leave corporate America and take on the daunting risks that lie ahead. Thankfully, though my head won a few battles, my heart won the war.

This Braveheart scene gives me chills to this day because it reminds me so much of where I was when I was in corporate America, and where I am now. If you are stuck in corporate America right now, but you have an idea for a business and a passion you want to follow, and your heart and your mind are waging a battle, do yourself a favor and play this scene every day. Play it 5 times per day. You owe it to yourself as fuel for your heart’s fire, because your mind is getting all kinds of fuel from the risks you constantly think about, the naysayers, the pessimistic people around you, the “safe” job you have which you would be “crazy” to leave, and so many of your colleagues whose hearts have hardened, bit by bit, over the years to the point where they have no heart to follow. William Wallace represents your heart. The men in the crowd who don’t won’t to fight are your head…

In March of 1999 I followed my heart and left the bank to join Bobby and the fledgling business he had started, First Research. I found freedom that March, and I will never give it up again. If you’re heart is burning – and you know if it is or not – take your first step to follow it today. And another step tomorrow. And so on. And one day years from now, you’ll be glad you can look back and remember when you finally followed your heart and gained your freedom.


The Most Beautiful Machines Have The Least Moving Parts

That’s what Ted Juracsik, owner at Tibor Reels, believes and I could not agree more. If you have ever heard the sound a Tibor Reel’s drag makes when a large saltwater fish is hooked to your fly at the end of the leader – you have been changed forever. Now I’m not sure what is more life changing – enticing a 100lb Tarpon in crystal clear water to eat a fly you made the night before with some marabou feathers, a bit of glue and a small steel hook – or to be the proud owner of the finest, most reliable, fly reel ever made. I own a Tibor and I’ve caught a Tarpon, but I think owning this reel trumps any fish I might ever catch. When your fishing for a speedster like a Bonefish, a Permit or a Tarpon – the confidence a Tibor Reel gives you is unparalleled. It will not fail. It will not let you down. It’s simplistic design removes all points of failure – or maybe I should call them points of melting.

The Tibor Fly Reel’s design is inspiring. It has an absurdly simple cork drag that can literally put the brakes on a unsuspecting Tuna swimming 50mph in the gulf stream. After witnessing how it holds up to such a fish and then later opening the spool to clean it – it’s shocking. Really? These are all the parts? A piece of cork and some aluminum? Surely more goes into this thing. Surely there is some complex set of gears and knobs and levers that make it a pain to clean? How can it be so simple, yet be in a such league of its own and used by the most avid saltwater fly anglers on the planet? I can tell you why. Quality, Reliability and Simplicity. They left everything else out. There are no extra knobs, screws, pins, pulleys or otherwise unnecessary complicated details. Maintenance would be a pain if it were not so simple. Customers would call all day long and complain if fish of a lifetime (caught on a fly rod) were melting the reels with their speed or if the salt water was corroding them. Ted’s reels have a smooth drag that stands up to any pelagic species, a gorgeous simplistic design that requires zero maintenance (outside of a fresh water wash now and then) and that’s it. They don’t rust, they don’t fail, they just stop fish.

I’d like to think that Schedulefly, like a Tibor Reel, is beautiful in large part to its lack of moving parts. We focus on the basics and try to do them really well – like Ted. We leave out the complicated, quality compromising, features that many others have chosen to include. We leave them out on purpose. We don’t have a team of people to help explain stuff or train users or answer questions all day long. It had to be simple and not have too many moving parts. As I blog, people are using Schedulefly for the first time and need no help from us. Just like when I cracked open that Tibor spool for the first time to clean it, they likely poke around and think: this is it? Surely there must be more complicated stuff we need to do before getting started? Surely someone at Schedulefly is going to call us and peel back this simplicity to uncover a bunch of complexity that requires training and learning?

Nah – your hooked up. Just hang on and start reeling. Oh – and yell at your Dad to grab the camera.


