Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: November 2013

Riverside Market is one of the most unique restaurants I’ve ever stepped foot into

Last week we filmed for our video series at Riverside Market & Cafe in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I’ll never forget the experience.

Rather than following conventional wisdom, first-time restaurant owners Julian and Lisa Siegel have trusted their instincts all along. And contrary to what any restaurant veteran or consultant may have predicted, they have turned their market/cafe into a wildly successful operation. A hard to find, out of the way location in a tough part of town. A honor system for grabbing a cold one from their selection of 550 types of bottled beer. Couches and recliners form a lounge area smack in the middle of the restaurant and consume a large swath of the usable floor space. No marketing or advertising. Not a single TV in the place. The list of things that “shouldn’t work” but do goes on and on.

Yet Riverside has as much business than they can handle, a genuinely happy, closely knit staff, and is a word-of-mouth phenomena that manages to make everybody who walks in instantly feel at home, from billionaire business men, to tatted-out skateboarders, to city council members, to local life guard captains, to attorneys, to stay-at-home moms, to a couple of guys from N.C. who came to shoot some videos.

As Lisa told me while I marveled at what they’ve accomplished by doing things their way and ignoring any “formulas” for success, she said, “All of our restaurant friends tell us the things we should change, but those are the things that make Riverside special! We won’t be world famous by following convention. We’ll be world famous by being different from the rest.”

Amen! I just can’t properly put into words how special and inspiring this place is, but fortunately we’ll soon have some videos so you can see for yourself.

Wil

Daikaya owners didn’t create a concept, they built their dream restaurant

Sometimes in sports the most amazing, awe-inspiring feats are captured best when the announcers stop talking and let the moments speak for themselves. I’d say the same goes for posting amazing videos to a blog.

(pausing to let you soak that in…..)

(still pausing)

(almost there…….)

Thanks for watching. The next video will be up soon. Luke Pearson from Lift Films is (clearly) brilliant at what he does.

Take care,
The Schedulefly Crew
(Wes, Tyler, Wil, Charles & Hank)

Why no advertising? Why no selling?

We frequently get asked why we don’t try more advertising (or traditional marketing) to spread the word about our software. We get curious looks by friends, family (and other people who hear about our business) when they hear we don’t go out and sell it. We don’t call anyone or meet with anyone or pitch it to anyone. They wonder, in cities like NYC, why we don’t have people walking the streets and hitting every restaurant on every corner and pitching Schedulefly. Well, for one, we are selling a $30-ish a month subscription and it just doesn’t make sense economically, but way more importantly – that’s just plain annoying. We are working harder than ever to make sure our brand is seen positively in our industry. It’s the most important thing we will ever do – more important than any amount of money we will ever make. One day when my kids start asking me about Schedulefly and the business I had a part in building- do you think they will care about how much money it made? Do you think they will be proud that we hired a bunch of people and became a “big” business? No, I know they won’t. They will (hopefully) be proud that we built a company that people love and they hear good things about it at school because their buddies use it at the restaurants where they work. Heck, maybe they will even use it one day and be proud that their Dad wrote the software. That’s what important, to me anyway.

But the problem is, that’s something I can’t easily articulate to someone who is asking why we don’t advertise? Why not more marketing and selling? When I do try and explain – it’s almost as if they are not listening until they hear something that makes sense to them. So here is what I usually say rather quickly:

Dude, listen. Every month we bring on hundreds of new customers. And at each one – there are 30 to 40 to 50 employees who nearly all log into Schedulefly every week – many every day. That’s roughly 4,000 new people who now know about our brand and use our software every month – and in every state in the country – cities big and small. And since we try and make their lives easier and keep it simple for them (all of them, not just managers) – many of them talk about us. They work at other restaurants that don’t use us and tell them about us – in casual conversation. They hang out with other restaurant wait staff and bartenders and managers and owners and use our name when speaking. They check their schedule on their phone when they are sitting at some other bar having a drink and it starts a conversation. And so on. Boat loads of similar examples. So really, every month, we bring on 4,000 people who might have something cool to say after they login and start using it. And we don’t manufacture their nice recommendations by offering to pay them (which is usually what the person wonders about – it seems like a no brainer). We don’t have some referral plan simply because it would not be genuine. We are not trying to pay to have “ambassadors”. We would rather take our chances and see if they become one on their own. Their recommendations then, are not tied to some gain. They are real. How could we do any better that that?

At about that point, I usually hear a “I got it”. Now maybe they realize how stubborn I am at this point and want to just move to others topics or maybe they actually do now “get it”. Maybe they now see that marketing and advertising and talking about ourselves and paying people to talk about us just doesn’t make any sense.

Wes

* side note, we have tried many things in the past and have evolved over the years to believe what we do now.

Three things a rock star reminded me about how to create rabid fans for your business

Ben Bridwell and me

Monday night I was fortunate to have the opportunity to watch Ben Bridwell play a solo show to no more than 75 people at a small bar here in Charlotte, N.C. Ben is the lead singer of Band of Horses, and he’s currently doing a short tour on his own. Not only was the show a great experience, but I also was reminded of a few things by Ben that apply to any business, including Schedulefly and all of the restaurants we serve.

