Welcome to the Join Up Dots Interview with Acuity Scheduling Founder Gavin Zuchlinski
To subscribe to the podcast, please use the links below:
Introducing Acuity Scheduling Founder Gavin Zuchlinski
My guest today, on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots free podcast interview is the founder of Acuity Scheduling.
The slickest way for businesses to automate and manage their appointments online.
Allowing clients to schedule themselves.
Acuity Scheduling supports over 50,000 businesses of all sizes, from people working for themselves to major corporations with thousands of employees.
Their Customer Support is unmatched in this industry as they focus on easy & pain-free scheduling with one on one support as they help their client’s businesses grow and thrive.
He is a self-professed tech geek and espresso maniac (a word he does not use lightly) who wholeheartedly believes that business should be fun, and that shines out on everything that I have seen from today’s guest
From his Linkedin profile that simply states “I enjoy every day by working on the things I love.”
To the way that he hires “”Instead of asking for a resume, we actually ask for a love letter. What they say in the love letter, and how they phrase it and show off their personality, is the single most important way that we screen for fit within the company.
But how did he take this fun loving approach and build something so needed by business across the world?
How The Dots Started Joining Up For Acuity Scheduling
Well it all started close to home, when he watched the struggles his mom was having running her business
As he says “My mom is a massage therapist. She was self-employed for the longest time. I ended up seeing her going back and forth with clients, reminding them, getting calls that, “Gertrude just got her kidney stones removed, so I won’t be able to come in,” and all these little stories. There were things that weren’t really her job. She was spending so much time on the phone beforehand and after hand and scheduling appointments that I thought that there had to be a better way. That’s where Acuity was born.”
Find people pain points. Solve that problem and BOOM you have a business on your hands.
Which makes it seem a lot more simpler than it really is, but is still just about right.
So when did he realise that his fledgling product was not just going to be something his Mom used, and start to want to market it in the right way?
And what was the tipping point that allowed it to take hold and stand on its own two feet in the business world?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Mr Gavin Zuchlinski
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Gavin Zuchlinski such as:
Why Gavin spends more time on the customer service than he should do, but enjoys it and finds out much more about how he can improve his service because of these conversation at the ground level.
We discuss how a tech startup needs to always have a time of quiet growth, to allow for the feedback, development and customer service to join forces in a timely way.
Gavin shared a fascinating story of the time that he wanted to actually kill Acuity Scheduling, and the reasons behind that decision.
Why focus is so hard when creating a new start up product, especially for any new tech startup. Ignore the new shiny objects, get your head down, and work on your vision.
Gavin shares why he doesn’t have a Facebook account, and the reasons he feels that the world is starting to turn against Mr Zuckerbergs platform.
Connect With Acuity Scheduling Founder Gavin Zuchlinski
You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here – enjoy
Audio Transcription Of Acuity Scheduling’s Gavin Zuchlinski Interview
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling join up dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK David Ralph
David Ralph [0:26]
morning, everybody and welcome. To join up dots this is gonna be a great show for all you guys out there and ladies that are interested in tech startups, today’s guest, he’s already found the way to great success. He’s the founder of acuity scheduling the slickest way for businesses to automate and manage their appointments online, allowing clients to schedule themselves now, acuity scheduling supports over 50,000 businesses of all sizes from people working for themselves to major corporations, with thousands of employees and their customer support is on match. I’m telling you people is unmatched in this industry, as they focus on easy and pain free scheduling with one on one support. As they help their clients businesses grow and thrive. Now, he is a self professed tech geek and espresso maniac a word he does not use lightly, who wholeheartedly believes that business should be fun. And that shines out on everything that I’ve seen from him now from his LinkedIn profile, but simply states I enjoy every day by working on the things I love to the way that he hires instead of asking for a resume, he actually asked for a love letter. And as he says what they say in the love letter and how they phrase it and show up their personality is the single most important way that we screen for fit within the company. But how do you take this fun loving approach and build something so needed by businesses across the world when it all started close to home, when he wants to struggles his mom was having running her business as he says, My mom is a massage therapist and she was self employed for the longest time. I ended up seeing her going back and forth with clients reminding them getting calls that Gertrude just got a kidney stones with moved, I hope you’re feeling better Gertrude, so I won’t be happy to come in. And all those little stories. Now there were things that weren’t really her job. She was spending so much time on the phone beforehand. And after hand and scheduling appointments, but I thought there had to be a better way. That’s where acuity was born, find people’s pain points, solve that problem, and boom, you have a business on your hands, which makes it seem a lot more simpler than it really is by still just about right. So when did you realize that his fledgling product was not just going to be something his mom used? And he started to want to market it in the right way. And what was the tipping point that allowed it to take hold and stand on its own two feet in the business world? Well, let’s find out as we bring on to the show to start joining up with the one and only Mr. Gavin Zuchlinski. Good morning, Gavin. How are you, sir?
