Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: September 2013

Thoughts on Yelp (new video)

When we film for the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series, we get about 30 minutes of interview footage. I edit out what I think are the most interesting or useful comments made by each owner, and we produce three separate 1- to 3-minute videos. That means we use three to nine minutes of the interview, and you never get to see the remaining twenty to twenty-five minutes. The videos we produce with those three to nine minutes of film are in color, have music, and contain b-roll (background footage) that matches the content of the audio (if an owner talks about happy customers, we show happy customers).

When I do my edits, I normally have a sense fairly quickly of which comments I think we should use. But when I edited the interview we did with Mike Schatzman of Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar in Chicago, I had a hard time selecting only three segments. He said a lot of things I wanted to share, but some of them covered topics that are not good topics for b-roll. For instance, I don’t know what kind of footage to show when Mike talks about restaurant funding. We could come up with something, but it would be to forced.

So, for Mike we’ll wind up with the standard three fully-produced videos, but we also decided to create four unedited, black and white “raw” videos. Here’s his first raw vid. I asked him what he thinks about Yelp…

(If you are reading this in email and don’t see the video, it’s here)

Other raw vids featuring Mike cover the topics of seeking advice from other successful owners, rules of thumb regarding funding for your restaurant, and how good service matters perhaps more than good food. His two remaining fully-produced videos cover the importance of having a solid business plan, and how inexperience can be a positive as a restaurant owner. We’ll be popping his vids up all week. Enjoy…


Location as a marketing expense (new video)

Mike Schatzman co-owns Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar in Chicago, and it’s on a corner near a train stop. It’s a great location with lots of natural pedestrian foot traffic, and that has played no small part in the success of his restaurant. Here’s what Mike had to say when we asked him about the importance of having a good location…

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


3 simple ways to create fans out of customers

There are a bunch of ways that companies turn normal customers into loyal fans – fans that talk about those companies to their family, friends and others in their industry – without being asked (or incented) to do so. Depending on the type of company – I think it’s probably much easier for some than others. For example – companies that make or sell a product you eat (like a mouth watering lasagna) or a necessary product for a particular passion or activity (like a pair of light weight comfortable running shoes) – can create fans a lot easier than let’s say – an insurance company. I mean think about an insurance company – you pay them every year and usually get nothing for it. You just keep paying them – hoping that you don’t actually need them. And when you do need them – it’s usually related to something bad – like an accident – or a storm – or a sickness. So fans of insurance companies are hard to find. BUT – there are companies like USAA that sell insurance and still create loyal fans through amazingly helpful service. I know because I am lucky to be one of their customers (thanks to my Dad – who served in the Navy). So no matter what kind of company you are – there is always a way (or 2) to figure out how to stand out and turn regular old customers in fans.

So I thought I’d share 3 simple things we’ve done over the years (that have nothing to do with our actually software or it’s features) to create loyal fans of our business. And our business is a software service that we sell to businesses – which is definitely not as fun to buy as lasagna. So here they are….

1. We really work hard (or is it lack of work?) at being easy to do business with and to make it enjoyable to be a customer. We don’t act like we are “partners” with our customers – making it seem like a business to business relationship – but more like a human to human relationship. I’d honestly rather be friends – than partners. Plus, the customers we focus on don’t have time for partners (which brings some sort of baggage usually – like contracts) – they just need people who are easy and enjoyable to do business with. That’s not as normal as it should be, so it creates fans. Humans want to do business with humans that they like – regardless of what they buying.

2. We try to help the industry we serve (independent restaurants) thrive and grow and get better and compete in a world filled with big corporate chains who have a lot of resources. Our book and video series (about independent restaurant owners) is awesome because it’s showcasing and bringing to light some of the smartest entrepreneurial people in the restaurant industry. People who have great stories to share that can help others. By visiting their restaurants and producing amazing content about their story and even having beers with them after filming to learn about their life and family – we are creating friends and fans.

3. We are personable people (from North Carolina) and we enjoy being nice to others. We do simple things like say “Hey” instead of “Hi” – it’s just warmer seeming. We don’t pretend to be big, we aren’t. We don’t sign emails as if we are a support person assigned to accounts – but rather a friend who is there to help. So we ask them about their business too and some (we know well) about their family and how everything is going in general. It doesn’t take much time to do and it’s interesting to find out how they are doing and it ultimately creates a great relationship and usually another fan.

The funny thing about these 3 things is that not only does it make people feel more comfortable about doing business with us – it also makes the job more fun for us. When you wake up every day knowing you have a chance to interact with someone in a way they are not accustomed to and in a way to maybe turn them into your next fan – it’s really fun!


Pics from our Chicago video shoot…

Our most recent interview for the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series was with Mike Schatzman, co-owner Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar in Chicago. Mike absolutely crushed his interview, and I can’t wait to post his vids. Here’s a few pics from the trip…


P.s. You can find all of our videos on our Twitter feed @ROUvids.

