E212: An Entrepreneur’s Story of Overcoming Adversity and Achieving SuccessJanuary in Ecom-Crew-Podcast
Our second podcast of 2019 is a different take on our usual Under the Hood. On today’s show, we have a Premium member recount his ecommerce journey – from the early struggles to the successful present. And typical of this segment, our guest will also be able to ask me questions and advice.
A Veteran-Owned Business
Victor Delacruz is the owner ChristianPlanner.com, a company that sells daily planners with a religious theme. A US Air Force veteran, he has gone through a multitude of challenges as an ecommerce entrepreneur including legal disputes with a former business partner and overcoming mental health issues resulting from stress.
In just over two years, ChristianPlanner.com has grown to become a million-dollar startup ready to make the transition into a bigger brand with a more diverse set of product offerings.
Under the Hood is a segment where we do an hour-long coaching call with one of our listeners. We take a look at their businesses, provide honest feedback, offer our best business advice, and answer whatever questions they have. In exchange for the free coaching, we will turn the call into a podcast episode so that our community can benefit as well. It’s a win-win!
Registration to EcomCrew Premium is closed indefinitely. But, you can still learn from us through our suite of free courses. You’ll find a total of 20 videos covering ecommerce topics like Importing from China and Building a 7-Figure Business.
Finally, 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 212 of the EcomCrew Podcast. So glad to have you guys along for our second episode of 2019. Today we’re going to be doing an Under the Hood with our friend Victor who is an EcomCrew Premium member. We’re going to try something new with the Under the Hoods this year, try to make at least 50% of them interviews with EcomCrew Premium members. That way, it’s just another benefit of being a Premium member; you have a better chance of getting selected for Under the Hood if you are a Premium member.
So when registration for that opens up again, it might be another reason for you to think about joining. But we have some amazing members in our community. I don’t know, I’m just so blessed. It’s amazing what happened to us in 2018 with Premium and the people that we’ve met, the people that have joined that community, and Victor is no exception. He has built an amazing business called Christian Planner. And we spent the first bit of this talking about his background and the story of how he started that and why he started it.
And it isn’t the road that you might think. It’s actually quite interesting how to get to this point and it’s frustrating because I’ve been there. I think a lot of entrepreneurs have been there. I don’t want to give away too much at this point. But you have to listen a little bit here to find out. But it definitely was not a straight line. But since then, he’s persevered and made an amazing company. And it’s been just an absolute pleasure getting to know him, being able to help him with this business.
That’s certainly what EcomCrew Premium is all about. And as I said, as we get to know more about our members, it’s just been incredible and inspiring and everything else in between. So again, I want to thank Victor for coming on the show today. Hopefully the stuff we talked about will be able to help him in his business in 2019 and beyond. And besides that right after this intro, we’ll get into it with Victor of Christian Planner.
Guest Intro: And then I guess he just woke up one day and said, this isn’t what I signed up for. I wanted more of the 4 Hour Work Week. So I wake up one day and I’m locked out of all the accounts.
Mike: Oh wow.
Guest Intro: And it’s funny just because he didn’t really do much, like uh, and now I’m locked out of all the accounts and it ended up, you know he didn’t return any of my emails, texts, or phone calls. I was in bad shape. And I would remember I could not deal with stress.
Mike: Hey Victor, welcome to the EcomCrew podcast.
Victor: Mike Jackness, you are the man I’ve been following you for so long and so it’s an honor to be on your podcast.
Mike: The honor is all mine man; I can’t wait to do this interview today. Just let people know kind of what’s going on, one of the things that we’ve discovered as a byproduct of doing EcomCrew Premium is we get all these awesome students joining. And we get to learn more about them on a more intimate level as we’re answering emails and talking through the Facebook group. And the last few weeks, I’ve seen some really awesome stories come through and it dawned on me it’s a struggle getting interviews together. I go out to conferences and try to meet as many people as I can, it’s hard to find interesting e-commerce businesses to interview. But we have this jewel in our EcomCrew Premium and you joined there — how long ago has it been since you joined EcomCrew Premium?
Victor: I joined EcomCrew Premium I think it was at June or July this year.
