Michael-CathieDiploma of Business (Advertising) (2000)

How did you get into the creative space? You were originally involved in music?

Getting into creative space was primarily myself wanting to explore music which I got to explore at school. I left school to pursue it, to see where it would go.

After music how did you get to where you are now?

I had already trialled a couple of small ventures in business totally unrelated to where I am today. I knew I had to go back to study something, that being business. I was looking into the different courses that were available. I looked at Universities but that’s a lot of study for me. My history shows that I wasn’t that big on education, I am a more practical learner. I did understand that I had to do formal study and took on a diploma with a view to going onto a degree. Towards the tail end of the course I started to look into the business that I wanted to be in.

What drew you to this business?

It’s the combination of creativity and technology and innovation. I got to use technology while playing music but to not this extent. I had a previous business to this and it was in exactly the same space where I got to explore different technologies and applications.

What is it about the technology that attracts you?

It was an interesting world in terms of what it meant to be able to use the new technologies to be able to get information; just by doing a search always amazed me. I think I speak on behalf of all geeks when I say that looking at code is not that exciting. It’s the function, it’s the out put, the thing that it does. That always excites and that’s what interests me in what technology can do for people to provide a solution as opposed to showing somebody what the technology is. I don’t think anybody is interested in the back end of a system; it’s what it does for people.

Tell me about the designing of websites? Was it something you wanted to do? Do you use the knowledge acquired through your study?

Study provided the business foundations to marry the technology with business, whilst dealing with clients is always a hard thing. They can never see the correlation between business and technology. It’s up to us to educate the client on what technologies can be used. It’s not the design we are explaining to clients, it’s the technology.

The creative space for me now is left to other people who have studied it and who know what elements need to be included in the design. The design of a system is also left to other people. I guess what I do is run the business. I come up with creative ways to approach the industry. I get to use my creative juices and apply that to new areas or new technologies. A lot of things behind that are the fundamentals that I learnt at Box Hill TAFE, business marketing and strategic thinking.

You have a number of high profile clients? Do you have to build relationships with them to maintain their business?

When you work with a client you get the opportunity to prove yourself and there are always competitors trying to take the business. It’s up to us to keep in touch with technology, provide good service, and provide good design and good solutions in terms of what we develop. It’s an ongoing process. We enter into an agreement which is a service level agreement. It’s an ongoing relationship with the clients. A large client such as Telstra doesn’t necessarily know what they want, they just want solutions. If you provide them with solutions that they want, you are set to continue working with them.

You have also engaged in social media design for your clients. Is this to retain their business?

A lot of these things, social media and mobile designs and devices people aren’t sitting there at their computers and using just the computer to check emails or to RSVP to functions. It’s a way of doing business these days on your phone. Everything has to respond to the device that people are using. It’s social media and responsive design in terms of what we do for action design and systems. Social media is one of those things. We are all very interested in it here but sometimes it’s not by choice either. The client says, this has to happen, this is where the world is going and we need to have this. Social media is part of our service offerings without a doubt.

Can you explain the history of Webplace?

I started the company in 2003 and 2005 Cameron Fraser, came on board as a director and it’s a 50/50 percent ownership.

I notice you have Offices in Sydney and Adelaide now?

We have been appointed to different government panels. Through necessity to be part of that panel we have to have a presence. As an online business we don’t need people in offices. Adelaide is growing quicker than expected. We will appoint people to that office. We are setting up a hub and spoke business model. Melbourne is the hub and the satellite offices, the spoke. We will appoint business development people, people that do business requirement stocks in the satellite offices and they will pass it back to the hub. The hub controls development, design and support. We are also looking at London as an option too.

What does it mean when Dunn & Bradstreet say you are one of the top ten, fastest growing IT companies in Australia? What does that mean for the business?

Its validation. We are on the right track. It’s a great feeling; it’s a very good feeling. We go along and do what we are doing. It gives us a milestone and yardstick to aim for, for the following years as well. This year, on average we are on twenty five percent growth per year. That’s on revenue and capacity.

Has the GFC had an impact on your business?

Sure does. It’s impacting everybody, everyone is tightening their belts, including government – they are not immune from any of this. We’re finding profit in tightening our belts here. Where we may not have been as efficient with some of our dealings we are closing that gap to increase our revenue. That will be our growth plan this year.

What’s your advice to aspiring digital agency owners?

Focusing on quality in development and design, we are big on quality here on output and design. Get a good accountant – don’t try and do it yourself. Get out into an office, don’t do it at home.

What sort of skills do they need?

There are a lot of facets to running a business. Once you become a company, and once you become responsible for people’s wages and their life, that’s their life’s income. It is a tremendous responsibility so you have to be prepared to be able to handle all the ups and downs and to plan, whether it’s for the short term or long term. Things change. There has to be a plan. There has to be constant monitoring of the financials. You have to be prepared, there is a lot of work that goes into making sure money keeps rolling in.

Tell me about your involvement in Mambo and Joomla?

One of the years I was contracting I was working for a company called Miro International and they developed a content management system called Mambo and it was very badly managed. What it is is a content management system that was put out to a community and released under open source. People can use it but they don’t own it. It was quite successful and widely used. There was a community of about 250,000 people. But it was not correctly managed and the community split and 2 systems were born, Mambo and Joomla. Most of the Mambo community went over to Joomla. Whilst I still sit on the board for the Mambo Foundation and I am the Public Officer it’s a CMS that’s slowly going away. But there is a community still that has to be serviced. Joomla is by far the standout CMS of the 2 and in fact of the major 4 in the world.

What do you do outside of work?

Recently, look after my child. New Dad, 4 months ago, he is keeping me busy. It’s great, just the normal things really Saturday and Sundays are ours and we jump in the car and cruise somewhere and take it easy.

There must be a fair amount of travel since you have opened the offices?

Recently yes. We have been taking my son to Adelaide and Sydney just to see if he likes the long car trips. Thankfully he does. It’s been good. It’s been very good. It allows my wife and him to cruise around the city and do whatever they want to do and I go and do my work for 4 or 5 days and drive back.