Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: December 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

We would love to display more fun videos and pictures of you…

We retired the box we send our flip cam to customers in a few months ago, and we’re really missing seeing that camera show up with fun new vids of customers saying why they love Schedulefly. Here’s an example of one of those awesome clips…

Now that it’s so easy to make these vids with mobile phones, we hope you’ll send a few more our way. If you would like to be featured on our blog and on our Vimeo page saying why you love Schedulefly, we’d be stoked! Watch this quick vid with a couple of suggestions on making this really easy for you…

Also, if you’re not fond of being on film but would like us to include a pic of you enjoying life on this page on our site, please send your high rez pic to me at wbrawley [at] schedulefly [dot] com.

Whether you send a vid or a pic or nothing at all, you are all awesome and we’re so thankful to have the chance to serve you and make life a little bit easier.

Happy New Year!

Wil, Wes & Tyler

2011 was a terrific year at Schedulefly

2011 has been a really cool year for Schedulefly and we hit a number of milestones. One that really gets me skipping to work these days is that we have now have more than 100,000 end users in our family of customers! What’s so cool about this is that since we don’t inflict any annoying sales pressure on prospects and even encourage them to get feedback from their staff before deciding to join our family, the bulk of these 100,000 people have become sales people for us.

They like what we do, it makes their lives a tad bit easier so they tell others in the industry about us. They have friends that work at the restaurant around the corner and they tell them about us. Managers who use us switch jobs and set us up there at their new gig on day one. Restaurant staff who use us take on a second job and tell their new manager about it. They attend conferences and meetings for their franchise and talk about us there…some have even given presentations about us. They hear about our book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked, from a friend, read it, and learn about us that way and give us a try. Owners that were featured in our book have book signings and proudly display the book at their establishment (see pic above at Arch Rock Fish). They proudly display Schedulefly badges on their own websites. There are countless ways that restaurants are finding out about us because of our growing number of users…

We are blessed and thankful for such a great 2011 and really look forward to the new year.

Happy New Year!
Wes

Why one restaurant gives away 6,000 free meals…

During his interview for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, Tad Peelen of Joe’s Real BBQ and Joe’s Farm Grill talked about the dilemma of debt, the value of technology, and how to retain great people. But what he had to say about a highly unconventional yet successful way of creating word-of-mouth buzz really caught my attention…

Wil: “What kinds of marketing do you do, outside of social media?”

Tad: “Not much. We only half-jokingly tell the army of sales people who call on us that our annual advertising and marketing budget is zero.

We really run very few ads, and we really do rely heavily on word of mouth to grow our businesses. The handful of advertisements we do run are usually as a courtesy to an organization or business we really care for. That said, we spend a bunch of money on marketing. We just don’t do it in conventional ways.

We have an annual Customer Appreciation Day, when we open our doors and serve as many people as we can for free. We streamline the menu, offer canned sodas instead of fountain drinks to keep things moving along, and have served more than 6,000 free meals during the day of the promotion. Free Days around here usually mean someone is getting a free meal every six seconds we are open. It’s a pretty cool thing to watch.

We do this to thank our loyal customers for their patronage, and at the same time attract new customers. The buzz created by this annual event is pretty overwhelming. We’ve had years when every TV news channel in town picked up the story, as well as radio stations, blogs, and the social media crowd. Obviously feeding 6,000+ people isn’t cheap, but we think the investment pays off pretty quickly. It doesn’t take many converted first-timers for this approach to pay off.”

Want to learn more about the other cool, unconventional things Tad and his partners have done to make their restaurants institutions in Gilbert, AZ? Grab a copy of our book on Amazon – paperback ($14.99) or Kindle version $9.99).

Take care…

Wil

Failure is not an option…

Matt Frey left a career in corporate sales to open Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream with his wife, Rachel. Both had worked in restaurants, but had never owned one or even managed one. Seven years later, Bub’s was featured on the hit Food Channel show, “Man v. Food.”

During his interview for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, Matt had many inspiring and educational things to say about everything from keeping a concept simple, to having a catch to draw people in, to hiring sales people for every position at Bub’s. But as a fellow entrepreneur, my favorite exchange we had was…

Wil: “How did you finance your first location?”

Matt: “The first bank I went to said no about three times, and I wouldn’t take that. The guy eventually said yes, and then I had a five-year loan, which I paid back in two years. That about knocked them out of their boots because it’s just one of those things – 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.”

