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In this current economic climate, running an online job board is a hard gig. I spoke with Clayton Wehner, Managing Director of CapitalJobs.com.au about his transformation from working in a Recruitment Agency to operating a geographical niche job board.What is CapitalJobs.com.au?
is a new niche online jobs board for the Canberra region, encompassing the Australian Capital Territory, Queanbeyan, southern New South Wales and the Illawarra region Tell me about you and your previous experience in the marketplace?
I was previously the Chief Executive Officer of a Canberra IT recruitment company, Frontier Recruitment. I found my way into the recruitment industry after a 12-year career in the Australian Army as an intelligence officer, and subsequently working as a public servant and consultant for various organisations in Canberra. I've also had quite a lot of experience working with the World Wide Web and I operate my own separate internet company, Blue Train Enterprises http://www.bluetrainenterprises.com.auHow did the idea come about?
Whilst working at Frontier Recruitment, the management team got together and decided to launch a spin-off company that would operate a local jobs board for Canberra.
As a customer of the major jobs boards, we recognised that there was an opportunity to create an employment website that was more attentive to local advertisers’ needs and more focused on specific local conditions. The big national online jobs boards focus principally on the major markets of Sydney and Melbourne and it seemed that they weren’t too interested in properly servicing the much smaller Canberra market.
Rather than build a new brand from scratch, we decided to approach AllHomes.com.au http://www.allhomes.com.au
a very successful localised real estate website in the Canberra region, to see if they were interested in partnering with us to launch a co-branded employment website. We had seen how successful AllHomes had been in the wake of competition from the majors (eg. RealEstate.com.au) and we thought that we could do the same to jobs in Canberra. The agreement went ahead and CapitalJobs.com.au was launched in mid-2008.What makes CapitalJobs.com.au different from other niche job boards?
I suppose the most obvious difference is the fact that most of the niche boards you hear about have chosen industry vertical niches (eg. accounting, IT), rather than geographic niches.
Geographic niches might not work everywhere, but we believe that Canberra is a bit unique and has peculiarities that are not found elsewhere in Australia. For example, there are specific search criteria and conditions that apply for the Commonwealth Government public service, including the requirement for citizenship, security clearances and the unique APS levels and broad banding that are not found elsewhere. What technology/web2.0 tools have you used in building CapitalJobs.com.au?
Our launch platform is a commercial off-the-shelf piece of software. We chose to go down this path because we wanted to get into the market quickly, rather than spending months and months developing a brand new platform. The platform is quite good although we do want to improve some of its functionality over the coming 12 months. Some of the improvements include an upgrade of graphical elements and the user interface, better RSS and ‘push’ notification technology, an upgraded e-mail alerts system, Google Maps integration, a featured advertisements capability and job ad templates.
So far we've used a variety of Web 2.0 tools in building CapitalJobs.com.au. We publish a blog at http://www.capitaljobs.com.au/blog
We have RSS feeds. Our platform permits the publishing of online video by advertisers. All of our content pages display the AddThis button, allowing visitors to tag and bookmark jobs using the major social networking websites including Facebook, Digg, MySpace, del.icio.us and Yahoo! Buzz. We also currently send out two e-mail newsletters, one for job seekers and one for advertisers, on a monthly basis.
We’re keen to further explore new technologies in the next 12 months - were very interested in content delivered to mobile devices such as the iPhone, the use of Twitter as a syndication tool for jobs, and the integration of online video in candidate profiles.What have been the biggest challenges in creating CapitalJobs.com.au so far?
The biggest challenge has been creating momentum and critical mass in a crowded market space. We haven't been helped by the current economic situation which has meant that many prospective advertisers have tightened their purse strings. Most employers are engaging their tried and true methods for sourcing candidates - namely Seek and the newspaper - and they're not really willing to seriously entertain alternatives at this time.
By the same token, however, we haven't employed a sales force to actively sell advertising on CapitalJobs.com.au. As an ex-recruitment company head, I'm fairly sceptical about direct advertising sellers for jobs boards. I saw numerous jobs board companies come and go during my time at Frontier Recruitment - many of the salespeople damaged the brands that they were representing by their annoying pitches and their persistence. I recall one such company had recruited an entire national sales force to take up the fight against the established jobs boards - needless to say that company lasted less than 12 months.
Our business plan is less-intrusive – it is based more on longevity, establishing close and personal relationships with our clientele, and acting more like a consultant rather than a salesperson. We’re a small business with low overheads, so we believe that this strategy will ensure that we are around for the long haul.Plans for the next 12 months?
I think the next 12 months is going to be quite rocky for the economy, so we going to employ a fairly risk averse strategy to make sure that we are still kicking this time next year. I am willing to bet that some small jobs boards around Australia will fall by the wayside in 2009, so it is a time for prudence.
Our plan is to slowly improve the CapitalJobs.com.au user interface and its functionality, whilst consolidating our existing advertiser base and slowly spreading the word among prospective new advertisers. We believe that we've got some good points of difference when compared to our competitors and we’re planning to grow incrementally over time. We’re particularly hopeful of increasing our government clientele in 2009.If you were offered $100,000 by an investor, how would the money be spent?
After reading Seth Godin's famous book, Purple Cow, I'm more convinced than ever that ‘being remarkable’ is the key to success in this day and age – success won’t come about by spending thousands of dollars marketing an ‘OK’ product. So if we were offered $100,000 by an investor then we would spend the money enhancing the user interface and the functionality of CapitalJobs.com.au, so that it became recognised as a leader among niche job boards. This might even give us the opportunity to licence or franchise our product to others who seek to establish geographic niche job boards elsewhere.What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
There have been a number of lessons that I've learnt along the way - choose your partners wisely, don’t give away equity from the start, cash flow is king, mitigate your risks, to name but a few. But I suspect that all entrepreneurs cite these as lessons learned!
I suppose one piece of advice that I would offer to other entrepreneurs is: focus on your customers and employees and be honest with them. Lots of entrepreneurs have their head in the clouds and forget that the customers and employees are the lifeblood of their ventures. Some entrepeneurs are more intent on hobnobbing and wheeling and dealing to worry about those who constitute the real crux of their business. Without customers and employees, you’re nothing.
I believe that if you don’t spend time with customers and employees and listen to them, then your business is ultimately doomed to failure. Perhaps even more importantly, fess up when you have made a mistake. Being dishonest or evasive will have a hugely detrimental effect on your business down the track.
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