Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: January 2012 (Page 1 of 3)

More quick vids from Boulder…

It was so fun last week to walk up and down Pearl Street in Boulder and to see so many Schedulefly customers. Luke and I went outside to get b-roll footage, and within a few blocks of Big Red F’s restaurants were a whole slew of customers. The Kitchen. Salt. Hapa Sushi. And more.

So I started popping in and introducing myself. It was great to hear people say things like, “Oh, we LOVE Schedulefly!” as soon as I told them who I was. So I asked them if they’d say the same into our Flip cam. And they were all very happy to do it. Here’s a few of the vids…

I really was happy to hear what Troy had to say. He is a GM at Hapa Sushi and was against the idea of using Schedulefly at first. As he says in the vid, he “was a pencil and paper guy.” But once he started using it, he realized it made his life so much easier…

Thank you to everybody in Boulder for your business and for taking the time out of your busy days to share your thoughts about Schedulefly!

Wil

"What if Google launched online scheduling?"

Some thoughts on why we don’t operate out of a sense of fear, and why we wouldn’t worry if some company like Google threw a bunch of money into competing in our space…

Sometimes when I create these video posts I don’t remember all of the key points I wanted to make, because I don’t use a script. I simply stand in front of the camera and start talking. And unless I flub something, I try to do it in one take (which is why I need to write more often than film my posts).

Probably the best analogy I could use is one Scott Maitland used in our book. He told me that local intimate knowledge is his restaurant’s strength while being a chain’s Achilles heel. He’ll always have local intimate knowledge of his community, as we will always have local intimate knowledge of the independent restaurant community (since that’s all we focus on). While a chain can’t compete with Scott’s ties with and intimate knowledge of his community, nor could Google or any well-funded competitor compete with our ties to and intimate knowledge of our community.

Wil

Quick. Don’t blink. Tell me why you like Schedulefly…

At dinner at Centro in Boulder, CO on Wednesday night, I whipped out my trusty Flip cam and asked our server if he’d mind saying why he likes Schedulefly. No rehearsal. No time to think. Just say whatever comes out. And here’s what Mike had to say…

I’ve got more of these quick vids to post next week, as well as some fun pics I took while we were working on our upcoming Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series.

I’ll say one word about Boulder: AMAZING PLACE (ok, that’s two words).

Wil

You only come through here once

That’s what an old, well known, Fly Fisherman from the Florida Keys told me once as I pondered buying a classic fly rod that is not made any longer. It was used, in great shape and hard to find….yet the last thing I needed was another expensive fly rod. As I held it and felt the action on it, my cousin Mark and I chatted with “Bonefish Bob” (Robert E. Berger) about the old days of bonefishing in Islamorada – he even told me about the fly fishing guide who owned that rod and all the Tarpon that had been caught using it. Who knows if that were true – but I loved hearing about it. Bob was known for his fly fishing passion, his tackle shop (Ye Old Tackle Shop it as called) and the stories he told while you were there. He told us stories for about an hour – stories of his childhood and of leaving his shop every afternoon back in the 60’s and 70’s fly fishing with the great Ted Williams and catching 12lb bonefish with him like they were bass fishing in a pond out back. It was mesmerizing to listen to him talk while looking through his amazing eclectic collection of old and new fly fishing tackle and art.

So anyway, maybe he was just a damn fine salesman or maybe what he said to me hit home – either way – this was his plan. He said (as I was putting the fly rod back on the rack and clearly not going to get it)…”Wes, you only come through here once”. At first, I thought he meant his shop. Then I thought he meant Islamorada. Then, after a moment of silence, I realized he meant life. You only come through here once. He was right. And given the scene I was a part of that day – talking to him as if he were a friend – in his fly shop – looking at a classic fly rod not made any longer that had been connected to countless Tarpon….I had to buy it. I had no other choice. It was a perfect cast he made to me…and I ate the fly.

Sadly, Bonefish Bob took his own life the next year (this was 5 or 6 years ago). We found this out as we motored out of the famous Bud and Mary’s marina headed out to find some Tarpon and were reminiscing about our trip last year and a visit to his shop. I was holding the fly rod I bought from Bob, telling our friend and guide about it. He told us he was gone.