Mike: Okay, so you’ve been around for a while. And so, I mean we kind of had been emailing back and forth and then you started revealing just how good you’re doing. I’m like man, this is awesome. We got seven figure sellers in the group which is neat. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I want to start back in the beginning of kind of similar how we do with Under the Hood. This isn’t quite an Under the Hood segment, this is more just talking about your story, and we’ll definitely save some time at the end to let you ask some questions and see if we can we can help with some stuff. But I want to start back in the beginning of the journey of how you got into e-commerce.
Victor: Okay, so I feel like I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve been selling stuff since I was really young, like that kind of story. So I’m still proving myself as an entrepreneur and like to say that this is finally what I was built for. But anyway, so always been an entrepreneur. And back in 2008, I joined Air Force ROTC, which is like the exact opposite. I spent four years in the Air Force in 2010, 2014 and then I got out of the Air Force and I moved to New York City to pursue — well, I didn’t know, at first I wanted to do my MBA, and then I was like, oh, well, I’m also a musician. So I studied jazz piano at NYU under the GI Bill. So the government paid for my tuition and also paid me a salary and I was living in New York City.
Victor: Yeah, basically studying jazz and having fun. But then 2015, December 2015, I had a childhood friend approached me with a business idea. And he basically said, hey, we actually — I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Catholic church, but we actually grew up in Catholic school together and went to like our first communion together and so he knew I had a Catholic background. He also knew that I worked for a Catholic Church as a youth minister before I was in the military. So he’s like, hey dude, I had this idea for a day planner for Catholics, and he’s like, I bought Catholicplanner.com for the domain, and I got like a prototype ready. And he’s like, I would love to partner up with you and get this to market because he said he had trouble with the final touches of the product.
So I actually redid the entire product. We did Kickstarter. I was the spokesperson. I said that — we negotiated a equity split of 45% to me, 55% to him. And then within the first four months of starting the company, we did a $400,000 in revenue. And I was ecstatic because I basically spent my entire 20s in the military and kind of failing here and there and not finding my vocation, my purpose and my opportunity and I had finally found it. But kind of four months down the line, four months in the company, we actually had a dispute. He wanted like a four hour kind of workweek. I know, you probably know Tim Ferriss.
Victor: And for me, I was all in and I was like, oh, my gosh, I was running Facebook ads, I was engaging with customers. I found my purpose, which was a huge deal and I was just rolling with it. And I was at NYU at the time and NYU’s mastermind took us in and it was really, really exciting. And we worked out of the co-working space at NYU. I had hired a few people. And then I guess he just woke up one day and said, this isn’t what I signed up for. I wanted more of a four hour work week. So I wake up one day and I’m locked out of all the accounts.
Mike: Oh wow.
Victor: Like Shopify, Facebook advertising. I ran all the Facebook ads. And it’s funny just because he didn’t really do much, like uh, and now I’m locked out of all the accounts and it ended up — he didn’t return any of my emails, texts, or phone calls.
Mike: Oh man, that’s awful. I mean leading up to that point because I think that these types of conversations are — and I don’t want to get to relive all this but I do think it’s important for people to hear stuff like this because I’ve been done business with lots of partners over the years. And it’s strange because I prefer to have a partner, I really do. In my core I prefer to have a partner because I like bouncing ideas off of people, but probably more importantly, I’m a people person. I love sharing success with somebody else and some with the failures too.
But more the success because you can’t go tell your friends, oh man we did $400,000 in sales this month or this year because they’ll look at you like you’re kind of crazy or that you’re really rich. They don’t understand that you because you sold 4,000 worth of stuff doesn’t mean that you made $400,000 and all this. So it’s hard to relate to other people in your universe other than another entrepreneur or a partner. So I really love that aspect but it seems like over the years there’s only been a couple of people that I can say, because I mean again I’ve done lots of businesses, lots of partners only been really two that come to the forefront of my mind that it’s been trouble free.