Be willing to go the extra mile for your audience
Ben walked out onto the stage on Monday and said, “I lost my voice and had to cancel yesterday’s show in Chapel Hill. I hated having to do that, and I refused to cancel another. I’m not gonna sound great but I’m gonna power through for y’all. If I suck you can ask for your money back (laughing).” Ben has a very unique, strong voice and it adds a very memorable touch to his band’s songs. Everybody wanted to hear it on Monday night, but given that we weren’t going to be able to, we all admired him making the effort to play on. He clearly cared about the people who wanted to see his show and had to work really hard to pull it off, and the people there watching that night all gained a lot of respect for him because of it. By the way, he also re-scheduled the show that had been cancelled for Tuesday night, and drove back to Chapel Hill the following day to perform it. He was clearly really upset about having had to cancel it, and rather then offer empty promises of “I’ll re-schedule soon” he literally turned around and drove back the very next day. You can bet the people in Chapel Hill were as impressed with his effort as we were here in Charlotte.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Ben made fun of his voice (“Y’all get to here the 95-year old version of me singing tonight”). He made jokes about himself (“This is the dumbest song I’ve ever written”), and, when he was telling a story and there were some people talking loudly in the back of the room and an audience member made a loud “Shhhhhhh!!!!!” to attempt to quiet them, he looked at the offenders and said, “Nah man, I’m just rambling about stuff, y’all go right on with what you’re doing back there. It’s all good. Let’s just keep this fun.”

Now here’s a rock star who has every right to have a bit of an ego and take himself very seriously, perhaps get pissed that some people would have the nerve to be loud while he was telling a story, yet he was as laid back about it as a guy who was on the stage for his first time ever. He’s got humongous talent, but he’s self-deprecating and doesn’t take himself too seriously. A good balance and a good way to break down barriers with your audience.

Remember people’s names
My four-year old son loves one of Band of Horses’ songs, so I bought a poster from the show that I planned to hang in his bedroom. As I walked to my car when the evening was done, Ben was standing in the street with some of his crew. I was surprised to see him a few feet from me and figured, “Why not thank this guy for a great show?” I approached him and he turned his attention directly on me. We shook hands and he asked my name. After telling him, I asked if he’d sign the poster for my son. Over the course of a couple of minutes, Ben said my name several times. “Wil, I’m happy to sign this for your little guy.” “Wil, I appreciate you being here tonight.” And so on. Then, after I stepped aside and was talking to my friend, Ben walked over and said, “Wil, could I borrow your pen for a minute?” and then “Here’s your pen back, Wil.”

This guy had no business caring about what my name is. He knows he’ll almost definitely never meet me in person again. But I believe Ben either has a gift for remembering names, or he simply understands what occurs when you meet somebody the first time and start using their name as you speak to them. They notice. Especially if you are a damn famous rock star! Think about it though. When somebody you’ve just met starts using your name as you talk, you tend to like the person a little more than if he seemed like he forgot your name instantly. When you remember people’s names, you validate them. You make them feel important, even if for just a brief moment. It’s a powerful skill, and one that leaves an impression.

Ben is used to playing in front of thousands (or tens of thousands) of people. On this brief tour his audiences will perhaps average around 100 people. So let’s say he plays in front of a total of 1,000 people in the next couple of weeks. He could easily convince himself not to make the extra effort to play when he doesn’t feel well wasn’t worth it. Or he could let his ego get in the way an expect his small audiences to hang on his every word. Or he could forget the name of every person he meets.

But Ben understands the importance of doing these things because he genuinely cares about his fans, and he probably understands that the 1,000 people he plays for on this tour will go from being fans to being rabid fans. Fans who will no doubt spread the word. Look, I doubt anybody else from the audience but me wrote a nine-paragraph blog post about what we witnessed, but I’d be willing to bet that all 75 of us went home that night planning to tell people about how absolutely impressed we were with Ben and the experience he created for us.

We rely mostly on word-of-mouth to grow Schedulefly, so I hope we can always do these three things with the small number of people we interact with every day. We don’t want their brief period of communicating with us to be just ok. Or average. Or similar to the what happens with every other business they interact with.

No, we want to create a small number of rabid fans every single day.

Wil

Daisuke Utagawa on the value of partnerships

Here’s some quick raw footage of Daisuke Utagawa of Daikaya in D.C. talking about why he is proud of his partnership with his co-owners…

More from Daisuke and the guys at Daikaya coming soon.

Katsuya Fukushima on cooking with happiness (new video)

Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya in Washington, D.C. shares his thoughts on cooking with happiness…

Here are his comments from the video…

“I always tell my cooks, ‘You have to be in a good place. You have to be happy and positive, because if you’re not it’s going to relay into the food. A happy cook makes happy food, and when people eat that food it’s just going to make them happy.’

A good example is that movie, ‘Like Water for Chocolate,’ where the girl is crying while she’s making this mole, and people started crying when they ate it because that’s the emotion she felt when she was cooking it. That’s a great example.

You have to have a positive approach to cooking and you have to love what you’re doing. It’s a hard business, but if you put that kind of energy into a plate, how can someone not appreciate what you’ve done when you eat it?”

Katsuya is an extremely talented chef who has laid back demeanor and who oozes humility. I’ve got tons of respect for that guy and I’m glad I had the opportunity to interview him.

Two more videos from Daikaya coming soon. Can’t wait to post them. These guys are really sharp owners and had lots of inspiring and educational things to share…

Wil

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