Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: June 2013

Is Schedulefly your full time job?

I often hear that people would love to have a business like ours and I personally hear “Man, you are living the dream”. And while I totally agree – I also think that most people, if given the opportunity to have the same thing would change it – quick. They would be bored. They would feel lonely. They would also have the feeling that they could do much much more. Anyone could do what we are doing – but they probably won’t and here are 5 reasons why:

1. It’s too unconventional. If we are growing with no sales team and not much marketing and no trade shows – imagine who much more we could grow if we had/did those things!
2. We choose to have a really narrow focus – which means we say no all the time. We say no to integration with other systems. We say no to partnerships. We say no to more features. We say no to selling to other industries. We are happy when people outgrow us and need more features and need to leave. Imagine how much more we could grow if we added more and clawed and scratched and tried to please everyone!
3. The owners of this business don’t live in the same city and don’t report to an office – still – 6 years into it – with solid growth. So we don’t get together every morning to talk about what we are going to do next or what we are going to build and add and sell. Imagine how much more we could grow if we got together more and came up with more ideas!
4. When presented with free time, we spend it with our families and doing the other things we love. We don’t fill it with more software building or more ideas or more work. Often, to this day, with 3,000+ paying customers and 7 figure revenue – I still hear “Is Schedulefly your full time job?”. I used to get irritated by it and try and explain – but I don’t any more. I think it’s because the people who ask don’t see me at an office or headed to the airport. I’m not wearing a tie and handing out business cards. The see me in a t-shirt dropping my kids off at school or on a jog at 10:30am or with an 8 day old beard at a coffee shop and a laptop. Imagine how much more we could grow if I shaved and went to a real office and traveled and sold and worked 80 hours a week!
5. It takes a very very long time to get legs beneath you when you don’t take capital and you don’t hire people and you don’t partner with other companies. It takes years. It also takes a relentless confidence that one day you will wake up and “be successful” – having done it on on your own. Just imagine how much more successful we could be if we took that investor’s money and hired a team of software developers and partnered with bigger companies and sold, sold, sold. Imagine!

Well, given the talent of our team of 5, it’s easy to imagine how much more business we could go get if we did things differently. It’s easy to imagine how much more money we could earn if we did more. Sure, I know we could build dozens of valuable tools and sell to a bunch of different industries and partner with big companies and take over the world.

Nah. If we did that, I’d be wearing a dress shirt and dress pants and in meetings all the time and worst of all – I’d stop hearing – “Hey Wes, is Schedulefly your full time job? What else do you do?”


Why Amazon changed the price of our book, 5,000 copies sold, and other observations

We self-published our first book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Twenty Owners Share their Recipes for Success, two years ago. We put it on Amazon, and we had no idea what to expect. Would we sell 100 copies (which is the average number of copies self-published books sell)? Or 1,000? Or perhaps 10,000?

I mean we literally had no clue what would happen, so we’re excited as heck that it has consistently sold between one and three hundred copies every month, and we’ve now sold over 5,000 total copies if you count sales of the actual book and Kindle sales. It was also really cool to see that Amazon recently changed the price of our book from $12 (our list price) to $10.80. It’s displayed as a discount, letting you know that you are getting a good deal if you buy on Amazon. They only do that once a book has sold a bunch of copies. I guess when we have sold a bunch more, they’ll reduce the price again, but I don’t know. (The Kindle version is still at $5, which is our list price. Maybe they’ll reduce that price next?) I’m not sure what their formula is. I think Amazon does what Amazon wants to do, and I’m totally cool with that, especially given that they do an awesome job of recommending our book to people who are about to purchase books of a similar subject matter. We’re still learning about this stuff, and it really doesn’t matter anyway. All we care about is that every day a few people buy a copy, and, based on the feedback and reviews we’ve received so far, they tend to enjoy it a lot, learn something, and draw inspiration from it.

Something else I’ve found interesting is that our reviews are all really positive (nothing below 4-stars out of 5), and I honestly believe this is the case because we never inserted our opinion into the book. It doesn’t take a stand. Rather, it is merely a collection of interviews with twenty owners, with no underlying point. Meanwhile, it seems like most of the time when a book gets a 1-star or 2-star rating, it’s because the reader completely disagrees with the author’s premise. The author says tomato, the reader says tomahto. In our case, unless you disagree with the advice and philosophies of twenty different people, it would be hard to rank the book poorly. This isn’t something we predicted or thought of in advance, but I’m pretty sure it has helped us avoid bad reviews.

