How a founder grew his software by wowing customers with support

Back in 2011, I was really struggling to book guests on Mixergy. Part of the struggle was that I was starting to invite so many people to do interviews that I had a hard time of keeping track. If one person said yes to one date and then another person said yes to the exact same date, it would be a little bit awkward. I was ready for the big time but a little thing like scheduling people was driving me nuts.

I remember going to my mentor this problem and soon after, he sent me a link. He said, “Hey, I found this site. Go sign up for this.”

The site was Acuity Scheduling and it just fixed everything.

I know that this happened back in 2011 because I had a question about the software back then and the founder emailed me back. The founder did my tech support, which was really interesting and it turns out the founder was a Mixergy fan.

His name is Gavin Zuchlinski and he’s the founder of Acuity Scheduling, a calendar scheduling service.

Gavin Zuchlinski

Gavin Zuchlinski

Acuity Scheduling

Gavin Zuchlinski is the founder of Acuity Scheduling, a calendar scheduling service.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com. It is home of the ambitious upstart.

And back in 2011, I was really struggling to book guests on Mixergy. Part of the struggle was that I was starting to invite so many people to do interviews that I had a hard time of keeping track of when I invited them to come on, when they said yes. If one person said yes to one date and then another person said yes to the exact same date, it would be a little bit awkward. It was all kinds of headaches like that. I was ready for the big time but that little thing, scheduling people was driving me nuts.

I remember going to my mentor at the time, Bob Hyler, and telling him I had this problem and it stinks that I have it. I just kind of assumed that I had to accept that, that it’s tough when you’re scheduling calls and interviews with so many people. Soon after, Bob just sent me a ink. He said, “Hey, I found this site. Go sign up for this.”

And the site was Acuity Scheduling and it just fixed everything. They gave me one link that I was able to give out to my potential interviewees. They could see my calendar with all my available dates to record interviews and they could book themselves, they could pick the time they wanted. If they had an issue, they could just not email me but just go into the system and adjust the date and time if they wanted.

I know that this happened back in 2011 because I had some question about it back in 2011 and the founder emailed me back. The founder did my tech support, which was really interesting and it turns out the founder was a Mixergy fan and he and I have chatted a little bit, I think almost exclusively about tech support over the years because the guy is freaking obsessed me it. He ended up last year or maybe earlier this year becoming a sponsor of Mixergy.

I’ve known his software for a long time. I’ve heard his story a little bit. I’m really excited to hear how this guy bootstrapped the software, Acuity Scheduling, and how big it got and all the challenges of doing tech support, of building software and frankly of also doing it on the side for a large part of his career. I want to find out how that all happened. I’m excited for you guys to hear it too.

His name is Gavin Zuchlinski He is the founder of Acuity Scheduling. It’s a calendar scheduling service. And this interview is sponsored by the company that will host your website right. It’s called HostGator and it’s sponsored by the company that invited me to speak at a conference and I hope you come out to watch me. It’s called Leadpages. I’ll tell you more about their conference later on too.

First, Gavin, welcome.

Gavin: Hey, thank you for having me on here. It’s great to see your face finally.

Andrew: I know. I’ve never seen you. All I’ve gotten are those tech support responses. Do you still do a lot of tech support? It seems like it.

Gavin: Oh my god, yeah. I do. I don’t do as much as I used to, but I try to do at least ten emails a day or so. It really keeps you in touch with your customers and everything else and you develop empathy for not just your users but everybody else on your staff too who’s answering those for you.

Andrew: I didn’t know that in the early days you were like sleeping at the floor of the place that you worked to build this up. I didn’t know you were struggling. Today you’re doing so much better. What’s the revenue today with Acuity Scheduling?

Gavin: We’re in the mid-seven figures area.

Andrew: So we’re talking clearly, cleanly over $2 million or $3 million, right?

Gavin: Oh, yeah, over that.

Andrew: Incredible.

Gavin: It’s come a long way. Yeah. Like you said, I used to have another job besides this one. This was a part time thing, so I always wanted it to be something to supplement my life, but then it turned into the obsession of my life at a certain point.

Andrew: Did you literally sleep on the floor of the government office that you worked in?

Gavin: Sort of. So the position that I had, it was really interesting. It was one of those where you weren’t paid all that well, you still had all the government bureaucracy. But there was still that innate drive inside of there. It was something that no corporation ever had, where you just felt so compelled to go to work every day.

So despite all that, they had you working crazy hours and night shifts and everything else. So what I would usually end up doing it working part of the day during the day and then probably go into work at 11:00 p.m. on a night shift. I happened to have a town home that I was trying to sell not too far from the fort.

I would go over to the townhouse because I didn’t have my cell phone or laptop in the government building, and then lay on the floor of this empty townhouse trying to answer a few support emails tethered to my iPhone and then lay out–I think I just had a towel there, on carpet, though, so it was soft, and then catch two hours of sleep before I wake up and see who else had responded, quickly answer those and then head into work and try to repeat the whole thing in the morning.

Andrew: Unbelievable, for this company that you were just bootstrapping that the whole idea came because of a job your mom had. What was the work that your mom had?

Gavin: Yeah. 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.

Andrew: That’s it? Is it really just that thing, solving it for your mom? I know that makes a really good origin story, but is there more to it than that? Were there more things you notice that came together and that you tell the story of your mom as a shorthand for that?

Gavin: Yeah. I really didn’t want to build it myself either. So I looked around for what else there was and there were a few other things. I looked recently and one of them was actually still around and still alive and kicking. I can’t even remember the name, Appointment something or other. It was just this god awful software. It was so freaking expensive too.

I was doing contracting work at the time. This was in 2006 or so. I was doing contracting work. I was doing web development and all of that. There are a couple of other clients that had come with similar issues and I couldn’t find a good affordable solution. At the time I thought $49 a month, which I think is what the service was, was way too expensive. So I really didn’t value my time that highly.

So I developed it and put it out there, gave my mom a shot to try it and then just put it online and did it into the Google search results and then it just sort of went off from there. I never did any launch or marketing or anything else. Looking back, it was a really terrible, crappy piece of software, but it worked. And it was a whole lot cheaper than what was out there too?

Andrew: What made it so crappy? I’m looking at one of the earlier versions of the site. I used one of the earlier versions of the site. What was it that you felt was crappy for back then? We’re talking about what, 2007?

Gavin: Yeah. I have no design skills at all. So it was missing a lot of that. But the good thing about it is it did appointment scheduling really well and really simple. The bad part about it was it didn’t sync with any other calendar programs. It was really isolated. You could actually accept payments on a lot of things, but it was–it took a lot of steps to try to manage your business. It wasn’t something that you would want to spend every day managing your business, it was more like you would have a contact form with people emailing you almost only with some nicer selection of dates and times.

Andrew: With inventory management? So if someone booked a massage therapy appointment for 11:00 a.m. on a Thursday, the next person wouldn’t have that slot available, right?

