Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: March 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

Raleigh NC restaurants using Schedulefly

The Mellow Mushroom on Peace street in Raleigh NC was the very first restaurant to use Schedulefly. They started using it sometime in 2006 – back when it was running on server at my house in Raleigh. They’ve been a customer ever since and really helped us early on by suggesting stuff to add or change. As it got better and easier to use and after we moved it to a real data center (so it wouldn’t go down when I tripped over the power cord) they brought on their Durham location. Since then nearly 1000 wait staff, managers, bartenders, hosts, chefs, baristas etc. at some great places in Raleigh have started using Schedulefly to make their lives easier at work.

I was thinking today how proud I am that we are serving these restaurants and while we are certainly not taking any city (Raleigh or otherwise) by storm – we are slowly bringing on some fantastic venues with sharp owners and great staff. What’s cool is a few of our customers in Raleigh were places where I ate and drank while I was developing Schedulefly. I remember thinking, man, these places are gonna dig this….one day.

Wes
Schedulefly

The Stars of Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Chris Sommers

Pi Pizzeria has been wildly successful in a short amount of time. Chris and his partner, Frank Uible, opened their first location on “Pi Day” March 14 (3.14) 2008, and by that October then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama enjoyed some of their pizza after a St. Louis campaign rally. He loved it, and Pi, which was already very popular, became a sensation. They now have four locations and a mobile pizza truck, and they are opening in Washington, D.C. this June. Chris left Salesforce.com to open Pi after buying a recipe for an insanely good deep dish pizza from a small pizzeria that he frequented in San Francisco. He is extremely smart, has great business instincts and has learned quite a bit in the last few years. Here are a few of the key points he made in our interview…

– Delegate your way to success
– Make being “green” a core part of your DNA
– Internal communication and transparency are critical
– Evolve or die
– Dine in lots of other places
– Make job applicants do their homework

Learn more from Chris and all of the other successful restaurant owners in our book, available in a paperback or Kindle version on Amazon.

The Schedulefly Crew

Tell your story and you might just hook ’em

A buddy of mine (Scott) has built a nice software service for fishing guides. He is a Charter Fishing Captain himself and also a CPA – so he has a great story and reason for creating this business. Fishing guides use his service to manage their clients and trips – and also to keep track of trip revenue and guide expenses. It’s a great service – a simple app for a niche market developed by a guy who knows the business. It’s not a huge market but big enough for him to turn it into a nice business for himself and likely a few others. Since that’s the case – of course he has some competition…

Scott recently sent out an email blast to a list of fishing guides. One of the guides on the list (that received the email) responded and asked how the service was different from a competitor’s. Turns out this guy uses the competitor’s service and was curious. The guy seemed somewhat irritated that he received the email maybe because in his mind he had already found a solution or maybe he was just having a bad day. Who knows.

So Scott forwarded it to me and asked if I have any advice for a response. The other company that this guy uses was a competitor Scott was not real familiar with and I think he was caught off a guard a bit and was curious if I would share how I might respond in this situation. I’ve been advising Scott from time to time over the last year as he had been building the service – just because his business model is so similar to ours and he is a buddy.

My first comment was that clearly this guy is intrigued in some way since he has a solution already – but still took the time to respond and ask. Something made him respond – maybe he is not totally happy with the service he’s chosen or maybe it was actually someone who works for the competition. Either way – I told Scott it was an opportunity to tell his story. I suggested he just be honest, tell the guy exactly why he created it and what he hopes to do for his customers – and what it is already doing and even share some guide names if possible. Chances are this guy was not going to switch to Scott’s service – so getting into features and pricing was not likely going to matter. Maybe price would – but who wants to start a business with passion and come out of the gate competing only on price. Yuck.

