As my co-founder Matt Volm said last week, early businesses have a lot in common. Whether you are a solo freelancer, a new law practice, a creative firm, an acupuncture center, or a technology startup, you took the leap to run a business. But if you’re like me, you’re not running a business to run a business—you’re there because you know you can make a difference for your customer. There’s something about that business that you know you are uniquely capable of doing, and it was worth the leap to do it. And when you are in that “sweet spot,” you are doing what you love.
Many hats, one sweet spot
The reality of running a business with a small team is that just a few people have to wear a lot of hats. One team member might serve as the business, marketing and sales team. Another might be designing, building and supporting a product. That means you’re not always in your sweet spot of doing things you feel you can do better than anyone else.
There’s a lot to running a business that doesn’t fit in the “love it,” or “only we can do it” categories. And for small teams, those chores can add up to a lot of time.
In fact, these tasks might be so far out of our sweet spot that we know there must be a better way out there!
Traditionally, there was really only one solution for taking chores off your plate or to get better expertise—and that was to hire somebody. But that can grow your team faster than you might like, and even then, you are still going to have some smaller roles that are outside of everybody’s sweet spot.
Today, however, business owners are lucky, because there’s a growing industry that has developed around companies who can take some of these chores off your hands. Just as Uber can handle finding a way to a restaurant or even bringing the food to you, companies are picking out chores throughout your business that are going to be their “sweet spot” so you and your team don’t have to make it your business.
At Tali, there are two companies I’m grateful for because the day we started using their products, my job suddenly became possible again, and became so much more fun. Each of them takes an area of the job I do and sweeps a bunch of complicated stuff out of the way, so I can do what I love.
Intercom is the first business that helped us do better business at Tali. They build tools for communicating with customers, which we use on telltali.com to chat and email with customers and to write help articles. The day we turned Intercom on, I literally did a happy dance as I was connected with people from Texas to Australia who had questions about our product. I was talking to actual customers, while they were using our site—something I could not have done the day before. And I didn’t have to build this amazing part of our business; in fact, I set it up in a matter of hours.
In my previous job, we worked with a lot of data. In fact, we had a team (several teams!) of data scientists responsible for putting data together and extracting insights that would help us identify and solve people’s problems. It was expensive, and still, figuring out what people were actually doing when they visited our site, or what they actually needed, was very hard. That’s where Amplitude blew me away. The day I turned on Amplitude, I was back to my happy dance. With their product, I can better understand the actions people take when they use Tali. This helped me to design a first-time experience to help everyone get to their success moment faster, and log that first activity. And for each change we made, we could see and graph the impact. Again, this amazing tool is something none of us had to build, and without a data team and with a flip of a switch, I could do something better on our tiny team than I had been able to do in a company with hundreds.
Do more of what you love
These products are an inspiration to me. By hiring software to get two jobs done, our little team of three has been able to get done what some have assumed would have taken 10 or even 30 people. And even if you have 10 or 30 people, using the right software and services can help you compete with teams of hundreds, and spend more time on what your team can do that nobody else can.
And for our part, we want to take some chores off our customers’ hands. For the lawyer who has to account for every six minutes of their time, every day, a lot of their time and their best energy is going to something they decidedly do not love.
Time tracking is a chore, and somebody ought to make it disappear, and we are striving to do that with Tali.
And some days, as I show someone how easy it is to just talk to Tali to capture their time, I get to see their happy dance and I know I’m working on something I’m uniquely suited to do, and that I’m giving somebody back some time to do more of what they love.