Fred Schebesta

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Three Australian founders share the books that were a catalyst for their careers

10:47AM | Tuesday, 1 October

Amazon executives are urged by their chief executive Jeff Bezos to read three books, which he uses as frameworks for explaining the future of the company.   Bezos told a CNBC tech correspondent he encourages them to read Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Solution and Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal.   Three local entrepreneurs spoke to StartupSmart about the book that changed their lives and approaches to their entrepreneurial careers.   Fred Schebesta, founder of rapidly growing comparison site Finder, told StartupSmart that Michael E. Gerber’s E-Myth helped him understand the importance of systems for driving growth.   “When I first started out in business I was completely stumped by continuously briefing the same project over and over again. As I had never worked in a big company before, I didn’t have the same frame of reference as other professionals and I needed something that would help me build a business,” Schebesta says. “E-Myth taught me the importance of systems, processes and how to manage people. It completely changed my view and provided me with a fresh perspective. I often consider reading it again for inspiration!”   Dan Flynn told StartupSmart reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad in his teens sparked a new way of thinking that inspired him to launch the social enterprise Thankyou Water several years ago.   “The book really got me thinking about ways to generate money but also helped me understand that while school education was important, entrepreneurs had to apply business principles in order to succeed,” Flynn says.   Thankyou Water has got their range of food and water products into major supermarkets after a crowdsourced lobbying campaign.   “As I look back over this book again now, there was this one line that was one of the key messages in the book: ‘Failure is the process of success.’ It’s crazy how this line is even more relevant to me now, five years into the Thankyou journey. The numerous failures and setbacks we’ve experienced have taught us so many lessons, which have helped shape Thankyou as a company and our team as individuals,” Flynn says.   Robin McGowan, founder of customisable commerce site for suits InStitchu, told StartupSmart Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose should be mandatory reading for every business owner.   “It tells the story of Zappos and the focus they put on customer service and experience. Tony makes the point that anyone can copy your business idea but they can't replicate the level of service you provide to your customers. If you go above and beyond with your service they will keep coming back no matter what,” McGowan says.

Four tips on how to plan, manage and drive explosive growth

7:17PM | Wednesday, 31 July

Finder, an Australian financial product comparison website, saw its business rapidly grow in the past year, with staff numbers jumping from 10 to 28 in 2013.   Founder and chief executive Fred Schebesta told StartupSmart that focused periods of intense growth are challenging but worth the investment, both in regards to revenue and increased awareness of your company’s capacity.   “We needed that big push to get to where we are now. We could’ve gone step by step, but your competitors are going to see what’s going on,” says Schebesta, who’s also a StartupSmart contributor.     “We invested in our growth and now we’re ready to scale that again. But unless we went for the big growth beforehand, we wouldn’t know that scaling would work.”   Start with an assessment of your own capacity   According to Schebesta, business owners need to start by assessing their current capacity.   “What can you handle internally, and where do you need to get more resources or outsource to?” Schebesta says. “When we were planning to grow, we worked out some basic growth goals and then we reversed those metrics back to what we needed.”   These goals and insights form the spine of a really basic growth plan, which Schebesta says you can use to communicate with your staff and suppliers.   Communicate where you want to go clearly   Schebesta says they didn’t have too much turnover during the intense growth periods, but it’s important to be clear with staff before, during and after the sprints.   He says having a clear but flexible plan helps take more people on the journey with you.   “Write down a really basic plan. You never know exactly what will happen when you’re really growing, so broad is fine. Then communicate it. You need to be really clear on where you’re going and what you expect,” Schebesta says, adding that this can also include updating your goals.   He says this is also the best time to re-assess your goals and make sure everyone is challenged but confident about them.   “You’ll get a bit of backwards and forwards and you need to work out what’s possible and how long it’ll take. Your first estimates are your best guess, but after you actually talk to everyone, you can make those accurate and make them work.”   Review what you’re doing, pull back and focus on what works   Huge growth requires ongoing management to ensure it’s actually improving the business. Schebesta says they had a strong model they replicated into new markets with new sites.   “We built all of these sites and exploded onto the internet, but our quality did drop off a bit,” he says. “As you grow, the quality of your checks can drop off. So we decided to slow down and get it right, and at one point we decided to stop for a bit.”   This involved reviewing staff, processes and systems.   “We found throughout that explosive growth the biggest challenge is not falling over.” He adds that it’s up to the entrepreneur to keep an objective eye on your offerings and growth trajectory.   “Not everything will go perfectly, but being ready to slow down what’s not working and put more resources into the best bits helps. Don’t focus on what isn’t working, there are always costs and some projects won’t work.”   Tailor your goal timelines   Schebesta is currently in the middle of a 60-day plan. He says this is a good timeframe to make sure you’re making the most of each opportunity in a growing business.   During the booming growth period, his team was operating on daily goals.   He says tailoring the timeframe you expect to get results ensures maximum performance.   “When you’re growing fast, you can set goals and targets day by day because you’ll reach them and having to hit them daily helps that too,” Schebesta says. “We’d call it out in the office, where we were up to. It’s old school but that’s how we did it and it worked.”   Schebesta says new website areas, traffic levels and sales were all goals they focused on daily.   “It was a lot of late nights and you need all of your crew on board because it’s full on.”

