Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: February 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

12,840

Last night I arrived home from a trip to Breckenridge, CO with seven of my buddies. Here I am at 12,840 feet. My five year old son saw this pic and said, “Cool! Daddy, you look like a black Power Ranger!!!”

Not my intent of course, but I like the description. It was around two degrees Fahrenheit when that pic was taken. The wind chill was well below zero. Nevertheless, I am an avid skier and I’m passionate about every site and sound and aspect of the sport. The hard snap as you fasten your boots. The crunching sound of the snow as you walk towards the lift. The sharp click of your heel locking into the bindings. The deep breaths of fresh mountain air. The morning chill biting into your fingers and toes. The anticipatory sound of the chair lift rolling over the wheels at each pole. Feeling your skis glide down the ramp as you exit the lift. The feeling of placing your hands through the straps of your poles. The calm that surrounds you as you stand nearly 13,000 feet above sea level and carefully pick your line. And the adrenaline that engulfs you as you drop in and begin your descent. For me, there’s nothing that compares.

But enough about all of that! Because this morning I woke up and read this article over a cup of coffee, and I believe it’s biased. Tomorrow I’ll share why I believe that, but first I’m going to try to get ahold of the author to ask a few questions. More to come…

Wil

Where our customers live…

I stumbled across this really cool word cloud creator called Wordle. It lets you enter in a bunch of text or link to a blog feed and it will create a “word cloud” of the text – which like a tag cloud – make the words that appear more frequently in the text bigger. I thought it would be cool to put in the cities of our customers and see which cities came out the biggest. Mostly useless, but partly cool. Here it is…

Wes

An indie owner discusses the hyper-local food movement…

Jeff Gigante and I spent 15 minutes talking about how is restaurant group, Ciccio & Tony’s, is exploring ways to use hyper-local ingredients. Jeff discusses the pros, cons, myths, struggles, and successes of his efforts to source fresh, organic local food for his six restaurants.

All consumers who expect their restaurants to use local food should listen to this…

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

If you have additional thoughts or advice you’d like to share on this topic, hit me at wbrawley [at] schedulefly [dot] com. I’d love to do a follow up interview with you or share your written thoughts here on the blog.

Wil

Why there is such a thing as a free lunch…

I recently posted about why Joe’s Real BBQ gives away over 6,000 meals in a single day. One day per year. With no strings attached.

Here’s the audio of a conversation I had last week with Tad Peelen, co-owner of Joe’s Real BBQ and Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert, AZ. We discussed the free meals as well as other unconventional yet successful marketing strategies his restaurants have used. If you like learning how other restaurants are using non-traditional marketing to achieve results, spend 15 minutes listening to this…

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

If you are doing something unique or unconventional at your restaurant and it’s working brilliantly, I’d love to record a 10-15 minute podcast with your owner and stick it up on our blog. Lemme know. I’m at wbrawley [at] schedulefly [dot] com.

Wil

Why work doesn’t happen at work

Today was a good day at work. I got a bunch of really great stuff done. I worked today on the bed in the guest room in our house. I had actually planned to work in the dining room but realized that the 15mo old boy tugging on my pant leg and the 4yr old boy playing a plastic trombone was making it tough to focus. So I ran upstairs with the laptop and found myself in the guest room for 1/2 the day and cranked it out. I wrote some code and even launched some new code to our data center and all of our 1,700+ customers at once – while on the bed – in our guest room. Today was not an unusual day. In fact, it was a typical day for me and the last 4 years have seen many like it. Without having to get dressed and go to an office where the distractions start in the parking lot on the way in – I flat out get meaningful things done. I love it. I love the lonely, quiet, meeting-less productive work days and I will never go back. I get too much done now and have too much good quality time to think to ever go back to the conventional business environment.

So anyway – today made me think of this talk that Jason Fried (37signals) gave at TEDx Midwest a few years ago. It’s really great – and thought provoking too – so I thought I would share. Enjoy!

Wes
Schedulefly

p.s Have you been in the guest room (or spare bedroom) in your house lately? Try it! Do a little work. Take a nap in it. It’s like being in a hotel or something.

How to hire the right people in your restaurant…

I always enjoy learning the various philosophies and strategies restaurant owners/managers use to hire the right people for their teams. On that topic, here’s an exchange I with Jeremiah Higgins during his interview for Restaurant Owners Uncorked. He is co-owner of Arch Rock Fish in Santa Barbara, CA and partner with HJL Restaurant Advisors.

Wil: “How do you find people to hire that will convey the same passion and love you have for your business to your guests?”

Jeremiah: “I’m glad you asked that question, because hiring the right people is one of the most important things that restaurant operators do. Here’s what I do personally…

I think the interview process has to be a structured, minimum three-part process. Over the years I’ve noticed that when I like somebody right off the bat and I give him or her the job, they usually end up being the first to go. They either don’t want the job, or they don’t show up for their shifts, or they take advantage of it when they do. They’re not the person I thought they were when I hired them. Over the years I’ve learned that people will do better if they earn the position.

I like for them to speak to an assistant manager, then to a manager, and finally, to an owner. So far, I’ve always asked that I have the last decision on who gets hired. You’re never too busy to take 10 minutes to spend with that employee before you hire them. Most owners don’t do that. They leave it up to management to decide. But management may not have the same outlook as an owner does.

So, number one is I would put them through an interview process that’s structured. Number two is I would meet everybody before they are hired. And the third thing is the easiest. I don’t care what’s on a resume. I go off of personality.

