Simon Slade – CEO of Doubledot Media Limited

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Simon Slade - CEO of Doubledot Media Limited

I recommend everyone join me in following the entrepreneurial recipe: Build it, test it, learn from it, fix it. Then rinse and repeat as fast as possible!

Simon Slade, CEO of Doubledot Media Limited, founded the company in 2005 with Mark Ling, director at Doubledot Media. In this role, Slade oversees the strategic direction of the company, manages and contributes to product design and supervises staff and daily operations.

Ling, with a background as an affiliate product owner and program manager, joined forces with Slade, drawing on his background in sales and technology, to launch Doubledot Media. More than 500,000 individuals and businesses around the world rely on Doubledot Media to help launch and sustain their e-commerce ventures.

Doubledot Media offers seven different training and software applications designed to help customers develop successful retail and marketing websites, without requiring any technical knowledge. Doubledot Media’s flagship products include Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal with free video lessons and paid premium products, and SaleHoo, an online wholesale directory of over 8,000 prescreened suppliers.

In his spare time, he serves as vice president of the Mt. Pleasant Squash Club, and he also enjoys snowboarding and discussing startups.

Where did the idea for SaleHoo come from?

The idea for SaleHoo arose through my work for New Zealand’s local online auction site Trade Me. After receiving multiple inquiries about how I find suppliers, I realized the need for an outlet for online retailers to shop for trusted suppliers. I then joined forces with Mark Ling, an Internet marketing entrepreneur, to create SaleHoo Wholesale Directory, which reached 10,000 members just eight months after its creation. From there, we launched Doubledot Media Limited, which is now the parent company of both SaleHoo and Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal with free video lessons and paid premium products.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I get into work about 8 a.m. each morning and spend the first one or two hours reviewing the operational status of all our current projects/tasks. The rest of the morning, I spend reviewing and replying to emails as needed. My afternoon is dedicated to higher-level planning, looking at future projects or meeting with key staff to discuss their respective areas.

In order to get the most out of my day, I try to keep meetings on fixed days and straight after lunch or first thing in the morning if needed, so I have longer periods of time to concentrate on the larger-picture aspects of our business that give us the biggest potential gains.

How do you bring ideas to life?

My real passion is building things, so if I have a great idea, I usually immerse myself entirely and build a prototype as quickly as possible with someone outside of our company (solely as a proof of concept and to prevent our key staff from getting distracted by something that might not turn out to garner long-term success). I will then test it on our staff or a few customers to get their thoughts before deciding whether or not to take it to market.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Fitness and wearables is a trend that really excites me, even though it’s not a market we are in. I love sport and technology, so it’s great to see the two come together. FitBit and Zepp are a couple of companies I follow closely in this arena.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

One key to my success and productivity as an entrepreneur is Inbox Zero, which is a process developed by Merlin Mann, an independent writer, to help clear your email inbox and keep it empty. It’s all about being disciplined and using the email tools available to you. If you want to learn more, take it directly from Merlin himself in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9UjeTMb3Yk

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I once cleaned a bakery for $5 an hour. After three years of batter-crusted pans and flour-coated floors, I asked for a 50 cent pay raise and was told no. The negative experiences I had at this company taught me a lot about how to treat staff, and to this day, I always keep those lessons in the back of my mind. Your staff is your No. 1 asset, so treat them well!

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I were to start over my career, I would take more risk early in my life and try more things. You have nothing to lose, generally when you start out, so be adventurous. As your company matures, it becomes harder (for many reasons) to take such risk, and you also have more to lose.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I recommend everyone join me in following the entrepreneurial recipe: Build it, test it, learn from it, fix it. Then rinse and repeat as fast as possible!

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

The one strategy that is most integral to my success is “Build it, test it, learn from it, fix it. Then rinse and repeat as fast as possible!” This process allows you to try a lot of different things, check there is market validation early on and improve without spending too much time in development wasting money. The occasions that I haven’t followed this (and there have been a few!) have more often than not resulted in a failed product/feature.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Zeadoo, a personalized start Web page, is still up today, but it’s a failure in that it lacks the proper strategy to support it and a method for monetizing it. This hurdle was not “overcome” but a good lesson was learned from it: Always have a plan as to how you will generate revenue from your product. Generally speaking, I try to exclude advertising as a form of revenue because it relies on such a large sized audience to make it worthwhile. Think, “How will I get users to pay me for using my service or where will I be clipping the ticket?”

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

In terms of what type of business I would look to start, I have quite a few ideas, but one area that does interest me and that I think is still broken, is e-commerce and simplifying selling products online outside of eBay and Amazon. At the moment it takes substantial effort to generate listings for products, so some sort of AI/photo recognition software that could identify the product you are selling and generate product descriptions would be a huge help for people selling online.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I was No. 1 in New Zealand for woodwork during high school with a final score of 99%. I wanted to be a builder but was not able to continue as to what was not a Bursary-level subject.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I use AffiloTools for the day-to-day management and monitoring of our websites and spotting problems and fixing them before they get out of control. KissMetrics helps me find out how our core customers are using our websites.

Customer.io helps our customers at key moments when using our websites.

Optimizely is important for optimizing our landing pages to improve conversion rates. Finally,

Geckoboard offers a high-level overview of our company performance and is used within our office.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Entrepreneurs should read “Remote” by Jason Fried, which is extremely relevant to anyone in the technology sector, and it gives a fresh perspective on how we can operate businesses in the 21st century.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Two of my biggest influencers are Charles Abrahamson, a business partner and long-term friend at Smtp2Go, and Dan Siroker, co-founder of Optimizely. They’re brilliant thinkers and not only can they help you find the rabbit hole, they know to bring a parachute and a navigation system when you were ready to go on your Wonderland adventure without them.

Connect:

Simon Slade on LinkedIn: http://nz.linkedin.com/in/simonslade
Simon Slade on Twitter: @simonslade
Simon Slade on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/simon.slade
Simon Slade on Google+: https://plus.google.com/+SimonSlade/about

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