After working through the idea for a few years, Robert Bodi founded BusinessBeware.biz in 2008.
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Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
BusinessBeware.biz is where businesses can warn each other about problem clients and collect from non-paying customers. Businesses have not had an outlet or "voice" where they can share about bad customer experiences. In today's society the customer is not always right. Our site also has a collection letter that businesses can use to send out to customers that have yet to pay, rather than resorting to a collections agency. When the customer does pay the business, the business does not have to pay us a percentage like you normally would to an agency! We also promote small businesses with our business spotlight as well.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I have been a business owner for over 30 years and still own three businesses while we run Business Beware. It was started by my daughter and I as a side thing to help businesses but now has grown so quick, especially with the collection letter that we are having to put a lot more time into it. Our goal was to help fellow businesses and we had no idea it would help so many like it has!
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
With any business you have to know that what you put into it is what you will get out of it. Hard work goes a long way but if you get the chance to help people then you're doing something right.
How did you come up with your business idea?I was sitting with a friend eating lunch one day and we had started talking about our businesses and customers we had been dealing with. He mentioned a customer that had given him problems and the situation and then I realized that the exact same customer had given our company problems as well. After that lunch it sparked the idea and I started researching to see if there was something out there like our site and I found nothing. Customers have so many outlets like the BBB, Angie's List, Consumers in Control, etc. but the businesses didn't have a "voice." I knew exactly how business owners felt dealing with customer's day in and out, so I wanted to do something to help. So after all the research that is when I told my daughter Ashley about the idea and she immediately agreed with me about starting the site.
Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?
I have been in family business most of my life and our Business Beware site was started and run by family. There are always benefits and challenges with anything in life but I think the benefits outweigh the challenges with a family business. As family you will always have some things that can drive you crazy about each other and it's easy to voice your thoughts to them before someone else which can sometimes be bad. But also you are always able to forget about it and move on quicker. You know each others' strengths and weaknesses, when they need to be pushed and motivated but of course can always push a button as well. Nothing matters more than family (to me at least) and usually you work as a team to make sure the job gets done. If a family member doesn't cut it and causes more problems than helping then it's up to you to let them go or deal with it how you feel you should. Like I said, there are pros and cons to everything but I think you have more pros with a family business than cons even after all these years.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
My wife and I have always instilled in our girls to have dreams and goals, to not be afraid to go after what they want. I encourage any young woman to go after their dreams whether big or small. My daughter Ashley has always been a dreamer and I could not have done this site without her. I had the idea but she made it a reality. She has been an entrepreneur and it's amazing to see the determination she has with what she does and the goals she accomplishes. To see young women achieving things like that is great and I don't know anyone who would not want to see them shine. There are so many opportunities for young women now and nothing should hold them back from doing what they set out to do. Some women even have more business smarts then men from some that I have known, so they don't need to be intimidated in a man's world or work environment, just do it.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
We started using Twitter to reach out with businesses and generate contacts and spread the word about the site. We have made some unbelievable friends with the social network that have become members or just become great friends spreading the word about us and vice versa. Not just Twitter, but also other social sites have helped us get our site out there and really connect with people to show them who we are. We stress to businesses to get involved with the social networks too!
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?I think the collection letter has been a tremendous push for the site. With our companies that we have it's tough collecting from customers who will not pay and in today's society you need every penny coming back to you from a job you did. It's great when a collections agency helps you collect your money but most don't want to go through the hassle of it or don't like the fact that they have to pay a 20-30% back to the agency of their collected money. Some or most don't even resort to the agencies and end up writing customers off and not getting a penny. So we tested out the letter with our own companies and friends businesses in the beginning and customers were paying within the next few days! So we opened it up for our members and it just started to boom with them and they were getting paid! We are just happy to be able to help and all the great feedback from businesses using the service makes us keep going with this.
Thanks, Robert. That is great advice for entrepreneurs! Good luck with your ventures.