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.