Acuity Scheduling [2:48]
Good morning. Thank you for having me on here.
David Ralph [2:51]
It is lovely to have you. I love a man with a very hard name. But it’s actually quite easy to say is one of those ones that look complicated. But it’s not Polish Romanian.
Acuity Scheduling [3:01]
It is Polish. Yeah, as long as you don’t say as a Kini, you’re close enough. I’ll accept anything for that last name.
David Ralph [3:08]
Now we’ve your business, Gavin, it’s a something that you came through to me it was a connection from a mutual friend. And I thought to myself, okay, sort of tech startup, I see where this going. But more delved into you. You’re very different. Yeah, you are somebody as we said in the introduction that likes to have fun likes to focus in on the the personal side of business as much as the techie stuff. Does that make you unusual in the tech startup world?
Acuity Scheduling [3:35]
Well, thank you, I don’t know I personally try to stay away from the the I don’t know that that deep tech startup type of culture and instead focus on you know, being a tech startup, but just doing things that I feel are right, which generally isn’t going after you know, the highest money that you possibly can, it’s going after the things that make you happy and make your customers happy, and really focusing on growth and growth over the long term, which think is a little bit different.
David Ralph [4:01]
So how do you know what things are right for you? When you say what should you go after? That’s going to make you happy? I had this image of Katy Perry floating my head, but I’m in business sense, what would you go for what’s going to make you happy?
Acuity Scheduling [4:14]
So for me, I think it gets back to how acuity originally started to which was for my mom, we can talk about those early days and everything. But for the longest time from about 2007. Until 2013, it was a side job. So if I was doing it, I had to do it just out of my own volition and just out of, you know, fun and seeing people actually using it and building it, which sort of motivated me, but then lots of things happened. And in 2013, it got way too big. And I had to choose between that or my day job, which I really did like my day job, which was maybe a little bit unusual for some folks. But it turned out to be a really tough decision that I pushed off for the longest time, but because I loved my day job so so so, so much, I vowed that when I did that, that I would keep acuity as a job that I also love. And when you have your own company, you know, it’s kind of your fault. If you don’t like going into work well, that’s kind of your own damn fault. So, but it is one of those hard things to continue going forward. And you have to be truly honest about what you like. And maybe for some people that’s, you know, getting the crazy highest amount of money that you want. But for me that’s being able to have the the flexibility and the power to control what I do every single day. And also to be building things that I see people like it’s not, you know, doing high powered connections and like getting big names on the site or anything else. It’s it’s helping smaller people and actually seen many, many folks use the software, and not killing myself over crazy long hours or anything else. But keeping everything interesting. So when we get approached by some larger companies who say like, hey, we’ll pay a huge truckloads of money today such and such, you know, we just have to get a little bit of custom coding here. And like, we’ll get our legal team in here and, and work on all of this, but it’ll be totally worth it. And you know, it might be totally worth it. But those aren’t things I enjoy every day. So those things go out the window early on.
David Ralph [6:15]
Oh, good on you. Good on you. So you really know who Gavin Zukin ski is. So if you could just go maybe something like three words, what how would you describe yourself?
Acuity Scheduling [6:25]
Oh, geez, I’m probably geeky, I’m relaxed and maybe fun.
David Ralph [6:32]
Well, that’s perfect, isn’t it? I think that’s the way that business should be. Because we all get pressurized in business, I got pressurized. You know, I’m a host of a bloody podcast. It’s not the hardest thing in the world. But I remember when I was making it the hardest thing in the world, and it became non fun. And it was just slog, it was just sure it was just grind. Are you aware of the parts of the business about our grind that you just can separate yourself from? Are you still blind going into things like the rest of us do, and then think actually, actually, I’m the owner, I shouldn’t be doing this.
