“We realized there was a problem in the market regarding the ability to easily buy low-volume prototype parts,” says Hollis. “We wanted to create a business that would address that need in the market.”
In late 1999, the three founded Quickparts.com, an Internet-based company that provides custom manufacturing services. Engineers can log on to Quickparts.com, upload their design data, receive a quote in seconds, order the custom parts and receive them in as little as two days.
The concept was a hit, and Quickparts’ revenue has grown to $14 million in just six years.
Smart Business talked with Ron Hollis, president and CEO of Quickparts.com, about the pros and cons of being an Internet-based business and how he is managing the company’s growth.
What challenges have you faced as head of an Internet-based company?
When we first started, we had to prove that this was a real company. The way we did that was we got people involved very quickly. If you were online, got a quote and placed an order for parts, almost immediately you would get a call from someone at Quickparts thanking you for your order and letting you know when your parts were going to ship.
That connected the technology to the human element of the business. That was a very important struggle that we had to overcome.
How has being an Internet-based business helped Quickparts grow?
One of the great things about leading an Internet-based company is a lot of things are measurable. In traditional business, it is very difficult to measure key business metrics - the number of contacts, the number of quotes, the number of customer visits, etc.
In an Internet business, where everything is data-driven, it is very easy to measure. If you can measure, then you can evaluate, analyze and improve the efficiency of different areas of your business.
Another huge benefit of an Internet business is that you are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, so you never actually have to close your operations. Even though we might not have human resources in the office, a customer can still go online, get a quote and buy his parts.
How have you managed Quickparts’ rapid growth?
The key aspect of managing growth is discipline. You and everyone in the organization have to have the discipline to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. It really just becomes fundamentals of execution.
If everyone is executing, then growth is irrelevant. You will always adapt to the growth. If you don’t have the discipline to do those things, then growth will kill a company.
Our culture is very conducive to having such discipline in it, and it has allowed us to continue to grow. To us, rapid growth is normal growth.
The other thing is we are very focused about what we do. We know what we are good at and what we aren’t good at. We try to stay focused on doing what we are good at.
It’s all about people. Business is nothing more than the sum of the actions of the individuals in the company. You have to have great people in the company doing these things.
We spend a lot of energy developing our team members so that they are ready to absorb the challenges that come with growth.
How do you create a culture that takes a disciplined approach to growth?
You set forth what the expectations are. We have a set of values and beliefs that are fundamental to what the company is about. When we hire, we have a very extensive top grading system, which is about making sure that the interviewee understands our values and beliefs and that they are aligned with them.
We preach these values and beliefs over and over and live them every day so that the team members know what the right actions are and how to treat the customer. No matter what we do, we are always here to service the customer.
How will you preserve quality customer service as you grow?
A lot of it is to continue to train our team members so that they understand what is expected of them. We do a lot of training. We have a couple of books that when you become a team member of Quickparts are required reading.
One of them is about customer loyalty. The element of it is you have to go above and beyond serving your customers in order to create a loyalty to the company. Everyone at Quickparts has read that book and has to pass a test on that book as part of their employment.
These are just the fundamental principles and values that we have that you have to understand who and what the customer is in order to serve them appropriately.
HOW TO REACH: Quickparts, www.quickparts.com