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Interview with Mike Wilkinson from HooJano

Posted By: Thomas Shaw, 12:25am Friday 16 January 2009    Print Article

HooJano is a new player in the referral marketplace which launched in partnership with MYOB earlier this week.  I spoke with CEO Mike Wilkinson about HooJano as well as asking his advice for other entrepreneurs

Tell me about you and your previous experience in the marketplace?

I’m a Digital Business Specialist with experience in the Recruitment industry. I spent the first 8 years of my career with various Advertising Agencies working in Account Management roles. I began my career in digital businesses at Fairfax online as Consumer Marketing Manager in 1999 when they had only around 30 staff, then took on the role of Marketing Director, MyCareer when that business moved its head office to Melbourne.

I left in 2002 and spent 3 years at News Ltd as National Marketing Manager for their classifieds businesses responsible for print and online. I then went to Sensis in 2004 and was Group Manager, Innovation and Strategy before I left to start up HooJano in April 2007.

What is HooJano?

HooJano (who-ja-know) is a "Reward for Referral Network" that solves the difficult problem of recruitment for small and medium businesses. HooJano is a game changer - a revolution rather than a one step evolution. It takes advantage of current internet technology and user trends to truly re-engineer the way recruitment needs can be serviced.

How did the idea come about?

Mike Giuffrida, CEO of had the idea in 2006 and it started with the question "Why isn’t there an eBay for recruitment?" This was driven by the frustration that the status quo seemed to be accepted in the Recruitment Services market. Seek had done a great job of modernising the delivery of classifieds advertising and set the tone for the market to follow. Yet, when you look at it, most of the benefits were driven from the nature of publishing online.

The value chain was still essentially advertising at one end as the volume based, low cost solution and recruitment at the other end the high cost full solution. New web techniques and the adoption by users of models such as online networking allow new solutions to leverage the connections all professionals have in the workplace.

He thought "Why can’t we create a system that enables all people with valuable contacts to compete for the right to connect and recommend them for vacant roles?" HooJano was born.

What makes HooJano different in the marketplace?

HooJano is a recruitment solution designed and built for the SME based on their needs. It gives back some control to that customer who can set the price they feel the placement is worth. On that basis and by opening the potential pool of candidates & engaging all people with contacts to compete (including professional recruiters), market based pricing will be achieved in a competitive scenario.

What have been the biggest challenges in creating HooJano so far?

Staying focused and true to our vision - a lot of opportunities arise and sometimes one has to say “No. That would take us in a direction that isn't right for the business”.

These may be easy distribution opportunities that wouldn’t focus on our core audience or the opportunity to take on Investment provided we change core aspects. All decisions on these factors need to be made with a balance between a pragmatic approach to establishing the business and remaining focused on what you set out to achieve.

Plans for the next 12 months?
  • Stabilise and grow - We have a staged approach. Take a step forward, ensure the business is stable and coping and then move forward again.
  • Compete aggressively and raise additional funding.
  • Continually evolve the system to meet our users’ needs.

Is the "global financial crisis" affecting your business?

There's clearly an increased sense of risk aversion from potential partners and investors but good ideas tend to get a hearing and we've not felt any material impact on those fronts.

As for HooJano’s purpose, there’s been no negative effect despite the changing of the employment landscape

When candidates are scarce, our referrers act as "envoys” for the Hirer, finding candidates and selling the opportunity.
When candidates are plentiful the Referrer acts as a filter so the Hirer sees less but more suitable Candidates, reducing overheads.

What is the most important lesson in business you have learnt so far?

Be decisive and take action.  Doing something at 95% now is better than doing something in 6 months time that is 100% - you rarely get to 100% anyway. People who try to remove all risk sit paralysed. Over analysis is often just another way to defer a decision; particularly with digital products, you can always refine the core offer as you go.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

The idea is in many ways the easy part. There are some practical tips that you have to consider to be able to function well;
  • Have a plan for raising capital (or not) from day one - You may choose to shoestring it but if you do, preferably do it on purpose.
  • Know your distribution and have a clear understanding of where you will source customers.
  • Speed and action is important but that doesn't mean you shouldn't think before you act.
But I think my biggest tip is: Don't be afraid to take on the “big boys". If you have a clear, compelling and differentiated proposition there will always be demand.  For many reasons it is incredibly difficult for established players to innovate.  For example:
  • Legacy production systems.
  • Customer migration with relative pricing and margins.
  • Even well established brands can work against them when the market turns. (Think how long it took for the market to accept that Holden could make a good small car)
  • A need to deliver short term (annual) targets often diverts resources from more strategic plays.
  • There is a natural inertia for them to compete on the battleground they understand.
If your offer is strong and you execute well, by the time they choose to or can react you’ll have built a position.

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