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

“I’m worth it, I’m not happy!” Translation for financial analysts: his strategy is not to chase growth, to further strengthen the company and resell it at the highest possible price. Let it be said: Jacques-Antoine Granjon never had the goal in life to become yet another billionaire prodigy of the digital age. While his company, founded on the foundations of his Parisian destocking boutique, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary, this modern art lover with a rock star look obviously seeks to develop his business, but above all to pursue his profession, the one that gives him has “allowed us to discover many sectors and make incredible encounters”. With a management method that belongs only to him, not always very compatible with the management manuals in vogue in business schools.

Does today’s Veepee still look like the Vente-privee of twenty years ago?

Our profession hasn’t changed: we are discounters, now digital discounters. At Veepee we have an incredible variety of jobs, ranging from logistics to data scientists, from sales to digital creatives. It is a real hive where all the talents swarm. Over the years, the strength of our traffic has allowed us to diversify: wine, gastronomy, travel, decoration, cosmetics … This has allowed us to integrate many skills.

The business outlook has also changed. We are at the end of the industrial chain and, at our beginnings, the issue of stocks was dealt with by the warehouse manager. Today, brand owners decide how to manage their unsold products. And we provide them with a service that answers all their inventory, traffic, or notoriety problems.

But you stayed true to the original business model.

Our model is the supply strategy. A B2B2C model. Limited-time events, during which products or services are offered at a steep discount, in a creative setting and desirable staging. It is the quality of our offer that attracts millions of subscribers every day. The consumer is intelligent, it is useless to make him believe that such a product is good if it is not. We bring back life to products that have gone through their industrial cycle. In Veepee, as soon as we leave the marketing of the offer, we lose the basis of our model.

But have you ever been tempted to do more, to get out of this basic pattern?

Yes of course. Sometimes we have gotten lost by deviating towards a more classic e-commerce model: subscription for delivery, investment in B2C marketing or traffic acquisition. Result: we didn’t sell more and we earned less margin! This shows that it is the quality of the offer that generates transformation and adhesion. In 2016 and 2017 Veepee experienced a phase of strong growth, with numerous acquisitions, especially at an international level, which placed us in the rank of European leader in event sales. At that time, the company changed size. Let’s move on to English.

I have decided to hire a general manager to ensure day-to-day operations. With a financial profile, his goal was to make the most of the company. But I’m not particularly into that logic. My goal is to develop, innovate, better serve our partner brands, create the best experience for our members, and take care of our employees. For this, profitability is essential. It is not that the evaluation of the company does not interest me, but what guides me are the projects and the collective that is created to carry them out.

And the distribution of roles?

I had already tried, in 2010, to free myself from an operational burden that was too heavy on a daily basis. But that was before the opening in the US and, in the end, that didn’t allow me to take a step back. The second time I followed the advice of a friend of mine: “If you hire a general manager, you have to let him live, let him take his initiative.” 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 our CEO questions, we end up overwhelming him. In short, it doesn’t work! A company, we are inside or we are outside.

Does this mean that only “JAG” can govern Veepee?

Obviously not. Also, today, I have two DGAs. The theme is culture and recruitment. Recruiting, at the beginning, I took care of it. In fact, I mostly had the impression of “selling” each position! At the time we were more or less a start-up, doing “digital sales” in Saint-Denis, without participation or particular advantages… It wasn’t necessarily very interesting. In any case, this has allowed us to grow with a young population, probably less educated, but very busy.

Veepee creates a very strong commitment among its employees. But with the time and the overgrowth we experienced, we needed more “seniority” and coaching. As everything happened very quickly, we got people involved internally, choosing the best in their profession or the oldest. Very competent people, but who, for some, did not necessarily have the skills to manage.

So yes, Veepee has encountered management weaknesses at times and I am the main culprit. With human consequences that I regret, when, for example, a very good professional who became a manager ends up leaving the company, overwhelmed by the situation. But did we have other choices?

Now do you prefer to pick people up outside?

No, I remain committed to the idea of ​​helping people to progress internally, despite the difficulties inherent in this choice. Of course, we will seek out the skills that we do not have internally, both because it is a new profession, and because no successor is ready or has not been trained to take over. .

But systematically looking for over-skilled and highly skilled people with foreign cultures can destabilize the company. They may not understand its singularities and at all costs want to apply methods acquired elsewhere. In Privalia, the Spanish competitor we acquired in 2016, the founders came from the consulting firm Bain. I have found extremely competent people, much stronger in recruiting than in business. We inherited their very high quality recruiting, but with another frame of mind, another form of commitment, another culture.

Have you remained the same manager?

You know, I’ve never been a manager. I have never been trained in this and find it very difficult to take on this role. Giving goals, supporting, forming teams, monitoring results, congratulating, sanctioning … These are all the manager’s missions, and I do it sometimes, but in my own way. I do this through the prism of who I am, of my desire for independence.

Freedom is what prompted me to found my company thirty-eight years ago. It is my main driving force and what defines me the best. But it is also what I project onto others, so I do it by giving a lot of responsibility and hating to control and punish. It can happen to me to “scream”, but without real consequences. When people make mistakes, I know they will take responsibility and we can move forward quickly.

Veepee is a very libertarian company. It is special. We have seen this clearly lately, with 4,500 people working remotely for eighteen months! This did not stop us from running the business. So we have just introduced a rule of two or three days of teleworking a week… Some friends of mine tell me I’m crazy, but to keep talent you have to be desirable and adapt to changes in the job market. . 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 …

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

Veepee has been built year after year, we advance a bit like in the game of go, piece after piece. What the box will be in ten years, I can’t tell you. My long-term vision is to keep doing this work, because the projects are many, the teams are busy and this work is fascinating. Besides, that’s all I know how to do. As for e-commerce, even if it is clear digital is gaining momentum and has shown all its benefits during the pandemic, I think we can quickly reach some form of saturation. But, seeing the madness of NFT (1) and virtual worlds, I’m definitely wrong!

The place that social networks have taken is symptomatic: we have entered a world in twelve words, where invective has replaced reason. Nobody listens to each other anymore, everyone lives bent over their laptop… All this to say that, even in terms of consumption, that’s enough. Physical distribution, digital distribution, that’s not exactly what matters. Everyone does what he wants. What matters, and will always count, is the quality of the offer.

1. “Non-fungible token” or “non-fungible token”, a digital certificate validated by blockchain, therefore not falsifiable, which certifies the authenticity of a virtual object.

Ten years of performance. Launched with the production of Alain Chamfort and Patricia Kaas albums in 2009, Veepee Entertainment has become a real machine for staging shows and selling shows, generating up to 100 million euros in annual turnover and becoming the cultural guarantee that Granjon has always wanted to be carried in 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 dismantled Veepee Entertainment. Fortunately ! With Covid, we would have really suffered “.

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