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Business Automation

Reflecting On The Past. Charting The Future.

17hats was an idea sparked after our founder and CEO, Donovan Janus, read The New York Times article, Maybe It’s Time for Plan C, in 2011. The article relates how many people are moving from their Plan A careers (corporate life) to their Plan B careers (starting their own business), due to layoffs or simply feeling unfulfilled. 

But, as the article states, “For some, the unexpected pitfalls can be so treacherous that they no longer consider Plan B a dream job, but a nightmare.” This nightmare drove some people to “Plan C” – crawling back to the corporate world, feeling lonely and defeated. 

Pointing to a solution

That Times article, as well as Michael Gerber’s famous E-Myth series of business books, struck an emotional chord with Donovan. He was inspired – and challenged. He set out to help more people realize their dreams of small business ownership. 

In his experience, Donovan had found that success came in many forms. But the chaos that kills a business comes in two: lack of organization and lack of systematization.

Those two dynamics have a symbiotic relationship. Systems can’t be created without organization, and organization only takes you so far without systemization. You need both for the business to thrive.

Stuck in the same rut 

Small business owners are great, even fantastic, at delivering their product or service. They are hardworking, and their grit sees them through the tough times.

But at some point, it all becomes too much to handle, because everything is everywhere all the time. There’s too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. Their desks are stacked high with unorganized to-dos – all marked with “priority ASAP.” 

Without organization and systems, the nights get later and the mornings get earlier. The workload doubles as more and more items fall through the cracks. Worst off all, what was the mere beginning of Plan B has become a nightmare. 

With no end in sight, our would-be entrepreneur gives up on her dream. With a heavy sigh of resignation, she contemplates the dreaded “Plan C.” 

17hats arrives on the scene

With what Donovan knew from his research, it all made sense. Businesses fail because of a lack of organization and systematization. They fall prey to the “busy-ness” of business. Donovan figured if he could find a way to help small business owners control the chaos, then these businesses would have a fighting chance.

17hats launched in 2014 and it was a hit from day one. Positioned as a simple solution for business chaos, it was the “platform we have been looking for,” people raved. 17hats became one the fastest growing SaaS (Software As A Service) companies of 2015. 

Our 17hats members began redefining the way that small businesses were run. Organizing and systemizing soon paved the way for automating, which delivered the ultimate freedom. Spending less time behind the desk gave members more time to grow their businesses! 

Encouraged by this business growth, many members became “addicted” to automation and what it could do for them. They craved more. Soon we received requests for new features and advanced functionality. We were thrilled to receive those requests. Stories of automation-fueled growth meant that we were adding real value to the small business world.

So another symbolic relationship was formed: As our members’ businesses grew, our platform did as well. If there was a downside to this shared momentum, it was that staying true to our core value of “easy to use” became harder. We did not want to become so complex that 17hats was daunting to set up.

Fast forward to 2019 and 2020. As we listen to you, our members, we hear recurring themes: It’s difficult getting set up. Some only want a small portion of the tech. Or how some wish there were a “getting started” version. 

We knew that 17hats was perfect for businesses in their third to fifth year, for example. But for businesses just starting out, it struck some as too much, too soon.

Meanwhile, many “super-users” were rocking and rolling, and wanted more. We could not build fast enough. The excitement of releasing a new feature was drowned out by the next crowd-sourced feature request!

Two ends of the spectrum. One had too many features, while the other couldn’t get enough. What’s a company to do?!

Competition invites questions

As if that weren’t challenging enough, we faced a second issue.

Once upon a time, we were the only small business platform on the market. That’s no longer the case. With competing platforms all fighting for attention here in 2021, we took a moment to look inward. We asked ourselves some hard questions:

Fact: 17hats is a lot of things to a lot of people.
Where do we provide the most value to small business owners?

Fact: Some 17hats members went out and started a 17hats look-alike.
How do we differ? What do we continue to do best, as the original?

Fact: Another competing platform offers much less functionality, yet many small business owners lump us all together.
How do we change perspectives to reflect reality?

Fact: Some competing platforms have similar functionality, but their features lack depth and interconnectivity. How is the market supposed to know?

Our value proposition

Figuring out our value proposition was a huge feat. We had to dive into all our competitors, our own values, our goals, and your journey as our members. 

But, at the end of the day, the solution to both challenges became apparent. 

If there truly is a symbiotic relationship when it comes to growth, then it’s as simple as that: We should design packages that grow with the business journey of our members.

Now, members just starting out won’t be overwhelmed with the setup process. And, we can continue to add features for those who need them, without fear of overcomplicating things. 

As for challenge number two – differentiating ourselves from the new guys on the block? Well, standing out from the crowd is easy when you focus on what you do best. (Insert Superman/-woman Pose here.)

From day one, 17hats has offered a comprehensive set of interconnected features with the goal of helping you to automate your business. Our interconnectivity of features cannot be found in any other platform. It is what makes 17hats great – and why people rave about 17hats.

Top that off with automating even the smallest of tasks (such as dates automatically appearing on your calendar), and 17hats is a game-changer. To an overworked entrepreneur, relief from the chaos of business is like the clouds parting and the sun shining through.

Embracing automation


As noted above, we received many requests for features from our members. We realized that requests weren’t coming from “unhappy” members. In fact, it was just the opposite: Our happy-bordering-on-ecstatic members had become “addicted” to business automation, and they wanted more. They had experienced the benefits of automating business (reclaimed time, less stress, etc.), and they never wanted to go back.

Automation is a word we use with ease inside the company – but it’s one that made us nervous to say out loud. Small business owners (ourselves included) love control. And anything that smacks of being less “hands-on” can be scary. 

But the reality is, automation is the ultimate control. You set it exactly the way you want it, and it delivers consistently. 

After the past few years of research and soul-searching, we are proud to say that automation is the focus for our next stage of business.

Automation has always been the “secret sauce” for 17hats. Automating business lets small business owners reclaim hours in their day – that’s time they can reinvest in their passion. And automating business lets you avoid that “hair on fire,” chaotic approach that leads to burnout.

A look forward – and back

As 17hats launches into 2021 and beyond, we launch with the idea of automation at the forefront.

We will partner with small business owners from the first day of their business journey, and add to their feature set and automation needs as they grow. Through education and technology, we will remain dedicated to helping each and every small business owner succeed – ensuring they won’t have to walk the dreaded path to Plan C.

While we are looking forward to some extraordinary years in our future, we are also grateful for all of our past and current members. Thank you. Each of you has helped us to discover our next path.

While this may sound like a shift in focus, rest assured that nothing you love about 17hats is changing. Your membership continues just as it did before. The platform will look and function the same. (Although 17hats.com will have a different look and feel, highlighting automation.) Your data will be right where you left it, safe and sound.

We look forward to the next leg of our journey together, as we continue to serve you with optimism, excitement, and joy.