Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: September 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Texas Roadhouse in Waco, TX LOVES Schedulefly

The crew at Texas Roadhouse in Waco, TX – all 120 of them – used to have to deal with all kinds of phone calls and scraps of paper and drive-bys to deal with staff scheduling issues. In fact it was such a pain for Kassy Wagner, the service manager, that she pays for Schedulefly personally. That’s right…watch here and she’ll tell you why:

And by the way, how many softwares do you know of that people use the word “love” to describe? How many softwares do you love? Our awesome users love Schedulefly.

We didn’t ask Kassy or her crew to say any of this. We just mailed them a Flip cam and asked them to send back some clips of what they think about Schedulefly. And you know why they were happy to do it and why their videos are so clearly genuine? It’s simple. We’re making their lives easier, and in the hectic world of working in a restaurant, you can win friends quickly when you do anything to make their lives a little bit easier.

Thanks to Kassy and the cool, fun crew at Texas Roadhouse. We love you too!

The Schedulefly Crew

A Knob Creek Cheers Over Email

Last week Wes sent me an email with no subject, and no text. It simply contained the pic to the right. But I smiled wryly when I received it, knowing exactly what it was about. We had just passed a cool milestone for our business, and he was having a late afternoon celebratory drink. That’s his favorite drink there…a Knob Creek.

I love this aspect of our business. We don’t go overboard to celebrate, wasting a bunch of money. Rather we just do stuff like sending each other pics of our small batch whiskey drinks, and move on. Sure, we’re stoked about the milestone, but only enough to take a few sips, lend each other a congratulatory nod, and then re-focus on the next milestone. Remember Barry Sanders, who was one of the greatest running backs in NFL history? When he scored a touchdown, he didn’t dance, jig, jive, or make a big scene. He smiled, handed the ball to the ref, and jogged to the sideline. He was glad to have scored, but he wasn’t done yet and he was already thinking about how he would do it again. I always liked that approach. Humble, confident, and easily re-focused on what’s next.

Keepin’ It Focused,
Wil

Mr. President, Thank You for Visiting Us Tonight

We’ve noticed an interesting trend recently. Our customers tend to attract Presidents!

President Obama ate at Corner Kitchen while visiting Asheville, NC last Spring. And he loves the Chicago-style pizza from Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis. Meanwhile, former President Clinton and Secretary of State Clinton have twice visited Red Hat on the River in Irvington-On-Hudson, NY.

Any of you other Schedulefly customers had a past or current President dine with you?

The Crew

Be Like Zappos. Any Way You Can.

Want your customers to return, again, and again, and again? Want them to proactively tell people how awesome you are? Then be like Zappos. Any way you can.

Yesterday was a Sunday, and yesterday at 10:30am I clicked to purchase a pair of the shoes from Zappos. Again…on a Sunday. The box pictured below arrived in my office at 2pm today. It’s Monday. The next day. Just over 24 hours later after I ordered them, which, one more time….was on a SUNDAY! And because I have purchased a few things from them before, I got free overnight shipping. Yes, that’s right, FREE overnight shipping. And if they don’t fit or I don’t like them or, heck, just because…I can return them with free return shipping. And I have 365 days to do it.

Now why in the world wouldn’t I buy stuff from them? And why wouldn’t I write a blog post about them? In some ways it’s a sad state that what they do is such a big deal. But it is. Barely anybody else “gets it.” It’s incredibly rare that a retail store or a restaurant or a software business or a bank – or any business in any industry – gets the simple concept that if you “Deliver WOW Through Service,” your customers will just keep on coming back. Again, and again, and again. And maybe they’ll even blog about you.

Zappos, ya’ll rock!

Wil

Don’t Mess With My Margins!

I listened to a really interesting presentation this weekend on living your life with “margins”. It seems most people don’t have margin in their life – or extra space or time or money that is not used. They push themselves to the edge – financially and emotionally and spiritually etc. Some even squeeze the healthy margins out of their kid’s lives by encouraging them to do 10 different activities – one after another – every day – all week long. Why not allow them to focus and get really good at just one or two? The intentions of exposing them to a bunch of things are good – but the consequences can be bad on the kids and the parents. He said, and you can’t help but agree, most people don’t have extra space between their current performance and their limits – like the white space margins on a 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper. Have you ever seen a sheet of paper with words all the way out to the edges? That would be weird and difficult to read for sure.

The presenter told us to think about this: you are probably making the most money you’ve ever made in your life and you are the most stressed you’ve ever been about money? Why? No margins likely – there is no extra money hanging around…so we need more money vs backing off a tad and simply creating more margin.

