Hi there, my name is Steve, founder of Small Business Consulting and Waiuku.digital New Zealand.
I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about my history and the story behind Small Business Consulting. It was 1997 when I had a vision to setup New Zealand’s first purely Strength and Conditioning website creating information and training resources for Strength and Conditioning Coaches in New Zealand.
What we found was there was a gap in the market, not only for information but for actual specialised Strength & Conditioning equipment for high performance Coaches and Elite Athletes…so we started to design and manufacture specialised equipment here in New Zealand.
In 1999 I was still working out of my bedroom at my grandma’s house, and my business partner was working and manufacturing in steel from his home garage. The funny part of the story was, we had customers at that time that ranged from the New Zealand All Blacks to the Australian Wallabies, NZ Military, NRL sides, Irish Rugby… basically we were all across the globe and we were still working out of a small bedroom on dial up internet and my friend’s garage!
So the key is, the power of the internet and your web presence. We had a professional website and the internet is based on perception. We were perceived to be a big organisation so big organisations had no problem purchasing from us.
Here comes the learning curve…
By 2003 we ran out of space, so we moved to a new office and factory in Auckland.
Like any small business we were growing too fast, with so many hurdles to overcome. The biggest being cash flow, we didn’t have the money or the budget to spend on getting everything we wanted, so the only way we could get things done at the time was to do it ourselves…and we had to learn the hard way by making loads of mistakes. On a side note, even when we did have the money you can’t beat doing it yourself…because we were given so many excuses as to why things weren’t done how we wanted them, and why things couldn’t be done how we wanted, nor on time! We even had Guaranteed Ecommerce Conversion rates etc then only to be told the goal posts were to be moved, it was all very disappointing and very frustrating.
The desire to get things right drove me to teach myself absolutely everything I needed to know about running an online store, as far as website setup and design go. Setting up business email, domain names, hosting, online marketing etc.
So, from then on, we never had to rely on anybody else to make an update to our websites, change a picture or update text, add a new product etc ever again. We had taken back control!
Websites are always evolving so the look and feel and how things work need to be regularly updated. You need to move with the times and never stay still or settled because you will get run over online.
To make a long story short by 2007 we were turning over a million dollars online a year and specialised gym equipment was our main focus. Basically the education part of the business became a free resource, and in return this helped us make sales.
Here come the Chinese
But at this stage we were competing with copycat overseas manufacturers. Not only were they making cheaper substandard versions of our designs but also they were trying to sell it back to us!
So, we did struggle with this at times but the key to success was back to the word evolving, we just kept moving with the times, kept listening to our customers needs and made changes to our products where need be. If a customer needed bespoke equipment we would make it, even though one-off production was costing us a fortune.
However, what we could offer that others could not, was the education that went with the equipment. This was a huge marketing point.
Online Marketing can be a huge black hole.
Ok, so this part of the story leads me into online marketing and the thousands and thousands of dollars we spent in learning the ropes of online marketing.
In the early days, we were doing Google Ads, then later came Facebook marketing and the importance of social media presence. After all the different marketing techniques and money spent on ads, email marketing was by far the best form of marketing we could ever do, and by far it was the cheapest with the greatest ROI. Problem was for the first 5 years of running my online business I did not focus on collecting email addresses as I should, and did not understand the importance of an email address…these days people say that an email address can be worth anywhere between $1 and $5 to you, every time you email out. So if you have an email list of 20,000 people the value in that list is huge . I can confirm the stats are true.
Radio advertising and major sporting TV event sponsorship. What a disaster!
There are 3 decisions over the years that still haunt me to this day. One was hiring a webdesign company and the other two were advertising on national Radio and TV.
If I told you that we spent $200,000 plus on this marketing for ZERO return, you wouldn’t believe me.
We learnt the hard-way, we were in a niche market and the general public who we were marketing to were not interested in what we were selling.
So, the lesson here was, know your market and where they are. Do not get sucked in-to the marketing hype and the promise of riches. I have to say I loved seeing my company on TV and hearing the name on the radio but at what cost?
Here are my cards!
In this story I have laid out all my cards on the table, we made loads of mistakes but in doing so I developed as a very successful business owner, we did make mistakes but we also had loads of success.
We never had one single steel product returned to be fixed, we made things to last. I built a website that was getting over 100,000 visits per week.
We made products that were shipped all over the world. We had a customer base of NZ All Blacks, NZ Warriors, High-Performance NZ, Auckland University, NZ and USA Military, Kings College, University of the South Pacific, Australian Wallabies, Australian Institute of Sport and many, many more over a 20-year period.
We were invited to High Performance conferences all around the world and I dined with sporting greats.
We started this business with less than $200 in the bank and now there is over 10 million dollars-worth of our handmade products being used globally. In the end, it was an incredible 20 years of my life that I will never forget.
I feel now it’s time to give back and help others achieve their dreams. (Hopefully taking a little easier route than me.)