Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: October 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

What I’d tell 22-year old me

My first job out of college was at a bank. I was 22 and a senior in college when I got the job offer, which came in October of that year. My first thought after hanging up the phone with the lady at the bank who made me the offer was, “Sweet, I can mail it in the rest of the year and have fun and know I’ve got a job lined up after school!!!”

My grand plan at the time was to work my way up through the bank, busting my ass for years until one day I was a senior executive in some corner office in a tall office building, making a great income and having tons of responsibility. And I can’t be thankful enough that my plan didn’t work out. (I’ll talk about why those plans didn’t work in a future post).

Yesterday I was thinking about how glad I am to be a part of such a great business here at Schedulefly, and I imagined what I (now 38 years old) would tell the 22-year old me if I met me (or, him?) today.

Here’s what I quickly jotted down…

Learn how to write code. The internet has democratized business in so many ways and if you can write code you are half way to being able to build your own successful business with a web-based solution. Seriously, go learn how to write code. Now. Go…

Oh, and turn down the bank job.

Rather, spend the rest of the year when you are not learning code trying to figure out a problem you can solve for small businesses that you can solve with a web-based solution.

Target a niche if possible, but mostly focus on providing a solution for small businesses versus large corporations so you can get lots of small customers and not just a few big ones. You don’t want to deal with having large corporations as your primary customers. Trust me.

Find a like-minded business partner who shares your overall objective but also has strengths with skillsets you lack.

Plan to live like a pauper for a few years. No debt. No credit card. Get a part time job to make ends meet but just work enough to pay the bills.

No serious girlfriend for now. Focus on your business. You don’t need distractions.

Eat a healthy diet. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise often.

Agree with your biz partner you will both work really hard for three years and see where your biz is at. Make the commitment together and do everything possible to stick with it. Ignore the “overnight success” stories you read about all the time. The media likes those stories but they are not representative of the majority of success stories. Most successful businesses got that way slowly, with patience and persistence and optimism over years. Not days. Or months. So give yourself three years and then decide whether to stick with it.

Focus relentlessly on making your solution simple and intuitive so it doesn’t require lots of customer service and training but focus just as intently on taking GREAT care of customers any time they need anything. You are building an audience of fans, not just a group of people who pay you. In a world of noise and complexity, people want something easy to use, and they want to feel like they are talking to friends, not adversaries, when they need help or have questions. Most businesses have poor customer service – if you have great service it will make a huge, huge difference.

If you do these things you are taking less risk than you are taking if you go work for that bank, and you are setting yourself on a path to become the master of your own destiny.

And if it doesn’t work out, I promise you the experience will have been extremely valuable for countless reasons, and you will have opened up many more opportunities for yourself than you can possibly imagine right now.

Again, these were quick, rapid fire thoughts I jotted down, and they would have of course led to plenty of questions from 22-year old me (How is an inexperienced college senior supposed to know how to find a business problem to solve? What about the student loan debt I am going to graduate with … doesn’t that mean I have to get a full-time job? How is this not more risky than taking the bank job? Dude, aren’t you a little extreme with the “no girlfriend” edict? Etc.).

I’ll answer those questions in future posts on this topic. But if I could give advice to the 22-year old me, this is exactly what I’d start with…

Wil

P.s. If I were to meet the 38-year old me from an alternative reality who still worked at the bank, I would still start with, “Learn to write code.” Being able to write code gives you more leverage in this economy than nearly any other skillset.

How to get an MIT degree (well, sort of) for free (well, almost) in one year (or less)…

I enjoy stories about people who’ve found unusual paths to success in life, business, education, nutrition, fitness, etc.

In the below video, a guy named Scott Young tells how he completed the entire curriculum (including exams) for a four-year computer sciences degree at MIT using free online curriculum. And how his only expenses were the cost of four school years worth of the text books (less than $2,000). Oh, and this is where it gets really interesting: he did it in one year.

Yes, that’s right … he did four years of course work in one year! Now that, my friends, is ambitious. And it’s damn sure unconventional. And it’s awesome. And I had to post about it.

You see MIT and many other colleges and universities like Harvard and Stanford are now putting a lot of their course work and curriculum online. MIT’s is right here. They have 2,100 courses available at your fingertips. Talk about democratizing education!

So check out this guy’s story of how he leveraged the content to get an incredible education over 12 short months. It’s just 12 minutes long and well worth your time.

Wil

P.s. Here’s Scott’s web site. He blogged about the experience as he went through it.

P.p.s. The internet is such an amazing, powerful tool. From enabling Schedulefly to exist as a business to enabling Scott Young to do what he did to giving anybody with a laptop/tablet/smartphone/etc., an internet connection, and a little drive and creativity and ingenuity the ability to control their own destiny in so many ways. (I feel a whole other blog post hatching so I better stop typing now…)

My true passion is not our business. It can’t be.

