Appointment-Plus sells the fact Time Is Money …

Appointment-Plus sells the fact Time Is Money …

Bob La Loggia remembers the weekend in 2009 that changed the future of his company. For eight years he’d been slowly but steadily growing Appointment-Plus, and was pleased to have 10 employees. But during a software-industry conference in San Francisco, he spoke with entrepreneurs who had decidedly larger enterprises … and they gave him some choice words of advice.

“It occurred to me that I was thinking too small,” La Loggia recalls. “I was the one holding back the business. I couldn’t envision it being a $100 million business. So I thought, ‘I need to change this.’”

On the plane home, La Loggia furiously made notes, outlining a plan to take Appointment-Plus to the stratosphere.

“By the time it landed, I knew exactly what we had to do,” he says.

Today, the online scheduling company employs 65 and is growing so fast, staffers have overflowed into four suite spaces on two floors of the Airpark building at 13951 N. Scottsdale Road.

In the not-too-distant future, La Loggia intends to move operations to a single space, maybe even a standalone building. “I think it hurts our culture if people are separate,” he says. “It’s really, really important to me that everybody in the company knows everyone else in the company.”

Company culture is one of many passions for La Loggia, who spends the majority of his day speaking as “an evangelist” for Appointment-Plus, internally and externally. The company is already considered the industry leader in scheduling software that provides businesses with customer self-scheduling and reminder notifications that reduce no-shows by 70 percent. Testimonials on the company website attest to the hours of manpower clients have saved by shifting to Appointment-Plus, which also integrates with many existing business tools.

As his company continues to gain momentum, La Loggia is laser focused on shoring up the foundation it will grow on.

“I have realized over time that my most important job as a person in charge of a 65-person company is to talk about core values, our purpose for existence, our mission,” he says. “That is the glue that will hold the company together and allow it to get to the next level.”

8,000 Clients & Counting

Businesses of every size use Appointment-Plus software for their booking needs, from solo hair stylists to Pepsi-Cola delivery fleets. Appointment-Plus has its fair share of micro-business clients, though unlike most of the competition, its target market is medium and large-size companies.

“We have some of the biggest companies in the world, including over 50 of the Fortune 500,” La Loggia says. “The way they are using it varies—some, like Nike, use it to schedule employee-candidate interviews. We also have a majority of the nation’s top 100 universities, and they are using it for academic advising, financial aid and tutor scheduling.”

Probably 20 percent of customers utilize the software’s point-of-sale feature, meaning a massage therapist or doctor, for example, can collect payment online at the same time a client books an appointment. Record keeping is another option.

“We make it almost limitless, the amount of data they can collect on customers,” La Loggia says of the customizable registration form that pops up the first time someone begins the booking process. “Our client can ask whatever data they want—things like email address and ZIP code, but they can also ask ‘How did you hear about us?’ ‘Do you have health insurance?’ and information specific to their business.”

Appointment-Plus’ smartphone app, which has garnered excellent user reviews, allows business representatives quick access to appointment processes from any device. Functionality includes adding and changing appointments, updating customer information, viewing calendars, and filtering data by staff or location.

“Our future is mobile. At one point, we will be a mobile-first business,” La Loggia says, adding the app is currently only for company clients but soon a version will be offered for customers who want to book appointments via phone.

Airpark Clientele

All told, Appointment-Plus has more than 8,000 clients in 17 countries, including  a couple dozen in Scottsdale, many of whom don’t realize at first they are working with a neighboring business.

Lynette Groves, owner of two Mathnasium franchises, says she was inundated with calls and emails asking for schedule changes before she found Appointment-Plus more than two years ago. “I was doing an Excel spreadsheet. It was a handwritten schedule. It was a nightmare,” she says.

Now Groves gives parents a user name and password when they enroll their children in one of the Scottsdale math learning centers, and her clients can schedule tutorials from the comfort of their computer on the same day, or 30 days in advance, or whatever parameters Groves sets up. They can also change or cancel appointments up to an hour beforehand.

Another feature Groves likes is the software’s notification feature, which automatically informs parents via email if their child is a no-show.

Groves, who found Appointment-Plus through recommendations from her online franchise support group, wasn’t aware it was an Airpark business until recently. She signed up for the two-week trial, which began with a company representative helping her set up her website interface. “We were on the phone for an hour … and it’s been great since then,” she says.

Pit Stop Auto Detailing has also found Appointment-Plus to be a valuable tool. The business offers mobile service as well as a full-service automotive facility in the Scottsdale Airpark. “I’m able to have the customer information needed to send a schedule out to both of my mobile trucks, even to where they can log on to the schedule en route,” says owner Marcus Morton.

The software also enables Morton to pull up a calendar in the field when customers have questions about their schedule or want to make another appointment.

“I like that I can look at the whole month’s calendar … and see what my workload is for all three schedules,” he adds. Since Morton needs to control where and when his two trucks are going, his version of customizable Appointment-Plus doesn’t include the feature for customers to book their own services.

