February 20, 2013
Running a small business comes with a lot of boring work – handling payments, scheduling appointments, keeping records, and all that extra stuff outside your actual service. But just because it’s boring doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“We just thought there was a great opportunity . . . to really help small business owners spend less time doing administration and the kinds of things they needed to do to grow the business and spend more time doing what they love, which is working with clients,” says cofounder and CEO Jon Zimmerman, who helped open Crossfit affiliates.
Front Desk, now in closed beta, has created comprehensive organizational software for small businesses – specifically, ones like yoga instructors, personal trainers, and dog walkers who don’t have a physical “front desk.” They can manage their calendar, handle payments, store documents, and put up a website for clients to log into.
In the process, Zimmerman has learned a few lessons that startups selling to small businesses should take to heart. Most crucially, your solution has to be simple. Small business owners are already swamped with work, so they need to get set up with an account and start seeing benefits quickly. Also, Front Desk realized that small business owners had already stitched together solutions with PayPal, Excel, and paper records, and they needed to be able to import that information easily.
Next, word-of-mouth-marketing is key. Small business owners aren’t a community as much as a huge group of disconnected, separate entities. The best way to reach them is not necessarily through advertising, but by building a product they can’t help but recommend to their friends.
Finally, Zimmerman learned not to reinvent the wheel, using tools that were already available to build his product. For example, Front Desk uses Mailchimp’s Mandrill, Amazon Web Services, and open source software like DocuSign.
Front Desk charges 1 percent of revenue managed by the smallest businesses, with other plans available by number of staff.
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