Gary Rohloff tells Business Matters the inspiration behind the creation of retail platform Laybuy, and what advice he would give to anyone looking to start a business today.
What do you currently do?
I am the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Laybuy, the retail payments platform providing support for retailers through an interest-free Buy Now, Pay Later offering to consumers.
Prior to Laybuy, I spent the first half of my career in banking and corporate finance roles before transitioning to the world of retail, in which I held CEO and Director titles at some of New Zealand’s most iconic retailers.
In 2016 my son Alex and I decided that, in the 21stcentury, consumers should have more options when it comes to paying for goods and services. As a result, Laybuy was born, allowing consumers to stagger payments interest-free over six weeks, with first instalment made at the point of sale either online or instore.
In the last 18 months, Laybuy has become New Zealand’s largest Buy Now, Pay Later provider with a consumer database exceeding 6% of the voting population, as well as a merchant database of 3,000+ online and physical stores.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
The initial idea for Laybuy was born in the early 2000s when I was running a company called EziBuy (Australasia’s largest catalogue business). At the time we were looking for a way to improve our average order value as we noticed that whatever we tried to do, our customers’ discretionary income was finite, and we couldn’t increase our basket size.
Our directors, however, weren’t overly keen on the risk profile associated with buy now, pay later and we also weren’t able to perform a digital credit check the way we can today. This made the economics hard to justify.
Wind the clock forward to 2016, and, having observed the likes of Klarna and Affirm, as well as witnessing what was happening in the Australian retail market, I decided to leave the corporate world after thirty-five years and start the business alongside my son.
Who do you admire?
I admire my wife more than anyone. Not only did she have enough faith in me to give me the green light to put everything we had on the line to build this business, but then she also rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in.
Every day she amazes me with her ability to get her head round what we’re trying to achieve and to contribute positively to what we’re doing even when times are tough. I really have the utmost admiration for her.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
What would I have done differently? I can’t think of many things off the top of my head, but perhaps I would have tried to be more understanding of my family and the pressures they were under and stress they were experiencing too.
I’m someone that gets in the zone and I’m perhaps not as measured as I should be. That’s not the best way to be anywhere but especially in a small business like ours. This is something I’m trying really hard to be mindful of.
What defines your way of doing business?
The three most important things for me are honesty, integrity and transparency. I never have, and never will, like to play silly political or bureaucratic games. My word is my bond and I expect others to be the same. I just don’t do politics and it drives me nuts when people play games with me as I’d much rather they just be upfront. That’s who I am.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
You have to believe 100% in what you’re doing and think through your strategy carefully. If you’ve done your homework however and if you have the confidence in your product, you need to be prepared to back it 100%. When there’s no safety net, you make it work, you adapt, and you never give up.