I couldn’t agree more Matt. Thinking that way doesn’t guarantee success. But thinking any other way dramatically increases your chances for failure.

Call it karma. The power of positive thinking. “The Secret.” There’s lots of names for this philosophy.

At the end of the day, it’s simple, excellent advice that I’d give to any aspiring business owner in any industry.

Wil

Schedulefly addicts…

We often get asked why we don’t have sales people. I had written a math formula on my white board showing why the numbers don’t make sense. Why the math doesn’t add up.

And then we got this email from a guy who was ready to convert from his free trial. The truth is, his email is exactly why we really don’t have sales people. Ultimately it’s not about numbers. It’s about this…

Wil

Focus on what’s happening inside your four walls…

Keith Paul and his wife, Heather, opened their first restaurant in 2000. Now they own A Good Egg Dining Group, which has six extremely successful and popular restaurants and a catering business. When I interviewed Keith for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, he said something early on that caught my attention for the brilliance of it’s simplicity. Here’s the exchange…

Wil
: “What were you focused on when you first got started?”

Keith: “We concentrated on what was happening inside the four walls of the restaurant, and on making sure every customer had a good time. And we were putting out a great product. We never skimped on quality. We never skimped on employee satisfaction – which I think is probably our main strength.

As we grew, we said ‘Let’s make sure that everybody that works for us is completely happy. We’ll do what we can for them. We’re going to take a vested interest in their personal lives, and we’re not going to spend a bunch of money on traditional advertising. We’re not going to buy newspaper and radio and TV ads. We’re gonna just concentrate on what’s going on inside the four walls.’

We kept attracting great people, and our culture has always been to keep our employees happy. And never, ever – even if times are slow – we never even think about skimping on quality of food, of silverware, of glassware, or anything. We’ve always stuck to those values and principles, and that has seemed to pay off.”

I blogged recently about how we simplified our formula for success, and Wes and I have both posted numerous times about having a clear focus and a simple strategy, executed very well every day. We love simplicity and focus around here. And that’s why I love how Keith answered that question.

He and Heather focused on what was happening inside their four walls. That’s stuff they can control. That’s stuff they can get better at every day. And eventually be the best at. It seems simple, but you know what, so many businesses look past the simple stuff happening inside their walls, and become too outwardly focused. They don’t get the basics right. They look outside their windows, not inside their walls.

Keith and his team have stuck to their simple formula for eleven years now, and it’s proven to work. Very well.

Want to learn more from Keith (and nineteen other successful restaurant owners)? Grab a copy of our book on Amazon – paperback ($14.99) or Kindle version $9.99).

Take care…

Wil

$80,000,000…

Tell somebody what Schedulefly does and they’ll tell you we should go after all sorts of other industries than just restaurants. I guarantee it.

It’s not surprising though. Most businesses don’t relentlessly focus on dominating a niche. But we do. We love focusing. We love getting deeper and deeper into our niche. We love putting on blinders and not paying attention to all of the other noise out there and channeling every bit of energy we have into growing our business within the restaurant segment.

But why? Why not “diversify your revenue stream” (that’s a common question we get). Why not dominate lots of segments? Why leave money on the table? Why…..Why….Why???

Well, here are a few thoughts on this (and on why this blog title is “$80,000,000”):

Wil

P.s. 166,000 restaurants * $40/month * 12 months = $79,680,000 per year so I rounded up to $80,000,000 for dramatic effect 🙂

Funny story about The Wall Street Journal and our book…

On March 22, 2011 we posted this announcement to our blog about Restaurant Owners Uncorked being mentioned in a blog post by Colleen DeBaise, the former Small Business Editor of The Wall Street Journal.

Here’s a copy of the emails that Colleen and I exchanged after I had sent her a copy of the book and asked her to review it.

What Colleen wrote to me…
“Hi Will – I took a look at the book. Lots of nice interviews in there. In fact, the one strike against the book (in my opinion) is the inclusion of Schedulefly into so many of the profiles. I understand you are using the book to market your service, but the promotional element takes away from the credibility of the interviews.Other than that, it’s a useful book with good information.”

(What I was thinking…Oh no! She thinks it’s an “advertorial”! Dern it! I cut tons of references to Schedulefly to make sure it didn’t seem that way…but I think the few references are mostly in the first half of the book. Did she only read a few chapters and give up on it because of that? She must have because the majority of chapters don’t mention Schedulefly. Man, this is not good!!!)

