Bigcommerce co-founder and co-CEO Eddie Machalaani talks to Jodie McLeod about growing your business and how to achieve online retail success.
Eddie Machalaani began his business like any other start-up: with a passion and an idea. After working in web design, he and business partner Mitchell Harper spotted a gap in the online retail market in 2003 for an easy-to-use, affordable ecommerce platform. Together, armed with a love of computer software and a passion for “creating something better than what was out there”, they created Bigcommerce – an online retail shopping-cart facility.
Since then the company has grown from big to huge. It now hosts over 30,000 online stores, and has seen $1.2 billion in sales pass through its checkouts to date, a large chunk of which is from Australia.
In seeing thousands of people establish their businesses online using Bigcommerce (among which are plenty of success stories) and in his own experience, Eddie knows what characterises – and how to grow – a really successful online business. Interestingly, he says, these two things usually go hand in hand.
Here are the highlights from the interview.
JODIE MCLEOD: What characterises a really successful online business?
EDDIE MACHALAANI: With any good business, the business owners really pay attention to wanting to grow and be successful.
JM: Around half of solo and micro business owners are interested in growing their business, according to Flying Solo’s recent survey. To those looking to expand – what are your key tips for business growth?
EM: Obviously marketing is key. You want to be continuously marketing.
The biggest piece of advice I can give people is the idea of modelling – going outside your business and looking at what other successful businesses are doing.
In any industry in the world there’s always a success story or two – or a thousand – of other businesses that do what you do successfully. And you learn from really researching and studying those businesses – those both in your industry and outside your industry.
It’s not something you can do overnight but over time, if you continue to learn from other businesses – that’s one of the key drivers of growth.
Another key factor in growing a business is the people you hire. You have to get the best people. The people in your company will make the difference between success and failure.
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JM: You’re a fan of always having a business coach. Why is this important for success in a business, do you think?
EM: Having a business coach is probably my number-one tip for any business owner.
Over the years [Mitchell and I have] both shared different business coaches. At the moment I have two – an executive coach and a personal coach – who I work with continuously to constantly improve.
I’m a big believer in the idea that you have to always be learning in business, and a coach helps you to do that. It’s just like an athlete – no athlete would be really successful without a coach of some sort.
JM: What are your tips for online business success?
EM: Be savvy with internet marketing, or work with someone who’s savvy in internet marketing. Pay really close attention to the look and feel of your business website.
Understand that with any business – it’s not just about launching it – it’s about continuing to evolve.
Build a good mailing list – you want anyone who makes contact with you to be put on a mailing list, obviously with their permission. This way, you build up a database over time.
Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Leverage your social media community to get instant feedback and to consistently iterate when there are changes to the products that you sell, to the way that you sell, to your web design, or to the look and feel of your website based on the feedback that you get.
And more than anything, really listen to your customers.
JM: What’s the best thing about running your own business and being your own boss?
EM: You get to do what you love. You get to do what you enjoy every single day. You get to meet and work with phenomenally talented and great people. You’re creating something from nothing. You’re building a brand, you’re building a product that affects thousands and thousands of people around the world and it’s fun doing that. You just enjoy it.