We interviewed Oliver Pennington, Co-Founder of Service Seeking to learn about his experience of starting a business and any important advice he has for budding entrepreneurs.
Tell us about Service Seeking
ServiceSeeking.com.au is a business that helps you find and get quotes from businesses in your local area. You describe what you need to be done on our website - eg "I need a plumber to install a new sink"- then our customer support alerts plumbers in your area by email. Available plumbers send you quotes - eg "I can do this for $200 next Tuesday..."
We launched in October 2007. Since then we've had over 600,000 customers use the site and over 70,000 business signups.
Why did you start up your business?
We thought getting quotes from local businesses was more difficult than it should be. By having businesses compete online, our customers save time chasing quotes, and most get a better price. We first thought the model would work best for professional services like lawyers and accountants, but it actually works best for construction and trades according to the received quotes.
What were the major hurdles when starting Service Seeking?
The biggest hurdle was the lack of expertise in our support team. Most of what we were doing we'd never done before and needed to learn fast. We overcame the initial knowledge deficit by making lots of mistakes, reading everything we could find about business, talking to others, and keeping close contact with our customers.
What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting their own business?
Keep plodding along. We're 5 years into this and we still make lots of tiny enhancements. Over time little changes add up to a lot of progress. Hope this helps.
What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business?
When we came up with the idea I wasn't really going anywhere in my job. I'd always wanted to run my own business, so I thought it was worth quitting my job and giving this a chance.
How did your family and friends react?
My friends and family were really supportive. I'm sure some had doubts about whether we'd make it work out, but nobody ever told me to my face.
How has your life changed since starting Service Seeking?
Since starting the business I've been married and had 2 kids. That's changed me more than anything work-wise. I don't think my life would be too much different if I hadn't followed this path. I'd be less engaged or satisfied with my career, though. I think the big lifestyle changes might come later as long as we can keep adding value to the business.
What is the vision for Service Seeking?
We want ServiceSeeking.com.au to be the best way for people to compare quotes and prices from local businesses. That means we have to deliver a better experience than Google, the Yellow Pages, or calling businesses from the local paper. About half of our customers report having an amazing experience, so we still have lots of work to do because we love to heart more positive user opinions on selected products.
What tips can you give other SavvySME about building your start-up?
If you don't have the motivation to work through challenges, you may not have what it takes to run your own business. Despite being in precarious situations several times, particularly in the first 2 years, I've never had to dig very deep for motivation. I've always had an unwavering belief that we'll succeed. If you have that sense of belief you can probably work out a solution to most problems.
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