E196: The Most Important Success Factor in Business – Takeaways from the 5 Minute Pitch
Early this year my buddies Steve Chou of My Wife Quit Her Job, Scott Voelker of The Amazing Seller, Greg Mercer of Jungle Scout and I came up with a new show called the 5 Minute Pitch.
All four of us met up last week to film the semi-finals, and it's a little strange to say this, but it's probably the hardest I've worked the whole year. The schedule was so brutal that I wasn't able to touch my laptop for 3 whole days. Imagine that.
The 5 Minute Pitch
The 5 Minute Pitch is a Shark Tank style show where we have 32 contestants pitch us their businesses for 5 minutes, for a chance to win $50,000. Unlike Shark Tank, there's no strings attached, which means we don't take any equity from the company that wins.
Over the next few weeks after the creation of the show, the four of us and a couple of guest judges got together on Skype while 32 companies pitched their business ideas to us.
We narrowed the contestants down to 8 and had them fly to San Diego last week to present an extended pitch, in person, to all four of us plus one very special guest judge who we can't reveal yet (hint: his podcast is in iTunes' top 100 Business Podcasts).
We will be airing the first batch of pitches early next year on iTunes and YouTube.
The finals, which will determine the winner who will take the $50,000 prize, will be held in Miami, Florida during the Sellers Summit.
Most Important Takeaway from the Semi Finals
There is one thing that stood out to me during our filming last week (aside from the back pain from having to sit in the same position for too long) and that is there's one thing all successful businesses have.
The ability to adapt to change.
In business, you don't need to have everything figured out at the get go. You don't need to have everything planned. If you get too buried in planning, taking into account every possible scenario in your head, you might not get around to doing anything at all.
Learn to take action, get early feedback, and use that feedback to steer your business in the right direction.
Being nimble and learning how to ride the tide is the most important skill you need to learn to achieve business success.
If you think about it, so many successful businesses–AirBnB, Lyft, Cisco–didn't have all their ducks in a row. And if you look at their history, they are not the same company as they were when they started.
But they all have one thing in common: the ability to adapt to change.
Even the 5 Minute Pitch didn't start out perfectly. We knew we wanted to do this but the details weren't clear to any of us when we started. But we went ahead and did it anyway, improvising and learning from our mistakes along the way. The result of it is a show that all four of us are excited and proud to present to you.
EcomCrew Premium Opening One Last Time This Year
We've recently been limiting the number of people we accommodate with EcomCrew Premium because we wanted to be able to attend to the needs of every single one of our members, and having too many people sign up prevents us from doing that.
We have a trick up our sleeve for our next reopening on Black Friday, which will be the last time we will open registrations this year. Connect with us on Facebook to be among the first to get updates about our surprise for the reopening.
Thanks for listening to this episode! Until the next one, happy selling.
Full Audio Transcript
Mike: Hey guys, welcome to Episode 196 of the EcomCrew Podcast. I'm your host, Mike Jackness, so glad to have you along with us today. Today I want to talk about a new project I'm involved with called the 5 Minute Pitch. We did a couple of episodes about this or at least one episode about this a little while ago, but I want to talk about it again because I just got back from filming that. And I wanted to do an episode of this while it was on the top of my mind. So that's going to be today's episode. I think you guys will enjoy it. It's like kind of like a little behind the scenes action of what happened there at the 5 Minute Pitch.
Before getting into that, I do want to remind you guys if you go to EcomCrew.com/premium, you can sign up to be on our waitlist. We have one more opportunity this year that we're going to be opening EcomCrew Premium for, and it's going to be around Black Friday, Cyber Monday timeframe. So go to EcomCrew.com/premium to sign up to be on the waitlist for that. There's no obligation if you're on the list obviously. But we do give you four full courses, email access to us at any time to Dave and I, which we respond to you within one to two business days.
You also get access to our private Facebook group, which is awesome talking to other like-minded entrepreneurs. The community is growing and getting some really great responses, which is really neat, along with monthly webinars to a Q&A webinar and a behind the scenes webinar and this is only for premium members. So, go check that out over at EcomCrew.com/premium to get on that waitlist. And on the other side of this break, we're going to talk about the 5 Minute Pitch.
Mike: Alright guys. So as I mentioned in the intro, we're going to be talking about 5 Minute Pitch today. And I want to talk about it just a few days removed from the recordings, while it's fresh on my mind, tell you guys what's going on with this format, and what we're doing here and how we’ve progressed. We have a lot more clarity now on what the 5 Minute Pitch is going to be about since it's all recorded. So for me, I mean, it was an incredible experience.