I think about that advice he gave me now and then when faced with a decision. It’s so simple, yet so applicable to just about anything in your life. I am so glad I bought that rod and I am glad I got to meet Bob.

Wes

Boulder, here we come…

I’m heading to the airport in a bit to hop on a flight with Luke Pearson to Boulder, where we’re filming the second video in our Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series, plus getting footage for our new home page video.

I’m hauling some Schedulefly check presenters, made by Holly Aiken, the maker of the coolest women’s hand bags you can find anywhere. I’ve also got a couple of Sfly t-shirts, and our handy Flip cam. This is gonna be fun!

Wil

ROU Raw

When I was interviewing each of the twenty restaurant owners featured in our book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked (“ROU”), I kept thinking how incredible it was to have the opportunity to conduct the interviews. It was awesome to be able to write their words into our book, but hearing them speak them is something entirely different.

Hearing the inflection in their voices, the passion that comes out at certain points, they way to hit home on key points…you can’t capture that all in text. So while it’s great to read these interviews in the book, listening to them takes the content to another level.

(Of course, watching them speak is better than anything, and that’s why I am heading to Boulder today to film the second of the first three episodes of our new Restaurant Owners Uncorked (ROU) video series.)

And then it hit me recently that I still have all of the ROU interviews recorded. They are unedited, and they are awesome. I can’t release all of them because some owners requested a few comments be struck from the interviews, but there are a few that we can share. So we’ll start here with Jeff Gigante, owner of Ciccio & Tony’s restaurant group in Tampa, FL.

http://www.schedulefly.com/player.swf

While we’re at it, we’re also going to start re-posting the original interviews that we did for our restaurant owner podcast series in 2010. They are the interviews that inspired the idea for the book, and they are fantastic. Stay tuned for those…

Wil

P.s. My buddy Trip reminded me of how cool it would be to have podcasts of these interviews available. We’ll be getting them up on iTunes soon!

"Man, that’s just not our style."

My friend recently suggested we do some traditional marketing.

Him: “Why not run some adds to help promote your brand?”

Me: “Well, it’s a great idea, but that’s not really our style.”

Him: “I hear ya, but I was thinking of some really cool, fun ads that match your vibe. You’ve said yourself there are still hundreds of thousands of restaurants that don’t use web-based scheduling yet. Why not let them know you exist?”

That’s a good question. And a very fair question. The truth is, the only way I could answer my buddy’s question was, “Man, that’s just not our style. Not something we would be excited about. Ads are a conventional, standard way to promote your brand, and we just like to do things our own way. We like to be creative. Unconventional. Unique.”

Outside of the awesome word-of-mouth we’ve got going for us, we enjoy doing things like our book and our new video series. We like writing articles like this and this for restaurant industry publications.

And we like being patient and knowing that as thousands upon thousands of restaurants decide to move their scheduling and communication online over the next few years, they’ll do so not because they saw a cool ad, but because because they’ll be ready to make a change from what they’re doing now. They’ll do so to solve a problem. To relieve a headache.

When they do, they’ll explore their options. They’ll see what’s out there, and they’ll pick the provider they believe will work best for them. And I believe we’re positioning ourselves very well to serve a specific portion of those restaurants. I think the people looking for these things will overwhelmingly choose Schedulefly. People looking for other things will choose another provider.

Meanwhile, rather than get caught up doing the things we’re “supposed” to do, we’re going to do the things we enjoy. So instead of working with a marketing agency to come up with an ad campaign, I’m off to Boulder this week to interview Dave Query about what it takes to be a successful restaurant owner for the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series. A video series that will cost us perhaps 10% of what a series of ads would cost, while also being a lot more fun, educational, valuable to tons of people and, I believe, will be much more effective at building our brand and creating awareness than the coolest ad campaign we could ever run.

