Ahmad was forced to sell his first company, mail order furniture and home accessories business Ocean, in 2002 when it buckled under the pressure of too much growth.
“We were great at marketing the business, great at creating its look-and-feel, and demand was definitely there,” he says, “but at the end of the day, what makes or breaks a business is how well it delivers on what it promises. If you don’t get all the boring stuff right – warehousing, customer service, finance, HR – nothing else works.”
Ahmad also notes that Ocean wasn’t geared towards making a profit: “We expected it to lose £50k so if it did that, great, we were on budget. We should have realised we couldn’t keep carrying on like that."
After selling Ocean, Ahmad took a year out to consider his future. He then started another furniture business – Dwell. The company turns over £35m, employs 250 people and has a strong focus on internal efficiencies. As Ahmad says: “If the operational side of your business isn’t doing well, there’s no point in getting new business.”
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