John Simmonds, Managing Director, newgencoJohn Simmonds has recently joined our OM4 community, using the OM4 platform to take two of his businesses online.

John is Managing Director of newgenco, a private global resource exploration group based in Western Australia. And he has a recent interest in a Margaret River winery called Treeton Estate.

I interviewed John about his experience in taking his two businesses online with OM4. newgenco is live on a free OM4 community site. The Treeton website is under development.

Glenn: Hi John, can you give us a quick run down on newgenco and Treeton.

John. Much of my professional career has been in global mineral exploration and it has been clear for many years that the creative, new business side of the resource exploration industry does not function well. Too little money was and is being spent in finding the next generation of mines. Current returns on investment are unattractive to investors with a world of opportunity to invest in.

While completing an MBA in 2001, I spent time looking at how other industries manage their early-stage creativity. After looking at each component of business models from the venture-capital funded biotech, ICT and entertainment industries, I came up with a model that looked to be transferrable to mining exploration.

NewGenCo - Global Nickel Mining AlliancesFounded in 2007, newgenco is the result. We have a critical mass of world class nickel explorers, willing to exclusively commit themselves as a team to specific areas of geography in return for a significant percentage of company equity. Born global, the company is about to sign its first alliance deal over North America with a major multinational corporation.

We realise that our success will be heavily dependent on our skill in alliancing – to access the people, technologies and capital that we need to grow. That means great communications and that is one of the attractions of the OM4 platform.

Treeton is a completely different story. My wife Helen’s uncle developed a vineyard and winery near Cowamarup (Margaret River) back in the 1980’s. David McGowan has done a fantastic job in building up the business and making some beautiful wines (the Shiraz is my favourite) on a sustainable basis. But the marketing side has let the business down. Helen and I were looking for a place to get away to in the country so the seed was planted. We are just finalising the details of a 50% buy-in. David and Corinne will make the wine and manage the property, Helen and I will get involved in the marketing. Particularly the online. One day we may build a house but for the moment, we are roughing it.

Glenn: What are your business objectives for your newgenco website? Are they primarily marketing related?

John: The number one priority for newgenco is to get our presence known in the global market. We are managing this very carefully. It would be too easy to make errors in introducing our very different business model to the world. The market here is the investment funds and corporations who will fund our activities.

Number 2, we need to attract the people we will need to make sure it all happens. The strategy here is built around thought leadership. We have some great people on board and nobody is taking a lead in our micro worlds. We plan to offer a high-interest blog site that will draw our colleagues together. This should bring us both access to high credibility people and interesting project leads

It will be a balancing act but we will be out in front.

Glenn: What was your experience of getting the website live?

John: Good. Very good. I had some experience of HTML from the early days of the dotcom boom. Enough to know that I could do it myself but not enough to be able to do it without planning. There is some great material on the OM4 client resources area. I did have to ask a friend (Andrew Duff of Innovation4) a few questions, but mostly I just took my time and played. The site is (at the moment) entirely my own work.

We plan to get better visuals over time but the key start is good integrated content, designed to inform and encourage all of the people you wish to engage with. When I took the beta site off the OM4 subdomain to our newgenco.net site, I was amazed how quickly and smoothly the whole thing worked. That has given me confidence for the Treeton site which needs to be more complex and complete.

Glenn: What areas were the most challenging?

John: Maybe simple things. Like getting my first image up. The differences between Categories and Tags. My first play with CSS rules (thanks Glenn) to tweak the style. Getting tables right is still beyond me. But I know that I could do it – just take the time to play. If you have a deadline, pay someone else to do it. But being able to do it yourself gives you control of the process.

Glenn: What aspects of a website are most important for a business owner interested in marketing online?

John: It has to be mostly the content. Having interesting things to say and then finding interesting ways of telling people what they would like to know. So for Treeton, for example, it is how we can be better than everyone else in Margaret River at engaging with the wine-interested public. And then making sales.

Visuals are great but so often they are a distraction. This is a complicated question: it really is getting everything right. I have theoretical knowledge on marketing but not practical. I am just going to have to keep tweaking and trialling different words, approaches, stories – to get it right. Which is where Google Analytics comes in because it gives me feedback.

Glenn: What are your plans for your Winery website? Will you be marketing that online?

John: Our aim is to have the online sales as the driver of our business. We will have sales channels at a number of selected outlets in Perth and later, perhaps the eastern States.

But whether the sales are in stores, restaurants, our cellar door or online, it is the integration of the online Treeton Estate with the real Treeton Estate that will drive sales.

So I will be paying to get the PayPal integration done next week, then the graphics (free, courtesy of the OM4 launch) and the content finalised, ready to remove the old site and on with the new in 3 weeks. It should be doable. And mostly by me – in my spare time.

Glenn: Any other comments you would like to make about going online?

John: For anyone thinking about it, just do it. WordPress and OM4 do make it very easy. I am sure that the Blog School and Forum will come into their own for those wanting support. But the How To guides are already there. Just open a site and start playing.

Glenn: Thanks for your time John.