Acuity Scheduling [7:06]
Yeah, and that is definitely one of those hard things to and then there’s the opposite problem, too. They’re the things that are fun that the owner probably shouldn’t be doing all the time. Like, to a certain extent, I like doing customer support. But in general, that’s not always the greatest use of my time. So I have to box myself and you know, not not talk to as many customers as I might want to in a day because they’re much, much higher impact higher leverage things that I could be doing. But you’re right to on the other hand, there are tons of things that you’re like, this is such a pain in the butt. Why am I doing this? Well, you have control over it. And it sometimes takes a little bit to be self reflective and actually identify what those things bringing you down are. For me, that’s HR Things I Hate, absolutely hate dealing with, like some of the BS and drama that goes into you know, humans, and but that’s a really necessary part of businesses. If you have employees, you’re absolutely going to have people who have, you know, crazy reasons for sick leave and drama in their life. And once you get a certain number of people, it feels like that’s happening every day. So and that’s sort of a necessary part of growing your businesses, you have to have employees, you have to be able to delegate a lot of work to that. But there’s other baggage that comes along with it and identifying that other baggage and being able to deal with it is actually something a little bit tough. When you’re the one you’re in control, you’re there you’re say direct reports and everything else. So that was absolutely one of the difficult things to try to do and was one of the longer term ones to when it goes into, you know, just sort of restructuring the company a little bit to add a little layer of managers between myself and the bulk of everybody else. And then setting clear expectations on how I really want everybody to deal with when things like drama, and all of that comes up, which is just lead to it head on, don’t sort of talk through it, then see how it affects the customers or anything else. But address it head on, don’t let things linger. Even if it doesn’t really direct the directly affect say, I don’t know the product itself, morale directly affects everybody else around so we try to lead into those things. But that is probably one of the toughest things for me and one of the hardest ones to you know, actually realize as a drain on your day when you take all of these disparate points around and then realize that there’s a trend through them. Oh, five and five
David Ralph [9:29]
mo just go in as afternoon Gabby and and free yourself up just point the finger at every single one of them. Now be being sensible about base your program. Now, as you were talking, I was thinking to myself, do you need employees? Isn’t a scheduling system sort of built? And the more people use, isn’t it not a scalable product? Where do the employees come into it.
Acuity Scheduling [9:51]
And that’s a great point. Because I absolutely love everybody that I work with, there’s just always that extra little baggage that goes along with regular humans, but I do love it everybody. But one of the things too, is, I feel really bad every time I hire somebody because I also think, Well, shit, Gavin, you should really be able to automate this somehow, because it is a tech company. And we try to put things in place to you know, make it so that we can scale as much as possible. So acuity is able to scale. For me the measure of success in running the business is to be able to scale, the number of customers we have in a non like non sort of linear way, correlated with the number of employees and direct costs and everything else that way, you know, you can get a lot more and increase profits over time. So when I hire somebody else that’s sort of cutting directly against that. So I do absolutely hate it. But the biggest thing that we need real people for is customer support. Because to have that human touch and to be able to talk directly to people, you sort of need another human for that.
David Ralph [10:57]
Now I agree with is totally I go on to Facebook at all, it just kind of bores me, but I use it to sort of communicate with people on the Facebook Messenger, which is very, very useful. And the other day I got blocked on it. And I didn’t know what I did. But I was blocked on it. It took me 10 days to try to get back into it. And there was no one you could communicate with. There was just like, send off this email and you didn’t get a response and stuff. And it drove me mental. Now. In many ways, Facebook just sits there and does what it does. And we just go on there when we kind of use it as a freebie. But I do accept your point there has to be some kind of human element behind these things. Otherwise, ultimately, the world will rally against it. Oh, and turn off their internet, and never go and look at people’s cats again.
Acuity Scheduling [11:45]
Absolutely. And the cats are very important to me. Very important, my gosh. And if you want some good kitten gifts, our team has a treasure treasure trove of them. Feel free to email to support at acuity scheduling calm. But yeah, one of the things early on to that I realized was when acuity started, it was it was a good product, but it wasn’t, you know, the absolute greatest software around I know looking back on, there’s things that I’m definitely a little embarrassed on. But I think one of the things that differentiated It was during that that period from 2007, to 2013. When it was a side project, I was the one answering all of the emails, so I had direct contact with everybody. And that’s the thing that sold people on it was you had the guy who actually built the software, answering your questions. So you had the most knowledgeable person about the software, answering everything and actually making changes because of that. So that is one of those key things that we’ve tried to maintain, even as we’ve grown the product and grown the company with number of people and everything else is to have real humans that are really, really well trained and have you know, a good enough personality to talk to people and make it feel like a human connection instead of a robot. But still have a way to like go back and have that influenced the future of the product too. Because it’s really the voice of the customers that’s driving the product forward. And but as you grow the company to that has to be something very, very, very intentional to do and have that feedback loop just built into your daily processes as well.
David Ralph [13:16]
Now, having a tech startup legend like yourself in front of me, I’m going to probe you a little bit deeper on Facebook, because I’ve just noticed recently and it’s just something that we use, that there seems to be a vibe of people saying this platform is evil, this platform, you know, should be brought down. Well, what causes a such a popular platform to start highlight the worst in people from your sort of outside or inside a point of view? Where is it going wrong for that company?
