The following article features excerpts from “Building the backup for a successful website” by Quinton O’Reilly in Sunday’s businesspost, read the full article here
Launched back in 2004 with his brother, Mick Crean has seen MicksGarage.com grow into the biggest online car parts & accessories retailers in Ireland, having over seven million car parts listed. Mick started it after he was made unemployed and his interest in car parts saw him identify a niche which combined it with IT. Now it has also expanded into theUK and Poland and has plans to launch a redesigned site – both for desktop and mobile – in April.
On the surface, MicksGarage.com looks pretty straight forward as websites go. The reality is that behind the simple facade is a hugely complex back-end which caters for those who don’t want to be bogged down by details but just order a part. ln other words, simplicity is the art form but achieving that is complex. “The more simplistic the front end is, the more complex the back end is,” Mick said. “Our aim is to get you to the part you’re looking for in three clicks or less. To do that is very complex and it takes enormous data processing power to do that.”
“Our ethos has always been to develop in-house, and our entire back-end system is no different. A proprietary system can cater for the demands the business brings more efficiently than an off-the-shelf solution”
Over the years he has seen similar businesses come and go because they underestimated just how significant the back end is to success. “Our website is the tip of the iceberg; it’s 10 percent, while everything else is the back-end process. It’s critically important how we handle orders, how we get them into a pipeline, what point they are in the pipeline, making sure there’s not a blockage in the system, making sure we run efficiently
Normally businesses decide to build on a module, patch it a couple of times and add new features. We’re stripping it all out and re-architecting the whole front end of the site.” While it’s vital to the success of this particular business, resilience doesn’t just concern the technical side of things, sometimes it means coping with the unexpected and dealing with things that don’t go to plan. Early on, the business used external software to help run its system but realised it wouldn’t cut it and developed its own system instead. Having this gives it flexibility which helps if any major changes are needed quickly. “if we wanted to put in a big bit of functionality, we can turn around today and get that done. That’s what we always wanted, and we were never going to get that working with third- party software.” Other ways it had to adopt was when dealing with new competition, something that gave Crean and the business “a kick in the ass that we needed” when assessing the business and upping its game. That resilience and flexibility are the reasons why it continues to grow to this day, and, as Crean puts it, “sometimes you need an event to identify an opportunity”.
While it’s very important to have a plan, not all benefits come from it alone. While a lot of work went into the company, sometimes a bit of luck is needed. One good example is its name, which gives it a personal feel, and this is reflected on its site as well. While Crean says he’d be lying if he claimed they planned it, saying it was one of the lucky things that happened to “give the business the identity its needed to move along”. “We started to build on the Mick thing to give it a bit of community, and give a bit of an idea about the actual person behind it. Now we have ten people in the call centre in Dublin and the vast majority of calls that come into the call centre start with ‘Howya Mick’,” he said. “It’s just a funny thing that works.”