Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: July 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

Carl Lewis and competing with excellence…

Every four years during the summer Olympics I have memories of being a kid and watching Carl Lewis compete in four Olympics. I thought he was the greatest athlete I had ever seen, and perhaps he still is. The guy won nine gold medals and one silver medal. He was unique. Special. Absolutely unbelievable.

Recently I saw an interview in which he said he was never competing against the other people he was racing. He was competing against excellence. I LOVE that idea. He had a vision of what was ahead of him, not what was around him. He ignored his competitors!

It’s easy to let your competition distract you, or cloud your vision. But if you can put on blinders and focus only on competing with excellence, you never know what you might be able to achieve…

Wil

Running your own business is awesome because: You can listen to your heart

I am going to start a series of very short blog posts outlining some of the great things about running your own business – especially ones funded by yourself (or others working with you). I’ll try to post one each week (some serious, some humorous) and tag them so we can have fun looking at them grouped together and see if they still ring true over time. Here is the first post.

Running your own business is awesome because:

You can make decisions based on what your heart tells you to do. You get to wake up every day free to go in any direction you want, for good reason or no reason at all. If your heart is in the right place, you will never regret doing something it tells you to do or not to do.

Wes

p.s If you own your own privately funded business and have some great things you want to share about it – please email them to me (waiken at schedulefly) and I’ll them add to this list!

Why indie restaurants have an advantage over chains (New video – Scott Maitland, part IV)

Scott Maitland, owner of Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery in Chapel Hill, N.C. talks about why independent restaurants have a strategic advantage over chains, growing within your four walls before you grow outside of them, and hiring people with a passion to serve…

If you like this vid or any others in the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series, we’d be honored it you’d share with your friends or people you think might enjoy. Here’s the URL for the series: http://blog.schedulefly.com/search/label/rou-video-series. Thanks so much!

Another 5 star book review…

Our book, “Restaurant Owners Uncorked,” had not received a review on Amazon in over a year until recently (I’ve learned that even though the book is selling very well, it’s rare for people to write reviews, especially when the book is no longer brand new). So we were excited to receive another “5-star” review last week. It reads…

“If you are considering opening a restaurant, then I would highly recommend this book.

The interviews are often very entertaining, and in each you will find nuggets of wisdom to help you plan your venture. Many themes are repeated by different owners, which helps to hammer the point and highlight the more important ones.

This is not a step-by-step guide to opening a restaurant. It will only give you advice on things to consider and things to avoid.

I had only two complaints with it. The first is the seeming plugging for the restaurant management software that the author is involved in (though I can’t fault him for it if he genuinely considers it a helpful resource, it’s just my preference not to have advertising thrown in). The second was the bulleting of what the author considered to be the key points of each interview. While I understand why he did that, I am one that by reading those it threw me off and caused me to forget some of the other points I had gathered on my own (thankfully though, there is always rereading).

If you just want to know what a lot of people have had to go through to open a restaurant, you will also find this an enjoyable read.”

So, here’s the thing. I (mostly) agree with him about the references to Schedulefly in the book. There are 20 interviews, and while only seven owners mention Schedulefly, something like five of the first seven interviews include the reference. That means I did a poor job of spacing out those seven references and not having them front-end loaded. My bad – lesson learned.

His comment about the bullet points to close each chapter is fine with me. It’s his opinion. I happen to disagree, but it isn’t a big deal of course. No matter what you produce, some people will like it and some won’t. That’s just how it goes.

The important point here is that this person gave us a 5-star review, and it’s frankly not surprising because the awesome owners we interviewed were honest, candid, and very willing to share their opinions and advice and wisdom on any topic we discussed.

Anyway, it was cool to see that review, and if you haven’t read the book, check it out. I betchya you’ll enjoy it…

Wil

Why I ignore what our competitors are doing…

Imagine standing on top of the tallest mountain in a range and looking out across the horizon on a day when the sky is crystal clear. You can see for miles in every direction. There are no clouds or competing peaks impeding your view. It is endless. Breathtaking.

You inhale deeply to soak it all in, sigh a pleasant smile, and sit down to think about your business, which you’ve come here to do with a uncluttered mind. You stare off into the enormous ocean of beauty and your wheels start turning. You are seeing and thinking clearly. Everything is in sync. You begin to piece together something special. Something unique. Something new and original.

Then you happen to look behind you and see a cloud. It’s small and far away, but it disrupts your thoughts ever so slightly. You recognize it, turn back around, and re-focus your eyes on the endless expanse of sky in front of you.

You are back in rhythm when another cloud appears in your periphery. Then another. You turn and notice clouds on either side of you and behind you. The view ahead remains crystal clear, but it is getting harder to ignore what surrounds you in other directions.

Your train of thought is disrupted. You become distracted, anxious. You can no longer gaze calmly forward and maintain a clear, unfettered imagination. Your plan, your idea, your stroke of brilliance, your vision … becomes blurred. Hazy.

The clouds are competitors. And if you let them they will distract you and keep you from being your most creative, your most imaginative. From soaking in the crisp clarity in front of you and thinking of original, unique, and special ideas.

This is an admittedly dramatic analogy for how I used to feel when I visited our competitors’ web sites and paid attention to what they were doing, or what products they were launching, or what announcements they had made. But the point is that I scale that mountain often, and when I learned to train my focus on the horizon ahead of me, and stop allowing even brief glimpses at the clouds, I began to think as clearly as the image you are seeing right now of the view from that mountain top. Ideas such as our book and our video series came to me easily. Ideas that would have never had a chance to take shape had I let the clouds around me engulf them before they formed.