Gavin: Yes. Exactly.

Andrew: Whereas today when you say it ties into a calendar, if I happen to schedule lunch with a friend at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, that gets wiped off of the availability for the person who might want to book me for a massage.

Gavin: Yeah. These days we come a whole lot farther than that. Now you can have a team of sales people on there. Team of sales people each have their own calendars, they’re availability, they’re taking days on and off. You send a prospect, a single link that has all of their availability pooled together. They just pick the time that’s right for them. It’s routed to the right sales person, a meeting is automatically created in go to meeting.

Everybody gets the email confirmation. It’s added to your exchange calendar at the same time. The prospect ends up rescheduling beforehand, all of that is handled seamlessly so that everything, the GoToMeeting is moved around on each of their calendars it’s moved around and it’s something that can connect to every part of your business. Back then it felt more like a silo and now it’s really connected and can either be the heart of your business or connect to what you really use for your business.

Andrew: You told our producer that you had a not to hit. Because you were bootstrapping, you wanted to hit that fixed cost every month, which was how much?

Gavin: My hosting fees were $9 per month. So I set the price of the software at $10 per month.

Andrew: So that if you sold one person, then you’d make a little bit of a profit?

Gavin: Oh yeah. Surprisingly, I hit that. Like you mentioned, I did zero marketing and focused on some SEO-related things at the very beginning. Within a couple of weeks, had somebody who had signed up and paid without even email me. I was shocked. I was shocked but it worked.

Andrew: You used to only collect payment on PayPal, right?

Gavin: Yeah.

Andrew: You just put the PayPal buttons up?

Gavin: Yeah. So it was a PayPal button that went to a subscription. When somebody would cancel, it would email me and then I would go and look up the PayPal email address and try to find which subscription it was to cancel. We actually had that for quite a few years before I switched to anything else. It worked great. I didn’t want to spend time on something like billing when scheduling was a beast of a problem on its own. There’s so much that you can do there. There still is so much that we can do there.

Andrew: You at one point in addition to the $10 a month plan, you also had a lifetime plan. Someone could pay one time. Do you remember that?

Gavin: Yeah, I do. Man, you are really digging into there. Jeez. This is like a throwback Tuesday, really far. Yeah. It was like a couple hundred dollars a month.

Andrew: $240.

Gavin: Jeez. What a steal. Now that’s yearly for one of our plans. Yeah. It was just intended to try to get a little bit of cash upfront so that I could try period around things and improve our hosting and all of that. Honestly I got rid of it because not that many people signed up for it. We also had people email in and ask if they could do hosted versions of Acuity. I quoted them like a $1,000 one-time fee and we’d give them all the source code and they could host it on their own and they said no. I even said we’d give them updated too. So, so much for that person.

Andrew: You’d give them updates?

Gavin: I know. Yeah.

Andrew: And not a single person bought?

Gavin: No. I didn’t advertise that. It was just when people emailed in. We’d done a bunch of experiments with different things with plans, like when people email in and ask for types of things, sometimes we’ll experiment by either putting that into a plan and finding a cheap way to do it and for the hosted one, we just decided yeah, sure, we have an official $1,000 a month thing where you can buy a hosted version of it and you get updates and all of that and we just wanted to see if anybody would do it.

Andrew: Not $1,000 a month but $1,000 total for that?

Gavin: Sorry, yeah, so $1,000 total one-time fee.

Andrew: You know what, actually? That’s a really important thing to pay attention to–finding ways to bring in cash quickly by selling the future to your customers, it tells you how committed they are to what they’re asking for, but it also can help bring in money today that allows you to hire developers, etc. How long did you go before you hired someone?

Gavin: That’s really funny too. Acuity start in 2006. It sort of just had grown organically and I spent very little on it. At the beginning I spent a lot of times developing it. That was while I was in college. Then I had the job that I really loved. While I was doing that, I would spend maybe two hours a week or so? That’s from 2006 until about 2013.

Then finally, I realized when I was at the point in my job where I felt like it was either I had to choose to go with Acuity full time or I had to go and ditch Acuity and go with the government full-time. It was either one of those because sleeping on the floor of your empty town home is not a long-term strategy and it’s not good for anybody. So I did end up hiring somebody and I hired my sister in 2013 just to do customer support.

Andrew: I see. And was she full time customer support?

Gavin: Yeah. She was. I was looking around for a bunch of people. I had interviewed and talked to a few folks and nobody quite felt right. And my sister ended up getting pregnant and she was about to leave her job at Sam Adams and then I realized, “Oh my god, she’s the perfect personality.”

We get along really well. We were never the siblings that fought our anything else. We got along so well that I just asked her, “Would you be interesting in doing this? I can pay you this amount. You can work from home and you can spend time with your new kid and all you have to do is show the personality that you have but do it through email now.”

So she came on while I was still working at the government job and I gave her zero training and just told her to answer email. So she just answered what she could and then watched what I did and learned from there. It was impressive. Now that I look back, I was not a very good boss at that beginning.

Andrew: Why? What made you a bad boss or not a good boss?

Gavin: I did not train her well at the beginning. We’ve since corrected that for everybody. Now we do two-week training programs for all of our support folks. So they go down into more not just how to use our software and everything else, but more rigorous things like dealing with all of our integrations and testing out some really through things, learning basic CSS and all of that so they can go that extra mile with some of our customers.

Andrew: Support is your thing. Most people don’t love it the way you do. Why is support such a big thing for you?

Gavin: I really like the technical part of the software. But with the technical part, you could build any software and anybody can come in and build that. I really felt that to be a long-term sustainable company we have to engender the respect of our users and to do that, the only way is to become their friends.

So I really want to become friends with all of our users. Our customer support are the front-line people that do that. I feel to really respect our users, I want every single person who’s on support to be my voice. I did that for however many years, seven years and I feel that everybody who’s answering emails now is really my voice.

I want them to be able to just have the power to show like if somebody emails in and says, “My credit card just got stolen. I’m sorry, I can’t make the payment,” instead of just either cancelling their account or giving them a little extension, we’ll give them a free month and every person, even from the newest hire feels comfortable doing that.

I want everybody to feel happy and enjoy their jobs. I really enjoy mine now and I hope that every single person that I have feels like they enjoy their job. I think to do that, you have to feel confident in it, feel like you have power to do things and feel like you’re actually being effective and making a change in there.

Andrew: It’s an outsourced team–not an outsourced, but it’s a remote team?

Gavin: Yeah. So we have…

Andrew: How do you do that? How do you get all these people to understand your voice and to communicate your voice? How would you even describe your voice? Let’s start with that. How do you describe your voice?

Gavin: I like to think of us as somebody that you wouldn’t mind going out to a bar with. So we are the types of folks that, I don’t know, we just like to be happy. I feel like business should be fun. I have fun doing it personally and I feel like all of our users should have fun. So to do that we have to have support who can make you smile whenever you read it and isn’t just a bland old…

Andrew: Let’s give some examples. Here’s one of mine from your site. I just went into the preferences section and there’s a search bar in the upper right and to the left of that is a button that says up here to ask a question. If I click it and then I get to ask a question and see the response in real time or I get to email it to you guys. Give me another example of how that comes across via email?

