Last week I was back in Michigan with my family.  I grew up there, so we go back every summer to spend some time on Lake Michigan and have the kids see their grandparents.  A part of that trip that I always enjoy is my dad and I taking my old football coach, George Barcheski, or “Bar” as we all called him, out for breakfast.  Bar is 74 now, but he hasn’t lost much of the fire he had over 40 years of coaching football. Bar won more than 200 games plus four state championships, and the number of coaches in the nation that have those types of numbers is a very elite list indeed.

A big breakfast and a couple cups of coffee with him covering politics and sports and family always seems to help re-center me a bit.  You see, the reason I look Bar up when I am back is because of the lessons he taught me about life.  Football was just the vehicle.  Of course there were some classic teachings: “NOBODY SWEAR!  I’ll do all the swearing for the whole team.  I have a lot more practice at it than all of you!”  But after seeing Bar this year I was reflecting on another thing I learned on the field.

Running off tackle

When I played back in the 1980s (ouch), we came out every August and practiced plays from an offense developed in the 1940s called a “Full House T”.  The “T” described the shape of the offensive backfield, packed with a quarterback under center, a fullback and two halfbacks to the right and left.

T_formationIt does not “spread the field” as is the current offensive wisdom, and even back then it was considered antiquated.  (For those interested in a good read of the evolution of football and recruiting, Michael Lewis, the well known author of “Liar’s Poker”, recently wrote a book called “The Blind Side” that I recommend.)  The Full House T limited your options to some extent, telegraphed what you were going to do.  It said, “We are going to run off tackle . . . over and over again.  It’s what we do.  No tricks, no slight of hand.  What you see is what you get.”  We ran the same plays I saw Bar’s teams run as a kid in the 1970s, the same plays he ran in the 1990s after I was gone.

The idea was not about keeping all those teams we played guessing which plays we would run.  It was about being more focused, running those same plays off tackle harder and faster with more discipline than anyone else we played.  We would scrimmage other teams and instead of quietly calling a play in the huddle, Bar would just yell so everyone on both sides of the ball could hear, “RUN IT AGAIN!.”  We would then proceed to run the same play three or four times, to see what we could do when the entire defense knew where the ball was going.  It hammered into our brains the emphasis on doing the little things right – every play.  What others might see as limited options of the Full House T in fact led to more focus.  And focus led to juggernaut-like consistency of execution.  And execution won games.  And winning games won championships.

What you see is what you get

There is an acronym in the software industry now, WYSIWYG, that is pronounced “wizzy-wig.”  It stands for “What You See Is What You Get” and it describes a user interface paradigm where you can see exactly what things will look like when you edit them, before even saving your changes.  We have recently implemented one of these WYSIWYG editors so our customer’s site administrators can update their own web-registration forms.

But more to the point, our entire company – products, services, team – is WYSIWYG.  We focus on providing easy-to-use online scheduling software via the internet at a very affordable price point.  That focus and simplicity of purpose is not just because of me, but rather a group of hard working folks gravitated here who are all of the same mindset I learned on the football field.  How does that translate to y’all out in the market?

•  Your users won’t be confused by complex, busy software.  Ease-of-use is and will continue to be a core competency of ours, because we are in the online scheduling market for the long haul.

•  We don’t offer a free version.  Instead, we are very clear and transparent with our pricing, which is very affordable at all edition levels but allows us to run a stable, consistent business.  Because everyone reading this right now knows you get what you pay for.

•  We host our software and deliver our products in the form of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) so any user can access Shiftboard from any browser, 24×7.  This delivery method allows us to push new functionality to market very quickly and consistently to all of our customers with much lower development costs and associated prices than “installed software”.

Instead of being abstract, let’s be specific, because all of you have to make hard business decisions every day.  A couple of weeks ago, we received a 6 page Request For Information from a large federal government agency in the Midwest.  It would have been one of our 10 largest customers in terms of revenue.  We could meet 80-90% of their requirements without any modifications at all to our software, in other words Shiftboard was a very good fit.  We provided a 2-hour online demonstration to an evaluation team.

They came back to us very interested, but said it was an absolute requirement that they install the software on their own servers inside their firewall.  We didn’t noodle on it.  We didn’t look at the cost-benefit of maintaining multiple versions of software out there in the field, trying to upgrade various versions, trouble-shooting different IT environments.  I have seen that movie play in enterprise software.  We said “No.  We deliver our software-as-a-service because it allows us to get much more product to market and keep it affordable.  Come back if you have second thoughts about your requirement.”  If we had gone down that road for one big customer, it would have jeopardized all that our customer base has come to expect from us.

Whether you just found us on a search, or you are currently considering an online scheduling system for your business, or you are already are a customer of ours – you won’t see Hail Mary passes and double reverses from Shiftboard.  You will see the ball move, however.  You will see our feature set increase, constant refinements to usability, more self-service and online training. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET.  I certainly owe Bar a lot more than breakfast once a year.

–Rob E.