When Manny Schembri started The Wood Bloke in 2003 he was just ‘a boy from the bush,working on the farm’ who wanted a neat little sideline business. Cleverly,his wife helped build up word-of-mouth custom while working in town,and soon Manny’s little sideline grew into a full time business. “I used to cut a few metres at a time,” remembers Manny. “I had my old Holden red ute and the old little 6x4 tipping trailer,but we tried to do 13 of those in one day and no,I definitely couldn't do them anymore. It gave me a big shock and I started having to buy in wood, splitting it and selling it.” Ten years on, The Wood Bloke delivers tens of thousands of dollars-worth of firewood thanks to Manny’s reputation for efficiency and integrity. The business really took off when Manny invested in a simple website and set up online payments with PayPal, which meant customers can place an order and pay at any time that’s convenient to them. “You get the money instantly,” he enthuses. “Sometimes you might get 20 tonne of orders in one night, and you think, 'Oh no,they've been paid for and I’ve gotta get them out!'” As Manny is quick to explain,customer convenience is everything:“My main thing is I do go the extra mile. It’s the quality and cleanliness of wood,being on time,giving them what they want. If the customer wants smaller wood split,we split the wood smaller for them. Nothing's too hard for The Wood Bloke.” He’s also forthright about keeping things above board in a sector that’s reputably beset by the issues of a mainly cash economy. Visitors to his website are advised “To make it all complete you will get a Tax invoice to comply with the ATO! Please don't ask for cash price with no invoice,as I do everything by the book to the best of my ability.” Manny starts most days by checking his emails and online orders at around 4:30am,and then he’s on the road by 6 o’clock:“As much as you’re working,being on-the-go is freedom and that’s what I love about my job.” But one of the hassles of a mobile business can be chasing customer payments. Manny reckons the typical cash-on-delivery expectation in his sector is far-from-convenient:“It puts a lot on the customer. They have to go to ATMs to get cash out,it can cost them fees and time”. So when PayPal began promoting the PayPal Here card reader and smartphone app Manny was quick on the uptake. He’d already explored mobile payment systems through his local bank,but found the fees hard to swallow:“I thought,‘'I'd like to keep my business local' so I went to one local bank, but they wanted even to charge me for the cheques I deposit. What a joke!” he recalls. “I find with PayPal, the rates are pretty competitive and there are no extra fees to put money back to your bank account.” “PayPal Here is fantastic for me,” states Manny. “Customers love it too: they don’t have to go to the bank – I tell them ‘You can stay home. I have PayPal Here now and you can pay on the phone or when I get there by credit card’.” Best of all, Manny knows he doesn’t have to resort to accepting cash-on-delivery to ensure his business maintains its healthy cash flow: “You hate doing your job and not getting paid for it, but with my website, mobile phone and PayPal Here, 99% of my accounts are paid for straightaway. I’m just a firewood fella, bringing it out of the dark ages.”
“Customers love it – they don’t need to go to the bank.”
Manny Schembri, The Wood Bloke
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