Acuity Scheduling [13:47]
And I’ll uh, I’ll embarrassingly have to admit that I actually don’t even have a Facebook account because you don’t want it. Yeah, it’s the only reason I have a secret one, you can try to find me if you want. But it’s strictly just to try to manage our ads account. Yeah, and because I sort of feel the same way that it’s such a distraction that the like, for connections and everything else, well, actually, my my wife has a Facebook account, and she sort of keeps me in touch with everybody else going around. But I it’s such a distraction. And when you see things like like their say, approach to the news feed, which is a brilliant way to try to scale up the number of connections that you’re able to have by surfacing the things that they they feel should be most important to you. To me, that sort of also dilutes each of the individual connections. So I’m for it, if I were them as the business but as as a person, I’m sort of against it where, I don’t know, I feel like I would want to have a smaller number of connections that are much more meaningful. And to me, it’s not something that that is for their business, and it’s not something that their platform is for anymore. So anyway, that’s that’s personally why I don’t have an account.
David Ralph [15:00]
I agree with you, sir. And I salute you from afar. I think it’s madness amount of times that people stay on that platform. But I’m with yourself, what what interests me in so many ways, and I’m going to jump back to the fact that you spend so much time, more time than you should on customer service. Now, I have been on a couple of virgin airplanes where Richard Branson has walked along with the peanuts tray, they don’t do peanuts anymore, because of sort of allergies, but sort of ice creams and stop stopping and talking to every single customer on the way, I think it’s brilliant that you do go back to the floor, because I’ve worked in so many companies where the owner is so isolated from the normal worker, I think that sends out a great message to your staff, I think it sends a great message out to your customers. And also, you learn more surely?
Acuity Scheduling [15:50]
Oh, yeah. And I think that last bit the learning more is the one of the things that’s so essential for everybody is that talking directly to a customer, makes you feel the pains that makes you feel what they’re actually emotional about, in their own words, not like distilled and diluted between like many layers of people saying like, these are our top issues, when you feel somebody actually, you know, feeling frustrated about something that gives you that extra energy to push forward on it. And it also lets you, you know, maybe read between the lines and get down to the root problem. So there’s sort of the two aspects of it is one I try to, like still answer a lot of support emails every day and still help with like some of the the escalations of tickets, and everything else in inside of acuity. And we also do things like support, you know, power hours, where everybody in the company, all the developers, and everybody will try to and help with support. And that that really does get you like that, that close connection in there. And on the other side, too, is trying to stay in touch with all of those trends over time. Because it’s the feeling the frustrations of people seeing things in their own words, that helps you like build a a better product and seeing those trends over time to gets really challenging if, like when it was just me answering support emails, I could do like 30 to 50 a day. But now we get say, like 500 plus a day. Yeah, that’s way too much for me to actually answer anything. So we’ve had to put processes behind the scenes of like, doing some fancy technical things to try to make it really, really simple for somebody answering an email to, you know, try to just put feedback in which gets routed through Trello and slack and a couple other ways. So I can read through and I can read through like sort of summaries of hundreds of different things of frustrations and feature requests worse that as things change over time, we’re able to react to it too. So we’re not the type of dev company either that plans like six, nine months out and is very rigid in that things change every day. And that really changes based off of what people’s needs are. And the only way to know what people’s needs are is by, you know, talking to them. And sometimes the things are like just really silly stuff like, like I’m sure Richard Branson walking down the aisle handing ice cream to somebody would realize like, Oh, you know, like, this seat looks really dirty. Like maybe we should, I don’t know, like renovate the Jets or something like that. And you can only know a lot of that things like some of the things that you might push off, you really only get to understand when you’re talking to somebody like, like, it just be really easy to add like a list of appointments like when you view this, instead of making you click through three different things. And that’s something that would maybe take us 20 minutes, and it’s just smarter after you talk to a customer.
David Ralph [18:37]
But let’s play some words. Now for my lovely lady from America. She’s done very well for herself in her career, and we’re going to hear some advice, his Oprah, the
Oprah Winfrey [18:45]
way through the challenge is to get still and ask yourself, what is the next right move? not think about, Oh, I got all of this stuff. What is the next right move? And then from that, make the next right move, and the next right move, and not to be overwhelmed by it. Because you know, your life is bigger than that one moment, you know, you’re not defined by what somebody says, is a failure for you. Because failure is just there to point you in a different direction.
David Ralph [19:16]
So have you had moments Gavin, where you think, Oh, my God, I got this to do and I’ve got to do it? I don’t know what to do? Do you take that advice is great advice for building a business from start?
Acuity Scheduling [19:29]
Oh, sort of with one additional thing, I actually I always try to do that like to try to figure out what I should do. I don’t try not to plan too far forward, but sort of take, do the thing that will maximize the return right now and still leave me more opportunities in the future given like two equal decisions, but sort of also basing that off of some founding principles, not just like, do the very next right move, but do the next right move according to some core principles that you keep constant throughout all of your decisions. That way, you know, things actually have a pattern instead of just scattershot decisions all over. And sort of that’s what we were talking about before with, how do I like make sure that I’m enjoying every day. And it’s by having a couple of like, core principles that I know that if I make my next right move, and my next right decision based off of these core principles that that will get me to like a place where when I go forward, when I look back on what I’ve done that I’ll still be happy with those types of things? And what are the
David Ralph [20:30]
principles? It makes perfect sense. But what are they?
