Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: January 2015

The perfect customer

A few weeks ago I was driving through downtown Raleigh and passed our first customer – a restaurant that still uses Schedulefly almost 8 years later. That’s a long time to be a subscription customer! Heck – that’s a long time to be a customer of any company or product. I am so grateful for their loyalty, continued business and everything they’ve done for us since they became a customer. We’ve grown so much in Raleigh since then – thanks to them and each customer after them.

I felt so proud as I drove around downtown that day because I passed dozens of customers – all of them PERFECT customers too. Just PERFECT! You see when I first started writing the code for Schedulefly – I had a perfect customer in mind…..and now many of them are using Schedulefly. The ones where people want to work. The ones with management that employees and customers love and admire. The ones that get great reviews and great press for being unique and for being awesome day after day. The ones that are admired by other restaurants and are influential in our industry. Basically – it’s the ones run by sharp people who know how to create a brand that people love and a business that lasts.

The coolest part about having these perfect places using our software is that we did not sell it to them. They chose us – from a growing list of options. We did not call them or email them or place ads where we thought they might see them. They found out about us from word of mouth – 100% of them. They heard good things – or looked at our website and thought – these guys look like people we’d like to do business with. Let’s try it.

Had we gone another path with our business over the years (of which there are many) – we could easily have many more customers than we do now. Had we decided to that we were here for any business that needs scheduling software – or that we are here for all restaurants of any shape, size and style – we would likely have more revenue and more awareness and a bigger business. But I know, in trade for all that added business, we would have less of many things that make this business so great and one of the most important things we’d have less of would be…the perfect customer.

Keep focused, stay on point, ignore everyone who doesn’t matter and just be enjoyable to do business with!

The water doesn’t go on the petals

“But Daddy, the flowers aren’t under the soil!”

My son was watering some flowers recently, and he was watering the buds and the leaves. I told him to poor the water onto the soil around the stem. That made no sense to him, so I tried to explain. But he’s five. And it still made sense to put the water on the petals. So that’s what he did. And then when he got bored and moved on, I watered the soil.

Isn’t business often similar? We focus on the pretty extremities – our logo, our social media presence, our PR coverage, our web site look and feel, our “branding” – and forget that what sustains the business and helps it endure is often “underground,” unseen. It’s easy to get distracted with the colorful petals, but they will shrivel and die if the roots aren’t watered.

The care we give to consistently providing a great product and enhancing it with great service to each customer we interact with, taking great care of the people on our team, making sure we have a handle on the financial side of the business, etc. These our the “roots” of any successful business, and we should give them daily attention to ensure they help the business blossom.


Can you endure?

I just finished a book about startups called “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel. Peter co-founded PayPal and was the first outside investor in Facebook. He’s a sharp guy and I recommend his book if you are into books about startups.

My favorite two sentences in the book, and perhaps my favorite two sentences I’ve ever red about startups, are “For a company to be valuable it must grow and endure, but many entrepreneurs focus only on short-term growth. They have an easy excuse: growth is easy to measure, but durability isn’t.”

I couldn’t agree more. I love this idea, and while I agree that growth is measurable and durability isn’t, I don’t think that’s why most startups focus on growth. I think most startups focus on growth because that’s what you are supposed to focus on. It’s what everybody asks… “How fast are you growing?” It’s the commonly accepted measuring stick for success.

But it’s often the brightest flames that burn out the fastest. Companies obsessing over growth may grow fast for a while but often forget the fundamentals. Great customer service. Easy to do business with. Happy staff who are treated well. Making each customer experience memorable. These are some of the “basics” that often are left on the side of the road as we speed ahead with a singular focus on growth. At first we don’t realize we’ve left them behind, but eventually our growth begins to stall, and we wonder why. And we then look around and realize that we’ve forgotten all of those things that were obvious at first but were gradually lost in our obsession with doubling last year’s sales, or whatever measurable calculus we’ve decided to use to determine if we are successful.

In Nov. 2012 I wrote a post titled “The tortoise, the hare, and why I’m glad we’ve grown (relatively) slowly.” I had forgotten about it until I wrote the previous paragraph. I just looked it up so I could link to it, and realized it was a very similar post. Here’s a comment I made in it:

“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.” Like I said, it’s often the brightest flames that burn out that fastest. I don’t mean to pick on Groupon, but their story fits with the flame metaphor. We all know many more examples. I can think of another hugely popular current example that you’ve probably all heard of, but I hear their CEO goes after people who use their company name in anything but a positive light, so I’ll leave them un-named. They’ve grown amazingly fast and everybody I know talks about them. I’d be amazed if that’s the case three years from now.

Anyway, when you start your software business or your restaurant or whatever business you decide to start, think about this idea. Think about whether what you’re doing, and the team you plan to do it with, will be able to endure for 10, 20, 30 years. Don’t worry about how fast you are growing as much as that you are nailing the fundamentals and the basics every single day, every week, every year. If you do, you’ll endure. And if you endure, you’ll grow at the right pace.


What it takes to be a successful restaurateur (re-post from 2012)

I was going through some of the videos we’ve shot over the last few years, and I was reminded how much I love this short, inspiring video. I just had to re-post it.


December, 2012

I bet I’ve watched this video twenty times. Jake Wolf of Capital Club 16 in Raleigh, N.C. gets into a riff on what it takes to be a successful restaurant owner, and it’s pure poetry…

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

If you love this video as much as we do, please share it with people who own or hope to own restaurants, or people who manage or work in restaurants, or, heck, anybody who might appreciate great business advice from an awesome guy like Jake.

You can drop it into Facebook or Tweet it or email it with this link here:

Thanks so much for watching these vids. We’ll keep ’em coming in 2013.


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