Having a website is important for any business, but for some, it’s a necessity for their success. Warrington alumni are playing a significant role in the success of online businesses across the Internet.
See how these Business Gators are making an impact online with their business
Benjamin Gordon (BSBA-FIN ’04) was approached by a friend about venturing into the online cabinet industry. His UF colleague and now business partner Chris Larsen was working at a kitchen showroom in Tampa that went out of business, but Larsen saw an opportunity to take the industry in a new direction.
They decided to create their business online. It started as KitchenResourceDirect.com, moving completely away from the brick and mortar stores to an e-commerce opportunity for customers to purchase their dream kitchen. The company grew fast and twice made the Inc. 500 list – which features the 500 fastest-growing private companies in America – thanks to their focused efforts on online advertising and Search Engine Optimization, which improves the visibility of a website in a search engine’s results.
Something about it still didn’t feel right. Gordon, a three-time member of the Gator100, realized that the domain name was difficult to remember. They ultimately purchased Cabinets.com as the company’s new home.
“Purchasing that domain really pushed the growth curve upward for us even more,” Gordon said.
Gordon said their biggest hurdle has been building trust and convincing customers to buy cabinets online that they haven’t seen in person. To combat the issue, Gordon was involved in implementing a few strategies that keep the customer as involved as possible.
First, they hired designers. The website employs multiple designers that are available to work one-on-one with customers and help them piece together their dream kitchens. This personal touch gives customers the assistance they would receive in a store from the comfort of their home.
“If you look at our reviews online, almost all will mention a designer they connected with,” Gordon said. “It helps customers trust what we’re doing. They love working with the designers.”
They also provide a program where customers can pay a $25 deposit to receive a sample door in the color they’re interested in. This allows the customer to see every detail about the door in person before ordering, and when they ship it back, their deposit is refunded. Cabinets.com also provides 3-D renderings and virtual reality goggles for customers to get a better feel for their options when picking out a new kitchen.
Gordon’s best advice for companies interested in expanding their online presence or starting from scratch is to improve your SEO the right way. They did it by concentrating on good content, an easy-to-use website and making sure to solve customer problems, not just deliver features on the website.
While the daily fantasy sports industry has boomed in recent years, RotoGrinders.com has shown staying power as a trusted resource in the industry. Cameron MacMillan (BSAc ’07, MSE ’09), one of the website’s trio of co-founders, said the key to making that the case was their heavy time investment in the website while being one of the first websites in the industry.
Other websites have popped up since RotoGrinders.com began in 2010, but it’s the sweat equity they poured into the website at the beginning that has helped the website continue to grow as an industry leader in daily fantasy sports advice.
“This has become a new challenge in last two years,” MacMillan said of their competition. “We were so far ahead that it would’ve taken large investment to compete with us in our early years. Investing in the idea early bought us time. Now it’s about keying in on our user base to stay ahead and make sure we continue to be the best.”
RotoGrinders.com finished No. 3 in the 2017 Gator100, which recognizes the 100 fastest-growing businesses in the world that are owned or led by UF graduates.
Today, the website has over 120 contractors and employees, but only 15 are in the Nashville-based office daily. This has raised interesting management challenges for MacMillan and other company leadership.
While writers churn out articles on different sports from across the country, they’ve turned to tools like Slack to open constant communication channels. MacMillian estimates thousands of interactions on Slack every day between employees.
“There are a lot of new management tactics and styles involved in managing people remotely while motivating them,” MacMillan said.
One of MacMillan’s biggest concerns with the approach was how to keep his team engaged and passionate about what they were doing if they weren’t in the office to celebrate victories and stay up to date on the latest happenings within the company. They’ve combatted this through Google analytics, showing writers the impact they’re making and the number of people reading articles.
“I make an effort as a manager to reach out and show measurements they usually can’t see,” MacMillan said. “In the case of a writer for example, they don’t get to interact with the customer on day-to-day basis. They don’t have that human interaction. Google analytics show impact to them. An article doesn’t seem like much, but analytics can show how many people their articles area reaching.”
As an online law firm exclusively focused on third-party due diligence reviews of securities offerings, The Bowman Law Firm is the only law firm in its industry that is exclusively online.
Catherine Bowman (BSBA-ES ’93) has attorneys and financial analysts spread out across the United States, including Orlando, Indiana, Baltimore, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago, Charlotte and Phoenix. She manages them all from her home office in middle Tennessee and sets up frequent calls to work through as many questions and issues that arise throughout the due diligence process as possible. The firm starts the week with an update call with the entire team to check in on projects, and throughout the rest of the week, Bowman sets up a one-on-one call with every individual in the firm to answer any of their remaining questions.
“Those calls give us a chance to review both big picture industry issues as well as questions specific to a particular securities offering,” Bowman said. “I’m a big believer in providing as much context and information as possible to make people more efficient.”
Working with a national team can also create challenges when bringing someone new into the firm.
“You have to be in position to bring in individuals with a lot of experience,” Bowman said. “You’re not training people right out of school. That doesn’t work. It can be challenging to find qualified individuals for what we do since it’s specialized, as well as virtual.”
One important step in making the business thrive online was taking cyber security seriously, and that’s what Bowman recommends for any leadership wanting to expand their company’s online presence. She spoke with IT professionals in multiple industries to learn about cyber security and which companies provided the best fit for what The Bowman Law Firm needed.
“Pay attention to cyber security, especially if you’re housing information online,” Bowman said. “When we started exploring online document routing and retention, it’s something I put a lot of time into researching, and I’m glad I did.”
The Bowman Law Firm continues to grow. A three-time member of the Gator100, the company posted compound annual growth rates of 58.7 percent in 2015, 80.7 percent in 2016 and 72.2 percent in 2017.