David James is the founder of TotalCarCheck.co.uk, a vehicle background check website. David started this company as successful entrepreneurs do, by solving a problem he encountered. After his parents bought a stolen car and found themselves at a $5,000 loss, he created a website that wouldn’t allow this to happen again.
David’s focused and realistic mindset has supported TotalCarCheck.co.uk in running background checks on almost two thirds of all the vehicles in the United Kingdom. The parallel app has become one of the top utility apps in the UK and David continues to use forward thinking, innovation, and his customers to grow his company and create transparency in the car buying process.
David James, founder of TotalCarCheck.co.uk, is an entrepreneur with a laser focus on simplicity and great results. His vehicle background check website has become the most successful website in the UK in his niche. David has built the foundation for his software based of seven lean principles, which he’ll discuss during our conversation.
In this episode, David explains how he runs his company with only two employees, his advice for new software entrepreneurs and the books that have given him the insight for this accolade of success.
This is The Lean Commerce Podcast.
How did you get started with your business?
0:57 I had a more normal career starting off, but I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. My parents accidentally bought a stolen car and I realized there was a problem that needed to be solved, people needed to be able to run a background check on a car.
4:17 Once you get the wheels rolling, you start to get momentum. Very quickly people started to realize what we were doing was different than what other vehicle background check websites were doing and business started to grow from there.
6:33 Even in darker times, there is opportunity. It sounds spiritual, but the experience of my parent’s buying the stolen car was an epiphany for me. When I look back, it all seems kind of unbelievable that something so fortunate was built from such a negative experience. If you have a passion for something and genuinely enjoy doing it, it really helps you to become successful.
13:06 I think if you are consistent in what you want to do, you generally get results in the end. If you stay consistent in those principles and approach, you come out well in the end.
You’re checking two thirds of all of the vehicles in the UK, what does the backend of your business look like?
15:55 Pretty much from day one, we’ve done this with only two staff members (including myself). This works because of two rules. The first is, we automate ruthlessly. People tend to skip over this because the initial effort is difficult, but the cost saving over five years is incredible. The second is, outsource wherever you can. Our accounts, legal, HR, design and development are all outsourced. This gives you much more flexibility.
What are your lean development principles?
20:22 My lean business strategy comes from the seven principles outlined in Lean Software Development by Mary Poppendieck. First, eliminate all waste. Second, amplify learning by teaching your entire team, not just yourself. Third, make decisions as late as possible. Fourth, deliver as quickly as possible. Fifth, empower the team. Sixth, build integrity. Seventh, see the whole picture.
Marketing techniques that worked before, don’t always work now. How do you work around this problem?
35:56 It’s frustrating because you don’t know if it’s the market changing or if you did something wrong. But, that’s the beauty of what we do. It was formulaic, it would be easy. That’s how the best have their advantage because they are able to discover the variables to focus on and the variables to ignore.
38:40 Whenever I’m pouring over the numbers, I try to ground myself by asking, “What am I doing this for?” and remind myself that I’m doing this so I can spend more time with my family. I don’t want to get lost in my work and have it be the center of everything that I do. This work has that effect on us and if we’re not careful, it can become addictive and habitual.
43:46 Throwing hours at a project doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t achieve anything. You need to be creative and innovate. Spend your time wisely instead of in this false culture of hustle and working nine hours a day for six days a week.
What tactics do you use to get reviews?
45:38 We incentive people to leave reviews by giving them a check voucher for $199, using copy that asks users to leave a review and we giveaway free information to users who create an account with us.
Resources mentioned in the Podcast: