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“There’s going to be problems along the way and if you don’t have the cashflow it’s going to be tough, so give yourself enough contingency.”

Quatropi: Standing tall

Julian Scott, director of Quatropi, talks to Volo about how he founded the business, the biggest ecommerce lessons he’s learnt along the way, and moving back to the sunshine…

What inspired you to start your business?
I knew from a very young age I’d start my own business. But at the same time I didn’t have any illusions about how tough it would be so it was a while before I was ready. I started my career in the white goods and automotive sectors for 20 years, and it was around the time my wife and I were expecting our third baby that corporate life was really starting to get me down. I decided that the time was right to go it alone.

So I left my job, sold all my properties and moved to Majorca to start a number of businesses out there, but they failed because they were being sold as they were unviable or hampered by government rules. But in the process I had bought furniture for my properties out there and had to sell everything when I sold them. I sold all our furniture on eBay in the UK and was shocked at how well it did. I had good experience in foreign trade and logistics, so I started looking into the possibility of starting a furniture selling business within the UK that I could run from sunny Majorca.

I spent our savings on ordering stock and we set about getting ready to store and sell it. We ran the Quatropi out there for 18 months and made loads of mistakes along the way. We also made some bad sourcing decisions that meant we ran out of all the good stock and were left with the bad stock we couldn’t shift. The initial investment had all gone and we were close to the brink. But through all our mistakes we identified around 20% of our products that had proved unique, popular and profitable. I still had a belief that we could make it and decided to borrow a little more money from the bank of mum and dad, come back to the UK and give it one last push. We managed to turn things around and have grown steadily year on year since. Now in our 12th year, Quatropi has four warehouses, 16 staff, and process 25,000 furniture orders every year.
What advice would you give someone thinking of starting a similar business?
Start with enough money. There are going to be problems along the way and if you don’t have the cashflow it’s going to be tough, so give yourself enough contingency. It’s also crucial that you always start with the end in mind – ask yourself where you want to be in five years and create systems, procedures and processes that will be scalable to that level. We invested in a system like Volo right from the start and it was one of the best things we did. Another thing I’ve learnt is to take mistakes and problems positively – not being able to learn from them can be the downfall for many, but it doesn’t have to be.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt in business?
I’d say that focusing on product quality and service has been a big lesson for us – you can’t prioritise margins over quality and service. If you get your product and service right the profits will come later. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket – from suppliers, customers, marketplaces and even staff – you want to minimise the risk to your business by ensuring that no one external or internal part is so important that your company couldn’t survive without it.

What have been your biggest challenges?
Like most small businesses, Quatropi has had its fair share of problems but the ones that spring to mind are:

  • Poor quality goods from suppliers we can’t compromise on this.
  • Cashflow – we buy all our stock upfront so funding it is a real killer.
  • Warehousing space – we’re constantly growing and storing our items is a continual challenge. Five years ago we moved warehouse for the fourth time, and within 18 months we outgrew it. We now have four warehouses and 10 containers and that’s still not enough.

Tell us about how you’ve been marketing your business
Our marketing focus is pretty much all online. We have tested other advertising methods over the years but never had great success with them. Quatropi now uses email marketing and social media, but as a business we do lack marketing and creative skills.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It’s fair to say that I spent the first eight years in the business putting my heart, soul and altogether too much time into the business. In the last few years, I have managed to get things a little more balanced – I’ve stopped working weekends and I try to have six to eight weeks away each year to focus on my family and really reconnect with my kids.

What’s been Quatropi’s crowning moment?
There have been a few notable things. When we turned over our first million it was a big thing for us as it took seven years to get there – we cracked open the Champagne for that milestone! Also, when we turned 10 we took the whole company and their families away for the weekend to celebrate.

What do you want to accomplish with the business in the future?
My ambitions are to have a stable, efficient and unique business that I can be proud of and is a great place to work for my family, all my staff and me. We will continue to grow at a steady, controlled rate without too much debt or stress.