A NJ restaurateur talks about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (new video)

Marilyn Schlossbach of Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park, NJ shares lessons she learned after her restaurants and her community were devastated by Hurricane Sandy…

(If you are reading this post in an email and don’t see the video, it’s here)

Why I admire Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

I recently watched this speech by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. It’s titled “The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” and it’s fantastic. He tells the story about how he went from not respecting business people to running a $500 million dollar per yer business, and it’s clear he hasn’t sacrificed his principles along the way.

But the cool thing to me was that the story is not about a company that grew rapidly and went public and how Chouinard became a multi-billionaire and retired. Rather, he still runs the company and says he’ll never take it public. In fact, I’ll paraphrase my favorite line from the speech: “The traditional path for companies like Patagonia would be to ignore profit and focus on growing revenue as fast as possible for a number of years. Then take the company public, sell your stock to a bunch of suckers, then spend the rest of your life playing golf. I will never do that.”

Rather, Chouinard says he doesn’t care if the company only grows 2-3% per year, but rather he is focused on making a profit and on making sure Patagonia keeps making products people like. He wants people to tell their friends and family about his products, so the company spends next-to-nothing on advertising. He’s also very focused on environmental sustainability issues, and it’s interesting to hear him tell how hard it is to manufacture a product without leaving a big footprint.

This video is an hour long, so it’s a significant investment of your time to watch it. But I can’t put into words how refreshing it is to know that a man who runs a $500 million dollar business doesn’t plan to cash out, keeps growing Patagonia primarily through word of mouth, and even wrote a booked titled “Let My People Go Surfing” (he likes hiring self-starters who don’t need management and wants them to surf when surf’s up so long as they get their work done).

We share a lot of the same philosophies as Yvon, so it’s nice to see how our unconventional beliefs about business don’t have to limit us, but, rather, may very well help us build the great brand we are trying to build. One customer at a time.


Mistakes are good (new vid)

Marilyn Schlossbach of Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park, NJ is a self-taught, hard working business woman. As I talked to her, it quickly became apparent that she is not the type of person to blame failures on others. Rather, she takes responsibility for her mistakes, learns from them, and moves forward. I admire that mindset – it’s clearly a big part of why she has been successful in the tough restaurant business.

(If you are reading this post in email and don’t see the video, it’s here)


It’s silly to assume people need what you are sellling (today)

Once upon a time in 2006-ish, before Schedulefly had a single paying customer and before I had any partners, I lugged my laptop over to the office of a well known restaurant group in Raleigh NC. They owned 6 very popular restaurants and I had been introduced to their CEO via email by a friend who knew him. This friend of mine knew about Schedulefly (because he knew me – not because anyone used it yet) and suggested I go see them. Sales makes my stomach upset and I hate selling and I’d honestly rather get my ass kicked than go bother someone about buying something – but I had to try. I had been to nearly all of their restaurants as a patron and I remember thinking there were an ideal prospect too – lot’s of young staff with busy schedules. It was worth putting a collared shirt on and heading over there just to see.

I met with their HR person and showed her Schedulelfly. She was super nice, seemed to like it, but told me they had a bunch of other wheels that were squeaking louder (that were not related to staff scheduling) and sent me on my way. I was like Tommy Boy selling brake pads and said “Okee Dokey, thank you very much” and hustled out the door. I do remember asking how they managed their staff schedules at that time and she said on paper – or maybe with Excel. In hindsight, Schedulefly was a bit ahead of it’s time. No one was scheduling and communicating with staff online in 2006….and restaurants were not using sites like Twitter and Facebook and Yelp and Groupon etc. etc. etc. They did not exist…except maybe Facebook and it was for college kids not businesses. So here I was trying to show them the software I had created as well as educate them on how powerful the internet is for tools and utilities like Schedulefly. You don’t have to buy hardware anymore. You don’t have to sign contracts and have people onsite to setup stuff and come back when problems arise or upgrades are released. You don’t have to spend much either. No wonder that was a hard sale. That’s not the way they buy stuff. It was not normal. Today, literally everything is done on the internet and “in the cloud” so most of what I was trying to sell her on is not part of the sale anymore. People get it now. They don’t need complication anymore. They do almost everything on the web.

I remember about a year later (after Tyler and I teamed up and we had 50 or so paying restaurants) I tweeted the CEO of that restaurant group (back when I used twitter). I refreshed his memory about us, told him we had added some cool new stuff since his HR leader last saw it and asked if they wanted to give it another look. He said and I quote “We are all set on our scheduling systems”. I never contacted him again.

Well sometime in 2010 (4 years later) they signed up one of their restaurants and started paying. Soon the rest came on. As I sat in my kitchen (which has also served as my office for the last 6 years) and watched them hand over their credit card to start their subscriptions I thought….man, timing is literally everything and from now on, we really just need to be here for restaurants when they are ready and when the time is right for them. We need to be an option for them when scheduling becomes a pain or when a staff member mentions us and they have time to turn their attention to trying us. We don’t need to push it on people who are not ready – and may never be. Who are we to assume a restaurant even needs what we provide – now or in the future? No matter how perfect they may seem – we can’t. It’s silly to.


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