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A business that’s made to order

Tuesday, 6 November 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

start-up-idea-rob-dougMelbourne-based business OrdersInbox was built off an existing business, but is fast becoming a success in its own right, under the direction of Robert Reith and Douglas Reith.

 

OrdersInbox, which is a family-owned company, has developed a low-cost B2B software that is designed to help businesses manage orders received by email and fax more efficiently.

 

“We’re a relatively young company, but we’ve already managed to secure clients such as National Tiles,” says David Reith, who heads up business development.

 

David talks to StartupSmart about the benefits of running a family business, and why you should always listen to your customers.

 

What prompted you to launch OrdersInbox? What niche did you identify?

 

We have an existing business distributing a content management solution made in the UK.

 

We found that some of our clients were attempting to use the content management system to manage sales orders that arrived by email.

 

When we discovered that there wasn’t a specific product to meet this need, we built OrdersInbox.

 

Robert’s background is in information management consulting, and he is responsible for customer satisfaction and product direction.

 

Douglas has worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Melbourne and BSkyB and the Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK, and is responsible for technical delivery.

 

OrdersInbox is targeted at small to medium-sized businesses that receive orders by email and fax. For example, one of our clients, National Tiles, uses OrdersInbox to manage email orders that arrive from their biggest customers.

 

Their customers are better served, they are making less costly mistakes, and their staff tell us the product is easy to use.

 

For many of our customers, the last major change to their order management system was the adoption of email 20 years ago.

 

How did you fund the business and what were your start-up costs?

 

We raised $50,000 from family to fund full-time salaries to write the code, engage a designer and to fund a limited marketing campaign to secure our first sales.

 

How many staff do you have?

 

There are three. Robert and Douglas are the two principals, and I am working in business development.

 

How do you promote the business?

 

A mix of Google Adwords, intermediaries and utilising our existing network.

 

How do you stand out in the market? What’s your point/s of difference?

 

Simplicity and cost. Our target market doesn’t require the complexity offered by other systems so clients can customise the program and be using it in under an hour.

 

This means that clients can very quickly build a system to suit their needs.

 

What are your revenue projections for 2012/2013?

 

We don’t have any firm revenue projections at this stage.

 

What’s the biggest risk you face?

 

Probably funding risk at this stage. We are working hard to achieve critical mass so that the business is self-sustaining.

 

Given the size of the market for this type of solution, we don’t feel the competitive risk, although we are always seeking feedback from our customers to make improvements.

 

Our greatest challenge is in selling an IT solution to small to medium-sized business managers who are not typically sophisticated buyers of IT solutions.

 

In this sense, it is easier to sell a complex ERP solution for $100,000 than it is to sell an order management system for $250 per month.

 

It is therefore critical that we demonstrate that we understand how their process works so that we can clearly convey the benefits of going paperless.

 

It is a challenge to convince businesses to change systems that, whilst highly inefficient and time-consuming, are so entrenched.  However, once clients start using OrdersInbox, they very quickly see the benefits.

 

Is there anything you would have done differently?

 

Ask us again in 12 months’ time!

 

What’s it like being a family-owned company? What are the pros and cons?

 

It works well for us. The key is to be upfront about the risks.

 

Before we raised the money to write the code, we were very clear that they were investing in something that existed only as an idea. Since we raised the money, we have also communicated regularly via a newsletter to keep everyone updated.

 

Having a relatively broad shareholder base early on increases the sense of ownership, which has helped with business development.

 

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

 

Don’t give up. We tried a number of different solutions before hitting on one that really spoke to our customers.

 

Also, your customers are the best advisers you can have – treat their feedback like gold dust!