Stepan Hilbert founder of HERO.WORK

Stepan (left) and co-founder Roman
website Stepan on twitter HERO.WORK twitter facebook

 

Stepan is a founder and “Chief Helper” at HERO.WORK, where he’s on a mission to help small service businesses operate better. He is passionate about efficiency & solving the pain points tradies and their customers are having.

Stepan came to Australia in 2002, where he spent a lot of time thinking people were calling him Mike (when they called him “mate”). He finally turned human into a citizen in 2014. After years of running a small software shop contracting for others, he started looking for a way to spend his savings that would be a little more exciting than putting down a house deposit.

Stepan came up with the initial idea for HERO.WORK in late 2014 and, after contracting out his Apache Flex skills for the last time, he started to pursue the idea full-time in March 2015.

Co-founder Roman joined a month later and the first online tools started to take shape.

Today, tradies use the HERO.WORK App to find more work, create quotes, invoices and manage jobs. They’re able to get a lot more billable work done, while still retaining full control of their business. The App integrates with the HERO.WORK booking site, where anybody can find a trusted & verified tradie, get an estimate and book a job.

I try to spin challenges, or adversities into advantages. Sometimes it even works! 

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

I was looking for an idea that could make a lot of difference. We have a few friends who are tradies and when we talked to them it became glaringly obvious how hard it is to run a small trade business. We were looking at existing software apps that are meant to help, but found none that would really address all the admin needs of a small service business. Switched-on tradies use multiple apps to run a  paperless business, but it’s a challenge to share data between all these apps and to learn how they all work. We thought: tradies don’t need a stand-alone job and client management app, stand-alone quoting & invoicing, stand-alone website, stand-alone advertising/customer acquisition channel – they could really use one system that ties everything together and gives them a fine-tuned process to follow.

Can you explain your business model for us?

The basic version of our App is available for free and has enough features for a one or two-person band.  We charge a fee on jobs that we find for our members (only if they get paid) and our paid plans also have some advanced features. We are not in the business of making a quick buck. For our model to work, we need lots of tradies on board – we don’t charge much; it’s all about scale and efficiency.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?

We’re far from done. Our App and our member websites will become more integrated – tradies have asked for price estimators on their sites which is great, as we always planned to do that. We will start offering call centre services in the near future because, surprisingly, not everybody is online in 2016. It’s hard to answer a phone call when your hands are greasy and you’re under a sink.

Our vision is to be able to tell tradies: “focus on your trade and we will take care of the rest – yet it is still your business and you are in control. And, it’s not all-or-nothing – you can pick and choose which of our services you want to use”.

How do you make ideas happen?

Wait for them… while not drinking too much.

What role have mentors played in your business life?

Seeing successful people at an arm’s length has been a great inspiration.

What does your typical day look like?

I start with writing down a list of tasks to do. I also try to do something physical every day.

_MG_5943
Stepan at work

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

Australia is a great country for HERO.WORK. The bureaucracy is not too bad and the internet generally works. Luckily, I excel at creating my own challenges.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

I try to spin challenges, or adversities into advantages. Sometimes it even works! 

Can you name any people or organisations that you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

Lime Rocket makes games which compel people to wave their phones… everywhere. Call it cool or weird – but it’s definitely innovative.

What about internationally?

The three guys with rockets – Elon, Jeff and Sir Richard. Not really our industry – yet – but it’s super-cool for the future of our species.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

Huge. At HERO.WORK we hope to bring more transparency and accountability into the trade & services industry here in Australia. It’s easy to find a tradie, but good tradies can be hard to come by – even though no tradie starts out with a plan to provide a lousy service. Often they are just a bit disorganised and skimp on quality when they feel they’re losing money. Our tools make them efficient and accountable and that should make everybody’s life better, we hope.

Speaking of affecting social change, Is there a particular charity you support?

Choosing a good charity is a little tricky. I feel that, unfortunately, a lot of charities do not spend donations well. I prefer charities that try to provide solutions, rather than bandages. That is why I have supported Wikipedia in the past.

Can you name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?

If you are searching for a good artist or art, try Deviant Art. Geeky articles on Ars Technica are usually better than average. JavaScript Weekly and its sister publications are also helpful to keep in touch with what’s trending.

Can you name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter?

Try @rob_prismatik for some startup insights and my accounts, of course: @stepanhilbert and @herowrk.

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?

Absolutely! We are just about to start to look for investors. We also can offer a generous reward program to tradies who take the time to give us feedback on our tools. We are hoping to grow the team soon – more geeks, business minds, support crew… a healthy multi-skilled mix.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?

What online marketing works best for you and why?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Suzuya in Surry Hills is great value for a Japanese lunch. Good food, big portions. I wish there was something like it in Manly.

 

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