Thanks to my parents’ encouragement, I started playing golf at a young age – maybe 12 or 13. I worked at a golf club as a teenager cleaning clubs, washing carts and picking the driving range. I have found memories of my buddies hitting 1 irons at me late in the day when I was in the caged range picker….nailing the side of it. It was hilarious. I’d practice often and play at least 18 holes a day in the summers. I got pretty good and watched some of my buddies get really good and go off to shine in college and even give it a go on tour. I was never good enough to play professionally but I loved the game so much that I started down a career path as a golf professional once in college…thinking after college I’d become a head pro at a golf club one day. I was even slacking on finishing college thinking it didn’t really matter If I finished. So unlike a professional golfer (who plays on tour for prize money), I would work at a golf course shop, give golf lessons and maybe play in golf events from time to time.

Well – I started down that path and after a year or so I realized that I hated it. I hated mainly because I played 1/10th the golf I used to play. On the beautiful sunny days I was behind the counter ringing up all the lucky people who came to play. About the only time I played was on Mondays when the course was closed…and even then I was not all that excited about playing because golf was now my job. I eventually burned out on playing the game I used to love. Fortunately, one fine day, on the drive to work I realized this was not what I wanted to do and I quit. I reset my focus, finished college and started writing software for a living. The golf became enjoyable again….

I feel the same way about Schedulefly. I love this business and I love my team and I love working on it and watching it grow – but at the end of the day – it’s not my true passion. It it were – I think I would eventually burn out and not like it and want to do something else. I guess what I am saying is I purposely sink considerable time and energy into other passions that have nothing to do with business…..so when I do come back to the laptop to write some code or answer a customer – I still love it. And it works! It’s been 5 years and I am more excited about this business today than the day we started….

Wes

p.s That pic is of me and my Dad at Pebble Beach in Carmel CA. That was one special round of golf that I’ll never forget.

Here’s what you can learn from the San Francisco Giants…

The World Series has been awesome so far. The Giants are up 2 games to 0 over the Detroit Tigers. I’m a Dodgers fan which pretty much means I will never cheer for the Giants, but I have to tip my hat to them. They’ve played some incredible baseball so far, and it’s nearly impossible not to admire these guys even if you hope they get beat.

The best part is the way they are going about it. Lots of smiling. Laughing. They are of course playing their best, but they are loose and happy and they aren’t taking themselves too seriously. They are just trusting their instincts and having fun. It’s been the story of the series so far. They are just out there playing ball like kids playing in a sandlot.

And isn’t that a great lesson to keep in mind in business? Work hard and do your best but make sure to stay loose. Smile. Enjoy what you are doing. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Trust your instincts. Have fun!

Wil

P.s. For those of you who’ve been watching the games, haven’t they been awesome in so many ways? Sandoval hitting his first homer in game one on a pitch he’s not supposed to be able to hit as a low ball hitter: a high and tight 95-mph simmering fastball thrown by the best pitcher in the game. Verlander smirking at his pitching coach as he walked to the mound, like the guy could possibly say anything Verlander didn’t already know. Barry Zito talking to himself in the dugout between innings. Joe Buck calling Zito batting vs. Verlander the biggest mismatch in the series, and then Zito promptly hitting an RBI single. The 30 seconds of silence after Tim McCarver blurted out “Barry Mannilow” when he didn’t realize Joe Buck was talking about Barry Bonds, and then he had no idea what to say when he realized how silly that was – you could just tell he was thinking to himself, “Did I really just say Barry Manilow? Really?” Sandoval homering in three straight at bats. Three! If that had happened in a Hollywood movie you’d think it was corny and unbelievable. But it happened! A triple-amputee veteran lacing a perfect strike in last night’s ceremonial first pitch. Last night’s starting pitchers each tossing absolute gems. An incredible relay from left field to nail Prince Fielder sliding into home plate. I could go on all day. Suffice it to say I love this Series so far.

And thus ends the longest “P.s.” in history…

"Because everybody does that…"

Yesterday I spoke to a friend who owns a business. He asked me about press releases…

Him: “We are considering doing a press release for a new product we are launching. Why don’t you do them at Schedulefly.”

Me: “Well, let me ask you something first…Why do you want to do one?”

Him: “Because that’s what everybody else does.”

Me: “That’s exactly why we don’t do them!”

O.K., so it’s not just because everybody else issues press releases that we don’t do them. Everybody else pays their employees, and so do we! Rather, here’s the types of questions we ask ourselves at Schedulefly when deciding whether to do certain things that are common business practices…

Would we be really, really good at writing press releases? Because if we aren’t really, really good at something, we don’t do it. So if we were going to issue press releases, I would put a ton of focus into learning how to write very compelling ones. I wouldn’t issue one until I knew it was going to stand out from everybody else’s. I’d spend TONS of time learning how to do that. And I would also go work my ass off to develop one-on-one relationships with reporters from the publications I want to report on Schedulefly. I would make sure to send them copies of our releases and call them to discuss the releases with them. I would do everything it took to make sure when we issued a release, we were going to get coverage. (By the way we wouldn’t hire a PR firm to write releases for us because we like to handle as many aspects of our business as possible by ourselves and not involved outsiders. Plus we find that not letting ourselves pay for services like this forces us to be much more creative than if we relied on others, so if we did press releases, we’d definitely do them ourselves.)

