Jesse Willms, an entrepreneur and business owner from Las Vegas, Nevada, has always been intrigued by the world of business. An avid reader from a young age, Jesse began learning about entrepreneurship and investing by reading books on business, focusing particularly on biographies and stock investing.
As a young man, Jesse was fascinated by investors like Warren Buffet and others that had amassed enormous wealth. Jesse Willms started his first business when he was only 16. He loved to read and started selling books online. This valuable experience taught Jesse many things. He took these lessons and applied them to a new venture, selling computer software online. Jesse continued to follow his passion for e-commerce and committed to being a full-time entrepreneur at the age of 17.
Believing he could capitalize on a website model based on advertising revenue, Jesse Willms came up with the idea of providing free information to consumers looking to purchase used vehicles. He believed he could help consumers save money by providing a free vehicle history service.
Today, Jesse Willms is the owner of several vehicle history websites. These sites provide visitors with free information about a vehicle including the history of the used car, whether it has been in an accident, if it is reliable, if it has had any recalls, what consumers think about it, and even consumer reviews of the vehicle. Starting out as a concept in 2015, Jesse Willms has turned this idea into a successful venture. In fact, approximately four million people use the services offered by these sites each month.
How has your industry been impacted regarding COVID-19?
In general, I don’t think the online sector has been impacted too negatively by COVID-19. That being said, it depends on what sort of website you own. People have definitely been more cautious with their money. Therefore, car sales and other big item purchases have seen a decrease. However, in my specific niche — providing consumers with information about cars — our traffic hasn’t been impacted significantly. Although fewer people are buying cars, those who are looking to make a purchase are considering buying used and are therefore looking for information on our site. In addition, with more time to read and do research, people have been more active online, visiting information and educational sites.
What are your suggestions for good ways others can cope during this time?
When it comes to free time, my suggestion is always to spend it consuming new information. Taking the time to read, learn, and improve yourself and your knowledge has never been more possible than it is now. Focus on new topics and those that you might not be as knowledgeable in — you won’t regret it. Spending the time to improve your skills and knowledge is great for personal growth, as well as your growth as a leader. So, my suggestion is to take this time to learn and learn as much as you can while you have the time.
What does your typical day look like now versus prior to social isolation?
Not a whole lot has changed. I still read, listen to audiobooks, and learn on a daily basis. I still spend time working on the vision of my business and coming up with new ways for us to progress and evolve. The biggest change has been with face-to-face communication. I like to be involved with my team and what’s going on. Normally, I would meet with them face-to-face every day. Although this isn’t always possible at the moment, we are very lucky to have technology that allows us to communicate visually. One benefit of this; however, is that it is a lot easier for me to step back and allow my team to do their work. I always want to know how I can help my employees, but often I’ll have to remind myself to get out of their hair and let them do what they do best. This social isolation has made it a lot easier to step back since the face-to-face interaction has minimized.
How does working remotely change how businesses can support their customers?
I think the biggest challenge will be moving everything online. Now, with remote work, businesses will need to have technology in place to support their customers online. In addition to using technology to communicate and provide support, businesses will need to focus now, more than ever before, on ensuring their employees have great communication skills. Without good communication, a business will not be able to provide acceptable customer service. That being said, I also think this presents a great opportunity. I think moving customer support online will eventually make things easier and better for both businesses and customers. Businesses will likely see more effective and efficient customer support with the use of technology and consumers will experience more responsive brands. Overall, I think remote work will be a good thing for customer service and support, as long as businesses focus on providing clear communication through a number of mediums.
What advice would you give to fellow businesses who may be struggling during COVID-19?
I would suggest that they take this time to review their efforts, make improvements, and consider ways they can evolve. Is there something you can improve to elevate your business? Is there some factor that you are not considering or performing poorly on? Where are you at with your business goals? I spend a lot of time focusing on the vision of my business and I think this is a great time for others to do that as well. Perhaps they need to change their focus. Or, maybe they lack the right people on their team. Regardless, COVID-19 has presented us all with the opportunity for reflection. I think, for business owners especially, this is a chance to take a look inwards and to make changes to progress towards success.
What are some things outside of finding work that you are doing now to stay busy?
Right now, I’m focusing on learning and improving my skills. I think this is a great way to improve as an entrepreneur. I focus on topics that I’m not as familiar with and skills that I need to improve. Not only does this help me improve as a person, but also as a leader and business owner.
Do you think a work-life balance is important and how difficult is it in these circumstances?
I think a work-life balance is very important. Presently, I believe developing this balance is more difficult than ever, especially for those working from home. In many cases, people go into an office, and when they leave the building their work is left behind. This helps them maintain a strong work-life balance. However, with COVID-19, many people have started working from home. With access to their work 24/7, it can be difficult to step away from work for personal time. I think, especially now, it’s important that people who are working from home schedule their time so that they are following a consistent schedule. This schedule should include work and personal time, just as it would if they were going into an office.
What are some of the lessons you have already learned from having to work remotely and tips you can give to the readers?
I’ve learned that communication is important. I’ve always been big on checking in with my team and offering help where it’s needed, and I think that is important now more than ever. I would suggest that other entrepreneurs and business owners set aside some time in their day just to check in with their staff to ensure everything is going well, to offer help, and even to make sure that they are personally ok. This goes a long way to having a strong, productive, and happy team.
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