In this interview series, we are talking to founders, CEOs, and ecommerce business leaders about how to choose the best platform for ecommerce. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing George Moulos.
George Moulos is the CEO and Senior Broker at an online business brokerage called Ecommerce Brokers. George and his team have been helping people buy and sell online businesses for over 11 years now and so is an expert when it comes to increasing the valuation of online businesses leading up to an exit.
George’s team is split into two, with half focusing on the exit of online businesses and the other half focusing on helping a group of business buyers makes multiple successful acquisitions every month.
With hundreds of businesses sold from across the world and a Forbes 30 Under 30 award to boot, George has spoken at countless universities and business masterminds on how online business owners can get the most out of their business in an exit.
Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I grew up south of Sydney, Australia, to a Greek immigrant family who had to work very hard to give me a good life.
I grew up with the stories of my grandfather, also named George, and how we left Nazi-occupied Greece, where there was a famine at 14, to start small businesses in Australia with no English. This inspired me to start small affiliate businesses online at the age of 13, and after that, there was no stopping me.
I started multiple affiliate businesses, digital product businesses, and a marketing agency, and one by one, after a year or two, I would sell these businesses to local buyers in Australia.
Building businesses was my focus until my ecommerce clients started to ask me to help them exit their businesses, and that’s when I went full-time with my team at Ecommerce Brokers.
What led you to this specific career path?
The experience of exiting many of my small businesses and how difficult it was with the online business brokers, or lack thereof, made me realize that this was a major hole in the market that needed to be filled not by an investment banker but by someone who has an intimate knowledge of ecommerce, marketing and the online business world but also has a knack for sales. That’s exactly who I am. So the choice was easy.
Can you share the most exciting story that has happened to you since you began at your company?
The first year of going full-time with Ecommerce Brokers was not easy, to say the least. I took a “Burn The Boats” policy to start the business to bring all my focus to the new business, and this left me beholden to the ups and downs of deals.
Managing the online business while being a digital nomad and having multiple team members' salaries to pay on an inconsistent revenue stream led to many high-stress situations! This included one time when I got robbed at 3 a.m. in Mexico and had a $26M deal on the line with a call at 6 a.m. with the buyer and seller, and I had to chase a robber through the streets in the back of a Mexican police car with policemen armed to the teeth to get that phone back and make the call.
Needless to say, we found the phone. Come 6 a.m., I was in a suit and tie, adrenaline flowing, and ready to walk through the line items in the P&L!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
With time in brokering, we get to work on bigger and bigger deals. We have a $50M USD listing at the moment that is looking good, which will be one of, if not the biggest online business sale brokered by an online business broker in the world for the year.
That being said, we take social responsibility very seriously at Ecommerce Brokers, and I personally give talks at universities in the country that my grandfather came from so long ago and other countries that lack a culture of entrepreneurship.
My talks at Greek, Cypriot, and other Eastern European universities are available online and are always free for students.
What are three traits about yourself that you feel helped fuel your success?
I’ve always considered Stoicism to be my default operating system, and in business, I believe the best entrepreneurs maintain very stoic philosophies. With deals falling through over the years and money that we thought would come in but eventually did not, it is very easy to get emotional, anxious, and even depressed at the prospect of months of work falling through at the last second.
However, a calm and Stoic mind has always calmed me and reminded me that good work, even if unrewarded financially in the present, it will always pay off because customers always remember a respectful, honest, and hard-working broker and will refer you down the road.
This is how I built Ecommerce Brokers, and I have never spent a dime on marketing. All word of mouth.
Counter to the above points of patience, I also believe having urgency to succeed is a fundamental key to my success. Since I was very young, I wanted to get a leg up on my colleagues in high school as I always saw the clock ticking by.
In high school, I wanted to quit my job at Mcdonald's, working for less than $5 USD an hour by making more than $5 USD an hour online. By the end of high school, I was making more than my parents online and said goodbye to manual labor jobs for good and the 800 years of manual labor jobs my family and all my ancestors have, which is as far back as our recorded family tree goes!
