Fred Schebesta is one of Australia’s best-known online marketers and recently launched a new venture, Life Insurance Finder. In this Q&A he shares his tips for success, online and off, and reveals his winning sales and team-building tactics.
Q: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you started in business?
A: business isn’t about becoming famous or known for something. It’s about putting dollars in the bank. That brutal reality killed a lot of my childhood ideas about what businesses were all about.
Q: What are your most effective work habits?
A: Persistence - I only back away from something after pushing it to the limit.
Innovation - Coming up with ideas and fresh approaches.
Q: The most important person in my business is ... because ...
A: Everyone is important because they all have crucial responsibilities to compete in our markets.
Q: Best business decision you’ve ever made?
A: Build a scalable and nationally focused business. I stopped trying to sell internet marketing services and instead focused on building an online business and used our internet marketing skills for ourselves. A big change up, but the best decision!
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in business? How did you fix it?
A: I have made A LOT of big mistakes. Unfortunately I reused a lot of code and product images for two similar clients and one of the clients didn’t like it at all. Fortunately all the code was open source and the images were owned by the product owners, but it cost a lot of money to get that straightened out. Fixed it by hiring great lawyers!
Q: How do you delight customers?
A: Give them what they require and try where possible to anticipate what other small thing else they might want. But normally customers are delighted if you just give them exactly what they ask for and nothing more.
Q: Share your number one sales technique with us.
A: Ask for the sale. End your email or call with a question which ends with a yes or a no. "Did you want me to ship that to your mansion or your holiday house?"
Q: What’s your secret team-building tactic?
A: Showcase - I learnt this from a former manager at our business. Basically everyone presents what wins they have had and talks through the things they have done in the previous months. Sometimes big and small wins don’t get acknowledged and this tries to recognise them.
Q: Favourite piece of business technology? Why?
A: Google Apps. Collaborating on documents as opposed to sending versions of documents back and forth is amazing!
Q: Best tip for managing people?
A: Have regular informal catch ups. A coffee or informal walk helps you understand the person and helps you know where they are at.
Q: Who do you most admire? Why?
A: I met Richard Branson the other month and he was fun to chat with about business especially. But I like Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. He is launching a space company that is competing with Richard and is the benchmark to me of making a globally recognised .com business! He survived the bubble and won!
Q: What’s more important in business: passion or preparation? Why?
A: Passion. Focusing on execution as opposed to planning seems to win for me. Getting feedback and figuring out how to improve what you have done is paramount to me.
Q: Favorite websites and why they add value to your work?
A: Twitter - believe it or not I really like reading up on what people suggest as great articles and content and seem to get a lot of knowledge from it. (Follow Fred's account here).
Tech Crunch - I find myself going to this site more and more as new startups come out, I like their analysis and the paths which I find myself on after reading their articles.
Q: I drive a ... because ....
A: Chrysler 300C because it looks different in Australia and has enough room for my daughter in the back.
Q: What’s your favourite networking activity? Why?
A: Linkedin - Finding like minded people on linkedin usually leads to Twitter or blogs where you can build a relationship with someone around their ideas and then sometimes meet in person.
Q: How do you relax?
A: Computer games, personal training and hanging out with my wife and daughter at the beach.
Q: Favourite sporting team? Why
A: I’m not really into sporting teams and more watch interesting sports like: NBA, NFL or The state of origin. I like watching all sorts of amazing athletes compete.
Q: If someone gave you $100,000 and said “Invest this in your business by the end of the week – or lose it” what would you do?
A: Ask them what they want for the $100,000 before taking it. I have learnt money never comes without strings.
Q: Generation Y: are they as demanding as everyone says?
A: Yes, Yes and Yes.
Q: The Internet is a massively disruptive force. What’s your reaction to disruption?
A: I LOVE disruption. I live to challenge and disrupt traditional online and offline businesses.
Q: How do you foster and express creativity?
A: Brainstorming, reading, listening to music, going to art shows and theatre and watching movies. I want to expand this some more by actually doing some more art.