Acuity Scheduling [20:33]
Oh, yeah, so it’s really two sort of things. One is that I need to enjoy every day, if I don’t enjoy every day, then I can’t sustain this over the long term. And it’s sustaining it over the long term that I need to that I actually need to build a great company. So I need to enjoy every day. So if I don’t enjoy doing that, it has to have a much bigger purpose to try to, like help that in the future. And the real second thing is, if it doesn’t directly help the customers don’t do it. So that way, it really helps those two things are when we were mentioning like what if a large company comes to you offering a boatload of cash and just having to do all of this legal mumbo jumbo and a bunch of other hoops to jump through? Well, it sort of goes against both of those things. One, I don’t enjoy all that legal stuff. And then to doing all of that stuff isn’t going to directly help customers. So it’s like a clear cut absolute no decision beside, despite the financial upside, and maybe the short term gains and credibility that you’d get from having somebody like that as a customer. But it goes against those two principles. So I know, in the future, when I look back, I’m really confident in those two things that making a decision that goes against absolutely both of those is a definite wrong one. And as Britain,
David Ralph [21:51]
I mean, that’s brilliant advice. And if you can start that out right at the very beginning, when you are kind of a money prostitute, basically, you do anything for money, just to pay the bills when you’re doing these things. And looking looking back at your sort of history, it was a kind of, well, I suppose it’s like an 11 year, overnight success. You started in 2007, there were six years to that decision when you needed to sort of make that bold decision to leave your job and go for it in that six year sort of period. What kept you going? What kept you going? Because, you know, it’s difficult, isn’t it in the early stages, when it’s just you and you’re doing it as a side hustle to remain focused, and not get over? precious about the quality of the system? Not trying to make it too perfect? Before you bought it out to market? How did you get through that?
Acuity Scheduling [22:39]
Oh, yeah, and that’s a great decision. A great question, because there’s a couple of decisions going into that one is, the focus bit is really hard, especially when it’s a side project, you sort of do a lot of these things, especially as a techie person to be able to enjoy it. And then sometimes, the techie, most interesting things are like the new framework or the new tool to this type of thing. But that’s the absolute wrong business decision. Because to stay focused over the long term, you can’t be constantly shifting the platform that you’re building things on. And then two is just, you know, being a little bit embarrassed of the product that you build to is a totally okay thing, what I think what kept me going through out there was actually talking directly to customers, because I could see that when I did a that like some person B was really happy. So there was that direct cause effect type of thing where my work, ended up helping people and then seeing the success that they were having in their business really, like just warms the cockles of my heart right there. So I that’s what kept me going in that in that time. And the other thing too, is, I did really have a day job that I liked. But this sort of activated another part of my brain, it was like that part of your brain that is, you know, a little bit entrepreneurial, and, and get fired up about building something where my day job was completely different, really had like the highly technical side of my brain. So this this sort of got got the other side, engaged over time too. So that that helped to is, you know, keeping it something that that I did enjoy doing and something that I could see that like the the step wise gains throughout there. One of the things that I did throughout that time was always, always always releasing updates and releasing things quickly. Because that way you get that like, quick feedback to Yeah, if I had been building a product that I wanted to get absolutely perfect, before I released it, I wouldn’t have been able to get that feedback from customers. So I probably would have built a worse product because I wouldn’t have had their feedback. But it also wouldn’t have kept me motivated over the long term because I wouldn’t be hearing directly from people. So it’s actually those to sort of go hand in hand by releasing something you know, a little bit embarrassing, a little bit rough around the edges. It got me motivated with early successes to sort of keep going and stay focused on something that will make it great over time. But it does take a while
David Ralph [25:04]
and will makes your product different because I think this is one of the things that people struggle with newbie entrepreneurs being they have to create the new brand new thing where obviously, you know, there’s loads of scheduling platforms out there. You can go to calland Lee, I think one of them yourself. There’s, there’s loads of what makes us different, what why do people come to you and not somebody else, and vice versa?