I realize these are the types of things I want to be doing with my life a lot more than some of the stuff I've been doing more recently, it's just kind of a grind. But going and doing stuff like this is just so mentally refreshing. Like, it's not, obviously, it wasn't fun and games. In fact, it was probably the hardest I've worked all year. The schedule was brutal. We were on set at 8:30 each morning. One morning, we got there a little bit earlier. The first night, we wrapped up well after dinner, and we had to come back and do it again. And we were working till like 11 o'clock at night, almost 11:30, and then right back at it again the next morning.
So, I didn't even touch my laptop for three days, which actually was kind of cool. I think it's the first time all year I've gone without touching my computer. Even when I'm on vacation, I still touch my laptop and get at least look at my email and stuff. And I did have access to email on my phone, but I didn't have time to respond to anything. And first of all, it just goes to show you what an awesome team we've built here. The fact that I know that I can go away and do these types of things, and not have to worry about the crap hitting the fan, everything was fine the entire time I was gone which was awesome. That alone allows me to go off and do these types of things.
But as I said, it was definitely, it was hard work. It's actually shocking how difficult it is to be that mentally alert for such an extended period of time and also be generally just in like one position physically, which was in a chair kind of with our legs crossed. We were trying to have that professional look going on in the chair. So all this was filmed. We're going to be doing this on YouTube as well. So, it was definitely really difficult. And actually, I realized it’s kind of hurt my back.
I went to go do some hiking the next day and my back was like really hurting, my lower back just from sitting. All the pressure was like on my tailbone. The chairs were comfortable at first, but all of us were agreeing that we'll have more comfortable chairs next time because it definitely was a bit of a grind.
So, let's go over the format and how the 5 Minute Pitch came to be and all that real quick just to discuss the background on this.
There was something that Greg Mercer from Jungle Scout did called Go Pitch Win last year, and I was fortunate enough and lucky enough that he invited me to come be a guest judge on Go Pitch Win. There were six guest judges. And a couple of us, there was myself and Scott Voelker and Steve Chou were also guest judges. And my suggestion was to Greg: let's film the finale of Go Pitch Win at Sellers Summit, which is Steve Chou’s event. We're all there already. We all speak there. We were already at Steve Chou’s event.
I thought hey Greg; this would be really neat for you to make a better finale than whatever you might have planned. The four of us can be in the room together. We can film this and just kind of play it by ear on how the results are going to be. And that's exactly what we did. And so we did that. It was about an hour to two, I forgot exactly how long the filming was. And we all had a blast. I mean, it was a ton of fun again, just being in a room with like-minded people, high level entrepreneurs talking about this stuff.
And I don't know what it is about the four of us. We just seem to get along so well. There's just four very, very different personalities. And so it's unusual for people that are that are so different in many ways to get together and not butt heads because we're all probably A type personalities as well. We all run successful businesses, we’re entrepreneurs, we're strong willed individuals. And for four people with those personality traits to get in a room together along with some of the things that we’re different on and get along so well was just unique and a ton of fun, at least for me, like from my perspective.
And so, we were at dinner after filming the Go Pitch Win segments either that night or the following night. And the four of us just happened to be sitting at the same table kind of close to each other at dinner. Steve does a thing for at Sellers Summit, which is awesome for all the sellers – I’m sorry, all the speakers to get together along with some of the attendees that had a higher value ticket to come to this dinner, and which I find to be the most valuable thing when I go to these events, because I get to speak to other speakers, which then become podcast guests and eventually friends a lot of times.
And those are the types of people that I want to be hanging around with as much as possible because of the saying about you’re the strongest of the few people around you is kind of the level you're at. So anyway, we're at this dinner and we started talking about how much we were enjoying Go Pitch Win. And I threw it out there; none of us are shy that, hey, we should do this again, or do something bigger next time. Because like Greg had given away $10,000 for the winner of Go Pitch Win.
And I don't know how it happened but by the end of that dinner, we had already all agreed that we are going to go do the 5 Minute Pitch. We haven't even come up with a name for it yet, we just agreed that we were going to go do this thing, and we were going to do it bigger and better than the previous season that Greg had put together. And that the four of us would be judges and we would bring in some guest judges along the way. So that's what we ended up doing.
