E192: Our Stress Points in Running an Ecommerce BusinessOctober 29, 2018 in Ecom-Crew-Podcast
Stress is perhaps one of the many constants in running an ecommerce business. Whether you’re a starting entrepreneur or someone looking to scale that business, stress is always bound to creep up.
Dave and I have both been in business for some time now. Over the years we’ve encountered situations that resulted in much worrying and a number of sleepless nights. Unfortunately, stress in relation to developing and growing an ecommerce business isn’t something many entrepreneurs talk about. This episode aims to initiate that very conversation.
Unsurprisingly, we share quite a few stress points. Here are some that made it to our lists.
We end this conversation with some tips to de-stress.
- Don’t put money on the table that’s more than you can spend.
- Take a real vacation.
- Set aside to have some personal time.
- Spend an hour or so at the end of the day for family time.
What aspects of the business do you stress over? Let us know in the comment section below.
Registration to EcomCrew Premium is closed indefinitely. But, you can still learn from us through our suite of free courses. There’s a total of 20 videos covering ecommerce topics like Importing from China and Building a 7-Figure Business. Find more information on the link below.
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As always, thanks for listening to this episode! If you enjoyed listening and think this episode has been useful to you, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Happy selling!
Full Audio Transcript
Intro: This is Mike and welcome to episode number 192 of the EcomCrew Podcast. You can go to EcomCrew.com/192 to get to the show notes for this episode, leave any comments or thoughts you might have. And I think this is one, at least I’m hoping that we’ll get a lot of audience participation on and some interaction on, because I think all of us suffer from the topic that we’re talking about today, which is stress due to an ecommerce business, a stress induced ecommerce or something like that.
So Dave and I go through a list of things that provide stress for us or cause stress for us and in our ecommerce businesses. And I think that there isn’t any business that I’ve ever been involved in, in the 15 to 20 years I’ve been doing entrepreneurship and running businesses, but the stresses that come from ecommerce are unique. There isn’t inventory in an affiliate model or in a consulting model, which I had done before. And Amazon is a big factor obviously in ecommerce and things of that nature.
So, we talk about these things and the types of things you can do to help cope with that because I think it’s important to deal with it the best that you can. And the things that are out of your control realize what those are and kind of go with the punches. So, before getting into this episode, I just want to remind you, you can go to EcomCrew.com/free if you haven’t already and sign up for our free mini courses. No credit card required; no gimmicks or anything like that. Just a few free mini courses. They’re really helpful in different areas from Amazon, to importing to building a seven figure brand. We got a couple of really good courses there that are free.
This is the same model that we’ve used for ColorIt and for Tactical and our other ecommerce brands to build seven figure ecommerce brands where we provide value first. The podcast does that, the mini courses do that, and other things that we do give you guys value first. So, when you’re at a time when you’re looking for help and guidance in your ecommerce journey, when you’re ready EcomCrew Premium is there for you. And if not, then obviously we still love doing this stuff anyway. It’s been a lot of fun and rewarding. So, go over to EcomCrew.com/free to sign up for that if you haven’t. And if you have, well, then just hit play here and let the rest of this episode go. And we’ll be back with our stress induced ecommerce episode right on the other side this intro.
Mike: This is Mike.
Dave: This is Dave.
Mike: And welcome to this edition of the EcomCrew Podcast. How’s it going Dave?
Dave: Going well, we were just admiring my teeth off camera.
Mike: It sucks for me, because I’m going to have like one less thing to give you a hard time about.
Dave: The back-story is that I got Invisalign a few months ago to correct my terrible Canadian teeth. And Mike is now feeling a little bit of envy at not having nearly as pretty teeth as me.
Mike: It’s true. I’m going to have to — I have like straight top teeth, at the bottom I’ll probably use an Invisalign.
Dave: Okay well I haven’t seen those actually.
Mike: I smile with my front teeth or top teeth I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know what…
Dave: Strategic smiling.
Mike: Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe I’ve adapted to that. It’s actually not that bad, they’re pretty — and I never had braces or anything as a kid. It’s somehow just like I’m pretty lucky.
Dave: Yeah you just got to work on the hair now.
Mike: Yeah, dip myself at an acid bath. I guess that’s not what we’re here to talk about today though.
Dave: Somewhat, we’re talking about stress in ecommerce and no hair lines and crooked teeth do not relate to the stress of ecommerce. It’s pretty much everything else.
