Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: September 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

"^%*#$@!!!"

I wish I had never said these words to my wife: “Hey Lonny, let’s get a Bluray DVD player so we can stream Netflix movies to our TV and listen to Pandora on it.”

Over a month after we bought that player, we are still having problems. I’ve spent countless hours on the phone with a large phone company and a large cable company that shall go unnamed here, I’ve been to a big box electronics retailer more times than I had been to it in my entire life, and I now have in-home networking support guy scheduled to come to my house for the second time. I’ve dealt with “static IP” issues and “DNS Sever” issues and “Cat 5” issues that nobody can figure out. Install people that only know how to help with PCs when I have a Mac. And on and on and on.

We’ve all been there, and we all know what it’s like to feel helpless, frustrated, angry, and tired of each person you talk to blaming somebody else’s equipment and telling you to call that company. An endless loop. A whirlpool draining down into misery and taking you with it.

With that, I promise our customers you’ll never deal with this stuff with Schedulefly. You won’t deal with flaky POS integration that breaks when you need it most but when you call us, we blame the POS provider and we are unable to help you with your problem (in other words, don’t expect to see us build POS integration). You won’t deal with so many settings and rules and buttons and tabs that Schedulefly is so hard to operate that you want to just return to using pencil and paper. You won’t deal with overseas customer support people who you finally get on the phone after 20 minutes of waiting, and after 30 minutes on the phone with them, and you have to repeat everything you say – very slowly – they finally decide can’t help you, and they “escalate” your request to “Level 3 support” and transfer you, and after 10 more minutes of holding you are cut off. Dial tone. Do not pass Go, do not collect an answer, please go directly to technology jail.

And while I have your attention, thank you very much for your business! We appreciate it very much, and we’ll always stay focused on making your life easier.

Wil

McCracken Tough Joins the Family…

We’re excited to have the folks at the restaurant group McCracken Tough join the Schedulefly family.

Brian McCracken and Dana Tough have won all kinds of awards, and they run a few great places that are high on everybody’s lists of great restaurants in Seattle. It’s so fun every day to wake up and see the incredible restaurants that are choosing to make life a little easier with our simple web-based restaurant staff scheduling app!

The Schedulefly Crew

Keep it simple…

I’m so thankful Wes designed Schedulefly to be so damn simple and intuitive. That means we don’t have many support requests. Which means that even when I was receiving all support calls this past weekend, it wasn’t an issue that I was up in the N.C. mountains at a mountain biking mecca called Tsali (that’s me second from the right).

My phone rang once the entire weekend with a Schedulefly call. Once.

Thanks Wes! And here’s to keepin’ things simple.

Wil

The story behind Simply Crepes…

I’m a sucker for stories about how restaurants got started. I love hearing them. I love learning about the path that an owner followed from vague idea to crystalizing that idea to starting a business to running a successful restaurant. To me, things like recipes that have been in a family for generations and weaving in a narrative of how an idea blossomed as a family traveled the world are very enticing. Here’s the Simply Crepes story in their words…

“For centuries, the term crêpe has made people’s minds swirl with images of the romantic sidewalk cafés of Paris. A warm breeze, elegant decor and a ready waiter are usually a part of the scene. Yet, a crêpe does not have to be thought of as a lavish treat. It’s simply a wonderful meal.

With a French Canadian background, the wondrous scent of crêpes cooking is one of the simple joys of life for the Héroux family. The mouth watering recipe used at home and now at the restaurant has been passed down through generations. What makes it special is its versatility. Creating crêpes that can be either sweet or savory. Traditionally, the Héroux family served pure maple syrup produced from the family’s own sugar bush in Quebec, Canada. Today, the pure maple syrup that is used is supplied by New York State producers.

Pierre Héroux’s career path led him and his family to Tokyo, Japan for part of their lives. And while they traveled much of the world, including France, most of their time was spent in the hustle and bustle of the narrow, crowded streets of Tokyo. As the family became more familiar with the varied districts of Tokyo, one common aspect was clear. Small crêpe stands thrived, serving fresh fruit and ice cream filled crêpes.

The Héroux family has taken this wonderful concept of a crêpe from the tranquil sugar bushes of Canada, the romantic cafés of France, the crowded streets of Japan, and is proud to bring this unique, fresh, healthy dish to the Rochester community.”

For me, it’s the story that sells. Of course the food and service need to be great, but what really hooked me here – what won me over and made me want to be in Pittsford, NY so I could stroll into Simply Crepes on a lazy Tuesday morning – is Pierre’s story. Don’t have your story on your restaurant’s web site? Why not? It’s a great selling point and one aspect nobody can replicate!

Wil

Sion Milosky charged big waves and a fun, balanced life

I am always drawn towards people that seem to be really enjoying life now versus living a “means to an end” type life – in hopes of having a life they want in the future. I am trying to be more like them. Life is definitely a long search that may never end – but accepting a life I don’t really want now in hopes of retiring to a better life later just makes no sense – because it may never happen. What if later, I physically can’t do what I would have loved to have done now? What if later, the people and things I have around me now that make my life great are gone? What a shame to be so focused on later while the very best things in life are passing me by now.

