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040: Solving his Mum’s Appointment Scheduling Problem led to Acuity Scheduling with now Over 50,000 clients (w/ Gavin Zuchlinski)

Gavin Zuchlinski is the founder of Acuity Scheduling, a clever online automated way for businesses to manage their appointments online, allowing clients to schedule themselves. He is a self-professed tech geek and espresso maniac who wholeheartedly believes that business should be fun. 

Gavin says, “At Acuity Scheduling we are obsessed about helping businesses like yours offer and manage appointments online so you can focus on what you’re good at.  

It all started with seeing my mom spend hours scheduling her clients. I knew there had to be a better way, so I built it. It transformed her life and now does the same for over 50,000 businesses.” 

Effect of relocating to Acuity 

Gavin started by working in a government job before leaving to start Acuity Scheduling. He recently moved from New York City to Pennsylvania to be closer to family. His move didn’t affect Acuity’s operations because it’s a completely remote company. Every Acuity employee either works from home, a co-working space or other suitable location. Whenever Gavin needs to hire new employees he still sources them from New York because it’s easier to carry out training and on-boarding. 

Current core revenue streams 

Acuity is a subscription based SaaS business where every client who goes to their website can sign up for a trial and later pay for the service either monthly or annually. 100% of Acuity Scheduling’s revenue comes from the subscriptions. 

Target clients 

Gavin originally built Acuity for his mum’s small business and he has continuously ensured that they only serve small businesses that have less than 10 employees. Acuity offers 4 pricing plans including a free plan, $10 plan, $19 plan, and a $34 plan. They also have larger clients who pay the same low prices which enables Gavin and his team to ensure that clients are treated equally in terms of service delivery. 

Acuity has tens of thousands of low paying customers. That has helped the company avoid being reliable on one segment clients for its major revenues.  

Starting out in business 

During a long drive with his mum, Gavin realised that she was having a hard time scheduling, cancelling or confirming appointments, and that inspired him to develop a program that would help her efficiently manage her appointment scheduling so she could concentrate on her core activities. That software program was what became Acuity.  

Gavin also set up a web development business around the software but in the beginning he didn’t succeed in getting clients. He still kept it running and eventually people started organically signing up for it. Back then, Gavin was still working in his government job so he would work on Acuity during his free time. In 2013, he decided to go into Acuity full-time because it had grown considerably and needed his full attention. 

The idea for Acuity 

Gavin came up with the idea for Acuity in 2006 and started developing it immediately in his free time. He is a developer by trade and thus built the software himself. It took him a few weeks to build the first version and take it to market. 

Getting the first set of clients 

The first client for Acuity was his mum and even though he can’t remember the second client, he could recall that one of his one first hundred clients is a fly fishing instructor in the Mid-West US who has been a client ever since. 

To get the first clients, Gavin put up a self-service marketing sign on the Acuity website to direct new users on how to sign up and pay through PayPal while also setting up their subscription. He did a lot of search engine optimization which the sustainably increased the number of clients directed from Google search results. He also got a lot of clients from diverse recommendations and referrals. 

Acuity’s ranking on Google 

When starting out, Acuity didn’t rank on page one. Gavin didn’t have Google Analytics to determine where his clients were coming from but he knew that most of them were searching for some variations of appointment scheduling. The way people search has changed over time which gradually took their ranking to page one. Their ranking was also improved by their effective keyword stuffing. 

Balancing the government job and working on Acuity 

Gavin loved both jobs but when he became tired of one (the government job), it was easy to switch to Acuity. Acuity was giving him additional income which kept growing considerably with the increase in clients.  

It was a challenge managing the two together because during his day job he couldn’t access internet or a phone to check on the Acuity site, and manage customer support. As a result, he worked on Acuity slowly and it enabled him to conveniently get the feedback he needed from existing clients to make useful improvements on the software.  

Growth strategy at the beginning 

In the beginning, Gavin was more focused on search engine optimization which was much easier. He then diversified his methods to include sharing Acuity on different lists and directories. He also approached bloggers whose target clients were in the same demographic as those Acuity targeted, and it worked very well in getting exposure for Acuity while also generating solid sales leads. 

Referrals from existing clients were also a considerable source of new clients for Acuity to date. 

