Getting to know you: Rory Whelan

What do you currently do?
I am Voice Marketing Manager for Europe for j2 Global. This involves working on a number of brands across differing markets with my primary focus being eReceptionist here in the UK. What attracted me to this role was that the company had developed a product which took something that was previously expensive – call answering and redirection – to the cloud, and as a consequence the service is now available to even the smallest entrepreneur – under a tenner a month.

What is your inspiration in the business?
For me it’s all about the product and the ability to be entrepreneurial in my role. The one thing that we do here at j2 is develop products that fit with the needs of a small business – fax, voice, cloud storage – and because we work in distinct small teams you have to be just like a small business. So with my role it’s very much hands on, helping the product develop, writing the ad copy for campaigns, coming up with new website content, getting customer feedback, and analysing everything we do.

It’s all in a day’s work, so you see the big picture all the time. Plus with a product like this you actually can feel the ‘social good’ in what you are doing – we can see our customers growing with us, adding new lines and locations because we have enabled them to gain an advantage by not missing calls. It’s the small businesses which are the backbone of the economy and entrepreneurs are the ones who take some of the biggest risks out there – so anything that helps people to become entrepreneurs or grow their business is good in my book!

Who do you admire?
There are elements of many business people out there which are admirable, but I think it’s those who constantly strive for their product or service to be the best that tend to stand out for me.

You look at the likes of Steve Jobs who strove for his products to be the best – the best looking, the easiest to use, the most enabling, the biggest game changer – and you can see that he was someone who never lost the entrepreneurial spirit. But it’s not just him, you can see that spirit in many businesses up and down the country – constantly improving their offering, striving to be the best at what they do because customers always appreciate it and will keep coming back to a great product or service.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
Nothing – I know that sounds a bit smug but everything is there to teach us something. If you learned nothing from your life and experiences – the good and the bad, both personally and in business – then you haven’t lived. As Beckett said: “Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

What defines your way of doing business?
I think it’s vital to believe in what you are doing and above all to be honest with your market. People are savvier about what they are buying than ever before thanks to the internet. Thanks to Google, we all research every decision – from buying a telecoms product to which restaurant to go to. Business people, particularly in SMEs, are not just businesses making decisions, they are highly educated, highly aware consumers and should be treated as such. Treat every customer as you’d like to be treated yourself and you’ll soon see the benefits.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
You will keep getting knocked back, particularly in the early years of any project, but you’ve got to keep at it, the power of self-belief shouldn’t be underestimated. Never expect the first idea to be the finished product but keep it as the kernel of what you are doing – it will change and adapt as you understand the market more. The initial inspiration is the key, go with it allow it to change and adapt but above all go for it – regret at not doing it is the worst feeling for any entrepreneur. Never settle, always keep trying to improve what you offer.