For this edition of StartupStories we caught up with Gregory Koldirkaev, Founder & CEO of online customer support software company Helprace. With their unique philosophies on providing customer satisfaction, Helprace has become the one-stop shop for businesses across the globe looking for a unique and innovative customer service solution. Here, Gregory fills us in on Helprace’s development, the importance of work-life balance in their organization, and what not to do when starting a business.
Why were you inspired to start Helprace?
I’ve always believed that customer service is the single thing that could either make a business succeed or fail. I realized that we’re all trying to outdo each other when it comes to attracting customers and keeping them happy. Before starting Helprace, I spent time developing and growing a successful a cloud-based knowledge base application. I already knew the ins and outs of the SaaS market, and I thought getting into the customer service was the next logical step.
Customer service is the single thing that could either make a business succeed or fail – @helpracingClick to tweet
How did your business get started? From the good, bad and ugly, what was your startup process like?
It all started with an idea to develop a document management application that could help businesses organize their content easier. By the time we were nearing the end of development, it morphed into a type of self-service software. Still, we didn’t set our expectations high. We offered a simple database for organizing articles and we thought we’d leave it at that.
In the end, we had to pivot and focus on developing an email support system (also known as a help desk). If we started on this path earlier, it would have saved us tons of time, money and back-breaking development work. The ugly? We prioritized a product that doesn’t have much demand and certainly isn’t bringing any real revenue.
What niche or hole in the market are you filling with Helprace?
The more I studied the market, the more I realized just how fragmented the customer service software market was. I thought it was a great idea to complement our self-service software with a feedback and discussion application.
At the time, many of our competitors already offered an email support system. So we basically took what we had created and added a missing link: an email support system. We’ve unified all this under one admin interface, so that really sets us apart.
How much has your business changed from day one until now?
Our business is constantly changing and a big reason for that is us listening and acting on customer feedback. As I mentioned, Helprace itself consists of a feedback and self-service portal, which we use to collect feedback from our customers. This feedback is used to prioritize new features for our products. Today, Helprace offers an email support system, feedback tab, self-service and a full-fledged discussion application.
What are your biggest challenges in marketing Helprace?
What we try to do is always be current. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and there will always be new ways to reach customers. We started as one product – a self-service portal, detected marketplace changes and developed functionalities to reach that market.
Responsibility is another huge challenge. It involves leaving a highly paid, upwardly mobile position, relying on self-funding to get the initial product launch-ready. Being the go-to guy bears a lot of responsibility: before I had direct deposit set up, I had to personally deliver paychecks to my team members.
What types of marketing are most effective for your business?
Every single business requires different strategies. We tend to talk to customers, hear out their problems and that gives us some insight as to what kind of content we want to focus on. All this helps us make the right decisions and minimize second-guessing.
Social media, in particular Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit possess a lot of potential to improve your reach through thoughtful content. The best part is, for a bootstrapped startup, these don’t come at a big expense and do their part in driving traffic and leads to your site. Quora gives you more freedom to share truly helpful content that answers a user’s question, which can get your name (and brand) noticed.
What is the #1 lesson you learned since starting Helprace?
You really have two challenges: the challenge of money and mindset. Resources are always a problem, at first it’s the money you’re working with and then expansion and investors later. By carefully planning your finances and keeping spending under control, it’s a little easier to think long-term. A good strategy is to plan weekly or bi-weekly expense reports that list your costs and future expenses.
Being an entrepreneur means taking control of your mindset. Taking control of what you’re thinking of right now, what you’re anxious about and what you fear. All the second-guessing can prove toxic and cloud your judgment.
If you won $50,000, how would you invest it in your business?
It would be a 50/50 split in hiring to roll out features quicker and focusing on customer outreach – the two long term growth drivers in our business.
We truly love speaking to as many people as possible – it’s saves us tons of time, money, and needless back-and-forth. As a result, we’d invest more in customer development. As cliché as it sounds, ultimately you have to go where the customers are and build what they want.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
Everyone is full of advice when telling you what to do, but rarely does anyone say what not to do. When you grow past a certain stage, it’s too easy to get caught up in the mess and stress of entrepreneurship.
I take regular breaks during the work day, every single day. Sometimes I even set an alarm to remind me of this. I mostly go for walks to the local park and grab a healthy snack along the way. When things get too overwhelming – or – when I get carried away with something (which is just as bad) it’s a sign to drop everything, put on my jacket and head out the door.
What can we expect from Helprace in the next year?
More features (particularly integrations with other software), an updated site and hopefully a sizeable increase in customers!
To learn more about Helprace, please visit helprace.com.
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