If that person engages me in the first two minutes, with a twinkle in his or her eye, or a smile, or a good story, or whatever it happens to be, they’re going to engage my customers. If they don’t have that personality, if they don’t have that enthusiasm and that twinkle in their eye, I can’t teach them that. It doesn’t matter what concept I have, I can teach them the procedures, the menus, the wine lists. I can teach them how to serve a table correctly, and how to say goodbye, and all of that. But I can’t teach personality. So the number one thing that I look for is personality.

Hiring the right people is so important. The nationwide average is about $2,200 to hire and train somebody. Why make a mistake? Why spend all of that money, and then have to do it all over again a week or two later? And that $2,200 doesn’t even account for the cost of lost customers if that server is not the right person at your table, and it’s turning off customers.”

Jeremiah’s comments underscore how important it is to find the right people, and how little he leaves to chance. Let me know if you have other philosophies or processes you use when you hire. I’d love to include them in a follow up blog post. I’m at wbrawley [at] schedulefly [dot] com.

Wil

Busted!

I’m turning myself in. Busting myself. You see, I’ve mentioned many times on our blog that we don’t have any sales people, and we prefer that people find out about Schedulefly from word-of-mouth, or through our book, or perhaps from one of the articles we’ve written, etc.

But last night I hung out with a buddy and watched N.C. State blow a 21-point second half lead to Duke. Really? No, seriously…Really???? Anyway, we went to a new place in Charlotte and it’s just a plain ‘ole cool joint that has a great staff and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope they’ll become a customer. So I sent this email to the GM today…

Brandon,

My buddy and I ate dinner and hung out at your bar last night. Ryan and your crew took great care of us – that’s cool how they are good at remembering names, and I appreciated the generous amount of Woodford Reserve in my glass.

If y’all ever need a simple solution for staff scheduling and communication, check out www.schedulefly.com. I’m one of the owners of the business, and while we take pride in not having a sales force and growing instead by word of mouth, when I visit a cool place like yours I sometimes mention our app. Other local joints that use it are Mez, Duckworth’s, Bricktops, 131 Main, American Roadside, and a handful of others.

Anyway, keep up the great work and I’m sure I’ll be back.

Wil Brawley

So there you go. We are transparent on this blog so I can’t say that we don’t ever try to sell anybody on Schedulefly. In fact I’ll post an update each time we do. Though that email is not exactly a very strong sales effort, and I will promise that Brandon won’t hear from me again. I figure if staff scheduling and communication are a headache for him, he may check out our site. If not, he won’t. Either way, if and when he does need a simple solution, I’m confident he’ll find us and then we’ll let the chips fall where they may as to whether he decides to become a customer, because one thing we will never do is apply any sales pressure to anybody using our free 30-day trial.

Wil

The first coffee shop book interview…

Yesterday I conducted the first interview for our upcoming book of interviews with successful coffee shop owners. I spoke with JD Merget of Oslo Coffee in Brooklyn. JD has a palpable passion for coffee, and since he opened the door of his first location eight years ago, he’s opened two more locations and started roasting his own coffee.

Here’s the recording of the interview. You’ll hear JD start talking at about 20 seconds in – I messed up and forgot to push “Record” until then. Oops! Anyway, the interview is about 38 minutes long and if you like coffee, you’ll love listening…

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

Wil

Handmade Schedulefly Bar Coasters!

My sister, Holly Aiken, made us some really cool Schedulefly coasters. She is a handbag designer and makes great looking, indestructible products! Like the rest of the stuff she makes – these coasters are simple, unique and crazy functional. They are made out of vinyl so they can literally be hosed down if needed. We made them to share with customers and if you’d like a 4-pack to use at your bar – give us a shout!

Wes

p.s the only problem with these is they are so cool that people might walk off with them…so keep an eye on em!

The Noise

The Noise is everywhere these days. Emails. Texts. Facebook. Twitter. 500 TV channels. 1,000s of magazines.

It hits you everywhere you turn, doesn’t it? Like a weary boxer, you tire from all of the blows. You can barely defend yourself any longer. It overwhelms you. It’s just too much.

The Noise is especially strong in emails. It comes at you with a series of jabs. Never a big right hook. Just jabs.

Jab..
Jab jab..
Jab…
Jab jab jab…
Jab…
Jab jab…

Today I decided to start fighting back. I unsubscribed from probably 15 different emails. I don’t even know how I got signed up for all of them. I bought something at REI, they got my email address, and … jab, jab, jab, they hit me weekly. Facebook constantly emails me to remind me that I haven’t logged in for a while (yep, it’s been about a year) but, nevertheless … jab, jab, jab, they hit me almost daily. And so on.

So I sat down and started hitting “Unsubscribe” this morning. Unsubscribe (jab). Unsubscribe (jab). Unsubscribe. (jab jab). And with each jab, The Noise gets a little weaker, a little less intimidating. And you start to realize you can win.

Eventually, The Noise starts to dissipate from your email inbox. Make no mistake, it will not give up. It will re-group and it will keep hitting away. But today I landed a few jabs. And life already seems just a little easier.

We don’t ever want Schedulefly to be a part of The Noise. That’s what everybody else does. “Buy now!” “Save today”! “50% off!!!” “Lose weight!” “Gain muscle!” “Reduce stress!” “Look cool!” “Don’t miss out!” “Today only!” Ahhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Just leave me alone!!!

We try very hard not to create noise. We don’t run email marketing campaigns. We don’t email customers about product updates (we can do that in the Alert Center in the app). And while it’s nice to see lots of people subscribing to our blog post emails, I hope if the posts aren’t adding value to you in some way, that you will unsubscribe. The last thing we ever want to do is be a part of The Noise.

Wil

P.s. Any time you’d like to shoot me your thoughts on anything I post, hit me at wbrawley [at] Schedulefly [dot] com. I of course view your comments or questions as anything but noise!!!

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