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We don't back down to corporate bullies

Aug 17, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
​"Wil, independent restaurants understand that large fifty million dollar companies like mine get better pricing."

That's what the director of operations of a large restaurant group told me this week. He was pressing me to give his restaurants a better multi-unit discount than the standard 10% discount we give all customers with more than one account. I politely declined to give him a better deal, letting him know we learned early on after trying this path that we have to be consistent. He didn't care about consistency and was trying to tell me his smaller competitors won't care because they expect him to get better pricing. I told him they shouldn't expect him to get a beter deal from us, and he shouldn't expect a larger organization than his to get a better deal than he does.

Unsatisfied, he pressed again.

"Half of our restaurants use your software. Half don't. Maybe you have the best software for the second half, but why else would I direct them to switch to you if you won't give us a volume discount?" I told him I am not sure if he should tell them to switch and said that if volume pricing is the top issue then we may not be the best solution and that he should do what's best for his organization.

(awkward silence)

He went on, "Well I expect you'll run this up the flag pole before telling me what our price will be." I nicely let him know I am the flagpole, and all five of us our on the same page on this issue.

(more awkward silence)

Well, I want you to know I adamently disagree with how you do things and I highly recommend you reconsider. At this point I decided to just say "Ok, I understand. What else do you want to talk about today?"

What I refrained from saying is, "Look dude, I'm not telling you how to run your business, don't tell me how we should run ours. The problem here is you like to bow up and bully small vendors into caving on pricing so you can say how much money you are saving your business and feel like the big guy, but we're not scared of losing your business so your weapon of choice, fear, won't work on us. Feel free to look for another provider." I should have said that, but it was implied with my above response.

We built Schedulefly to serve independent restaurants, which means we aren't used to anybody trying to push us around. We've had it happen a few times, but we've always put the bullies in their place. Larger organizations might get better deals from all of the other vendors they deal with, but not this one.


It's still the "good ole days" at Schedulefly

Aug 11, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
In the hilarious movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's character wakes up every day and it's Groundhog Day. No matter how he spends his day or what he does, he wakes up the next morning ... and it's Groundhog Day. Even walking front of a moving train doesn't matter - he dies, but wakes up again the next morning. Groundhog Day. He spends the movie obsessing over how to break the spell.

Last week I told Wes that ten years into this business, it still feels like Groundhog Day for me. The same is true for him and for Hank, Charles and Tyler. But we cherish that feeling! Every day we add a few new customers, we set up 6-12 new trials, we get about 10 phone calls from customers and about 30 support emails, we turn off accounts of customers who are closing their doors (or sometimes have different needs than our software fills), we make sure our servers and hardware and software are running smooth and fast, we send thank you cards and Schedulefly trucker hats to a few customers, and we work on telling the stories of some of the many, many absolutely amazing, badass independent restaurant people we are so fortunate to serve.

Many founders and early participants in startup businesses that become successful eventually begin to reminisce about the "good ole days." The business has grown and it's "successful," but things get complicated. More people, more rules, more systems. More of everything. For a business that's ten years old, that's very, very common. You like your revenue and profits but you you are stressed about how complicated your business is, and you long for the days when everything was simple. Clean. Easy. It's very hard to maintain that, and once you've let it go it's too late to get it back. You might wish for it, but you won't be able to have it again.

One of the things we are proudest about is it's still "the good ole days" around here, and it's because we fought to make sure we never let those good ole days pass us by. We have the same small team of five people, we have no administrative assistants, no HR people, no marketing team, no sales team, no partnerships, etc. We do everything ourselves, nothing is outsourced. Everything is clean, everything is simple. Each of our days are very much like the day before.

And while in the movie it made sense for Bill Murray's character to wake up each morning with a goal to do anything he could to figure out how to get past Groundhog Day, we wake up and hope nothing has changed.


Our tribute to independent restaurants (revisited)

Aug 8, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
We made this video a few years ago using footage from videos in our Restaurant Owners Uncorked film series. We haven't had it on our web site in a while so we wanted to re-post it for many of you who've never seen it. Enjoy...

ROU Revisited - Jake Wolf of Capital Club 16

Jul 10, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
Jake Wolf and his wife Shannon own Capital Club 16 in Raleigh, NC. Jake and Shannon are down-to-earth, authentic, genuinely good, nice people and it's so cool to see them have the success they have had with their restaurant. A few years ago we filmed Jake for our video series, and here's him on a riff about what it takes to be successful in the restaurant business...

New Video - The Story of Sup Dogs

Jul 5, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
We've been interviewing independent restaurant owners for seven years. We share their stories in our books, our podcast, and our video series. In all of those years, the most powerful story we've come across is Bret Oliverio's. Bret owns Sup Dogs which has two locations in North Carolina. We couldn't be more proud than to have the chance to produce this film. You'll be glad you watched...

ROU Revisited - Dave Query

Jun 29, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
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.


We're so proud to serve all of you

Jun 21, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
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!


Clockwise from left - Wes, Hank, Wil, Charles and Tyler

How to get (and keep) a restaurant job

Jun 15, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
“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."


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

People often laugh when I thank them

Jun 12, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
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.


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

Jun 6, 2017 | Schedulefly Crew
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.