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Winning the online appliances race

Your Friday Entrepreneur Fix this week features the young entrepreneur who took on the appliances industry, and came out on top. Meet Appliances Online founder, John Winning Jnr.

John Winning Jnr established Appliances Online in 2005, before most consumers even knew they wanted to buy large appliances online.

The son of a consumer electronics retail industry veteran, the young entrepreneur knew the market well, saw an opportunity and grabbed it, despite the risks involved.

By anticipating this consumer desire and coupling it with excellent customer service, Winning’s turned his online start-up from a one man band into the country’s leading online appliances retailer, enjoying a 100 percent revenue jump each year since launch. He now employs 100 staff and has generated a 230,000-strong social media community – all in just six years.

Even more impressive is that he’s forced his large bricks and mortar competitors, who include some of the most established retailers in Australia, to play catch up, by selling appliances to over 170,000 customers around the country.

Winning tells Dynamic Business how he managed the difficult transition from entrepreneur to manager, and reveals what it takes to build a successful online business.

1. How sure were you that Australians were ready to buy large appliances on the internet when you established Appliances Online?

It was a calculated guess given the fact that consumers were definitely willing to purchase appliances via the phone after receiving a catalogue in the mail.

I figured if they could place an order with that little amount of information, then they should easily be comfortable ordering online with all of the info that we could provide on Appliances Online.

2. What was it that drove you to take a risk in setting up your own business? How important do you think it is for entrepreneurs to be willing to take these kinds of risks?

I believe it is far better to take a risk and fail than to not take a risk and wonder what could have been. How many people hear a great success story and say, I had that idea!

If you have a vision, make a plan, take a risk and be prepared to fail. If you take a risk and you do not succeed then the best thing you can do is declare failure, work out what went wrong, adjust your plan and try again.

3. As your business grew, how difficult was it for you to make the shift from entrepreneur to people manager? Any tips for managing this transition?

Managing people is the hardest part of any job, the bigger your staff numbers get the more people and families you are responsible for.

I guess being so young and growing the business from just myself to around 100 staff, I’ve had to learn as I go. What I’ve tried to do is follow my instincts and surround myself with good people. I always empower my staff and allow them to make mistakes as long as they and we as a business learn from them.

Your Friday Entrepreneur Fix this week features the young entrepreneur who took on the appliances industry, and came out on top. Meet Appliances Online founder, John Winning Jnr.

4. If you could put your online success down to three or four key aspects, what would they be?

  • Staying ahead of the game and constantly changing and improving;
  • Empowering our staff and allowing them full authority to make decisions for the business and the customer;
  • Always doing everything we can to impress every customer;
  • Creating a fun team environment where everyone is working together for a common goal.

5. Do you think entrepreneurs need to be able to admit they can’t do it all themselves when their business begins to grow rapidly? Have you ever had to admit this?

Absolutely, there is nothing greater than having a team of people working with you and seeing decisions being made by them that are exactly the same as you would make. Or better yet, a decision that was better than you would have made and something that you didn’t think of.

6. Can you give us a clue about what’s next for Appliances Online?

We have a bunch of great ideas in the pipeline, some of which will eventuate and others that may not. The one thing that I can safely say is that we will continue to improve our service offering and always take our business in the direction that is guided by our customers needs and wants.

To learn more about Winning and Appliances Online, check out his blog.

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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