But the next question makes the previous null and void…

Do we have anything going on that to tell the world about that we would care about if we weren’t involved with Schedulefly? Would our press releases be so compelling that they would stand out from the rest of the noise and media recipients would say, “WOW! Now this is interesting!!! Oh we’ve got to run this story!!!”? As much as I’d like that to be the case, the answer is a resounding No. I mean, isn’t that how you should look at it when you issue a release? “If I had no personal attachment to my business, would I care about this?” In our case, the answer right now is, No. And if truth be told I believe that’s often the case when businesses issue press releases.

We also ask ourselves, “Is this something we would enjoy?” The answer, once again, is No. Just as we don’t do things unless we plan to be very good at them, and we don’t do things we don’t enjoy. We didn’t enjoy using Facebook and Twitter, so we stopped. We don’t enjoy working on traditional marketing, so we don’t. And we wouldn’t enjoy working on press releases, so we don’t. Our business will thrive if we focus on the things we like to work on, because it’s easy to become very, very good at things you really look forward to working on them. For us, that’s our app, our customer service, and our book/articles/video series.

There are more reasons we don’t do press releases, but you get the idea. Every now and then it’s good to take a hard look at every aspect of your business that is conventional and ask yourself whether you are doing it for the right reasons. Try asking “Why” like a five year old, and you may find that you can’t come up with another reason than “Because everybody else is doing it.”

Wil

Don’t let your ego trick you…

(This is the first in a series of posts I’m going to write about things I often remind myself of.)

I’ve interviewed lots of successful restaurant owners for our book and our videos. Almost all of them have told me that you have to check your ego once you are successful or your success will be short lived.

Success is nice. When you achieve it, celebrate it briefly. But don’t believe it will continue in perpetuity. Stay humble. Stay focused. Keep at it. Don’t let your ego trick you into believing you can’t fail.

Wil

"I have no idea if Schedulefly is right for your restaurant."

A lady called this morning to ask about our restaurant staff scheduling and communication app. I answered a few questions about features and then told her, “I don’t know if Schedulefly will be the right fit for your restaurant. I don’t want to sell you on it. Rather, I recommend you use the free trial and decide for yourself. You know your culture and your team and how your restaurant runs. You’ll either love Schedulefly or you won’t. You’ll get zero sales pressure. Just let us know if you need anything along the way and we’ll gladly help.”

By the way, she works at one of the best and most well known restaurants in the U.S. I would LOVE to have them become a customer. But the bottom line is, I know that Schedulefly either will or will not work for her restaurant, and I am 100% confident that our app and our customer support are so awesome that unless that restaurant just isn’t the right fit for Schedulefly, there’s nothing else I needed to say to her. (We prefer to rely on stars and chemistry for this kind of thing.)

I’ll post an update if they become a customer…

Wil

Steve Jobs, dogma, heart and intuition…

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs during his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005.

I love this quote and re-read it every few months. I absolutely love it. Had to stick it up here on the blog…

Wil

I eat lots of saturated fat and Schedulefly doesn’t have sales people…

If I followed conventional nutrition wisdom, I wouldn’t eat between 200%-500% of the daily recommended amount of saturated fat. If we followed conventional business wisdom at Schedulefly, we’d have sales people and do traditional (print and/or web-based/email) marketing. And a Twitter handle. And a Facebook page.

But I do eat tons of healthy fat (butter from grass fed cows, MCT oil, avocados, grass fed beef, coconut milk, pastured eggs) and (mostly) avoid cereal grains (wheat, corn, rice) and sugar, and contrary to what conventional wisdom would lead you to believe, since I started eating this way a couple of years ago I’ve lost weight, improved my immune system, and I feel better than I have in twenty years.

And Schedulefly doesn’t have any sales people and we don’t do any marketing (save our book and video series, which is focused on our customers, not on us), and we don’t have a Twitter handle and we don’t have a Facebook fan page, yet we are growing extremely well and not even considering hiring sales people or doing any of these things.

Now I’m not saying that you should eat lots of fat. Or not have sales people. Or stop doing marketing. Or cancel your Twitter and Facebook accounts. But what I am saying is that it’s good to be open to bucking conventional wisdom every now and then, and ignore your friends and family who think you are a little nuts, if you find something else that works better than what everybody else is doing…

Wil

Any customers want a free size XL Schedulefly t-shirt?

I’ve got 6 black Schedulefly tee’s and 3 white ones. They are all size XL. Want one? I’ll mail it to you if you email me…

1. Your name and the name of your restaurant.

2. How Schedulefly makes your life easier.

3. Your mailing address.

4. Do you want a black shirt or a white one?

Use the email subject line “Hook me up with an Sfly tee!”. First 9 people will get shirts. I’m at wbrawley at schedulefly.com

Wil

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