All the other ones have resulted in some sort of dispute at some level over time either because of exactly what you’re laying out like one person wants to work harder than the other and wants more out of it, or you get a partner that ends up stealing from you or does other things of that nature. And unless you’re working with somebody that is open minded and fair about this stuff, I mean Grant who used to the podcast with me, he’s one of these guys that I would get in the business again doing anything at any time because we easily work things out. I mean it’s just like look dude, I don’t want to be spending more than four hours a week on this project anymore and I know you’re working 40, let me give you 15 more percent and thanks for your effort. I mean, it would just be like, it would be no problem.
And it was the same thing when he decided he wanted to stop doing the podcast. He’s just like, look, I don’t want to do it anymore. I’ve got so much going on, started to let you down, let’s work out something that’s fair for me not to have to do this anymore and for you to — because I know you want to keep doing it. That makes it easier. When you end up in a situation like you were in, that’s what happens where you end up in this horrible situation.
Victor: Right and the only legal document that I had to protect me was kind of like a standard operating agreement that we made on Legal Zoom. And so unfortunately it didn’t protect me. I had to lawyer up and I responded to eventually.
Mike: Yeah, that’s typical, I think that that’s I definitely used to do that when I was younger and I think I would probably still do it now. When it’s a business like this with someone that you started something with and has so much trust in, I think that’s a natural reaction.
Victor: Right and this is another topic but I ended up in court. I ended up in court for it and ended up being like an eight month ordeal. I borrowed some money from family to sue him and then I borrowed some more money from family and friends to start a competing business that ended up failing. So, it was like seven months after I found out I was locked out of the account, I was just like down onwards spiraling and then ended with a — I actually had to get a hip surgery because I tore my labrum.
Victor: Oh no gosh, it’s when it rains it pours thing right?
Victor: Exactly. And so…
Mike: Just real quick before we get to it because I’m just curious because I mean this guy wanted to do a four hour work week, you were working your butt off, like he has to understand that, what was the impetus for his being like this guy is working too hard, I’m going to shut him out, or was it like you were already having arguments to this point and that’s what he thought was the best way to solve it was just to like cut you out of this thing.
Victor: Yeah, well, we had some discussion a couple of weeks prior too just like hey man, I’m working really hard, I can tell that you don’t want — like this isn’t something that you’re completely into, but they were kind of uncomfortable and I took bad business from a business coach to basically try to negotiate even more which in hindsight I wouldn’t have done. So that probably made him more uncomfortable, basically saying hey man, if you’re not into this, why don’t you just take 30% and I’ll take 70%, and then we’ll try to work it out. I had no idea what that meant at the time. I took bad business advice from bad business coach. And like now because I have a partner now, and I love the person, I love the way we work together. But I wouldn’t do that, I wouldn’t have done that. Anyway, so yeah, I just…
Mike: No more salt than that one. We can — I would just curious. It’s a shame. I hear stories like this and it just makes me so sad because you could just tell in your voice like how passionate you are about that, and then having to go through that down period, just waste of time. Obviously you’ve been able to come out of the depths of that and everything is a learning experience. And I think if you’ve been in business long enough, you’re going to go through these things, but it’s still a shame. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s still unfortunate.
Victor: Yeah, totally, totally.
Mike: All right. So you end up in court, you kill through hip surgery, you start some other project that ends up crashing and burning, what was that project?
Victor: Yeah. So I was like, it was one of those points in my life when I lost the company, I lost in core and I lost in with Mike the competing business, and I just had hip surgery and I was looking out the window. I was staying at my girlfriend’s house, my wife now, but my girlfriend’s house at the time. And I was like, man, I could just end this, I understand why people jump out the window. I looked at the window, I was like oh my gosh, if there was a time ever at any point of my life, I can just go through that.
I was that low because I had basically lost all my money, and then I had a one way ticket back to my mother’s house to California, and I didn’t know what my next move was going to be. I was really embarrassed but when I was looking out the window, it’s just kind of like a movie in the back of my — like a little bird in my ear flew through the window, I’m just kidding — tell me you should start Christianplanner.com.
Victor: And I was like whoa what, Christianplanner.com. And then I just — and I was burnt out at that point and I was also crippled because I had one leg. But I had this jolt of energy that got my butt up and I opened up my computer, and I looked to see if the domain was available. And it was available, Christianplanner.com.
