Is building a good team a key factor in business success stories? Today’s Featured Entrepreneur is Ayden Byle from MetroMarks.com First off I’d like to thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. Let’s find out a little about Ayden, tell us a about yourself;
“I have worked for blue chip companies such as IBM as well as many start-ups mostly in the local directory, search or portal field. I have a passion for trees, all the solo sports, travel and philosophy…
In addition i am a type 1 diabetic and take 5 shots a day and need to constantly be monitoring my blood sugars…I do lots of charity work for diabetes and in 1998 i ran across Canada in support of cure based research..”
Looks like your past employment has really shaped your business idea. but what exactly is MetroMarks.com?
MetroMarks is a small startup located in Toronto Canada that started in spring 2010….here is what we are aiming to do:
- be the #1 source of online information for trip planning and travelers to cities around the world
- aggregate the best information in each city
- city travel is our NICHE
Phase 1 of aggregating content and adding cities is ongoing and continues…our next phase is more meat in the form of content and not just aggregation (although this is the base of what we are doing!)
After a small hiatus, we have gotten things off the ground again with a new team in February, and things are going really well.
We’re planning tremendous growth this summer as we move towards adding more content to the site, via a travel blog coming down the pipeline-we want this blog to drive traffic to the site and be the hub of what we are doing.
I have had a good look throughout your site and I must say has an extremely simple and intuitive user interface and is extremely easy to use. I personally love the site and won’t hesitate to use it during my next city break. So how did you come up with such a fantastic business idea?
“I had been working for many local portal and directory based sites varying from local event sites to local renovator review sites – all great resources for people in cities …however no one really knew about all these great local sites. MetroMarks was designed to highlight any resource based site in each city.”
Sounds like a great business idea, what is it about your business model that you think will make you succeed.
“We have people and organizations all over the world that just love it and we know many partnerships will come from this. MetroMarks is perfect for endlessly growing partnerships and more partners as in a nutshell we are a platform for any city based resources or content.”
Well I certainly agree with them it is a great site, how have you built it up so quickly and developed great content? it seems to have everything you could need!
“Well one of the reasons we started MetroMarks is that unlike most city portals you as an end user are not at the mercy of whatever that publisher puts on his or her site. For example many city portals have great info on movie times and restaurants but not the weather or good maps for the city. We have built a template so that any resources you need in a city, like its attractions, maps, weather, sport schedules, news, hotels, social streams etc etc are available from other content suppliers. Building such a system and back end always comes with a lot of work and thought and it’s a never ending process much like even the algorithms at google.”
Sounds like it will be a great success, but how did it I know many entrepreneurs talk about being inspired by people in their early years many of them chose people like Richard Branson, Bill Gates the iconic entrepreneurs of our age, but yours is a little closer to home I believe
“Around 2000-2005 i was working for Roger Abbiss the founder of redToronto.com – one of the very first local based search sites. Kind of a cross between the yellow pages and google at the time. It was a frenetic environment that grew from an empty floor to an IPO in its third year. Roger the CEO was very cool and leading edge and let all the first employees shape the pricing, product and marketing models for the company. Meetings were very often done over beers and passion was very much rewarded.”
Building a Team
That really does sound like an exciting and rewarding environment to work in. Have you carried that ethos through to your company
“I think you just need to believe in what you are doing and use the resources at your disposal… just because you own your own company you can’t always have your way. You have to have buy-in from your team and in many cases that means letting them call some shots and show you what works and take ownership. Let them win some arguments at the board room table so to speak and let them implement their ideas. Just be there to keep some focus!”
I completely agree with this, you can’t be a master of all trades and you should bring people in who compliment your skills and fill the gaps in your experience. If you do this, which Ayden clearly has, then it would be foolish not to listen to their advice and guidance. I think one of the over riding things that sums this up is when Ayden said:
“My favourite quote has always been from Margaret Mead: “Never under-estimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. For nothing else ever has” This is so true in business and in life.”
How true this is. Building a key team around you to help drive the product and business forwards is often the hardest thing to do, how do you suggest going about this, even when you are starting on a limited budget?
“The investment climate is not like it was back in 2000 – i think the best thing to do when working on a promising startup is to find a well rounded team who can supply admin, marketing, programming and sales talents to keep your costs down and even the need for investment in the beginning down. It’s also important for this team to be passionate about growing the business knowing the money so to speak from sales or investment will come at some time.”
I think this is actually some great advice, often people will work for a smaller amount of money, or sometimes just for a piece of the pie, especially if they firmly believe in the product. This can save on your capital expenses and early running costs. It also will encourage the team to work more effectively as there is the passion and possibility of great reward at the end.
Marketing and goals
I personally think that goals are VITAL to a business’s success, what do you think?
“Yes goals are very important for performance but also are a fun way to structure your workplace. We have many goals in terms of traffic, number of cities we are in, number of partners, sales etc. We want to be the strongest and one of the most visited sites when people travel to a city and get noticed or partner eventually with a larger company like expedia.”
Wow so you really do have some big goals and aims, I am fuly aware that you have quite an aggressive social media marketing plan which seems to be doing very well, which by the way you can follow them on twitter with the anchor @MetroMarks. Are you using any other forms of marketing to drive traffic and develop relationships?
“We are really excited to start many banner exchange programs and run some global contests on our blog. We also reach out to blogs in each city we launch. Partnering with anyone in the travel industry and big travellers is our thing.”
Every entrepreneur has difficulties, What have you found to be the biggest problem with starting MetroMarks?
“I am swamped all the time – i have a full time day job as a senior national sales director and i have many other personal and business pursuits even beyond MetroMarks. It doesn’t leave too much time for girlfriends to say the least. I live a go go go lifestyle and have for a while – it’s just the reality – and i love jetting off to far flung places too – for example i am heading to Tanzania for a two week safari next week. I am sure lots of my work will back up while i am away. MetroMarks over the last couple of years has felt like a full time job and that’s one of the problems – Time !”
I know the feeling and I am making a petition to ask for 25 hour days, but I wish you all the luck with the site in the future, I know I’ll definitely use it, would you like to leave our readers with what you think the key is to a becoming a successful entrepreneur
“One of the best pieces of really practical advice I can give is regarding hiring. Always look for three things in everyone you hire:
- Are they feel-good people who are good communicators and good with people?
- Are they self motivated
- they self organized”
Thanks to Ayden and his team for their time and for sharing his thoughts and experiences into entrepreneurship, I’m sure you’ll agree with me in saying that his insights into developing; a team of talented people was very enlightening. If you are visiting a city be sure to check out MetroMarks.com as a one stop shop for all your information.