Acuity Scheduling [25:27]
Yeah, and there are a ton out there, when I started acuity, there were I don’t know, one, two, and they were really clingy and really expensive, too. So I wanted to build something that was extremely affordable and really focused on on a business where you could automate a way take away all that rigmarole that goes around and all the logistics that go around booking an appointment, not just the back and forth about picking a time, but being able to you know, collect all their information, fill out intake forms in advance, actually, you know, take payment for, for the, for the appointment, send things that look and customized by your brands that when you’re a podcaster, you can say give them instructions of like, hey, make sure you close out all the apps besides Skype and have a good microphone so that we can hear you loud and clear, and do all of that. So really to try to automate away everything that goes around the appointments that you just need to show up on time. And everything else can be taken care of for you. And there are a lot of other platforms out there. And the sort of they fall into a couple different categories. In my mind, there’s some of them that are just really, really bare bones. And they take they’re very good, they’re very simple, but they really only take care of that first part of eliminating that back and forth about what time works, they don’t help you, you know, show off your brand anymore, and send all that great customized information and collect all of what you need to know about a client and advanced that you show prepared. And they’re not you know, handling payments and all that. So you still have a lot that goes along with it. And I think there’s there’s a ton of those really basic meetings, schedulers out there, which are, which are a lot like just a really fancy contact form to help to help with that back and forth. And then on the other end, too, there’s a lot of really big powerful software. Think about somebody like mind body, which is I’m sure great tool. But they offer a ton of things like like payroll and and all this other stuff like inventory and all of that, which most people don’t need. So acuity really fits into the middle in there something really affordable, but something that you can really run a business about there. And we’re really for the people whose businesses and their day to day revolves around appointments and they care about their brand. And they care about making money from that. And those are the ones that were best fit for. And and there’s a key thing that you said there
David Ralph [27:51]
a lot of platforms now they have too much on it, you almost have to it’s like if you go over to an Xbox game, my son plays Xbox, and he plays FIFA 18. It’s too complicated. There’s too many things I’ve got to learn in the old days, I know we’re going back in the old days, you bet you’d look at Pac Man or something, and you’d instantly know how to use it. You didn’t have to know the personality traits of every single character. But the last big thing is to use it. And I find a lot of platforms are similar. Is yours a Pac Man? Is yours a FIFA 18? Where Where do you sit? How easy is it for the end user to use?
Acuity Scheduling [28:29]
Yeah, and that is something we are always always always improving acuity today is as twice as much three times as easy as it as it was. And another day because yes, we’re absolutely trying to, to always make it easy, but without sacrificing the power and everything. And that balancing act is one of the hardest things. So we want to be able to provide all that power so that you can customize things and you know, change everything, but really get started as simple as possible. So that’s why we have really easy walkthrough is to get started, get on to the basics. And hopefully you won’t pay too much attention to to all of the other powerful things and not get too distracted. But when your businesses ready, the rest of it is there so that you can sort of level up your game a little bit and go on from you know, just having one on one coffee console to being able to sell packages and subscriptions of appointments and really increase your revenue to that it’s there for you. But those more complex sort of those things that are great for your business, but not essential from day one, you can sort of hold off until later. And I think that’s the thing that helps to balance. That that sort of progressive engagement helps to balance the offering something that’s really pac-man simple to get started. But still does let you do a lot more and doesn’t, you know, box you into a corner. So after you start using it, you can’t sort of go on to the next level. And then when you
David Ralph [29:59]
when you look back your career, because I’m fascinated at the different levels, everything starts in secret. We’re all in basements, we’re all in back bedrooms, we’re all doing stuff that we don’t know it’s going to go anywhere. But we have that belief, we have that personal gut intuition that we’re onto something. And we then go through a phase but when somebody asks us about it, we’re slightly embarrassed. It’s like, no, it’s not ready to see the world yet. When did you get to the point where you were happy to say it wasn’t just a side project? It was a company, it was a business? Do you remember that mindset shift from one to the other?
Acuity Scheduling [30:36]
Oh, I gotta say I’m not with that at all. I tried to build it as something that I enjoy. But I tried for the longest time not to grow acuity. Because I was honest about the things that do make me happy and growing into 10s of millions of hundreds of millions dollar business. You know, there’s a lot that goes along with that, which isn’t that fun. So I did try to hold off for the longest time. But I just wanted something to get out there. So from from day one, the thing from conception in my mind to actually get in a first version out there was only a couple of weeks. And it was absolutely embarrassing. But I’m okay with that. And then sort of there was the the Second Life of it, which was around 2013 when it went from a side project, which was Yeah, it was online and like on the internet for people to find and it was public. It wasn’t technically a backroom, but I wasn’t shouting about it from the rooftops either. So I think that’s probably more along the lines of what you’re talking about. From Yeah, so so there’s a few years when it’s like just, you know, the the product is really, you know, sitting on a park bench, but it’s got a newspaper covering its face thing where it’s out in public, but it’s trying to stay hidden and not grow. But despite all of that people ended up finding it over that time. And it did end up growing. And actually, I’ll be honest, I tried to try to kill it at one point. I’m a little bit embarrassed about that right now.
David Ralph [31:58]
Tennis Why? Why did you try my murder your baby?
