“My Business is Weird…” Using FileMaker to Create Unique Apps for Unique Businesses
If there’s a common refrain among most small business owners that we’ve heard over and over again, it’s something like this: “My business is weird…”
In fact, we heard that exact phrase from one of our clients when they came on board, and we hear something similar from other clients quite often. But why would any owner or entrepreneur say their business was weird?
The reason is simple enough: When they start the business, there aren’t any existing software solutions that perfectly capture the workflow and data processing needs of their unique company. Every existing piece of software out there feels like fitting the ‘square peg’ of the business into the ‘round hole’ that is the software.
This is why custom application development exists: To bridge the gap between that unique business and the software they really need.
Innovative Businesses Need Custom Applications
If you think your business is “weird” or that your small business problems are uniquely unsolvable by existing software, you’re hardly alone. Most entrepreneurs and innovators find their problems unsolvable because the marketplace doesn’t offer streamlined and affordable solutions that meet the niche requirements of their business.
What’s more, this problem is not limited to traditional entrepreneurs or innovators in a small or medium business—the same demand for innovation, and the same gap between what the market has to offer and what the business truly needs, exists in departments within much larger organizations as well.
Those same innovators likely have sat through a few meetings with well-meaning sales folks pitching them costly software. Most industries have at least one player that leads the software space typically because they’re “the only game in town.” After spending tens of thousands of dollars and investing untold hours, a lot of businesses find themselves left with a bill and a set of problems that those massively expensive platforms never came close to solving, perhaps with a few new ones thrown in for good measure.
The issue isn’t whether or not your business is large enough for a custom application (size doesn’t matter as much as you think). Nor is it a matter of whether your business really needs automation (it probably does).
The issue is that a great solution to meet your unique need just doesn’t exist…yet. So why not get a competitive advantage by creating that software?
Making a custom app isn’t as complicated as people assume. The use cases below provide just a few examples of how relational databases, digital interfaces and real-time data exchange can boost your unique operational delivery and capacity.
While payroll providers and massive cloud-based HR software providers are useful for full-time staff, companies that provide specialty staffing in niche industries probably need a whole different feature set. On-site staffing providers for trade shows and live events, for example, would benefit from an app that allows check-in and time tracking on a wireless device, rather than stacks of spreadsheets on clipboards. That app could then tie into payroll systems more easily, freeing up on-site supervisors for more client-related work.
Talent agencies and creative teams often have specific requirements for a database and projects that aren’t going to be satisfied by a larger cloud CRM platform. How you store and sort information in this space is probably a task entirely of your own invention. A small, lightweight, custom Claris FileMaker solution can easily take the place of Excel or Google sheets, while storing headshots and bios in a single record, and managing any other useful data that corresponds to related projects, locations and more.
Any business that has workers in an offsite environment may need mobile check-in or tracking apps to solve the ‘clipboard, paper and pen’ problem. Introducing a mobile database to track worker hours offers broad solutions for engineering and construction as well.
“Weird” Imports, Niche Food Businesses
Restaurant owners around the world will assure you that many of them source a single ingredient or livestock from a single vendor. That vendor may have global relationships with farms throughout the world. That single vendor probably doesn’t have a great way to store that information outside of a contacts sheet and a few inventory lists sitting out on a file server somewhere. If there’s a theme here, it’s this: A custom app brings all this information together into a single resource that introduces flexibility and automation for tasks like invoicing, order tracking, delivery/logistics, customs forms and documents, and inventory.
Even when companies work with a single product, there are still plenty of moving parts to track for that one thing. It doesn’t matter how small you are, you still have the same logistical problems as a large, full-scale industrial farm. For companies of this size, the margins are tight enough that they often can’t afford the cost of Walmart-sized software.
Mono Product Inventor/Maker
Spanx. The Leatherman tool. The Super Soaker. While those products, and their customers, are vastly different, they have two crucial details in common: They initially were single-product businesses started by accidental innovators.
Any new product is going to have its share of issues getting to market, not the least of which are supply chain issues. There will be suppliers to deal with, as well as wholesalers, channel partners, and more. Internal workflows, too, might be unique.
When a single product suddenly becomes an overnight hit, many inventors turn to spreadsheets because they are readily available. But, as they continue to grow, it will become obvious that a certain level of automation is needed. Who out there has an application ready-to-go to manage the manufacturing and logistics of the next accidental hit? This is where having an affordable, user-friendly custom application comes in.
Specialty Sales and Consulting
Seasoned consultants who work in a single vertical are used to getting “weird” requests from their colleagues and contacts. People with experience and connections in a single industry are paid to do anything from making introductions to reviewing and commenting on investor decks and business proposals.
If what you bring to the table is relationships, you could be asked to participate with startups gearing up for an angel round, or a massive industry leader that needs your expertise for one specific project launch. The logistics, in this case, are your talents and your time. The more you balance your actual schedule, the easier it is for you to prospect, execute projects and focus on other deliverables.
What a Custom Business App Can Do For “Weird” Businesses
We refer to Claris FileMaker as a workplace innovation platform, but it’s also an innovator’s platform. We use it because it’s a fast and affordable way to make custom applications at a low cost for small to mid-sized businesses, or departments within very large companies.
Claris FileMaker is adaptable enough to build apps that create estimates with unusual options, singularly unique CRMs, flexible and adaptable inventory systems, one-of-a-kind customer portals, and ‘done your way’ project management control centers. It takes us weeks, not months, to create an app that’s tailored to your specific workflow.
Its broad functinality creates opportunities additional solutions, including:
- Barcode integration
- Real-time data exchange between platforms
- Data visualization
- Collaborative workflows with suppliers and customers
- Marketing automation
- …and more
About Skeleton Key
Skeleton Key develops apps on the Claris FileMaker platform, making them easy-to-integrate, easy-to-use and quick to build and deploy. Our team of experts takes a comprehensive consulting approach to focus on learning how your organization operates. With deeper insights into the way your team works, we’re able to create an ideal solution built around your operations while forming a partnership founded on trust and transparency. We hope you found this content useful, and we would love to hear from you if we can be of any further assistance.