John Winning started as a salesman. He ended up in the family business and from there he set up his own online retail business, Appliances Online.
What’s your story?
When I finished high school I went straight into the workforce and took a job as a door-to-door salesman. One year in, I was attacked by a dog and ended up in hospital. After that I went to work for dad at Winning Appliances. Even though I was resistant to work in the family business, I started out in the warehouse, and soon after was driving trucks and doing deliveries. From there I moved to the store, which is where I first had the idea to sell appliances online.
I started Appliances Online as a pure play online retailer in 2005 when I was 21 years old. It quickly grew from there and is now Australia’s leading online retailer of appliances and whitegoods delivering to 95% of the population and stocking more brands than any other online appliance retailer.
Now, in addition to being the CEO of Appliances Online, I am the CEO of the Winning Group which encompasses Winning Appliances, Appliances Online, Home Clearance and Handy Crew.
I also love sailing, My grandfather sailed and my dad is also a world champion so I’ve sailed for as long as I can remember. I was involved with boat racing at the age of four and while I don’t sail as much as I used to I still love getting out on the water.
In 2016 I was part of the record-breaking and line honours winning team in the 2016 Sydney to Hobart on Perpetual Loyal. It had always been a dream of mine to sail the Sydney to Hobart so to win line honours and to set a new record was an amazing feeling.
What excites you most about your industry?
It’s probably the challenges that excite me the most about our industry. I think we are in a really interesting time for retail as more and more consumers are starting to shop online and we’re in a position where, in the last five years, Australia has really become part of the global retail landscape. Some of the world’s leading brands like H&M, Zara and Topshop have come to town as well as the world’s best online retailers. Plenty of South African retailers are coming over and seeing Australia as a good place for their next expansion move, as well as Amazon and Alibaba. So for me, the most exciting thing is being able to finally put ourselves up against the world’s best in terms of retail best practice and retail experience.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Even though our businesses operate solely in Australia, we buy a lot of Asian brands.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I’m from Australia and operate my business here so don’t know much about Asia.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I remember from a very young age, my dad always drilled into me that you can do whatever you want. Whether it was in sailing, work, life, school or whatever, he would say, “look, if you want to do it you can do it. We can do whatever we want. It’s about making the decision of what you want to do you, knowing what you need to get there and whether you’re willing to make the sacrifices involved in doing it.”
I think the advice that you can do anything if you want it badly enough has really stuck in my head and I’ve definitely brought that into our organisation.
Who inspires you?
If I look closer to home my dad has definitely been a huge influence and inspiration to me. Growing up and seeing how hard he worked, everything he did for the business and how much people respected him as a leader and were willing to band together and really work for him was very inspiring.
Our Advisory Board Chairman, David Gordon, who is a phenomenal support to me and someone that is so humble yet has achieved so much is really quite inspiring.
Outside of Australia someone like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs is certainly very inspiring. There are also several musicians who have inspired me to be more creative.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It’s ongoing I guess, not just one particular thing. I’ve been reading up at a very early beginners level about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and I think it’s just incredible how quickly AI is evolving, how fast it learns and how quickly I think our lives are going to change on the back of that. I’ve also been really interested in neuromarketing and neuroscience and, again at a very early beginner level, extremely fascinated by the power of marketing to the subconscious mind and how much, as human beings and consumers we believe we are in control of our decisions but in reality how little our conscious mind actually has control.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I always say I would do nothing differently because I have no regrets about the things we do, but if you were to ask me what some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made are, I would have to say not going with my gut reaction on major decisions early enough.
I wouldn’t take anything back because I think that the journey you take in life leads you to where you are and I’m quite happy where I am so I wouldn’t change a thing.
How do you unwind?
Meditation primarily and sometimes yoga, in addition to that, I love to listen to music and play music.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Probably Tokyo, Japan because I just love the culture. I guess the obvious answer would be somewhere with a beach and sun but for me, I love Tokyo in terms of relaxation because I think that the whole culture, society and people really put you in a relaxed state.
Everyone in business should read this book:
‘It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be’ by Paul Arden
Shameless plug for your business:
If you don’t know about us you should, and if you do know about us you should tell all your friends how great we are because we have the best shopping experience in the world. We’ve won awards for it so you don’t have to take my word for it.
How can people connect with you?
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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