My business story… Betting Gods
It really started as a hobby. As a kid I used to spend time at my grandparents’ house, and my granddad liked horse racing and tried to teach me about it. At the time I thought it was really boring.
Then when I became a policeman we used to have sweepstakes during weekends or when it was quiet, and I took an interest in betting. I started studying it and became quite good at it. Before long I began making more money from betting than working, so I left the police to become a professional gambler.
Eventually I was headhunted by a tipping website. I worked there for about 18 months, but during this time I felt I could do a better job, and give better customer service on my own. So I left and set up my own business.How long have you been running Betting Gods?
It’s been going for 3 ½ years, since 2012.What was your first job?
I come from a family of self-employed people. My dad ran a furniture business. My uncle ran a joinery. My grandfathers had a greengrocers and butchers. My first job at 14 was with my granddad. It was ‘Happy birthday, you get to work in a fruit shop’. I worked every Saturday for £10 throughout my school life. I enjoyed it. It gets you used to working at a young age.How did you fund your business in the beginning?
In the first 12 months I took little wages, and reinvested everything back into advertising. Every penny went into promoting the business until I had £1 left in the bank. It paid off and we went from a handful of people to 30k plus. During the first Christmas there was a drop in members as everyone tends to cut back their spending on things, which was a little scary. But it picked up again from mid-January onwards. To our great surprise, this last Christmas our member base actually grew!What was the biggest hurdle in the early days?
Gambling can sometimes be seen as a taboo, but because we have experienced, proven tipsters working for us, and promote responsible betting, it’s never affected our business.
We give specific advice on the website – such as only use money set aside for gambling to any other money etc – and have links to guidance on gambling. It’s very educational content, we’ve worked at promoting a healthy attitude to betting and we get excellent feedback from it.
We are always transparent with results. If there has been a loss on a tip, we’ll say so. Also, we give a 60-day money back guarantee and offer the first month’s subscription for £1. It gives people the opportunity to try something new without being tied into anything.How did you grow?
Only 18 months ago it was just me. Now there’s about 15 people in the team. At first I hired a techie – someone to take care of the website and emails. Then my wife helped with recruitment and the hiring of more tipsters.
Next we recruited someone to specifically take care of admin, and then a content writer, so we grew quickly but with purpose. We all work from home and are based all over the world; Nottingham, Aylesbury, Portugal, Canada…What is the hardest part of running a business?
Without a doubt, it’s the lack of having a break. I never have time off – not even Christmas Day. If I go on holiday, the computer has to come too, so I can easily be in Tenerife doing some work on the beach.
I love it really though. I enjoy the routine of what I do, and I’d be reluctant to work for someone else now. If you work for someone else, you can pull a sickie and still have a job to go to the next day. If you work for yourself, it motivates you to earn.Best business move?
We’ve recently done a lot of development on the website. All of our tips used to be emailed to customers, but now they can login and view their tips and subscription details. Tips are time sensitive, and if I was away from my computer before, I could have hundreds of emails asking ‘where’s my tip!’ when I got back. So for my sanity, and to cut down on admin, it’s been a good move.Worst business move?
We hired one tipster who was good during testing, and then dive-bombed when we launched him. He couldn’t handle the pressure and freaked out. People are only human at the end of the day. No one could’ve foreseen this, but by the time it happens you’ve already invested a certain amount of money and time in them, and you don’t get that back.Who or what has been your biggest influence?
I’ve always followed Richard Branson since I read his biography when I was about 15 years old. I like the Virgin company ethos of being willing to try anything, and it’s an attitude I’ve picked up on myself. I’ll happily say ‘scrap that or change it.’How important is customer service to your business?
Really good customer service was a big deal for us from the beginning. Our competitors hide behind a faceless website, whereas we are different because we are so open and make a conscious effort to be accessible. The reassurance of a number you can ring and an actual voice you can talk to makes all the difference.What is your plan for the next few years?
The plan is to keep growing. We’ll also be putting even more effort and resource into our customer service. Horse racing is really popular in Australia, so expanding there is an avenue we’re pursuing.If you did it again, what would you do differently?
Definitely to invest more in technology from the outset. We’ve grown so big that we’ve had to invest in our website and tech very quickly, but thankfully it’s worked well. We offer live chat now, so customers can talk to a tipster during a rugby match for instance. In the early days we had so many people accessing the website that it would freeze, so updating servers has been a learning curve.What piece of advice would you give to a start-up?
Do it today, not tomorrow.Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t running Betting Gods, I would be…