Building “Operating Systems” for Small Businesses

I’m a big fan of software helping small businesses run more efficiently, and I’ve shared my thoughts on how workflow management can help achieve this. I’m always curious to learn more about how software aligns with this thesis. I’ve talked with founders who have deep knowledge in an industry and are building what they call an “operating system” for smaller players in that industry. The idea is that these industries are manual and inefficient. The “operating system” will handle most aspects of the business in a way that takes into consideration nuances of that industry, thus freeing up time the small business can use to focus on other things.

I agree with these founders. Some industries need software to handle their unique needs. But there are limitations to this that founders building operating systems for small business should consider. For example, accounting. QuickBooks has been creating accounting software for small businesses for a long time. The chances aren’t great that your operating system will be better at accounting than QuickBooks. Integrating with this established leader is likely a better strategy. And there are other examples.

Figuring out the most painful and inefficient problems small businesses face and solving them with an operating system is a good strategy (to begin with). That will create value, which should lead to customers. The less painful areas can be handled with integrations. Sure, everything won’t be in one system, but it’s a lot better than a completely manual process.

Operating systems for small and medium businesses don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They just need to solve the most painful problems well!