HBM Speaks with Simon Slade, CEO of Doubledot Media Limited

Simon Slade’s three businesses — SaleHoo, Affilorama and their parent company, Doubledot Media Limited — were born out of a desire to help other entrepreneurs beat the 9–5 grind. From the meager beginnings of just $1000, several IOU’s and a lot of confidence, Doubledot Media Limited is now helping over 500,000 customers improve their online businesses with 7 training and software applications.

Tell us about the origins of your companies.

While employed full-time at Hewlett-Packard, I was selling online at Trade Me. A lot of people were asking me where I found my suppliers. I saw the opportunity to help others jumpstart their online sales and came up with the idea for SaleHoo, an online wholesale directory of verified suppliers.

After quitting HP and finding a business partner and co-founder in my old friend Mark Ling, we created SaleHoo. The beginning was far from easy — we begged, borrowed and even paid our developer on an IOU basis. We only had $1,000 for startup costs. I served as both CEO and the sole customer support representative for the first year. It was exhausting but essential, and within eight months SaleHoo had reached 10,000 members. We then launched Affilorama and built the parent company, Doubledot Media, and have been improving all three ever since.

How does SaleHoo help people work from home?

Online sales is one of the most convenient ways to make a passive income, and it allows people to work from home. Finding suppliers for myself as an online seller was very challenging: it required hours of research, digging through pages and pages of potential suppliers. SaleHoo is meant to simplify that part of the online selling process by providing a directory where each supplier has been rigorously screened and verified as legitimate. Members can search the 1.5 million products by name, brand or category, sparing them all those hours of research I dealt with as a new seller.

SaleHoo also makes online sales easier to achieve from a home business perspective, because it helps people to understand and use dropshipping. When people think of selling online, they often think of listing whatever they have lying around in their basements and garages that they don’t want anymore. It’s a task that involves a lot of extra space and labor: taking photos, creating a listing, and packaging and shipping the item. Dropshipping is a much easier alternative in which you list the item online but the supplier ships the product directly from the warehouse, eliminating the hassle of maintaining an inventory, packaging the item and shipping it yourself.

What types of people benefit from your products?

Anyone looking to be their own boss. Doubledot Media is all about helping people achieve occupational freedom by building successful online businesses, including retail and marketing websites. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re just starting out and want to make some passive income from the comfort of your own home, or you’re looking to take your online business to the next level.

What strategies do you use to make your business stand out?

We knew we weren’t the only supplier directory when SaleHoo started, but we also knew we could differentiate ourselves from the competition by building our customers’ trust and providing the most effective educational resources. SaleHoo’s success was a result of the goal to stand out in these ways. Almost all businesses are introduced within an existing market; it’s rare to start off with zero competition. But by improving customer service, providing a superior product and continually innovating, your business will surpass your competitors.

What has been the most integral factor in your success?

Mindset is a major factor in determining your business success. As an entrepreneur, you must truly believe that your product is worthwhile and that it will be successful. This success mindset also includes a readiness to make sacrifices of your time and money — especially in the early days of your venture — and take risks. Now, with a family and staff depending on me, my ability to take risks is a little more limited, but in the early days of a business, it is vital to be prepared to take several leaps of faith, not just the initial one of quitting your full-time job to become an entrepreneur.

What is one of the biggest challenges facing home businesses and how can it be overcome?

Hiring staff for a home business is a big challenge because filling the expanding team with great talent is a constant necessity, but online home businesses have an advantage: they are able to look all over the country, and indeed, all over the world, for new employees, providing a far greater pool of talent from which to choose. When your office is your home, hiring remotely is not only practical, but a necessity. At Doubledot Media, 24 of our 29 employees telecommute. Initially, most of our outsourcing was done on Upwork, but more recently, we’ve turned to LinkedIn Recruiter, which has been far more effective in finding quality freelancers.

What is your advice to someone looking to start a home business?

My best advice is to create an great product and continue its growth. Pick a single, straightforward metric, such as sales units or revenue, and aim to beat yesterday’s total every day. This growth strategy is both sustainable and manageable. Metrics are one of the most underrated business tools and it’s never too early to start measuring them.

What do you love about your job?

Being your own boss is one of the greatest pleasures of my work. As CEO, there are fewer obstacles to overcome when I have an idea I want to see realized. In technology, the industry evolves fast, so new ideas are needed all the time, and it’s exciting to see them come to reality. But the most rewarding part of my work is that my businesses are empowering people to love what they do and have more control over their lives.

I feel these statements are more compelling in second person rather than third, hence the revisions. Plus, it’s so easy to get confused when talking about both people and products as “they”

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