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Booktopia names chairman as IPO nears

Online retailer, Booktopia, has appointed Chris Beare as its chairman as it prepares to list on the ASX.

Beare is also the chairman of financial services company, FlexiGroup, and was the chairman of Dexus property group for 11 years.

Speaking at The Internet Conference on the Gold Coast last month, founder and CEO of Booktopia, Tony Nash, recounted Beare’s first meeting with his executive team. When Nash asked Beare how the meeting went he responded:

“You know Tony, there is something quite remarkable. I’ve been in those meetings before with companies like yours, and when I ask questions to each of the direct people they normally look to the CEO or to the boss, to see if they are going to say the right thing and then they say what they are going to say,” Nash recounted. “Not one of them ever looked at you.

“What that meant to me was that I have style of empowering people, letting them do what they have to do.”

Speaking more broadly about the IPO process, which is due to wrap up in the coming weeks, Nash said he has been faced with two recurring questions: what about Amazon and why are you listing?   

In response to the second question, Nash said he felt an ASX listing was the right fit for the Booktopia to expand.

“I felt being listed was the right vehicle that Booktopia, the company, needed for it to flourish and grow beyond where it was,” he said.

Nash also spoke about the importance of separating your identity as a founder or entrepreneur from the highs and lows of running a business.

“You are not your business,” Nash said.

“One of the things that I believe has been fundamental in our success, is I have always treated Booktopia as it’s own organism, as it’s own entity. When I think about it, I think ‘what does it need?’”

It was important to build a strong case to present to the investor community before embarking on the IPO process Nash said, which included strong financials and a track record of acquisitions. Nash said Booktopia could have gone to market while still operating from a 4000sqm premises in Lane Cove but chose to wait. 

“We could have gone to the market then,” Nash said. “We would have been a small, micro-cap, but we could have gone then.”

Instead the company chose to stretch itself financially and move to its current 10,000sqm location in Homebush which opened in 2014.

“My inkling was that we actually needed to take the risk and move from the 4000sqm across two warehouses with people pushing trolleys, to 10,000sqm where we spent over $4 million in automation and automatic capping machines … it’s a lot of technology.

“Sometimes when it comes to investors, if you are looking for funding, you actually need to build it first… so they get it.”

Addressing the question of competition, Nash said he kept them in his peripheral vision without turning his head, similar to a sprinter, preferring to focus on Booktopia’s efforts.

“When we get together we don’t think about Amazon or Book Depository or the other guys that are out there,” he said. 

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