He’s been described as having a “youthful appearance that belies an immense entrepreneurial drive,” but what’s behind our Director’s success, and what lessons can he share with us all?
In this real and uncut Q&A session with Storepro’s founder and Managing Director, Aaron Young, we find out about Storepro’s success, his vision for the company, and life outside of Storepro.
Q. Can you provide some financial information about Storepro’s growth?
A. In terms of growth, 18% revenue this year from last year, and the previous year 15% growth – so pretty significant every year.
Q. Tell me about your background. Have you always worked in storage? What did you learn/what skills did you take away from other jobs?
A. I’m University qualified in Politics and Marketing from Waikato, this led to marketing for Ferrari NZ at the time, which led to Sime Darby Automobiles.
I then went overseas to Europe for 2.5 years where I ended up doing some recruitment, so came back to NZ and set up an industrial recruitment unit for an American firm, Kelly Services. This followed with Capital Racking (Now Dexion NZ and our biggest competitor) as a rep, quickly moving to Sales Manager within 6 months.
I learnt a huge amount there – I reported directly to the owner and led the company to some huge growth. 7 years later in 2004 I set up Storepro.
Q. Did you have a light bulb moment – what spurred you to start your own company?
A. Customer satisfaction and bringing the industry out of the “blue collar”, flogging steel to actually providing the customer with a solution and idea as opposed to just a steel product. The company was built around the customer. I always wanted to do my own thing and always thought I would, I never realised how tough and rewarding it could be all at the same time.
Q. Starting a company can be challenging. What did you learn? Is there anything you would do over given a second chance?
A. Heaps, I’m still learning! Would change a few things but nothing major.
I turned down the opportunity of a $1m deal very early on (knew how to say no) as I thought no matter how strong my relationship is with this customer, if I let them down in any way that would be it. I said ‘love to but no thanks’. If I was younger, braver and possibly stupid I would have said yes! And you’re a hero, but one mistake and you’re a zero. 3 months into a new business I was not prepared to take that bigger risk.
Q. What is a highlight of the first few years?
A. Steady growth, the phone ringing (really was a buzz), customers telling me how good a job we were doing, a happy team, and confidence that I did know what I was doing! I can still remember the very first deal Storepro ever did, collecting the cheque; the first deal we did at over $50k; unloading containers and picking orders at 10pm.
Q. What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?
A. Wow a lot, but no sacrifice for hard work. Remember revenue is vanity and profit is sanity. And I would always say give it a go, but don’t go in half hearted. Throw everything at it and you will succeed. I sold my house to fund the first years of the business, I took a pay cut, I drove lesser cars etc so don’t be greedy. And don’t shy away from making a tough decision as they only get tougher as you grow and the buck stops with you so a decision is needed.
Q. You’ve grown significantly in the last few years. What has driven this? How has the growth changed your business (or kept it the same)?
A. Every year we’ve grown bar none. The market has been strong but we’ve also had the GFC. Today market activity is stronger than ever and we have a shortage of land, new buildings and demand in the industrial market is very close to supply.
Growth has affected the business like any other – with growth comes more process, policy, people and therefore difficulties. It’s much harder to run now, much harder to keep the team as one big family and harder to keep everyone on the same page all of the time but that’s the challenge.
With growth comes opportunity – we have done work in Australia and the islands – another one just completed in Fiji.
Q. How does Storepro stand out from other companies that provide warehouse storage solutions?
A. NZ owned and run, personal honest service level, our own employed installation team, audit and repair team, in house designers, experience – between 5 senior staff we have 100 years combined. Now with a team of 45 NZ wide plus contractors we are large enough to do any job but small enough to care.
We also have the largest stock holding in NZ.
Q. What is key to good customer service?
A. The customer coming back and telling his or her friends or associates. Quite simply deliver what you say you will. No one expects more than that, but if you deliver less then you are not providing good customer service.
Q. What sort of companies do you work with?
A. All with a warehouse or factory in simple terms, but of late a lot more in the food / grocery sector as well as freight and logistics companies. We’ve also done a lot within the automotive and construction sector. Basically we do the work behind the scenes, the back door, not the store front as such.
Q. What are some of the problems that Storepro solves for its clients?
A. Space, efficiency, money from perhaps not needing to move or by gaining efficiency and throughput in their warehouse or factory; safety by ensuring only compliant tested products are sold by Storepro
Q. What advantages come with implementing storage through Storepro?
A. Supporting a NZ company who employs NZers and puts back into the economy
Q. How is storage and warehousing changing? What role is technology playing?
A. Automation, machinery, IT systems are all playing a major role in warehousing and the supply chain in general. Big changes the last few years especially in NZ
Q. What kind of business do you aim to run? What is your vision?
A. A well respected business with integrity and seen as experts in their field, a winning team that works hard and plays hard.
Q. How would you describe your leadership/work style?
A. Door’s always open. Happy to help and get involved. As we’ve grown it’s got harder! I can relate at any level and think this helps a lot in this line of work. I’m still learning to not sweat the small stuff!
Q. Are there any company HR policies that stand out? Tell me about the team?
A. Without a team we have no business. They are vital along with customers that make up a business. I’d like to say we are a Storepro family and this comes and goes a bit but the core I still believe get this and want to be a part of it.
Q. Who do you admire and why? Do you have a mentor?
A. Earlier on my Dad for sure was my business hero but he took a very different path working for US owned businesses in Asia. I’ve met a few people on the way and a few have offered me advice and I have certainly taken it. Tim Bailey, Gary Periam, Tom Wilson to name a few – none are mentors but have all helped. I have a lot of contacts and friends who are very successful and I think you should surround yourself with likeminded and successful people to be successful.
Q. What gets you up in the morning? Gets you excited about the day ahead?
A. What gets me up in the morning? My kids!!!
Have fun, make money, but really more than that is actually solving issues as this brings more satisfaction especially now. A genuinely happy customer makes us genuinely happy. And why do I work – it’s for my kids’ future I guess. I work to live, not live to work; I’d be bored at home doing nothing, not engaging my brain!
Q. Do you have any hobbies?
A. Boating, sailing, travelling, used to do a lot of sports, now just watch them! Also on a few organisation executive boards in NZ and overseas.
Q. What would you be doing if you weren’t running Storepro?
A. It was nearly very different in 2004 – I’d likely be overseas at a high level with our competitors! It was that close but I followed and chased my dream. I’d love to be involved in the marine industry if I could but being so small and specialised worldwide it’s tough.