Go back

Quatropi: Standing tall

Julian Scott, director of Quatropi, talks to Volo about how he founded the business, the biggest ecommerce lessons he’s learnt along the way, and moving back to the sunshine…

What inspired you to start your business?
I knew from a very young age I’d start my own business. But at the same time I didn’t have any illusions about how tough it would be so it was a while before I was ready. I started my career in the white goods and automotive sectors for 20 years, and it was around the time my wife and I were expecting our third baby that corporate life was really starting to get me down. I decided that the time was right to go it alone.

So I left my job, sold all my properties and moved to the Spanish island of Majorca to start a number of businesses out there, but they failed because they were being sold as they were unviable or hampered by government rules. But in the process I had bought furniture for my properties out there and had to sell everything when I sold them. I sold all our furniture on eBay in the UK and was shocked at how well it did. I had good experience in foreign trade and logistics, so I started looking into the possibility of starting a furniture selling business within the UK that I could run from sunny Majorca.

I spent our savings on ordering stock and we set about getting ready to store and sell it. We ran the Quatropi out there for 18 months and made loads of mistakes along the way. We also made some bad sourcing decisions that meant we ran out of all the good stock and were left with the bad stock we couldn’t shift. The initial investment had all gone and we were close to the brink. But through all our mistakes we identified around 20% of our products that had proved unique, popular and profitable. I still had a belief that we could make it and decided to borrow a little more money from the bank of mum and dad, come back to the UK and give it one last push. We managed to turn things around and have grown steadily year on year since. Now in our 12th year, Quatropi has four warehouses, 16 staff, and process 25,000 furniture orders every year.

“There’s going to be problems along the way and if you don’t have the cashflow it’s going to be tough, so give yourself enough contingency.”

What advice would you give someone thinking of starting a similar business?
Start with enough money. There are going to be problems along the way and if you don’t have the cashflow it’s going to be tough, so give yourself enough contingency. It’s also crucial that you always start with the end in mind – ask yourself where you want to be in five years and create systems, procedures and processes that will be scalable to that level. We invested in a system like Volo right from the start and it was one of the best things we did. Another thing I’ve learnt is to take mistakes and problems positively – not being able to learn from them can be the downfall for many, but it doesn’t have to be.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt in business?
I’d say that focusing on product quality and service has been a big lesson for us – you can’t prioritize margins over quality and service. If you get your product and service right the profits will come later. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket – from suppliers, customers, marketplaces and even staff – you want to minimize the risk to your business by ensuring that no one external or internal part is so important that your company couldn’t survive without it.

What have been your biggest challenges?
Like most small businesses, Quatropi has had its fair share of problems but the ones that spring to mind are:

  • Poor quality goods from suppliers we can’t compromise on this.
  • Cashflow – we buy all our stock upfront so funding it is a real killer.
  • Warehousing space – we’re constantly growing and storing our items is a continual challenge. Five years ago we moved warehouse for the fourth time, and within 18 months we outgrew it. We now have four warehouses and 10 containers and that’s still not enough.

Tell us about how you’ve been marketing your business
Our marketing focus is pretty much all online. We have tested other advertising methods over the years but never had great success with them. Quatropi now uses email marketing and social media, but as a business we do lack marketing and creative skills.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It’s fair to say that I spent the first eight years in the business putting my heart, soul and altogether too much time into the business. In the last few years, I have managed to get things a little more balanced – I’ve stopped working weekends and I try to have six to eight weeks away each year to focus on my family and really reconnect with my kids.

What’s been Quatropi’s crowning moment?
There have been a few notable things. When we turned over our first million it was a big thing for us as it took seven years to get there – we cracked open the Champagne for that milestone! Also, when we turned 10 we took the whole company and their families away for the weekend to celebrate.

What do you want to accomplish with the business in the future?
My ambitions are to have a stable, efficient and unique business that I can be proud of and is a great place to work for my family, all my staff and me. We will continue to grow at a steady, controlled rate without too much debt or stress.