Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: November 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

A few cool things about our book…

We recently received this note from Keith Santangelo, GM of Bourbon Street Bar & Grille in NYC: “I’m almost done reading Restaurant Owners Uncorked. I flew through it, tons of great knowledge. Awesome job. A must have for all operators or prospective owners.”

We’ve only heard great things from people who’ve read the book, and that’s not surprising. The stories and lessons and wisdom and practical advice those twenty owners shared are phenomenal! So it makes sense that Keith recommends it so strongly. Put it this way, Restaurant Owners Uncorked is the written version of bellying up to the bar, or sitting down to coffee, with twenty successful independent restaurant owners and having an hour or so with each of them, to pick their brains and find out all you could about why they are successful.

Keith’s note also got me thinking about sharing some “behind the curtains” stuff about the book’s sales so far, the (minimal) money we make on the sales, why we’re glad we sell 3x as many hard copy books as we do Kindle versions, etc. Enjoy…

Wil

Do it your way and you may just make history

Every week it seems like I read some story about a small start-up business (or just an idea) with 2 or 3 smart, capable people that after years of hard (but likely fun) work could turn into a enjoyable, fun, unique, nimble business that brings in maybe 1 or 2 or even 3 million dollars a year. With 2 or 3 or maybe 4 people that could provide a lifestyle and flexibility most would dream of. But no, these 2 founders just took a “first round” investment of $3MM and plan to spend the hell out it by hiring like crazy, opening big fancy offices on the east and west coast and outfitting the place with mac laptops, free snacks all day long and kick ass benefits. I get it that they are creating jobs (which we do need around here bad – so good on them) and buzz that the media want to talk about – but I’m guessing almost over night the founder’s lives are on their way to sucking….if they even make it. Imagine that? Having someone hand you 3 million dollars to get started and you blow it all on stuff that doesn’t really matter and end up having have to shut it down. Their vision for the business doesn’t even really matter anymore since a group of already rich people that have invested in it and own a big part of it want to get richer – and as soon as possible – and have a plan for how to get there. That can’t be really what they wanted – or maybe it was – who knows.

So on to an opposite approach and, in my opinion, a more fun and inspiring story. Two nights ago I spent the evening (over takeout Indochine and 2 bottles of wine) with my sister <a Holly Aiken, a badass hand-bag designer with a retail shop (Stitch) in downtown Raleigh NC. She has been designing hand made bags, totes, wallets and other accessories for 10-15 years I guess. Pretty much anything she makes – people want to buy it and the press wants to talk about it. Change purses, iPad cases and even guitar straps used by some well known musicians. I’d list a few of the artists (I’ve seen photos of them in concert using them) but that’s not Holly’s style and I respect her for that. In fact, she is so low key that she often wakes up to emails and phone calls from top industry publications wanting to write about her and no one from her business contacted them. And just this year the NC Museum of History honored her by adding 2 of her bags to their permanent collection. Seriously, she not does reach out to these people – they knock down her door because people love what she makes. She does not spend millions on marketing or sales or anything and the NC Museum of History now has her bags on display – forever. I don’t know many businesses (even those valued at billions) whose products and founder will be remembered in a museum long after they are gone.

It has taken her years and years and lots of blood and sweat and tears to create a brand and products people love. It’s not been easy but I think her journey so far has been fun – and unlike the VC backed business spending money simply so they can borrow more – she has no end in sight and she is in control of her life. I also think people now walk into her shop and visit her website to buy her bags not only because of the way the bags look, but the way her bags and her business in general make them feel. They want to experience her product because it makes them feel better when they use it. They feel like they are a part of what she has created – and that’s something only a small % of companies will ever achieve. She has ignored the people who like what she does and who’ve told her to take investment and open more shops and hire more people and blow it up. She has done it her way and has literally made history.

Here is a cool video with her in her shop. Bravo Holly!

Wes

Loving the logos…

Every day we receive emails from customers and trial participants who ask us to place their logos on their Schedulefly pages. I love receiving those emails. Absolutely love ’em. This afternoon alone we’ve received the three you see here. And here is a page we made to show off a bunch of them.