Acuity Scheduling [32:01]
I know when I say that now I’m sorry, acuity. I didn’t mean it at the time. Yeah, it was it was that where I saw traction starting, but I didn’t have you know, I didn’t have the resources to be able to deal with customer support. I wasn’t giving it all the love that it needed on the development side and everything else. And I had that day job that I absolutely loved. And I really wanted to focus on my day job. So I was like, Okay, I’m gonna shut off signups at the brilliant idea that you know, most of the support and most of the needs come from new people who are trying to figure their way around the software and and come in with new needs its existing users who are absolutely happy with it and have things up and running. So I’ll shut off signups. And then that way I can keep revenue from existing folks, and then just new ones won’t come on. And that sort of worked. You know, there’s that initial dip when you don’t get any new signups and existing folks turn away. But then I started to have email come in, like, Hey, I tried to send my friend over to here, and they can’t sign up, like, what the hell guys? as like, oh, okay, I feel really bad. Let me just, you know, you, like use this secret link, and you can sign up for my account. And then that type of email started rolling in. So I was almost doing just like, almost as much time trying to answer all of these emails and things like that from direct referrals over then I was like, Oh, my gosh, why did I just shut this off? Like, I have to turn it on. Because I felt really bad about saying no to people. So I wasn’t totally committed to my decision to try to try to kill it, I was trying to have both things, which is still a product and, and a bit of a revenue stream. But without all the support and
David Ralph [33:41]
you just scared Gavin, were you just scared of the success that you could see, because I shared a similar story. With join up dots I got to a point where the show wasn’t really doing much. And I was kind of happy with it. It was just like a hobby. And then it started to take off. And I thought this is brilliant. This is what I wanted. And then it really started to take and then I started to get a bit frightened. And I started to think I can’t escape this. Now this this is running away with me. And I literally thought to myself, should I walk away from this, even though it was everything, but looking back, it was just me being a bit of a scaredy pants at that time.
Acuity Scheduling [34:16]
Oh, yeah, and totally for me, it was a little bit of that. And then a little bit of like, I wanted to keep my feet going and like both sides, both on the day job that I loved, and then the acuity which stirred that other part of my brain. And I really wanted to keep both. And if to really excel. And one of those areas, I had to solely focus on that, like you talked before about having focused and I think hands down that is one of the hardest things like acuity is a long time running, it was really, really slow going at the first and the only way that I could deal with that is with that focus. But once it started to grow, that time that I would spend, you know, trying to improve the product to make things better, it did lead to that success, but then that that success. And as it starts to grow, there’s other demands on your time, and to keep the focus to keep the focus on making the product better and improving the company and everything else to try to keep that you have to make some changes, and you have to, you know, mature as a company. And that’s the thing that I wasn’t ready for is that maturing as a company would mean, I would have to make that decision between the day job that I loved and acuity and to really choose one of those because I had gotten to the point when I can’t have both
David Ralph [35:33]
beats you looking back on it? Did you need that slow growth? companies that grow too rapidly? Is that a bad thing with a tech startup? Or is that actually what everybody wants?
Acuity Scheduling [35:45]
Oh, yeah, this is one that I’ve thought about a lot is like, if I could go back in time, what would I change about that. And honestly, I think that the slow growth was freaking fantastic. If I were to go back, I would do it again, maybe in five years instead of 10 years, though. But the thing that I think was critical from the beginning was by having slow growth, it did keep me in like, being able to touch all things from customer support to building the product at the very beginning, which really helped me focus on what was really important for a product. And it also, if you hire too quickly, too, that’s one of those things where it’s much easier to make a hiring mistake, and it’s much harder to like indoctrinate somebody into your company culture to. So that’s why I’m a little hesitant to do too fast of growth, too. We’re, we’re starting to do a lot of hiring now. And we could hire a lot more, but we’re having to slow ourselves down a bit. Because when you hire a ton, like it can really dilute the company culture and it can really make things difficult and you need like people when they start, they aren’t 100% up to speed with like how you think as a company and how you act and like what you actually care about. And they’re also not up to speed on the technical side either. So it’s really hard to grow in a quality way, if you’re doing it too quickly. At least that’s how I feel. And it’s really hard to grow a product too quickly without having all of that contact with customers and everything else. And and it does lead to a lack of focus if you don’t have that. So I think by doing it slowly, you’re able to maintain the culture, maintain the quality of the people that you have in there, and maintain that that direct contact with customers to so that you can grow the product in a way that like really revolves around their true needs. Instead of you know that floaters of ideas that pop into your head that sounds great to you, but aren’t what the customer actually wants. So I do strongly believe in slow growth, I probably could have done it a little bit faster.
David Ralph [37:48]
But let’s play some words from a guy now who certainly had sort of slow growth at the beginning but created something remarkable is Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs [37:56]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward to when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leaves you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [38:31]
So what did you trusting Gabby and listening to those words in those early days, whether they were dark days, or just quiet days, what did you trust in to sort of get you through it?
