Bob La Loggia – Founder and CEO of AppointmentPlus

My morning routine has been a game changer. It’s all about having sacred daily time to meditate, read, and think about goals and strategy. The time of day doesn’t matter. The key is that it’s regular time when you can be alone and step out of the daily chaos. It’s critical for staying mentally sharp. If you never take time to clear your mind, you can easily get caught up in firefighting day after day and lose sight of the bigger picture

Bob La Loggia is the founder and CEO of AppointmentPlus, a fast-growing 85-person SaaS business based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Bob is a serial entrepreneur who’s passionate about his business and helping Arizona develop a world-class startup ecosystem.

Bob serves on the boards of the Arizona Technology Council, Seed Spot, the Center for Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, and Arizona Technology Investor Forum. He also serves on the advisory boards for seven startups and is an angel investor through the Desert Angels, Social Venture Partners, and ATI.

Bob was named the Ed Denison Business Leader of the Year and a Phoenix Business Journal Tech Titan. His company has won a number of awards, including CareerBuilder’s Best Places to Work award. He attended the University of Arizona, where he majored in management information systems.

Where did the idea for AppointmentPlus come from?

I wish I could say that I had a horrible experience booking an appointment for a haircut and determined that I would never allow this to happen again by completely revolutionizing appointment scheduling. That’s not really how it happened. It wasn’t quite that dramatic.

In 2000, a dot-com I was with went under soon after the tech bubble burst. Being an entrepreneur runs deeper than DNA for me, so I had to come up with the next big idea to sink my teeth into. The idea wasn’t necessarily to address a pain point that I had; it was more about giving the world something it sorely needed. Booking your own appointments online just seemed obvious.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

In my typical workday, I’m actually more concerned about being present than being productive. The workday for me is all about communication. My days are chock-full of meetings and calls, typically back to back, all day long. If I do have an opening and someone drops in for a talk, I’ll prioritize it over any assignment I have to get done. I have an extreme open-door policy. If it’s open, anyone can come in and talk. If I have a task with a deadline, I work on it outside of the regular workday.

The meetings I’m a part of run the gamut of business topics, from fundraising to hiring to product to sales and marketing. I also have a lot of one-on-one meetings.

I generally use my lunches and breakfasts to meet with people outside the business, including investors, entrepreneurs, fellow CEOs, and other people in the ecosystem. It’s not uncommon for me to have seven or eight external meetings a week.

I also serve on a number of boards, so I’ll typically have a couple of board meetings each month.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I do a lot of brainstorming. I set aside time nearly every day to just write down ideas. I do this in the morning. I get up between 4 and 5 a.m. The morning is when my mind is clearest.

When I come up with an idea, I usually float it by my leadership team via email. (I send a lot of emails, much to the dismay of my team. I can only imagine the anxiety they feel every morning when they open up their laptops. I would not want to be them and have to deal with my barrage of daily emails and crazy ideas.)

For ideas we feel we should act on, we usually set up an initial exploratory meeting. If we agree that we should implement the idea, it becomes a project. We aren’t perfect at it yet, but we attempt to projectize everything. If you can insert an idea into a repeatable, predictable process, its likelihood of being successful increases significantly.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’m not a gadget guy, nor am I an early adopter. I didn’t move from cassettes to CDs until my Mom had a large collection of them. That’s the definition of a late adopter. But this wearables trend really intrigues me. I’ve never worn a watch, and I don’t wear any jewelry, but by golly, I think I’m going to get an Apple Watch when it comes out. Don’t worry — I won’t get the $10,000 blinged-out version. Baby steps.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’ve been a CEO for a long time, but I haven’t found the secret to being organized and productive. There, I said it. Instead of trying to figure out the perfect system, I decided to think about things differently. I used to really stress about not being able to keep up with email. I don’t worry about it anymore.

It also used to drive me crazy when, at the end of the day, I hadn’t finished a single item on my to-do list. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I kind of threw in the towel, but in a healthy way. I made the decision to prioritize communicating with my team and working on only the highest-priority tasks. When you only work on the top priorities, it’s shocking to realize how many items on your to-do list aren’t as important as you thought they were. My to-do list is a mile long, but I only focus on the single most important task on it each day.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I’ve had a lot of different types of jobs, and I’ve learned a lot from each one. I worked with a moving company when I was in high school. I liked the fact that I got to exercise during the workday. The only exercise I get during the workday now is typing on a keyboard. My fingers are in tip-top shape. But I also learned that moving pianos and dressers is rough on the body. I learned that it would be hard to have such a physical job as a long-term career.