I suppose we have well over one thousand of these decorating various customers’ Schedulefly accounts (some never send us their logo – which is fine of course). I never tire of seeing the new ones, and visiting those customers’ web sites to read their stories and find out what their logos are all about.

We’re honored to have the opportunity to proudly display so many logos. Can’t wait for them next one to come in…

Wil

Behind the curtain at Schedulefly: Our strategy…

We plan to devote more time on this blog to revealing what’s happening behind the curtain at Schedulely: What we’re working on; what we hope to do with the business; stuff we believe in; and so on.

First things first. Here’s a quick video of me discussing our strategy for building our awesome company. Warning: it’s a quick video because it’s an extremely simple strategy! Enjoy…

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to shoot me a note at wbrawley [at] schedulefly [dot] com.

Wil

We left $250,000 (and a million headaches) on the table…

“Are you crazy? Do you realize how much money you left on the table?” That’s what somebody asked me when I told them the following story:

A couple of months ago a large restaurant chain called us. They were already very familiar with Schedulefly, liked it a lot, and wanted to consider rolling it out to their locations across the U.S. They’d pilot it in about 10% of the locations over the next month, and assuming the pilot went well, deploy it nationally.

I’ll admit I got a bit excited at the possibility at first, so instead of going ahead right then and telling them to call another company in our space that was built to serve chains, I entertained this idea and quoted them $250,000 per year. What can I say? I got momentarily focused on the wrong thing – the money – and forgot about the cost to our business, and to our lifestyles, if we decided to take this on. It was a mistake.

Wes and I spoke about it, and he got me thinking straight again. The next day I told the nice gentleman at this chain that we just aren’t in the business of serving chains, and I referred them to a “competitor” (this company focuses on chains, we focus on independent restaurants and franchisees, so we’re in the same space but I don’t see us as competitors). I said that serving chains is not what we’re passionate about. It’s not what our company was built to do. It’s not something we are hoping to do. You see, serving chains is not something we believe we are the best at, and if we can’t be the best at it, we don’t want to do it.

Besides, we’re here for the long term. We’ll bring in that same amount of money by bringing in restaurant customers one at a time. And if we do it our way, we’ll be able to keep our software simple because we won’t have to add the things a chain would inevitably need us to add. We won’t have to hire a new employee to help serve a large customer who could leave us any time, and conversely cause us to have to let that person go. We won’t have to build out a roll out plan.

But perhaps most importantly, we won’t run into the inevitable scenario of people being forced to use Schedulefly when they don’t want to. As we’re set up now, restaurants use our free trial to determine if our software will work for them. They don’t get any sales pressure. They don’t deal with somebody on our crew trying to convince them why they should pay us their hard earned money. Rather, we simply let the app speak for itself, we provide excellent service if it’s needed during their trial, and we let them determine on their own if they will love Schedulefly like our paying customers do. If they choose to subscribe, GREAT! We’re stoked to serve them for as long as Schedulefly helps their restaurant run better and makes their team members’ lives easier. If they choose not to subscribe, no worries. It wasn’t the right fit for whatever reason. We understand. They move on and we move on, and we’re confident that if things change down the road, they’ll give it another try.

You see, all of our customers are paying us by choice, so we have great word-of-mouth going for us. There’s no animosity towards our brand. People that use Schedulefly love Schedulely – because it’s their choice! But if a bunch of people were forced to use it because somebody back in headquarters decided they should? Well, that would be a different story. And it’s not a story we want to be a part of.

So while we left a couple of hundred thousand dollars on the table (or possibly a million dollars if you consider it over four years), we also left a million headaches on the table, we kept our focus on being the best at what we do, and we left ourselves the flexibility to take time to enjoy life every day.

It’s 10:52am on a Friday. Rather than working through a rollout plan right now, I’m going to take my kids to the park.

