Interview with Jon Byrum (Hello Scheduling)
Hello Scheduling is an web based employee scheduling application.
I interviewed Jon Byrum, Hello Scheduling founder to find out more. This is the hundred and eightieth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Jon!
How would you describe Hello Scheduling in under 50 words?
Employee scheduling absolutely sucks. It is a soul-sapping function of any business with shift workers — such as hospitals, restaurants, and retail. With Hello Scheduling, you can create the employee schedule in one click, communicate changes easily, and employees can access their schedule from the web and mobile.
What gap in the market did you discover that inspired you to launch Hello Scheduling January 2010?
In mid-2009, our small team had a frank discussion about some of the most painful aspects of our prior jobs. Our co-founder’s wife worked in retail, managing both her own small store as well as a very large woman’s clothing store (you’d recognize the name).
No matter where she worked — no matter how sophisticated the operation — employee scheduling was always a huge pain for her. So we researched what was available on the web, saw that most offerings were stuck in Web 1.0, and starting building something that would solve her pain.
Does the current version of Hello Scheduling differ much to the initial version?
Hello Scheduling has really grown over the last 3 years — we’ve added hundreds of features, and continued to refine the product based on customer feedback. As I mentioned, we really anticipated that this would be a tool for retail, but a full 25% of our customer base is related to health care. Folks will use your product in ways you never, ever intended. This is especially true if your product’s marketing is not vertically focused.
There is no software installation required with Hello Scheduling, do you have any desktop software competitors?
We absolutely do. Our #1 desktop competitor is Excel. I think a lot of entrepreneurs entering the B2B space are going to find that Excel is used for more than they ever anticipated. Excel is just so flexible — but you can easily win against it by delivering features that are really specific to solving your customers’ pain.
You have plans for SMEs up to enterprise. Where have you seen the most traction?
We have seen traction across businesses large and small. The reality is, once the manager needs to schedule more than 5 or 6 employees, employee scheduling becomes an incredibly time consuming task. As the business gets larger and larger we provide more and more value — the customer pain does not scale linearly.
It seems that you have some big names using Hello Scheduling including Subway and Marriot. Did you expect such success when you set up 3 years ago?
Of course! In order to be successful, we had to attract big name franchisees. Getting these early customers provided much needed early proof that Hello Scheduling was legit. Now we have hundreds of customers across many industries that will vouch for Hello Scheduling.
Attracting big brands will go a long way to building trust in your brand — when you launch your product you don’t have any.
How do you focus on differentiating yourself from competition?
There is so much employee scheduling software on the web today, and we differentiate in 3 main areas:
1. Insanely fast and friendly customer service. Yeah, we’ll answer your question at 2am on Friday night.
2. Rapid feature release cycle.
3. A fun product. Employee scheduling sucks — there’s no reason we can’t have a little fun! Not all business software has to be dreary.
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
Hello Scheduling is profitable and bootstrapped. For the founder who is looking to build a SaaS business in an established and competitive marketplace, remember this: it takes WAY more time than you anticipated to get traction. If you are boot strapping, you’ll probably have little funds to drive traffic to your application. That means you’re going to be working with bloggers and the press to get the word out about your product. This will start to give you some early referral and SEO traction, which does not a business make. You’ll need to work hand-in-hand with your early customers to make them positively delighted, so that they generate word-of-mouth.
Remember, most SaaS business applications have very little virality, so you need to make early folks SUPER happy. When you get your first few customers they’re mostly buying you — the amazing support you provided and your promise to improve your app. Go above and beyond on customer support and you’ll really start to build a business.
Finished reading? Check out Hello Scheduling!