Building a business on trust – with Sharon Melamed
Sharon Melamed is no ordinary working parent. With decades of experience at leading sales, service and outsourcing companies in Australia, the US, Israel and Japan, she identified a gap in the market that has inspired the creation of not one, but two, services-based businesses.
Finding the gap
Back in 2012, Sharon Melamed realised that something was missing in the market. When a business wanted to set up the infrastructure for their operations – like a call centre or some sales training – they were left with a dizzying number of search results to sift through.
“People use Google when they’re looking for a product or service for their business. It’s the first step in the buying process,” says Sharon. “You type in your question and then you get hundreds, even thousands, of search results. In my view that is a pretty time consuming and frustrating experience to work through.
“It’s hard to know which supplier is the right one for you. How do you know that supplier hasn’t just paid an SEO consultant to make sure their business ranks really well in search? For a smaller business, a bad supplier could break your business.”
At that point, Sharon put her smarts to work and figured out that asking people around 10 filtering questions dramatically changed the result. The right line of questioning could narrow down the results to just a few, saving literally weeks of time.
“It made so much sense to me that I handed in my resignation and took the punt that I was onto something,” says Sharon. “I commissioned the development of matching software to facilitate that filtering process and Matchboard was born.”
Sharon later adapted the matching software she commissioned to another business – FindaConsultant – which matches businesses to consultants in a range of areas such as HR, IT and marketing.
Trust is the difference
Many years of working with Japanese companies meant that Sharon was attuned to the value of trust in relationships.
“The key element that inspired my current businesses was the emphasis that Japanese business people place on trust in relationships,” says Sharon.
“My whole business model is actually built on trust and honesty. We rely on businesses to tell us when they win a lead, and then they pay us a commission on the value of the contract. If they don’t tell us about the contract, we lose out.”
Sharon reflects on the early comments she received from other business leaders
“A lot of seasoned business people told me I was crazy and couldn’t trust people in this way,” says Sharon. “They insisted I would have to think of another business model.
“But suppliers and consultants didn’t want to pay advertising fees or listing fees. The market wanted a model where a generous commission was paid for a contract lead. So I went with my womanly gut instinct and decided to trust the market.
“On the whole, it’s worked out extremely well.”
Balancing business and parenthood
Sharon makes no bones about the fact that her primary responsibility in life is to her family.
“I’ll just put it out there,” says Sharon. “I’m a mum before anything else.”
The business has been life-changing for Sharon.
“I found that my high-flying sales job at my previous company was great in terms of a nice secure income, but travel or tender deadlines meant that I was missing key milestones for my children,” says Sharon, “and that’s not a place I wanted to be.
“One of my key drivers was actually to have more flexibility with my children in primary school, and this is the perfect answer to my dream. I can’t imagine a better work/life balance.”
Sharon’s secret to success
Sharon stresses that the key to achieving success is to define what success is to you.
“Success means something different to everyone,” says Sharon. “For some it might be global domination, but for me it has to be a balanced score card between business and family and health.
“The way forward from there is to never lose sight of the big picture.”