Reality check for Mr Harvey

I’m not one to throw stones at other people’s business leadership – but something has been churning in my belly all week since I read that Gerry Harvey has reduced his online forecasts.

As I began to write this post I received a good overview from Business Spectator on its thoughts about large retailers and the online space.

The thing that I find concerning about Mr Harvey’s approach to online is simply his inconsistency. I would be worried if I worked in his online team because at some point I might simply become a rounding error and find I no longer had a job.

Smart Company has already given Mr Harvey advice on how to improve his online performance. Namely: emphasise deals, reduce shipping time and redesign the site – all good ideas.

However, I see something else that is very much missing. It is leadership and vision.

Gerry Harvey was revolutionary 30 years ago when he invented the store within a store franchise-retailing model. One could argue he was a visionary and showed amazing leadership – and he has consistently executed the same model in many other retail brands. So why does he lack that commitment to online?

Perhaps Gerry expects online to be predictable. This is never the case. The greatest ideas are not necessarily the one’s that fly. The internet is a complete leveler… a tiny business can sit side-by-side with a massive retailer and get the same traffic. [Eleven years ago when we launched RedBalloon in the NineMSN shopping portal we sat side-by-side with David Jones]

Not unlike traditional retail, one needs an online reputation – and it takes years to cultivate a deep and consistent search engine presence.

Underlying all of this I would argue that it is about focus. Ruslan Kogan has been absolutely single-minded about his proposition – as have each of the deal sites. And they have listened very carefully to their customers ensuring that they have the right product, at the right place, at the right price.

Can I just have a reality check here…I understand that revenues for the Harvey Norman Group in 2011 were $7,76 billion – did he really believe that for this NEW online business he could realistically achieve an income of $388m in the first year?

Well, Gerry has had a reality check now – but for the rest of us out here in the online world we are growing our businesses steadfastly, with consistency, vision and leadership. Perhaps if he returned to the basics of how he built his first store he might get the results he wants…in time.

Naomi Simson is considered one of Australia’s ‘Best Bosses’. She is an employee engagement advocate and practices what she preaches in her own business. RedBalloon has been named as one of only six Hewitt Best Employers in Australia and New Zealand for 2009 and awarded an engagement scorecard of over 90% two years in a row – the average in Australian businesses is 55%. RedBalloon has also been nominated by BRW as being in the top 10 Best Places to Work in Australia behind the likes of Google. One of Australia’s outstanding female entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker inspiring people on employer branding, engagement and reward and recognition. Naomi writes a blog and is a published author – and has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded –


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