I’ll be the first to tell you take this nothing more than just one guy’s dogma. But if you are struggling with how to differentiate from your competition, with how to be unique and original and clearly delineate your business from the rest of the pack, why not try sitting atop your mountain and averting your eyes from the clouds for a while? It’s hard at first. It feels unconventional. Uncomfortable. And frankly unwise. But just try it and see what happens.

If you have the same experience I did, each day it gets easier, and one day you’ll wake up and find it hard to believe those clouds are even still there, because your eyes will be trained to only look ahead into the eternal sea of blue, and you’ll have the clarity and focus you need to create or build or write or design things that will amaze your audience, and perhaps even yourself.

Wil

Breakin’ down The Meatball Shop vid footage…

I can’t wait to finish the videos we’re making from the interviews we did at The Meatball Shop! I’ve been breaking down the clips, as you can see in my illegible notes pictured here.

We have incredible “b-roll” (backbround footgage) from inside their three locations, as well as cool exterior shots we took in Brooklyn and Manhattan. More importantly, we have awesome commentary from Daniel and Michael on topics such as managing rapid growth, the formula for successful partnerships, the importance of being generous to your team, the most challenging aspects of the restaurant business, what they’ve learned from chains, and more.

If you like this kind of stuff you’re going to LOVE these vids. Stay tuned…

Wil

Schedulefly is like a boat…

When I think of Schedulefly, I often think of it as a boat.

Imagine an ocean full of people treading water. Everywhere you look, people are bobbing up and down, arms and legs working hard. Some have been doing it for many years, some just jumped in recently.

They are all tired, and one by one, they are looking for a boat to board. They look around and see several vessels floating nearby, and the people that swim to ours are the people who want a boat that is easy to board.

A boat that lets them climb on for free and hang out a while to make sure they like it, with helpful, friendly people available to assist if needed, but who never pressure them to stay.

A boat that enables them to pay a consistent recurring payment if they decide to hang out a while, but that doesn’t require them to agree to stay for a defined period of time, and that makes it pain-free and requires no fee to jump off if their needs change for any reason.

A boat that is very welcoming, that is simple and clean, but that is also clearly very sturdy and won’t sink. One that isn’t full of rules and regulations, but rather gives them flexibilty and lets them enjoy themselves while they are on board.

A boat that brings them a cold drink or a hot meal if they need it, but doesn’t try to force them into buying more stuff.

A boat manned by people who are genuinely interested in their guests and their stories. One that is large enough to hold tons of people, but that still attends to the needs everybody on board quickly and with a smile.

Finally, a boat that is so fun and makes life so much better that they begin standing by the rails waving in other people like them, telling them how great the boat is and why they love being on it, and why they are so glad to never have to tread water again.

It’s fun and rewarding and exciting to be on the crew of our Schedulefly “boat.” If you are already a passenger, thank you so much. We trust you are enjoying the ride, and we look forward to taking you as far as you need to go. If you are still treading water…well, all I can say is I recommend you speak to a few passengers, and we’d be happy to have you jump on board for a bit to see if you like the ride.

Wil

My 5-year old son reminded me how awesome it is to follow your passions…

Last week I watched my son spend several hours on the beach learning to skim board.

I’ll be honest, when we bought him the board I figured he would toss it 5-10 times, fall every time, decide it was too hard, and move onto something else. I’m happy to admit he proved me way wrong. By my calculations he made around 250 tosses in one morning. Over and over and over. Up and down the beach. Back and forth. Back and forth. Again, and again, and again.

And it was so fun to watch, because while he did fall 75% of the time the first 150 or so tosses, he had a determined look in his eyes and I knew he was going to keep at it. Fall after fall after fall he would simply get up and try again. By the last 30 minutes of his morning, he was consistently making good tosses and having successful rides like you see in this vid.

It reminded me how awesome it is once you find something you are passionate about. A hobby. An instrument. A sport. A business. A relationship. Passion drives you to be your best, do your best, make your best, create your best, give your best. It’s a beautiful thing.

My hope for my children is that they pursue things they are passionate about personally and professionally and in very aspect of their lives. I finally learned to do that and I could never imagine living any other way at this point.

Life is short. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Follow your passions!

Wil

New Video – Scott Maitland, part III…

Scott Maitland, owner of Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery in Chapel Hill, N.C. talks about the seduction of the restaurant business, money as a scorecard, and how he measures success.

A special thanks is due to Luke Pearson of Lift Films for making these absolutely amazing videos. He is incredibly talented and somehow wows us every time he finishes one of these.

Wil

P.s. If you like this vid or any others in the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series, we’d be honored it you’d share with your friends or people you think might enjoy. Here’s the URL for the series: http://blog.schedulefly.com/search/label/rou-video-series. Thanks so much!

Why I love my new espresso maker…

My wife bought me an espresso maker for Father’s Day, and I LOVE it. (She knows a morning espresso helps me be an even better father – and husband!)

I love that it’s simple and easy to use. I learned to use it in 30 seconds.

I love that it doesn’t have tons of bells and whistles. I don’t need it to tell me the time or have a hidden can opener. I just want a good cup of espresso. And that leads me too…

I love that it makes really good cups of espresso. That’s all I need it to do, so it is really important that it does the one thing it is supposed to do very well, and nothing else really matters.

Too many products these days try to do too many things, and wind up becoming complicated, frustrating, easily broken, and ultimately don’t meet the customer’s core need. I believe companies that are smart enough to focus intensely and perpetually on perfecting the ability to meet their customers’ core needs, and don’t try to convince people to buy based on lots of “extra” features, or slick marketing, or high pressure sales people, or other factors are the ones that will gradually build audiences of loyal fans vs. creating large numbers of unhappy (and many soon to be ex-) customers.

Wil

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