Getting to know you: Michael O’Sullivan

Michael O'Sullivan

What do you currently do?

I do a lot of ambassadorial work for HubPeople in my role as the Owner, through media or speaking at various conferences and trying to educate publishers and online businesses on some of the opportunities in the online dating marketplace. Additionally, I meet regularly with our directors and we discuss all aspects of the business, optimising the conversion and retention of the platform, customer feedback and new traffic growth. Plus I can’t help putting forward some of my own new dating feature ideas from time to time.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

It started as a club for people to meetup online over ten years ago, before Facebook and social media existed. It was a hybrid of what you might expect from a social network and a dating site. Since then it has grown into a fully instrumented subscription platform which can be branded for virtually any market or any niche or interest you can think of.

Who do you admire?

I actually admire all the doers in life. A number of years ago I did a Jungian personality type test and came out with a classification of ENTJ which means I share some personality traits with both Napoleon and Margaret Thatcher. Anyone who just quietly gets on with what they need to do every day is my hero, whether that’s building a lunar lander or getting your kids to school everyday. I totally believe in getting on with it and never quitting.

What defines your way of business?

Many people overlook aspects of business by just chasing deals in my opinion. I’m in the lucky position that I don’t have to do deals with everyone. I work with people/businesses I like and that I can pick up the phone to anytime. It saves a lot in legal bills. In fact the longer people spend with legal teams trying to negotiate before working with us, the less valuable the partner they usually turn out to be. It’s heartening to me in this digital age that you can be very successful with a good handshake and the ability to honestly deliver what you promise.

I don’t really believe in competing, I like to be friends with everyone in my industry. I just look for a place in the market where there is space to offer a product with no competition. I’m a terrible sales person, I just tell people what we can and can’t do but the honesty seems to resonate with people.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have copied people around me more. Just because it is your own business it doesn’t mean you have to have an unique way to do everything whether it’s the structure of a contract or the UX design of a product. In most industries there often is common practices between companies which has usually been arrived at after a lot of time and expense in trying worse alternatives. If you find yourself in a new industry, don’t think you know better until you are one of the smartest people in that industry.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Take an interest and talk to everyone in your industry, ask them how they started out, did recruitment or built their product. Find a conference or show where they will be at and talk to them. You will get a lot more free advice than you might expect. In reality a lot of these experts are really excited to talk about their success and even some failures as they often don’t have an enthusiastic audience at home and will like that you take an interest. You may gain some very useful mentors or friends in the process who can help you get the early traction or validation you need.