Supersizing Success

success magazineSuccess Magazine shines the spotlight on Ice.com this month, highlighting many of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

From the outside, it looked like the Montreal-based company had achieved the impossible. Ice.com’s founders Pinny Gniwisch, his two brothers, and a brother-in-law had rescued the business when investors wanted to shut down operations after the dot-com bust. The foursome scraped together $600,000, bought back the company from investors, and drew up version 2.0 of the business model. By 2001, Ice.com had broken even by selling $3.5 million worth of baubles.

But on the inside, chaos was spreading. Take customer service. Orders for rings and necklaces flew in each hour, but the company couldn’t keep up with the demand and needed three working days to process an order. Worse, Ice.com’s temporary warehouse employees were stealing from the company: Some $60,000 of merchandise went missing in 2001.

Despite Gniwisch’s best efforts, the founders’ elbow-grease philosophy everyone had to pitch in to make the company survive wasn’t working anymore now that the business was bigger. And Ice.com’s growing pains extended far beyond the packing center. The finances needed help, the executive team had no process for making decisions, and employees were receiving mixed signals. When youÃ’re an entrepreneur, you do things by the seat of your pants, says Gniwisch. You sit in a room, have a great idea, do high fives, and walk out all excited. But there’s a whole other group of people who get left in the dark because the communication isn’t there.

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