Selling your wares online is an instant recipe for success, right? Not according to Pierre Boutros, who learnt that even the most straightforward business needs strategies in place to secure sales.
Boutros is the founder of online consumer technology retailer Millennius, which incorporates the technology of well-known manufacturers such as Intel, LG Electronics and Samsung.
Last year, Millennius expanded into the home appliances market, and is expanding its online presence to include the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Boutros knows a thing or two about what it takes to survive in a tough retail environment, having started the business as a 21-year-old from his parent’s garage, with just $100 in his bank account.
“I started on eBay selling MP3 players and stuff like that. Then I thought I could sell anything after that, so I started getting into TVs and brought in containers of 42 inches,” Boutros says.
“I started pre-selling them on eBay but I couldn’t sell them all. I wasn’t aware of eBay’s selling limits and my account was stopped.”
“That’s when I had to get some money from friends and family, and try and sell the rest within four weeks… I had to sell about 200 or 300 TVs in three or four weeks.”
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Boutros says while he managed to pull it off, he vowed never to put himself in such a precarious position ever again.
“Not having proper processes and systems in place [was a mistake]… That opened up my eyes after that situation,” he says.
“I didn’t have financial backing and I didn’t think, ‘What happens if I don’t sell the rest?’ I didn’t have strategies to get rid of stock – I just relied on eBay.”
“I might have kept going and not controlled the environment. It would have got a lot messier if I didn’t put [processes] in place.”
Boutros sprung into action, making a number of changes to the business, including the recruitment of his first employee.
“I got a salesperson on board for customer emails and stuff like that. It was after six months that I did that… [It allowed me to focus] on the website itself and eBay,” Boutros says.
“I made sure that I knew how much I had to sell, and made estimates from what I did on eBay. I also made sure I knew how much money I had to have upfront.”
“I also focused on my selling avenues – the website, eBay, friends and family, letter drops, etc.”
“Whilst I was focusing on all those issues, my salesperson was answering emails and pretty much putting all the orders through.”
Millennius now employs 18 people, eight based in Melbourne and 10 in China and Hong Kong, which has enabled the company to streamline its processes even more.
“Back in the day, we used to order in containers and do it from Melbourne,” Boutros says.
“With things like cameras and phones, we have a team [in Asia] that can do it on the spot and that goes straight to the consumer.”
Boutros says the company’s revenue this year will be “well into the millions”, but quickly points out that fortune favours the bold.
“If you’ve got an idea, just go ahead and do it but make sure you have the basic systems in place, and think of the worst-case scenario,” he says.
“If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, go for it.”