Dan Abbate is a Contributor on the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK on Bloomberg’s home in Houston (learn more about Dan at www.robotaton.com).
Dan recently interviewed Jason Wolfe is a business owner and serial entrepreneur living in Pittsburgh, PA. Throughout his career, Jason has created and grown a number of companies, including the first online coupon site – MyCoupons.com, in 1995. He then built and grew his next company, Direct Response Technologies, Inc. into a company with more than 65 employees. Jason sold Direct Response Technologies in 2006 to Digital River (DRIV). After the sale, Jason started to pursue his latest vision; GiftCards.com. Through dedication and drive, the employee base grew from 8 people to 100 and is now widely recognized as the worlds #1 online gift cards site.
JASON: 100 employees, Pittsburgh, PA, work with national brand merchants, local merchants, Visa®, Mastercard®, Discover®, and various banks in North America.
DAN: Today’s interview is all about companies in active growth phases and how they manage that. Can you tell me about your current growth. What’s your strategy? What will your company look like at the end of this phase? How are you managing this?
JASON: Today, GiftCards.com chiefly turns a profit by custom-printing and loading its own gift cards from scratch and reselling them to customers at a premium. In addition to offering national retailers’ and local merchant gift cards, the draw of the site is that consumers are able to personalize gift cards and greeting cards with custom messages and photos. The company’s latest initiative is the recent beta launch of SaveYa (SaveYa.com), an app available at the iTunes and Google Play stores, which allows consumers to purchase discount gift codes (off national merchant discounted gift cards) that are redeemable at these merchants’ point of sale systems, thus allowing customers to save on their favorite stores from Walmart to Best Buy to Macy’s and hundreds of others. In addition, just as paper eventually gave way to plastic, Wolfe believes that the future of the gifting industry resides in the realm of “credits.” A new spin-off company, GiftYa.com, enables customers to bestow gifts digitally — through a mobile app and website — without the necessity of any physical objects. Recipients are notified of their gifts via email, text message or Facebook post, which they can then redeem in-store with any credit card.
DAN: In your experience, what was/is the most important thing for you to consider in developing your growth strategy?
JASON: I believe the secret to building and growing a strong company is by focusing on three variables: strategy, people and execution. Build a strong product/idea with a solid, winning strategy. Recruit top talent to carry out the strategy, having the right people for the right seats in the bus is fundamental. And finally, leverage this team to execute for success with a strong emphasis on performance-improvement and relentless growth.
DAN: What is one thing that a company seeking to enter a growth phase should keep in mind? What pitfalls are there to avoid?
JASON: Growth requires the aforementioned qualities: strategy, people and execution. In addition, a company needs cash to grow. In early stages, the cash needs to fund the growth often outpace the ability to generate the necessary cash. One pitfall to avoid is manage growth to be able to self fund it, or raise money at the appropriate moment to fund a more aggressive growth strategy.
DAN: What does a high growth rate demand of your organization and staff? How are you addressing this?
JASON: High growth comes with a lot of effort and intelligent execution. I spend a lot of time hiring top talent and have repeatedly managed to recruit top talent both locally and from around the country and the world. Pittsburgh is not an easy city to attract people to, but I have built a strong, dedicated team that shares my vision and passion. I execute with and demand of my staff to act with intelligence, drive, and integrity, three tenets that are spread throughout the corporate culture.
DAN: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today, Jason. I appreciate you sharing your experience and knowledge and I love hearing about interesting people and companies doing interesting things.
Do you have advice on growing your business? Tell me about it! Email me at dan (at) robotaton (dot) com.