Gavin: There are a bunch of those little ones around. One of my favorites is in the welcome email, it says all the usual crap about here’s your address and everything and then there’s one that says there’s a secret prize. There’s a kitten hidden somewhere in our help section and it’s your mission to try to find it. Find Karl the Kitten and email into support with where he is and we’ll give you a secret prize.

And then if people email in, he’s hidden in what used to be one of our top help requests. So people look through that article and searched at the very bottom and then we give them three months free. I have every single person who comes on to support come up with their own answer and throw their own personality into that. So people get a prize. They get to try to find a kitten.

Andrew: What about if I complain or if I have an issue? How does your voice come through at that point when it’s really challenging?

Gavin: Yeah. So that’s one of the hardest parts to come through. For me, as the owner of the company, I know who my target customer is. Generally when people are unhappy, they’re trying to do something where Acuity really isn’t the right fit. Generally they’re unhappy that we don’t do a certain feature that they’re looking for or do something in a certain way.

So for our customer support, the biggest thing that I try to tell them to do Is make sure that people know that if we’re not the right type of software for them, we don’t want them to feel like they’re locked in with us. We’ll totally refund all of their money. We’re more than happy to do that.

Depending on whatever the issue is, if they are willing to stick around, we’ll help them solve whatever cobwebs they have their account in, but if they don’t, don’t feel like they’re locked in. We don’t do anything salesy. Each of the support people can feel totally comfortable that I will not go after them for sending a customer away and saying that something else might be better for them.

Andrew: All right. I want to find out about this one thing that you did do to bring in new customers in the early days that actually worked. And I want to find out about how you grew and a little bit more about customer service. Actually, I could get as much of customer service as you can give me. I even don’t like the word customer service for this because there’s something more to it than that. There’s like engagement and conversation.

My kid needed to go to the bathroom because we’re doing potty training. I rushed him into Starbucks. I said, “You guys always have a bathroom. Do you have one?” The guy said, “Sorry, this one doesn’t have a bathroom.” He pointed to a hotel where I could go in. The guy in the hotel let me in so he could go to the bathroom without wetting himself. I came back to Starbucks to thank the person who sent me over.

He didn’t do customer support. He gave my son a cake pop and said, “Congratulations on going to the bathroom.” That’s not customer support. That’s like being friendly. That’s just being–I don’t know, a human being. So that’s what I get into. The customer support stuff where you’re just answering support tickets is not as exciting as what we’re talking about here.

Gavin: Yeah. And that’s something too where at the very beginning, I realized a lot of people, they go into it with a really negative thing because it feels like there’s not a human on the other end of it. So we’ll do things like have videos taken of everybody so that after you rate or emails, which the rating thing is done in a haiku, you can see a video and see who doesn’t like catch-up who responded to their email.

Andrew: Yeah, those little touches that you guys are really big on. All right. Here’s a sponsor. A sponsor is a company that you’ve probably heard of. Everyone listening to me has heard of them, HostGator. Do you know them?

Gavin: Yeah. HostGator, they’re also really well known for doing customer support. They actually will talk on the phone with their customers even on Christmas Eve, even on New Year’s Eve, they have people there to answer questions and help out. The thing that I’m really excited to say to people about HostGator is you paid $9 a month for your hosting package. These guys are charging–let me see, actually. If you go to HostGator.com/Mixergy, you get a special price.

They’re now taking 50% off their price. We’re talking about as low as $3.48 a month. That means if you have an idea and you haven’t launched it, launch it already. They just charge $4 a month and with one sale you make a profit. You already get to where Gavin was long after her started.

That’s what we’re talking about. Take your idea, put it on HostGator. It’s super simple. They make it easy to install WordPress with one-click install, lots of other open source apps you can install on their servers with one-click install or you can basically run anything you want on there.

If you hate your current hosting company and you want someone who’s good, someone who cares about it, move it to HostGator. These guys are fantastic. There’s a reason why they’re there with customer service on the phone, ready to respond to you 24/7, because they know that they can stand up for their quality. They know they can stand up for what they put out there, what they sell it to you.

Frankly, you heard me talk about this for a long time. If you haven’t tried it and you’re a little scared, don’t forget–45-day money back guarantee. Install your site, get your site up and running on HostGator right now. They’ll give you a $100 AdWords offer. They’re giving you cash essentially.

Go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. You’re going to get 50% off right now. If anyone is offering you more than 50% off HostGator, just go take it and frankly give me their name so I can hire their salesman. I know that Sachit Gupta, Gavin, who you know, has really worked with HostGator to get us a really good deal. I know what we’ve got here. You’re not going to find a better deal out there. So go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring.

Gavin, what you did was you were really good about reaching out to bloggers back when bloggers were the only ones who could really talk online, right? What did you do?

Gavin: Yeah. So like I mentioned, at the very beginning we did zero marketing. I focused a lot on SEO and that has really paid dividends in the long run. But all I did was I tried to find bloggers who were in certain industries, nobody who was really big, like I tried initially to try to send things like CNET back in the day and a few other ones who made brief mentioned of us, but really nothing, none of the big people ever talked about us and still don’t. But the small ones were perfect.

I realized after a little while when one small blogger made a mention of us and I think it sent in 10 or 20 new users to us, I realized the small ones actually have an interest in us and will listen to us and more amazingly will actually write about us too and their audiences felt really engaged.

So what I ended up doing was trying to find the one specific blogger who found us trying to find any related blogs to that, trying to find listings of top blogs and then after I did that, did that for each different vertical and just cold emailed all of them, usually saying something like, “Hey, I think this would be a good fit for your audience.” Maybe if they had written about a competitor, I would mention that in there too.

Sometimes I would mention the area they lived in or anything else, but I’ve actually taken an interest in them. We got some good traction through that too. So that one made me–it was super cheap then. It gave us really good press at the beginning when nobody else would write about it.

Andrew: What else worked for you in the beginning for getting new customers? You said SEO, reaching out to bloggers, what else?

Gavin: The biggest thing was listening to a lot of our customers. I found that I keep saying we. It’s really a habit now.

Andrew: Because now it is we but back then it was you.

Gavin: Yeah. Back then it was just me. So talking to a lot of our users, just making specific changes for individual users really made them love Acuity. So if it was just something really basic, like adding a little bit of CSS to their account to make something bigger or to hide some sort of element that they didn’t like, it didn’t matter that we might have not had as many features as somebody else.

But all of a sudden they become in love and like you mentioned, you were actually talking to the founder and not just the founder who was saying hi and automated email that looks really personal but somebody that is making changes on your account. And they ended up referring more and more people over to us that way too.