Mike: Yeah, so I thought this would be an interesting episode to do because we’re talking about this stuff all the time privately. And a lot of our EcomCrew Premium members are talking to us about it through email or in the webinars that we do. So, I think everyone feels it, but it’s like one of these things that no one ever wants to talk about or like, really admit, although I don’t quite understand that. Like, I’ve always been pretty open about everything. And I think that’s one of the things that makes this podcast unique. And I thought it would be an interesting episode just to have a pretty open discussion about stress in our lives that is produced by this business.
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. And for me, it really strikes home right now. I was talking to actually two friends over the weekend. And two of them have very different businesses, but kind of going through similar cycles. One was actually one of my first ecommerce friends that he basically messaged me the other day and asking if he thought he could sell his business. And he told me the story about how 2014, the business had revenues of about $1.5 million; the next year was $750,000 and flash forward all the way up to this year. And it had gone from $1.5 million a year in revenue to about $55,000 in revenue. And things have just gotten to the point now where he’s unfortunately having to declare personal bankruptcy.
Mike: Yeah, that’s brutal. That’s like the ultimate nightmare I think of all entrepreneurs, because it can happen — it happens so quickly. And it’s like trying to catch a falling knife when you’re in that situation, as you probably — you’re so emotionally attached to the business that it’s hard to let go.
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s the problem is all of a sudden this ship starts to kind of going awry. And it’s hard to kind of redirect the ship in that direction as naturally going and instead, you want to keep going for that mammoth growth and get back to where it was and continue that 50% growth that you were experiencing the year before, rather than, I guess, kind of realize, okay, well, maybe things have changed and we need to adapt for that and it’s really hard to adapt as a business when your business does start to slow down.
Mike: Yep, no doubt. All right, so let’s talk about you and me, the stresses that we feel. We can kind of just go back and forth. I have a list of things that are stress point producers for me, and I know that you’ve had some as well. So, let’s kind of just go down the list and talk about them so people can relate to these things.
Mike: You go first.
Dave: Oh, I go first.
Dave: I mean for me, and I’ll kind of tie this point into a personal story is inventory is the biggest one. And for the drop shippers out there, they’re fortunate; they don’t have to worry about this. But for inventory based companies like us, and for me, of course, personally, that’s definitely been the biggest stress inducing point. And going back to me when in 2014, I realized at a point that hey, I basically have all my personal assets tied up in inventory. And so, if I go through a little bit of a downturn like my friend did, not only am I going to lose my business, I’m going to lose everything basically that I’ve worked for in my life, it’s going to be gone. And that just made me lose an incredible amount of sleep at night thinking, geez, what can happen here if things go awry?
And it’s one thing when you’re some 22 year old kid in university and okay, well, if you go, you lose all your money, it’s not really a big deal. But when you’re starting to form a young family and looking after a kid and people are dependent on you, it’s really a very stressful moment.
Mike: Yeah, no doubt about it. And, for us, I was just as you were talking about that, I pulled up our inventory report here. We have 1 million and $6,770 in inventory and that doesn’t count stuff that’s on the water or things we’ve already got a deposit on. So it’s probably more like 1.2, and the inventory itself isn’t the stress point. When the number exceeds a comfort level is I think where the stress comes in. Because when we first got started, the inventory was almost like an exciting thing, right? It’s like, ooh, I bought this stuff, I have these things, and I’m going to like, turn the inventory and make money with them.
And everyone is at a different point in their life. I mean, when we got into it, we already had success with another business and we put in a couple of hundred thousand dollars into inventory pretty quickly. And I felt very comfortable with that. It was one of these things where it made a lot of sense in our life. And it was an amount of money had we lost all of it wouldn’t really change the trajectory of our life one way or the other, but a million dollars is a different story. And that kind of just happens over time with the growth of an ecommerce business. Before you know it, you’re at a point where that number is uncomfortable.
And again, that number is going to be different for everyone. If you’re a private equity firm or a much larger conglomerate, a million dollars in inventory is nothing. But for me it’s a big number and it definitely — having that number here, looking at this at this, it’s a number that we look at all the time is definitely a stress point for me.
Dave: So, what do you think is magic number, the percent of your assets that you would feel comfortable having tied up in inventory?