Marketing

Unlike Groves, Morton knew the service was locally based when he subscribed, but nearly all of Appointment-Plus’ clients find their way there by searching the Internet. In fact, the company doesn’t do any outbound selling. Marketing is done completely in-house, with dollars primarily invested in search engine optimization. Another priority is training sales reps, or “coaches,” to give top-notch customer service to prospects enrolling in the free trials, ensuring clients have a positive experience.

In the last year, Appointment-Plus’ burgeoning success has thrust it and its founder into the spotlight. La Loggia was named 2012 Business Leader of the Year by the Arizona Technology Council, and in March he was among Phoenix Business Journal’s inaugural class of “Tech Titans.” The company was also recently named a CareerBuilder Top 50 Places to Work.

La Loggia admits the accolades feel good and are good for business, but he’s more interested in the energy the attention can bring to his goals to give back.

“I think I can play an important role in helping build the ecosystem here for startups. Those are my passion,” says La Loggia, who actively mentors new entrepreneurs and belongs to investor groups, including Arizona Technology Investors Forum.

‘Every Mistake in the Book’

La Loggia is the first to admit he could have used a mentor back in 1993 when he launched his first entrepreneurial venture. His concept for a fitness planning DayTimer-like log—the paper kind, as this was back in the pre-smartphone era—left him $150,000 in the hole. “I made every mistake in the book,” he says. “But I’m convinced that if you are going to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to fail a couple of times. It’s not normal to be a Mark Zuckerberg.”

Though financially exhausted at the time, La Loggia refused to give in to bankruptcy. Pledging to pay back every penny, he took project management jobs through temp agencies, eventually working fulltime for JDA Software and then helping to found a tech startup where he started an e-commerce site. That’s where he really started to love technology, a discipline he’d studied at University of Arizona.

“I’m a creative person, but also a tech person, which is kind of an odd mix, so building websites was a way to bring in both of those areas,” he says.

La Loggia eventually started his own company, StormSource, devoted to website creation and hosting. And then the idea for Appointment-Plus came along, but not from any desire to solve a personal scheduling problem.

“I wanted to find a use that would be popular and useful over time as the Internet gained popularity,” La Loggia says, then laughs. “So in the beginning, I had delusions of how rich I was going to be. I can remember having this whiteboard with a goal of 100 clients, and I remember how hard it was to get to that goal.” A couple dozen months ticked by, and the goal was still sitting on the board, silently pricking at La Loggia. “It was tough. I wasn’t making any money. The company was getting by thanks to my wife working and paying the bills,” he says. “And she never once said, get off your ass and get a job.”

Futurama

These days, La Loggia is always thinking about how to prepare himself for what’s next. Harkening back to the transformative conference that infused him with a new company vision, he wonders how to reach the next million-dollar or multimillion-dollar target. And according to La Loggia’s belief system, it’s a journey that will require his evolution as a human being, as a leader and as a visionary for his company—which is the same advice he gives to startup businesses.

“Individuals cannot stay stagnant. They have to embrace that they must evolve over time for their businesses to be successful,” counsels La Loggia, who rises at 5 a.m. every day to soak up inspirational business books, magazines and blogs before heading into the office.

“I try to use the time for reading, because even though my email inbox has 5,000 emails in it, if I don’t take time to expand my mind and get out of my daily tunnel vision, it really causes problems for my company,” he says. “It breaks me out of my myopic thinking, and I attribute a lot of success of this company to the fact that I read all the time.”

Bottom line, La Loggia says that what he truly loves about his work is the people who make it a success. They are what get him jazzed and motivated.

“It sounds weird, but I sometimes get choked up just thinking about this business and how people care about each other,” says the creator of Appointment-Plus. “It makes me feel so good that we have this environment that is not simply about trying to make as much money as we can; it’s about more than that.”

New ‘Book Now’ Button Helps Boost Sales Can customers instantly schedule a service appointment on your Facebook page? If not, you’re missing out on easy sales, according to Appointment-Plus. “Facebook has become an important marketing tool for businesses around the world,” says Bob La Loggia, CEO of Appointment-Plus. “It’s the ideal place to offer customers the convenience of online scheduling. And it can quickly turn the Facebook page into a money-making tool.” More than 15 million businesses now have a Facebook page, positioning themselves to grow sales by taking advantage of customer social media trends. According to Get Satisfaction, 43 percent of customers follow a business’ Facebook page for special offers. Placing a “Book Now” button next to these deals can result in more instant sales, says La Loggia. Appointment-Plus makes it easy for clients to add the Book Now button to their Facebook page with just a few clicks, according to the company. The button lets customers: Immediately access your online  scheduler. Conveniently view services, staff  members and availability. Instantly book their appointment times. More: 800-988-0061; www.appointment-plus.com.