Back to it. This post is about margins in our business – and not in the normal sense of the word. While I listened to the presentation about margins in life – I started thinking about our business and a wave of calm came over me. A calmness that can only exist with margin. We have margin in our business and it is because we intentionally create it by having a focus. Our unique focus creates space that we can use to further focus and get better at what we do and make our product even more valuable for a very specific kind of customer. Often, and I mean almost every week, someone suggests another industry for us to sell our product. It is usually a friend or a family member or maybe a customer who sees the value and sees the opportunity. Whoever it is – they look at me like I am crazy when I say we choose to focus. We choose to keep blinders on and ignore retail and health care and countless small niche markets that need software similar to Schedulefly. While they do understand that having a focus does make our product better for everyone – they don’t understand why we don’t spin off a version for these others industries. It seems so easy to them. I’ve stopped trying to explain because it is such an unconventional mindset and such the opposite of what the average business minded person thinks. But before I stopped trying to explain – I used to say – Ok, then which one would we really focus on? So we hire more people to focus and market the different products. So then we get in the business of having to grow faster and generate more revenue because we now have more expenses – more people, more offices, more overhead. So our products start to suffer and get more mediocre because our focus has shifted to making more money and meanwhile the fun has been sucked out of the business and the margins (financial AND otherwise) are disappearing. No time for family, no time for activities we love to do and no time to think about growing our business the way we originally planned. We travel all the time, we work day and night and we are stressed because we need more money, more people and more products. Gross!

Our focus on restaurants creates margins – in more ways than one. It allows us to do what we do with less people and less products and less overhead – so our financial margins are strong. It allows us more time to think and to blog and heck – even to write a dang book about our customers! I don’t know too many companies that are growing like a weed and one of the 3 owners is focused on writing a book. And lastly, margins allow the 3 of us to actually enjoy what we do and to focus on scaling our business in a sustainable way.

Just yesterday a buddy asked me about spinning off our product and serving another industry and I did the old thing you use do to your friends as a kid….stick your fingers in your ears and say “la – la – la – la – I can’t hear you”. I then said “Come on man – don’t mess with my margins”.

Wes
Schedulefly

Unnecessary Interruptions At The Restaurant Are Dwindling!

Since last Sunday (7 days ago) at Schedulefly, the following events happened – most of which likely stopped a few phone calls and interruptions from happening:

1. 109,550 people logged into Schedulefly (11,736 were on our mobile site). Many of these logins were staff helping themselves to information that, in the past, would been phone calls that interrupted someone doing something more important. People are logging in to check schedules, read messages from managers, request time off, trades shifts and more.

2. 2,978 schedules were posted online. These are weekly team schedules like Wait Staff, Bartender, Host, etc. Most schedules have at least 15-20 or more staff on them…so probably 40,000+ individual schedules were sent to staff via email and text. Again – lots of phone calls and trips to the restaurant that used to happen – didn’t.

3. 4,605 schedule change requests were approved online. Many of these requests were made and approved using a mobile device. Think about that for a sec. Each schedule change involves at least 3 people – the person giving up the shift, the person who wants it and the manager who is approving or declining the change. Prior to Schedulefly, one single change would have likely meant multiple phone calls to and from the restaurant…and maybe even a physical trip to the restaurant by one or more involved.

WOW! That’s cool so thought I’d share.

Wes
Schedulefly

I’ll Take Dream Companies and Iron Man Over Gigantic Businesses and Suits Every Day

These two magazines arrived in my mail box on the same day. It took me no time to realize it’s time to cancel one subscription. Care to guess which one?

I am so thankful that a career that started out in banking, with visions of being CEO of a large bank and admiration for folks like the guy on your left, veered off into the world of start up businesses and dream companies. Which means that this morning, I don’t have to hustle in to some office tower for a series of meetings, conference calls, and other high pressure activities in an attempt to keep my job and try to please some person who sits on the top floor and has unrealistic expectations.

Rather, I will spend some time with my three year old son, who is not going to preschool because he’s sick today. We’ll watch the Superheroes DVD you see there in this pic, and I’ll call Fortune to ask them to stop sending me magazines I can’t relate to any longer. Meanwhile, I’ll devour Inc. while my son devours his breakfast, and most likely I’ll start my work day with an idea or two that I got from Inc. that could help our business in some way.

Thankful Every Day for Being a Part of a Small Business,

Wil

Moonlight Pizza Joins the Movement – Happy Staff And Great Pizza Make Happy Customers!

It’s so much fun to check out our indie restaurant customer’s web sites. They are often so full of life and unique and fun and, well, they make us wish we could go visit every single one of them! So here’s a link to new customer Moonlight Pizza‘s site.

Check out this quote on their home page: “We have the best pizza you will ever taste, and mind bending margaritas.” Try to find a large chain that would make the same kind of claim. You can’t. Some person in “legal” would stop them even if they tried. In fact, all you’ll find on most large pizza chain’s sites is big messages about price cuts and cheap pizza.

