FRED Schebesta is well known to SmartCompany readers as an online traffic guru and the former owner of Freestyle Media.
But last year he launched his second business, called Hive Empire, which owns CreditCardFinder, HomeLoanFinder and SavingsAccountFinder. We asked Fred to reveal the 10 big lessons he's learnt the second time around.
Read and forget this list at your own peril. I have spent a serious amount of time learning these insights and I strongly suggest you take them on board. Here are the 10 things I learnt when launching my new business.
1. There are still big dollars to be made in Australia
Niche markets are great to start in but if you want to make big dollars in Australia you have to own a major category, such as cars, finance, jobs, real estate and hotels. You might think that there are already too many competitors in your market, but what I have learnt in Australia is that realistically, most businesses in Australia aren't that great. No one writes about Australian companies in the major blogs and tech sites. They don't break the mould, they don't innovate that well and they tend to just sit and let their market share crumble. Most big Australian companies became big because they were the only option.
You can still make big money in Australia if you are willing the persist and fight. How did Virgin steal so much market share from Qantas? If you have ever worked with Qantas you will know why. They are slow, old and have so many deadwood people NOT working in their business. I'd prefer to compete with Qantas rather than a quick and nimble company.
Make your business nimble and give the customer another option. There are always rebels in every customer base.
2. If you loved your first business, you will marry your second
All of your ideas are clearer and the path to growth is easier the second time around. I learnt fast from my first business and made the mistakes quickly. I learnt what worked and just replicated a lot more of that. If you are thinking of starting a business, just do it. Start small and make $1, it's very addictive. I challenge myself always with any new niche we enter to make the first $1. After that it's easier to know what is required next – make $2, of course.
3. Staff are everything
If you want to create a very profitable business you need profitable employees. The easiest way to get this is to hire motivated employees that can manage themselves to achieve results. This has been my most important fundamental focus the second time around. Developing a process for this and knowing who you want to hire have been two of my best upgrades to my second business.
Here are three key suggestions:
* Don't hire average staff, or you will end up with an average company. Wait and slow down before hiring. It's better to just wait that much longer rather than hiring the wrong person. You don't actually need to hire a person if you are smart and just optimise the systems you are using at present.
* Ask more questions, not less. The impact of who you hire impacts your other top performers in your company. Hire poor quality people and you say something to them. Hire high quality people and you breed greatness into your organisation.
* You can't motivate people - you can only hire motivated people. Don't bother with motivational programs, just hire a motivated person. Do some personality profiling to figure out if a person is motivated or not and you will save yourself a lot of time from creating motivational programs and talking to staff members to motivate them. If someone slips through your process, talk through it – perhaps they aren't suited to your company and would be better working in a big organisation where they want slow moving and predictable employees. Stop trying to motivate the average staff member in your company and just replace them instead.
4. Read more
If you are an achiever you will probably have a small, old and outdated TV and a large library of books which you have read and used. I always look at the size of someone's TV and the size of their library in their house. It reveals alot. I read a lot, but try and speed through boring parts in the books these days. I find that reading slow in key areas and implementing ideas is crucial but speeding past stuff that is boring and non-relevant is time effecient.
My suggested readings:
* Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People by Bradord D. Smart. Provides insight into a rigorous hiring process. I read this book on my babymoon and is the greatest book on HR I have ever read.
* Rework by 37signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Great tips on business management.
* The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss. I used this book more as a motivational tool.
* Good to Great by Jim Collins. It's a bit of an essay, but if you want to build a biggger and better business, it's worth the effort.
5. Outsource everything you can
Time is currency. I have literally put my entire life on the internet and pretty much outsource everything. I haven't been into a supermarket in four years. Supermarkets are time wasters, pay the $7.50 and get it delivered instead of spending two hours roaming the supermarket.
Some of my key insights to outsourcing a business process are:
* Test first. Start with a contract or hourly model, then lock in good suppliers with retainers.
* Start small. Just outsource one part of a process, then add to it. Either with the same person or with different people so that you keep core business secrets with yourself.
* Document it or they will f**k it up. Assume zero intelligence. You want a reliable, simple thing done, over and over again. You don't want a business strategy for taking over the internet.
