By Emma De Vita Monday, 30 April 2012

Decisions: Ning Li, made.com

The co-founder and CEO of the online furniture store explains the best and worst decisions he's made.

MY BEST DECISION...

... I was fortunate to be able to take a year off between working on my two online design and furniture companies (myfab.com and made.com). I started Myfab in France when I was 24 and left three years ago to take a round-the-world backpacking trip. It was a personally enriching experience but I also used that year to think up a business idea. Having been an entrepreneur once, I knew it would be impossible for me to come back to work for someone else. Backpacking gave me the idea to come to the UK and start a company here. I didn't know London, so during my trip I stopped by and met Brent Hoberman, one of our investors, whom I'd known from Myfab. He convinced me to stay and gave me the support to launch Made.

Another best decision was to buy the domain name made.com. I got it from a South Korean company for a huge sum. It seemed very risky at the time but now I think that was the best decision for the business because it is such a powerful, short and memorable name, and that has been instrumental in building the brand.

MY WORST DECISION...

... Myfab was venture capital backed. We were all young and foolish and quite successful when we launched. One of the wrong decisions we made was to really go after growth, and we were maybe too aggressive in doing that. When we saw the first upward trends, our investors pushed us to grow very fast. We went from 30 people to 200 people in half a year and that was crazy. It was a bad decision and it had a significant impact both on cash resources and on culture. When you hire so many people so quickly you lose the soul of the company. We had to scale back and restructure, though fortunately I'd left by then. That was quite a painful exercise.

We may have been pushed by other people but the decision was still mine. I learnt that to achieve something great it isn't necessary to have a big team. You need a very efficient organisation that can execute what you want. You don't have to understaff your team and put them under too much pressure, but you have to be quite careful about having the right resource in place for your ambition.

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