30 July 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
How I Made It: Kevin Byrne
We interview Kevin Byrne Money Maker Magazine
On his success with checkatrade.com
Set-up: 1998 | Y1 Turnover: £35k | 2012 Turnover: £6.4m
What does your company do, and what’s your USP?
Checkatrade.com was the first site to offer homeowners a way to look for reviews and recommendations of local tradespeople, online and via printed directories. The company helps combat the UK’s rogue trader problem by continuously vetting and monitoring local tradespeople, from plumbers and electricians through to tree surgeons and flooring companies, with the results published, good and bad for all to see.
Checkatrade.com’s USP lies in our stringent vetting and customer feedback verification processes. It is only through proper verification that review sites can guarantee honest, reliable feedback for customers and a fair, accurate assessment for businesses. We verify all email accounts and in total spot check/verify over 40% of jobs undertaken by our members.
I’m proud to say the result is a very low complaint rate: last year just one in every 600 jobs resulted in a complaint compared to the national average of one in four.
How did you start the business?
In 1998 I was running a local carpet cleaning business when a tornado hit my hometown of Selsey on the South Coast. The devastation was immense, with around 1000 buildings and homes damaged to the tune of £10m, while cowboys builders and rogue traders arrived in their thousands to profiteer from the misfortune of hundreds of homeowners.
Witnessing the lack of support and resources available to homeowners looking for reliable, genuine traders I began a business from my spare room that has since evolved into the multimillion pound business used by over 200,000 consumers a month that is Checkatrade today.
How was your first year of trading?
The first year was extremely tough, the usual answer I received from trades was, “come back to me when you have it up and running” or “you’ll never make it work”. The initial business model asked traders to prove via recommendations from their customers and public liability insurance that they were quality trades. In June that year the first directory was printed and distributed by Royal Mail across Chichester and Bognor Regis which was quickly followed by Kingston in Surrey.
How did you build up the company after year one?
By working half days, just 12 hours a day was all that was needed. Seriously, a lot of time and effort was needed. Rejection from the trades on this new pioneering concept was frequent. I still operated two other companies during years 2-5, carpet cleaning and graphic design, this was necessary to build up capital of which every penny went into marketing the service to the consumer.
Today this is still our strategy, marketing to the trade is a waste of time, a service built for the consumer has to be led by the consumer and so all marketing goes in that direction.
What lessons would you pass onto other entrepreneurs just starting out?
First, hold true to your values. Checkatrade has been through many reincarnations but we have never wavered from our original vision. The same principles of robust verification and transparency have been embedded in our business model and systems from the outset.
Don’t build a business, build people. To gain commitment from your team they must be involved and to have involvement they have to be given an input into the decision-making processes of the company.
Going the extra mile is not enough; consumers have too much choice and are often time-poor. Think about what you can offer that costs you little but means a great deal to your customers.
Look forward to problems. Problems build experience and value, once you have been through a difficult time, the next time it comes around you just step over it.
Who is your inspiration in business?
No one in particular, I’m inspired by those that achieve something from nothing, pioneers and people that make things happen.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Checkatrade helps combat the UK's rogue trader problem by continuously vetting and monitoring local traders such as builders, plumbers and electricians. The idea was born in 1998 after a tornado hit the small West Sussex town of Selsey. Traders poured in from as far away as Liverpool and Manchester. Unfortunately, some ripped off the inhabitants of the town. Local businessman, Kevin Byrne, realised there was nowhere to check out the traders’ credentials and the company that became Checkatrade was formed.
Since then, Checkatrade has grown to include over 6,300 genuine trade members, growing by an average 120 new members every month, and, via the Royal Mail, distributes 5.9 million directories a year into communities throughout Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Dorset and Berkshire, while the website includes traders from across the UK.
PR / Marketing, Checkatrade
5 - 6 Sherrington Mews, Ellis Square, Selsey, West Sussex, PO20 0FJ