6. Make a simple business
If it's simple you spend less time producing and more time marketing and improving your product. If you can't explain your business to someone else in less than 60 seconds, it's too complex. Simplify it. Do less, specialise and earn more. My business is so simple, we compare credit cards, home loans or savings accounts. That's it. We just spend all of our time marketing it and improving the product. My previous business was a very smart business, it needed smart people. But, I think I prefer the simple business these days. How do you make a simple business in your niche? Just do the core, really, really well.
7. Meetings, emails, telephones, instant messenger and Facebook are trying to kill your business
If you want to be part of the crowd, using the aforementioned tools is a surefire way to make that happen. I have taken active steps to kill these distractions in the business.
Four practical tips to dealing with these items of distraction:
* Meetings kill productivity. Avoid meetings at all costs. Meet only if you are going to make a decision. Meetings sap away time which you could use to be productive and make money. I personally only have two meetings per week and they are a maximum of 20 minutes each. Set your meeting times for unusual time increments and start them at unusual hours like 10:17am to ensure you finish your meeting quickly.
* Emails and telephones are poison. Only open your emails twice per day. If anyone in your organisation has responded to an email faster than one hour, they are spending too much time reading and waiting for the next email. That is just communicating, its not actually getting work done. Read your emails twice a day, preferably on your iPhone while you are commuting. Emails are time poison. At Hive Empire, we don't have telephones. There is no need. We don't even have business cards. Email us to communicate and we will reply in a timely manner. Nothing is really that urgent.
* Instant messenger. This is the perfect tool to collaborate with when you are working with people overseas and we have several overseas team members. But most of the time there aren't many things that couldn't be done over email. Email helps you think out your ideas and formulate them into a productive communication. Instant messenger is a distraction and kills people's ability to focus and deliver productive work. When you get distracted from your work you essentially lose money. Kill the instant messenger and you will see an increase in profits.
* Facebook and Twitter are productivity hell. The walled garden of Facebook is the ultimate time killer. Ever noticed how often someone updates their Facebook or Twitter status? This number of updates is inversely proportionate to their profitability. Kill your Facebook account and only read the Twitter updates from your business colleagues when you are waiting for someone or something to happen. In actual fact, if you want to be even more ruthless with your time management, kill your Twitter as well. No piece of information is really that important that you won't eventually find out.
8. Great things come to great businesses
You can tell how great your business is going to be by how relevant the current business headlines are to you. If you have nothing to do with it, you're in the wrong market. If the news is relevant, you are going to be a great business because your market is newsworthy and there is growth potential.
I prefer big markets as opposed to small ones in Australia. The small ones aren't big enough to sustain many businesses, unlike in the US where niche markets are really large. I used to work in niche markets with small customer bases, there was little scale and little profit. If you are a niche business in Australia you have to go global to expand. Be courageous and challenge a big market in Australia. You will be surprised as to what happens. We started our home loan comparison site during a credit crisis, mortgage broker meltdown and credit licensing. It didn't bother us because we know it's a long haul and it's a big market, so all we need is a slice to be profitable.
9. Say no
This time around I've learnt to say no to things I don't want and not grin and bear it. It comes with confidence and experience. Play it slow when you are unsure and wait for a better option.
Here is how to say no without actually saying no:
* Price. Put the price up so high that you would be okay to do it if you were paid that obscene amount of money.
* Refer. Give the work to someone else. You would be amazed as to how referring things can come back to you in spades.
* Say nothing. Don't respond to someone who is trying to open a dialogue with you, because you know they are going to ask you to do something you don't want to do. Ignoring people is rude, but not opening a dialogue to a broadcast request is different.
10. Be persistant
In my previous business my Joker card was that I was persistant. I literally just stuck it out and kept picking up the phone. This time I'm the same and I know it's what makes me win.
The most important times to be persistent are:
* A customer turns you down. If a customer won't do business with you, wait. That person will leave the business and you can do business with the new person.
* You don't have enough business. Keep marketing and selling. Someone will buy eventually if you have something worthwhile to sell. Pick up the phone and dial your most important prospect.
* You don't have any good staff. Fire someone and hire someone else. Why wait, just do it. It's not really that bad, stop putting it off and start realising your business potential.
* Too much office politics. Fire the politician, no matter how good they are.
* You don't make enough profit in your business. Stop doing unprofitable things and do more profitable ones. Isolate the profitable things and transition to just doing that, and that only.
* You don't have enough time. Stop doing things which take up a lot of time and deliver little output. If you only had one hour in a day to do all of your work, what would you do and what would you not do? Outsource the things which are mindless and repetitive and just do the really profitable things all day.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.