Wired for growth: an interview with CEO of AV-Cables
When Christian Damgaard Møller began his career as an electronics salesman for department stores there was always one phrase that stuck with him - "remember, it’s the accessories that make the money". Well, fast forward to today and that mantra has certainly served him well.
As a salesman for big Danish electronics chains, Christian would spend much of his time on the road, and it was during these long drives that he started calculating the margins on cables and other equipment that he was selling. And so, the genesis of AV-Cables took shape.
In the months that followed, back in 2006, every possible area of space in Christian and his girlfriend Sidsel’s detached house was gradually filled up with cables which he began selling online after buying a piece of software that cost just €67 a month.
I still have the same model of cable that the very first customer bought in my office today
As Christian recalls: “It was all about getting started cheaply”, there were no expenses for a warehouse or employees back then. Also, crucially, Sidsel was patient and supported Christian’s dream of owning his own e-commerce company. “I launched the web shop on a Friday afternoon when we were going away for the weekend and had to wait until Sunday afternoon to see if an order had arrived. It hadn’t, but the week after, the first order came in. It was a very special feeling and I still have the same model of cable that the very first customer bought in my office today.”
Over the years I have experienced most roles in the company and that’s been really important to me
“Over the years I have experienced most roles in the company and that’s been really important to me. If the employee makes a mistake, then I know exactly how they are feeling because I have tried it many times myself.” This hands-on approach translated into a safe but steady growth for the business, which today specialises in audio and video cables and electronics accessories. As he adds: “It is always the goal to have rapid growth, but if succeeding means that you are striving to keep up with the fast pace, it’s not worth it.”
For Christian, there is also a crucial connection between growth and the individual customer experience. "The mantra may sound banal, but the customer must always be right. If the customer is angry then there is a reason for it. Christian ensured he understood every element and process within the business to experience all aspects of the customer's journey.
“By the same token, I am incredibly aware of the value that employees bring. I would never have come so far without their skills and their unflinching focus on customer service.”
Taking the business to the next level
Christian's sensible growth strategy has clearly worked and the pandemic has only further driven trading as consumers spend much more online. It has also caught the eye of investors, and earlier this year the business was sold to Swedish consumer electronics giant Kjell & Company. There are strong synergies between the businesses such as the high flexibility that AV-Cables offers with 24-hour delivery to its 500,000 customers, the product portfolios of both companies, and the benefits of the large know-how that Kjell has derived from physical sales points in both Sweden and Norway.
it was natural to push the business forward with a strong partner who can support the big decisions
Aware of his own limitations in continuing to try and run the business himself, Christian had begun considering a sale to a larger business a few years ago so that AV-Cables could be taken to new heights. As he explains: “At some point, you think about whether you are the right person to take it further. You have thoughts about your own limitations. It is not certain that you can - or want to - have 200 employees beneath you. Therefore, it was natural to push the business forward with a strong partner who can support the big decisions. It gives me peace of mind to concentrate on what really provides value for the company — and not least spending time at home with my family.” When choosing a buyer Christian says he used his own business acumen and gut feeling. “As businesses, I feel we are very similar to each other in many ways, such as culture too. Kjell really understand our business ethos.”
For me to sell a business that I had personally built from scratch was naturally a very big decision, but Clearwater made the whole process surprisingly smooth
Clear process and peace of mind
Clearwater International helped Christian prepare the business for sale. At the beginning of the process, Christian admits that he was not convinced of the merits of a sale, but his view changed as the process continued. “From the very start it was Clearwater's role to bring everything necessary into play, but it was always clear that I could pull out of the process at any time if I didn’t want to continue, which was really important. But at the same time, I increasingly realised that the company would benefit from the support of a strong strategic player. For me to sell a business that I had personally built from scratch was naturally a very big decision, but Clearwater made the whole process surprisingly smooth for me. I really believe that if I did not have Clearwater advising me then the business would not have been sold.”
Keeping clear priorities
Christian, who is still with the business and will continue to stay as long as he is the right person for the job, says common sense and an awareness of one's own limitations have been the path to his success in business, alongside keeping his feet firmly on the ground. “It might sound strange, but I always tried not to think too much about the business when I was away from the office because ultimately it is my family that is really important in life. Yes, I’ve now been rewarded for many years of hard work, but I haven’t suddenly become a different person because I have sold the business. Yes, it has given me more freedom and I can relax better, but I am still the same Christian.”