What I thought would make a bigger impact on this guy was to hear about a passionate fishing guide who could not find the right solution to help him manage his clients and fishing trips – so he built one. Period. Leave it at that. Ignore the competition. Don’t mention them – just tell the story. I also told Scott to make sure he also let this guy know he is thrilled he has moved from paper based bookings to a web based service – no matter who he has chosen. He is fishing guide who clearly sees a solution like Scott’s as being valuable enough to buy. A solution that will help his business. That’s huge. This guy needs to talk about Scott’s business – customer or not. This guy needs to mention Scott’s service at the dock after a day on the water when he is talking to his guide buddies. So, rather than Scott responding with a typical response someone might get from a paranoid company that is worried about the competition – I told him to just be honest. Be honest, tell your really cool story and wish him well with his current solution. Share a link to learn more about features if that’s what he wants to know – but he has to hear the story. People love a great story, especially if it resonates with them – like this story will. If he doesn’t read it, fine – he is not low hanging fruit anyway. If he does read it, cool, he will remember the story and likely mention it to someone later this week on the water.

So Scott took my advice and did just that…he told his story, explained why he built it and how he expects it to help make the lives of fishing guides easier. He ignored the competition (which made him sound more confident in his service) and because he did and because he was honest and passionate – I bet he hears from this fishing guide again soon.

Tell your story – it is definitely the one thing the competition can’t build.

Wes
Schedulefly

Restaurant Owners Uncorked mentioned in a Wall Street Journal blog post

We were thrilled to see our book Restaurant Owners Uncorked mentioned today in a blog post by the Wall Street Journal. The article is called How to Open a Restaurant and contains tips from Damien Scoditti, a NYC restaurateur. The post also includes a shout out to Bobby Flay’s new reality show and links to a few books including Restaurant Owners Uncorked.

Congrats to the 20 restaurant owners in our book. Your real, repeatable stories are the reason the Wall Street Small Business Editor mentioned the book….of course.

The Schedulefly Crew

The Stars of Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Mic Heynekamp

Mic and Molley Heynekamp started Socorro Springs Restaurant & Brewery in 1999. After four and a half years of planning, they took their original $1,000,000 business plan down to $100,000. And they wound up starting with only $70,000. Ten years later they opened Eddyline Restaurant & Brewery. Both restaurants have been very successful, and Mic and Molley plan to open a third in May, 2011. How could you not want to learn from a guy that started with 7% of what he initially thought it would take to get started, and made it work – extremely well? Mic runs lean and highly profitable restaurants, and he had quite a few pearls of wisdom to share in his interview, such as…

– Most startup books are wrong – you can start with little money
– You can dominate in small towns
– Run really lean and you can be highly profitable
– Find a mentor
– Eat at other restaurants – often
– Get all of the details right to create a pearl for your customers

You’re a click away from reading Mic’s interview and 19 other awesome interviews. Grab our book on Amazon today!

The Schedulefly Crew

What any entrepreneur can learn from restaurant owners

Yesterday my mom called me and said she had just started reading Restaurant Owners Uncorked. The first comment she made was, “William, this book is not just for restaurant people. It’s for any entrepreneur.” She’s right. This book is full of excellent general business wisdom that anybody starting a business could learn from. Here are a few of the quotes…

————————–

“You have to think long term when you choose your investors. It’s like marrying into a family. They have to trust you explicitly. And vice versa.”

“If you are going to raise money, start your pitches with your worst prospects. By the time you get to your best prospects, you are going to have a much better presentation, and a much better deal.”

“You have to have that attitude of saying that failure is not even close to being an option. It’s amazing how your body and your mind will respond if you think that way.”

“Try to avoid starting out leveraged. It puts a financial stress on you when you dip through a slow period, and that takes its toll on you.”

“Be great at a few things, not average at a lot of things.”

“Keep your business simple if you want to expand.”

“The biggest competition is not for customers. It’s for staff. If you compete in the labor market and get the best staff, the customers will follow.”

“If you’ve worked in corporate America, unlearn your corporate mindset. Most of what works there won’t work in your small business.”

“Take your ego out of the equation. At the end of the day, it’s a business. If you approach it through your ego, you’ll fail.”

“Don’t expand too quickly or you could destroy your entire business.”

“Learning to delegate is critical to growth.”

“No matter how well you know your potential business partner personally, make sure you know what he/she is like on the heat of battle.”

“Be transparent with your staff and you’ll earn their loyalty and trust.”

These quotes are just the tip of the iceberg. Learn more from the folks that provided these quotes in the book. It’s an easy, quick read and it’s a click away from your doorstep on Amazon.

