[quote style=”boxed”]Every time I do a task, I ask myself, “Can this process be documented and delegated?” Even if the task cannot be delegated, I still document what I’m doing so I can follow directions when I do the task again.[/quote]
Robert Strazzarino is the founder and CEO of College Scheduler LLC. College Scheduler provides a web-based schedule planner to students at higher education institutions around the United States and Canada. The schedule planner helps students graduate faster, streamlines advising, and assists registrars in class planning.
Robert started his first company while in high school. Previously, he worked for Chevron Corporation and also interned with the FBI in Washington, D.C. In addition to running College Scheduler, Robert is an active angel investor. His investments include Bizness Apps, a mobile app platform that powers over 5 percent of the entire Apple App Store and is used in over 20 countries. Robert frequently speaks at California State University, Chico, on entrepreneurship, business, marketing, and computer science classes.
Where did the idea for College Scheduler come from?
As a student at CSU, Chico, I was trying to figure out all my possible class schedules by hand for the upcoming semester. I quickly realized it would take forever, and I knew there had to be a better way. I created College Scheduler to automatically figure out every possible open schedule so I could feel confident that I’d found the best one.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I arrive at the office between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m., quickly attend to my inbox, and take a look at my task list. We have a development team meeting in which I review our software development and also conduct many web demos for prospective universities that are interested in purchasing the software.
How do you bring ideas to life?
After brainstorming new features for our product roadmap, I usually use a mind map to collect my thoughts. After that, I sit down with my lead developer and talk through the features in my brainstorm. We discuss ways to accomplish timelines and priorities and take it from there. Brainstorming new features and more efficient business processes is one of my favorite tasks in running the company.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The software development tools that are available today are so powerful and inexpensive for teams of 10 programmers or fewer. We use many of the same tools that gigantic companies use, and it makes us more efficient and nimble in our software development.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I follow the principles in David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done.” His principles apply to both the business world and personal to-do list management. By staying organized, I can keep my head clear and tap into the creative side of my brain.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I really have always had awesome jobs. In high school, I spent a whole summer mowing and edging lawns with a local landscaping business. I did this while making websites for other businesses. Sometimes, you just really want to make some extra money!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have started traveling to tradeshows as soon as I started the company — we discovered them after being in business for a few years. In 2013, we attended 55 shows across the United States.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Every time I do a task, I ask myself, “Can this process be documented and delegated?” Even if the task cannot be delegated, I still document what I’m doing so I can follow directions when I do the task again. Examples of this include accounting procedures, programming tasks, and website updates. I strongly believe that having clearly documented processes with screenshots clears your brain to focus on more high-level activities.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Staying in constant communication with my team really helps me get a feel for what we need to do next. If they need marketing or sales materials, we invest in getting those completed quickly.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve invested in many startups (and also taken a part in some) that never materialized and were unsuccessful. You have to know when to walk away from something. You have to realize that not every startup will be successful. Most successful entrepreneurs have also had many failures. You have to keep that in mind!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
When planning upgrades for your home, it’s a little tough to mock things up on paper for each room without photos and a floor plan. I’d like to hire a company to come into my house and snap detailed photos of every room and also take measurements to develop an accurate floor plan that I can import into various computer programs. A company that could provide this service could be very successful.
Tell us something about you that very few people know.
Most people don’t know that I’m an avid ping-pong player. Although I’ve slowed down in recent years, I’ve won a couple tournaments in my hometown.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use all of the Atlassian tools for our software development. They are extremely powerful and very reasonably priced for our team size. We love how modern the tools are and how well they work together.
We also use 15Five. It’s a fantastic tool to get a pulse on how my team is feeling and whether there’s anything we can improve in the company. Team members fill out five-minute surveys every two weeks that are delivered to me. I can then give feedback and make comments.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Getting Things Done” by David Allen is all about moving your to-do list from your brain to a reliable system you can count on. It’s a great read that everyone should check out. Even if you don’t run your own company, it can make a huge difference in managing your personal life and responsibilities.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
When programming, you’ll inevitably run into roadblocks or need to learn new skills. I find www.stackoverflow.com to be an invaluable resource for answering programming questions and learning new skills. There’s almost nothing you cannot accomplish with motivation and Google!
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College Scheduler on Twitter: @collegeschedule
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.