Schedulefly Customer Podcast #13 – "Schedulefly Makes Scheduling So Easy. Life Is Good Now!"

So says Todd McElwain of Fudpucker’s in Destin, FL. Listen to he and Deede Wayne talk about how much Schedulefly has improved their restaurant scheduling and communications. They discuss Schedulefly’s user-friendly, easy interface, the ability to create schedules from home, the ability to upload documents, and how they keep employees and managers apprised of Trip Advisor scores, community volunteer opportunities, and other important communications. They also go on to discuss how much their staff love Schedulefly, and how it’s making their lives easier.

Click play to listen…

Keepin’ It Simple & Fun,

The Schedulefly Guys

It’s Not Strictly Business. It’s Very Personal.

I’m a huge fan of the greatest movie ever made, “The Godfather.” I’ve seen it countless times, and I often do a terrible imitation of Michael Corleone, the character played by Al Pacino, saying the most famous quote from the movie. You know the scene. He offers to kill the police chief and Solazzo, the men who had attempted to have his father assassinated. After being mocked and told to calm down and not to mix business with personal by his brother Sonny, he calmly utters that famous line, “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”

Michael went on to become such a shrewd business man that his personal life crumbled all around him. Nothing was personal to him. Everything was business. He even had his own brother, Fredo, assassinated because it was best for business. There was nobody better at separating personal from business than Michael.

Many business people are able to separate personal from business. They are able to ignore the personal element of any business decision. The business comes first, no matter what. But many of our customers who own independent restaurants don’t think that way. They take the personal aspects of their business very seriously. They genuinely care about their employees. They factor their employees’ happiness and well being into every business decision. They value their employees so much, that they say things like what Richard Taubin, owner of Friends Coastal recently said to me: “We are very family oriented. Our employees come first, even before customers.” Or they think like Kiersten Traina of Liberty Market and who thinks about and accounts for her employees’ personal schedules as much as her restaurant’s needs when creating the weekly staff schedule. Or they go out of their way to help their employees, like Chester Kroeger of Fudpucker’s: “We are a family. When times are tough for employees, we go out of our way to help them. Whether it’s with a loan for them to buy that car to get to work or whatever we need to do within reason. You have to be careful not to be taken taken advantage of, but more often than not we err on the side of the employee.” If you would like to hear the genuine affection that Chester, Kiersten, and Richard- as well as a bunch of other restaurant owners – have for their employees, check out our restaurant owner podcast series.

Coincidentally, every restaurant owner I speak to who has a strong connection with the personal side of their business just so happens to run a highly successful business. Their turnover rates are extremely low. They have staff members who work for them for ten or twenty years. And their employees are very dedicated, loyal, and passionate about working for their restaurants and serving their customers.

It turns out that while The Godfather makes for great cinema, if you own a restaurant – or any small business for that matter – it’s not strictly business. It’s very personal.

Keepin’ It Personal,


I Can’t Stop Rereading Rework

I just finished reading Rework for the 3rd time – from the guys at 37signals. My business partner, Wil, and I have been emailing each other quotes from this book since it came out. It’s about keeping your business model and products simple and focusing on what really matters. It’s about ignoring and doing less than your competition – not more. It’s also about bucking conventional wisdom and being unique in everything your do with your business. We have always felt that we were unconventional guys. We don’t like to follow too many “best practices”, we don’t agree with conventional marketing tactics and we always make decisions based on what our gut tells us – not someone else. It is cool to see other successful businesses operate this way…and then write a book about it that becomes a wildly popular best seller.

I’ve been highlighting snippets as I’ve been reading and thought it would be cool to pull them out into a blog post. The chapter name is in bold and the snippet that jumped out at me is below that. Honestly I really could have just dipped this entire book in bright yellow paint – it’s that good – but a few things stood out and seemed more relevant for us and our software.

Decommoditize your product
Pour yourself into your product and everything around your product too: how you sell it, how you support it, how you explain it, and how you deliver it. Competitors can never copy the you in your product.