Should you invest in a friend’s start-up? Four tips to avoid disaster

5:20AM | Thursday, 23 May

Your friend is smart, talented, trustworthy and successful (no bias, of course) and they've come up with a brilliant idea for a new business. Their innovative venture shows all the signs of a winner and you can't wait to see them pull it off.

Trading traffic for a better conversion rate

3:40AM | Wednesday, 13 March

Fred Schebesta had a clear vision when he created Finder.com.au several years ago. But even the most accomplished online entrepreneurs can make mistakes.

Five tech tools for smart soloists

11:34AM | Wednesday, 28 November

Operating as a soloist can mean working long and irregular hours, as well as in remote locations. With no one else to count on, sole traders need to have a handy set of tech tools to fall back on.

Start-ups urged to buck reticence to staff BYO tech

3:08AM | Monday, 11 March

Start-ups have been urged to not deter staff from bringing their own smartphones or tablets into the workplace, following a new study that shows most large businesses are wary of the practice.

Seven outdated home office duds you need to ditch

10:19AM | Wednesday, 3 October

When starting a business from home, it’s tempting to blow the dust off your computer, set it up in your spare bedroom and get on with it.

Online security stats prompt key tips for start-ups

9:57AM | Wednesday, 5 September

Start-ups have been urged to reassure consumers of the security of their sites, after a report revealed 95% of consumers would terminate their relationship with a company if it mishandled their data.

Six steps to overhauling your website without killing it

3:02AM | Monday, 18 March

We recently overhauled our Home Loan Finder website and, as we were building it, we learned a few golden lessons.     By not following them, we could’ve killed the site entirely. Some of these were quite technical but would apply to all websites.   With increasing numbers of start-ups realising that their websites are their key sales and marketing tool, it’s important that when you make improvements to your online presence that you don’t sink it in the process.   Here are my top six tips for your website revamp:   1. Maintain permalink structure   A permalink is the name of a URL to a particular page on your website e.g. http://www.mobilephonefinder.com.au/apple/iphone-4s/, the permalink here is /apple/iphone-4s/.   Normally on a website there is a naming convention and a structure which ties all of the pages together e.g. in this case the iPhone 4s lives underneath the Apple category.   What you need to make sure of here is that you don’t go and change this structure. If you change it what you will get is a massive list of 404 errors with Google and this will cause your site to appear very broken and rank lower in the search engines.   The main causes of the 404s are links from external sites and internal pages on your site pointing to pages that no longer exist. To avoid this problem: Maintain your previous URL permalink structure or set up 301 redirects of the old pages to the new ones so that Google and users can easily follow the links to the new locations. Select your Content Management System (CMS) carefully and ensure it can preserve your permalink URL structure. 2. Test across browsers   Most websites still have a huge proportion of Internet Explorer users. This is because it comes default with Windows and most users are very basic in how they use a computer.   Most developers use Firefox or Chrome because it supports more features and it allows for faster browsing and more developer plugins.   The problem you will face here is that if you hire a web developer, there’s a good chance he or she won’t think to test your site on Internet Explorer.   Internet Explorer can be a real pain to develop for as it requires special code to make things work.   I’d strongly advise that your developer tries to use your website on an older computer.   I would also suggest you try using a lower resolution monitor and see what your website is like with that as well!   3. Check the user flow   When you develop your site, you become very close to it and you start to learn how it works.   You start to click in advanced and faster places that most first time users would never know to do.   The problem here is that you start to skip the basics that first time users will need to operate your website and you create a user flow that breaks.   The solution here is to hand your website over to someone who doesn’t know your business and has never seen the website. Get them to complete the main actions on the site.   You will be amazed at what you learn and the simple things that you missed. 4. Google Analytics and conversion scripts   The last thing developers do before they push a site live is roll out the pieces of code which track your users and conversions.   This is because they don't want to pollute the statistics with developer tests and fake user data.   This is completely understandable but it also means that a lot of the time you forget to add the scripts back onto the website when you are going live.   Always check that all of your scripts are installed after you go live. It will make sure your stats are consistent.   5. References to the old development sites   When you are building your site you normally build it on a development or staging site.   The problem you want to avoid here is that sometimes references to specific development environment elements are left on the actual live site.   Check before and after you go live that there aren’t any leftover elements from the staging or development site.   6. Work out the best time to launch your site   Everyone has different views on this, although I would suggest using one of the following: Launch when the site traditionally has the least amount of traffic. This will avoid major interruptions and allow you to make quick changes to the live site. Try and ensure you have as many hands on deck when launching. Usually a Friday launch might want to be avoided as people are winding down. That said, sometimes Friday might be the best time to launch as it may be your lowest traffic day.   Fred Schebesta is the founder of comparison website: Finder.com.au. Fred's passion for comparison and helping Australians save money lead him to recently launch Mobile Phone Finder to compare mobile phones, and Life Insurance Finder to compare Life Insurance. You can follow him on Twitter @schebesta.

