Startup News & Analysis

IFLYflat founder Steve Hui on how to face people who hate your business success

Emma Koehn /

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to launch an idea nobody has thought of before, you can be sure of one thing, says iFLYflat founder Steve Hui: people are going not going to like you. 

“A lot of people are going to hate you for it,” Hui says.

“They hate you for it because people wish that they were doing it, and they wish that they could be doing it. I just deal with it by saying, ‘Well you’re either doing it, or you’re not — and I’m the one doing it.”

Hui launched his “points whisperer” business — which promises to hack the frequent flier points of clients to secure business class flights for $2500 — after “engineering” a redundancy from Macquarie Bank and getting started turning his hobby into a serious business opportunity.

Years on and with no other competitors in the local market, he reflects that one thing entrepreneurs don’t talk about, even with each other, is the distraction that can come from people harassing you about your business success and claiming they could do it better.

“Prior to that, probably nobody’s ever going to troll you, because there’s no reason to. But it happens, out of jealousy or whatever, and you’re in complete shock about it,” he says. 

The iFLYflat business now turns over $500,000 annually, according to Fairfax, and as it continues to grow its client base, Hui says the company now has to make a choice about its growth, given the nature of the business has evolved from a “bespoke” approach with word-of-mouth referrals to people cold-calling asking for the service.

“We’re getting to the stage where people are calling up and asking me to book a flight and I’m like, ‘I have no idea who you are,’” he says.

The iFLYflat model is not the most conventional business to explain, and Hui has advice for entrepreneurs who have to make complex pitches to customers: anchor your product to what they already know.

“One of the things I found is you’ve got to start with what they know. When we talk about [frequent flyer] points, for example, I ask them what they have done with their points in the past. You build it up from there — and that’s one way that helps me cut time,” he says.

There might be trolls out there, but a good chunk of the iFLYflat business model is talking to people about the trips they want to make and hacking the points system to get them there. Hui says this lends itself to plenty of good stories.

“I booked one for a client to fly his mother-in-law over first class,” he says, remembering the client was in the good books with the whole family that Christmas.

Hui says those examples show the business genuinely delivers new options to its customers.

“You wouldn’t do that otherwise, you just wouldn’t. Because number one, it’s a lot of money for first class, and number two, your mother-in-law wouldn’t let you,” he says. 

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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