As an entrepreneur tenacity is one of the greatest skills you can have. It’s the skill that provides the perseverance to see an idea through from inception to delivery.
Peter Harris formed QiQ in 1998 after working Barclays, a UK banking group, for 15 years. While initially providing web development services to small and medium sized businesses, QiQ has evolved to become a boutique web hosting and domain name provider – a role QiQ still performs.
Following a move to Australia in 2001, Peter recognized the potential for an affordable mail service that combined traditional mail with the speed of the Internet as he still had many friends without an Internet connection. This lead to development of the businesses first hybrid mailing solution L-Mail.com and more recently, Docsaway.
Peter holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with first class honors.
What are you working on right now?
My business, QiQ, offers hybrid mail services where we print and post documents for businesses and individuals, to over 200 countries every week from 30 worldwide locations. By printing and posting from multiple locations, users of the service benefit from faster delivery than traditional mail and because local postage is applied to correspondence rather than air mail, cost savings are also frequently obtained.
We are presently working on a number of improvements to the service, mostly in terms of usability and streamlining the payment processes.
Where did the idea for QiQ’s hybrid mail services come from?
When I moved from the UK to Australia I wanted a way to communicate with people who, at that time, were not using email. I decided to create a tool that enabled physical letters to be sent with the same ease as email would be beneficial. While it is mostly businesses that now use our service, it still remains available to individuals.
How do you make money?
We print and post letters on behalf of individuals and businesses. Because we add value, our clients are happy to pay a few cents extra for each letter we mail.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m quite routine in how I structure my day and prefer to start early with my alarm going off around 6:30am. My day then usually starts with either a run or trip to the gym – I figure without good health you have little so I do my best to keep fit. Then I login and respond to my email and any support tickets that may have been flagged to me overnight. Once those administrative tasks are completed I try to focus on at least one marketing initiative each day. This may be newsletters to clients, press releases, advertising on Google – a whole range of things which helps keeps things interesting.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m quite process-driven so I can usually picture what needs to be done to make something happen. I’m also very fortunate in having a great virtual team around me whose expertise I can draw on. By picturing what needs to be done, I can then plan the steps and team required and I simply work our way through the list.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I actually quite like going against the trend. If you see a trend, what happens if you run in the opposite direction – I mean, we don’t all want to be sheep do we? This is kind of what we do at QiQ. For instance, who in their right mind would focus on proving innovative mailing solutions with the old fashioned letter when everyone is communicating electronically? We do – and love it!
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Oh dear, the nightmares are going to start again! When I first started working for a UK bank back in 1984 one of my first jobs was filing direct debit mandates. These little slips of paper all had a seven-digit reference number on them and they had to be put in numerical order and filed away in a cupboard. One day I had enough of this filing and went to the boss to ask for a change of job. He actually suggested I join the Marines. At the time I was a bit insulted by the suggestion, but in hindsight he was actually hinting that you should always do what your passionate about and he knew I enjoyed playing in brass bands. I didn’t join the marines but I did go on to have 15 great years working in all sorts of interesting parts of the bank and its credit card division.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’m not a believer in regrets. However, when leaving a large multinational corporation to start a small business you need to lose the corporate way of doing things as quickly as possible. Corporations and their employees have many luxuries – most involving the time and money available to do things. A small businesses lacks these resources and, if you come from a corporate background you need to recognize you have limited resources and plan and act accordingly.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As an entrepreneur tenacity is one of the greatest skills you can have. It’s the skill that provides the perseverance to see an idea through from inception to delivery. I see too many people give up with a business idea because they have not seen the success they wanted after three months working on it. I always believe a good idea takes about three years to get going – possibly a little less as you become more experienced in making things happen. To have tenacity you have to have passion for your work and if it starts to weaken, pray that your working with others who are at least as tenacious as you – drawing off each other’s strengths helps you get through the bad times.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’m fortunately in that our business has had it’s fair share of success with not too many failures. At one point we ventured into an online payroll service but for various reasons it failed to take off. The best thing to overcome this particular failure was to simply close the venture whilst making arrangements for the existing client base to be seamlessly transferred to someone who could adequately look after their requirements. So, if there is a problem, you either fix the problem or remove it and act on these decisions as quickly as possible.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I like to read motivational books and autobiographies from well-known business people. However, I also like a product that I have on my desk that constantly reminds me that nothing is impossible. It’s a milk bottle with a pack of playing cards seemingly impossibly inserted. Whilst this “impossible bottle” has landed on my desk and provides a constant reminder, I’d love to have other “impossible” items on display. My idea is therefore one of the Impossible Shop – where the impossible becomes possible and can be purchased buy businesses people seeking some added motivation.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
There are many worthy world problems that a worthy of a mention under this topic but I am going to mention one cause – the eradication of preventable blindness. Fortunately the plan to assist in achieving this goal is already being put into place by wiser people than myself. I am a proud supporter of the work of the Fred Hollows Foundation who, in 2012 alone, helped over 8 million people all around the world through eye screening and operations.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
In 1959 Australian Geoff Mack wrote the lyrics to “I’ve been everywhere”, a song listing 94 Australian place names linked only by their ability to rhyme with each other. In December 2009 I commenced visiting all 94 locations and 18 months and over 30,000 kilometers later I finally arrived at Birdsville, Queensland on 4 September 2011 bringing my mission to an end. The adventure is recorded at http://www.ivebeeneverywhere.com.au
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
– Dropbox – I try to be as paperless as possible in my work and Dropbox along with a Scansnap scanner is a great way to start.
– 1Password – I have a unique password for every website I visit and use. I’ve now got a collection of over 400 passwords. 1Password enables me to store them securely yet use them without too much inconvenience.
– Basecamp – Makes project management easy and enables our whole virtual team to contribute to the process.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It’s an old one but a good one, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I read this book as I was about to give up my 9 to 5 job. It provided me with the motivation to throw caution to the wind along with a nice monthly pay check. I’ve not looked back since.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
@sucuri_security – keep up to date with internet nasties – particularly useful if you use WordPress.
@atablefortwo – Foodie related tweets.
@SFMOMA – interesting art related tweets from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Someone recently tweeted: “I never wanted to believe that my Dad was stealing from his job as a road worker. But when I got home, all the signs were there.” Perhaps I should not admit it got me giggling to myself!
Who is your hero, and why?
It’s dangerous putting anyone on a pedestal as it’s then easy for him or her to come crashing down to earth. However, I actually have two and cannot distinguish between them for top spot. My mum and dad. Why? They have taught me some of the most important lessons in life, like honesty, value of hard work and respect for yourself and others. They have also always been supportive in whatever I decided to do.
What is one marketing strategy that’s worked well for you?
The one marketing strategy that has worked well for us is to have many marketing strategies! We continually experiment with a whole range of ideas but, despite this, it always comes back to the best approach that is to amaze our existing customers and let word of mouth take over.
Whilst ideally nothing would ever go wrong, it is the times when we solve problems and issues for our clients that we can demonstrate we really do care. We’re not an anonymous support person, but always a named individual anxious to resolve a problem – or preferably prevent it if we can.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I enjoy spending time with my partner, Billy whether exercising or quality time at home with our dog and cat, or traveling. I also enjoy flying light aircraft when I have a few spare cents in my pockets. It’s the one way I know to truly get away from everything – I’d challenge anyone to try and think about work at the same time as trying to remain airborne!