In the spirit of the season we're giving thanks to the pioneers, fighters, doers and givers that inspire us and make up this year's group of Domaining's Most Fascinating People for 2012. Enjoy and have joyous holiday.
Our Most Fascinating People 2012: Andee Hill
For all the advanced technology, innovative concepts and new ideas that continue to drive the growth of the Internet economy, no one would be successfully conducting any type of business online if it weren’t for one old-fashioned, non-technical, innately human trait: trust.
The trust that it took to get consumers to buy Beanie Babies on eBay, books on Amazon or guitars from MusiciansFriend.com pales in comparison to the psychological and emotional challenges for someone entering a transaction to acquire or sell such a potentially valuable but largely intangible asset as a domain.
“There's a whole lot of anxiety around an $800,000 sale. But that’s very understandable” says Andee Hill, Director of Business Development at Escrow.com and one of our Most Fascinating People in Domaining for 2012. “It’s difficult to go into a transaction like that and have to hope you get paid or that you get the asset you’re trying to buy. We’re here to make sure everyone gets what they contracted for.”
==> ESCROW.COM: THE NAME THAT MEANS TRUST
Escrow.com, (subject of a popular Frager factor profile last July) of course, needs no introduction to anyone with any experience in the domaining industry. Escrow.com has been bringing trust to e-commerce since 1999, by functioning as a genuine, government licensed and regulated escrow company: a neutral third party that secures a buyer’s funds and releases them to the seller only when it knows that terms of a sale are complete. Having handled more than $1 billion in transactions, Escrow.com is the largest and most respected escrow company on the Internet. It’s recommended by and has partnerships with online marketing leaders such as eBay, AutoTrader.com and Cars.com. In domain sales — which now account for over half of the company’s business — Escrow.com partners with registrar GoDaddy, was the preferred and only method of payment for sales in the live domain auction at the most recent T.R.A.F.F.I.C. and is integrated into the transaction completion system at domaining pioneer Frank Schilling’s DomainNameSales.com.
But while Escrow.com and its President and Managing Director Brandon Abbey are well known throughout the industry, Andee Hill is one of those proverbial unsung heroes: a teammate working behind the scenes and often without credit to make their organization a success. Andee’s been with Escrow.com since the very beginning. Her story is a perfect example of someone starting at the ground floor, proving themselves, and working their way to the top.
==> A MILLION LIKES
If there was a “like” button on Andee Hill, all the major industry players would push it. She would have hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of friends. Truth is, if Escrow.com was the escrow service for your sale or purchase of a domain — or anything else online, for that matter — Andee was there helping that transaction along, whether you knew it or not.
Of course, a lot of people do know that it was Andee shepherding their transaction, holding their hands (if only virtually) and providing patient reassurance when a buyer or seller wasn’t sure everything was going to turn out right. Everyone we spoke with universally sang Andee’s praises.
• “I dealt with Andee on the phone when I was on vacation in Paris and a U.S. buyer was holding up releasing funds for some ridiculous reason. She was great,” says David J. Castello, geo-domaining success story and co-founder and CEO of Castello Brothers, Inc.
• Mike Berkens, the man behind the 100,000-name portfolio known as World Wide Media, told us “Andee Hill has been the go-to person at Escrow.com which we use for 98% of our transactions. Beyond being extremely good at her job she is really nice and seems to do it all with a smile on her face.”
• For power broker Andrew Rosener (himself, one of Domaining’s Most Fascinating People for 2011), “Andee has been essential to the growth of our business.”
• Ari Goldberger, attorney representing some of the largest portfolio holders on the planet tells us “I’ve worked with her and the team at Escrow.com for years successfully completing thousands of transactions. She’s always helpful, friendly, professional and extremely responsive.”
• Says Steven Sacks, right hand man to the man the press claims to own the Internet, " Andee does a remarkable job handling our high volume account and I can think of a couple 6-7 figure deals that could have really bottle necked without her help. Besides her appealing looks she is one fascinating individual."
• “I had the pleasure to work with Andee Hill negotiating with CNN on the Property.com deal,” says Rick Schwartz.
But it’s those customers much lower on the experience ladder than these industry leaders who most often need Andee’s help.
