When we founded the AussieCommerce Group in 2010, we had one employee.
Fast forward four years, and today we are Australia’s largest locally owned e-commerce group with nine thriving businesses including Luxury Escapes, TheHome, brandsExclusive, TheActive, TheGourmet, pop, Deals.com.au, Cudo and Ouffer under our umbrella.
We have 200 employees across Australia and are expecting a company turnover of over $100 million this year.
So what are the secrets to running a successful business, and growing it fast? There isn’t a simple answer to that question, but I have listed the lessons learnt during my four years as the CEO of AussieCommerce.
1. Don’t listen to advice from people who have never taken a risk
Lots of people are happy to give advice. Many are well meaning, but unless someone has succeeded in their own business, take what they say with a grain of salt. If you want advice on how to run a successful business, ask a successful businessperson.
2. Get your hands dirty
As a CEO, it’s my role to know every facet of the business. If I can’t do a job, whether it is finance, legal, customer support, content or even sales, there’s not much point in me being around. The culture starts from the executive team, who in our business are all ‘doers’, rather than being managers.
3. Back your instincts
To succeed, you need to be able to predict a demand for a product or service. But back your instinct with listening to customers and seeing how they react to new products. Creating a new business requires either selling something people don’t realise they want yet, or improving a process for something they already have.
4. Test it first
If you have the option of testing something first, that’s always best. If it works, then throw everything into it. We have done more things that haven’t worked than have – we just know when to cut our losses and when to go all-in.
5. Treat staff well
There’s nothing worse than seeing someone in a senior position not respecting newer or more junior team members. It’s pretty easy for staff (especially talented staff) to move to another role. When that happens, the business loses lots of experience and ability. We do everything we can to make sure our great team members stay with us.
6. Be lethal about costs
Unless you’re Google or Facebook, it’s probably not a great idea to spend too much money on things that don’t bring a great return. That doesn’t mean being stringy with our team, or not investing in growing businesses – but it means not wasting money on things that don’t help the business. A senior manager authorises all our payments over $100, we like to think of ourselves as generous when we need to be, but accountable for every dollar.
7. Allocate capital efficiently
Every investment decision needs to be considered through the prism of return on equity (ROE). The most successful businesses are the ones who can maintain high returns on equity and are able to reinvest any profits back through the businesses, compounding those great returns. That means not spending money on investments that won’t provide a return and focusing on the ones that do.
8. Be humble
To succeed, you need to be able to predict a demand for a product or service. We are always making sure we don’t get the market wrong and become too arrogant. The real challenge is putting yourself in the shoes of your customer – you need to be humble and fearful.
9. Don’t use consultants
If you ever think it’s a good idea hiring expensive consultants, it’s time to hang up the boots. Executives who need hire consultants to tell them how to do their job are effectively conceding they shouldn’t be there in the first place.
About the Author
Adam Schwab is the CEO of AussieCommerce.