E-commerce: how Veepee became a heavyweight… while staying true to its original model

“La valo, it didn’t like me!” Translation for financial analysts: its strategy is not to run after growth, to further improve the company and resell it at the highest possible price. Say: Jacques-Antoine Granjon never had a goal in life to become the umpteenth billionaire prodigy of the digital age. As his company, founded on the foundation of his Parisian destocking boutique, celebrates its twentieth anniversary, this modern art lover with rock star looks is of course looking to develop his business, but above all to use the his profession, which has “allowed us to discover so many sectors and make incredible encounters”. With a method of management that is unique to him, not always very compatible with the management manuals in vogue in business schools.

Is the Veepee of today like the Vente-privee of twenty years ago?

Our profession has not changed: we are discounts, now digital discounts. At Veepee, we have an incredible diversity of jobs, from logistics to data scientists, from sales to digital creatives. It is a veritable hive where all talents abound. Over the years, the power of our traffic has allowed us to diversify: wine, gastronomy, travel, decoration, cosmetics… It has allowed us to combine many skills.

Business outlook has also changed. We are at the end of the industrial chain and, in our beginnings, the subject of stocks was dealt with by the head of warehouses. Today, the owners of the brands decide on the management of their unsold products. And we provide them with a service that addresses all their inventory, traffic or popularity issues.

But you stayed true to the original business model.

Our model is the supply strategy. A B2B2C model. Time-limited events, where products or services are offered at a steep discount, in a creative setting and desirable presentation. It is the quality of our offer that attracts millions of members every day. The consumer is smart, it is useless to make him believe that such a product is good if it is not. We bring life back to products that have passed their industrial cycle. At Veepee, once we moved away from offer marketing, we lost the foundation of our model.

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But are you ever tempted to do more, to break out of this basic pattern?

Of course. Sometimes we get lost by deviating towards a more classic e-commerce model: subscription for delivery, investing in B2C marketing or traffic acquisition. Result: we didn’t sell more and we made less margin! This shows that the quality of the offer generates innovation and adhesion. In 2016 and 2017, Veepee experienced a period of strong growth, with many acquisitions, especially internationally, which put us in the ranking of the European leader in event sales. At that time, the size of the company changed. We switch to English.

I decided to hire a general manager to ensure day-to-day operations. In a financial profile, his goal is to make the most of the company. But I’m not particular about that logic. My goal is growth, innovation, better serving our partner brands, creating the best experience for our members, and taking care of our employees. For this, profitability is important. It’s not that I’m not interested in the value of the company, but what drives me are the projects and the collective created to realize them.

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And the distribution of duties?

I have already tried, in 2010, to free myself from too heavy a daily operation. But that was before the opening in the United States and, in the end, that didn’t really allow me to turn away. The second time, I followed the advice of one of my friends: “If you hire a general manager, you have to let him live, let him do his initiatives.” I think I experienced this period as a great blur. I was there without really being there. We don’t know what’s going on anymore, we don’t know the teams anymore, we spend our time asking questions to our CEO, we end up overwhelming him. In other words, it doesn’t work! A company, we’re in or we’re out.

Does that mean, only “JAG” can lead Veepee?

Of course not. Moreover, now, I have two DGA. The topic is culture and recruitment. Recruitment, in the beginning, I was in charge of it. In fact, I increasingly had the impression to “sell” every position! We were more or less a start-up at the time, doing “digital sales” in Saint-Denis, without involvement or any particular advantage… It wasn’t really attractive. In any case, it allows us to grow with a young population, probably less educated, but very committed.

Veepee creates a very strong commitment to its employees. But with the passage of time and the hypergrowth we experienced, we needed more “seniority” and coaching. Because everything was so fast, we brought people inside, choosing the best in their profession or the oldest. Very good people, but who, for some, do not necessarily have management skills.

So yes, Veepee has experienced management weaknesses at times, and I am primarily responsible for them. Of the human consequences I regret, when, for example, a very good professional who became a manager ends up leaving the company, overwhelmed by the situation. But do we have other options?

Do you now prefer to pick people up outside?

No, I remain committed to the idea of ​​helping people grow internally, despite the difficulties inherent in this choice. Of course, we will look outside for the skills we don’t have inside, because it is a new profession, or because there is no substitute ready or untrained to take over. .

But systematically going for overqualified, highly trained people with foreign cultures can damage the company. They may not understand its singularities and want to apply methods obtained elsewhere. At Privalia, the Spanish competitor we acquired in 2016, the founders came from the consulting firm Bain. I discovered very good people, who are stronger in recruiting than in business. We have inherited their very high quality recruitment, but with a different state of mind, a different form of commitment, a different culture.

Did you stay with the same manager yourself?

You know, I’ve never been a manager. I’m not used to this and I find it difficult to play this role. Giving goals, supporting, setting up teams, monitoring results, congratulating, punishing… These are all manager missions, and I do them sometimes, but in my own way. I do this through the prism of who I am, of my desire for freedom.

Freedom is what drove me to build my company thirty-eight years ago. This is my main driving force and what defines me the best. But this is also what I project onto others, so I manage by giving a lot of responsibility, and by hating to control and punish. It can happen to me to “shout”, but there is no real consequence. When people make mistakes, I know they will be held accountable, and we can move on quickly.

Veepee is a very libertarian company. It is special. We saw this clearly recently, with 4,500 people working remotely in eighteen months! That didn’t stop us from running the business. Therefore, we just introduced a rule of two to three days of teleworking per week… Some of my friends tell me I’m crazy, but, to keep talent, you have to be desirable and adapt to labor market changes. . I believe in individual and collective responsibility. I don’t know if I’m right or if I’m naive, but in any case, I don’t know how to do otherwise…

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How do you envision Veepee and e-commerce in the next world?

Veepee is built year by year, we progress a bit like in the game of go, piece by piece. What the box will be in ten years, I can’t tell you. My long-term vision is to continue this work, because the projects are many, the teams are focused and this work is attractive. Besides, that’s all I know how to do. As for e-commerce, even this is clear Digital is gaining momentum and it has shown all its advantages during the pandemic, I think we will quickly reach a form of saturation. But, to see the madness of NFT(1) and virtual worlds, I must have been wrong!

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The place taken by social networks is revealing: we have entered a world in twelve words, where invective has replaced reason. No one listens to each other anymore, everyone lives hunched over their laptop… All that to say, even for consumption, enough is enough. Physical distribution, digital distribution, that doesn’t really matter. Everyone does what they want. What matters, and always counts, is the quality of the offer.

1. “Non-fungible token” or “non-fungible token”, a digital certificate validated by the blockchain, therefore unverifiable, that proves the authenticity of a virtual object.

Ten years of performance. Launched with the production of albums by Alain Chamfort and Patricia Kaas in 2009, Veepee Entertainment has become a real machine for placing plays and selling shows, generating up to 100 million euros in turnover. every year and became the cultural guarantee that Granjon always wanted to bring his company. “But after the attacks, the situation in the theater became tense and, in September 2019, I sold the three theaters we owned in Paris and dissolved Veepee Entertainment. Fortunately ! With Covid, we really suffered.”

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