“Someone who hand-registered a domain 17 years ago and now they’re selling it, counting on it for their life savings, they’re sometimes scared to complete the transaction,” says Andee. “When the other side is a corporation with a team of lawyers and lengthy contracts . . . that customer needs educating on who we are and what we do. And they need reassuring. I need to assure them ‘you’re not going to be asked to give up their property until we’ve secured the buyer’s funds.’”
Adds Abbey, “We always want to be clear that the funds are secured and protected in escrow, then the property is transferred to the buyer and then we release the funds to the seller. “
Where does Andee get the patience to deal with customers who are dealing with a bad case of nerves? “I’m a wife and a mom,” she says. “I had a really great teacher: my mom. I have to give her a lot of credit.”
ALWAYS STRIVING FOR MORE
Baby Alex and Andee this summer...
She loves the self-portrait feature on the iphone.
“I was hired through a temp service to answer phones and do computer work. And I showed up the first day and they didn’t have a computer or a phone. And there wasn’t a lot of e-commerce going on, either,” she recalls now.
After interrupting her college education (which she subsequently completed) and taking maternity leave after the birth of her first daughter (now 12), Andee returned to Escrow.com as a full-time employee and major contributor to the company’s success. “Having had the opportunity to manage many thousands of successful people during my career I would place Andee right up at the top,” says Abbey. “I am so pleased to see her receive this recognition. Her passionate pursuit of excellence helps drive Escrow.com to become an even better company.”
Andee’s current title as Director of Business Development doesn’t fully convey her continued hands-on involvement with customers. “Yes, I wear a ton of hats at Escrow,” Andee says. “Most of us do. We’re a small company and most of our key employees have been here for many years so we know the product well. I am very involved with our developers and help drive new features and products.”
“I also continue to be involved with our customers,” she adds. “Our customers are so very important to the success of our company. We’re holding their money. It’s a big responsibility. Getting an immediate response can make or break a deal. That’s why our customers demand and deserve great service.”
|Andee Takes a flying lesson|
|Sitting around the campfire with Bryan and Alex…|
(funny, this was not the baby’s first camp trip)
Outside of work, Andee enjoys an active lifestyle with her husband and their two daughters, the younger of whom just turned two. Favorite activities include running, surfing with her husband, and beach camping, skiing, and bike riding as a family. She also admits to loving shoes, saying “I need to work harder to make more money to buy more shoes!”
Back at the office, customers are doing their part to make that work anything but boring. “I find it interesting because there are so many different types of transactions,” says Andee. “People just buy weird stuff. Years ago we did an elephant.”
No matter what asset customers want to buy or sell, Andee says it’s Escrow.com’s approach to business that keeps her coming back every day.
“I like working here because of the integrity of the company. There are other places I could go, but it’s really nice to work every day with people and a company with integrity, where we’re always doing the right thing.”
As she says, “it makes it a nice day when you can go to work with a smile on your face and feel good about what you’re doing.”
==> GREAT SERVICE WINS EVERY TIME
Today's customer is more educated, better prepared, and has more alternatives than at any other time. Andee’s approach and success reminds us that it is not enough to merely satisfy your customers. You must turn them into fans, who will not only remain loyal to your product or service, but who will spread the good word about your company. You need to exceed expectations, show customers you care, and provide exceptional customer service. You need every good word you can get in this turbulent market!
So you work with people who love what they do and show it, who keep their word and are always looking out for you. As a result, you are drawn like a magnet to want to do business with them. In this respect, Escrow.com is very fortunate to have the likes of Andee Hill personifying their brand on every call, every transaction, every day.
For caring about her customers, for patiently helping the uninitiated and seasoned pros alike navigate the sometimes choppy waters of domain sales, for assuring customers they’re dealing with people they can trust, and for her amazing daily displays of skill in customer service and satisfaction, Andee Hill of Escrow.com is one of our Most Fascinating People in Domaining for 2012.
Catch up on more of Domaining's Most fascinating People for 2011:
We know some of them already, and we're inspired by their stories of altruism, of creating fresh opportunities for those who are much less fortunate. It takes vision and commitment - and a rare perspective that sees the world with clarity far beyond personal financial success.
And revisit 2010 Awards:
Be inspired by the success of people who did the work to transform their dreams into reality. Every one of these Most Fascinating People 2010 knew that the true path to revenues and riches is to build a brand with an actual business model based on differentiation, relevance and value.
Barbara Dillman Neu
Mike Sullivan & Fusible
Lori Anne Wardi
Francois Carrillo / Ron Josephs