David Vitek is the chief executive and founder of hipages, a directory service which originally started connecting customers to natural therapists, but then expanded into trades. The business has taken off, turning over $10.1 million in the last financial year.
But the strength of Vitek’s success extends beyond financials. The company has appeared on several “best place to work” lists, and there is relatively low turnover among its 50 or so staff. Vitek spoke to SmartCompany about the company’s culture and its growth plans.
The company started in 2004 and it was born based on a problem. I wanted to start an internet business in the health industry, because there just wasn’t enough information for a layperson to understand it all.
So it became a directory for natural therapists. And then when we found out we were connecting customers with therapists, we expanded and launched into the home improvement space.
Our advantage was that not many people knew about Google. They did, sure, but we were able to learn about marketing strategies early and get in before a lot of people did. We came to the realisation the home improvement space had a lot of room to grow.
We found we needed to just build trust, and demonstrate how to add value to tradies.
We treat every single user as a potential user who could sell to 10 other people. So a lot of activities at the moment are focusing in the product and how great we can make it.
Service is key. We need to communicate with users; there is an iPhone app where they can chat to us if they have a question. It’s important.
Marketing is an expensive activity. So we’re doing a lot of direct response marketing, and PR is a great way to educate the market.
The people here have always been a big part of the organisation. We work a lot on culture and we’ve won awards for it. We’re always talking to everyone about the way things are done.
A lot of people ask me how I hire. I answer that I want to work with people who I can introduce to my family. Good, genuine people.
We’re at the size now where I don’t know what everyone has for breakfast. But HR knows if they have any issues to come to me and we can resolve them. I think we’ve won awards because I’m involved in getting those issues fixed.
You have to make sure you see the red flags in your business and deal with them efficiently.
I don’t have my own office. I sit next to the lead developer, so I know what’s going on.
Our main challenge at the moment is product. There are a lot of people using us and we have to make sure we’re representing the product in the best way possible.
We’d organise 20,000 jobs on a monthly basis and in the future that could be 250,000 to 500,000 jobs. We’ve just recently turned over $10.1 million, but we’re going to get some decent growth on top of that, about 30%.
It’s taken a while for our business to evolve. I think mobile is really going to help the engagement rate. People are on the go and they just expect immediate answers. I think we’re going to see a lot more movement in that space.
We just have to make sure we’re innovating. As the business grows I get a different level of challenge. It’s tough, but I enjoy it.