- Posted by Paul Towers
- On April 27, 2015
- 0 Comments
- True Counsellor
The story of Luke Devoto and his website TrueCounsellor.com.au is sure to be of interest to anyone who has had to juggle a job with the burning desire of turning their idea into a business. Luke’s journey to launching his business also highlights important lessons on bootstrapping your company and how to maximize the use of outsourced web developers from overseas.
Luke originally arrived in Australia in 2008 after migrating from Argentina. It didn’t take him long to jump into his first venture, an e-commerce site selling leather goods that he imported from his home country. A few months into this business however he realized it wasn’t what he was passionate about. In the end he continued to run the business for the first year before selling it and moving into the role of Real Estate Sales Agent and later a role in marketing.
It was working in this industry that led to his next idea, and one he was truly passionate about. He realized that the way of contacting real estate agents in Australia has not kept up with the times. The contact details of an agent are still intrinsically tied to an agency. That is to say if you want to sell your property you will most likely search for the name of an agency, rather than an individual agent. Luke wanted to change this.
Before he could tackle this market however he wanted to validate the concept and develop a model that he could show prospective customers (i.e. Real Estate Agents) in the future. As a result he turned his attention overseas where the professional listing market is more mature. In researching this sector he identified Health as the industry where this model currently has most traction and decided to utilize this as his first model. As a result TrueCounsellor.com.au was born.
Coming from a non-medical background Luke spoke about how his largest challenge was to acquire users in a timely manner and prior to launch. I was intrigued about how Luke went about this given his stated aim was to spend as little on marketing as possible at this early stage. In fact he managed to acquire over 170 users with which he launched the site at zero cost. During our interview Luke went on to detail how he managed to do this, and the magic is really in its simplicity. Luke utilized Linkedin to reach out to professionals in this space and then offered them a compelling argument to sign on. Zero upfront membership for the first year. Out of the 550 people he contacted, 170 signed up.
As I heard more about Luke’s business I wondered what made his business stand out from the others that already exist? Luke outlined to me that most of his competitors were outdate and established many years ago. In fact he couldn’t find an existing competitor with a responsive website, optimized for mobile devices. Still it seemed to me as if there needed to be something more compelling to stand out from the crowd. It was then Luke began to talk about how his website was more than just a listing for professionals. He is opening up the platform for the users to build their “authority” within the space by building their personal brand on the site and publishing articles and blog posts.
Within this space I think Luke has tapped into an unmet need. Professionals want to expand their own network and presence and doing this within a place where their business deals are listed makes perfect sense. From TrueCounsellor.com.au’s perspective there will also be a steady stream of interesting and relevant content to improve the sites Search Engine Optimisation scores.
The next major question I had for Luke was how is he going to scale this business? Charging $197 for an annual listing is great for building a business, but to take it to the next level he would need scale and I wondered where this would come from. This part of Luke’s business plan really links back to where it all began, the Real Estate industry. Put simply Luke wants to replicate this model across any service based model, such as accountants, lawyers, photographers, etc. There are a number of industries that Luke believes could benefit from such a service and he aims to leverage the success of each site onto the next one.
With the outline of his business and his future growth plans out of the way I wanted to quiz Luke on his use of outsourced web developers to bring this site to life. It is something that I see a lot of people mention on social media and websites. I have a great idea, but I need someone to build it for me. I have often wondered myself if this is even a valuable strategy, given your lack of day-to-day control and input into the process. In Luke’s instance he managed the front end development of the site and outsourced the backend via e-lance. He managed to find someone who would take on the work in India and has been working with them since August 2014.
Overall Luke had found the process to be beneficial, in that he got the product built and at a reduced cost than an Australian developer, however, he said identifying a person to do the work is only the first step in the process. You really have to manage everything from start to finish. The advice Luke shared was that you have to be very specific in what you are requesting. The more information you can provide the better. Luke also received a number of generic responses from people and companies around the world saying that they could do the work. Luke took the position that if they didn’t have the time to answer his specific enquiry then they were not worth talking to and suggests the same for other entrepreneurs and business owners looking to outsource.
In addition to this don’t always think of outsourcing as a way of finding someone to do the work for less. In Luke’s opinion it is also about finding better qualified people. As a result focus on the quality of the person to perform the work first and the cost of engaging them second.
Before I concluded my interview with Luke I wanted to get his thoughts on one other area of his business and life. As he continues to work marketing industry I wanted to know what it was like for him to work on both his new venture and in his day to day job. Again this is something I see a lot of people thinking of doing, especially in the early stages of their idea. For most this is simply due to the fact that they cannot afford to quit their job, or are perhaps a bit more risk averse than others who throw it all in to launch their business.
In Luke’s instance he believes his ability to get this off the ground is all about being efficient. He works on his project before work and then after work, he has little time to waste on tasks that are not contributing to his success and states that momentum is a key requirement in getting things done. In fact Luke lists the fact that his work day is split across the morning and evening as the one thing that really plays on his mind. It means that he cannot just work for eight, ten or twelve hours straight on his project like he would like to. His hope though is that this idea continues to grow and that he can stay on top of things as he is continuing to do.
Above all Luke has been able to bootstrap his idea into existence. The real test starts now though as he continues to grow the site and monetize its user base as it grows and develops.
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