Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: December 2015

Embracing the truth

When I first started with Schedulefly we didn’t want to seem small. We tried to look bigger than we were, which was a team of three guys. We had business cards. We had titles. We had a phone system that said “dial 1 for sales and 2 for customer support,” but the phone rang to Tyler no matter what you clicked. We went to the NRA show and had a booth that indicated “tens of thousands” of people used Schedulefly. That was true, but only because we had like 22,000 thousand end users or something along those lines – I think we had like 300-400 paying customers.

Yesterday I was reminded of this when a customer called to ask a question, and when I finished helping her she said, “By the way I LOVE your story. I read it on your web site. I can’t believe there are just five of you. That’s so awesome!” You see, years ago we decided to be very open about being a small team. Rather than hiding from it, we embraced it, and it’s made a big difference. Since we put our story on our site, tons of people have shared the afore-mentioned customer’s sentiments.

It seems so silly to pretend to be something you aren’t, but it happens to many startup businesses, and it’s done out of fear. We knew we wanted to focus primarily on restaurants, but we absolutely thought we could serve chains. Wes and I even flew to L.A. to meet with the CTO of a large chain that I’m now thankful took a pass on us, though at the time it was a blow to us. But we kept after it, and I spent tons of hours trying to get more of those types of meetings. And we kept trying to seem bigger than we were. Heck, I wouldn’t do a sales call when my kids were around because I didn’t want some exec at a chain to hear them and catch on. I wanted people to assume I was in some nice office with the rest of our many people on our large team.

Thankfully we realized that trying to be something we weren’t was not worth it. We came to that conclusion even before we decided we didn’t want to serve chains. We cared about being honest, being authentic, no matter the impact on the business. If it meant chains thought we were too small, so be it.

And of course it turned out that the audience we knew in our hearts we were meant to and wanted to serve were independent restaurants, and they didn’t care if we were big. They cared if we had a simple software that worked and made their lives easier. And as many of them have told us, they love knowing we are small. They love our story. They love that we are doing this with five guys, not 500. I guess maybe we remind them of themselves.

Today, we don’t have business cards. We don’t have titles. We are Charles, Hank, Wes, Tyler and me. We work out of our houses whether our kids are there or not, coffee shops, and wherever we can find a good environment with WIFI. When you call there is no “sales” or “customer support” line. We tell you to the nearest hundred how many paying customers we have (5,645 right now). And we are happy knowing we are fully, 100% transparent and clear about who we are and what we are here to do.

Ultimately, embracing the truth not only made us feel like we were doing the right thing for ourselves, it endeared us to the very people we were focused on serving. It didn’t hurt our business one bit. It helped it immensely.


Nice to have is the goal

The first time I ever heard the phrase “Need to have versus nice to have” was at the company I worked with before starting Schedulefly. We sold a software product that sales people used to help prepare themselves for sales calls – kind of like cliff notes – to quickly get up to speed on industries they were calling on. It was an awesome product and company. I recall hearing (pretty often) that many felt the product was a nice to have and not a need to have – so it was tough to sell. And that makes sense – it’s hard to sell something that people don’t need. So it seemed the question was always – how could that product be turned into a need to have? Something that sales people could not live without? Who knows. Honestly I think that would have ruined what made that company and that product special and as far as I could tell – they never figured that out – but were still a huge success with very happy customers and a wonderful business. Being a nice to have was (if you ask me) part of what made them unique and special and a pleasure for sales people to use. So my point of this post is this…

I want Schedulefly to always be a nice to have.

It’s not something that any restaurant should ever need. I want them to want it, not need it.

Wait, what?! Why? Because, in my mind, the things that a businesses needs are (usually) not stuff that they talk about and admire. Usually need to haves are not all that unique or special. Everyone needs them so many many companies make them and often the only real difference is the price. Think about it. When a business gets started – it picks up the things it needs – and likely the brand is not even that important. “Yeah, we need those, grab whichever ones are cheapest. It doesn’t matter which ones”. Think about that. Who wants to sell a product that was purchased and it didn’t matter why it was different than the next one? Who wants to be a product where brand (and even a story) is not very important? Not me. And this is precisely the reason why over the years I’ve ignored requests to have our software integrated in with larger (need to have) systems and requests for our software to be white labeled and re-branded by other business who want to sell it. It would dilute our brand and I’m sure be sold by people looking to market it as a need to have.

So it’s awesome to be able to offer something that people hand picked to own and use – even if they didn’t need it. A product that helps them – but also makes them feel good about being a customer – because they chose it. A product made by a company with a brand that the customer likes and cares about. A brand that they even associate themselves with and talk about. So much that they sometimes even wear items with the brand name on them – without being incentivized to do so.

Nice to haves are special. Nice to haves are what people have an emotional attachment to. Nice to haves are what businesses often purchase to make life better for their staff and for their customers. They are important things that of course they could do without, but they just don’t want to.

If I thought my team would let me, I would change our tagline on our home page to say one thing at the top….

“You don’t need Schedulefly, but we think you’re going to like it”.


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