The Smoothest Business Model Most People Will Never Hear About

March 02 08:28 2021
Are entrepreneurs today grinding unnecessarily hard?

Long before an entrepreneur has contact with the day to day reality of business, they dream about how good it will be.

New entrepreneurs dream that they’ll spend one or two hours a week checking in with staff, and will bank a fat dividend payment once a month, being free the rest of the time to enjoy leisure, travel, reading, and maybe even learning a new language.

For those that do make the leap and start a business, they’re quickly slapped in the face with the reality that leisure and travel are next to impossible – certainly in the first few years of business. Even paying their rent or mortgage can be a struggle in the early days.  

There are the never-ending phone calls, the people who need things (a LOT of people who need things!), the staff problems, the customers they worked so hard to attract, who now need to be kept happy.

As the business-school types would say, they’re ‘input heavy’ for the first few years, without much output of earnings.

One business model – which appears to be an exception to the rule of constant chaos – is the business operated by Ben Hirvi, a man who sells phone calls.

It’s a model that is both simple and brilliant, and certainly a case of “why didn’t I think of that”.

Mr Hirvi owns a network of local websites, in cities all around the world, in industries like carpet cleaning, pest control, tree services, painting, fence building, roofing, and the like.

When a visitor lands on one of his websites and calls the phone number, Mr Hirvi doesn’t take the call. Instead, the call is routed to his client – a business owner who actually operates the type of business that Mr Hirvi has advertised. 

At the end of each week, a team of call reviewers employed by Mr Hirvi summarizes the calls and generates invoices to his clients. Those invoices can range anywhere from just a few dollars, well into many thousands of dollars each.

Speaking to reporters and bloggers on the sidelines of a virtual industry conference (thanks, pandemic), Mr Hirvi says his own business model is a good example that common wisdom isn’t necessarily true.

“There’s this idea that you need to struggle and grind for years with no pay and no sleep before you’ll have a good business. Either I was just lucky, or this century is fundamentally different to last century”, he said.

“The best business model,” Mr Hirvi said, “is one where you’re providing so much value that you can pick and choose your clients according to whatever makes you happy, which is exactly what I do. If a client doesn’t pay their invoice, I don’t give it a second thought, because there are dozens waiting to take their place”.

The phrase has been thrown about since the beginning of time itself, but it’s truer today than it ever was: times are changing.

Assuming they do make it beyond the first few years of business, a time when a staggering 90% of new businesses fail, small business owners go on to become an overworked and underpaid lot.   

The hours and lifestyle are a long way from the imagined bliss the founders dreamed of a few years earlier, with Gallup reporting that 39% of small business owners worked over 60 hours a week, and 81% of the same respondents saying they aren’t able to disconnect even when they do manage to get away for a vacation.

Online-only high-value business models like Hirvi’s are made possible today by changing technology, and consumers moving almost entirely to online sources for news, entertainment, and as it also turns out, to find their roof painters, fence builders, lawn care contractors, and anyone else they need to hire.

The changes in the technology landscape are causing concern for some Americans, however, with Gallup also reporting that 73% of Americans are worried that artificial intelligence will eliminate more jobs than it creates.

Whatever happens with AI, or consumer behavior online, it’s true to say that there will always be innovations and business models that allow for operators like Hirvi to deliver large amounts of value without the constraints and high overheads of brick and mortar operations, or even the need for a large workforce.

By Tony Wright, Freelance Writer, Blogger, and Journalist.

I cover online business, and USA-based small business stories, as well as marketing and social media.

Contact me for story tips, ideas.

Feedback welcome.

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