In the first of a series in which Small Business figures answer questions on their business success to date, Andrew and Marcus Markou, founders of BusinessforSale.com explain how they set up their online business
Brothers Andrew and Marcus Markou are the founders and owners of BusinessesForSale.com. Since its inception, the website has grown into a thriving business and it keeps heading on this trajectory now hosting almost 80,000 businesses for sale internationally.
The founders out much of the business’s success down to the combined skills that Marcus and Andrew have brought to it.
Andrew, with a background in web-development and knowledge of coding, has been able to evolve the business alongside the advancement of the internet and technology.
Marcus, on the other hand, has experience in publishing and as a writer. This experience was channelled into how-to-guides, editorial and online videos that would appear alongside the classifieds and give additional value to the service that was being offered.
This combination of skills as well as the ability to keep from ever becoming complacent has helped to drive the business to where it is today.
Finding the right idea
Andrew and Marcus’ father had a classifieds magazine that he started in the early 90s which advertised local businesses for sale. As an accountant, he created it out of a need he noticed in his client’s.
The internet then offered the opportunity to reach even more people than would have been possible through print.
Andrew says: “It was a natural evolutionary step to say simply, ‘Well, what is the offline proposition? It’s classified advertising. Let’s take that online but with the benefits of what you can do online.
“So, for us, to take that proposition and make it the biggest site in the world was a relatively straightforward exercise. We had the kernel of an idea that was offline, so we just needed to multiply the benefits with the benefits of online.”
The business progressed and transformed along the way as it adapted to the rapid changes of the internet.
Marcus gives credit to the technical expertise of his brother, Andrew: “I knew the potential could be huge, so it was a very good opportunity to get involved with the family business and make it a success, which is what we’ve done,” he says. “We were one of many companies that raised money in the first dot-com boom. I accredit that to Andrew being at the heart of technology.
“He is, I think, the real reason this business is a success. Without someone at the heart of technology driving the commercial proposition, which is what Andrew does, I don’t think we would have had the same amount of success.”
The importance of business values
To continue to grow the business, Marcus and Andrew always focused on providing their customers with good quality over anything else. The internet is a crowded space for businesses and so, in order to keep customers coming back, providing high-quality service was vital to them.
Marcus understood what it was that would really attract customers and that was creating valuable content such as guides and advice that would appear alongside the classifieds.
The central focus has, since the inception of the business, been providing an audience with quality listings, but also engaging and high-quality editorial content.
For both brothers, maintaining values as well as profit has always played the largest role in what they do.
“Profit is really the scorecard by how you can measure a business’s success or an end,” said Andrew, ”The means by which you reach that end are, to me, more important. The welfare of your staff and employees, and the career path that you offer them is important. The condition and in which your employees work is just as important.
“It is a reality of life that we probably spend more time with our work colleagues than we do with our own families. We may not reach the top of the mountain, but if we’ve had a good time along the way, then we can’t make too many complaints.”
Marcus expresses a similar sentiment: “The business needs to be transparent with its people. I believe in a flat-ish management. I believe in open plan. I believe in as few barriers between managers and staff as possible. I believe in the family work ethic. I believe, genuinely, that we should be having fun at work.”
Where to now?
“For me, the motivation for continuing to work at the kind of rate that I do is really the fact that there is so much more to do,” says Andrew.
“I think there is a vision in the business. There is a strategic view of how the business needs to play out and I think it is important to always hold that vision in mind. The road to delivering that won’t necessarily be straight but as long as that vision is in sight then there is work to be done and value to be created.
“And, for me, I still get a sense that we are nowhere near at our destination and I think that once there is a sense that we are, then it’s probably time to hand over the reins to someone else. In a way, the business has its own life as it is for all the businesses that we sell along the way.”
The ingredients of a successful business
When it comes to passing advice on to others, Marcus outlines three things that are necessary in order to make a business successful,
“You need money- without it you can’t do anything – and you need the right people. It takes one bad apple to spoil the barrel, so you need positive can-do people with an honest approach to their work, which is very important to me. The third thing you need is a bit of luck. You just need a bit of luck. You need to be at the right place at the right time doing the right thing.”
Interview by Anthea Taylor, Assistant Editor at publisher Dynamis which runs Businessforsale.com