"You really need a CEO who understands the technology, to know where to put the resources of the organisation, onto what technology. To know where it is going to make a difference. And to know where not to spend it because it is just a passing fad."
A major issue for Greengrocer.com.au is to retain the small company feel. "I think new world Internet companies can do tremendous volume still at a very personal level." states Carlson.
Over 80 percent of Greengrocer.com.au's customers hear about the site through word of mouth. 'It's the nature of the web,' says Carlson, "when you find a really good site, you tell your friends about it." He quotes Jeff Besos of Amazon to prove the point, "If you do something right online a happy and satisfied customer will tell 6000 friends."
While it is the technology that allows the Greengrocer.com.au to maintain a one-on-one relationship with their customers, it is the culture of the company that preserves this relationship. Carlson has been fortunate in being able to build a positive culture along with the company, one that's pro-active in its response to customer needs.
"We also have the world's biggest suggestion box, its called email." Carlson has talked with companies who have a website and have removed their email address because they received too many emails telling them what to do. "I just couldn't believe that. Here are customers telling you what to do so that you can serve them better and instead of responding you take the facility away?"
Carlson's business vision rests squarely and strongly in his belief in what technology can enable his company to achieve. "The advantage and one of the strengths is that technology is always advancing at an accelerated rate - as new technologies come out you have to re-assess every business assumption you ever made."
While some may find that prospect daunting, Carlson is not alone in seeing the benefits of re-thinking even your basic business model to make sure it remains viable and consistent with new technology.
"You really need a CEO who understands the technology," he says. "To know where to put the resources of the organisation, onto what technology. To know where it is going to make a difference. And to know where not to spend it because it is just a passing fad."
"If you build a business based on technology, the speed of developments - hardware, software or both - is the main issue. If you sit on your laurels because you've set up a website, 12 months down the track somebody is going to come out with an improved design based on newer and better technologies."
Carlson points to the company's fast-paced growth as evidence that the business model is working. "Last month we grew by 41 percent and last week we grew by 28 percent. Because we have been designed from the ground up as an Internet company, we actually expect to grow at this rate," he says.
- Customers are attracted to the convenience of market-fresh produce delivered to their door.
- Online trading fits the efficient business model by shortening the supply chain.
- It cuts out the waste and ensures delivery of the freshest produce.
- The business model encourages direct customer feedback and instant changes to service delivery .
"When you move to a business online," says Carlson, "you have to realise that the power is all with the consumer. If you don't cater for them they'll go elsewhere."