As a long time customer of Memory Express, a Calgary based computer store (now a chain of stores), I’ve been long curious of the growing and continuing success of the company. It is my pleasure to try to explore and shine some light on its success story which actually started 12 years ago in June of 1996 by the four Ngo brothers – Minh (the eldest), Yet, Hien, and Ut (the youngest).
In the following video interview clips, you will hear Minh share many stories, his insights and advices. Without giving much away, including how frugal (I mean **seriously** frugal) the brothers were when they started their business, the effort they put in to serve one particular out of town customer in the early days, and may be most importantly how hard working they have been and over the years.
The beginnings of Memory Express. The win-win working relationship with other computer stores in town in the beginning. The secret of the “Express” in Memory Express. The surprising story of their first desk and first computer (hint: they were truly “priceless” (free, in a surprising way, big smile)).
From the days of only selling notebook computer memories to branching out and selling other products. The fascinating story of how they learn to build and start selling computer systems. The strategy and philosophy behind growing Memory Express.
The split between retail vs corporate customers. Why sometimes competitors’ garbage may be gold mines of information! Some of the challenges they faced. Why they view services being so important. The example of the extraordinary length they went to serve one out-of-town customer. How they determine products pricing.
The thinking and strategy behind stores expansion (especially during the current recession economy). Talking about expansion outside Alberta. Inventory tracking and ordering software system.
The process and vision of growing Memory Express to a national chain. The different Canadian cities to expand next and the need to understand the competitors. What is the brothers’ exit strategy – selling eventually or keep it as a family business, etc? Minh’s thought about having outside investors. Sales/Revenues of Memory Express? Minh’s advices to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Some Personal Takeaways
The success story of Memory Express is truly one of hard work, focus, and prudent use of money (right from the beginning) and expansion. The following truly helps,
- Having a win-win working relationship with other computer stores in town in the beginning.
- Word of mouth ads that was priceless and great free advertising.
- “Luck” also plays an important role as they turned a customer requested special order computer monitor (in the days when they were selling memory only) into the first steps of selling multiple products.
- Interesting use of customers’ waiting time to help determine the pace of growth.
- If we are willing to work extra hard, sometimes we don’t have to have a lot of startup capital or even full and comprehensive knowledge to start a successful business. It is not easy but it is certainly possible as witness the success of Memory Express.
May 30th, 2009 Update: Found this interesting 2007 Calgary Herald article featuring Memory Express, check it out.
Jan 14, 2015 Update: Disclosure: Over the years, I’ve become friendly with Minh and owners of Memory Express. This friendship in no way affected my original report in 2008 (7 years ago) but readers should none the less be informed and make their own judgement on my reporting.