My guest today is Bill Furlong, CEO and Founder of SquareStack, the Business Apps Command Center for Small Business.
Bill is a Serial Entrepreneur and also serves as an advisor to, and investor in, a variety of early and mid-stage technology companies. Bill is a founder of B2BWorks, sold to LSF Interactive in 2010, and Bizo, which was acquired by LinkedIn in 2014. Bill can be reached via LinkedIN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/wkfurlong
SR: Our focus is on apps, let’s talk about how their use has changed small business.
BF: It’s hard to run a successful business now without taking advantage of technology, especially post Covid. Customers and many business owners had to adapt to the new remote working environment. Zoom and Slack are now verbs. And while most small businesses were already using software like Quickbooks, doing online banking, marketing with social media and tracking their analytics, in less than a year most have pretty much doubled their investment (both time and money) in technology.
The Cloud has made software very affordable and accessible to small business – giving them many of the capabilities only large companies once enjoyed. And technology innovators are popping up in all industries – including the salon market – with market-specific opportunities to automate. There are over 500,000 SaaS (software as a service) tools (business apps) for small and medium businesses now, and our focus is helping those small and medium business owners manage, make sense of, and optimize them.
SR: So, what does a set of business apps look like for the salon owner, specifically?
BF: We are currently active in industries like landscaping, automotive, construction – which have a large percentage of small and minority-owned businesses. Our data shows that on average they are using and paying for about six online services, or business apps. The owner typically doesn’t think in terms of having a suite of software – or what is being called more commonly a tech or app stack. When they realize how invested they already are it’s generally an AHA moment for them.
What makes up that stack? Well, the obvious first: a financial solution, likely QuickBooks, or FreshBooks, followed by their banking portals. It may include an email system like Constant Contact, and social media, of course. Most consumer-facing small businesses will also have web analytics, a POS system, eCommerce and “appointment booking” software. Right there you have a significant investment in software. Project management, video conferencing, chat, and upstream supply chain tools can add to your stack. Meaning you might have a dozen different tools to track, and a monthly budget that can be between $250 to $1000 a month.
SR: The salon industry focus has always been on people more than tools, so you can see how a salon owner might be intimidated, right?
BF: Yes indeed, Steve. In all the industries we talk to there seems to be little choice. You have several market forces at work: One, of course, is the effect of Covid – the acceleration of business productivity tools and how all now communicate online; second, your vendors and partners are insisting you do business online and through their apps. And lastly – and perhaps most importantly, your employees and your customers expect and assume you are going to engage them like Amazon. Business apps let you get there.
I started SquareStack with this as our mission. To help the small business owners by addressing their challenges in understanding, sourcing, integrating and using their technology software to drive their business.
We consolidate all the small business owners’ current software tools into one system of record. With one username and password – called “password management” – they access all their apps, saving at least 15+ minutes a day and a lot of frustration. We provide a real time dashboard where the business owner has all their critical metrics for the business in real time and on one screen. Your bank balance, new social followers, online sales, booked appointments, where products are in the delivery cycle – everything you need.
Lastly, for those small business owners who want to replace current software with a new vendor or are looking to add more tools to their stack, we host an App Marketplace. Think of it as a Google Store with easy to add apps curated specifically for the needs of a small business.
SR: Thanks so much for your time and this great information for our readers Bill!