For Michael McCaffrey, partner and founder of ADASure, leaving his day job was the toughest decision of his life. He had a lucrative position with a great boss and was doing work that was rewarding and fulfilling. As McCaffrey shared, an opportunity to advance his career is what ultimately pushed him down the path of entrepreneurship.
“My boss wanted to promote me to a position with an even bigger team and more responsibility,” he said. “That was the real tipping point for me. I was doing some consulting at the time and I couldn’t offer value to both my employer and my own company. I actually had a contract with the Department of Defense doing an accessibility audit for them. When the contract ended, I wanted to keep going. I had to make a choice."
McCaffrey chose to go full-time on his business and focused on providing services geared towards a small niche market. He combined eight years experience in software development, several years in digital marketing and the familiarity of family members with disabilities to launch and grow a business to make digital properties more accessible to disabled website and app users. By April 2017, McCaffrey officially launched ADASure.
"The first two years were very challenging," he said. "Literally, 9 out of 10 people said, 'We understand your services and what they can do for us, but it's not in our budget.' I put a lot of time into email marketing, social media marketing and other forms of advertising. Filling the pipeline was by far my biggest challenge."
According to McCaffrey, The Americans with Disabilities Act stipulates that it's against one's civil rights to offer services to some and not others. This includes things like access to buildings, amenities and, in the case of the digital world, access to websites, apps and discounted offerings made available through websites. In order to grow the business and make more people aware of their responsibility to create accessibility for all, McCaffrey formulated a unique plan.
"I did webinars and also spoke at various conferences," he said. "Instead of pitching the people I met, I took a much different approach. I would offer to complete a free scan of their website and email them a two-page report of my findings. Once I sent the report, I would follow up with a phone call. I would walk them through the report and simply let them know I'm available to help. We still take this same approach today."
On several occasions, McCaffrey also served as an expert witness in federal court. When those reports were published, people would see him as an expert on accessibility and often times reach out. Over time, through a combination of digital marketing, word of mouth referrals and a focus on identifying and pursuing sources of referrals, McCaffrey grew the business from working primarily with government agencies to present day, where most of his business is with the private sector. Looking ahead, McCaffrey is intent on expanding his business and hiring more disabled testers and users to support the growing demand for his services.
McCaffrey offers up some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. "I rationalized starting my own business by looking at it as being less risky," he said. "When I worked for someone else, I had one employer and one paycheck. With my own business, I have more clients and more sources of income. When I looked at bigger picture, it seemed like the safer route. The hardest thing to grow is understanding the balance between marketing and operationally executing. There's also a balancing act you have to learn between hiring people and having enough jobs in place. Lastly, it's important to understand that cash truly is king. There are times where you don't get paid for 90 days. Until you start generating enough business to cover that gap, you'll need a plan to cover expenses until you get paid."