Mike: Oh man, that’s tough. I mean we’re way past that number. Whatever it is, we have definitely passed that mark. I don’t know, it’s maybe 20% or something of liquid net worth. I don’t know exactly, but we’re definitely past it. It’s definitely one of these things where, just because I can’t pay my bills with gel pens, the taxman doesn’t accept gel pens. My mortgage company doesn’t accept gel pens. We don’t have a lot of other expenses. We’re pretty lucky that that’s one thing that we don’t have stress in our lives is we don’t have to worry about things like that.
But it’s still a big number. And in the back of your mind, I think every business owner always worries about when the poop hits the fan like the worst case scenario, like what’s the worst case scenario? Like, oh, I don’t know, like Amazon suspends your account or nobody wants coloring supplies anymore. I mean, I don’t know like, whatever the business just goes like completely out of business for whatever reason and now you’ve got a million dollars in inventory that you can’t liquidate. So it’s definitely a stress. I mean, that’s definitely something that is always on my mind.
Dave: Yeah, and that’s something I’ve learned having a cash advance and basically taking all my money off the table is that going forward, I am being very conscious of not having more money on the table than I’m prepared to lose. And for me, I would say that mine is more like 25% of liquid net assets. And so, I’m now at the point where I’m very cognizant of that number because it’s creeping up and up and up. And I want it to be at a point where if the worst case scenario happened, yeah, it’s going to suck and it’s going to be a bad day, but it’s not going to totally alter my life or my family’s life.
And that’s been one takeaway, I think, is I’ve kind of grown as an entrepreneur is to realize, don’t have more on the table than you’re prepared to lose because otherwise you are going to lose stress over it. And that’s not good for a lot of reasons. Most importantly, because it does, it takes a toll on your life and your health.
Mike: I don’t think you’re a real entrepreneur because you’re not willing to go like way past the point of no return like I have.
Dave: I was well beyond that point. I’ve looked…
Mike: Alright, so I’m going to move on to the next thing on the list here, which is a suspension. We kind of alluded to this as I was talking about inventory in that worst case scenario thing. But definitely a stress point for me is Amazon is a stress point because Amazon has become a disproportional large part of our business. It’s something that I don’t like. It’s one of these things where I know better from just having other businesses in the past that it’s not a situation that I particularly want to be in. But it’s one that I can’t change. I mean I can’t change Amazon’s growth trajectory and how important they are to ecommerce.
So I mean, it becomes a situation of like, do you just not sell there at all and have a much smaller business, or do you just kind of take the way things are going in stride. And that’s just the way that we’ve done it. But it is definitely a stress point knowing that at any moment I could wake up and have that email of you’re no longer allowed to sell on Amazon.
Dave: Yeah, and that’s I guess where a lot of people have multiple secret Amazon accounts. And it’s something that I’ve even played with the idea of even buying a secondary business that has a whole separate business identity and basically no ties to me, and buying it simply for the sake of having a secondary Amazon account that’s not tied to me in any way that I could offload one business’s inventory onto if things ever did hit the fan.
Mike: Yep. Okay, what’s the next one for you?
Dave: Next thing for me is staff. And I think that’s one that growing companies tend to experience is you start to hire people and they become reliant on you for a job and for a paycheck. It becomes, it’s almost like with a family where how I talked about before, I have the stress of my business goes under and my family is depending on me. And the same thing with your staff, they’re depending on you to pay their paychecks. And if your business goes under, you’re going to basically have to let all those people go.
And it’s something I went through in my previous company. We had a bad year, I basically had to not let people go, but basically reduce their hours. They were great enough to accept those reduced hours, thankfully, but it’s something we went through and that was a hard conversation to have with them. So for a growing company, that’s definitely one of the biggest worries.
Mike: Yeah, and that is on my list as well. So I want to just take a minute to talk about it myself. I mean, for me, it’s actually pretty high up on the list because I’m just such a people person. And I’ve been in business long enough again, that I’ve had to lay off people, I’ve had to fire people. And there’s only been like one or two people out of the hundreds that I’ve worked with over the years that I’ve enjoyed firing. Like someone that’s stealing or just something along those lines where it’s just egregious. You’re just like, it feels good to like kick them off the door.
But besides that, even someone doing — we had to fire someone earlier this year here in this office that just wasn’t doing a good job but he’s like a good guy, right? It just sucks. It’s like you know they still depend on you for the job especially when they’re begging to be able to keep their job. And it’s an emotional — it’s tough. And we let some people go in the Philippines earlier this year that weren’t doing a good job, and that’s also difficult. Again, they weren’t doing a good job, but it’s still like they’re people that you’ve hung out with and really enjoy them as a person, like they’d be your friend outside of the office. But you can’t really mix those two things. It’s like that doesn’t go together and it makes it very difficult.
