Small business growth: Inside the scale-up of an ecommerce leader
At a glance
- Aden saw a gap in the market and jumped on it – drop-shipping tyres, at low prices.
- 15 years on, he’s built a leading ecommerce company.
- He learnt a few lessons along the way – one is that he’s the ‘visionary’ of the company, and he needs others to implement his plans.
Aden Omnet started out as a mobile mechanic, and his burgeoning interest in drifting revealed an opportunity – selling tyres without the high markups of many existing retailers, and without a shopfront or showroom. 15 years on, he’s now built Adens Tyres and Automotive into one of New Zealand’s leading ecommerce companies.
“When I started getting into drifting about 15 years ago, I got a list from my dad of monthly specials offered by a tyre wholesaler,” says Adens Tyres and Automotive Founder Aden Omnet.
“I started selling these new tyres online. They were selling like hotcakes – I couldn’t believe it. Customers couldn’t even believe that I was able to do this, and my suppliers were confused about how I was selling so many tyres so quickly.”
Still, the passionate tyre enthusiast was new to retail.
“I was so naive. I used the same monthly specials list for about five months – I wondered why I started to lose money on sales, and it was because I was using these special prices from five months ago.”
It was a speedbump, certainly, but Aden corrected and sped off again, building Adens Tyres and Automotive himself; disrupting the sector with just a phone, an email address, a bank account and a TradeMe account.
One of the big lessons that’s shaped his business is evident in that early speedbump.
“I’m not a details person,” says Aden. “I’m a visionary, there’s no doubt about it.”
Learning from mistakes
A decade later, a similar error made by a team-member revealed that a focus on details may be needed to support Adens Tyres and Automotive through the scale-up stage.
“Just two years ago, we were trying out some new systems to keep our ecommerce platform tidy and automated, and one of my staff was deleting unsold products that were clogging up the website,” Aden recalls.
“With a click of a button, he deleted 3,000 of our top sellers instead.”
It would potentially take hundreds of hours of work to get those best-selling products back online so they could be sold, and then potentially months of getting the search engine to connect again with those products.
In that instant, Aden’s mindset shifted and was able to just take the situation on as another challenge, another speed bump – and two important lessons.
See more of the Adens Tyres and Automotive story.
The lessons learnt
Aden took two lessons from these situations – one around data management, and one around people management.
“Data is one of the most important things we have in this business so that was a real wake up call,” Aden says. “The importance of data, backups, systems and double checking can’t be overestimated.
“But the lesson around people is most memorable; it’s that mistakes are going to be made. To put any of the data management processes in place, I also had to manage people.”
This meant honing his own management skills and bringing additional management capabilities into the business, and it meant setting an example as a leader.
“I’m a lot more mature and less naive, and a lot more methodical myself than I was in the early days of Adens, and I needed to portray that to my team,” says Aden. “If I am disorganised my team takes on those disorganised traits. Because if it’s okay for me it’s okay for them.
Growth was simply not possible without change.
“We were scaling past the point where that was okay – we needed to put accountabilities, fail-safes and processes in place.”
“The biggest change to the business is management,” Aden says.
He focused on motivating his team members not with the stress he might be under to deliver based on the risks he’d taken, but by understanding them better.
“Whether they’re here because they want the enjoyment of helping a customer, or a month off at Christmas with the phone off, I needed to manage the business so everybody would get what they needed out of it – the customers, staff and myself.”
The other part of the equation was changing the structure of the business to support both Aden’s plan and its execution.
“About nine months ago, a Prospa Small Business Loan afforded me the freedom to think bigger about my position as CEO by stepping back from doing all the work,” Aden says, explaining that the loan funded technology upgrades as well as a position called an ‘implementer’. This allowed Aden the freedom to make the plans, while ensuring the team was being effectively managed and pulling together to execute them.
“We could reassess and put systems in place. It’s harder to take that step back and look at the business objectively without funding or freedom,” says Aden. “There’s also a level of commitment that came with using a loan to fund this change – I’ve got the freedom to pursue the change, but not forever. We have to make this work and there’s a level of return that we have to achieve.”
The changes Aden and his team are making are ongoing – but are already having an impact.
“The more I’ve sorted out and grown personally, the more the business has benefited in every way,” says Aden. “There’s probably been more changes to me than to the business – it’s been such a big personal journey for me.”
Need some help achieving your business dreams? Find out how a Prospa Small Business Loan could help you.
Tawa florist Kerri Murphy shares her small business growth journey – and how a small business loan helped Twisted Willow meet its potential.View more
Investing in equipment and materials helped label printing business LabelMAN keep pace with changing market needs, even through the uncertainties of COVID-19.View more
Quick access to finance is helping small business owner John Lennox grow his furniture repair empire and weather the ups and downs of COVID-19.View more
Subscribe to the Prospa Blog
Be inspired! Sign up to Prospa’s newsletter to receive tips, tools and small business success stories straight to your inbox.