The Entrepreneur: Chris Morling, money.co.uk
The comparison site founder on keeping employees happy, thinking big, and owning a piece of London 2012 Olympics history...
Founder: Chris Morling
Company: money.co.uk (official trading name Dot Zinc Limited)
Description in one line: Financial comparison website
Previous companies: NA
Turnover: £16m in 2013
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- money.co.uk is the only independently owned financial comparison website in the top five, attracting two and a half million visitors a month.
- We combine the whole of market comparison user-friendly guides and an active community.
- Commercial agreements are performance based so we generate revenue when a customer takes an agreed action.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
After 11 and a half years of running a business and 33 employees, only six people have ever left the business and four of those were due to relocation.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
- Number of visitors to the site by channel
- Advertising costs
- Conversion rates
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
None. We are 100% UK focused and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Describe your growth funding path:
I started the business with a laptop and a few 0% interest credit cards. I coded the first website and managed all aspects of the business myself for a couple of years to keep costs to a minimum. The business was profitable from its second month of trading and has grown organically with no funding or loans. The business is currently the only independently owned comparison website in the top five.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
We have developed our own in-house tracking and reporting system. The technology allows all employees to report on virtually anything the business is interested in, from management reports to client reports to optimisation reports, all within seconds. We can slice and dice on site activity and revenue data using hundreds of metrics.
It gives us fast, invaluable insight into all areas of the business, including marketing activity, potential issues with the site, splits tests, trends, revenue distribution and profitability.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Increasing turnover is not a driving force behind my business. In three years I want money.co.uk to provide consumers with the very best tools and information available in the sector which helps them make the best financial decisions. I also want money.co.uk to become a recognised household name.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Letting go of responsibilities that I always managed myself. For example, the day I handed over responsibility of website development or management of our Pay-Per-Click (PPC) accounts.
What was your biggest business mistake?
Setting my goals too low until a few years ago. You generally achieve what you set out to achieve (if you keep going), so by thinking big you can often achieve a lot more than you thought was possible.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
Ensuring our website is fully compliant with the latest Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulations whilst providing easy to use comparisons that are easily understood by all consumers. Unfortunately, it appears that many of the FCA’s regulations aren’t written with financial comparison websites in mind.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Thinking their product or service is more important than their employees. For me, my team are my most valuable asset and I genuinely believe the business would not have been as successful as it is had I not made such strategic choices when I selected them.
How will your market look in three years?
As with all e-commerce sectors, I suspect some of the smaller players will disappear, particularly as compliance becomes a bigger issue. I think the larger players will remain as is with money.co.uk moving up from fifth place to at least fourth. From a customer perspective, financial comparison needs to shift up a gear and focus on personalisation for each individual’s needs – not the one size fits all approach currently used by most websites.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
If you have all the information you need to make a decision then make it and deliver on it. Taking time to “consider” or “mull something over” is simply a means to delay what is often a tricky decision making process.
A piece of London Olympics 2012 history – I have the Wenlock Mascot that stood opposite Big Ben adorning my garden. (It gets mixed reactions!)
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Education can provide some useful foundational theories, but nothing is as valuable as learning through experience.
What would make you a better leader?
Time. Every issue I encounter, whether I handle it well or not, gives me more experience to draw on.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. This book provides a fascinating insight into how and why we all make illogical decisions.