And then how does the rest of the team handle that on top of it? So you think of all those things, it’s like they don’t know because it’s obviously personal. You don’t disclose like when someone has a bad performance report to the whole team, and like Johnny was doing a really bad job, we’re going to post them and shame him, right? So it’s like sometimes when these people get fired, the other people on the team are taken aback by it because they didn’t realize that they weren’t doing a good job. So, all the stress points that come into having employees.
Dave: Well, and I was going to say that, yeah, it’s stressful firing people. But when you fire somebody it’s normally on their shoulders; when you have to let somebody go, it’s not because they did a poor job necessarily. It’s because you as the entrepreneur did a poor job, or at least in your head that’s how you see it. And so the psychological thing of basically having to call somebody their job because you “didn’t do a great job” running your business and it’s having a little bit of a slow period and you’re having to let them go. That’s even more stressful than having to fire somebody for their own poor performance.
Dave: So for me personally, that’s even more stressful.
Mike: Without a doubt. And I can tell you; probably one of the weaknesses that I’ve had in business over the years is like waiting too long to do that in a situation where it would be the best thing for the business, because it’s hard to have that conversation with someone that’s doing a good job. It isn’t their fault. You don’t want to let them go. We had that situation with the poker company. I mean we had 66 employees at one time at our peak and eventually went down to basically zero and over a period of many years as that niche declined. And that wasn’t any fault of ours. I mean we didn’t really do anything wrong, but it doesn’t matter when you’re the one who has to have the conversation with them and tell them they have to go find another job.
And the reality is that most people live paycheck to paycheck and they’re in a bad spot when you do that. And the thing that’s interesting is that it’s a double edged sword and makes me I guess “a little bitter about it” is maybe the right word is, when it’s the other way around, you get very little notice or sympathy. It’s just like someone comes in and like “see you later and here’s my two week’s notice” and you stressed about them like every day while they’re there, and then it’s just like they don’t realize that. And they’re just like I’m going to go somewhere else because the grass is greener on the other side.
Dave: Yeah, I’ve been fortunate not to experience it on that end; most people I’ve hired have been pretty considerate of the implications for the company. But yeah, it does suck that they’re never going to care as much about your company as you care about them.
Mike: Yeah. All right, so that was your next one there was employees. The next one for me is logistics is stressful. And some of it is self induced stress because I think that we all have this need or desire to be perfect. So you want to order the exact right amount of inventory and be in a situation where the day that your container shows up, you have one item left on the shelf and the container shows up at the perfect exact moment. And there’s like this music in the background. It all goes perfect. That is not the way that it works and especially — I don’t know if this is a biggest stress for you as it is for us, because we’re dealing with higher volume products.
So you can imagine if you have a product that you’re selling 50 widgets a day of, the math of how much inventory you need is greatly different than if you have 25 of that widget. And planning for that becomes really difficult because there’s situations where you’re selling 50 pretty consistently, and all of a sudden it goes to 25. One of the other stress points I’ll talk about here is competition or just things out of your control. And so, I think that this is one thing that you’ve done a better job of Dave where it probably isn’t as much stress for you because you’re just not having to order as many because you’re selling one or two of the widget per day and you’re quite happy with that because that’s the niches that you’ve been going into. And they’re higher priced items and probably higher margin, so it probably produces less stress for you.
Dave: Yeah, I think it’s a ratio scheme though because the only difference is that we have a bunch of products, low MOQs, but spread across more products. You have fewer products but higher MOQ. So I would argue actually in some ways it’s more difficult going after lower demand items because now you’re having to plan inventory for more items relative to the sales opposed to fewer items where yeah, you have more eggs in that one product basket, but you’re only having to project inventory for two or three products instead of maybe 10 or 11 products if that makes sense.
Mike: It does but I think there’s a difference between like additionally like more work and more complexity and stress. I mean I think that for sure, it definitely like your situation is more work. You have more items and more touch points etc. But I don’t know, I think that actually inherently makes it less stressful because there is no one SKU if you have more that that can like really hurt your sales for your company for throughout the year versus us. I mean, there’s several SKUs that we have that if they were to go away that it would definitely make a mark.
Dave: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, if you look at it that way, and the fact that it’s less diversified with higher demand items, yes, I agree with you on that point that it’s more stressful when you’re less diversified in that way.