What I wrote to her…
“Thanks Colleen. I really appreciate you taking the time to check it out and send me feedback. I had cut most owners’ references to Schedulefly for fear of it turning into an advertorial (I think only 8 or 9 of 20 chapters mention us). Unfortunately, I think the references are front-end loaded in the first half of the book. Thanks again, Wil”

(What I was thinking…Oh well, we’ve lost her. Not the end of the world – it doesn’t matter if the WSJ never mentions our book – what we really need is for all of the restaurant publications to mention it. But, still, that sucks on a personal level because I really like the WSJ and was stoked that I got Colleen’s attention to read ROU. Really wish she liked it. Damn!”)

What she wrote back to me…
“Hi Will – Glad you understand my concerns. I did think there were a lot of nice stories in your book, and I mentioned it in a blog post: http://blogs.wsj.com/in-charge/2011/03/21/how-to-open-a-restaurant/. Best of luck!”

(What I was thinking: YEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

What I wrote back to her…
“Thanks Colleen! I really appreciate that and I believe wholeheartedly the book will help people who want to start restaurants and don’t think they already know everything and would normally be smart enough to try to go find lots of restaurateurs to speak to as part their planning process. We’ve also already received comments from existing owners who’ve said they have learned a thing or two.”

So there you have it. That’s how we got mentioned in The Wall Street Journal.

(And for what it’s worth, nobody else that reviewed the book felt there were too many Schedulefly references. I was very careful to only include ones that were part of a bigger point the owner was making or when the owner was discussing various technologies their restaurant uses to run their business more effectively. Just sayin…)

Wil

Why you should compete for staff (not customers)…

Of all of the “Aha!” moments I had when conducting the interviews for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, the largest lightening bolt struck when Jon Myerow of Tria Cafe in Philadelphia and I had this exchange…

Wil: “Is it challenging to find people for your team that share the passion that you have?”

Jon: “Yeah, it is. There are a lot of people with the passion for the product. Luckily, we sell something that a lot of people love (Jon’s restaurants have a niche focus on beer, wine and cheese). But the secret is to find somebody who has the passion for it, and also has the ability to be a good restaurant employee.

We’ve hired some people with the passion, but they just weren’t very good on the floor. Some people just can’t be good servers. I’m one of them, so I feel their pain. But I think we’ve done a good job with that. We’re very selective. If we put an ad on Craigslist, we’ll get 100 or 200 responses, and there might be three or four people that we consider seriously. I like to say, “It’s harder to get into Tria than it is to get into Harvard!” [Laughs] Our acceptance rate is lower. And our employees know that.

I think the people that work here know that they put up with a lot, but they get a lot back. We try to give much better tangible benefits to our staff than other restaurants because we expect a lot. We have quizzes every single week, and training every single week for every single front-of-house staff member. If you don’t want to learn a lot in your free time about wine, beer and cheese, you’re going to get fired. It’s that simple.

To me 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.”

I’ll repeat that: If you compete in the labor market and get the best staff, the customers will follow. I love that philosophy. Absolutely love it! It’s unconventional and smart and shows Jon has a long term, big picture focus for his business.

Think that strategy sounds risky? You can read Jon’s entire interview (and nineteen other owner interviews) to learn more about why he’s been so successful by doing things his way and not always following conventional wisdom when you grab a copy of our book on Amazon – paperback ($14.99) or Kindle version $9.99).

Take care…

Wil

Why we stopped Tweeting (and our formula for a successful business)

We used to believe a traditional, conventional formula for success would apply to Schedulefly:

Simple app + Great support + Sales + Marketing + Twitter + Facebook + Blog + Partnerships = Success!!!!

But that formula was too long for us. Too many factors involved. We couldn’t get all of them right all of them time. Couldn’t do them all extremely well. And we don’t like to do things around here unless we do them very well.

So we set out to cut the formula in half. And while it will always start with “Simple app + Great support,” we’ve narrowed the additional factors from six to three:

Simple app + Great support + Articles + Book + Blog = Success!!!!

Here’s a vid of me breaking this down a little further, and explaining why this formula works (for us).

Let me know if you have any questions. I’m at wbrawley [at] schedulefly [dot] com.

Wil

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