I was impressed by this man, at the Iniciador conference held a few days ago in the Escuela de Organización Industrial.
Ricardo is the Managing Director of Aceros de Hispania, and is a very special type of person. He hails from Aragón and started his e-commerce business in 1998. What did he know about the Internet and e-commerce in those days? Well, not a lot! In fact he’d only just learnt how to switch a computer on! In 1998!!! It’s a bit like Christopher Columbus trying to discover America and not knowing anything about ships! I mean, what was e-commerce in 1998, in the world? in Spain? In a village in the province of Teruel?
Up to 2002 he only worked part-time on his business, but that year he decided to take the plunge and go for it 100%. He says that from that moment on his business has not stopped growing. He also says that this year he has ‘only’ grown by 20%. 20%! How many companies have grown by 20% in 2010?
The only thing he complains about is his lack of a technological background. I’m amazed that he’s achieved so much, despite this lack. He’s truly amazing! What was his e-commerce site going to sell? He didn’t even know himself! In the end he decided it was going to be knives and firearms because he already had contacts with some suppliers.
Now, in 2010, he knows a lot more, but he still talks about what he knows in a simple and personal manner. For example, talking about ‘online reputation’ he says “On the internet you can’t fool anyone because they see right through you!” He explained how his business worked in a straight-forward way, which shows that he learnt everything he knows at the school of hard knocks!
A few days ago I posted a saying that I had read on Twitter: “Darkness covers us all, but while the wise man bumps into the walls, the ignorant man stands still in the middle of the room“. I like that definition of wisdom, and in this sense Ricardo is tremendously wise.
There he is: with 15,000 hits/day, 10 employees, in a tiny village in the province of Teruel, growing at ‘only’ 20% this year, and aware that there is massive room for improvement for his business. As he says “I must be doing something right!”. What can you say to that!
He has a catalogue of 9,000 products, 20,000 clients and has a presence in 90 countries. Most of his hits come from search engines.
He is quite clear on how to handle orders, and the logistics, and he believes firmly in positioning on search engine results pages, the importance of content in this positioning and on getting incoming links.
He’s not tell us anything we don’t know already, but he says it from a perspective that shows that his way works. His words are backed up by the facts. Is there any better school of thought?
It’s interesting to note how he’s still competitive even though all the orders from his suppliers have to physically pass through his own installations to be repackaged. His logistics must be very complex, considering that he only makes orders once a week, that he’s located in a village in Teruel, and that in e-commerce quick delivery is key.
Here are some of his sayings:
“Your suppliers are not your bank; they’ll only give you good service if they make money working with you”
“Forms of payment? Any one, as long as it’s secure”
“Price of the goods? Transport costs are extra”
“Packaging is key”
“Online advertising? 35 Euros a year sponsoring the village fiestas.” He does guerilla marketing.
He says all this very casually, as if it were easy to get to where he is today. But I don’t think it was easy for him. I think that he has important qualities: he’s very tenatious, very optimistic and was able to overcome all the obstacles that he must have come accross. As he also says “If you want to hit the treetops, aim for the mountains”.
He says that he’s successfully passing on his experience to other businesses in other sectors. I imagine that apart from just transferring the technical knowhow, he also transmits confidence to those he advises, in plain language, and explaining that results don’t just appear for no reason, but because you’ve put everything in place for them to do so. Knowing that he’s succeeded also gives confidence to those who are following his advise.
He is very modest about his success, but there’s no denying the facts: he grew from nothing, has been in business for 10 years, has 20,000 clients, and has struggled to pay his 10 employees’ salaries; now he knows what can and cannot do, and has the humility to continue learning, and invest in resources in accordance with income.
Now who does he remind me of? Yes, he’s like the twin brother of Pedro Delgado, who I wrote about a few months ago.
Basically, if you get the chance to meet this man, make the most of it. He’s the personification of optimism, plain-speaking, charisma and entrepreneurship all rolled into one.
P.S.: The consideration shown to smokers at the EOI is unbeatable. See photo below. Spain is different!
This post in Spanish: Si quieres darle a un águila, apunta al sol. Ricardo Lop en Iniciador Madrid