An interview with Darren Lingham, Managing Director, StablePoint Group
HostAdvice: Hi Darren, tell us a bit about StablePoint
We came up with the idea for Stablepoint just over 6 months ago. We saw an opportunity to create a ‘simplified’ hosting service – great customer support and reliable servers at a fair price, without the endless addons and upsells that seem to have become commonplace in the industry. We wanted to do things differently, and so far, people seem to be appreciating that approach.
HostAdvice: You founded Tsohost in 2003 but decided to move on after the sale to GoDaddy, what brought you back to the hosting industry?
Even when I founded Tsohost in 2003, a lot of people in the industry told me “Shared hosting is done, there is too much competition, the incumbents are too large, you’ll never get anywhere”. Luckily, I didn’t listen to them – it took many years but we had a great reputation for customer service and people would recommend us on forums and twitter and everywhere else. Eventually we became one of the biggest hosts in the UK and there was a great sense of achievement with that.
After taking some time out I did think that I would look for other opportunities outside of web hosting, as a new challenge perhaps in other areas of technology but I could see on Twitter the sheer number of people still complaining about their hosting provider. This got me thinking and eventually I got talking to some former colleagues and we decided there must still be a market out there for simple hosting, done really well. That’s all our philosophy is – we’re not trying to do anything “sexy” or particularly exciting, just keeping people’s sites online with great customer service thrown in.
We came up with the Stablepoint name, and worked for a couple of months on our back-end systems to ensure a smooth launch. It’s a huge benefit being able to lean on the experience of co-founders (Seb De Lemos & Dominic Taylor) with nearly 50 combined years in the hosting industry.
HostAdvice: What is StablePoint’s USP, what makes the company stand out from the pack?
We don’t own any of our own infrastructure and this is entirely by design. With our previous company, we built datacenters and ran our own BGP networks and ran significant lengths of expensive fiber-optics. Nowadays this is not necessary – we can leverage AWS, Google and other cloud providers to offer our hosting services in dozens of locations around the world. In the past, setting up a new location would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more and was a massive commitment in time and resources. It also means we’re not paying staff to replace failed disk drives, or to rack new servers.
This also means that the majority of our staff can be customer facing, so we can really focus on delivering a great customer experience.
One other USP is that we have a whole team of migrations specialists within the company. This allows us offer free migrations from any hosting company to us. They work on website migrations all day, every day, and so they’ve seen it all before when it comes to moving websites.
There’s really no need to be fearful of downtime when moving a site with us, because the migrations team will be there every step of the way.
HostAdvice: Your team of 15 helps to host over 10,000 websites, what are your long-term plans regarding growth and reach?
We want Stablepoint to be the benchmark for how hosting “should” be done. We don’t make it hard for our customers to contact us and where possible we will always try and help and offer advice, even if the issue isn’t strictly hosting or server related. Finding great people to continue that ethos and encouraging that culture within the company is going to be big challenge going forward.
Where we have to choose between growth and service quality, service quality wins every time. As a business, it might mean less profit in the short term but if it’s the right thing to do then that is what is important.
HostAdvice: Can you talk us through what your company has to offer as a whole and how you approach the variety of customer types attracted by StablePoint
This is a really interesting question. I would say almost all (95%+) of our customers that join us, are joining us from a competitor. We are very few client’s “first” hosting company – they’ve found us through recommendations or word of mouth when they have become disillusioned by their existing provider.
We’ve had a number of people join us because their existing provider can’t offer hosting in the location they want to host their site. Hosting location is incredibly important in this day and age, and making sure your website is as close as possible to the majority of your visitors will really improve their experience of your site. Google likes to show results most relevant to visitors so hosting your site on a server near them can really help your search engine rankings, and improving loading times for them has been shown to help reduce bounce rates and improve conversions.
It’s quite a simple concept really – why would you host your site in Texas or London when most of your customers are in Australia or Dubai? Stablepoint solves that problem.
HostAdvice: On the subject of your customers, what is range of demographics you cater for?
It’s a real mix of people we cater for. From individuals hosting blogs, to large businesses transacting hundreds of orders per day. Our team is really experienced in the vast number of applications people host these days – not just WordPress and Magento but Joomla, Craft, Drupal, OSCommerce, Prestashop to name but a few. It means we can help our clients improve their performance by suggesting tweaks to their site.
HostAdvice: In a competitive employment field, how would you describe StablePoint’s company culture, what makes your employees stand about the rest?
We are really picky about who we hire. They need to be excellent at what they do but mostly they right fit for the team. We offer remote working/working from home opportunities and can be really flexible in that regard. I think the customer focused ethos and culture around doing things the right way also really helps people with their job.
That’s not to say there won’t be tough days – but for example if your servers are reliable, then your customer service representatives have to deal with less angry clients. Dealing with happy clients makes their life easier. This is why starting from the ground up we try to do things in the right way with joined up “whole company” thinking.
HostAdvice: Finally, what does the future hold for StablePoint?
We’re really excited about how things are going. Every month is better than the last but the real kicker is seeing the positive reviews flying in. Helping people and businesses moving over to our service and seeing their site performing better than ever is a real ego boost for the team. People are always so kind as well – the thanks we get can be incredibly heartfelt.
It’s easy to forget there are real people behind the screen when you’re emailing backwards and forwards but it’s a real pleasure getting to know the ins and outs of people’s websites and it’s massive validation when you see them succeed. I’d love to be able to say I’d helped one million people succeed with their website hosting one day.