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The conversation that changed everything

That's a dramatic headline, I know. But one key conversation caused me to make two significant changes to the plan for Fintrano.

If you haven't read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, you might want to start there.

My aim with Fintrano was to apply the experience we've had in building software and apps for large businesses to building simple, powerful software for self-employed tradespeople and micro-businesses.

The idea was to build one system that would meet the needs of many different trades. Plumbers, electricians, engineers, cleaners, window fitters - anybody who did their work on someone else's premises - could benefit from the effortless professionalism of automated appointment confirmations, reminders and 'on-my-way' live tracking.

But when I spoke to real businesses in that space, I soon discovered that:

  1. My assumptions about the way businesses manage their workers were incorrect, and so
  2. My pricing model was all wrong

I discovered that my pricing model was all wrong

You see, software like Fintrano is usually sold on a per-user basis. Generally you have a company license, and then additional, cheaper, user licenses. This is not a bad idea; the more users you have, the more you use the system, so the more you pay. Larger companies make more money, use the system more, and pay more, which seems fair. The trouble is, the trades don't always work that way.

There are a few large companies whose staff only work for them, and nobody else, but at the SME level, things are a lot more flexible.

This was made obvious when I met Lindsey Copperwheat of TC Kitchens. She employs her own kitchen fitters, and was interested in the idea of a system allowing her to efficiently deploy them where they were needed. However, Lindsey also employs self-employed engineers on an ad-hoc basis, and these were the people she really wanted to keep track of. 

at the SME level, things are a lot more flexible.

It makes sense; Lindsey's employees might be on-site for days at a time, but she might also need to book in specialist contractor to do something specific. It was essential that she knew when they were on their way, but a monthly user fee didn't really make sense when she might go several weeks without using them.

My initial thought was that they - the subcontractor - could pay for Fintrano and notify Lindsey of their movements like any other customer, but it didn't seem like something you could impose on somebody. Sure, they would be able to use the system to keep all of their customers informed, but it had to be their decision, not something we strong-armed them into.

I promised to have a think about it and get back to her.

The sticking point was this: each job Fintrano manages costs us money. We have to pay professional fees to send texts and interact with the Maps API that underpins the system. So if I dropped the per-user fee too much, we would run the risk of losing money in the end. Not good from a business perspective.

But then, on my way home I had an epiphany: don't charge per user; charge per job.

It's jobs that cost us money, so charge for them. Set a minimum spend each month, sure, just to cover your costs, but include jobs as part of it. That way, Lindsey can have as many users as she wants, even if she doesn't use them for weeks at a time.

In addition, let workers be connected to multiple companies if they want. If those subcontracted specialists want to use Fintrano to keep their other customers informed, fantastic; they can add their own company, and pay their own minimum fee.

On the way home I had an epiphany: don't charge per user; charge per job

This makes the system even more powerful, because the worker can choose whether to accept jobs from some companies automatically - as long as the slot is free - while other companies' jobs need manual approval.

As soon as the details came into focus, it made sense of a lot of the earlier conversations I'd had, where it was clear that the world of the trades is much more complicated than a simple 'one company, many workers' model.

And it was exciting, because I knew that the next time I saw Lindsey, I'd have a product that ticked all the boxes.

About the author

Iain

Iain is a software developer with over 25 years in the industry. He runs Prominent Media, a software company based in Milton Keynes. Fintrano is his brainchild.