I also had several boring jobs. They were the worst. If I’m looking at the clock, it’s over. All I want to do is get out of there as fast as I can. I worked with a company that had flextime, so I came in at 6 a.m., worked through lunch, and left at 2 p.m. My primary concern was not how I could advance my career but how early I could leave. It wasn’t a good environment for me.

I learned that I need variety, challenges, and interesting work. This has also had a big impact on my management style because I assume that’s what other people want.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

My wife and I worked on the business for a long time out of our house. We were very isolated. I wasn’t involved with the startup ecosystem, and I rarely interacted with other software CEOs. To be fair, the Arizona ecosystem back in the early 2000s wasn’t what it is today. Today, it’s a healthy, thriving, incredibly supportive system. But I think it would have been beneficial to feel like we weren’t alone.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I actually have a number of really good habits that have had a direct impact on the success of the business. My morning routine has been a game changer. It’s all about having sacred daily time to meditate, read, and think about goals and strategy. The time of day doesn’t matter. The key is that it’s regular time when you can be alone and step out of the daily chaos. It’s critical for staying mentally sharp. If you never take time to clear your mind, you can easily get caught up in firefighting day after day and lose sight of the bigger picture.

I also try to read a book every day. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re so focused on running a growing business. Books help break you out of narrow thinking. I like reading books much better than articles or blog posts. They provide a lot more detail. Sometimes that additional information is what it takes for a concept to sink

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One strategy that has helped grow our business is accepting that our strategy will change. The world is moving too fast to think that the strategy you have in place today will be the same one you have two years from now. This means that you have to break the paradigm of thinking that it’s a bad thing for your strategy to change. It’s not only good, but also necessary. Make sure your staff understands and embraces this because it’s going to happen.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Well, one big failure was the failure of my first business. When it went under, I had nothing left to my name. I was 29, I had no money, and I was in massive credit card debt. It was the lowest point in my life. But I was determined not to go bankrupt. I committed to paying back every dime, which I did. (It took eight years.) I overcame that failure by accepting that what makes life interesting are all the unpredictable twists and turns. I learned to appreciate and enjoy this crazy journey. Not everything will be positive and go as planned, but to fully enjoy the good times, you have to go through the bad times.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve had this idea for 20 years. It’s called Car Capers. It’s all about getting people to look at your car and laugh. I’ve definitely had many cars that people laughed at over the years, but that’s a different story. Car Capers are items that have magnets on them that you put on top of your roof, such as a pair of sneakers, a grocery bag, a purse, a coffee mug, or a baby carrier. You want to make people think you left the item up there by mistake. It’s a billion-dollar idea. Go for it.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently spent $100 on our house cleaner. As a matter of fact, we spend $100 for her service every two weeks. When you have a business, you should delegate as much as you possibly can. That includes tasks at home. Work is stressful enough. Don’t pile on by having a stressful home. Actively try to reduce stress-inducing things — such as a messy house — by getting help. You deserve it.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I built most of the internal systems we used in the past. One by one, they are all being replaced by third-party systems, and I couldn’t be happier. My babies were ugly. We now use best-of-breed SaaS applications, including Salesforce, Zuora, Zendesk, Act-On, and Rally. We love them for all the reasons other companies love SaaS software: You get updates immediately, you don’t have to spend money on infrastructure, and they’re better than anything we could ever build.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I read a lot of books, but one that I recently read stands out in my mind as being highly relevant to anyone looking to grow a business. The book is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. It’s not a new book, but the lessons conveyed in the story are timeless. Anyone who has ever run a company will be able to relate and come away with some good ideas they can implement immediately.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I spend a good deal of time talking to startup CEOs. My company is no longer a startup (even though we try to act like one), so being around people who are excited and want to conquer the world with their idea is incredibly inspirational to me. Sometimes I forget that naiveté can be a good thing. And sometimes I forget that you can be scrappy and find a way to get things done even if you have 100 employees. You never have to lose those traits. I’m definitely more influenced by entrepreneurs than by Fortune 500 CEOs.


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