Profiled: Jesse Willms

Jesse Willms joins us to talk about his latest business ventures

“Buying a car is one of the single largest purchases you will make in your life, after your home. Not only is the price a key factor in your decision, but you also want to make sure the car is in good condition. Most of our customers are looking for a vehicle to drive their families around or get to work on time, so safety and reliability are important to them. At the same time, a large percentage of our clients are young, first-time users who are enthusiastic about gaining freedom and independence. Sometimes, the excitement of purchasing a car makes us ignore or overlook potential issues with it. Our free vehicle history reports help individuals understand what they are buying so they can make confident and well-informed decisions.

Our reports provide a glimpse of several different data records—from police departments, insurance companies, DMVs, and auction houses—to ensure we seamlessly piece together the history of every used car. When you are using any one of our sites, you get instant access to a wealth of information, like whether there are any liens on a car, unfixed safety recalls, previous accidents or if the price is fair. While we started as a mere concept in 2015, our reputation for high-quality information has allowed us to grow fast, with more than four million people visiting our site and relying on our data each month.”

Please tell us how you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?

“Most people that visit our site are there because they are actively looking to buy a car. Once they’ve found one, based on our detailed history reports, we want to make sure they keep coming back. The most obvious way we do this is by providing users with accurate information to ensure they are happy with their vehicle and return when they need advice on their second or third purchase. If we generated a positive report for a client and the car turned out to be a lemon, that wouldn’t be good for business. For this reason, we must be meticulous with the information we display to our customers.

Secondly, our websites provide non-intimidating information to users with very little knowledge of cars. Most people that are buying a vehicle for the first time aren’t familiar with specific automobile terminologies, such as ‘suspension’ or ‘cylinders,’ which is why we’ve developed the site in a way that is user-friendly for both beginners and automobile enthusiasts.

Additionally, the features that we offer on our sites have helped to create a strong sense of community among our users. Every day, we have customers, new and old, participating in honest discussions, providing genuine advice and personal reviews to help their fellow users make better purchase decisions. I think most people are fans of our services because we promote transparency and credibility.”

Please tell us the one thing that separates your business from the competition.

“I think I’ve done a good job of building a culture based on innovation. As the owner, it’s my responsibility to create a working environment that highlights the importance of teamwork and collaboration. To help reinforce this culture, I’ve made innovation one of our corporate values. Consequently, we continue to encourage new ideas, whether they are considered breakthroughs—like a brand new service—or a series of small incremental changes that will add value for customers or make our internal processes even more efficient.

However, our ideas aren’t just employee-generated. Monitoring user conversations on our community discussion board has allowed us to identify some of our best ones. We’ve found that listening to customer feedback has been crucial in guiding our decision-making and influencing the features we choose to innovate. It also gives us a sense of how satisfied our current users are with our offerings. Not to mention, implementing customer advice reinforces the feeling of community because people can see that we take their opinions seriously.”

And to finish this section, please tell us what the one major key to your company’s success is?

“We invest a lot of time and energy into marketing, which is a big part of why we’ve been so successful. In today’s noisy online marketplace, getting noticed has become a massive undertaking. Luckily, I’ve got a talented team of experts to help get our message across and increase visibility. Our main goal is to educate consumers by explaining how our service works and why obtaining detailed vehicle history reports is an essential step when buying a used car.

Leveraging social media has been an important aspect of our digital marketing campaigns. In addition to paid Facebook advertising, which has allowed us to isolate our target market, we are active on several social platforms. We regularly post updates, images, videos, and other relevant content to drive audience engagement and start a two-way conversation with consumers. Ultimately, this has helped us increase brand awareness, boost website traffic, set the tone for our brand, and improve communication with our key audience.”

For our readers just starting to build a company, what advice can you give entrepreneurs just starting out with a new venture?

“The best advice I can give anyone looking to start a new venture is to think outside the box. I have seen a lot of businesses that appear to be a carbon copy of an already famous brand. As a result, they end up shutting down after a year or two, or they never managed to get off the ground in the first place. The best innovators, like the late Steve Jobs, was great at tracking market place trends and acting on them before his competitors.

You also don’t need to consider yourself a creative person to come up with a brilliant idea. Most of my concepts come from a problem I am experiencing in my personal life or a gadget I wish I had but doesn’t exist yet. I find it helpful to make a running list of problems, big and small, to help me generate meaningful business solutions. By filling a hole in the market that others can’t, you can benefit enormously from a first-mover advantage.”

For entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what big piece of advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?

“Don’t be afraid of challenges just because you think you might fail. If we all gave up at the first sign of failure, there might not be any entrepreneurs out there. The trick is being able to bounce back when something doesn’t go your way. I have made many mistakes throughout my career, but I have never let them define me. Instead, I acknowledge that an error was made and try to learn from it.

Have you ever found yourself saying, ‘I’ll never do that again,’ only to do the same thing twice, or, maybe even three times? If this happens, you aren’t learning from your mistakes. When it comes to business, I like to backtrack and see what I could have done differently to change the outcome. You can also view challenges as an opportunity to grow, develop a thicker skin, or improve important skills. At the end of the day, if you truly want something, you will work hard to achieve it.”

In today’s fast changing business environment, how do you stay abreast of things?

“With the business landscape continually evolving, there are a few things I do to try and stay ahead of the curve. Firstly, as an online company, we are very flexible. We can internalize and adapt to changes quickly, which gives us an advantage over more rigid business models. By maximizing on new opportunities, we avoid getting ‘stuck in our old ways’ and losing market share.

Moreover, I am a firm believer in investing in self-development. When people stop learning and assume they know everything they need to know about their industry, that’s when things start going downhill. I am an avid reader of business and self-improvement books. Taking advice from someone who has already embraced a path similar to yours can offer excellent guidance. I also attend industry events, which have shifted online because of COVID-19, as they allow me to stay up to date on current events and network with other professionals in my field.

Finally, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of your competition and where they may be going. By keeping tabs on them, it helps motivate me to continue innovating and uncovering new opportunities.”

What is your “Why”? In one sentence, why do you get up in the morning?

“My unfinished goals are what motivate me to get up in the morning. Waking up is easy, knowing that there are still many things I would like to accomplish in my life, both personally and professionally. Every day I create a checklist of to-do items that will help get me closer to my ultimate goals.”

In one sentence, what is the most important thing one has to do to be a great leader?

“Great leaders need to have excellent communication skills. While it’s important to have a strong vision for your brand, you also need to be able to explain it clearly to your employees to avoid getting your wires crossed. Communication is also important for increasing morale, team unity, and productivity. Luckily, everyone can improve their speaking skills, so if you aren’t already talented in this regard, don’t sweat it.”

In one sentence, describe how important your customers are to your business?

“At the end of the day, we are working for our customers. Our decision-making stems from listening to their feedback and fulfilling their needs. By providing top-notch customer service, we can ensure our customers are satisfied and continue to generate a healthy revenue stream.”

In one sentence, describe a positive way that technology can make the world a better place?

“The world is going through a difficult time because of COVID-19. With so many people becoming ill, we are relying on doctors and medical resources to help individuals recover. At the same time, the social distancing guidelines put in place to keep us safe are also separating us from family and friends. Thankfully, text messaging and the ability to speak to our loved ones virtually are helping to make this difficult time more bearable. Consequently, technology has proven to be an invaluable resource medically and to establish solidarity.”

In one sentence, tell us how something positive to motivate our readers?

“Whenever I need some extra motivation, I think of the quote that reads, ‘Strive for progress not perfection.’ It reminds me to celebrate my achievements, no matter how big or small they may be. Focusing on progress and not perfection helps me avoid spiralling down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and self-criticism that goes hand-in-hand with trying to be perfect.”

In one sentence, tell us how you start your day to get ready?

“I like waking up early so that I can properly prepare for the day ahead of me without feeling rushed. I start by creating a manageable to-do list of all the things I want to accomplish throughout the day. Having a checklist is especially important while working from home to help prevent me from getting distracted by outside influences.

In one sentence, describe how you handle rejection and setback?

“I think it’s important to normalize rejection. Some of my biggest role models faced rejection countless times before they made a successful name for themselves. Just take Steve Jobs, for example, he was fired from his own company, only to come back later as CEO and make Apple one of the greatest companies in the world.”

In one sentence, describe what your hiring philosophy is?

“Hire people that are smarter than you or at least smarter in one area of business. I am great at generating ideas and leading a team, but there are some technical aspects that I rely on my employees to be able to handle. The goal is to have a balanced team of individuals whose strengths complement one another.”

In one sentence, describe how you keep your sanity in a competitive business environment?

“I thrive on competition because it helps make me a better entrepreneur. If there wasn’t anyone to compete against, I might lose my motivation to innovate and deliver outstanding service.”

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