Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: June 2017

ROU Revisited – Dave Query

We started our Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series five years ago. We’ve interviewed a bunch of successful, awesome owners and made some inspiring videos full of timeless wisdom. Every now and then I go back and re-watch some of them, and I never fail to nod along with what these folks are saying and thinking about how grateful we are to serve people who we admire so much.

I’m going to start re-posting some of these vids. They just never get old.

Wil

https://player.vimeo.com/video/38889271?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0

We’re so proud to serve all of you

Wes and I talk so often about how proud we are to serve the kinds of restaurants we serve, so I decided to just write a post letting you know that. No need to wait until the holidays. June works just fine.

You decided at some point that scheduling and communication in your restaurant was a problem, and you tried Schedulefly to see if it made the problem go away. It did, so you became a customer. 99% of you renew every month because what we offer works well for you and your team. You clearly like straightforward, reliable software that does it’s job and gets out of your way, and friendly, fast, authentic support when you need it. We’ve never changed our philosophy on what our product should (and shouldn’t) do, or on how we should treat the people who’ve paid their hard-earned money to use it. And we never will change.

Thank you, sincerely, from all five of us to the nearly 7,000 of you and your 250,000+ staff members. Y’all are awesome, and we are super-stoked and proud to be a small part of what makes your business great!
Wil
Clockwise from left – Wes, Hank, Wil, Charles and Tyler

How to get (and keep) a restaurant job

“Wil, I’m desperate to find people willing to work hard.”

“Labor is at Defcon 4 right now. I can’t find anybody who is willing to work hard.”

“These days nobody wants to earn their stripes.”

These are the things restaurant owners have been telling me lately. I’ve offered just a few quotes, but I’ve heard the same bit dozens of times from restaurant owners I admire and would love my kids to work for one day. I recently wrote about why I want them all to work for independent restaurants when they are old enough. Here’s what I plan to tell them when they have the opportunity, to give them the best chance to both get a job and to thrive once they do…

“Let me start with my own entitled and lazy story. When I graduated college in 1996 I felt entitled. Entitled to a job. Entitled to a significant paycheck. Entitled to early promotions. I felt like I had paid my dues by working hard in high school to get into a good college and then by working hard in college to get a good job. I got a job at a bank and I was self-centered and focused on what I wanted and what I needed. It was all about me. I honestly didn’t really want to put in the hard work and have the selfless attitude it takes to earn my success. I expected it to come much easier. As an only child I had been told for 20 years that I was special, that I deserved to be a success, etc. That stuff got into my head, and I expected to see it come to fruition.

But the real world offered a harsh rebuke.

I quickly learned on the job that all that mattered was whether I was willing to put in the effort to help my team achieve it’s goals. It wasn’t about me. It was about something more important. It was about whether I realized that my personal success was not the focus, but would instead by the byproduct of helping my team succeed.

That minor change in perspective made all of the difference. Just take the focus off of me and put it on the bigger picture, and all of the things I wanted would come true. Better pay. Promotions. You name it. It all happened when I stopped focusing on it happening. The change didn’t happen overnight. It took time. But I finally came to realize the key to success in almost any endeavor: To get what I wanted I needed to stop focusing on what I wanted, on start focusing on something bigger than my individual needs.

Now that your dad has exposed himself as a self-centered, entitled dude when I rolled up on the set in the workforce, hopefully this won’t sound like a lecture, but more of a bit of wisdom that can help you avoid my mistakes and get and keep a job and grow in that job at an independent restaurant.

Let’s start with getting a job. Before you apply, learn as much as you can about the restaurant. Read the About Us page on their web site. Google the owner’s name and read any articles that have featured her or him. Talk to anybody you know who works there or has worked there. Try to get a sense of what the owner is all about. Why is the restaurant there? What is the culture like? How many other restaurants does the owner own? Have they been expanding in recent years? Contracting?

Also, check social media. If they have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. see what they post about, what people are saying about them, and how they interact with their followers. Also check Yelp and other review sites. When people leave positive/negative reviews, does the owner respond? How does he or she handle negative reviews?

Make as many notes as you can about these things, and you’ll get a sense of whether it’s a place where you want to be, and whether you will have opportunities to thrive in a positive, team-oriented environment. If you don’t do some upfront research, you are rolling the dice. You might get a job, but soon learn it’s toxic culture with a controlling owner who leads by intimidation and not my example. Why take that risk? Your time is too valuable. Do the research.