Ignore the Real World
“This would never work in the real world”. You hear it all the time when you tell people about a fresh idea. The real world sounds like a depressing place to live. The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.

Enough with “entrepreneurs”
Let’s retire the term entrepreneur. It’s outdated and loaded with baggage. It smells like a members-only club. Everyone should be encouraged to start his own business, not just some rare breed that self-identifies as entrepreneurs.

Underdo your competition
Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problem and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition. Instead of one-upping, try one-downing. Instead of outdoing, try underdoing.

Say no by default
Making a few vocal customers happy is not worth it if it ruins the product for everyone else.

Let your customers outgrow you
Adding power-user features to satisfy some can intimidate those who aren’t on board yet. Scaring away new customers is worse than losing old customers.

Build an audience
All companies have customers. Lucky companies have fans. But the most fortunate companies have an audience. An audience can be your secret weapon.

Draw a line in the sand
We’re just as proud of what our products don’t do as we are of what they do.

You need less than you think
Do you really need to buy advertising and hire a PR firm or are there other ways to get noticed?

Build half a product, not a half-assed product
Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Directors cut good scenes to make a great movie. Musicians drop good tracks to make a great album. Writers eliminate good pages to make a great book. So start chopping. Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good.

Be a curator
It’s the stuff you leave out that matters. So constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline.

Focus on things that won’t change
For 37signals, things like speed, simplicity, ease of use and clarity are our focus. Those are timeless desires. People are not going to wake up 10 years from now and say, “Man, I wish software was harder to use.” They won’t say, “I wish this application was slower.”

Tone in in your fingers
In business, too many people obsess over tools, software tricks, scaling issues, fancy office space, lavish furniture, and other frivolities instead of what really matters. And what really matters is how to actually get customers and make money.

Go behind the scenes
Letting people behind the curtain changes the your relationship with them. They’ll feel a bond with you and see you as human beings instead of a faceless company.

The myth of the overnight sensation
You will not be a hit right away. You will not get rich quick. Trade the dream of overnight success for slow, measured growth. It’s hard, but you have to be patient. You have to grind it out. You have to do it for a long time before the right people notice.

I’ll probably take a few weeks off and get some work done…and then read it again.

Restaurant Owner Podcast #8 – "Our Employees Come First. Even Before Our Customers"

Richard Taubin is co-owner of Friends Coastal Restaurant in Madisonville, LA. Friends is a high energy, fun place on the river, with a “Key West Meets New Orleans” theme, great food, beautiful views, and tons of happy customers and employees. Richard talks about everything from being very employee focused and family oriented, to how the weather impacts his business, to hitting food and labor cost targets, to hosting tons of fun events that help Friends give back to the community. Richard offers all kinds of great insight and perspective, so click play to listen to what he has to say….

Keepin’ It Educational,

The Schedulefly Guys

Restaurant Owner Podcast #7- "It’s Not All About Money. If You Don’t Love What You Do, What’s The Point?"

Chester Kroeger owns Fudpucker’s , a cool, fun place with nearly 500 total employees between two locations in both Destin and Fort Walton Beach, FL. Chester and his team have successfully been serving up great food, great fun, and an all-around great experience for over 25 years now. He pours wisdom throughout this podcast. It’s just fantastic. He uses words like “compassion” and “empathy” and “love” and “desire” and “passion.” He also discusses successfully managing a highly seasonal business, how he deals with the affects of natural disasters, his thoughts on the economy, and more. Interested in hearing what’s on the mind of a savvy, respected, highly successful veteran restaurant owner?

Click play and enjoy….