Another fun (and unique) link on their site is the “Staff” link – click it and you’ll see cool pics of some of their staff members. I mean really – how cool and unconventional is that? (See photo/description below of one of their team members) Most businesses put tired photos and boring bios of their big shot executive team on their site – not fun photos with fun descriptions of the staff that actually make the pizza and actually speak to customers. Clearly the owners love their staff and believe giving them tools like Schedulefly is important. It is important because it makes the lives of their staff easier – so they are happier – and they smile more. Customers like smiling staff and yes – really tasty pizza.

We don’t know owner Kim Bouldin’s story, and how they got started. But it’s clear from scanning their web site that it’s an interesting story about somebody who has genuine passion for her business and is not afraid to be herself. We’re going to find out and let you know.

Having Fun Serving Fun Customers,
The Schedulefly Crew

Coffee Shops Tend To Dig Our Stuff

Coffee shops often have relatively young, web-savvy staff members and managers. They Blog, they Twitter, they Facebook, etc. And their customers do too – it’s all part of the experience of getting stuff done while you hang out in a coffee shop and not in an office. Been in any coffee shop lately that did not have 4 people on Macs, 3 on iPads, and always a few cool people wannabes (like me) on Dell laptops? Point is – these businesses are technology hubs – makes sense their staff would rather check their schedule online vs on an Excel sheet or worse – hanging on the wall! It seems coffee shops also find value in simple tools – just like their products. They typically don’t need fancy software with complicated rules that require end-user training – just easy tools with a friendly, familiar interface.

Just like the folks at Elevate Coffee in Phoenix, AZ and Casablanca Coffee in Nashville, TN. As of a few weeks ago, life got a little easier for their staff and managers who, no doubt, have loads of other things going in their life besides work. Last thing they have time for is making phone calls related to their schedule or driving by the shop to see when they work. Just like many of their customers who swing by each morning to say hello and grab some caffeine – they hop online each morning, read messages from colleagues, trade shifts, request time off etc. It just make so much more sense for the staff. It fits their life.

Ok, this is random for this post but all this talk about technology and social sites where people communicate made me think of The Office episode where Ryan describes his new site called Woof. Did you see it? Hilarious. Check it out.

Keepin’ It Simple and Fun,
The Schedulefly Crew

Book Update…

So far I’ve spoken to ten of the twenty restaurateurs I’m interviewing for our book. And honestly I’d like to stop now just to get these conversations in a book right away, because these interviews are overflowing with wisdom and knowledge and advice and amazing stories.

One cool trend is how unique each story is. Unlike a series of interviews with corporate executives, who would no doubt have almost all attended a well known college or university, and would have taken relatively similar career paths, these folks have come from all kinds of different backgrounds and have taken all kinds of different paths to get where they are today.

Scott Maitland was in the Army and then went to law school before starting Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery in Chapel Hill, NC. Chester Kroeger started Fudpucker’s as a snack bar in the back of a bar in Destin, FL and had never intended to own a restaurant. Joe Johnston got an engineering degree at Stanford and then went on to start The Coffee Plantation, which he later sold before starting Joe’s Real BBQ and several other very successful restaurants in Gilbert, AZ. Meanwhile, his partner, Tad Peelen spent seventeen years at American Airlines before getting involved with Joe’s. Mic Heynecamp was on track to be a geologist and his wife Molley had an accounting degree, and they enjoyed doing home brewing and traveling. They wanted to figure out a way to live in a cool little mountain town. So they now own Eddyline Restaurant & Brewery in Buena Vista, CO as well as Socorro Springs Restaurant & Brewery in Socorro, NM and they bought a single engine cessna to enable them to travel between the two. Scott Liebfried started bussing tables as a teenager …. and never looked back. He and his partners Jeremiah Higgons, who attended film school and wanted to be a movie producer, and Cobi Jones, a former United States National Team soccer player, just opened Arch Rock Fish in Santa Barbara, CA. When Chip Bair bought BeauJo’s in 1973, it a tiny pizza shop in Silver Springs, CO. He slept on the floor for a few months until he was able to barter a cabin to live in from the local dog catcher in exchange for $25 pf free pizza every month. Chris Sommers spent seven years at Salesforce.com in San Francisco before returning home to St. Louis to start Pi Pizzeria.

And while their stories are very different, and they each have unique philosophies on how to run successful restaurants, a few common threads are emerging. They all have a passion for their restaurants that is palpable. It oozes out as they tell their stories and talk about why their restaurants are successful. None of them are in it just to make money. There’s much more to it for all of them. They each believe their purpose is to be doing what they are doing, and they view their restaurants as important institutions in their communities.

I’ve learned something highly valuable from each of these restaurant owners, and most of it has nothing to do with owning restaurants. These folks are dishing out important and meaningful business advice, not matter what business you are in. We’re bursting at the seams with excitement about this book. I hope to wrap up the interviews by the end of October, and we’ll keep this series updated as we progress.

Keepin’ It Incredibly Educational & Inspiring,

Wil

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