Mike: Yeah. Okay, what’s the next one that you have?
Dave: Yeah, the next one for me, is just kind of the attachment that you have as a business owner that business has been part of basically you, so if it goes away, you all of a sudden lose kind of a piece of who you are. And I know for me, I think a lot of people kind of see me as Dave the entrepreneur. And so, if your business fails, does that mean that you personally fail. And when you get fired as an employee, it’s not as tied to you from an ego standpoint as a business is for an entrepreneur.
So that’s always one of the worries with me is that this is one of the worries why I sold my company is that if this business goes bust, well, I’ve kind of gone bankrupt as an individual, not financially but just from an ego standpoint. And so that’s the worry that I always have is that geez, I need to succeed because if I don’t succeed from my business, then me personally I’m not succeeding and people are going to see me as a failure.
Mike: Yeah, and it’s actually kind of funny because I was going to use this as the last one kind of almost a little bit funny, but I put EcomCrew on here as one of my stresses because of this exact thing. I mean we’re very public with what we do, and having to come on the podcast and say like that this thing or the other didn’t work out is definitely a stress point, I mean, I think it’s good from one perspective of it like when it lights a fire under my rear end and pushes me to do a really good job, but sometimes that doesn’t matter. You can still make poor decisions or things that are out of your control happen that produce a negative outcome. And it definitely produces additional stress.
Dave: Yeah. And I think that was a big part of why I sold my previous company was so I could basically say, hey look, I got a win. I got I got a Stanley Cup.
Dave: Even though it was a relatively small scale relative to what a lot of people sell their businesses for. But for me, I see it as a small win that nobody can take away from me. Was it necessarily the best financial choice when you sell it three times a multiple? Maybe not, but for me, in my mind, it gave me a small win that nobody can ever take away. So that’s, again one of the byproducts of stress is that maybe you get suckered into making a poor financial choice in terms of selling a company just get that kind of minor win or a medium win.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, in that situation, you also get the hit the reset button, which I think just removes a lot of stress, right? I mean, you can take a breather. I think it’s good for the body and the soul to just be able to do that, and it produced the ability for you to do some other things for a while before getting into a new business as well.
Dave: Yeah it does. I mean, I’m not going to take away from that, especially again having a young family allowed me to have some more opportunities with them. But again, I sometimes question how much of it was for me — how much of that decision was made from a financial standpoint and how much is just from an ego standpoint?
Mike: Alright yep. Okay, the next thing for me is tariffs, something I had not — if you were to ask me these questions a year ago, this would not have been on my list. But we did an episode about this because when Trump was first elected or right around the election, I think it was even before the election, this concept of a border adjustment tax had been coming up. And that was probably the first the first time that I had even thought about these types of issues. And I think we did an episode about this a while back, and then went away. That whole concept of a board just for tax went away with last year’s budget when they were going through with that. There was just a lot of pushback on it and it went away.
And then all of a sudden, just out of out of the blue, now it kind of cropped up. And that’s definitely stressful to me because it makes it very difficult to plan. I don’t really know what the outcome is going to be and how long it’s going to last for. I do think eventually, it will go away. But in the meantime, it’s a high stakes game of poker that I don’t even get to play the hand. I just sit back and watch the game develop, right? So that’s definitely stressful for me.
Dave: Yeah, it’s kind of funny. I remember talking to you probably two, three, maybe four years ago, you were complaining about Paul Ryan and this border adjustment tax, and you won that one and what happens, you get right even more extreme with Donald Trump in the tariffs, funny how the world works. But I agree. I mean, the tariffs are extremely stressful just for the fact that nobody has any idea where it’s going. And if you time it wrong, buy a bunch of inventory; get it into the country, and then the next day the tariffs go away, you are at a severe disadvantage.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. It’s definitely, it’s tough. So it’s definitely stressful. Honestly, we’ve talked about it on the podcast before and I still don’t have an answer for how to deal with it, other than it’s completely out of our control, and just take it as it comes. And one of the things we are looking at doing as an alternative is sourcing from other countries. But it might be pretty funny, like, we go source from Vietnam, and that becomes the next country on the list or something that gets targeted. So, I think that all this stuff is fluid.