Andrew: I’ve noticed that you do that, that first of all, that you are best friends. Like Jeremy Weisz, our producer here who uses it for his interviews, he feels like he’s your best buddy when he talks to you. I imagine that a lot of people feel that way because of your email personality. But you just told me something else that I didn’t realize. I think you even made some person changes to his design. How much of a pain in the butt is it to make changes to their version of the app and then keep track of what you’ve changed?

Gavin: Yeah. So I think that’s one of the things that helped me by answering emails at the beginning is we have technical things in place that we’re able to add custom code to one individual’s account. Generally that’s in the advanced CSS section that even you have access to. We can change a lot of that. We just listened to everything.

Jeremy is great too. If you have a good suggestion, just email it in. I still ready everything too. When I left the government job, I figured I had to stay emotionally involved in everything even as we grow and to stay emotionally involved, I have to read all of the people that are complaining and especially the ones that are requesting features.

So I might not be able to respond to everything thing, but sometimes it comes across where we are able to create something, switch on an icon somewhere or we add CSS to something like, for example, nearly everybody on our staff knows CSS even though they answer emails all day. So when you say customers aren’t being able to find this one button, we’ll move it front and center for you. We’ll add a big border around it.

Andrew: You mean for me personally?

Gavin: Yeah, for you personally.

Andrew: So you could…

Gavin: Just form your account.

Andrew: You have CSS control over my account and over the way that my widget looks on my site for my customers?

Gavin: Yes.

Andrew: Interesting. So if like I were to go in–I’ve never seen such a thing, but that’s a nice little touch to add. So if I go into settings, like I can have my own unique URL for my Acuity Scheduling calendar. If I can’t see how to change the URL, you might put a big border around that one button just for me?

Gavin: So sorry, what I mean is on the client’s end where your clients go to book their appointments, if you say they’re having trouble finding the login button or something else.

Andrew: I see. That’s what you would change. So it’s not in my dashboard, but if I take my calendar out of Acuity Scheduling and embed it on Mixergy.com and I say my customers don’t see–my customers don’t see how to change the time zone to their local time zone, you made that button bigger just for us?

Gavin: Yeah, exactly. That’s one of the flows of how features get in. First we’ll hear a couple of features and just change it maybe on one person’s account. If it becomes a recurring theme, we might make it something that happens on everybody’s account or we might try to just make it an optional thing that users can flag easily inside of their account instead of needing to do any custom code and then we’ll roll that into the future improvements as we learn from it and all of that.

Andrew: I see. That’s a great idea, that you give people the ability to change the CSS, the design of their widget. If they complain about something that you can change with the CSS, you just go in and you make the change. For them, frankly for us, it feels like you did something in the code just for us because we don’t know what to do with CSS.

Gavin: Yeah. And we’ll spend a lot of time, we’ll spend an hour talking about somebody wants to change like such and such that when you click this button it defaults, especially for the recurring one, they want to make it easy so you can book multiple days in a row or something and we’ll add custom CSS and a little bit of JavaScript to help you out and if we start hearing that more, we add that to our bag of tricks in our library too. So we’re able to help out.

The other thing that we do now too is like if you have trouble adding it to your website, we get a lot on Wix websites, sometimes you can get into some kluge scenarios. There’s a nice little form where you can submit your credentials to the website. That will send it over to us securely and we’ll just log in to your website. We’ll fix it up on your website. We’ll change the widget. We can change the colors to help match and make some recommendations on your account. So we’ll change everything on your website for you.

Andrew: This is a big investment in customer service, to actually take my username and password from my Wix account, go in and change it and embed the widget on the site for me. How many people do you have in customer service versus developers?

Gavin: So it’s actually not a big investment. It ends up saving us time in the end for those types of things, like for those challenge of find the kitten, it brings you to one of our top articles. For this one, it saves us tons of emails and back and forth describing the issue. We can just go in and fix it for you and make sure that everything is perfect. It can take us five minutes, where it could take you learning it for the first time an hour or more.

Andrew: But then it means that it’s another five minutes for you guys versus responding to an email and linking to a helpdesk article would take less than one minute.

Gavin: But you’re happier in the end. If we were hanging out having some scotch in your room and you said, “Hey, Gavin, this isn’t looking right on my Wix website. I wouldn’t say, “Hey, Andrew, email me in a few hours and then I’ll get back to you with a generic looking screenshot and maybe a link to a help article.” I would say, “Hey, Andrew, can you just login right there? I’ll just drag it in and fix it for you.”

Andrew: I see. And that’s what you’re trying to go for, that feeling.

Gavin: Yes. Exactly. It saves us and it makes you happier. We still don’t have that many folks on staff.

Andrew: Can you say how many people you have?

Gavin: Yeah. We have 11 folks total. I still do development. Everybody does customer support, everybody except the one person who handles assistant related tasks. Everybody does customer support, every single developer. So it’s myself and one other person who’s a developer and then we have one designer and the rest of the people are support from Scotland, Seattle, Chicago all scattered throughout the US.

Andrew: I wonder how you keep track of all of them. I was asking you how many people you had and I’m kind of surprised by the small number of people on the team, but I shouldn’t be because you told our producer that your goal was not to grow. I underlined it in my notes. Why don’t grow?

Gavin: I definitely don’t want to grow in the–coming from the government, you see what bureaucracy and everything does. Sometimes I feel like I developed this sort of in a vacuum on my own in this world of government, so I saw the bureaucracy and saw that small teams did so much better. So I decided them that I didn’t want to grow.

Then when I left and I moved to New York City and I’d go to startup events and everything, people would ask me one of their first questions, not even how much revenue, but, “How many people work for you?” It was sort of like the one metric. I was like, “Oh my god. That’s such a silly metric.” When you grow the number of people, it’s one of the biggest costs in the company. It increases communication overhead.

So with every person you add, you’re getting less efficient and just because you have people doesn’t mean you’re more efficient or that you’re growing more in revenue. I feel like it’s really a false measure and I feel like to be really successful and in my way to be really happy, I want people to like on a small team, you can communicate much faster.

You can know everybody. There’s no political infighting or anything else and everybody is so much happier on a small team. So I’m trying my hardest to be able to keep growing our number of users without growing our number of staff. We’ve been moderately successful with that.

Andrew: I see. It’s not about not growing the number of users. It’s not about limiting your revenue. It’s about growing the number of people who are helping all your customers.

Gavin: Yeah. But to do that effectively, the rate of growth has a big impact on how many people we need. We can grow. Once we hit a certain rate of growth, that’s when we have to hire more. We can keep growing and pretty constant rates, but maybe we can’t grow at doubling every month or something and we have to grow a lot less than that.

So to do that, that means that we can’t do search engine ads as much. We can’t do a lot of big PR and marketing. We can’t have these big pushes because we want to maintain things at a relatively constant pace. No matter how hard I tried in the past. I did at one point shut off signoffs on Acuity back in like 2010 or so, 2009 when I wanted to do the government full-time. I couldn’t even stop growth then. So I’m not going to stop it now.

