Tony Nash on Success: “Focus on Cash Flow, Make Lots of Mistakes”



Tony Nash is no ordinary businessman. After co-founding Booktopia in 2004, he has become a leader in his own right. We sat down with the All Star Bash Legend 2020 inductee and discussed his daily life, what inspires him at work, and why you have to make mistakes to be successful.



Booktopia was one of the first online bookstores in Australia. Co-founder and CEO Tony Nash started the business on a budget of $ 10 a day, where he and his team worked on the business day and night.

When launching Booktopia, some critics doubted the success of the business venture. “When I started Booktopia, people told me: ‘Why do you want to create an online bookstore? You are too late. There is Amazon, Borders, Dymocks, Angus & Robertson ‘Nash explains to Power Retail.

“Now people tell me, ‘It’s lucky you arrived early! Who is right? Nobody. It is irrelevant. If I had listened to the first group, I would have stopped. If I listen to people today, I might be sitting on my laurels. Neither comments nor beliefs serve me, Booktopia, our customers, or the book industry. “

At the time of launch, Booktopia used a company that managed its site and execution, and Nash acted as the “marketing arm” of the company. After three years, he and his team ventured out on their own.

How long did it take before Booktopia began to see a return on investment? “From the fourth month or so,” says Nash. “But we were lucky then.”

After about 13 years of running Booktopia, the company made its first profit. But for Nash and his team, profit was not the end goal. “Profit came in 2017. But for all the years leading up to that, we focused on growing revenue, not profit. When we focused on profit as well as revenue growth, the profit came, ”he adds.

“We could have been profitable all along, we just wouldn’t have grown that fast. Remember to focus on cash flow at the start. It is more important than income or profits. You need more cash at the end of the month, rather than more months at the end of the cash. “

For a business to remain an integral part of the modern and competitive landscape, it must inject new and fresh concepts into the world. Of course, staying relevant and ahead of the times is not an easy task for everyone. But for Tony Nash, creativity comes naturally. “I am a three-dimensional thinker,” he says. “I can paint, but I’m not an artist. I can sing but not in harmony. I can write, but I haven’t written a bestseller. Some things we have a natural talent for. If we harness this talent to the best of our ability, we harness our creative strengths. To say that it is not easy is the only obstacle to creativity, in my opinion.

“If you say it’s easy or if you say it’s easier than yesterday or last year or ten years ago, then you start to exercise your creative mind which is a perpetual journey towards creation. . Everyone is creative. To say that you are not creative is actually a creation, ”says Nash.

Tony Nash won the All Star Legends award at the 2020 All Star Bash

So what happens when one of these new ideas doesn’t turn out the way he had hoped? Nash is an optimist, complains quickly and searches for options. “When something doesn’t work the way I want it to, I get feelings of disappointment or what is valid for me at that time with as little resistance as possible. It is then easy to move on, ”he explains to Power Retail.

For example, Booktopia had planned to go public in 2016. When that didn’t materialize, Nash says it took three hours to “recover.”

“We spent a year on the project. Then I had the impression that a door closed and that ten have just opened, ”he adds.

He imagines these situations as if he were Roy Scheider in the iconic scene of JAWS. “Imagine a boat with a lead keel,” says Nash. “It’s not easy to capsize. If you capsize, to steal a sentence from the movie, JAWS – “We’re going to need a bigger boat” – with a heavier keel. The bowling is your experience, your intuition and your wisdom. “

Although Booktopia did not achieve IPO status in 2016, the company was quick to list on the ASX. In 2020, the company completed its IPO, with a market capitalization of $ 315.8 million.

As with all businesses, in the 18 years since Booktopia launched, there have been ups and downs for Nash and his team. He tells us that, like everyone else, companies need to make those mistakes, as long as there is education and correction along the way. He likes to think of it like an airplane on its way from A to B. “An airplane is on track three percent of the time and out of track 97 percent of the time, constantly correcting as it heads towards its path. destination, ”he told Power Retail. “The key is: make lots and lots of mistakes. Learn, correct. Learn, correct. This message has been said a million times, but it is universally true anyway at all times. So the more we learn, the more valuable we are to our clients and shareholders. “

There is no “average day” for Nash. “The average day is… very different from any other day,” he tells us. “Lots of meetings. Moving from internal to external, from macro to micro. I could go from a crisis meeting dealing with an operational meeting to a presentation to an institutional investor in two minutes. Nash often has to “reset” and resume his role as CEO “with no residue of feelings, thoughts or energy from the previous meeting,” he explains.

On a daily basis, the Booktopia team is always on the lookout for new opportunities. “There are still huge opportunities ahead,” he explains. “Booktopia is a miraculous achievement in Australia in an industry where people had written off bookstores, physical books and were extremely convinced that Amazon was going to wipe everyone out.”

When it comes to creativity and the development of new ideas, there is something that stuck in his mind, he tells us. In 2012, Nash attended an e-commerce conference. There he met someone who told him he was lucky to have launched Booktopia in 2004. “I looked at them and said, ‘Imagine what the folks at Event 2042 are going to do. tell you about their participation in the 2012 event! ‘, ”he says. “There are so many opportunities waiting for us to discover and discover. Think about it, BNPL hadn’t even started when I had this conversation.

One piece of advice Nash gives to business hopefuls is not to worry about the opinions of others. “Who cares what other people think? It’s what you believe, ”he says. “If it doesn’t work out the way you thought it would.” Impressive! You’re about to find the only thing that’s going to become ballistic. “

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