But of course the main reason we get great reviews is that we interviewed twenty incredible people who own restaurants and have done well in the business and who were kind enough to share their time with us, and offer their candid and honest opinions on everything we asked them about. We couldn’t be more proud of the book or of the incredible video series that is it’s by-product. It’s such an honor to be able to serve tons of people that we admire – people who’ve taken risks and worked hard and built successful restaurant businesses – with our software. So when some of those people agree to be in a book or be filmed for our video series, it’s just icing on the cake for us!

I’m working on our next book now. It’ll be the same format as the first – a collection of interviews – but I think we’ll keep it to ten owners this time, and perhaps do a new book of ten every couple of years. In the mean time, if you know anybody who might enjoy the book, we’d be so thankful if you told them about it. And I’ll occasionally drop in here to provide an update on the next book and (hopefully) on the continued success of the first.


The story of the Big Ugly Burger

Matt Frey, owner of Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream and Bub’s Cafe tells the story of the Big Ugly Burger, which was created as a marketing draw, and turned into something much more valuable to his business…

(Here’s the video if you are reading this post in email)

This wraps up Matt’s videos. They are all excellent, and we feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to capture sharp restaurant owners like him on film, sharing their stories, their passion, their wisdom, and their philosophies on what it takes to be successful in the restaurant business.

Luke and I will be filming in Charlotte, where I live, in a couple of weeks. This series just keeps getting better, and we are learning a ton about the people Schedulefly serves in the process. Thanks for watching, and please share the videos with folks you think will enjoy them.


Why restaurant staff accountability matters (new video)

Matt Frey, owner of Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream and Bub’s Cafe talks about the incredible team at his restaurants, and why he values accountability so much.

(if you are viewing this in email and don’t see the vid, it’s here).

Notice the awesome video portraits of staff at the beginning of the vid. I LOVE those! They absolutely capture the smiling, happy presence of the team at Bub’s. Plus we’re learning how to make people laugh when a camera is on them, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of these types of shots in future vids.


P.s. The 35 Restaurant Owners Uncorked videos we’ve produced have now been viewed nearly 15,000 times! We are very proud of this series and we’ll just keep at it as long as people enjoy watching and picking up some insight along the way.

We’re going to try some email marketing

Tomorrow this email is going to go to a list of thousands of restaurant people who’ve self-identified as being owners or managers of independent restaurants. We’ll send a similar email (same format, but with different quotes and images) the following two Wednesdays. It’ll be the first email marketing we’ve done in about five years, and we’re curious to see how it goes.

We haven’t really ever been that interested in doing this type of thing for a few reasons, the chief one being that word-of-mouth is and will always be the sail that catches the wind to move our boat. Still, though, it’s an email we are proud to send because we don’t have features and benefits (other than “life is easier,” which I guess is a benefit), but rather we have some cool pics and brief quotes. It’s light on text and heavy on images, and it’s exactly what we had in mind when we asked Luke Pearson (our film partner who does the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series with us) to design it. We don’t think most of the people on the list we are using get emails that look like this very often, and that’s the point. Hopefully this sucker will make them stop as they scroll through their inbox and think, “Woah, hold the phone, this is a cool-looking email…”

Our guess is that there are a lot of folks who will receive this email who’ve heard of Schedulefly by now, have been meaning to run the free trial, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Perhaps this will be the spring that bounces us up to the top of their to-do list.

Who knows? We’ll find out soon enough. I’ll try to remember to write an update later this summer to summarize whether the effort produced good results, and what we learned during the process.


P.s. (This is actually probably the most important point of my post): We love to draw inspiration from people and other companies outside our industry, not from other software companies. This email design was inspired by emails I get from a Hawaiian shoe company. The ROU videos were inspired by snow skiing and fly fishing videos we love. And we have in idea we’re simmering on right now inspired by my favorite band. So I guess my point is that while we keep a laser focus on serving our niche, we keep a wide-open mind on where to draw inspiration for ideas on how to better tell our story and foster admiration for our brand.

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