Entrepreneur Interviews - All Business Owners

Interview with CEO of PeekYou.com, Michael Hussey

Interested in starting an online directory? Michael Hussey stops in to show us how he's been progressing.

Michael Hussey has been running his New York based online directory, PeekYou, since 2006. He started other sites such as RateMyFace, and RateMyProfessors.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

 It's a People Search Database/Platform. You enter their name and everything from Facebook profiles to public records come up.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

I Started the RateMy™ Network (RateMyTeachers/RateMyProfessors/RateMyFace, etc.)

As a college student, I used RateMyProfessors.com. I disregarded the advice and ended up with a professor who had a heavy Austrian accent. Anywho, what advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Get a mentor. Succeeding at a startup venture requires competence in many aspects of the business, not only in being creative and technically savvy but also being good at organizing and negotiating. The good advice of a mentor—or even better, their good example—can be invaluable for guiding a young entrepreneur in making sound decisions in the early stages of his or her startup. More generally, it is important to surround yourself with experienced people who want you to succeed, and to learn from them. A good habit is to write down everything. If you come up with an interesting idea, get it down on paper. Writing it down is the first step to taking action on the concept. Getting it on paper helps clarify my own thoughts as they occur to me and prevents me from forgetting them. And perhaps most important, have fun with whatever your endeavor is and make sure everyone you work with is having fun too.

That's some great advice. How did you come up with your business idea?

My idea was to re-index the Internet around people.

Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?

I always write a business plan. That is typically step #2. For me, step #1 is sketching out the concept on a pad of paper. Step #2 is organizing those thoughts into a possible business structure.

Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?

We hired plenty of lawyers (always get it on paper) and one good accountant. A great PR firm can help. Intelligent and motivated people whose primary concern is quality of life and work.

What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE….

Resources such as ODesk and GetaFreelancer were indispensible.

Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?

No, but I'm not sure it would have mattered. Home or office, your mindset is what matters.

Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?

I chose an investment partner in August 2006. I sought an investment partner who would offer me autonomy to build the right team and execute my vision independently from the start.

Sounds like good things to look for. Have you hired additional staff? What is your greatest human-resources challenge?

The greatest challenge is finding the right people. I've hired probably 50 people, typically for small tasks to see what kind of person they are. We have a staff of ten full and part-timers right now.

Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?

No. But my parents own a small business (a greenhouse). The main challenge is the same level of commitment across the entire family. When you are responsible for opening and closing those doors to your business, for paying employees, for putting out a good product, it takes a certain mindset that is quite different from taking a 9-5 job.

What specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become entrepreneurs? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?

I'm not sure. … I've never really thought about it. In this day and age, it is about product and execution—not about race, gender, or even age.

With the current economy in a slump, what cost-saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?

Make the word "value" part of your regular vocabulary. How does this investment further my goal of making a profit? Is there a better, more economic way?

Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?

Plenty. … But there is only so much you can outsource in a growing technology company. As great as some of the developers and designers overseas can be, it is hard for them to replace the advantages of sitting in a room together to work through challenges.

Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?

Networking, Craigslist, Odesk, GetaFreelancer

Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small-business space. Has it worked at generating business for you?

Our business is at the center of the new social marketing opportunities. Remember, this is the year 2010. Any business that doesn't have a social marketing strategy is losing customers, guaranteed.

Temporary labor can be a great asset to an entrepreneur. Have you ever hired temps or contractors? Would you suggest this as a strategy for new business owners?

I prefer to hire temp works, or contractors, before extending a full-time employment offers. This is good for both the employee and the business. You both need to get to know each other first and see if the fit is right before making that commitment (this goes for the employee too, since taking on a new job is a major responsibility).

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

We didn't raise millions of dollars without a business plan to effectively utilize those funds. We kept processes bare-bones until we were confident in our ability to execute before seeking additional funding.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

You should go into business knowing it will always be different from what you expect. In that respect, business is no different from life in general.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Making mistakes is part of life—part of business. Success hopefully is a part of your life too. Plenty of mistakes—a decent number of successes—and no regrets thus far.

Thanks a ton for your time Mr. Hussey! I'm off to give PeekYou.com a try and see what I find....

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