Wil

Do what you love, be yourself and completely ignore anyone who steps in your way…

Something inspired me today to write this blog post….

Business owner or not, “entrepreneur” or not, married or not, young or old, if you ever find yourself doing something that you don’t enjoy immensely, or living a life you wish you were not living, or hanging out with people you don’t want to be with, please – change it. Change. Quit. Move. Stop. Whatever you need to do. Life is too short to tell yourself what your doing or where you are living “is a means to an end”. Life is too short to think it will get better later. Life is too short to think you will make more money later or make better friends later or find a better job after you get more experience.

Do what you love now. Today. Find a balance that works for you and your family. Tell them you are making a change and everyone will be ok – I promise. Find a place to live you never want to move from and find a passion that gets you excited as heck to wake up every morning. Find a balance in your life that lets you hang with your friends or your kids, be a good spouse, spend time on your craft and enjoy quality time by yourself doing whatever you love to do. You have to do it, it is a shame if you don’t.

And last, but certainly most important – ignore the hell out of everyone around you. Ignore the nay-sayers. Ignore the people who don’t understand your philosophy and your business and your values. Ignore the people who think you live a life that is not reality. Ignore the people who are jealous…and definitely ignore your competition. Always. Ignore them all – do what you love, make a difference and enjoy your life.

Life is too damn short.

Wes
Schedulefly

The Stars of Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Penny Karas

Penny Karas left a career in policy-related communications work in Washington, D.C. to start Hello Cupcake. She opened her first store in 2008, and is getting ready to open a second location soon, as well as launch a national shipping platform. Hello Cupcake makes gourmet cupcakes fresh from scratch, all day, every day, using high-quality, fresh, seasonal ingredients. Penny keeps things simple, leverages really cool design to enhance her brand and refuses to sacrifice the quality of her ingredients. Her passion for her business is contagious – you start craving cupcakes when you’re speaking with her over the phone! She’s learned a ton in just a few years, and we’re stoked to be able to share some of her philosophies and advice in our book, including…

– Find trusted advisors to poke holes in your business plan
– Never cut corners
– Don’t take no for an answer at the bank
– Double your projected budget and time frame to get started
– Marry your location with your brand

Read Penny’s entire interview, and the interviews of the 19 other stars of our book for only $14.99.

The Schedulefly Crew

Why restaurant software guys published a book about successful restaurant owners

About a year ago, Wes and I started batting around an idea for a restaurant concept, and we decided we’d try to open a restaurant together one day in ten years or so. Right now we’re 100% focused on Schedulefly, but we figured ten years from now we may be at a point where we can give it a try. Who knows if we will? Lots could happen between now and then, but either way it’s fun to think about it.

One day we were discussing the topic when one of us said, “You know, it’d be cool to do that, but most restaurants fail, and neither of of us has experience owning one. Why don’t we go start finding out what it takes to succeed by asking our customers?” Then we realized that any tips and advice we learned would be good material for our blog, and it suddenly made sense to allocate time to have some conversations with a few successful owners. After all, our blog readers are mostly restaurant owners, aspiring owners, or people in the restaurant business, and all of them would appreciate meaningful wisdom shared by their industry peers.

As I began interviewing a few owners and asking very high-level, open-ended questions (i.e., “Why do most restaurants fail?”, “Why have you been successful?”), it was clear their responses were full of value. Each of them said at least 2-3 things during their interviews that stopped me in my tracks and made me think, “Wow! That’s incredibly insightful!”

As we began blogging the content, it didn’t take long for us to decide we needed to do something more with it. It was simply too good for us not to do something bigger. Restaurant people that don’t follow our blog (which is millions of people) needed to see it. We started batting around the idea of putting the content into a book.

We figured a book would not only be extremely interesting and educational for us, but it could end up being our biggest marketing tool and help us accelerate Schedulefly’s growth. Once that realization hit us, the decision was easy! Restaurant Owners Uncorked was born.

