Though it seems to have become ubiquitous, I still sometimes marvel at the concept of a “store-within-a-store,” such as a Starbucks within a grocery store.

This is a business arrangement where an independently owned company operates a “mini-store” within a larger retail outlet. The concept applies beyond coffee and shopping. New York-based Work Rails is the “coffee shop” within the grocery store that enables users to hire professional service consultants directly from inside an application.

“The inspiration for Work Rails came when I was founder and CEO Work Market,” says Work Rails Founder Jeff Leventhal. “At that time we were using applications like Netsuite, Sugar, Marketo and New Relic. Often we needed to hire a consultant to help us integrate the product, set it up, do something post implementation and it became an eight-week process comprised of trying to find a consultant, negotiate a lengthy legal contract, discuss an SOW, budget and availability. This was especially frustrating when we needed a consultant for three days or three hours. I realized I shouldn’t have to go find a consultant; consulting should be a feature of the software.”

Work Rails, founded in 2016, connects professional services consultants, specifically ones with enterprise software expertise, to software users needing to hire such consultants. What is unique is how the service is sold and delivered. While most Human Cloud companies operate an online “worker marketplace” via a website or smartphone app (a la Upwork, Shiftgig), Work Rails integrates directly into enterprise software applications, and manifests itself as a “Hire Consultant” button, which users can click should they need to hire a consultant with specific expertise to that particular software application. In other words, they make “hire consultant” a feature of enterprise software applications the way “print” is a feature of Microsoft Word.

Work Rails’ clients are software companies whose end users often need additional support in the way of client-specific software customization, report building, or other work. With Work Rails, clients build a button or a menu item inside their application, and when users click it, an interface loads where they can hire the consultant they need directly from that application. Onboarding, SOW details, and contract terms and payment are all handled without leaving the software.

Payments are negotiated in the system and are transacted between the consultants and the end users. Software companies that integrate Work Rails keep 20% of engagement revenue, while Work Rails collects 20%. The remaining 60% is paid out to the consultant. “We’re not a replacement for traditional professional services,” Leventhal says. “Our point is to address all the short-term opportunities that have arisen that are very hard to engage with.” So far, the firm has onboarded more than 400 consultants.

The Buzz

As the old retail adage goes: it’s all about location, location, location. As Starbucks has proven, sometimes co-locating can benefit everyone. Work Rails brings a 21st twist to a 20th century idea.