The co-founder of Life Interiors shares the key lessons he has learned while trying to grow his business from a humble eBay store into the successful cross-channel business that it is today.
Many business owners just starting out have straightforward aspirations – to see significant growth, and to see it fast. The realities of that growth, however, aren’t always so simple. There can be times when it feels almost impossible; when your days are spent fighting fires and playing catch-up. And then there are days when everything’s going right, and you remember your passion for starting the business.
Much of what’s kept me striving for success is the passion for my business. When you surround yourself with great design, your heart and soul feel better for it. I’m lucky to be surrounded by this, and by an excellent team that helps drive the company’s success.
Life Interiors was created to enhance home and workplace spaces with well-designed, functional furniture at affordable prices. When my brother Geoff and I founded the company in 2006, we started from humble beginnings. We first hit the furniture market as an eBay store, sourcing and importing quality contemporary pieces from overseas.
Today, Life Interiors has showrooms in Sydney and Melbourne and includes national wholesale, online, and retail channels. It also provides products to some of Australia’s leading online retailers including Temple and Webster, Zanui, Catch Marketplace, and House of Home.
It’s been a tremendous growth journey – but it hasn’t been without its challenges. With the benefit of hindsight, I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned along the way.
Build Your Roadmap for Business Success
So many businesses achieve growth reactively. But without a plan in place, they struggle to manage their growth. We started with what we were most passionate about – getting beautifully designed, affordable furniture into homes and workplaces across Australia. We then built a long-term business vision around that passion. We developed a plan for where we wanted the business to get to and how to scale. The planning stage helped us maintain focus and prioritise what was needed to achieve our business goals. We also thought carefully about the tools that would help us get there.
Build Efficient Processes and Procedures
Being clear about business goals gives you a roadmap, but having efficient processes is the vehicle for achieving those goals. When you have the right processes, you can streamline individual activities and optimise the use of your resources.
For small and growing business, resource optimisation is critical to success. Operations can get chaotic quickly when you’re growing. Well-defined processes provide clarity on what needs to be done, by who, and when; they make it apparent which tasks are essential to your business goals.
Your business processes can even improve communication between stakeholders and departments and increase the efficiency of accomplishing important tasks. It’s something you should invest appropriate time and consideration into. The right business management software and solution provider can help here. You’ll have the opportunity to leverage leading processes gained from decades of experience as part of an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system implementation.
Invest in the Right Business Management Software Early
We recognised early on that continued growth would need to be supported by the right back-end system. We researched the market thoroughly. With 5,000 SKUs at the time and 100 local and international suppliers, we needed business software that was flexible and scalable enough to support our rapid growth. JCurve ERP, the small business edition of NetSuite’s cloud software, was the solution we needed.
Today, we run our entire business in the cloud. Many of our employees work remotely, making a cloud-based solution invaluable. The system allows everyone to log in securely from wherever they are, see real-time information relevant to their role, and stay productive. The ERP system we started with is still supporting our operations and has allowed us to scale to keep up with Life Interiors’ growth.
Real-Time Data is a Powerful Thing
A real-time view of business operations and performance is an essential ingredient to making agile decisions for your company. I have a dashboard view within JCurve ERP where I can see live inventory performance, slow-moving stock, sales KPIs, financial reporting, and the list goes on. For my employees, these real-time dashboards, reports, and KPIs can all be tailored and displayed based on the user’s role.
With a cloud-based ERP system, I always know what’s going on in the business. I can see what’s going on right from my phone or iPad. I can make a call on what needs to be done or adjust business strategies from wherever I am; that helps me stay in control of my business.
Be Across Multiple Channels
The way business is done has changed significantly in the last few decades. Consumers aren’t just walking into a store anymore; they’re using multiple channels to research products and make purchasing decisions. So, it’s important to be across multiple channels to reach your potential customers.
Find out where your customers are spending their time and making their purchases – is it in-store, eBay, your website or through another retailer? Get across those channels and connect where they’re spending their time.
The design That Defines Success
For Life Interiors, great design isn’t just about delivering inspiring furniture to homes and workplaces at affordable prices. Great design also applies to how well you’ve considered and developed your business roadmap. It incorporates the processes you’ve put in place and the software you’re using to support continued, scalable growth. It puts you in tune with your live business performance and allows you to operate across multiple channels and keep reaching new customers.
As a business that started as an eBay store and now operates across multiple channels with expansive showrooms, we’re proof that success isn’t by accident, it’s by design.
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