Fred Schebesta is the co-founder of Finder.com, the comparison site that disrupted the financial sector. In this interview, Fred shares his journey, the thinking behind the disruption model and how to future-proof your business.
“It was 100% accidental!” That’s how disruptor and startup founder, Fred Schebesta describes the 2006 creation of Finder.com, the business he started with partner, Frank Restuccia.
“We had worked with all sorts of companies as a startup and I worked in search engine optimisation and other parts of internet marketing and had studied these intense detail,” Fred told Flying Solo.
Like most SEO experts Fred says his fantasy was to achieve rank on Google for a search term.
“I decided on the word, ‘credit card’, but I couldn’t just put that word on the internet. I also realised there is beauty in giving back and helping people make better financial decisions by unpacking the information that’s out there so it’s easy to understand. And this became something for me to write about that would also give me a platform to rank for on Google. So it was a bit of an upside down approach.”
Describing himself as an “experimenter” and “tinkerer” Fred said the toughest part of the startup journey was focusing on just one idea.
“It’s easier to start another idea as opposed to finishing one. But Frank, my business partner, is really good at that. He keeps us focused and brings us back.”
Educating the competitors
When Finder.com launched, Fred says he and Frank approached the big banks and financial institutions as more friend than foe.
“In the beginning they did see us a competitor, now they see us as a partner and we feel like a different part of the decision process. And we have a rule to speak positively about the market. We don’t need to speak badly about our partners,” says Fred.
“I think what we might have changed (with Finder) is the behaviour of the customer, and now because it’s free people don’t have to pay for this information. And people are now looking for quick information – it used to be people in magazines and newspapers, and so I guess they may have been disrupted by us.”
Making Finder.com disruption-proof
The foundations of Finder.com have made Fred and Frank keenly aware of the need to protect their own business from disruption.
“We decided not to have a central point of weakness to start off with, because that’s what people target,” says Frank.
“We decentralised our key systems, so if you went and stole all the computers at Finder one day, ideally the next day we could walk in and buy a whole lot of computers and everyone would be back working within a couple of hours.”
According to Frank while malware and security processes can be expensive, they are well worth the investment.
“Focus your funds on extra security for these areas, and ensure you limit the information that people receive that is super sensitive.”
‘I’m good at identifying opportunities’
When it comes to his strengths as a business owner, Fred told Flying Solo be excels in inspiring others to do great things.
“I wouldn’t say I am the best executor. I am not that great at detail or processes. I am good at bringing in the right people together and organising them in the right roles… I am also not afraid to try things. I’m okay to take risks and I don’t have a classically trained business mindset.”
With Finder.com having opened several international offices, Fred says he has learnt to prioritise his well being.
“I used to do a much worse job of this! I kept a strict regime of exercise. I am not trying to win a marathon, I am just training to be alive,” says Fred.
“I don’t drink or party and I try and sleep when I can. If I wake up at night I don’t force myself to go back to sleep, I just let the thoughts come. And when I go for a run, I run without music. Just my thoughts”
Slowing down is the secret to success
When things get super busy, or he feels stuck in a rut, Fred shares this clever wellness hack:
“I get a piece of paper and write down 5 things I can stop doing right now to make my goals work better/faster. And then I write down 5 things I need to start doing. For example, stop watching Netflix, deleting Facebook from my phone or stop hanging out with a toxic friend,” he says.
According to Fred, these two simple lists work together brilliantly and tend to see you improve whatever it is you’re trying to change, fairly quickly.
This process of slowing down, he says, is imperative to success.
“You can climb whatever tree you want as fast as you want, but what tree are you going to rest your ladder against when you stop? It’s only when you stop that you’ll make a difference.”
NSW Small Business Month is a series of hundreds of events to help your business succeed. Gain valuable support, be inspired to start, run or grow your business, and connect with like-minded people. Find an event near you, or join one online.