New credit card reforms: What your start-up needs to know

7:24AM | Tuesday, 24 July

Starting and running a business using a credit card may be seen as a back-up funding option by many budding entrepreneurs, but new legislation that came into force at the start of the month could be set to alter this view.

Finder.com.au

6:32PM | Monday, 25 June

Finder.com.au is the latest project of StartupSmart mentor and online entrepreneur Fred Schebesta, who also founded credit card comparison website CreditCardFinder.com.au.

Top five tips to choosing the right domain name

6:23PM | Thursday, 7 June

If you’re a start-up business, it’s unlikely that you’ll be rushing to get one of the new top-level domain names that have been made available.

Four ways to promote your app without falling foul of Apple’s crackdown

3:30AM | Friday, 15 March

Apple has issued a stern warning to developers found to be artificially inflating the rankings of their apps, but an expert says there are plenty of above-board ways that start-ups can boost their apps’ rankings.

Aussie start-up Family HQ takes on the might of Facebook

10:36AM | Monday, 3 October

A family-oriented social networking site plans to take on social media giant Facebook, despite warnings from industry experts that start-ups should be wary of competing directly with major players.

Good-looking websites attract consumer trust: Study

7:56AM | Wednesday, 13 July

Consumers increasingly trust websites due to a general improvement in the aesthetics of the internet, according to a new report.

The world’s super rich as you’ve never seen them before

6:37PM | Thursday, 23 June

If you are part of the world’s super rich, you have little chance of being an eccentric, unknown recluse these days. Endless rich lists and the celebritification of the wealthy ensure your finances and personal life will be dissected by the media.

Mentoring competition launched for tech start-ups

5:08AM | Tuesday, 24 May

Digital entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with mentors as part of XMediaLab: Global Media Ideas, a three-day event being held in Sydney next month.

10 lessons from the 2011 Webby winners

5:31PM | Thursday, 5 May

With nearly 70 categories, attracting close to 10,000 entries from 60 countries, the Webby Awards don’t exactly provide a bite-sized snapshot of what defines the world’s top websites.

Job Capital takes out top prize at 2011 StartupSmart Awards

4:07AM | Wednesday, 20 April

Job Capital, a $9 million revenue company that manages the financial affairs of contractors, has landed the Officeworks Fastest Growing Start-up award at the 2011 StartupSmart Awards.

Australian web domain hits two million sites as competition soars

3:11PM | Tuesday, 8 March

The number of registrations on Australia’s country code domain has hit two million, with internet entrepreneur Fred Schebesta urging start-ups to register multiple domain names as competition grows.

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