This is a weird one, I understand. But I’ve always had an underlying meaning to what I do and why I'm doing it, more importantly.
I could talk about discipline or ambition, but I think that is all buttressed by the meaning I give my work. Since I was very young, I’ve known who I am and what I want to do in this world for others. I found I’m good at this business stuff, so I figured that is most likely the best way to go about helping people.
This underlying meaning that I give to my work and the crusade of helping people through entrepreneurship. On a day-to-day basis, this means I don’t take days off working, I don’t hesitate to get up in the morning, and I don’t put things off because I know that there are people that I can help with my time and story, and it would be a disservice to them.
What was the original vision for your ecommerce business? What pain point(s) were you trying to solve for your customers?
Exiting an ecommerce business means you can likely get 3-4 times the trailing 12 months' net profit in cash on your exit. This is the biggest win in most ecommerce entrepreneurs' careers, so it is essential you do it right and get the most out of it.
I struggled to sell my first online business because all the brokers out there were traditional brick-and-mortar business brokers and didn’t have a clue about running ads or ecommerce. I found the same was the case for many of my ecommerce business-owning friends. The same goes for people trying to buy a business.
At Ecommerce Brokers, we solved the problem of this. With articles, videos, and, of course, quality service, we created a safe and effective way to acquire and exit ecommerce businesses.
What ecommerce platform does your business use, and what key features were you looking for when you selected it? Was it your first choice, or did you switch from a previous one?
I’ll answer this question from two perspectives: My personal ecommerce businesses and the businesses we help our clients buy and sell.
1. My first personal businesses were built on WooCommerce, and this proved to be a good choice for the time as Shopify lacked many of the features it has now. WooCommerce allowed me to heavily customize my website and sales funnels. Some bugs popped up every now and then, and I needed my developer to fix them, but it worked for the time. The customized website also made it very hard for competitors to copy.
2. My later businesses and the best among our sellers are those on major platforms like Shopify. This move and the larger move of the market came with the growing sophistication of Shopify and its thousands of integrations and now almost endless customizability.
I made the choice to move to Shopify, and for our sellers, we also suggest a move leading up to an exit to achieve a higher multiple and valuation. This is possible because buyers are much more comfortable with Shopify. Not only do they have more experience with the platform, but their team of developers and marketers are as well.
When a buyer is looking to buy a business and finds it on a platform in which they and their team are illiterate, it is a major turn-off for them. Usually, it means the business is no longer being considered for purchase by the majority of buyers.
When should an ecommerce business consider switching platforms? Which factors should drive a decision to make a change or upgrade?
When they are thinking about selling. If your business is doing well and a few years into operating, I would highly recommend consulting with your developer to make the move.
Not only will it mean smoother and easier integrations, but it will make your business far more sellable and attractive to buyers. It will boost your valuation and can take a good business that’s not on Shopify (that would be priced at a 2.9-3.3X multiple) to a firm 3.5-4X multiple.
Given the number of ecommerce platform options available, what are your top five questions you need to ask to choose the best platform for ecommerce?
1 . Does this platform help boost my business exit valuation?
2 . Are most business buyers literate and comfortable with this platform?
3 . How customizable is the platform?
4 . How many integration options does the platform have?
5 . Does the platform integrate with my other service providers like email, ads, customer service, etc.?
Is there a specific feature or functionality you haven’t found in any platform that you would love to have? What is it, and why?
No, I don’t believe so. There are always small problems with platforms and apps, but there are thousands of updates and apps that come out each year that plug in these holes.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
I would focus on my core competency of speaking and entrepreneurship. As I do with my talks on entrepreneurship, I would focus on highlighting entrepreneurship as a viable career option and walking through how people can start in countries that don’t have a strong or existent entrepreneur culture as we do in the West.
Countries like my country of heritage, Greece, as well as Eastern European, Middle Eastern, African, South East Asian, and South American countries, don’t have the western entrepreneur culture, and most people don’t see it as a viable path. I hope to change this!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
People interested in buying and selling online businesses can visit our website. They can also follow my work on YouTube, Instagram, and my website.
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