When I did that, it had an initial drop off, but then people would say, “I really liked your service and my friend uses it. Can I sign up?” Okay. I’ll let you sign up. And then it still kept growing even when you weren’t allowed to sign up publicly.

Andrew: Why did you stop growth back then? Why did you stop people from signing up?

Gavin: because I made the decision that I wanted to do the government thing full time.

Andrew: That’s it. You said, “Let’s let this thing stay stead and I’ll do the government job and not have to do as much work.

Gavin: Yeah. It still kept growing. So then I figured, “I’ll just stop answering all these emails and put the form to sign up back online and things were pretty much the same, which I think was a good decision in the long run. I’m liking that decision now.

Andrew: What do you mean?

Gavin: I think it was … well, it was a good decision to stop it at the time because it taught me how much referrals played into this.

Andrew: I see.

Gavin: And it made me realize how much our users actually loved it back then no matter how hard I tried to get rid of it and it made really appreciate all of our users too that they cared enough not to get scared away by no signup form on a page and really just email in and still insist on signing up.

Andrew: Actually, this brings me to my second sponsor, a company called Leadpages. Do you know Leadpages?

Gavin: Oh yeah, those guys are great.

Andrew: Yeah. They create landing pages that are super easy to use. They integrate with all your software. And their session is on creating on pages that increase conversion. So they have a conference called Converted 2016 that I will be speaking in. One of the reasons that I’m doing it is I want to meet the people that are at the Conversion conference to understand what are they doing to increase their conversions, what are their landing pages like, what’s worked for them, what’s not working for them?

So I was excited when they not just invited me to come in and speak so I can get to meet everyone but also bought this ad so I can tell everyone in my audience to come and see me at Converted 2016 so that I can meet you, we can talk about what’s working for Mixergy. I can find out what’s working for you guys and we can all stay in touch with each other and just exchange ideas.

Let me ask you this. As part of the commercial that we’re doing now–I guess no one calls it commercial–as part of this special message that I’m doing for Leadpages, what have you learned about your landing pages or about increasing sales conversions for you?

Gavin: Oh, we have done tons of tests back in the day. The biggest thing was to keep doing tests and trying it on your specific page instead of just copying what’s out there. Leadpages is a great one for that. I know that folks have embedded their appointment schedulers onto their too and it makes it easy for doing all of that and collecting your leads.

Andrew: Why would someone embed an Acuity Scheduling calendar onto a Leadpage? Isn’t a Leadpage about increasing conversions?

Gavin: I don’t know the individual reasons, but the folks have had whatever tailored web pages hosted on there and then as one of the call to actions being to schedule an appointment.

Andrew: I’ve seen that. Absolutely. Usually when you think of Leadpages, you think of a landing page that collects email addresses so that people can get an eBook or so that people can get access to a webinar.

What I’ve also seen is for some higher ticket products, it’s, “Schedule an appointment to talk to us,” so, it’s a nice landing page with a clear button with a call to action. People click it and then they get a calendar, which is an Acuity Scheduling Calendar where they can pick a time to talk to someone on the team to understand how the software works or to understand how the service works and then they can sign up instead of selling them with the webpage, they explain to them on the call first and then they sell to them.

That’s one of the things that I’ve actually been noticing also from interviewees. They get their sales people to try to get on a call with users, with customers. It’s really interesting. This is one of the things that I want to go to Converted 2016 to find out about. What else are people doing that’s not working?

Frankly, the idea of getting people on a phone call to close a sale seems counterintuitive in the world of the internet where everything can happen online. Gavin took like five seconds. He installed a PayPal button on his site and he was good to go and collect sales. But I’m noticing that just because it’s easy to do it that way doesn’t mean that that’s the way your customers want it and that often you can increase sales counterintuitively by having your potential customers talk to your people.

I’ll be at the conference listening to people on stage, talking about these ideas, listening to them in the audience, listening to them over drinks–I’m actually going to probably do a scotch night over there.

So if you want to come out, here’s what you do. Go to Leadpages.net/Mixergy. They’re going to give you a big discount on this conference, $250 off the conference ticket. This conference will feature me as a speaker, Pat Flynn, Clay Collins. It will feature–who was the other person? Ryan Deiss of Digital Marketer–so many other people and it’s not just about the people onstage. It’s about the people in the audience and the connections you’re going to make there.

You will go there. If you come, you will see it will increase your conversions, get more people to give you their email address, get more people to buy from you. That’s what it’s about–measurable impact. I’ll see you guys at Converted 2016. Remember that special URL just for Mixergy people is Leadpages.net/Mixergy. Good sponsor to have.

There was a point where you were doing so well that you decided to buy yourself a car. What was the car?

Gavin: Yeah. I ended up buying a Porsche 911 while I was still working at the government–

Andrew: Is it awkward to talk about? That’s kind of why I gave that awkward laugh as we talked about it. Is it awkward for you at all?

Gavin: No. I loved it. Everybody there loved it too.

Andrew: So why’d you sell it within a year?

Gavin: Yeah. So I used all whatever I had as money coming in from Acuity, since I had a full-time job, I used that as fun money. I figured if I’m going to keep doing this on the side, I should be using it for something fun. So I ended up doing that. And then in the future, when I first started out too and I had the first person who paid $10 a month, I was like, “All right, that’s my hosting.” Eventually they came up and I was collecting $50 a month. I was like, “All right. I’m going to go out for a really nice dinner every month.” And then it just kind of wound up and up and up and then that car ended up having some terrible engine troubles and everything else.

Andrew: What have you bought now for yourself, now that you actually have profits sustaining. You can feel proud of the work that you’re doing for your customers, what have you gotten for yourself?

Gavin: For myself, I haven’t gotten that much. Now it’s my full-time job and now I feel like I have employees working for me. So it’s not something just for me to be selfish on anymore. For me, I don’t know. I want to make something that’s a long lasting product that they also can feel stable in.

There are too many startups going out of business and not–I just interviewed somebody who in the past year had worked at three different startups. One of them went out of business, one of them got acquired and one of them they got laid off ads part of cut backs all within a year. I never want that. I want this to be if someone wants a lifelong thing. So all of that is actually going back into the company and I’m actually paying myself a salary now too.

Andrew: Taxes must be painful right now, huh?

Gavin: It can be a little bit.

Andrew: Have you found anything to make it less painful?

Gavin: Well, we spend on all sorts of random things, things like doing sponsorships and all of that. That can be a money suck.

Andrew: You sponsored Mixergy. Are those ads effective for you? Be open. Have you made your money back?

Gavin: Yeah. I’ve been really happy with Mixergy. I think it’s the personalized ads that you do and they change variation every time. With a lot of the other ones, we find that over time, the conversions go down. With you, I keep seeing a spike. I also like that we can spread out ads out. With other ones, I feel like people just tune out because it all of a sudden becomes the opening jingle about Acuity, the same speech every time.