And one of the things I was talking about with our COO about this the other day is that if it wasn’t tariffs, it would be something else. I mean, that’s one of the things I’ve learned from being in business for over 15 years now is it’s always something. In the moment, it feels like that’s the biggest thing. And this sucks and I can’t believe this is happening, but replace this with that or the other or whatever because it’s always something, it’s always going to be something.
Dave: Yeah. I think with the tariffs, the only kind of saving grace is that for a lot of people, they probably don’t look at raising the prices in a long time and we’ve been slowly ratcheting up our prices kind of in anticipation. We haven’t actually been hit yet, but just kind of in anticipation of it. The sales have been able to absorb that basically what works out to five to 10% price increase. They’ve been able to absorb that price increase pretty well without really affecting our sales. So, now we’re in kind of a win-win. So, if these tariffs come along, well okay, we’ve adjusted for that, and if the tariffs don’t come along, now we’re making even more profit margin. So sometimes you can turn a negative into a positive as Daniel the tiger says.
Mike: Nice. Somebody has a young kid in the house. The next stress for me is cash flow. I mean especially as we continue to grow, the numbers just get bigger. It’s like we’ve added a zero to everything now. Instead of sending $10,000 wires, it’s like $100,000 wires, and it’s definitely a stress level of just having to constantly keep all that organized and fully understand the cash flow implications six to 12 months out, something that Jacqueline has been helping with and hopefully we’ll continue to help with even more. But it is stressful because the number that we see on our tax return that we owe the IRS is disproportionate to the money that’s in the bank.
That is going to always be an issue as long as we continue to grow at the rate that we have been, and I’ll be talking about a little bit more about that in a couple of episodes here in the future. We’ve actually decided to take the pedal off the gas quite a bit because of some of these issues, just factoring in some of the tariff and sales tax and just some of the other issues that are out there right now to just put ourselves in a better cash position to weather potential storms I think is just a prudent thing to do and not worry about the growth as much but worry about long term viability.
Dave: So you finally listened to me.
Mike: No I’m not going to give you kind of that.
Dave: Now, I do think — this is kind of an aside but I think a lot of times for an ecommerce company, once you do take that foot off the pedal, you can really start to see a lot of profits going into your pocket. And it feels great when you stop growing and just start profiting.
Mike: Yeah, that’s definitely something that we’ll be looking at on the radar for the next 12 to however many months or whatever. It’s still some of these issues shake out at least at the minimum.
Dave: Yeah, as my good buddy Paul up over in Beijing says, at some point, you have to stop growing the crops and start to harvest them.
Mike: Yeah that’s a great saying, I like it. All right, what’s the next one on your list?
Dave: I’m kind of wrapped up for my list. Do you have anything to add to your list? And if no, maybe we can talk about a couple of strategies, takeaways for dealing with the stress, and how I don’t know, a young entrepreneur could organize their business to minimize stress as much as possible.
Mike: Yeah, I think that’ll be good. I have two more. I’ll do them quickly so we can add on this other stuff. The first one here is sales tax just like kind of how that all is playing out. That’s definitely a level of stress right now. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on that just because we’ve done several full length podcasts on that.
Dave: I was going to say if listeners want to review, episode 188, 187,186, 185, they can review all about sales tax.
Mike: The thing is that might actually be true. That might be all those episodes. It feels that way sometimes. And the other one, the last one I had on my list here is competition. That’s stressful just knowing that you weren’t the only one out there with Jungle Scout, right? So, there’s just constantly people that are finding out about your successful product and be, ooh, I can copy that, and there’s not a lot you can do to stop that. And so, it’s definitely stressful having to deal with knowing that that’s a constant threat. And we’ve had a few products that some competition has definitely eaten into our sales. It sucks because all they did was copy exactly what we’ve done and there’s not much you can do about it.
Dave: Yeah, it’s kind of funny. I used to sit on a boating board in Vancouver; it’s basically just a boating industry for Vancouver. And it was all made up basically brick and mortar marine industry stores and basically very old school organized companies were part of the group and I was like the one ecommerce guy there. And they would all sit there and complain about, oh ecommerce is taking over our businesses and all they’re doing is copying what we’re doing.
And they don’t see the other side of it where the ecommerce guys talk about, oh, there’s all these Chinese guys ripping off what I’m doing. It’s kind of this circle of life where eventually you get ripped off and it’s not even ripped off, it’s just as the Chinese say, R&D is simply rip off and duplicate. So I mean, it happens to everybody eventually that, yeah, people see success and they want to imitate it, and the highest form of flattery is imitation.
