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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"I run my restaurant like I would run Apple" (new podcast)

Bret Oliverio took over Sup Dogs in Greenville, NC in 2011 after his brother, who started the restaurant, tragically passed away in a house fire. Bret had no restaurant experience and had to learn everything from how to tap a keg, how to manage his staff, how to implement portion controls, how to generate consistent profits, how to ... well, how to do EVERYTHING it takes to run a successful restaurant. Four years later, SUP Dogs is doing extremely well, and opened it's second location two hours away in Chapel Hill, NC nine months ago. Bret shares his story and the lessons he's learned along the way, as well as discusses how he only has four years of experience and still has a lot to learn. This is an absolutely fantastic interview with a guy who has overcome a lot of hurdles. Bret is a hard-working, sharp guy who expects a lot of himself, but has no ego about his success. Enjoy...

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Memories of a trade show

I came across an old photo of Wil this am. He was in was our trade show booth 5 years ago at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. It was our first and last time exhibiting (and attending) at that show - or any trade show. I texted him the photo and we started laughing about all the funny things that happened during those long 4 days. The memories came back. Memories like....

1. We were so out of place there. And it wasn’t just because our booth was at the far end of the gigantic McCormick Place, back near the bathrooms and employee lunch room. It was because being an internet based software company at a Restaurant trade show is (in my mind) an archaic, tired, expensive, frustrating, desperate way to try and create awareness. It’s like something from the 70’s. I’m actually embarrassed now that we thought it was a good idea to try it.

2. Since we were grouped near competition, everyone at the other technology companies had game faces on. No one was nice - but maybe that’s just because I am from the south where people are nice. As a new comer to our industry, no one said hello. One guy, who Wil has written about, even posted himself next to our booth and encouraged people who might actually ask us about our software to check out the bigger, funded competitor, with more features. That guy was awful - in every way.

3. Attendees would walk by our booth (and everyone else’s) with their guard up. They looked like they were worried I might kick them in the shins if they got too close to our booth. The ones who did actually make it to us without being intercepted by the terrible guy I mentioned in #1 - usually asked about stuff we did not do (with a mini-scowl on their face) and then walked over to the Nathan’s booth to get a free hot dog.

4. I realized that most of the people attending the show were being paid to be there and really had limited interest in learning about the companies exhibiting. They loved Chick-fil-A handouts and the beer section - but half raised their fists like Fred Sanford used to do when walking by our booth. Maybe it’s because most of the companies were desperately trying to get their attention with contests and free mountain bike giveaways and were clawing and scratching for attention. It’s like walking the gauntlet. Heck, I’d be ready to fight off companies too I guess.

5. I remember flying home while poor Wil stayed and cleaned up our booth with a stomach bug he got on the last day. I didn’t know about the bug until he got back. I actually don’t recall why I left earlier than him - but I still feel bad for it. But I remember longing to be home with my family and thinking how lucky I was that I was an owner in this business and could recommend we never ever do that again. We all agreed.

I should add that, of course we know, trade shows are right from some companies and are how many companies show off their latest and greatest stuff to big time prospects. But for us, a small software company that sells a simple software service over the internet, it was a tad overkill and a very unoriginal way for us to try and create awareness.

After that show I felt the same way I did that one time when Will and I flew to Los Angeles to “demo” Schedulefly to a big corporate restaurant chain. I thought it was a classic example of applying old school techniques to a new school business. Buying a plane ticket, pressing my blue suit from my wedding, and spending tons of time getting big time VP’s and CTO’s schedules together and tons of money on hotel rooms and meals - so I could show someone, in person, a demo of our web based software. I was like, “Ok, thank you for having us here. Now, what’s the wireless password in this conference room so I can go to our website and show this to you?”. Seriously. By the way, the meeting lasted an hour and we were too simple for them. Hilarious. Hollywood was cool though.

Anyway, crazy enough, this morning Wil and I agreed that these trips were still worth it. They were worth it mainly for helping us figure out who we wanted to serve, but also for the laughs. The laughs are the best.

Wes

p.s We’ve written before about this, and they are funny. Check them out if your bored.

Star Wars and why we don’t partner with anybody
Why we don’t exhibit at Trade Shows


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"And then I got the phone call of a life time" - new podcast episode

Keith Santangelo moved to NYC when he was 18 years old and started waiting tables. He had worked his way up to being a very successful GM at Bourbon Street Bar & Grill starting in 2009, and last year his owners called to see if he'd like to buy the restaurant. His dream came true, and now he and a partner are doing a phenomenal job with a New Orleans-themed restaurant near near the theater district and Times Square in NYC. Keith talks about that phone call, the transition from GM to owner and how that changes things, why he hires on character vs. on technical skills, why restaurants have to spend time finding their identity, the "cornerstones of success" in the restaurant business, and more. Keith is a great guy and a successful restaurateur. Enjoy...

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

The fastest growing companies

I wonder how many companies, that don’t have investors, are on the “Fastest Growing Companies” lists. Pick your favorite list, pick your favorite number. Forbes 100, Deloitte 500, Inc 5000 etc. I rarely read the entirety of those articles, but I’m guessing many, if not all, of the companies on them have outside investors. As an owner of a fun, growing business without investors, I'd bet that a big reason these companies are in a race to the top is because of their investors. It makes you wonder if there were not so many companies racing to grow and to give their investors a return, would there be more companies that we actually enjoyed doing business with? Probably.

I believe there is a sweet spot that all companies will eventually find. Some find it fast and for others, it takes awhile. That sweet spot is a very balanced feeling spot where customers love your company and employees love your company and the company makes money and you love what you do. Continuing to grow (which we must) and staying in this sweet spot is a real challenge. We, at Schedulefly, work really hard on this - and it’s the reason why we say no often and make the decisions we do. Can we stay in the sweet spot forever? Who knows, but I know that taking investment and trying to grow and hire as fast as we can will have us one day wishing we had never done it.

Wes


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Don't aim at success

Recently I finished "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was a psychiatrist who survived four Nazi death camps, and founded a school of psychiatry called "logo therapy." The Greek word "logos" translates to "meaning," and logo therapy is all about finding meaning in your life. One of the most famous quotes from this book, which is one of the most important books I've ever read, is "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way." That quote essentially sums up Frankl's story of coping with the horrific experience he endured, but it was another quote that I highlighted and have read at least a dozen times:

"Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run —in the long-run, I say!— success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it."

I could go on all day about why I agree with that quote so much, but I will simply say this: in my experience in business, the times I've aimed at success I have either hit the target and felt unsatisfied deep down because I was so relentlessly focused on the results that I failed to enjoy the process, or I have missed the target, as Frankl suggests is often the case. On the contrary, when I've let success be the by-product, but not the objective, and I've focused instead on enjoying the work and pouring my heart into it, with no definitive time frame for success, success has ALWAYS been the result.

Wil

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