And over the next few weeks, we got on some Skype calls or Google Hangouts and discussed the format and what we ultimately wanted for this thing. And what we settled on was that we were going to do a $50,000 prize for the winner, winner take all, for the business that we ultimately felt like was the best one that came out of 5 Minute Pitch. And our criteria was that we were looking for bootstrap type companies, we were looking for companies that hadn't taken any type of funding and they were struggling small companies that were bootstrapped and probably weren't running out of their house or close to it.
And besides that, it could be open to any type of other business. We had some software type companies, we had some SaaS companies, but most of what ended up making it were physical product companies. And for me, it was so amazing. We ended up with 32 contestants. There was a strategic reason behind that, as we were thinking about like how the format would be from the beginning to an intermediate round to a semi finals to a finals, how that would progress. And we felt like 32 was the perfect number.
So, over the course of the first couple of days, we listened to 32. We actually listened to more, but we had — it's a long story to kind of get into it. But we listened to more than 32 5 Minute Pitches and then deliberated on them. So the segment that we had was about 20 minutes per company. And it was just so interesting. You see this throughout especially because of EcomCrew. I see all these different entrepreneurs and I go to things like EcommerceFuel Live and see a ton of entrepreneurs, and you go to Sellers Summit and see all these different entrepreneurs, but not in the same format, where the way that they explain their business and their background and their story.
And it was just fascinating to see the different types of people and what they're struggling with in their business and how they came up with the idea, and why they're passionate about it. And oh, man, I loved it. I absolutely love listening to all these stories. There was just so many heartwarming stories, a couple of them were gut wrenching. Again, I can't disclose the types of individual things; we’ll have to wait for those episodes to come out. But the storylines that came out of this were just absolutely incredible.
And the next thing that was neat was the deliberation round. We went from 32, but the format basically was if you got three yes’s out of the five judges that were there, that you would move forward, right. So like, there was just no questions asked. If there were three yes votes, then you went into the next round. And then from there, we deliberated to get down to the semi finals. And from the semi finals, we deliberated it down to get to the finals. And that's what we ended up with as a finished product. We did all this over a few days.
But the deliberation rounds were really fun for me, because we got to see the different opinions of the three other people that started this with me, and one of the guest judges. So, the guest judge was a neat dynamic. We had four different guest judges over the three days. And the fact that they were able to come and spend the time to do this just meant the world to all four of us. It was absolutely amazing. And it was a cool vibe, a cool experience again, just kind of seeing how everyone looks at businesses differently.
You have someone like Greg Mercer who has a software background. He's built this seven or eight, I guess eight figure software as a service company, and has just a tremendous amount of respect in the community, and the viewpoint to look at things as a recurring business model, a SaaS model. Then you have someone like Scott Voelker and Steve actually, the three of us are all very similar. We all are seven figure Amazon sellers. We have our own podcasts, we have our own courses. But we all kind of came from, came up in a different way.
And Steve and I were talking about this after the whole thing was done, the filming was done, and we were having breakfast. And we were just kind of talking about our different backgrounds and how we got to that point. And it was just interesting to see all of our — everyone that goes through business, and all of us have been in business for over 10 years except for Greg. He's a little bit younger, but still has a great business acumen and track record. You develop certain things over those years of business.
And some of the traits that I've developed it's just a tendency to be a little bit skittish about certain things. I'm skittish about having a business that's got too many eggs in one basket. I'm skittish about having outside factors be able to influence my business, I mean government regulations and things like that. One of the people that came on to pitch was in a highly regulated space, and something that wasn't even legal in all states, but is legal in other states. And so, those types of things scare the living crap out of me, because you never know when a state might change their mind. And I've been through these types of things.
So, I come to the table from that perspective. And I also come to the table from I have a little bit of entrepreneurial disease. So, when I see something doing really well, I want to throw caution to the wind and jump in with both feet, and just go full speed ahead. And then you have someone like Steve, who's significantly more conservative, which pragmatically is probably smarter and financially probably smarter. And he brings that to the table. And then someone like Scott, who I was saying, Steve I identify probably more with than anyone else, because he has a similar scrappy background.
The guy he's been, he's done a whole bunch of different things over his career until he stumbled upon something here that's working really, really well. But the guy is not afraid to put in the time and the hard work and certainly has a tenacity like I haven't seen in a lot of different people. And I really appreciate that, and the guy is just — I mean all of them again, there's definitely no favor for me, but I relate to Scott certainly because of that stuff more. And I thought that the dynamic is really cool.