Now, if you like what you’ve learned about the place and think you’d like to work there, you’ll start to get a sense of how you can add value. Ask yourself, “What can I do to help this business prosper?” “Do I have any ideas to bring to the table from the get-go?” “What clues has the owner left in interviews and other places that let me know what things are important to her of him, and how can I highlight that during my interview?” Then make it clear during your interview that you’ve done your research, let the interviewer know what you’ve learned, what you like about the business, how you can help their immediate needs, and how you can help them make the business even better. Be prepared. Now go win the person over.

Ok, so let’s say you do all of this and you get the job. Now it’s time to focus 100% outward, not inward. From your first day on the job, listen carefully, stay focused on what you’ve been asked to do, leave your phone in your car or back in the office, bust your ass, and get busy with proving that you are what you said you’d be. Reliable. Hard-working. Committed. Looking for ways to exceed expectations. Focused on making the customer experience awesome with every chance you get and on helping the business thrive, not on when you can use your phone or when you will get a raise or on working only the shifts that suit you best. Follow these tips, and it will get noticed, it will be appreciated, and you will put yourself on a glide path to success within that restaurant.

Here’s the deal, kids. Restaurant owners are looking for this stuff. Many of them are literally desperate for it. So if you want a restaurant job and you want to make good money and be a part of a happy, successful team, and enjoy what you do, and have success, the opportunity is WIDE OPEN. If you take the approach I’ve laid out and you will get the job you want, you will find yourself up for quick promotions, you’ll make good money, you’ll enjoy what you do, and many, many more doors will keep opening for you. Guaranteed.”

Wil

Owner Van Nolintha (bottom right) and the hard working, selfless team at Bida Manda in Raleigh, NC.

                       

People often laugh when I thank them

Most days, I answer our phone calls. Most of the time those calls are from customers who either need to update their credit card or have a quick question about our software or about adding a new restaurant location they plan to open to their account with us.

Every time I’ve finished handling whatever the person needs, I say “Hey, __(name)___, I just want to thank you for your business. We’re really do appreciate it and we’re stoked to serve y’all.” Or something along those lines. I say it very authentically because I absolutely mean it. We are very, very thankful for every one of the thousands of customers who pay their hard-earned money each month to use our software. We are thankful to be a small part of how they run their business, and we are genuinely proud to serve them.

It amazes me how many people literally stop and sort of chuckle when I thank them, a sign to me that they are surprised to hear me say that. They then often reply with “Absolutely, Wil, we love Schedulefly!” But the point is they are taken aback and surprised for a genuine “thank you,” and that’s both encouraging and discouraging.

It’s discouraging because it’s proof to me that the bar is so low these days that people don’t expect to be thanked, certainly not in a sincere way. They expect somebody working off of a script who doesn’t enjoy their job and who is trying to get them off of the phone as quickly as possible. Isn’t that what we almost always get when we call a business? You get so used to it that it doesn’t really even bother you. It’s just how it is these days.

But it’s also encouraging because it proves that if you do appreciate your customer’s business and take the time to tell them, it will be such a shock they may even laugh a little before they respond. That’s your sign that whether they say it or not, you just gave them something they will most likely not experience from any other business they call that day: a sense of feeling genuinely valued as a customer.

Give it a try. Stop and thank them. Slowly. Sincerely. You’ll be surprised by how surprised, and happy, your customer will be.

Wil

Why I want all of my kids to work for independent restaurants

My kids are 13, 10, and 7. Here’s what I plan to tell each of them when they are old enough to work…

“Pick one of your favorite independent restaurants and apply for a job. When you work for an independent restaurant, you work for a business that was once an idea by a member of your community. It was a dream to create a place that you and your neighbors would visit to congregate, socialize, and dine. A place that was unique, that offered something your community was lacking. A place that you would want to return many times per year for many years. A business that would create jobs for members of your community, that would make donations to your community, and where the dollars spent would be invested back into your community.

Now that dream has become a reality, and that restaurant means everything to to the owner. It’s his “baby,” and he is looking for people who will help them nurture it and make it even better than it already is. There’s a giant amount of financial and emotional and physical commitment being made by her and therefore she will be looking for hard-working, empathetic people to help her restaurant live up to the dream she had when she first opened her doors. She’ll only settle for people who care about the customers and care about teammates, and who are willing to give both of those groups everything they’ve got. The owner won’t care where you went to school or what degree you have, or what color your skin is or where you were born. All that will matter is if you are willing to pour yourself into your job in a meaningful way that makes the business better (There aren’t may types of jobs where all of that is true.)

