Michael Paul Pack & Send


established 1993; 240 employees;

$35 million-plus turnoverg


A successful entrepreneurQ

needs many qualities:|


passion, patience, determination, a willingness to make sacrifices and belief in your idea.

Michael Paul has all of them in spades.

Had he listened to conventional wisdom when hawking his idea in the early 1990s, Paul would have thrown in the towel. Fifteen years on he's boss of Pack & Send, a multi-million-dollar, award-winning, Australian-based empire that is taking on the world. His idea was simple: to take awkwardly shaped, valuable or delicate items that are a nuisance to mail, pack them professionally, take care of all the paperwork, and ship them anywhere in the world.

The business was already thriving when eBay came along, but its advent has been a godsend for a postage company specialising in bulky, fragile and irregular items. Paul said shipments of goods purchased on eBay account for about a third of Pack & Send's business.

But it was several years before he was in a position to capitalise on the online auction-room's emergence.

Paul has spent most of his working life among parcels. His career began in a post room at the pharmaceuticals company Richardson-Merrell (now Marion Merrell Dow), where he learned all the ins and outs of postage and packing—and a little about logistics. After rising to a management and logistics role he took his expertise to a series of other firms, continuing to learn as he went.

Paul was working as a freelance logistics consultant in the early 1990s when he had his eureka moment. The problem: how to send a desktop computer from Sydney to Melbourne.

It doesn't sound like rocket science, but at the time Paul thought it was close. 'I couldn't find appropriate packing materials, or a carrier that would pick it up,' he says.

'I had to do all the paperwork and find a way of getting it packaged properly. It turned out to be a two-day exercise. It was crazy. Why wasn't there a place I could go and just drop it off and let them do all the work? It seemed such a blatant gap in the market.'

To discover what might plug the hole, Paul travelled to the US. 'They did have companies that packed and posted items for you, but not as well as I planned on doing it, so I was absolutely determined to come back to Australia and make a go of it.' He set about looking for freight partners— and immediately hit resistance. 'There was a lot of scepticism. One senior executive took me aside and said: "Michael, Australians will not pay for a convenient packing service." He said he'd been in the industry for thirty years and that there were "limits to what you can do in this market". Well, I didn't agree with that at all. In fact, I thought the opposite. There are no limits to what can be done. That made me more determined than ever.'

Paul was so determined that he sold his house, moved in with his in-laws, and borrowed from family to scrape together enough money to open his first Pack & Send store in Parramatta, in Sydney's west, in 1993. On his first day of business, he made one sale—of a cardboard box, priced at $2.90. 'I've still got the receipt from that day to remind me how far we've come, and never to lose faith,' Paul says.

It wasn't exactly a flying start. He and his wife Susan 'wore out many pairs of shoes' pounding pavements, knocking on company doors explaining their service and putting flyers in letterboxes. It was hard work, but the idea took off. Within a year, the store was turning over $200,000 and expansion beckoned.

'The store was doing really well, but I always had a vision to take this right across the country,' Paul says. 'It was never going to stop at one outlet. We knew we had a fantastic business model with high gross-profit margins. The challenge was to replicate it on a national scale.' That's when they thought about franchising.

'This type of business is all about personal service and going that extra mile. That's our real selling point. It's difficult to get employees to go that extra mile for customers. That's why franchising—effectively giving them their own business—really works. Then they have the incentive to do it.'

His first franchisee approached him in 1994. He was the regional sales manager for Startrak, at Crows Nest in Sydney. The outlet is still there today. There followed a decade of heavy investment in infrastructure, computers and technology, including legal work on contracts and franchisee agreements, a national marketing campaign, and a buying department to source and negotiate prices for supplies for the franchises. The program required a huge amount of funding, which Paul had to borrow.

By 1999, Pack & Send had twenty franchised stores. In that same year, two pivotal events took place. First, Paul was approached by businessman Barry Smorgon, who shared Paul's enthusiasm. He invested enough in the company to cover many of its infrastructure needs. Then eBay launched in Australia, and that changed the face of the business. 'Suddenly, we noticed a big change in consumer behaviour,' Paul says. 'People everywhere had awkwardly shaped objects they needed to send around the world. And there we were, perfectly placed with a national network and well-thought- out infrastructure. It was a godsend.'

Today, a quarter of Pack & Send's franchisees own multiple outlets, and some have made millions in their own right. 'It's wonderful to see,' Paul says. 'One couple worked very hard and borrowed to buy their first outlet. Now they have three, and they own the premises as well.'

And there will be more to come. Paul has set a goal of opening 1000 stores around the world. He has started a master franchising operation in Britain, where his first store is booming. New Zealand has also seen its first successful Pack & Send opening, and Canada, Singapore, India, South Africa and mainland Europe are also targets.

During 2008/09, Pack & Send grew by 40 per cent.

If the financial crisis is to blame, then financial crises should happen more often. 'We have gone on marketing during the recession, and people are shopping harder for bargains online,' Paul says. 'In March of 2009 our website got a record number of hits and also of price requests. We opened eleven new stores in the twelve months to July 2009, and start-up sales for those stores have been the best in the company's history. We're doing very well, thanks!

'If we're this busy during a recession, what will it be like when the economy bounces back?' Paul says he's already thinking about how to make the most of the recovery. 'We have invested heavily in our technology and systems. We are now an even more efficient business and well placed to take advantage of growth opportunities as they arise. We're opening quite a few stores to take advantage of cheaper leasing arrangements at the moment. There's no doubt about it—economic

downturns throw up opportunities, and you mustn't be afraid to grasp them.'

As for his first million dollars, that's well behind him. 'It was 2003 before we became debt-free, because we invested so much in the business and that required significant

borrowing,' Paul says. С To be honest, We're too 'It was a great feel- busy to think about the ing the first time we money very often. What turned over $15 mill- makes me much haPPier ion, which was about is the success of the 2005. But to be hon- business.> est, we're too busy to

think about the money very often. What makes me much happier is the success of the business. In 2007 we won PricewaterhouseCoopers' Franchisor of the Year award, which was a fantastic achievement and made everybody proud. That's the kind of thing that really matters.'

So with all that success under his belt, how does Paul reward himself? Fast cars? Champagne every night? A boat, perhaps? 'I love bird watching,' Paul says, 'so I bought myself a pair of $3000 binoculars. That'll do me. I was happy when we had nothing and I'm happy now. I don't see how having more money in the bank is going to make me happier.'

Nick Gardner

golden rules

Have an exciting, big, imaginative vision focused on the customer.

Avoid negative people. Always stay positive.

Work hard and put the hours in—only good can come of it.

View your business the way a seasoned longdistance runner views a marathon—focus on endurance rather than speed, and pace yourself to finish strongly.

Keep learning. Believe in self-improvement—it is a journey that never stops.

Surround yourself with great people who are passionate about the vision.

There really are no limits! 1.

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Источник: Nick Gardner. How. I made-.my first million. 26 self-made millionaires reveal the secrets to their success. 2010

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