Acuity Scheduling [38:44]
To me, that’s that’s sticking with knowing that like the little things that I’m doing now are things that I enjoy in the moment. So even if it doesn’t turn out to be anything, actually did like building acuity when nobody really was using it. When I valued myself time at zero, I still valued the time for the joy that I was getting actually building something and seeing people use it. So and it’s just so happens that those things that that I cared about and enjoyed are also ones that the customers did. So it turned out to be a product and a great product. And a product that I’m thankful is used by many, many folks all around the world more than I’ve ever expect. So I think that’s one of those things where just being happy in the moment at the time, and focusing on that right decision at the time is what is what got me forward to.
David Ralph [39:37]
And then do you look back over it. Oh, and we asked this question to literally every single guest. But do you have a big dot? Where you look back on it and you go, I think that was really, really where everything started to go where it is today?
Acuity Scheduling [39:52]
Oh, geez, I think there’s sort of the the two paths of dots. And it’s when they converge that that guy interesting for me, there’s the sort of that technical side of my brain and that entrepreneurial like product, solution, one. And those two paths had been diverge for a while, especially when I was younger. And it’s when they converged. And they converged on acuity and a couple of other things that never made it to fruition. But that convergence was where it became really interesting. And that’s, that’s why I am who I am today.
David Ralph [40:25]
And now we glad you are who you are. I think you’re doing everything right. Well, this is the part of the show that we’ve been building up to. And this is the part that we call the Sermon on the mic, when we’re going to send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to the young Gavin, what age would you choose? And what advice would you give what we’re going to find out because I’m going to play the theme. And when it fades you up, this is the Sermon on the mic.
Unknown Speaker [40:55]
Here we go with the best of the show.
Acuity Scheduling [41:13]
So to the Gavin of two years ago, it’s not that long ago, but don’t be afraid of growth, stay focused and set the principles for all of your decisions, be confident and in knowing that for you to sustain everything over the long term, you have to be happy. And that if it’s not something that helps your customers just don’t do it, these things are really easy. And they sound incredibly simple. But as you start to grow, all of those things become much more of a distraction. There’s much more pulling on you, those times when early on, you wish that you could have a partnership with a larger company are going to come in way too frequently. And more often than not, they’re going to be distractions, and it’s best to say no. So focus on helping the customers and focus on helping yourself and staying happy. And know that over the long term. All of this is going to turn out okay. And don’t be afraid of hiring more, just as long as everything that you do, you know, ends up making you happy in the short term going along.
David Ralph [42:17]
Right advice. And Jeff, before we say farewell to you, but all the people out there listening and they’re interested in a sort of tech startup, if you could give them two bits of advice to so let them Milan as a sleep through the nights happily, what would you give them?
Acuity Scheduling [42:34]
Oh, I think especially for tech startups stay focused. It doesn’t matter what technology you use. It doesn’t matter what you use, people don’t care if you’re, you know, building your app and Fortran What really matters is the product that you build and what they see as a customer how easy it is and how it fits their needs. So I think more important for tech startup than the technology itself is staying connected to your customers and listening to them.
David Ralph [43:00]
spot on it. I knew you were gonna say that basically. What’s the number one best way that our audience can connect with you Gavin?
Acuity Scheduling [43:08]
Yeah, I think so I will set up a little link right after we get off of this call and acuity scheduling. com slash join up dots that’s ACU it why scheduling.com slash join up dots I’ll set up my contact information on there if anybody would like to get in touch. And then also a special offer for all of your listeners. If you’re interested in trying out acuity, you can get an extended 45 day trial instead of our normal 14 day one.
David Ralph [43:36]
Very generous and I hope all the listeners out there go over and and check it out. Gavin, thank you so much for spending time with us today joining up those dots of your life. And please come back again when you’ve got even more dots to join up. Because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our path is the best way to build our futures. Gavin, thank you so much.
Acuity Scheduling [43:56]
Thank you for having me.
David Ralph [43:59]
Gavin Zuchinski, what a lovely It was a lovely guy. I love that about when people aren’t just after the money thereafter, how it makes them feel and how it makes the customer feel. And all the way through that I was thinking. I wish I had worked with him many years ago when I was working for companies that were just looking at the bottom line. And I didn’t care about the the customer service it was just about new leads coming in all the time. And we used to say if you keep the right customer base happy then you don’t have to keep on bringing in I couldn’t see that gabbing can Gavin can see it big time. And yeah, go over go over to the website join up dots and look for the show. It’d be one of the last ones. Get your free trial on acuity because it’s a great product. Until next time thank you so much for everybody listening to the show really appreciate you being here and we will see you very very shortly with another episode of join up dots see
David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of brilliant self you are wants to become so he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to join up dots.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on join up dots.