Wil

We know whether you will be a customer before you do…

Some thoughts on how we could make a good living betting on whether somebody who sets up a free trial will become a customer before they ever even log into Schedulefly…

Wil

Communication breakdown…

The written word is an interesting thing, isn’t it? You don’t hear the author’s voice, so you often don’t know the tone. We’ve all experienced it. You read an email in your voice and assume the author had a certain tone. You read it again. And again. And, yes, you are sure the person must have been aggravated. But it turns out the person was actually not upset at all. He just didn’t communicate his emotions effectively, so the meaning of his words were unclear. Or maybe it was a simple statement or question, and you wonder what the tone was. Example…

“Why don’t you have an iPhone app?”

We get that question from time to time in a support email. (I won’t get into our reasons for not building native apps right now – that’s for another post – but we do have a cool mobile web site that works on any mobile device.) This is of course and easy example, and it really doesn’t matter what the tone is because we can simply answer the question and be done.

However, it doesn’t have any context to it, so you can’t help but wonder what the tone is. Was the person throwing his hands up in the air and thinking, “Are you kidding? It’s 2012. Why in the world don’t you have an iPhone app?!?!?!?!?!?” Or perhaps she asked it in a curious tone. Sort of like, “Hey guys, I was just curious why you don’t have an iPhone app. I suspect there is a good reason because I’m sure I’m not the first person who has asked. Just trying to learn more about this stuff. Love your service!” You don’t have any idea what the tone was. So you assume. And assumption can lead to bad things.

Lately I’ve been witness to a bit of a family drama, which is unfolding because of a communication breakdown. It’s led to anger. Bitterness. Broken relationships. Sadly, it’s all occurred over email, and it’s so unfortunate, because most of this could have been avoided with better communication. People misunderstood tones. Misunderstood intent. Etc. Neither side sees that because they won’t talk to each other. All they’ll do is send increasingly hostile emails.

But I see it objectively because I’ve talked to all involved. And it all could have been avoided if both sides had communicated better. Or not assumed tones. Or simply picked up the phone and talked.

Most of my recent blog posts have been video posts. I like video for the very reason that you can clearly understand my tone, so you can focus on the message itself and not wonder where I’m coming from. And I plan to keep posting videos. They’re fun! But I need to start writing more, because I think effective communication of the written word is an incredible skill to have, and I want to be better at it. Only way to get better is to practice.

I don’t want our customers, or my partners, or my friends or family to ever misunderstand my tone. And I figure the more I practice writing, the better I’ll be at making sure that doesn’t happen.

Wil

P.s. If you are ever unsure of my tone, please don’t assume. Just give me a ring! I’m at seven zero four nine zero six two zero three one (I doubt I needed to spell that out. I don’t know if numeric phone numbers get scraped and put into telemarketing databases, but I’d rather not risk it because it’s my cell and I don’t want get inundated.)

Who loves what you do? Everyone? For real?

I really admire (and want to be like) companies that make a product for a very niche kind of customer and then tailor their message to speak to them specifically. It’s almost as if the owners of the company sat down in a room and sketched out the ideal customer on the wall and said “this is our customer” and then said “if we sell to this kind of customer only, and we never waiver, we will dominate our niche and have fun along the way”. They seem to know that by being different than the businesses (who uses the sawed off shotgun approach trying to sell to anyone who will buy), they will create a loyal, almost cult-like following of like-minded people who will talk about how much they love using the product because it was created for them and others just like them. People tend to hang out with people like themsleves too…so most companies that focus like this can relax a tad on applying sales pressure and expect more word of mouth.

I also admire when the company tells their story too. Just an honest story of why the product was created and some background on the people who built it and the kind of people they are. I like to read about the hobbies of the owners and what makes them tick instead of the awards they’ve won and their success in the past. I can always tell if their story was written for me to read – or for a potential buyer of the business….which is usually never a good thing for customers. In fact – I almost always go to their story first – before I even check the price or click the “learn more” link. If I like the story and can relate to it, I become less price sensitive every time. I think people who will eventually love the product also love to know the story behind the product and understand why it’s here and how it relates to them specifically. I think it helps create an emotional attachment to the product and the brand. So even if the customer outgrows the product or stops using it for whatever reason – they will carry the admiration for that brand with them and continue to tell people about it down the road….even when they are not asked about it.

Wes

p.s pardon my random use of commas and dashes and dot dot dots. I write how I think and not how I was taught to write in school.

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