Thinking bigger about the littlest businesses
I started indie.biz because I became obsessed with a big problem I saw in the world. Starting and running your own show is notoriously difficult. But does it need to be?
Independents all do two kinds of work. The best part of their work is unique and differentiated. This is the high-value stuff that put them in business to begin with. It’s why customers buy from them, and generally, it’s also what they love doing.
Then there’s the work of running a business. This includes all the operational and technical stuff people need to do, though perhaps many would prefer not to. They’re the nuts and bolts tasks that can be such a struggle to figure out, especially when working in relative isolation. And they’re the source of many of the headaches that go along with running your own thing.
The big “what if?”
Why is it that 10s of millions of people are perpetually rediscovering the wheel when it comes to the basics of running a business?
What if independents could spend most of their time focused on the things they do to create value for their customers—their superpowers—rather than on those nuts and bolts of operating and administering their businesses? What would become possible if we removed much of the friction and overhead that comes with running a small business?
Could we give people back some precious time that they currently spend re-inventing the wheel? Could we help independents achieve their goals while decreasing their stress levels? Could we create a new channel for innovations that make life better for independents? And could we make a bigger tent that includes people who wouldn’t have thought about going independent before?
Our first stab
To start answering these questions, and learn what help independents really need, we launched our beta site this spring. It includes 3 main features.
1. Custom action plans
The centerpiece is a business planning tool that automatically generates custom action plans designed to save weeks or months of planning time. They’re data-rich, drawing on sources like the US Census, IRS and Bureau of Labor Statistics. They answer questions such as:
How much revenue do companies in my industry average per year?
How many companies from my industry are there in my local market? In the national market? How big are these firms?
How much salary are people in my industry paid, locally, regionally and nationally?
2. Instruction manuals for independents
Most business content is so weighed down with technical language that it’s hard to follow and no fun to read. Our idea with all our guides is to stick to simple, everyday language that is truly informative, without the business-speak. Because if you can’t decipher the instructions, building things is hard.
Our beta site includes 16 simple guides covering many topics that you need to know about to start and run your own show, from how business models work, to the basics of finance, hiring people, forming partnerships and more.
3. An innovation marketplace
There are hundreds of products and services out there that can make starting and running a business easier and more successful. But figuring out what tools are out there, what they do, and which ones are right for your business can be extremely hard. That’s why our beta also includes a marketplace of products and services relevant to independent businesses. You’ll find comprehensive reviews of legal services, accounting software, HR and payroll services, with many more on the way.
We make our money on commissions on products and services sold through the marketplace. It’s not advertising—we’re not being paid to feature the products—rather, it’s a kind of match-making between small businesses that have a need and innovative solutions that we know work. By cutting through the noise and presenting the best solutions, we aspire to create a new way of getting innovations to the people who need them.
The point of launching a beta is to learn, and we’ve learned a ton. We’ve learned about the help people want, how we can best deliver it and how the whole thing might work. But most importantly, we’ve learned more about what we’re trying to do.
We’re a small independent ourselves. We have limited resources and need to make tradeoffs about where to focus. For now, we’re focusing on starting a conversation about changing the conversation. If we can get independents thinking differently about their work and aspirations, the rest will follow.
If you’re an indie or working on becoming one, please get in touch. We’d love to know what you’re up to.