Lessons Learned: Wholesale Butcher Becomes Prime Retail

Australian Paul Tory studied accounting after leaving high school. But after”two quite dull years,” he realized the profession was not for him and decided to try out a trade.

He undertook a engine mechanics apprenticeship for five years before his father encouraged him in 1998 to combine the household Sydney beachside-based wholesale meat company, Total Meats, which was established in 1979.

Paul Tory

The organization sold its meat products wholesale to restaurants in the Sydney area. But family and friends were eager to purchase their families’ meat from Total Meats, also.

“Our family and friends had begun coming straight to our factory although we had — and still have — no formal store or serving counter to get the public to purchase their meat,” Tory said.

“Soon people began turning up, asking if they also could buy their meat . Then one of our regulars asked if we could send to her as she watched our branded vans regularly passing by her house.”

That gave Tory the idea for a retail meat house delivery services. After exploring the thought, he realized that nobody else was doing it well. He chose to enter that company, employing a web site for customers to place their orders, which his firm would then send to the Sydney region.

Before he launched that site — called Butcherman — in November 2007, Tory launched Total Meats’ wholesale website — with a business that advertised sites for $400.

“Obviously, you get what you pay for,” he laughs.

“Our Butcherman website enables us to be retailers without the cost of a setting up a store. Plus, we utilize the present infrastructure from Complete Meats, for example, mill, fridges, gear, and vans. We also had butchers, drivers and long-established connections in the meat market.”

Tory’s wife, Georgia, helped him construct the original Butcherman website. Both are the only original employees who have been involved from the beginning.

“At the end of the first year — December 2008 — we had a turnover of $320,000. By the end of 2010 it was $750,000 and this year we’re on track to flip over $1,300,000,” Tory said.

Shopping Carts

“We met three web developers and told each of them our vision. Business number 1 stood out as the very impressive with all the best ideas and the most expertise in establishing similar companies. So of course we went with company number two, the one that was less expensive and’almost’ had what we were searching for. We had this mindset,’It’s more than good enough’,” Tory said.

“But saving a cent at first costs many dollars down the trail! We discovered that our website had many limitations. The diagnostics were rather poor and the website was very tough to self-manage. I needed to ask our internet company for everything. Shifting delivery addresses or adding things to the cart could not be performed from the backend and our first web developers were very friendly when building the website, but quite unhelpful once it was up and running.”

Butcherman now utilizes osCommerce, an open source shopping cart. But it’s shifting to OpenCart, another open source cart.

“We have since updated our website twice and are in the process of a third shift [to OpenCart] as shopping carts are an integral and essential part of our organization. In hindsight, it might have been better to measure it up in the first place instead of having to reinvent it over and over.”

“I utilize Digital Finery who I found through Google in 2008 when I was searching for web developers who were nearby who provided personal support. But I’m the in-house tech man: I’m intimate with the site’s workings and can competently browse the rear end of our website,” Tory said.

Credit Card Payments

Butcherman utilizes Australian payment system Eway as an intermediary payment gateway.

“Credit card payments are confirmed instantly without exclusion and the money is transferred to our account within a day. We don’t store any credit card details in the back part of our website. All the info is on the Eway site. It’s trusted by clients and it works for us ”

Tory was not aware of PayPal when he started the Butcherman site.

“I have an account with them, but I can honestly say I haven’t had one request from a client to use PayPal, nor a complaint with our present system,” Tory said.

Order Management

“We use osCommerce, our current shopping cart, to handle orders. Our butchers start work at 3 a.m. — two hours until I arrive — and in the press of a button a daily product listing is printed out. This lists every item that has to be ready for the day, so that if there were 20 orders with unique products, the listing would set them to say there were 10 bundles of rump, five packets of mince, etc.”

“Then we print out individual packaging and delivery slips. Just when the daily product listing is totally completed do we package the orders. This manner errors are reduced as the daily product list never lies. Like fixing a car, if you put it back together and you’ve got a couple bolts left over, you can make certain you have done something wrong. Using a sophisticated backend of the site makes it so much easier and lessens the chance for mistakes.”

Hosting

“Digital Finery [an Australia-based hosting and development firm] hosts our site.”

Employees

“We’re fortunate to have a proven staff through our wholesale company. We started with one supervisor, two butchers and two motorists and our online company has grown to undertake an extra butcher and two drivers”

 

Butcherman home page.

 

SEO

When Tory first considered the notion of home-delivered meat, he Googled it.

“Much to my delight there weren’t many games to my search. Five years on, with just a modest sum of money spent on search marketing through AdWords as well as the guidance of SEO firm The Defectors, we’re rated number one or two on Google within our area. If you Google dentist or plumber, the results go on for pages. It is a much tougher prospect of making it to number one for them.”

Marketing

“We started with Google AdWords, but only for as long as it took to go up the Google searches. Since then we’ve tried everything from flyers, radio, tv, pay-per-click advertisements, bulk purchasing websites, and social media. After five years I’ve concluded that for an internet business you will need to focus most your advertising online.”

Tory markets his site through the Butcherman email newsletters that go to his 7,000-strong database. He also uses Facebook.

“We also have targeted mom and baby sites as stay-at-home moms constitute a huge part of our clients. Press is nearly a waste of time unless you’re [national Australian furniture series ] Harvey Norman with a complete page weekly advertisement: it just does not bring a rewarding response for the money spent.”

“We used a public relations agency known as Men at Work Communications and are spending $3,000 a month that’s a cost-effective way to enter the media. Because most publications have an internet presence, these articles create additional online references and articles, which enhance our search results and search engine rating. Social media advertising, such as targeted advertising on Facebook, permits you to restrict your audience (e.g., women aged 35 to 50 who reside 10 km from the city and revel in meat), making it low cost and effective.”

“We’ve got a Facebook page and are going to launch Twitter. We’ve got a YouTube clip which also appears on our home page. The Defectors handle these for us and are always upgrading our webpage with recipes, cooking hints and any helpful hints, in addition to starting competitions, and polls. We’ve targeted new client sales through Facebook — with victory.”

Shipping

“Currently all deliveries are done by our drivers. We’ve got four vans on the street daily and combine our wholesale deliveries with our house deliveries. Looking to the future, I’ve met with refrigerated courier companies to deliver outside our existing zones. Beyond this, franchising could be an alternative.”

Inventory Management

“We utilize osCommerce’s built-in stock management. But we’re in the process of shifting to OpenCart, another open source shopping cart. This will enable us to run both websites — Complete Meats and Butcherman — through the 1 back end.”

Accounting Software

“We use MYOB and have found it adequate in every way.”

Customer Service

“Service is everything. Mistakes happen, people will always have a criticism and things won’t ever run easily 100 percent of their time. How you cope with these issues is what makes the difference. If our delivery drivers are running late, they will always call those effected clients. All mails and missed calls should be answered as fast as possible. I’ve received great compliments from clients who were really impressed there was a person on the opposite end of the telephone. I am frustrated by sites that only allow correspondence through email.”

Biggest Mistakes

“The biggest mistake was our first. We built our first website without enough vision to the future and underestimated the value of a backend with diagnostics and analysis features, in addition to functionality. I often joke that the backend of our website is our most valued and trustworthy employee.”

Biggest Successes

“In 2010 we had been encouraged to enter the My Business Awards, which are sponsored by My organization, a Sydney magazine. In just our third year, we won the award for Sydney’s best ebusiness.”