In 2012 Robert Millar bought Q&A software leader Qhub.com which focuses on providing an affordable, easy to use Q&A platform to help businesses and groups better engage with their customers and members. Qhub is now the flagship product in Robert’s e-commerce empire. He also owns a portfolio of residential and commercial real estate properties, which he manages with the help of his wife Masako, while he continues his life-long journey in the Martial Arts.
01. How did you first get started in Business?
Well, I’ve been a entrepreneur for about as long as I can remember. After my first 5 years in Japan in the 80s and 90s I returned to Australia with a head full of dreams and started a small tourism and translation business catering to the many Japanese tourists in my home town of the Gold Coast. Sadly, when Japan’s bubble economy burst in the early 90s my biggest clients went bust and so did I along with them. I later returned to Japan and in 2001 I launched what was to be a very successful IT outsourcing and recruiting agency called Zeros And Ones. For 6 years we served the booming financial and insurance sectors, and at our peak I had a team of 32 awesome employees. In 2007 I sold that company and moved to Australia for a well earned break and to gather my resources for my next mission. In 2011, a few days before the 3.11 earthquake and nuclear disaster, I moved back to Japan again and became an Internet Entrepreneur, buying, building and selling web sites with the help of a superstar offshore team. And finally, in 2012 I bought Qhub.com which is where my current focus and passion lies.
02. Where are you based and why?
I’m based in Tokyo for several reasons, not the least of which is because Japan is a country where you can create anything and learn anything without any fuss. The work ethic here is exemplary, people take a real pride in whatever it is they do, and the attention to detail and service here is second to none. For an online business that basically serves it’s customers 24 hours a day, this environment is perfect, and it allows us to excel in areas where we might struggle if we were based elsewhere. Oh, and my wife’s Japanese. LOL! We do spend a couple of months a year working off-site at at our little beachside apartment on the Gold Coast, too.
03. How has the internet empowered your own business?
When I owned and operated Zeros And Ones back in the early 2000s, outsourcing was all about physically interviewing, hiring and placing people at client sites. It was tough and often frustrating work. Simultaneously managing multiple, often conflicting relationships face-to-face is not for the faint-hearted. But with the ubiquitous nature of the Internet, I can hire better talent, faster, and less expensively. In fact, some of my best team members, who have been with me for years now, I’ve never actually met! But we know each other, and each other’s families, quite well. It’s a brilliant way to do business if you can get the formula right, and without the speed and the tools available on the Internet it just wouldn’t be possible.
04. Can you explain what Qhub is?
Sure. Qhub is Q&A software that makes it really easy to build a vibrant online community. We provide fully featured, beautifully designed community hubs that are easy and fun to use and that allow businesses and groups to really engage and empower their customers and members. Kind of like your own social network, if you will. And we’ve been around since 2004, so we’re pretty well established.
05. What are the main features of Qhub and is it user friendly?
Well, the main “feature” of Qhub actually it’s user friendliness. There are open source Q&A platforms out there, but unless you have a degree in computer science good luck trying to integrate them with your existing web site. With Qhub, you don’t need any code to create a great looking online community, and that’s what busy business people want. The next best feature would be our legendary support. We provide a well populated Q&A knowledge base (which is an actual Qhub of course), in-app customer messaging, in-app walk-through tutorials, and even live chat. Hub owners and members want to learn and communicate via their different channels, so we’ve made that very fast and easy for them. Our response time is first class too. Then there are, of course, a ton of cool software features that Qhub boasts, but you’re probably best off just checking them out at Qhub.com.
06. How can Qhub enhance the online world for small businesses and individuals?
Ok, this is where we really shine. The problem we’ve identified, which happens to be the main problem I encountered with my previous businesses, is that to achieve sustainable, repeatable business, organisations need to engage and empower their customers easily, without having to spend unnecessary time and effort doing so. (That’s posted on the wall above my desk, by the way, so that I never lose sight of our mission to solve it.) So, instead of trying to manage customers via email, which is an overwhelming nightmare, or via publicly available social media, which you never have full control of, imagine a place on your web site, or a stand alone site even, where your team and your customers can help each other out in a logical, uncluttered and elegant way, and where you have effortless control over everything. That place is Qhub.
07. Does Qhub easily integrate into Social Networks?
Yes it does. Hub members can easily share their questions and answers via Twitter and Facebook, right from within their hub, which brings more traffic to their content from those social networks. But what’s even more cool is that you can add your live hub to Facebook as a fully synchronised page. You can see how good that looks on our own Facebook page at www.facebook.com/qhubs
08. Can you show us some Client examples of how Qhub can scale into a successful community for arty types?
Sure. Checkout the Qhub Client Examples page. As you can see on that page Qhub is not just about businesses helping customers. The are community hubs, blogging hubs, travel hubs, music hubs, gaming hubs, you name it! Wherever questions need to be asked, Qhubs will help answer them.
09. What interests you outside of your working day?
Well, I also coach at Japan’s foremost Wing Chun Kung Fu school, headed by my teacher and good friend Master Chien Yen. You can check it out at ChienWingChun.com. I get to use my 30 years of continuous experience in the martial arts to help people from all over the world become stronger and more confident, and that compliments my work at Qhub beautifully.
10. Where do you see the internet going in the future?
I think we’ll see more and more services like ours moving away from the desktop and into the cloud. Given the lower cost of entry, greater easy of staffing, and greater end-user reach that this provides, it only makes sense. Interestingly, not only are cloud-based organisations easier to open and to operate, but they are also easier to on-sell to the bigger players out there. I believe that that’ll become much more prevalent this year and beyond.
11. What is next for the entrepreneur Robert Millar?
Oh, that’s a great question! Ok, don’t laugh, but I’m actually thinking about creating Japan’s first pay-per-minute cafe, where where everything is free except the time you spend there. The fee? Maybe ¥10 per minute which equates to about one good gourmet coffee per hour. Guests would just clock in and clock out with no minimum time. They can munch on the complimentary snacks, or prepare their own food in the kitchen, or just help themselves to free coffee or tea while they surf the Net via super-fast WiFi. I read an article in The Guardian the other day about Ziferblat, London’s first pay-per-minute cafe, and it really intrigued me. We have a few floors of unused space for rent in the little office building we own in Ginza, so I though why not?
12. What type of music, films and art do you favour?
Hmmm… Well, I like anything that is strong, and that crosses boundries. One of the disadvantages of living in Japan is the endless stream of shallow, contrived and talentless music and films that we get inundated with on a daily basis. In contrast, Korn, for example, released an album a couple of years ago titled The Path Of Totality which mixes strong metal guitar riffs with electronic music from the likes of Skrillex, Noisia, and Excision. And it works fantastically! Not everyone’s cup of tea, of course, but I really love this sort of powerful collaboration when it comes off well. Something similar in the film world might be the 2012 film Cloud Atlas with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and others, each of whom played multiple characters in the film. It was such a risk to paint the story with such broad and bizarre strokes, across so many different planes of time and space, but it worked incredibly well. And it blew me away! This is the sort of innovation and diversity I crave. A bit like mixing martial arts and software, you might say.
If you want to contact Robert about Qhub, please use the links below.