SMEA member profile: From Swiss snow to Aussie success
BUSINESS OWNER: Florian Thoma, 36-years-old
WHAT: Web Design and Web Development
OPERATING SINCE: 2011
When Florian Thoma moved from Switzerland to Australia, he also took a brave leap from the corporate world to small business. Now, after winning a prestigious customer service award three years in a row, his decision has paid off in spades.
Florian undertook a Software Engineering degree at Berne University of Applied Science before working for one of the Switzerland’s largest internet companies, building and maintaining websites for large corporations.
“After moving to Australia I didn’t want to work for the corporates again and I felt that it was time for me to start my own thing, serving the smaller businesses,” says Florian. “Coming from a large agency in Switzerland, I saw that sites in Australia still had a long way to go and I wanted to offer my knowledge to the small and medium businesses in Australia, without the overhead of a large agency. With my experience and expertise, I wanted to give smaller businesses the professional websites they needed with a personal service they deserve.”
Unique businesses need unique websites
Florian has built his business, Innoweb, around his belief that even the smallest business needs a customised website. Innoweb offers a range of options, from a simple brochure website through to a responsive ecommerce site, and provide on-going support in the form of hosting, search engine optimisation and website maintenance.
“We believe that every business is unique and therefore we create a unique website for each client, integrating the functionality they need for their specific audience,” he explains.
“I think that there are still a lot of small businesses who need to extend their online activities, be it with a traditional website, mobile or social media.”
And it doesn’t stop with a website. Florian says, “I think that there are still a lot of small businesses who need to extend their online activities, be it with a traditional website, mobile or social media. We are here to help these businesses to achieve their online goals. People are more and more turning to online services, which makes it more important for all businesses to have a strong online presence.”
Innoweb predominately uses SilverStripe CMS for its website projects and Florian is thrilled that his company has just become an Australian Certified Partner.
“This gives me access to even more resources and knowledge around SilverStripe CMS and, in the end, my customers benefit through more flexibility, better performance and faster turnaround times.”
It’s all about the customer
So how do you start a business and proceed to win the Client Heartbeat Industry Leader Award for Customer Satisfaction for Web Consultants and Designers three years in a row? With a philosophy that says, “New customers are important: existing customers, even more so”.
Client Heartbeat is a simple customer feedback tool that surveys customers, measures satisfaction and identifies those that are unhappy. It is used throughout Australia, the US and the UK.
An independent evaluation process surveyed customers from web design firms across Australia and again, this year, Innoweb was placed number one for customer satisfaction with an overall rating of 9.3/10.
“A good relationship with my customers is very important to me,” says Florian. “I like to get to know my new clients, so I can provide the right service to the right people.”
“A good relationship with my customers is very important to me,” says Florian. “I like to get to know my new clients, so I can provide the right service to the right people. And since today a website is never finished, it is important to keep a good relationship with existing customers, to adapt their online presence to current developments. Of course this doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t let go of a customer if they wanted to, but luckily until now that has never happened.”
Despite Innoweb’s success to date, Florian is keeping his business structure lean and mean. “I am currently the only employee,” he explains. “To keep costs down and minimise overheads, I work with contractors. Every project is different and with this set-up I can adapt the team for each situation and provide the best service to each client. Over time I have built strong relationships with several contractors who work for me on a regular basis.”
Networking the key to customer acquisition
Like all small business owners, Florian says that finding new customers is an ongoing challenge.
“Coming to Australia from another country and not having that social network you have at home makes it hard to find customers,” he explains. “But with good customer service and an exceptional product range, we have been able to build a solid customer base that is growing, mostly through referrals from existing customers.”
Most of Innoweb’s customers are small to medium businesses located in and around Sydney.
“Although it is not necessary to meet with clients for smaller projects, I prefer to get to know my clients personally, in order to understand their ideas and needs,” he says. “We also have customers from all over Australia and we still get new customers from Switzerland.”
Because he was keen to build his Australian business network, when Florian read about the SME Association of Australia online, he immediately decided to join. As he has only recently become a member he hasn’t attended a networking event as yet, but says he hopes to meet a lot of interesting people at future events.
Source: My Business magazine, November 2014