Mike: Yeah, no doubt about it. We had the same thing happen in online poker, so definitely never going to go away. All right, to kind of follow on to your other point there of ways to cope and deal with the stress, let’s talk about some of those things.
Dave: Sure. I mean I’ll just kind of speak from my own personal standpoint basically as my phrase that I basically started fresh year ago, a year and a half ago. And the big way that I’m learning to kind of manage stress and eliminate it as much as possible, I shouldn’t say eliminate because you can never eliminate it but minimize it is number one, is I’m thinking very long and hard about anytime I add overhead to my company. So, there’s two ways to do that. I’m primarily hiring staff and getting warehouses and office space.
So I’m being very, very tentative about doing any of those two things. I finally actually just hired a full time VA and that was my first hire where I think a less mature, and knowledgeable Dave Bryant would have hired somebody locally. And I’ve realized that ecommerce margins are being pushed down continuously year after year, and he with the lowest overhead often wins.
Mike: Yep, that’s definitely wise advice.
Dave: And yeah, the other thing like I mentioned before is simply making sure that I don’t have more money on the table than I’m prepared to lose. And it’s getting close to that point right now, but I’m being very cognizant of it. And if that simply means slowing growth, then I’ll do it. I’m not going to be naïve and think that my company is going to grow 100, 200% year over year forever, and I’d rather potentially lose some growth but have a realistic amount of money on the table I’m prepared to lose that. If things go awry, then I can live at night and live with myself.
Mike: Makes sense. I think that’s good. For me, I would add a couple of other things here. Going on vacation I think is important. That can help reduce stress a lot.
Dave: Here’s a guy who’s away four, five months a year on vacation.
Mike: Oh my God, I’m going to reach into the microphone and strangle you. Going to China to go to the Canton Fair does not count as a vacation.
Dave: When you’re with me it does.
Mike: Oh my god. Yeah, I know. This is just one of my pet peeves because this happens back at the office like how was your vacation or people just assume I went to Asia that was a vacation. It certainly doesn’t feel that way when we’re over there although the usual one drunken night that we have does feel pretty nice.
Dave: Yeah, that’s the one night not a vacation for me. But no, I get what you’re saying. And the thing is too, even when you’re on vacation, you’re in Italy, and completely non work related, you’re still getting those messages through your phone and through your email. So, that’s one thing, I’m kind of stealing your thunder here talking about this. But that’s one thing I’ve learned is why I think that you’re going to talk about is when you’re on vacation, actually make it a vacation.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, I definitely do my best to do that. I mean, I always tell my employees like extend me the same courtesy as I extend you when you’re on vacation. I very rarely will contact an employee when they’re out of the office, whether it’s at night during the week when they’re here or while they’re on vacation because I want them to be able to have that that opportunity to do that. And in the rare times that we do go away and take a vacation, I want the same thing kind of extended to me. They’re a great, we have a great team and we have put together an amazing team that is fully capable of running this thing without me, and those are the times where I really want them to be able to do that and it’s worked out pretty well.
Dave: Yeah, and anything else that you would add?
Mike: Yeah, I mean one thing that I’ve been doing a lot this year especially is just trying to take some time for myself every day if I can but that is mostly just consistent of — for the last six months it’s been after work just going for, I go for like a three mile hike. And it’s been — I mean first of all, it’s good, exercise is good. I think that there’s a lot of been studies that prove that exercise helps reduce stress. But just getting fresh air, I usually go on a hike by myself, just having some time by myself to clear my head. And a lot of times I’ll listen to other podcasts that have nothing to do with ecommerce. It’s usually travel or other business podcasts or things that I really enjoy listening to.
It’s hard to listen to a podcast just sitting at home or sitting in the office because you feel like you’re going to end up doing something else. Doing those hikes and stuff is a great time to listen to like Medium and it’s definitely helped a lot for me. Like, I look forward to doing it every day if I can. There’s definitely some days where I can’t. But most every day after work, I go do that. We were just discussing, daylight savings time is coming up. So, it’s going to probably have to switch to a different time of the day, probably lunchtime or something is what we’re thinking about doing. But I think that it’s important to make sure that you have that aspect of your life.
Dave: Yeah, that’s a great one. I think for me personally, when I’m doing some type of exercise, I like try to do it in the morning. That’s one time I can just kind of disconnect completely from every businessy thing that’s going on in my life and just focus on that exercise at hand. And I don’t know, just having that hour or two per day really just kind of refreshes you and just resets you a little bit.
