The tortoise, the hare, and why I’m glad we’ve grown (relatively)slowly…

We’re super-stoked that over 2,500 restaurants are now using our restaurant employee scheduling and communication app to make life easier for their owners, managers, and staff. Thank you all very much for your business. We’re so genuinely thrilled to serve each and every one of you!

We don’t use customer-count milestones as the critical yardsticks to measure our success (we prefer considering things like profitability, life/work balance, how much fun we’re having, and other more subjective measurements), but that number is a fun number because we’ve gotten there one customer at a time over five and a half years. And getting there over that time frame has been much more valuable to our business than had we done it in one year. In other words, I’m glad we’ve done it like a tortoise, and not like a hare.

The tortoise approach of getting to 2,500 customers relatively(*) slowly has taught us the value of patience and the importance of realistic expectations, and has also enabled us to focus on one of the most critical aspects of our business: providing incredible customer service.

Had we taken off out of the gate like a hare and grown too quickly, we would not have been able to keep up with the service. Balls would have been dropped. Stuff would have slipped through the cracks. And customers would have been frustrated. Or cancelled their accounts. Or cancelled their accounts AND told a bunch of people that we were awful to do business with. Then we would have had to quickly hire more people to keep up with it all – people we needed to put a finger in the dam, rather than people we hired because we anticipated they would be long term, happy, successful, fulfilled members of our team.

I don’t like to call out other companies in a negative way, so I won’t mention this company’s name. But I witnessed a “hare” experience when I bought a very popular iPhone case a couple of years ago. They were growing too fast for their own good and couldn’t keep up with customer support issues. I couldn’t get an email reply. Phone calls were dropped. It was essentially impossible to speak to anybody at the company. It was an absolute train wreck, I’ll never buy one of their cases again, and it made me really understand deeply how much I would rather Schedulefly have great customer service with slower growth than the opposite.

So while there were times we tried to develop partnerships or attempted other means of accelerating growth, I’m glad they didn’t work out. I’m glad we’ve had to learn patience. And I’m glad we’ve learned over five and a half years to stick to what we know best: keeping our app really simple, staying focused on serving our niche market (independent restaurants), providing excellent customer service, and investing back into the industry we serve by creating valuable content that is educational and enjoyable. These things may not lead to explosive virality, but they serve as the foundation of a business that is built to last.

I believe if we stay patient and humble and focused, and if we keep a long term view for Schedulefly, we’ll just keep growing. One. Customer. At a time.

And more importantly, our customers will always be excited to be part of the Schedulefly family.


(* I say we’ve grown “relatively” slowly, but I guess that’s all relative. It’s my experience that most enduring, successful businesses grew “slowly” only when you compare them to stories the media tells us about “viral” apps and companies like Groupon skyrocketing into the business limelight overnight. Frankly, when you are having fun and your customers are happy, 5.5 years goes by in a flash.)

If you like this post, you might like $80,000,000 and Why we left $250,000 (and a million headaches) on the table.