For seven years, entrepreneur Mike Boxall, founder of Express Cleaning Supplies, drummed up business the old-fashioned way, knocking on the doors of local businesses. Modest success meant that by 1998 the janitorial equipment supplier turned B2B cleaning provider had hit a growth crossroads.
'We were ready to become a national rather than local supplier,' says Boxall, 'meaning I'd need to hire regional reps or run it online from one location.' Boxall chose the latter and embarked on an 11-month journey to learn how to design a web site. 'It was a massive gamble, because we were fully stretched already and it was a year before the site was ready.' The award-winning site was launched in November 1998, and is beginning to bring real benefits. Visitors to the site have reached 5,000 a month and orders tend to be for high-value products (averaging pounds 200). Before the site was launched the firm achieved 20% annual growth, but this has since improved to 50% a year. Revenue in 1999 topped pounds 250,000 and the forecast for this year is nearly treble that amount.
To achieve this, Boxall is contracting out web improvements, such as the inclusion of video attachments that demonstrate cleaning products in action. To ensure that no potential customer is lost, Boxall has registered addresses such as chewinggum-removal.com, which will redirect you to his site.