The Entrepreneur: Will Rees, Direct Online Services

27 years-old with a £15m company, e-commerce entrepreneur Rees describes the “pains of constant growth” and laughing at the “good problems”...

Co-founder: Will Rees
Company: Direct Online Services LTD
Website: www.worktop-express.co.uk plus 13 others.
Description in one line: E-commerce specialists, including the UK’s leading online solid wood worktop supplier Worktop Express.
Previous companies: N/A
Turnover: £15m – 2014
12 month target: £20m

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • We’re an e-commerce retailer in the kitchen furniture industry, specialising in the direct supply of solid wood products.
  • We operate under 11 brands in the UK, and 3 in Europe.
  • Our core brand is the UK’s leading online solid wood worktop specialist, Worktop Express.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Growing organically from 0 to £15m turnover in five years.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

We share daily sales figures every morning with all key personnel, alongside metrics such as week to date, month to date, quarter to date and year to date -to make sure that we’re on the pulse.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We have a sister company in the Czech Republic that supplies to the local market, but also to Germany through the opening of our brand worktop-express.de in July 2014.

Describe your growth funding path:

We have re-invested profits to fund our growth to date, and retain full ownership of the business.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Team Zeus, a modern web application that has really helped to streamline our company communication.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

£50m turnover with the European business at £10m turnover, but with a keen eye on profit at all times too.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Constantly having to decide when an area needs extra support, or just better management – the pains of constant growth.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Focusing too much on the smaller details at the start. Soon you find yourself in a world where only the bigger picture matters, and that’s what you have to focus on; the ‘big rocks’.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Business rates!

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Not keeping an eye on profit. I’m not in this for fun.

How will your market look in three years?

There will inevitably be more competition, our challenge is to stay one step ahead and preserve our reputation.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Retain your focus and embrace that ‘busy’ is the new normal. Laugh at the ‘good problems’ and ignore the bad until you are in a position to deal with them.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Having control of my future.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Learn it on the job, every time. The business world moves too fast these days.

What would make you a better leader?

More patience, and time.

Business book:

Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott.

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