The CEO Magazine: Tell us about AussieCommerce.

Adam Schwab: AussieCommerce Group is one of the largest e-commerce groups in Australia, with 14 retail brands under its umbrella. The company was founded in 2010, and today has almost 400 employees globally and turned over more than $210 million in FY15.

Most of the company’s retail sites are flash-sales based, which means the products or services are only available for a limited time, usually at a significant discount of recommended retail price.

From luxury holidays, designer clothes, sportswear, and homewares to gourmet food, AussieCommerce Group’s different websites help Australian consumers find the best products at the best price, making premium experiences and products accessible.

Can you elaborate on your role at AussieCommerce?

As co-founder and managing director of AussieCommerce Group I have a top down and detailed role in the business. We have 14 websites within the group but four significant business units: Travel, local experiences, products, and gourmet food and wine. As part of my role, I manage the travel business and work closely with division heads from our product teams. I work closely with finance, marketing, legal, corporate finance, content, customer support, and sales. We have added a lot of management strength in recent years so it allows us to let our super talented and hard-working team operate without interference from me!

What does it take to be successful in your role?

Tenacity, risk taking, and a bit of paranoia.

Also, a great team—together, we have created one of the fastest growing businesses in Australia from both a revenue and a profitability perspective and a super-engaged team.

What is your advice to others wanting to take the same journey?

There are two key lessons I think an entrepreneur needs to follow. First, don’t force an idea. If something is right then you’ll know it, but don’t waste time trying to run with an idea or concept for the sake of it, rather than to fulfil a genuine need.   Second, when you do find the right idea, throw everything into it. Don’t work a full-time job and try to start a business on the side—you need to really risk failure in order to succeed.

What has been a key challenge and how have you overcome this?

Starting almost any business involves a ‘chicken and egg’ process—we needed to get a critical mass of both customers and merchants for our business to be able to grow. Trying to convince merchant partners to advertise with us when our website didn’t actually exist was hard, but we managed to get there in the end.   Once we had the clients, acquiring customers in a cost-effective manner was a huge challenge, which has continued as competition increased. But we found our products—offers—and loyal members were the best form of marketing. One of the most difficult parts of operating an online business is convincing potential customers to trust you. This is even more difficult when you are selling expensive branded products or international travel.   We learned that the cost of keeping a member happy is far less than acquiring a new members. And excellent customer service is a far more effective marketing tool than a television commercial.

Who helped you get to this position?

We’ve been a team since the beginning—first it was just Jez, who is a school friend, and then we grew our team with family, my wife has worked with us since 2010, and lots of friends. We now have almost 400 team members and thousands of merchant partners who have been instrumental in our success.

What does it mean to be a finalist in the Executive of the Year awards?

It’s really more of a reflection of our entire team than anything to do with me. Often, being the CEO is the easiest job, especially when you can rely on an amazing management group and incredibly loyal and hard-working team.