Mike: Yeah, and I try to basically have my phone off when I’m doing that even though it’s on like I’m listening to a podcast with it, but I don’t look at the messages or the emails. Anything can wait, it isn’t that important to have to deal with it. And there’s nothing I can do about anyway if I’m in the middle of the hike anyway if I’m halfway through it, it’s just as long to get back either way. So yeah, it’s definitely, it’s added pretty positive aspects to my life over the last many months. Plus I’ve lost some weight because of it, so it’s good for that too.
Dave: Yeah, and I think overall just kind of following on that point too, one of the things I’m trying to do better is find a time to just connect especially with my wife. I’ve fallen into the trap many times where nine o’clock at night rolls around and I look at that, it’s prime working time because nobody is really going to bother me. So I’m trying to lose that and spend that with my wife because our daughter is in bed by that time and really focus on spending some family time and not just always working hour after hour, just because it may be convenient.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, it’s a trap, it’s a disease. We’ve talked about this in my masterminds. I think that entrepreneurialism can easily be considered a disease just as much as an alcoholic or a drug addict or whatever. This is one of these things that — these diseases that society has picked as one of these things where you’re successful because of it and not, it doesn’t look at it as a negative, or like if had one of these other problems for whatever reason. I think it’s a shame that society kind of looks down on those things. And it’s something that I’ve been working on trying to get just a better balance. It’s actually been the topics of my masterminds the things that I’m doing in my private community mastermind away from EcomCrew and stuff.
Those are things I’m talking about a lot lately just like how to balance that better and not be as obsessive with the business thing because it’s just so easy to fall in that trap. Like you said, it’s nine o’clock at night and the first thing that your mind is going to divert to is that business thing because it’s kind of a disease, right? I mean and it’s what you know and what you feel comfortable with. And it’s an easy way to occupy yourself or get like that dopamine hit of I can go do this and see some results relatively quickly.
All these different factors are at play. But the long term repercussions of that is it’s hurting your health and like your physical personal health and also like on your relationship health. And those are things that you don’t really see happening overnight. So, it’s like a slow erosion of that stuff and something that I’ve been trying to work on the best that I can at least.
Dave: Yeah, that’s actually really profound. I’ve never actually thought about it that way. I think you’re totally dead on is that yeah, totally it’s an addiction and I kind of had actually a revelation as I listened to you talk there that I have to admit it, I’m addicted to entrepreneurialism.
Mike: Yeah. I mean, I think that we’re not alone in that. And again, I mean it doesn’t ever get discussed because you’re always kind of getting patted on the back for it, right?
Dave: Mm-hmm, working hard.
Mike: Yeah, so it’s at the end of the day like I mean, you’re not going to think back about that. You’re going to think back about the time that you spent with your kid and experiences you were able to create by going to China for six months. Or for me, I’ve been able to go to 49 countries. Those are the things that I think about and I want to go to more countries and experience more stuff around the world or epic hiking trips. And I’m not going to think about that time that I launched a pair of tactical gloves probably.
Dave: Very well said. Well, should we wrap it up on that…
Mike: I think so.
Dave: And let people ponder whether they have an addiction or not.
Mike: Yeah, if you made it this far, let us know. Go to the show notes, we’ll put that in the closing here with the episode number. But yeah, I’d love to hear what other people if you’ve experienced that as well. I think it’s always good to share and commiserate with each other on these types of things.
And that’s a wrap folks. I hope you guys enjoyed the 192nd rendition of the EcomCrew Podcast. As always, you can go to EcomCrew.com/192 to get to the show notes for this episode. And we’d love to hear from you. You’re not alone out there running a business. Running an ecommerce business can definitely be stressful. It has as I was saying in the beginning and also through the entire episode, it has its unique challenges, but it’s also super rewarding. But yeah, leave some comments. Let us know if you’ve been feeling these things or if we missed something, we’d love to hear from you about that as well.
Again, as always, I want to thank you guys for your support of the EcomCrew Podcast. The best thing you can do to help us is go over to iTunes and leave a review. We really appreciate that. It makes a big difference getting us found or just hit subscribe and subscribe to the podcast, tell a friend, anything to help us get our numbers up and help us rank a little bit higher so when people are looking for commerce content on iTunes, they find the EcomCrew Podcast. So again, thank you guys so much. Until the next episode, happy selling and we’ll talk to you soon.
Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.