Andrew: I agree with you completely on that. I don’t get why it doesn’t bother HostGator. Why does HostGator want to sponsor every single day? I think Sachit talked to them and said, “Why won’t you guys to one day on, one day off or a week on, a week off and give other people a shot at those sponsorship spots?” And for some reason, I guess it’s working for them, they just like being everywhere on the podcast. Same with Toptal too.

Gavin: Oh, really? That doesn’t make any sense.

Andrew: I’m with you. I think it makes more sense to spread it out.

Gavin: Yeah. I don’t get it. Plus you can start experimenting with other things. People just become blind to it over time. It’s like Banner blindness but on a podcast.

Andrew: Right. And then the other thing that I noticed that other podcasters do that I thought maybe we should do but I can’t bring myself to do it is they record the ad once and then they run it in the middle of the program and it’s the same exact thing. There’s simplicity to that, but I just can’t do it.

Gavin: I know. We try to push some of our sponsors. We do one season basically of sponsorships where they can do that and then we’ll try to switch up the copy or give them a couple variations. But I only like to sponsor people who actually use or have some sort of relationship with Acuity so you can speak from your heart like you do and speak like truthfully about it, actually knowing about it.

Andrew: I like doing it within an interview, largely because like earlier today I was recording with Elizabeth Dukes. She wrote down the name Acuity Scheduling. She said, “We’re got to get on there.” She hadn’t heard of it and she was nodding along as I said, “You need to talk to your customers,” and then she said, “There’s a software that does it. Let’s go check I tout.” I like that. I like that engagement.

Gavin: Yeah.

Andrew: All right.

Gavin: I think we’re actually going to experiment a little bit and open a yoga studio next.

Andrew: Are you messing with me?

Gavin: No. I haven’t told anybody this. But one of the grand experiments I found, I learned a lot from being close to my mom and seeing how she runs a business. So we’re going to do some things, changing our pricing to give back to users a lot more. Then one of the other things is to get closer to some of our users, one of the best ways to do that is by understanding the business intimately. So there will be an Acuity Scheduling-sponsored yoga studio, not called Acuity Scheduling because that name is hard to type.

Andrew: That’s a tough name, actually, Acuity Scheduling. If you would have called it like Zimba or Zebra or something, man, it would have been easier.

Gavin: I know. I’m sorry. That’s helping with our growth rates.

Andrew: Is it?

Gavin: Well, it’s keeping them down so we can keep our staff down.

Andrew: I see. So what’s the deal? You’re actually going to open up a yoga studio. You will own the yoga studio. You will manage the yoga studio to understand what your clients are going through when they’re booking using Acuity Scheduling?

Gavin: Yeah. So my wife is a yoga instructor and head of the customer support is also a yoga instructor. And we just so happen to be moving back to that area to be closer to family since we’re expecting a new baby. That came up as one of the best ways to both learn intimately about our customers because yoga studios are becoming more and more popular and also Pilates and all of that, dealing with classes.

That is one of the biggest areas that I feel that we’re weak on is understanding how people do a mixture of class scheduling, things like subscriptions and memberships and signing up friend and signing medical waivers beforehand and all of that. I feel like there is a ton to learn from and I feel like our background in customer support can really make this not just an experiment, like it will be at the beginning but a profitable business in the long run.

Andrew: Can I tell you something? This seems like a passion play. There are other ways to learn what your customers are going through, like go and live in their office or do free support for them for the most part to understand it. I feel like you love yoga. Your wife loves yoga. You just want to get into it because you can.

Gavin: I actually don’t love yoga. But there are totally better ways to learn from it without having to do this. I just feel like this is one of the most interesting ways that we can–well, we can both become engaged together and it ties in so perfectly to Acuity that it’s this like trifecta of things where it’s our expertise and customer support and everything and design coming into a physical project. It’s here background in yoga. She was very interested in starting a yoga studio anyway.

Andrew: That’s what I’m feeling.

Gavin: The third thing is having Acuity be able to learn from this and be intimately involved. That’s what put me over the edge. But having Acuity be able to learn so much about it is–that tickles me and gets me so excited.

Andrew: That’s one of the interesting things about bootstrapped entrepreneurs, that you could have an idea like that and you have the money to do it. You have the confidence to do it because you started a business before and you have the freedom because you don’t have a board of directors telling you we signed up for this software company, stay in your lane. So you get to go and explore and do stuff like that.

Gavin: Yeah. I totally feel you. If I didn’t own 100% of the company, I’m pretty sure this idea would be squashed right away and we would be stuck having this superficial view of businesses and I wouldn’t be able to get totally into the mind and make this the most perfect software for all the companies.

Andrew: And keep it like passionate for you. You’re a guy that’s been doing this now for I don’t know how many years. roughly ten years, right? What do you do to keep from burning out or being tired from the idea?

Gavin: Well, now thankfully I can jump around. If I had to keep doing customer support, oh my gosh I would be burned out. I would give everybody six-hour days too because just doing customer support is exhausting. Thankfully now we jump around. I still do development. I do support. I jump around and get to play with ideas like how can we learn a little bit better about our customers and this was the wildest way that I could come up with.

Andrew: Let’s talk about how you hired people. You have a really–you have a specific way that you want to talk to your customers, specific attitude. You have a kind of person you enjoy working with. Let’s talk about how you just hire and do customer support. How do you find the right people for customer support?

Gavin: If you haven’t already, you should really take a look at our job posting.

Andrew: Where is it? Let’s have a look. I bet it’s AcuityScheduling.com/Jobs.

Gavin: Nope. It’s AcuityScheduling.com–I don’t even know. We work remotely and one other site and we ended up getting like 1,500 responses in about four days. I’ll send it to you after this. But the copy in the job posting…

Andrew: I see it. I’m a good Googler. I came up with it. Wait. What is this? Handsome, generous, catch all career seeking the one–is that what it is?

Gavin: Yes, that’s the one.

Andrew: The headline actually says, “Handsome, Generous, Great Catch of a Career Seeking the One,” profile, “Country of origin: USA, location: New York, New York, age: nine (kids grow up fast these days, don’t they?)” You’re basically doing like a Match.com profile for yourself.

Gavin: Yeah.

Andrew: “Hi, my name is Acuity. I’m an online scheduling tech company based in New York. It’s cold here this time of year, so I drink a lot of hot chocolate. I hope this doesn’t lead to a spare tire around my calendar. While I don’t usually do this sort of thing, I thought it was time to put myself out there and see if maybe, just maybe the right person might be reading on the other side of the screen.”

“Where do begin? Well, for starters, I help small, medium and very large businesses keep their schedules organized. It’s a great gig and I like when people tell me how much they love me, though I’m always sad when at the end of the day they abandon me. My logout button is my least favorite physical feature.”

“Going on to things they tell me humans do, like going to happy hour, play with things called the kids, my dad, Gavin, is great. He built me from scratch almost a decade ago, which means,” I can’t stop reading this thing. “Which means I’m almost going into double digits. They tell me he’s a wonderful boss to work for and that’s why you’ve come here.”