I recently watched a short documentary on one of the most respected big wave riders ever known – Sion Milosky. Sion lived on the North Shore of Hawaii and his life literally evolved around surfing huge waves. Simon, among other things, is credited throughout the surf world with paddling into what many believe is the biggest wave ever paddled into. This documentary is awesome. It’s just Sion in his car talking about life and why he loves to ride big waves and what he has to do to prepare not only himself but his friends and family. He talks about his wife and two young daughters and the balance that he has with them and how they understand his passion. In fact, I also read an interview with him in Surfing magazine and he talked about one of the best surfing sessions he ever had – on Christmas day. His wife and daughters hurriedly opened their gifts Christmas morning so he could be in the lineup, ready to go, by 8am.

In the documentary below, he also talks about how he plans on enjoying life now and surfing more now – while he is still young and able – yet still needing to work and be a good father and husband – which I am sure he was. You can tell that he knows that that time was the best time in his life. That time during that interview appeared to be what he was living for and striking the right balance in life so he could keep charging and chasing big waves was part of the ride.

Back in March of this year, Sion passed away. He died surfing in California during another big swell. He was 35.

I think this documentary is now more than just a glimpse into the mind of a big wave surfer, it’s a lesson. It’s a lesson for all of us that we should figure out how to enjoy life now.

Wes

Soupergirl’s inspiring story…

Soupergirl is Sara Polon, and here’s her story…

“After reading Michael Pollan’s book, Omnivore’s Dilemma, I decided to get involved in the local food movement. At first I thought about working on a fam, However, I look very bad in overalls and from what I understand, most farmers wear overalls. While discussing my ponderings over a cup of coffee with my friend, Michelle, she smacked me on the head and said, “Soup! You make really good soup!” And thus Soupergirl was born. However, what Michelle didn’t realize was that all along, it was not my soup she was always mooching at my place. The soup was actually cooked by my mother. Which brings us to Soupermom.

Soupermom is holding me in that pic, circa 1977. She raised the Polon kids on all natural, freshly cooked food. I challenge you to find processed food in my mom’s kitchen. Soupermom is in charge of developing the recipes and is the head chef. Soupergirl is her humble assistant.”

Soupergirl and Soupermom, you’ve taken a leap that we’re inspired by, and we’re proud to be a part of your success in a small way!

The Schedulefly Crew

The cool story behind Old Carolina Barbecue Company

I love this story. It’s an inspiring story of two friends who left their careers and started what has become a very successful restaurant with five locations. The story contains phrases I love, such as “obsessed for three years,” “limited funding” to launch, and not expanding until there were “lines out the door.” It’s a story about a very smart way to enter a highly volatile, risky industry and come out on top…

“Old Carolina Barbecue Company was formed in 1999 as an idea in the heads of high school friends Brian Bailey and Tim Hug. Brian was a software salesman in the newspaper industry, traveling the country sampling his favorite food, barbecue, at every outpost he could find. Tim was a manager for a fast food franchisee, supervising multiple units in Northeast Ohio. During a lunch at a barbecue joint in St. Louis, Brian had an epiphany: Canton did not have an authentic barbecue restaurant and he and Tim, two Timken Sr. High School graduates and former swim team teammates, needed to open one.

Brian and Tim obsessed for three years trying to find the right way to launch their plan with limited funding. Then, another lightening bolt struck; this one while walking the midway of the 2002 Pro Football Hall of Fame Rib Burnoff. Discussions of restaurants that day with many of the national ‘ribbers’ who were in town selling their fare led Brian and Tim to the realization that a competition barbecue team was the perfect way to raise needed capital while building a recognized brand.

In July 2003, Brian and Tim sold their first ever rib bone at the Akron Family Barbecue on the streets of downtown Akron. The partners had located a mobile smoker in Georgia over the winter and spent six months perfecting their recipes. Old Carolina was an immediate hit. Satisfied customers and competitive judges loved the food and awarded Old Carolina at total of 27 awards in its first 2 ½ years on the bbq circuit. Even the national rib teams that inspired Old Carolina got together present Old Carolina with “Rookie of the Year” honors in 2003.

It wasn’t long before Old Carolina’s loyal customers wanted a permanent restaurant to visit on a regular basis. The answer of “Right here. Right now.” to the question of “Where are you located?” was growing thin. Dining one night at El Rodeo restaurant in Massillon, Brian and his family spotted a “For Lease” sign in the closed space of a former chicken restaurant. This 1800 sq. ft Massillon location became a permanent Old Carolina Barbecue Company outpost in May 2006. Twenty-six seats weren’t enough for the crowds. By the end of the year, lines out the door prompted Old Carolina expansion to a 4250 sq. ft location in the space of a former pizza buffet restaurant. The 110 seat Belden Village location opened in January 2007.”

Brian and Tim, my hat is off to y’all. And being that Wes, Tyler and I all live in N.C., I know we’d love to try your goods one day! And I’m curious if you use Eastern N.C. style of Western N.C. style ‘cue. I’m at wbrawley [at] schedulefly [dot] com if you care to share that.