Keepin’ It Simple & Educational,

The Schedulefly Guys

In and Out in Ninety Seconds

My guess is I’m one of the only people on the planet who will go to his grave arguing that “Point Break” is one of the greatest movies ever made. Yes, that Point Break. Keanu Reeves. Patrick Swayze. Gary Busey. Surfing. Bank robbery. Sky diving. Fist fights. Car chases. Drug raids. Shootouts. I’ll spare you my case here, but suffice it to say I think Kathryn Bigelow deserved an Oscar well before her recent one for “The Hurt Locker.” So I of course had to work the movie into this blog at least once. So if you’ll indulge me…

If you haven’t seen it, Point Break is about FBI agents trying to catch a group of bank robbers – “The Ex-Presidents” – who are in and out of every bank they rob in 90 seconds. While most bank robberies take much longer, these guys are amazingly quick because they only get cash from the tellers. They never go to the vault. Going to the vault adds layers of complication to the robbery, and causes it to take significantly longer to complete. By keeping it simple and never getting greedy, they do their job much faster than their peers.

Wes, Tyler, and I are like the Ex-Presidents. We like to keep things simple and never get greedy. So our customers are able to create their restaurant staff schedules lightening fast – much faster than their peers who use Excel, or pencil and paper. As Keith Santangelo from Bourbon Street Bar & Grille in NYC recently said, “It used to take me 2-3 hours every week to create our schedule. With Schedulefly it takes 30 minutes.”

The Ex-Presidents got caught when they finally got greedy and went to the vault just one time. If Wes, Tyler, and I decided to try to serve new markets other than restaurants, we’d be getting greedy. That would force us to add tons of stuff to Schedulefly and make changes that would inevitably complicate our app. That’s not going to happen. We’ll always keep it simple, focus on restaurants, never get greedy, and therefore enable our customers to do the equivalent of being in and out in 90 seconds.

Keepin’ It Simple & Fun,


Email Photos To Your Schedulefly Message Wall

I used to hate being scheduled as a “late” server. I always gave up that shift. Some people loved having that shift – because nights that started slow and ended with late a rush usually resulted in a fat pocket full of tips. The early waiters were cut since it was slow and then the late waiters often found themselves all alone with a restaurant full of hungry customers. The chance of that never outweighed the dreaded task of having to clean the dinning room and 1/2 the kitchen at the end of the night…

Late servers had to clean, wipe, scrub and mop….and sweat. I was like 20 yrs old – so mopping up after other people (let alone myself) was not something I liked to do. Now – a dad with a 3yr old – it’s just part of my day. Back then I would have rather gotten punched in the face.

Anyway – after cleaning and wiping and mopping and scrubbing – the owner would walk around and inspect our effort before letting us go. I remember he would just point at stuff – like Obi Wan pointing at Stormtroopers…causing them to say what he was thinking. “You will clean this bread warmer again”…”We will clean this bread warmer again”.

We would follow him around while he pointed at things that needed more attention. Ugh – it seemed it was never good enough….but that is why we always had a superb inspection report from the health department – something the team was always proud of.

Anyway – the reason for this blog post is that we’ve added a simple way for restaurant managers to take photos and just email them to their wall. Taking a photo of a perfect clean up job would have been fantastic! He could have shared it with the team – with a note that said – “Don’t come get me – or plan on leaving – until the Kitchen looks likes this”.

The photo could be anything actually – maybe a dirty coffee station, a clean walk-in freezer, a packed house, or someone famous in the bar! Whatever – just snap a photo with your phone and email it to your wall where the entire team can see it and comment. The photo is automatically posted to the Message Wall (like below) and to the Documents tab – in the photos section.

Keepin’ It Simple and Fun To Use


Restaurant Owner Podcast # 6 – Jeff Gigante, Ciccio Restaurant Group

Ciccio Restaurant Group is located in Tampa Bay, FL. They have 6 Locations with over 350 Employees.

Jeff started a pizzeria with a few college buddies while at Florida State University. Twenty years later, he owns a highly successful multi-concept, value-oriented restaurant group. His passion is palpable and highly contagious. If you are interested in hearing the philosophies and secret sauces and concerns of a very successful restaurant owner, dial into this podcast. It’s simply fantastic.

Click play to listen…

Keepin’ It Simple & Educational

The Schedulefly Guys

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