He started out like you and me, one man with an idea. He was a Ford Mustang enthusiast, and when it came time to shop for parts, there was only one thing Steve Voudouris could say about the shopping experience: it needs fixing.
So he fixed it.
Today, he runs a small business empire.
The road from “small” to “empire” is a remarkable story in itself. At age 17, instead of attending to his studies, he was attending to sales of his PC Tachometer, along with his brother and his best friend. It was a gimmick, a joke. But sales took off. That was Xoxide, his first company, now with close to 100 employees.
Two years later, he founded AmericanMuscle, to better serve Mustang enthusiasts. By 2009, he sold his share of Xoxide to focus on his passion: aftermarket automotive. In 2012, he added ExtremeTerrain to his empire of 300 employees.
So what’s he got that you don’t got?
First, he has unfettered determination. That was clear at 17, when not even the teacher’s lecture could distract him from his business venture.
You have to want it. No, I mean you have to really, really, really want it. Most people want things, then they switch on the TV. That’s not wanting. That’s just dreaming. Wanting is when you keep pushing for something and don’t stop trying.
Steve Voudouris doesn’t get sidetracked by everything that comes along. He pursues his goals with unfettered determination. That alone is not enough to guarantee success. But a lack of determination almost always guarantees failure.
Second, he finds ways to make things work. He is not afraid to keep an open mind and evaluate opportunities. The fact is that the market is constantly changing. Your business landscape is constantly changing. Are you paying good enough attention to switch gears, either to leverage a great opportunity or to abandon a fading one?
At the same time, he is constantly experimenting. If one way might yield better results, he’ll find it. One irritant that was holding up sales was that people didn’t like buying styling and body panel parts for their Mustangs. Painting and installing them is a time-consuming and costly affair. So Steve rolled out pre-painted parts, ready to install. He cut out the body shop and made it easy to change the look of the car.
And sales took off.
“Believe in your own abilities. That’s what drives success,” he says. “It’s usually not the first thing you try that gets you there. The important part is that you keep trying different angles until you find a way that works for you and your business.”
Third, he has built an ambitious company culture. Unlike some companies, he does not hire employees on the basis of how low a salary they’ll work for. He seeks the most ambitious, entrepreneurial employees. He seeks people who can be inspired, so that he can fill them with enthusiasm for the company’s mission.
These are the people who will find new ways to make things happen for the company, whatever their role might be. It was an executive assistant who lead the entire layout and design of the new state-of-the-art call center. The result is a brand new facility that makes coming to work fun and enjoyable for call center employees.
You might be amazing. Your idea might be amazing. Your business model might be pure genius. But what about your employees?
Fourth, he focuses on delivering unique value to the customer. After all, that’s why he founded AmericanMuscle in the first place. He offered free shipping right from the start. Not such a novel idea, you might think. But at the time, that move rocked the car enthusiast world.
Unlike most eCommerce type businesses, Steve did not just dump a vendor’s product line on the site. He had his team (who are all enthusiasts themselves) hand-pick only the parts they would want on their vehicles. No redundancy. No poor-performing parts that would lead to dissatisfied customers.
For some reason, the quality of images and video in the enthusiast niche just weren’t what Steve expected. So he changed it. He understood that customers want to see exactly what they’re getting and judge the quality before buying.
He raised the bar in the niche.
Fifth, he leverages technology. These days, that’s almost all anybody does. Steve kept his eyes on any tech advances in the auto parts industry. If it was happening, he wanted it to be happening at AmericanMuscle.
Steve also kept his eye very closely on technology advances in other niches. If it wasn’t yet happening in the car enthusiast niche, it would start at AmericanMuscle.
“My strategy from the start was always to be the early adopter who puts new, working ideas or technologies into motion” he says. “If parts could be delivered faster by opening a fully automated distribution center, AmericanMuscle is going to be getting into the automation business to pursue that idea and gain that competitive advantage.”
Steve has not done anything that you and I can’t do. It all starts with the drive – that unrelenting ambition to remain focused and determined. Add in good strategy, a good team, a laser-sharp commitment to the customer experience and a technological advantage. You, too, could preside over a small business empire.