What started as a way to help his mom run her business more smoothly, Acuity Scheduling blossomed into a fully functional system that is now a part of a multi-million-dollar company. As this year’s Hal Shaffer Memorial Executive-in-Residence at Northampton Community College (NCC), Gavin Zuchlinski spoke to how he dove headfirst into designing a scheduling platform that would one day make him a successful entrepreneur. 

Zuchlinski talking with students

The Hal Shaffer Memorial Executive-in-Residence Program was established at the College in 1985 to give students the opportunity to spend time with and learn from the area’s most successful business leaders. The program is made possible by an endowment established by Cecile and Jack Shaffer in memory of their son Hal. Zuchlinski was welcomed on the Bethlehem campus this November as he shared insights on success in work and business. 

When his mother needed a way to manage all her massage therapy appointments, Zuchlinksi offered help. With a working knowledge of computer systems and information technology, he knew he could build something that could help give his mother more time to work with her clients and less time spent on the phone or e-mail with clerical work. “I didn’t want to build something this big and not give it a fair shot to be used more widely,” Zuchlinksi said, and so, he left his government job that he loved to work on fleshing out his new venture, Acuity Scheduling.  

It took time to scale-up Acuity Scheduling. At first, this was something valuable to one person, but it took time for others to see the value. Zuchlinkski noted, “People were concerned the online scheduler would make a business lose their personal touch. I had to overcome the objections.” He provided a tool that would ultimately reduce time spent flipping through a calendar and creating appointments. For some businesses with less labor, this is vital. This tool also reduces friction for the customer who dreads making calls to schedule appointments. It’s simple. It’s efficient. It had selling points that allowed Zuchlinski to market his product. 

“I started with one person helping to market the product, and that became a team of people. We did paid ads, social media, and conventional marketing, but word of mouth from customers who purchased the tool were the ones that helped me grow the business the most,” Zuchlinksi said. He recalled having an overseas client that spread the word in their country, and in time, he saw others purchasing from that country at a time they were not marketing there. 

Along the way, Zuchlinkski fostered an environment where people enjoyed working. Because his employees worked remotely, they needed to be customer-centered and intentional about communication with the team and clients, but Zuchlinksi also made sure the team did things to connect and feel valued. 

In 2015, he offered his employees a 6-hour workday in the summer and found an increase in productivity.  

“It does not matter the time people put into a workday. It matters how much you produce. Work-life balance is important. We would work in two 3-hour blocks and take time midday to re-energize. You wind up more motivated when you have less time to get things done.” 

Because of the work culture Acuity Scheduling built, his customer service team took pride in assisting their clients, making sure they were getting what they needed out of Acuity. “There is power in being happy in the moment and enjoying what you do, which includes your business every day. This helps people push forward and have a desire to find solutions at work.” 
 
Once Acuity had grown, Zuchlinkski thought about his next steps. In 2019, he chose to move forward with Squarespace because their culture was closely aligned to how he ran his business. Squarespace purchased Acuity Scheduling in their first acquisition. Once he joined the Squarespace family, Zuchlinski became the Vice President of Product at Squarespace.  

“It was so interesting because for the first time, I had to advocate for a product that I never had to in the past. I continued to build a product line and integrate it into a larger suite through Squarespace. One of the things I am most proud of is that during the height of COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to schedule millions of appointments for COVID vaccines.” 

Zuchlinksi left Sqaurespace in May 2022 to pursue other ventures, including more time with his growing family of five and tending to his vineyard, a new passion project.  

His advice for anyone looking to start a business venture or project is to scale slowly. “You must stick with the marathon as an entrepreneur. If your only motivation is to see success at scale right away, then, do not do it. My progress satisfied me. As I was building my business, seeing that I saved someone 5 minutes of time meant I was on the right track.” 

“You took a risk. You left a job you really loved to pursue this, and it took a lot of courage,” said David Schaffer, chairman of Just Born, Inc. and brother of the late Hal Shaffer. In keeping with tradition, he presented Zuchlinski with a jar of jellybeans from Just Born, Inc., something sweet for sharing his success on campus.