Biggest breakthrough moment 

This came in 2013 when Gavin had to make the decision between leaving his day job and ending Acuity. When he choose to focus on Acuity, he directed all his efforts into it and it has given him good returns over time. Acuity had become too demanding for him to keep his day job since he could not even get enough time to effectively train his first support staff. Working on Acuity full-time enabled him to concentrate on both the development and marketing aspects of the business. 

The financial implications in the beginning 

When Gavin left his day job, he was making much more money from Acuity than he did from his government job. His overhead costs in Acuity were very minimal which made things easier financially. 

Fear of failure and lowest moment in business 

Gavin is very conservative when it comes to business which has helped him avoid failures and disappointments. He used to get concerned when they were not getting new sign ups but that was mitigated by the fact that Acuity had numerous clients that used the software in their day to day business operations. 

His lowest moment was when he realized the initial financial risk and lifestyle change that was needed to start working on Acuity full-time. At some point he tried to stop Acuity and started working temporarily as a contractor.  

Desire to be an entrepreneur 

Gavin never planned to be an entrepreneur and doesn’t consider himself one because he sees himself as someone who builds a product and a small business owner. He didn’t develop Acuity to be something big. He says the reason Acuity has grown in terms of employees is to maintain good service for their clients. He has avoided a lot of things that could have grown Acuity faster and generated more revenue because he prefers to focus on best serving the existing clients. Acuity’s scaling has been a by-product of serving their clients in the best way possible. That philosophy comes from the fact that Gavin enjoys building things and caring for his clients more than anything else. 

Faith, Fun, Family, Finances and Friendships 

Fun comes first because he likes to enjoy everything he does, then finances, family, and friendships. 

A day in life when starting Acuity Vs. a day in life today 

When he started working on Acuity, he would spend 1 to 2 hours a day answering support emails and dealing with customers. He would then spend 1 to 2 hours doing improvements on the software and some marketing. 

Today, he manages his 15+ employees, does a lot of planning, and handles some marketing activities. He spends 30 to 40% of his days doing active development/improvement of the software while spending the rest of the 60% on human resource management, marketing and other managerial and administrative tasks. 

Current growth rates 

Gavin says that they get 90% of their new signups from organic marketing which includes word of mouth, referrals from other websites, and Google results. The remaining 10% comes from some paid sponsorships and paid ads. He has been scaling on the paid ads up and down depending on the need. He spends between $10,000 and $30,000 a month on advertising. 

Projecting current growth when starting out 

Gavin never projected that Acuity would achieve the kind of revenues that it is now. He has always been conservative with his projections and always hires new employees when there is a dire need. He has also concentrated more on streamlining operations in order to eliminate the need to increase overhead costs like need for more support staff. He has ensured that Acuity has maintained its self-service nature so that it runs itself as much as possible. 

Mentors 

Gavin engages with a lot of people but gets more of his mentorship from books on business and management. 

The name “Acuity” 

Gavin got the name “Acuity” from a company he worked for on contract basis. The company’s name was Acuity Innovation so naturally he used that name when he built the software. The definition for Acuity is “clarity” 

Book recommendation for entrepreneurs:   

  1. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Ed Catmull 
  1. Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company – Andrew S. Grove 
  1. The Hard Thing about Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers – Ben Horowitz 

Legacy: 
Wants to make sure that he will die happy about how he lived his life while doing what he loved – Gavin.   

Best way to connect: 
acuity@acuityscheduling.com – Acuity’s general enquiries email
support@acuityscheduling.com – Acuity’s customer support email
gavin@acuityscheduling.com – Gavin’s business email
Gavin Zuchlinski on LinkedIn – Gavin’s professional profile

Get Your Hopes Up and Maximize Your Dreams 🙂

Cheers,
Davis! 

 

About the author, Davis

My Dream of sharing inspirational success stories started many years ago and this Podcast is an amazing show that brings some of those conversations to light.

This show is dedicated to being a voice of encouragement to you because I believe God created you and I with a purpose to fulfill and I want to be here to cheer you on through this Podcast, our Blog and through our other channels of interaction via our comments section after each Podcast and Blog as well as on social media.

I love business and entrepreneurship and I truly believe you have greatness inside of you 🙂