And the only thing that was really neat about the whole experience is just how much we were able to give each other grief which is all sarcastic, and we just have a great time. And then it just gets to be like who can give each other a harder time about stuff. It was just a ton of fun. So anyway, that's kind of a high level overview of the 5 Minute Pitch or the format as I mentioned where we went from 32. We have the round of yes or no where if you get three yes's you end up in the next round. And then from there, we had to deliberate and we bracketed it, and then got people down to the final eight.
And then from that round we had another guest judge come in. I don't think that we're revealing the guest judges’ names yet. I really want to talk about, but we had an awesome surprise, someone who is in the top 100 business podcast, someone that I’ve respected for a very long time, and we were lucky enough to get them to come in and do that round of eight with us. And it was awesome meeting him from the first time and just seeing how smart he was just as much as he is on his podcast and other things I've seen him do. So that was really cool.
And then we got down to the finals which are going to be held live in Miami. So, if you want to see the finals of the 5 Minute Pitch in person, you got to go to Sellerssummit.com and go sign up for that conference. If there wasn't enough reason to go to that to begin with, I think it's one of the best conferences of the entire year. You guys know that EcommerceFuel Live is by far my favorite and then Sellers Summit is my second favorite, and then from there there's a huge gap to the next ones.
EcommerceFuel Live is my favorite because it's all like seven figure entrepreneurs and they're all my friends, right. So I have like this affinity because I know three quarters of the people that come to that conference really, really well because it was the first thing I joined. So that's mostly why it’s my personal favorite. It's a different lineup as far as speakers and things go there, but that conference is definitely all about relationship building. And Sellers Summit is as well like definitely without a doubt, but at a little bit different level. And there's more speakers there. I think you have an opportunity to learn more from the crowd there.
So yeah, I mean, you should go to Sellerssummit.com. Go sign up. I know there's only a few tickets left at this point. So I highly encourage you. It's a small conference and he definitely will not increase the number of tickets. First of all the venue, they got in trouble with the fire marshal one year for having just a couple of extra people, so they're definitely not going to be doing that again. So if you want to come see the finals of 5 Minute Pitch, meet all of us, Greg will be there, Scott will be there, Steve obviously will be there, he's running the thing, and myself. And then also see all the people that made the finals and be a part of it, because we're actually going to open up a part of it to audience participation as far as like who's going to win. And someone is going to get $50,000 which is crazy, and I'm excited about it.
So, all the people that made the finals have awesome businesses. The things that we were looking for in our criteria where, again, bootstrapped businesses, owners that we thought could take the money and really run with it and make a difference, owners that had a plan, right. We didn't really warm up to some of the contestants that well, their plan was just like, I'm going to spend $50,000 on marketing. We wanted to hear a little bit more about what they were going to do with it. And businesses that were already doing well, and could just use $50,000 to like really throw gasoline on the fire or on other thing.
Personally, really enjoying and liking the product I think was important. I think all the people that made it to the finals, that was definitely a criteria. Yeah, having something that was defensible, I think I have to look back at all the people that made it. But I think that all of them have something that's defensible. They're not me too Alibaba type products. These are things where there is a lot of personal effort that goes into it or relationships that you can replicate with athletes for instance, or intellectual property of some sort that goes in there. And some of it was just things that were hand built and designed like real craftsmanship stuff.
So, seeing those guys on stage is going to be amazing. I think that if you again have a chance to come check that in person, you should. I think it's going to be a great time. I'm already looking forward to May even though it's still several months from now. So if you want to find out more information about 5 Minute Pitch, go to 5MinutePitch.com. We have both the number and the word spelled out at 5MinutePitch.com. Go check that out so you can get notified when we do go live. We will be emailing everyone that the first episodes are out. We're going to batch the first few. They'll be on iTunes, they'll be on YouTube, we're putting a lot of effort in the production value for this. So I think you guys will enjoy that.
One last thing I do want to mention to kind of wrap this up to a takeaway for business is you don't necessarily have to have everything planned all the time. You don't always have to have every T crossed, every I dotted. If you are a tenacious person, and you're clicking your feet and you know that you're going to succeed no matter what, if you plan too much sometimes, you end up getting analysis paralysis. I can tell you that behind the scenes at 5 Minute Pitch, we didn't have everything figured out. I mean, we had talked about quite a bit of this up front and we knew the basic format, but we were changing things right up to the last second.
