Former musician works two hours a day.
Klaeton Sheehan never set out to be an online entrepreneur. A born traveller and entertainer, he had worked as a professional musician on cruise ships playing guitar and singing pop songs.
In 2007 Sheehan was planning his next trip around Australia while playing gigs in Germany. He realised the potential of the internet to find and buy camping gear quickly without having to drive from shop to shop. The decision to open an eBay store for camping gear eventually lead to a highly cloud-automated business with low office hours and a multi-million dollar turnover.
Sheehan started out selling in-vehicle showers and fridges for four-wheel-drives and campervans with a heavy emphasis on customer service, taking phone inquiries 24/7. Soon he was selling 200 units a day and had built his own site, Australian Direct.
But the process for listing products on eBay, recording sales in the accounting program and sending purchase orders to suppliers was very labour intensive. “We’d have to copy the name, the last name, the email address, every field imaginable. Then we’d paste that into a tax invoice and do the same thing for the purchase order,” Sheehan said.
EBay’s US-centric platform regularly generated errors that had to be corrected before deliveries could be made. Customers frequently entered the nearest city rather than their suburb because the field asked for “City”.
Copy and pasting 200 orders and 200 sales each day one field at a time took more than four hours work. “It was a full-time job for me. It was more work copy and pasting sales and orders than it was listing products on the website. Plus the business was handicapped. It got to a point where I just couldn’t handle any more product,” Sheehan said.
Sheehan found an assistant in New York through the online outsourcing service oDesk to take over the copy and pasting but it was only a temporary solution. Then Sheehan found cloud accounting program Saasu and was introduced to a Saasu integrator, Corneliu Tusnea.
Tusnea was building an online integration service called OneSaas that connected many different cloud programs for a monthly fee. “We can fix that, Klaeton,” Tusnea told Sheehan after hearing about the manual bottleneck in his business.
“Once I got in touch with the guys in the cloud, I discovered there was a whole new world of possibility,” Sheehan said.
Within two weeks OneSaas had built a software connector which automatically pulled transactions from eBay, corrected postcodes and other data, sent the sale to Saasu where it created a sales invoice and to suppliers as a purchase order. (OneSaas has since listed several integrations between eBay and many cloud programs.)
“All of a sudden 60 percent of my workload disappears,” Sheehan said. “It was hands off and it gave me heaps more time to my business.”
The Queensland-based Neto automatically received purchase orders from Saasu and split it into separate purchase orders for suppliers. For example, Neto would take an order of six items from different suppliers and send each one an individual picking slip.
Suppliers logged into a Neto portal to see items to be picked and another screen displayed packing information and generated consignments with carriers such as Australia Post, TNT and Star-Track Express. Customers were automatically once the goods had been shipped directly from suppliers.
“Neto already has the weights of all the items so generates labels and consignments for Australia Post. It will also recognise that a parcel is over a certain size so it can’t go with Australia Post and it has to go with Star Track. That’s super cool,” Sheehan said.
Sheehan has been looking at further automating the logitistics with Exalt. Exalt operated its own warehouses and kept stock on behalf of suppliers. The higher volume of deliveries meant it could get much lower rates for shipping, Sheehan said.
The next stage was automating the process of listing products. Sheehan created a template for listing products on the Australian Direct website and a simpler template for eBay. Sheehan had to add photos, text and video to one template to post a product on both sites.
“Before we had to resize the pictures and do heaps of stuff. Then a supplier would change a deal and say, Hey we’re throwing this in, and we would have to manually change 12 listings,” Sheehan said. “It seems ridiculous looking back now. But I think a lot of people are still doing that.”
Once Sheehan fully automated the business it grew at almost 150 percent over the next four and a half years to a multi-million dollar turnover.
Australian Direct now has six full-time staff, five of whom were sourced from overseas. Sheehan uses cloud project management tool Base Camp to co-ordinate the graphic designer and product team.
“I’d spend one and a half to two hours a day on my business. A lot of that is just making decisions, looking at reports through Saasu and Neto to see where things are at and then outsourcing to the team,” Sheehan said. “I can give them more than enough work to keep them busy until the next time which might be a day or two later.”
Sheehan wrote the song “Saasu Land” to celebrate his first automation between eBay and Saasu.
“The cloud was the key to me being a success. The opposition are going to be paying for antiquated machines, software that doesn’t work, they don’t follow up customers because they don’t have the systems in place, and guys like me are going to come along and trump them. By the time they work out that they need to make a change it’s going to be too late.”