This week’s Small Business Star is Alastair Campbell, founder of business intelligence website Company Check. Alastair founded the company in 2011, enabling businesses and consumers to carry out due diligence, check up on customers and suppliers, research competitors or track their own businesses. Over the last four years the company has since grown in size, with a 10-strong team working from their office in Nottingham.

With a background primarily in web development and ecommerce, Alastair has previously founded the websites ukdata.com and Simply Moleskine.

We wanted to revolutionise an archaic process

Having worked on the internet since the early days, I’d seen how it had revolutionised one area of after another. However the process of carrying out company checks – essential for millions of businesses every year – was still an archaic and opaque process that even well-versed computer users often struggled with. Company Check was my answer to that problem.

I launched Company Check in Nottingham in 2011. At first it was just me working out of a home office, but within two years there were five of us and we’d taken over offices in the city centre. We’re now 10-strong.

Our strengths lie in its size, its usability and its price

Because it’s the largest source of data on UK companies available, it gives its users unrivalled access to the business information they’re looking for. That data is presented in an easy-to-use format because we’ve just redesigned the whole website for simplicity, and because of its ‘freemium’ model it’s the only affordable way for small businesses and consumers to perform credit checks on other companies without a contract or the hard sell.

There’s nothing more important to this business than digital

We don’t jump on to every fad that arises, but we’re constantly tweaking our site and adding new features as new developments in digital emerge.

We use a combination of SEO, tech marketing and upselling to existing low volumes users to drive up our sales. SEO is key and we have something like one million pages listed in Google for popular companies.

Trust is key: reputations still take a lifetime to make and a moment to break

Companies based entirely online like ours have to market themselves somewhat differently to offline businesses, however some fundamentals still apply whichever sphere you operate in. Trust will always matter, as it does for us where business data is concerned, reputations still take a lifetime to make and a moment to break and people will always speak with their feet.

Strike a balance between stability and flexibility 

When I made the jump to run my own business in the first place I thought that was the biggest risk I would face. Not so – in fact starting up a business is the easy part. The hardest part is knowing when to let go.

The biggest risks are staffing costs and new leaner competitors. It’s a balance of being more stable and less ‘start-up’ while still keeping the edge – that allows you to keep trying new things quickly. Keeping good people is key and there is real pressure right now on any business to hold on to good developers.

The biggest challenge is scale

We have three million visitors a month to the website so it needs to work as fast and efficiently at 1pm when 2,000 people are using it as it does at 11pm when there are 400!

However, this year we’ve attracted more than three million unique visitors every month to Company Check. Between them they now carry out more than 200 million searches every year and our brand recognition rates are now through the roof. Those figures make all the hard work worth it.

And, finally, my advice to those looking to start their own business is that with every failure, success becomes more likely.

Find out more information about Alastair Campbell and Company Check by visiting: http://companycheck.co.uk/

For more advice and insight from business owners, visit our Small Business Stars hub