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

“La valo, that doesn’t make me like it!” Translation for financial analysts: their strategy is not to chase growth, to value the company even more and resell it at the highest possible price. Let it be said: Jacques-Antoine Granjon never aspired to become the nth billionaire prodigy of the digital age. While his company, founded on the foundations of his Parisian de-stocking boutique, celebrates its twentieth anniversary, this lover of modern art with a rock star look obviously seeks to develop his business, but above all to practice his profession, the one that gives him “allowed us to discover so many sectors and make incredible encounters”. With a management method that belongs to it, not always very compatible with the management manuals in vogue in business schools.

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

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

The view on business has also changed. We are at the end of the industrial chain and, at the beginning, the issue of inventories was handled by the head of the warehouses. Today, it is the brand owners who decide to manage their unsold products. And we offer them a service that answers all your inventory, traffic or notoriety issues.

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 great discount, in a creative environment and desirable staging. It is the quality of our offer that attracts millions of members every day. The consumer is intelligent, it is useless to make him believe that such a product is good if it is not the case. We give life to products that have passed through their industrial cycle. At Veepee, as soon as we left the commercialization of the offering, we lost the fundamentals of our model.

But have you ever been tempted to do more, to break out of that basic pattern?

Yes sure. Sometimes we stray to a more classic e-commerce model: subscription for delivery, investment in B2C marketing or traffic acquisition. Result: we don’t sell more and earn less margin! This demonstrates that it is the quality of the offer that generates transformation and adhesion. In 2016 and 2017, Veepee experienced a period of strong growth, with many acquisitions, especially internationally, which placed us in the position of European leader in event sales. At that time, the company changed in size. We switched to English.

I decided to hire a general manager to handle day-to-day operations. With a financial profile, his goal was to make the most of the company. But I’m not particularly on 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’s not that valuing the company doesn’t interest me, but what moves 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 get rid of a very heavy operational load on a daily basis. But that was before the opening in the United States, and ultimately that didn’t allow me to take a step back. 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 take the initiative.” I think I lived through that period as a big 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 overloading him. In short, it doesn’t work! A company, we are in or we are out.

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

Of course not. Also, today, I have two DGA. The subject is culture and recruitment. Recruitment, at the beginning, I was in charge of that. In fact, I especially had the impression of “selling” every position! We were more or less a start-up at the time, doing “digital sales” in Saint-Denis, with no stake or any particular advantage… It wasn’t necessarily very attractive. Anyway, this allowed us to grow with a young population, probably less educated, but very committed.

Veepee creates a very strong commitment among its employees. But with time and the hypergrowth we have experienced, we needed more “seniority” and training. As everything happened very quickly, we brought people in, choosing the best in the profession or the oldest. Very competent people, but for some, they didn’t necessarily have the skills to manage.

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

Do you now prefer to take people outside?

No, I remain committed to the idea of ​​helping people to progress internally, despite the difficulties inherent in this choice. Of course, we’re going to look outside for skills that we don’t have internally, either because it’s a new profession, or because no successor is ready or not trained to take on.

But systematically going to overskilled and highly trained people with foreign cultures can destabilize the company. They may not understand their uniqueness and want at all costs to apply methods acquired elsewhere. At Privalia, a Spanish competitor we acquired in 2016, the founders came from the consultancy Bain. I discovered extremely competent people who were much stronger in recruiting than in business. We inherited their high-quality recruitment, but with a different frame of mind, another form of commitment, another culture.

Have you even remained the same manager?

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

Freedom is what led me to start my company thirty-eight years ago. It is my main driving force and what defines me best. But it’s also what I project onto others, so I manage by giving a lot of responsibility and hating to control and punish. It may happen that I “scream”, but with no real consequences. When people make mistakes, I know they will take responsibility, and we can move on quickly.

Veepee is a very libertarian company. Its special. We’ve been seeing this clearly lately, with 4,500 people working remotely for eighteen months! That didn’t stop us from running the business. That’s why we’ve just introduced a rule of two to three days of telecommuting a week… Some of my friends tell me I’m crazy, but in order to keep talent, you have to be desirable and adapt to the 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 it any other way…

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

Veepee was built year after year, we advanced a little like in the game of go, one piece after another. What the box will be in ten years, I can’t tell you. My long-term vision is to continue doing this work, because the projects are multiple, the teams are committed and this work is fascinating. Besides, that’s all I know how to do. As for e-commerce, although it is clear that digital is gaining traction and has shown all its advantages during the pandemic, I think we can quickly reach a form of saturation. But to see the craziness of NFT(1) and virtual worlds, I’m certainly wrong!

The place that social networks have taken is symptomatic: we have entered a world in twelve words, where insult has replaced reason. Nobody listens to each other anymore, everybody lives hunched over the laptop… All this to say that, even in consumption, it’s enough. Physical distribution, digital distribution, that’s not what matters. Everyone does what they want. What counts, and will always count, is the quality of the offer.

1. “Non-fungible token” or “non-fungible token”, digital certificate validated by blockchain, therefore non-falsifiable, which attests to the authenticity of a virtual object.

Ten years of acting. Launched with the production of albums by Alain Chamfort and Patricia Kaas in 2009, Veepee Entertainment has become a real machine for making plays and selling shows, generating up to 100 million euros in annual revenue and becoming the cultural guarantee that Granjon always wanted. to bring to your company. “But after the attacks, the situation at the theater became tense, and in September 2019, I sold the three theaters we owned in Paris and dismantled Veepee Entertainment. Happily ! With Covid, we would have really suffered.”

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