That’s the attitude. It starts from that. It keeps going, by the way. I could keep reading things thing.

Gavin: And there’s so much in there too. And in the end we don’t ask for resumes or anything, we ask for a love letter so the people who respond with a generic cover letter and their resume, cut them out right away.

Then the next thing is how people write their love letter, if it ties into everything in there and if they really show their personality concisely, those are the people we want and we get a sample of their writing from the very beginning and we judge people just on what we read inside of there and then we go through and we do interviews and we’ve got a few more steps and they schedule through Acuity and answer a couple of things and we’ve got a few more steps tied into that too.

Andrew: The first step is they write you–I see it here on the bottom. “Do you think you might be the one? I’m now accepting love letters in the form of an email. We’ll let you decide what to write, send over to. . .” and then you give the email address. That’s a lot of work on the first step to read their love letters and see if they have it, right? What’s your process for figuring our who’s the one faster than having to read every one of these?

Gavin: Well, a few of us read through a lot of them. Like I said, we got so many responses, like so many great, personalized responses that I have a hard time deciding. I usually go into it thinking, “I’m going to hire one person,” and then hiring two and I wish that I could hire even more. Thankfully I’ve resisted that. But I don’t know. It’s also a lot of work for everybody who writes in too.

The people who just do the generic thing I don’t care about, but the people who do a personalized response, I feel like if they’re spending that time I should try to read it, so I’ll go through–we used Workable this time, which was really great, and then just trying to click rapidly and then scan it through.

Andrew: Because Workable makes it easy to keep track of every applicant.

Gavin: Yeah. Doing it through email was terrible the first time we did it. I wasn’t expecting so many responses.

Andrew: Yeah. I thought you were using Zendesk to keep track of it, but I can see how that becomes tough. Tell me about some of the other steps. I understand why you would have them schedule using Acuity Scheduling, why you would have them schedule a conversation with you so that they see the software, they understand it, they get it or they don’t get it. What else do you do to screen out the right people and bring out the personality of the right people but also get the wrong people out of it?

Gavin: Yeah. The other thing, we have them answer a couple of emails, not fake emails but real emails that we’ve gotten from users. One of them is about a lady who emailed into support saying, “I have seven feral cats at my house. I don’t mind feeding them. I just want them neutered so I don’t have anymore,” and see how they respond to that, that way they get a feel for their personality and we can see if they say, “I’m sorry. We’re not the business you’re looking for,” or do something fun.

Andrew: And if they say, “I’m sorry, you’re not the business we’re looking for,” then they’re not a good fit for the Acuity Scheduling personality.

Gavin: Exactly.

Andrew: Got it. Okay. You hired the right person or frankly you end up hiring more than the right person. You hire two right people. You said one of the things you do is you onboard them. You give them two weeks training. What’s that like?

Gavin: The first week, we just go really intense into Acuity, just overload their minds with every single thing that we walk through the interface and go over talking about, not just what the feature does but why people are interested and the different types of businesses that might be.

Then after that, we go through day by day diving into the different areas while they do some exercises from things that are mind-bending, like we have a series of increasingly complex types of availability to try to model within Acuity.

Andrew: I see. So you tell them, “I need you to create a calendar for someone who has three producers and each one has their own time and they all have an hour slot but they need 15 minutes before, like that kind of thing and then they go and do it.

Gavin: Exactly.

Andrew: I think that’s our crazy system. You might just want to give them our system and say, “Reproduce what Mixergy does.”

Gavin: Hey, yours is one of the easiest ones. We hire for personality though. The thing they’re learning then is technically what goes on. In the second week, we have a little bit of that but they’re on real emails and can try to–the most difficult people to hire sometimes are the ones that have previous customer support experience because we have to break so many of their habits.

Andrew: What’s a bad habit that you have to break that you see over and over again?

Gavin: Just impersonal types of opening, not including enough kitten .gifs inside of their emails, you know the usual things.

Andrew: You guys use Zendesk, right?

Gavin: No. We use Help Scout.

Andrew: Help Scout. I love Help Scout. I thought I saw Zendesk. You know what I did? I did a…

Gavin: Our help section uses Zendesk.

Andrew: I see. Why the help center for Zendesk? I used page source to figure it out.

Gavin: So we used to use another company who was absolutely awful. They just did helpdesk. So we really love Help Scout.

Andrew: I know the company you used. I actually looked at them because of you. You were the reason. I said, “If these guys at Acuity Scheduling are using them, there must be something there.”

Gavin: Yeah. They went down all the time. But then Zendesk, it turns out, has a really mature one. I just don’t like their interaction with email. It doesn’t feel personal. It doesn’t feel like you’re emailing someone you know.

Andrew: That’s a big one. That’s one of the big reasons why I like Help Scout. The other one is Help Scout is so clean. There’s not a lot of junk in there. If someone on my team assigns an email to me on Help Scout, it can go automatically into my Gmail and then I can hit reply on Gmail and they get the response back and it also adds itself to the Help Scout chain so that anyone else on the team can see what I responded.

Gavin: The thing that sold us too Is we had a custom sidebar developed, so when it pulls up the email, we’ll look up your user name and pull in like stats about your plan level and have quick links to login.

Andrew: It does that?

Gavin: We had to develop part of that.

Andrew: Got it. Okay.

Gavin: Then we loved it so much that we bent over backwards to try to get that same functionality inside of Olark too, which we use for live chat.

Andrew: I actually read about this. I forget where, that one of the things that you found that reduces customer service email is not separating the help section from the site. So if someone has a question, they hit the button and the help section comes up on top of the page that they’re on so they don’t have to go back and forth between tabs, right? That’s what you’re talking about that you built yourself?

Gavin: This one is on the customer support, customer happiness representative side. So when you email us, you say, “Hey, Gavin, this appointment from Google isn’t showing up,” all of a sudden on the side, it will say, “Andrew, you’re on the growing business plan, we can single click, login to your account to see what it is. Sometimes we’ll highlight some things in there. We’ll be able to see your past emails and all of that very easily.

Andrew: I see. We have that too in Help Scout. For us it’s easier. There aren’t that many plans and it gets tagged up and we use one of their integrations to do that. When you’re taking people through that first week, who’s doing the intense product demo? I’m assuming you’re doing a GoToMeeting, right?

Gavin: Everybody comes to New York City where I am. They’ll come into the office and we’ll sit together and it’s our first time actually meeting face to face. I’ll sit with them that first day and go through everything. In fact, we’ll have other people come in.

Usually my sister, who’s head of customer support because she was one of the first ones and is fantastic at it will spend a week with them and then we’ll fly in a couple of other people and they can meet other folks on the team since we’re small enough they can meet a large percentage face to face and do training with them. I’m always sitting right behind too where I can chime in with reasons why or some historical things or some examples.

