Decisions: Ning Li,

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

by Emma De Vita
Last Updated: 20 Jul 2015


... I was fortunate to be able to take a year off between working on my two online design and furniture companies ( and 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 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.


... 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.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Leadership lessons from Jürgen Klopp

The Liverpool manager exemplifies ‘the long win’, based not on results but on clarity of...

How to get a grip on stress

Once a zebra escapes the lion's jaws, it goes back to grazing peacefully. There's a...

A leadership thought: Treat your colleagues like customers

One minute briefing: Create a platform where others can see their success, says AVEVA CEO...

The ignominious death of Gordon Gekko

Profit at all costs is a defunct philosophy, and purpose a corporate superpower, argues this...

Gender bias is kept alive by those who think it is dead

Research: Greater representation of women does not automatically lead to equal treatment.

How to be a resilient leader

Louai Al Roumani was CFO of Syria's largest private retail bank when the conflict broke...