Ep62 - Interview with Ronni Christiansen from RedWeb
This week I have an interview with the great viking man himself, Ronni Christiansen from RedWeb.dk in Denmark.
He joins me on the podcast to talk about his experience in Joomla and his company which is now one of, if not, the biggest Joomla base agency in the world building Joomla based solutions for clients in Scandinavia and around the world.
It has been a little while since a new podcast episode has been released, that is because I have been travelling around. I have just returned from Frankfurt in Germany, where I attended the J & Beyond conference. I took part in the Joomla! leadership training as well as the 3 day conference itself. I would love to make it to the next J and Beyond conference wherever it may be.
I managed to record 26 interviews with many members of the Joomla! community, which gave me an opportunity to finally meet the many people I have only had contact with online. I had a chance to actually meet them in person, get to know a little bit more about them, hear their stories and learn about how they got into the Joomla space. Hopefully these stories really inspire you.
First story comes from Ronni Christiansen from RedWeb.dk. He has grown his business from a one person shop to a world wide business with 50 employees. I have also interviewed TJ Baker from RedWeb, but I am saving that for a future podcast episode.
Welcome Ronni to the Joomla Beat Podcast. Ronni runs a company called RedWeb, also RedComponent and RedHost.dk and IRedHost.com. Launching in just 8 weeks, JoomlaToGo.com will be added to Ronni's list of endevours. This is where a customer can access freemium based Joomla! hosting with a website in 30 seconds.
Background to getting started Joomla! Industry
Ronni started as developer in classical software development, and started online with Gopher in 1989. In 1993 when HTTP protocol came out, using notepad originally, he made some of the first websites in Denmark. The server side came in with programming when he changed to web based development. For many years he was working with both the front-end and the back-end of websites. He made a CMS and e-commerce system himself from 95-99. He used this to build the first mp3 store in Europe, and the second on the planet.
Later he got to a point where he started looking at other options because he became tired of IT. So just to do something completely different, he took up political science studies. The group he was studying with needed a way to communicate so he suggested a website, where they could share information, upload study notes, take part in forums and activities. It was built on Mambo.
For Ronni, all of the old context kept overlapping with the political science, so he continued to use Mambo to bring both interests together. This lasted a few years, until he got to a point where he had to pick whether he was going to stick with political science or web development. The later took over. It was around this time that Mambo became Joomla.
Ronni is 100% open source by heart and everything his company does it based around Joomla! As a self proclaimed decentralist and a structuralist, Ronnie is very focused on working with aspects of knowledge and organisations, how we learn collectively and how we share collectively.
In 2009, RedWeb had one employee and now it is at 50, Ronni hopes that in a few more years it will be 100 or even 200. Part of what he is doing now is showing other small businesses that they can be big and can work with enterprise level clients, with the idea of putting more focus on those things to pave the way for others.
How did you grow your company?
It started back in around 2007/2008 when he started focusing full time on the web again. Ronni decided that he wanted to go all the way with his business, from day one he had a clear plan and clear vision. He would not be afraid of hiring new people, inventing new things and investing in man hours which turn into ideas, which could potentially be something new. Keeping extremely focused on listening to clients and finding needs which are not fulfilled on the market. Once he had pinpointed their needs, he would cater to them. And then reuse these for other people.
Ronni makes a great point that, it is a mental thing, that a lot of freelancers and smaller agencies have. They don't have an eccentric or natural mentality towards expanding and growing.
There are risks involved. Your company will change a lot from just 5 - 20 people, then again from 20 - 50. Be aware that it will be constantly changing and adapt to that. You will most likely end up focusing on output, and managing people.
There are some structural issues for a lot of Drupal or Typo3 companies. Which have a high need for consultancy hours to adopt and roll it out, which was traditionally done by larger software companies that came out of a more traditional software industry rather than web agencies. A lot of web agencies working with Joomla and WordPress traditionally has been from the formation of new agencies. Structures were different. and the client bases where different. When you have a lot of small clients and you have two people in the company, the big enterprise level companies will not hire you. they want something more reliable with more people involved.
To combat this, it has been a matter of getting to one level, and building the company up with a focus. This involves saying no to clients if you know that will not work with your business.
Have you Ever used any other CMS such as Drupal, WordPress or Typo3?
Ronni has migrated solutions from all three, including migrating a Typo3 website with 400 articles to Joomla!. Over time he decided to steer away from other platforms as to become a leader in the Joomla! field. This allows him to focus highly on Joomla! and become that platform leader and expert.
On a global scale, business has changed where you are competing. What is the justification to working with them? They are flexible, adaptable and ahead of the curve, so when they do something they are the market leaders for two or three years.
Recommendations for making it in a small Joomla Market
You need some sort of strategy, there is a big entrepreneur forum in Denmark, in a matter of 3 years, Ronni had 5000 posts on the forum, helping other companies and answering questions.
He has built a demand by doing an arch reach and having some type of idea of wanting to spread the word. That also resulted in a lot of the smaller, newer Joomla! agencies who had read the posts, later came to training courses where he taught his own competitors. This helped build the commercial infrastructure, which resulted in helping others become better at Joomla!.
Most of the clients don't care what the system you use is, but what they want is a clear storyline of what you can do for them and how you will deliver the solutions. They must feel they can trust the company and have stability when they pick you as their supplier for their new web solutions. It is really a matter of personal relations and trust.
It is important you can tell the story of what you can do, so you must:
- Talk to the client
- Understand the client
- Workshop with the client
- Keep the client well informed and involved in the process
- Think about why you are doing something before you put it online
- Measure the outcomes
- Tell the story to the client and showing proof of success
How do you get past the “small business” barrier?
When you have 4 people in the company, you'll find medium to large sized companies will not select you for their work because there isn't the stability they are looking for. For Ronni, he decided he did not want to use freelancers, so every employee was hired full-time. This was to keep the knowledge learned within the organisation. He suggests this isn't the best way to do it, as it results in a lot of regular costs.
A way to combat this is to build up a network of freelancers and other companies to partner with, so you can enter to win contracts as a group. Ultimately it is about identifying the type of solutions you are doing. Always building blocks by creating solutions to problems and showing this to the client. These are the man power hours they won't need to invest in, as you have already done it.
These count, so take it contract by contract. Starting at contracts with small companies and slowly making your way up to larger companies. Look at how people choose, it is the references that count. Put the references that are relevant on your website, for example, if the references are out of date then they are irrelevant.
Before Ronni and the team recreated the RedWeb.dk website they undertook a large amount of research and analytics into what people were clicking on, including a user survey with exisiting clients on what they thought was interesting. The number one comment was references, they wanted to see what worked for someone before and if they liked it. They wanted to know they were able to complete the solutions. hat are the processes and how RedWeb worked? Therefore they reinvented the website using storytelling.
Check out the references at RedWeb, it may inspire you in your own process. At the current time you will most likely need to use Google translate if you do not speak Danish. Ronni tells us that there is an English language website is in the works.
What an inspiring interview, thanks for joining us on the Joomla Beat Podcast, Ronni!
Please let us know in the comments section below if you have any questions for Ronni, or any comments on the show.
Stay tuned for the following episodes where I will be sharing with you, interviews from the J & Beyond Conference and the Joomla World Conference.