Decisions: Andrew Skipwith

The founder of tradesmen recommendation service on the decisions that changed his life.

Last Updated: 02 Nov 2010

My best...

...commercial decision was to charge membership of £40 per quarter to our tradesmen from day one. The perceived wisdom was you don't launch websites like that but we were convinced what we had was valuable and useful. It was much harder to recruit tradesmen but we said we're charging for membership because we're going to provide a really good service. That meant we pretty much self-funded the growth of the business. If I'd known more about the internet, I probably wouldn't have done it because people who are much more experienced have subsequently told me it was a crazy idea.

Another good decision was deciding two years ago to work part-time. You get all these start-up entrepreneurs saying they work 15 hours a day, seven days a week, but I don't believe anyone can work those hours and still be fresh and useful. I take a day off a week and spend it with my three young kids and they are really good at helping just put stuff in context. When I come back, I am fresher, happier and better able to motivate.

My worst...

At the beginning in 2005, we had no money but we decided we had to have a contact centre. We found someone in Cape Town - it was really cheap, they seemed very keen and it would be a nice place to visit. The reality was that in two years I went there once - and it also meant that we weren't close enough to our customers. We had lots of misunderstandings and emails weren't being answered very well. If you say you are going to give some support you'd better do it well, so after two years, we decided to bring that work back to London, to a great outsourced outfit.

Several of us in the team spend at least a day a week with our contact centre and support team. It means that whenever we want to share our thinking and bounce ideas we can do it really easily. On hourly rates, it's probably twice as expensive to have a contact centre in London rather than South Africa but, in terms of effectiveness, it's worth it, no question. Looking after our tradesmen is one of our most important things; we are really happy to make that investment because it's crucial.

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