We don’t like to spend lots of money (traditional advertising and marketing almost have to be very expensive to have any effect), especially when we can come up with inexpensive, creative solutions that will also ultimately make a significant impact. And we believe this book will do three key things to help our business that traditional advertising and marketing can’t do:

1. Help the people in the industry we serve. We want to help existing owners and aspiring owners increase their chances at success. They are all Schedulefly’s customers and potential future customers, and if our customers aren’t successful, or if restaurants keep failing at extremely high rates, that’s not good for our business! Why not find a way to help foster success?

2. Inexpensively build brand awareness for our company. It costs next-to-nothing to conduct interviews over the phone, transcribe them, self-publish the book and tell our customers about it to build sales momentum. We’re also working to get the book into the hands of restaurant media (on our own, without a pr firm – more on this topic in a future post), in order to generate pr and buzz, and we’re sending copies to heads of culinary schools. We believe this is a far more effective (and much less expensive) brand-building strategy than sticking banner ads on web sites and blasting out thousands of emails. While the book isn’t about Schedulefly, several owners unsolicitedly mentioned in their interviews how Schedulefly helps their restaurant(s), and we leveraged the back of the book to introduce our company to the reader.

3. Create an additional revenue stream for our company. Schedulefly will build a perpetual revenue stream with this book, to help offset the time I spent and the (minimal) costs of creating the book.

So there you have it. That’s the story behind Restaurant Owners Uncorked. If you want to read the stories of these twenty awesome restaurant owners, and learn what strategies and philosophies have helped them succeed, then grab a copy on Amazon, and enjoy your read!

Wil

Memories of calling the restaurant and checking the schedule on the wall…

When I began to create Schedulefly, there were no official “software requirements”. There were no meetings beforehand with other developers or shareholders or investors. There was no money. There was no discussion about out how the system would be architected, where it would live, how it would scale to thousands of users etc. There was no plan. It did not even have a logo or a name. It was just me and my laptop at my house and a blank slate and memories of working at a restaurant. I just started. By the way, I ended up naming it Schedulefly because I envisioned schedules flying to the staff over the web instead of requiring the phone and also, I love fly fishing and tying flies.

I spent about 4 months coding a basic system that I knew would help restaurant managers create and deliver a schedule to their staff over the web. I knew it would because I used to be a waiter that had to phone the person making my schedule every week and also call the restaurant (or drive to it) to see when I worked. Ultimately I was the guy who made the schedule for 40 wait staff and they guy getting called – all the time. Oh, I also had to drive the schedule to the restaurant (clear across town) every Sunday and hang it on the wall. This very simple problem is clearly a problem for lots and lots of businesses in other industries – but I was not thinking about other businesses. I never worked at a tanning salon, or a car wash, or a retail store. I was coding every day thinking about the restaurant where I spent a huge amount of time in college. That’s all I knew and that’s who this was going to be for. It’s funny – 5 years later – I still hear from friends and new people I meet about all the industries that need help with scheduling (retail, healthcare, manufacturing etc.) and that we should consider selling to them too – then after 1 minute of me explaining why I created it and why Tyler and Wil and I are having wonderful success so far – they get it. They understand. Oh and as a side note, I also explain that there are thousands and thousands of restaurants in the U.S. just like the one I have vivid memories of…so you know. Just sayin’.

Well, back to the story I wanted to share. Every day now, restaurants just like that one where I spent most of my college years are signing up and paying us to help them. Over time, more people are hearing about us, causing our trial pipeline to grow and our conversion rates are increasing because we focus on them and can target our message and our features to help them. Sure, for the sake of more revenue and growth we could try and make other industries happy – but in the end I know we would only make everyone sort of happy and probably not very loyal. Plus, I’d likely end up dreading getting up to work every day and getting mad at myself for spreading to thin. So we stick to what we know and let restaurants know this is for them and we stay focused. They are trying it every day and saying “Yeah, we like it, how do we pay?”. Wow. Nothing is more satisfying than to know that they think it will help their business. I get so excited when they do this that I just want to drive or fly to their restaurant and give them a big hug (or a fist bump) and thank them for their business…and eat their food and drink their beer and be a customer of theirs too. I wish I could. I just knew deep down in my core that it would help them, and I saw them sign up for a free trial and they chose to join our family.

I am feeling so lucky to have the team I do (Wil and Tyler) and to be a small part of the momentum that’s building in the restaurant industry…

Wes
Schedulefly

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