John Clauss is an entrepreneur with more than fifteen years of strategic consulting and management experience. In 2000, John founded and helped Marker Seven grow from a start-up to a thriving company with an impressive roster of Fortune 500 clients, including Wells Fargo, IBM, Ghirardelli, and Kristi Yamaguchi.
Marker Seven is a full-service digital agency headquartered in San Francisco, CA with expertise in Drupal, UX, website development and digital marketing.
MO: What influenced your decision to break away from corporate life and start your own company? Was the process easier or harder than you anticipated?
John: The decision to break away from the corporate world goes back to the entrepreneurial path that was instilled in me at a young age, and luckily wasn’t as challenging as I anticipated. However, with every business you launch, you must develop a great amount of tenacity in order to persevere through the storms in which you may encounter along your path to success. My grandfather was a great example of this tenacity: he owned multiple businesses, including a bowling alley and a car dealership. Before launching Marker Seven, I gained experience launching a plastics business with my father and had a fishing business in high school, so the entrepreneurship spirit has always been in my DNA. It also helps that I love what I do. “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” (Confucius)
MO: You ran a lucrative fishing business over the summers in high school. You clearly had an entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. Where did your initial drive come from and did you always know that you wanted to launch your own company?
John: Since I was born into a family of entrepreneurs, it became apparent to me at an early age that I would follow the entrepreneurial path. The initial drive behind my company, Marker Seven, originated from my high school days when I started a fishing business. I would venture out to sea every night, catch fish and then sell them to local restaurants and fish markets. The “seventh marker” always symbolized a sign of my return back from sea, a sign of safety from the rough seas. After a few years of working in the corporate world post graduate school, I always knew I would own a business again and wanted to reflect on my earlier days as an entrepreneur. Thus, the name and concept behind Marker Seven was born in the process of launching my current business in the web development industry.
MO: For those of us who are unfamiliar, can you break down what Drupal is and how it’s used?
John: Drupal is a free, open-source content management system and framework that allows you to easily organize, manage and publish your content. It’s highly customizable and used as a back-end system for at least 2% of all websites worldwide ranging from personal blogs to corporate and government sites. It is also used for knowledge management and business collaboration. We currently use Drupal as the platform of nearly all websites we build at Marker Seven, and have had a very high client satisfaction rate within the last decade.
MO: What are the most prevalent issues you see your clients encounter and how can they be prevented?
John: I believe the most prevalent issues our clients are faced with are not being able to clearly define their objectives in the beginning of a website development project. It is extremely challenging to architect, design, and create a solution without a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish. The next common issue we frequently come across has to do with gaining a clear understanding of the target audience(s) and how to architect a solution that speaks to them. We’ve found that user experience (UX) is always at the center of our client’s issues. Another common issue has to do with our clients need to manage the content of their site and have the ability to easily add features and functionality. That’s the beauty of a powerful content management system like Drupal. It solves all of these issues for our clients if it is implemented correctly.
MO: What are three trends in your industry that you’re excited about?
John: An area in technology that is heavily trending right now revolves around anything mobile. (This includes mobile devices and tablets.) It’s projected that 70% of all web users will access information via a mobile device by 2015. That is a drastic increase from only 25% today. I believe that anyone that ignores this trend will be left behind.
Another trend we see is the knowledge and respect of user experience. One of the most common problems our clients are faced with is the usability of their website, meaning how easy or difficult it is for users to navigate and find information on the site. I think everyone has an experience using a site where they can’t find information quickly or get stuck or lost. It becomes frustrating and companies lose a lot of money as a result. We’re very excited about this since we have seen the importance of this field many years ago and it finally seems that almost every client now understands how important this is to the success of the end product.
The third trend I would like to mention is the understanding and respect that designers have for web development and the respect that developers have for design. This convergence of respect is terrific news for our business, clients and ultimately, the end user.
MO: What is the most important component in creating a successful website? Any tips on what not to do?
John: I don’t believe there is just one component in creating a successful website. It really is a multi-faceted process. Owning a web design business for over a decade has taught me that creating a successful website involves an excellent understanding of business strategy, user experience, visual design and development. As of what not to do, those areas mentioned above are all equally important; and a lack of skills in any one area will greatly influence the quality, look, and feel of a website, and in some cases, may even hinder the key messages the website is attempting to deliver.
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