Inside Retail’s Top 50 People in E-Commerce is an annual ranking of the most impressive and inspiring leaders in Australia’s online retail industry. Our 2022 report features C-level executives with decades of leadership experience, alongside start-up founders and digital specialists with a wide range of skills, from marketing to logistics. You can download it here. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing in-depth profiles of this year’s Top 10, including this year’
17;s #3, Booktopia CEO Tony Nash. An early adopter of e-commerce, Nash is the only person who has ranked in every Top 50 report, since Inside Retail first started publishing them seven years ago. Here, he reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, which has taken him from bankruptcy to the ASX, and shares his advice for budding business leaders. Imagine this. You’ve started an e-commerce business on a budget of $10 a day. You’ve grown it into the leading online retailer in your category and built one of the most advanced fulfilment centres in the country. Then, after nearly 20 years, you’ve raised millions of dollars through an initial public offering to list it on the ASX. You’d think you’d feel a strong sense of accomplishment. But not so for Booktopia co-founder and CEO Tony Nash. “It literally is like being in the Tour de France, where you’re on the 10th stage, and there’s a banner saying you’ve got 40 kilometres to go, and the finish line is up a big mountain. And when you get there, you’ve still got 11 more stages until you get to the Champs-Élysées,” Tony tells Inside Retail. “The IPO is like the banner saying you’ve got 40 kilometres to go. It gets in your rearview mirror really quickly.” That’s not to say that he didn’t enjoy the moment. But over the course of his career, Tony has learned not to dwell too much on either the highs or the lows. “I think about the distance traveled over time, which gives me a lot of resilience,” he says. He credits this mindset in part to his age. He turned 60 this year, a number that comes with plenty of life experience. “I’ve been bankrupt, so I know what it’s like to lose everything. I know what it’s like to have more month left at the end of the money…Therefore, there’s a sense of gratitude,” he explains. He also stresses the fact that Booktopia’s success is not his to claim, but rather belongs to the wider team. “It’s Booktopia that is listed on the ASX, that won the Telstra Business Awards, that is the only company to make the AFR Fast 100 eight times, that has had 5 million Australians buy from it. It’s not me,” he says. “The more people think that they are their business, the more their egos are in charge, and therefore, anything that may happen in business, may be taken personally. One of the most important messages I have for budding entrepreneurs is to realise that it’s not you, it’s your business.” It’s a timely piece of advice, given all that has been thrown at online retailers in the last few years. Booktopia was one of the lucky businesses that has actually thrived during the pandemic, as people have rushed to buy books to entertain and educate themselves during lockdown. The company generated $223.9 million in revenue in FY21, thanks in large part to a multimillion-dollar investment in warehouse automation, which allowed it to process twice as many orders a day. Tony is confident the investment will continue to pay off in the years ahead. “During the IPO, the fund managers talked about the pandemic like it was a tsunami that had come in, and eventually the old shoreline would return, and they were asking what the online demand would be like after the pandemic. But it’s not a tsunami, it’s a Japanese bullet train,” he says. And it’s moving full-steam ahead.