Andrew: I see. We’re so over time but I’ve got to ask you a couple more things. There was a crazy person who emailed you asking for crazy features, help with work around. What was your response to that? Do you remember what you told Jeremy about that?

Gavin: I’m trying to remember. Do you have anything else to jog my memory?

Andrew: Three years ago a lady was demanding crazy features. The staff was trying to give help by finding workarounds. The staff didn’t feel empowered to help her out. That wasn’t the right fit. We read through the email chain and the email response at the end of the ticket. The woman went on a tirade in email. I guess what the point is with that story is if someone is not the right fit, you want to step and say, “Look, I’m sorry. It’s not the right fit. I’ve got to tell you.” Fire your customers, as the Wall Street Journal said years ago.

Gavin: I still am looking for the magic way to fire customers without offending them. But usually our way is saying like we were talking about earlier, sometimes they’re upset and it’s really just because we are not the right product for them and for some reason, people get angry instead of just saying, “Screw you guys, I’m cancelling.”

Now that we give them that opening when it’s apparent that that happens, I’ve always been comfortable saying something is not the right fit, but that experience made me realize that my staff doesn’t realize that. They sometimes feel like they have to keep customers. . .

Andrew: They have to keep customers happy.

Gavin: Yeah.

Andrew: I have two other things here. We’re just going to go in rapid fire. Remote celebrations–you have this remote team. I see how you in the beginning bring them in so they feel like part of the team and they get to know you in person but you also do some remote celebrations, including one where, “I had a difficult support email. The challenge to the team was how do you respond to it.” You said, “Whoever responds to it in the best way I’m going to send ice cream.”

Gavin: Yeah. Oh my gosh, I love Jenny’s Ice Cream.

Andrew: Jenny’s Ice Cream? Never heard of it.

Gavin: They ship all throughout the US. We’ve done this a couple of times where we’ll have different challenges internally. Maybe it’s to give a caption to a meme or answer a really difficult support email and actually really think about it. With all of that, we’ll send everybody ice cream or send everybody everything else, so the types of things you’ll do in an office, just doing it totally remotely and hopefully surprisingly everybody when they get a random ice cream delivery at their doorstep.

Andrew: I see. And the idea is, “Let’s all as a team try to figure out how we can respond to this one tech support issue and see how everyone else thinks.” And the most creative person will win the ice cream is what you said but you surprised everyone and got them all the ice cream.

Gavin: Oh yeah, totally.

Andrew: The idea behind that is to show the team, “This is what we stand for, cleverly responding to email. Let’s all see how we each respond so we learn each other’s style and also so we see we value this and this is what we’re spending time on.”

Gavin: Exactly. The number one thing is that they answered the person’s problem and did it in a concise way and then on top of that added a flourish to make it interesting and not a generic faceless robot on the other side of the keyboard.

Andrew: I do see that. Your emails are all very short. There’s no preamble. It just goes into the thing. Finally, we asked you what didn’t we address. I’ve asked in this interview about how many millions you’re making. You said, “I got really excited when I hit the first million dollars in recurring revenue.” How did you celebrate it?

Gavin: I’m sorry. I totally forget now.

Andrew: It wasn’t a big thing? You weren’t looking at your QuickBooks or whatever software you use?

Gavin: I do look at all of that. That was–I think it was a big vacation for that one. That was one of the first big revenue milestones. I was really excited when we had finally hit that and I think I celebrated by going on just a big all out vacation. But then after that, I sort of lost track of it and now I don’t even know what it is off the top of my head anymore, just because as long as we’re profitable and we can make the bills, I feel like a lot of the excess should be fed back into the customers and fed back into the support.

When I left my government job, I left something that I really loved and I didn’t want to start a company feeling stressed out, working crazy hours. The only way to do that is for me to enjoy what I love and to be around people who are also happy and enjoy what they love. I hope that I was able to make that.

Andrew: Are you guys doing roughly $5 million a year now?

Gavin: We’re doing a fair amount, something around there. Yeah.

Andrew: All right. It’s unreal. I’ve gone too long with you. The reason I’ve gone so long is because like you said, those emails make me feel like you’re a buddy of mine and now we’re chatting. But I can see that we’ve been sitting here for well over an hour including the pre-interview conversation. I appreciate you doing that. I’m actually looking here on the site. I’ve learned so much. I’ve got some tons of tabs including Shop.Jennys.com. I had no idea you could actually send ice cream in the mail to someone and it’s not even expensive. The churro pint I could send for $12 plus shipping?

Gavin: Churro is so good. Oh my gosh, that was the best one that we did.

Andrew: What is churro? Churro red hot cinnamon ice cream with pieces of toffee and flakes of pastry?

Gavin: Yeah. It’s like that Mexican churro type of flavor. It’s got all types of bits.

Andrew: Who knew that you could ship this to people?

Gavin: And it comes out rock hard. It could be sitting in like 100 degrees outside and they ship it with dry ice and everything, so it’s always perfect.

Andrew: I like it. I like clever gift ideas like that. All right. For anyone who wants to check out the site, it is AcuityScheduling.com. Go check out AcuityScheduling.com.

And of course, my two sponsors for this interview are the company that’s going to host your website right. It’s called HostGator. See them at HostGator.com/Mixergy and the second is the conference that I’ll be greeting you guys–I’m not greeting anyone–I’ll be drinking with you guys. We’ll be talking all kinds of stuff about what’s going on with your business and mine. See me at Conversion 2016. The URL for that is Leadpages.net/Mixergy.

All right. Going on five, six years now as an Acuity customer, very happy. I’ve gotten to know you through it. Sorry. One last thing–I’ve got to thank somebody in my audience who created this beautiful software that makes it so easier to create images for Facebook and they do Instagram and all the other stuff, but I don’t give a rip about any of those, just beautiful images. He happens to be a fan. I’ve got to send out a shout out to the guy who created Snappa.io. I’m so proud that this was created by a Mixergy fan and I’ve got to thank him for also great customer support with me. Thanks.

Thank you, everyone. Bye everyone.


  • Erik Stoddard

    This was one, if not, the BEST interview ever on MIxergy. Gavin obviously understands and drives home the importance of treating the team well. I envy his enthusiasm for life and business. Gavin, if one person was helped by this interview, it was me. Thanks.

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  • saasjunkie

    I absolutely loved this interview with Gavin!
    I have been a user of Acuity for a couple years (on & off) and their software is, well, pure simple bliss! There are just a few SaaS companies out there, and I can probably count them on both hands, that understand exactly where they belong in a niche and truly understand customer service. Acuity would probably be in my top 3 if not at the very top of my list. Its great to hear about Gavin’s methodologies, strategies, and what it took to get Acuity started. Thank you Andrew for bringing the customer connection back to business owners.

  • Gavin Zuchlinski

    Thanks :-) I’m grinning thanks to you, and am tickled that you love Acuity so much!

  • Gavin Zuchlinski

    Thanks Erik! I love it, and glad that came through :-) Hope you’re able to find something just as I did!

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