Wil

Scratch your own itch: Scott Maitland

Scott Maitland of Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery in Chapel Hill, N.C. was featured in our book, “Resaurant Owners Uncorked.” He is an incredible entrepreneur who inspires me with with his creativity and his passion and his relentless focus on staying ahead of the curve and doing cool new things to grow his business. For instance, rather than open new locations, he does things like opening his own distillery to scratch his itch to keep innovating.

Yep – he’ll soon own the first legal vodka distillery in N.C. Scott has truly built an institution in Chapel Hill, so Top of the Hill, aka “Topo,” has a great brand in N.C., and I am confident his vodka will sell very well not only in his restaurant, but in the best restaurants and bars here in our state (he can’t sell it across state lines – what a joke – but I digress).

He purchased the old Chapel Hill News building, which is down the street from his restaurant, and he bought 75 acres of an organic wheat field (he’s using local, organic ingredients). If all goes as planned he’ll be selling his vodka in January.

Scott is taking a risk, he’s doing something unique, and he’s at the tip of the spear because he’s the guy who has had to deal with all of the burdensome regulatory hurdles to get this thing cranking. I suspect others will follow his lead, but for the immediate future Scott will have the only show in town, so to speak.

My guess is once others get around to copying him, he’ll already be scratching another itch.

Cheers, Scott.

Wil

Customer visit: Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse

Below are a few quick comments from me about an awesome customer here in Charlotte called Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse, as well as a couple of pics and a great video from a nice hostess that was kind enough to say why she likes Schedulefly with absolutely no advance warning and no prep time…

 

I look forward to visiting more customers soon, and posting awesome vids and pics like these.

Wil

p.s. I don’t know why the video of me has black bars on the sides and the other one doesn’t. I shot both using my iPhone in landscape (holding it on it’s side). Anyway, I don’t like how that looks so hopefully I can figure it out so it doesn’t happen again.

Made by hand…

This documentary series about people in Brooklyn making cool stuff by hand is incredible. They’ve posted three vids so far: “The Beekeeper,” “The Knife Maker” and “The Distiller.”

This stuff is so inspiring and motivating. I love seeing people find something they are passionate about enough to do it not for the money, but for the love of what they do. And I believe that following that path will ultimately lead you to make lots of money, but the money is not the objective. It’s just one of the benefits.

Wes didn’t write the code for Schedulefly to make money. He did it to help a few folks he knew that owned restaurants. He did it because he loved creating it. He did it because it was something he woke up excited to work on every morning. In fact, these folks should create a documentary about Wes – because every line of our code has been “made by hand” – his hands. And it’s done with the same passion and love that you’ll see in the videos in this series.

Wil

Let them choose…

I made this vid today using my iPhone. My plan is to start doing self-made video blogs on occasion. I tried to film it outside in a field at the YMCA, but the wind was loud and the sun was at my back so the vid was terrible. I’m not a fan of doing these in my office (kinda boring), but at least this gives me a starting point and I already know how I can make better vids in the future.

Either way, the point I make in this clip is essentially this: We love it when franchise groups like Mellow Mushroom and Boston Pizza spread the word about Schedulefly throughout their organizations – but we hope no franchise group ever requires franchisees to use Schedulefly. Watch to hear why…

Wil

Inspiration for the new vid…

Yesterday I posted about the new video we are creating, and I wrote that we want it to be unlike any business video you’d ever imagine. It needs to be different. Inspiring. Memorable. As I mentioned, it should be jaw dropping.

Rather than take inspiration from videos I’ve seen other businesses create, I prefer to draw from videos like the below trailer to help us think differently. We want to stay ahead of the curve with how we present ourselves, so it helps me to be creative and give Luke ideas when I watch videos that inspire me. Videos that strike a cord. Videos that make my own jaw hit the floor.

This is the trailer for Teton Gravity Research’s film, Re:Session. I’ll never forget the first time I watched this clip a few years ago. The mixture of footage and music resonates strongly with me. It’s something I never tire of watching. And we want the same for our new vid. Enjoy…

Wil

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