Thanks for your business and your story,

Wil

Work to live

I’ll be honest, I lived to work for a long time, even though the guy I worked for was smart enough to focus on promoting a “work to live, not live to work” philosophy. I agreed with it and publicly endorsed it. I even thought I was living by that creed.

But now that I actually do work to live, I realize that back then I was obsessed with relentlessly following the conventional path to achieve the prevailing definition of success: more money, more of this, more of that. As Seinfeld said in the “On the Plane” episode, “More of everything!”

And I got it wrong. Way wrong. I was stressed. Tired. Resentful. Angry. Most of this was never manifested (I think most of my friends and family would tell you I always seemed like a happy guy at that time), but rather was simmering beneath the surface. Suppressed. Ignored. The elephant in the corner I never wanted to admit was there. But growing bigger every day.

Now I realize how big it had grown because I’ve taken a different path. With the luxury of hindsight, I see now what I had become and I’m thankful I found my way.

Many of you reading this post probably figured out a long time ago what I have finally learned: We’ve got one chance down here on this earth, and it’s silly to waste it in the relentless, dogged pursuit of “more” – unless you are pursuing more of the right things: time with family, time with close friends, time doing things you love.

I still work hard, but I can genuinely say I work to live.

Wil

Paul, Point Break, and keeping the human spirit alive…

Last week Paul came to clean a rug in my house because our sweet old, blind cocker spaniel has peed on it a few times. Paul Gibson. He owns Gibson’s carpet cleaning.

I spoke with him for a while before he started. He is a one-man business and does carpet cleaning to support himself while he pursues his passions for acting, modeling, photography and playing drums in a band. He said he’ll do carpet cleaning until one of the other things takes off, if one does. He’s been cleaning carpets 15 years and he’s realistic and said he’s fine doing carpet cleaning as long as it takes and enjoys it.

One thing was abundantly clear. Paul is one of the most genuinely happy guys I’ve come across. Ever. He is doing what he loves and supporting it with his own small biz. He smiles when he talks. He’s relaxed. He transmits positive vibes. And, no, he’s not on drugs. I could tell. He’s simply at peace with his life. He’s happy.

Paul also went to high school with me. I knew it was he who was coming to clean because my wife scheduled scheduled it, he asked if she was by chance married to me. I wanted to be there when he arrived because I hadn’t seen him in years. I’m so glad I got to catch up with him.

You know it’s funny because when I spoke with Paul, that quote from Bodhi (Patrick Swayze – RIP) in the movie “Point Break” enters my mind: “This was never about money for us. It was about us against the system. That system that kills the human spirit. We stand for something. To those dead souls inching along the freeways in their metal coffins, we show them that the human spirit is still alive.” Bodhi had a wrongheaded way of showing that human spirit is still alive (by robbing banks to finance his surfing trips around the world), but he made a very valid point about the human spirit. And I think Paul Gibson is doing the same thing Bodhi was trying to do, though in an honest, legitimate, inspiring way.

Lots of guys Paul and I went to high school with are very “successful” because they are attorneys or investment bankers or whatever, but if you measure success by how happy a person is, Paul is one of the most successful people I know.

Here’s to you Paul!

Wil

P.s. This isn’t the first time I’ve referenced Point Break in a blog post, and it won’t be the last. And the fact that Hollywood is re-making it is despicable. Just sayin…

Here’s to distance…

Tyler lives in Raleigh. Wes lives in Wilmington. I live in Charlotte. We see each other in person as a team about once per year. Otherwise, we email or talk on the phone or text. Well, Wes and I text – Tyler is wise enough not to own a cell phone.

I had a hard time with that at first. I like interaction. I enjoy seeing people in person. I think it’s fun to be around the people you work with. But it’s interesting, because I’ve learned that the three of us being far apart has actually been a key to our success.

You see, if we sat together in an office all day we would feel obligated to fill vacuums of natural down time with wasted time. We’d distract each other. We’d have meetings that seemed important but really weren’t. We’d feel obligated to keep coming up with new ideas for our app and our web site. We’d tweet stuff nobody cares about and feel pressured to make sales calls to try to drive people to our business, thus actually hurting our brand (our brand is currently associated with being incredibly easy to do business with, taking great care of customers, intuitive and simple software, no sales pressure, come on in when the timing works for you vs.on our time frame, etc.). We’d create training documents customers don’t need and won’t use, etc.

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This is the stuff many employees at many companies do to fit in with a hard charging culture and to make themselves feel and look busy and seem important to colleagues. I know – I’ve done it in the past. I’ve been guilty of all of the above. Most people who’ve been in an office space have. If you’ve been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s my firm belief now that if we were all together, it would be hard to fight the natural path our company would take, and four years into Schedulefly (as we are right now) we’d be just like any other software company, we’d have a generic, indistinguishable brand, we would have a complicated web site, a complex app with too many features and settings, and more people than we need running around looking busy and helping us further complicate things. But hey, we would feel good about ourselves for “working hard” all that time and we’d be like everybody else!

So here’s to distance – may we always have it at Schedulefly.

Wil

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