We were changing things that day before lunch. We sat down and had another meeting and we changed some things pretty significantly. We even changed things in the middle of the day as we were doing stuff because on our feet we all realized that there was a better way. So again, just jumping in and doing something sometimes is the most important. And you can take it too far; you can jump in completely unprepared and cause yourself a bunch of trouble. But again, I do believe that there's a thing called analysis paralysis, and if you spend too much time because time is your biggest commodity. Just hemming and hawing, and never making a decision, it can be bad for your business.
So, I wanted to leave that with you guys because a lot of things I think if you look at inventions they happen by accident. If you look at successful businesses, the reason they became successful happened by accident, or they didn't necessarily have all their ducks in a row from day one. I listen to a lot of How I Built That which is an amazing podcast that I highly recommend. I also listen to The Pitch, but How I Built That or How I Built This, I always get it confused, is an amazing podcast because they talk about all the things that were going on behind the scenes, or how a lot of these companies came to be.
And a lot of them, the ultimate business they ended up becoming, the multibillion dollar story that everyone loves to latch on to and talk about was a significantly different company in the very beginning. The ones that come to mind were Airbnb. There was one episode I listened to; it was a completely different business model from day one. Panera Bread was a different — it was Au Bon Pain to begin with, and they started Panera separately. Atari was a different business. They were doing different things. They were focusing on Coin Op machines and that was really interesting. Cisco Systems was another one that was — it was a completely different business in the early days.
Lyft was one of the guys that was on there. There was a rideshare service for college kids that were just going home for the holidays, right? You got a bunch of people heading towards the same city. A lot of my friends went to Virginia Tech as a for instance. So let's say you don't have a car down there. You don't want to take a bus back home, it's four hours. You could hop in a car with some else that's heading back up to Northern Virginia, let's say, and do that. And that was a service that they had started. And obviously Lyft turned out to be something completely different at the end of the day.
So, just jumping in and taking your idea and getting some experience behind you, getting some early traction, getting early feedback, being able to be nimble and change with the tide is incredibly important. And that's certainly the approach that we took with 5 Minute Pitch. As I said, it wasn't all 100% set in stone from day one. There was a lot of things that happened throughout the process that I think made things way better. At some points, we just sat down and we're like, let's just take a shot at this. I'm going to start talking and let's record and then sometimes that went really well. Other times someone would stop and be like, that's really dumb. Let's try it this way.
And again, because none of us have egos and we were all looking to make the best product and we get along well, I think the end result is going to be incredible. And I think you guys are going to really enjoy the 5 Minute Pitch. I can tell you that I have a lot of pride from this product. I think that it's going to be really good. And I'm honored that that Steve, Scott, and Greg allowed me to be a part of it. And I look forward to seeing the end result. So again, go to 5MinutePitch.com, sign up for the notifications.
And soon we're going to be opening up registrations for season two because we already agreed that we're going to head down that path. So that'll be open here shortly as well. So 5 Minute Pitch.com, sign up to hear about that today. And besides that, guys, let's do a sign off here. So then promote, I mentioned at the top EcomCrew Premium. We are only going to be doing that one more time throughout the rest of the year, EcomCrew.com/premium to sign up for that Black Friday, Cyber Monday deal. If you aren't in a position where you have the money to sign up for EcomCrew Premium, not a problem, we have a bunch of free stuff for you over at EcomCrew.com/free, a bunch of free content, free courses.
And one last thing, go to Facebook.com/EcomCrew and join our Facebook page, hit like. You'll get notified when we make new posts there. We had a cool behind the scenes of 5 Minute Pitch that was on our Facebook feed. So go check that out. And it'll show you who one of the guest judges was because that was a part of the behind the scenes. So if you want to see who the big guest judge was I was talking about, head over to Facebook.com/EcomCrew and check that and hit the like button. And when we do other cool stuff like that, you'll get to see that stuff in real time.
We also post content that we find that we think is valuable for ecommerce entrepreneurs. And you can make other posts and talk to people that are in comments about things that other ecommerce entrepreneurs are out there doing. So, all right guys, that's going to do it for this episode of EcomCrew. As always, I want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for your support and for listening to this show. It means the world to Dave and I, it really does. It's been a cool journey. So until the next episode, happy selling and we'll talk to you then.