You’ll work hard, and you’ll often be completely exhausted after your shift. You’ll learn a ton about yourself and how well you are able to navigate dealing with what at times will be highly intense, stressful situations. You’ll learn how to deal with pissed off customers and pissed off fellow staffers and people who are irrational and people who aren’t pulling their weight and people who think they know more than they do and people who like to boss you around. These are great skills to learn because you’ll use them for the rest of your life. But you’ll also have the opportunity to be a part of many special instances, like birthdays and anniversaries and marriage proposals and happy, meaningful occasions for the people celebrating them – occasions you can help make very special and memorable for your customers, and trust me you’ll remember those events as well. And you’ll work with lots of fun, unique people, passionate people who will work hard and enjoy those moments right along with you, and who will have your back during tough shifts and hard times, just as you will have theirs when they need you. You’ll spend time with many of them outside of of work, and make many new friends. You’ll laugh together, you’ll struggle together, and you’ll form a lasting bond with many of them that will carry on long after you’ve moved on to other things.

You’ll learn all of this at any type of restaurant, but it’s different being at an independent restaurant because you will be able to interact with the owner, a person who once had an idea and went through long, hard process of turning that idea into a reality, and who cherishes the business more than you can imagine until you’ve started your own business. You can learn a TON from anybody who has done that. And if you show up to every shift with your focus not on yourself but on how you can help your teammates and serve your customers, you’ll find that each day gets a little easier and you’ll get a little better at what you do. The longer you are there and the more questions you ask and the more initiative you show, the more that owner will want to keep you on the team. And many independent owners will want to keep expanding their business, whether it’s by opening more locations of their current concept or launching new concepts. If you’ve given that owner everything you’ve got and you’ve shown you care about his or her business, you’ll have a chance to be a part of that growth. You’ll get to learn what it takes to start from an idea and go through the entire process of turning that idea into a reality. You’ll have a chance to learn new skills, be creative, and have a hand in building something. That’s very rewarding, and very educational.

After a while, you may decide you love being a part of a thriving, growing, successful business, and decide to stick around. Or maybe you’ll eventually decide you want to leverage what you’ve learned to start your own restaurant. If you do, you can bet your owner will support you even while hating to see you go, and he or she will be your first customer on opening night. Or, maybe you’ll decide that the restaurant business isn’t for you and you want to pursue another career. If you do, I guarantee you’ll always look back to your experience working for an independent restaurant and say that’s where you learned many of the most important lessons you know about life and business.”

I’ll say these things from the heart because it’s absolutely how I feel. I can’t wait to have the conversation with my 13-year old in a few years.

Wil

We run a basic business. Some might call it boring.

When you read about startups and fast growth software businesses, you always read about cool, young, hip groups of people with open-space offices that have exposed HVAC ducts and ping pong tables and bocci ball and on-site yoga instructors and tattoo artists and in-house cafes with organic pasture raised free range free lunches and programmers with red beards and red pet parrots on their shoulders and bean bags and white boards all over the place because the brilliant ideas are flowing so fast and freely that you can barely contain them and a CEO who meditates on his/er stand-up desk and whose blog posts are featured in TechCrunch and Medium and there are no walls or cubes but rather a “highly collaborative” environment where all of these amazing people plan to change the world!

And then there’s Schedulefly.

Five dudes in their 40’s who live in different cities, don’t have meetings (we had one, four years ago, over lunch for a couple of hours – the pic of the event is here), or even conference calls (we’ve literally never had one), and we each just do our own thing every day, knowing that we all have 100% trust in each other to do what needs to be done, and we communicate with each other individually as needed. And what needs to be done is getting the basics right – every single time. The software should be easy to use and always work and solve the common problem of restaurant staff scheduling and communication being a pain. The web site should be fast. People who email us should get a quick, helpful response. People who call should get a live person or a very quick return call and have a real, authentic conversation with somebody who genuinely cares about them and wants to help and who will happily spend as much time as needed with them to do that. Free trials should be set up quickly. Bills paid on time. And we should spend time and money highlighting some of the many, many, many thousands of talented, inspiring people we are so fortunate to serve with our books, podcast, and video series.

That’s really all there is to it. Honestly I think a lot of people would get bored with this business because we truly aren’t trying to change the world and we don’t have or do all of those things that inspire Inc Magazine cover articles. We’re just keeping our heads down, our blinders on, and staying focused on those basics, while having balance in our lives so that we can keep doing this forever without getting burned out. It might be boring, but we couldn’t imagine doing it another way.

Wil

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