Mike: No way. You were able to just buy that for like 15 bucks.
Victor: Not for 15 bucks. It was $4,000.
Mike: Okay, so someone already got it and you just — okay, got you.
Victor: I was like, please have a payment plan. And luckily, they had a payment plan. This is like October 16th. So we were in Q4. I was like, Holy molly. If I need to get something to market, I got to move fast. So I started doing more research. I looked, because I knew Facebook ads. So I looked in the Facebook ad landscape and I saw just the opportunity, because these are basically the same. This is the same consumer, just Christian [inaudible 00:15:39]. And so I just kind of, I was like, all right, what does Facebook say? Well, the audience was like six times huger than the Catholic audience on Facebook.
Mike: Exactly yeah in US for sure.
Victor: And so yes. And then so because I kind of in my late teens, early 20s I was bouncing around between like Catholics and Christians, I understood the vernacular of the Christian Protestant consumer. And so I just altered the product just a little bit, I also secured the supplier. So I still had his email. So I emailed him a PDF, and I’m like can you get this done? I don’t even remember what I did. I was like it’s key for you, you have to get this done now.
Mike: So this was in October of 2016 then or?
Victor: October 2016. And so my wife, she’s a graphic designer, so I was like hon, please create this Christian Planner PDF. All she did is she came up with like a different design than the Catholic Planner because obviously we didn’t want to look too copycat back.
Mike: Didn’t want back in court again.
Victor: Yeah, but she made it in like three days and I sent it to the supplier to get finalized and I was like, well, wait, hold on, don’t press print yet. I have to go and run some tests on the market. So, I built like a landing page, I used KickoffLabs, I’m not sure if they’re still around but KickoffLabs is great [overlapping 00:17:06].
Mike: Kickstarter stuff, right?
Victor: Yes. And so I did KickoffLabs, built the landing page, threw up a Facebook ad, created like a welcome series, and then like I basically in the welcome series, I asked, hey, and the first email in the welcome series I said, hey, I’m not sure if you’re — thanks for supporting small guy and checking out my products, I’m still not sure if it’s like 100% complete or whatever, would you mind letting me know what you think? There is a human mind here, so I put in parentheses. And then I got hundreds of responses. And I’m like, okay, that’s enough for me. So I told the supplier to print, and we printed — I don’t remember how many units at the time because I didn’t have any money, I had zero monies.
And yeah, from October — oh I’m sorry, we started testing October 4th, and then we launched October 16th. We took pre orders October 16th and our first day was a $4,000 sales day. And yeah, fast forward, in our first year we did 400 grand, second year we hit 1.2 million, and then the third we’re already like we’re just like a month about almost two months into the third year over like what 1.6 million.
Victor: I mean it’s just — it’s been a journey man.
Mike: And that’s all with one product? I mean, I’m looking at your website, you have different colors but it’s all one product right?
Victor: Yeah, yeah all one product.
Mike: Yeah, that’s amazing. So you’ve made or done 1.6 million in sales 30 bucks at a time, so that’s pretty darn impressive.
Victor: Thank you. That means a lot coming from you man.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, it’s — you shot while the iron is hot. You got, I mean a great brand here, obviously a good following. I see a lot of good social media stuff in this and it’s a great story. I mean it’s the stuff that we talk about all the time on the podcast, looking for something, the product itself is light, easy to ship, has a good shelf life, it doesn’t get obsolete etc. but also the more important thing is that people will order it again, because this thing is consumable and they’re passionate about it. And then people who are religious are very passionate about it, and they love talking to their friends about it and taking pictures of it and sharing on social media, etc.
And so, I think it’s a great niche and we’ve also talked about how we’ve used this same audience for our Christian coloring book which has done really well in our sample pages. So I also relate to that same audience. It’s definitely the type of audience that reacts to Facebook because there’s lots of them that you can advertise to them all day long, but you’re not going to necessarily react to it. And this is a type of product in the price range where people will make that spontaneous purchase and just go do it. I mean it’s a $30 product, it’s not really expensive, you can still have good margin, etc. So, definitely kudos for you to do this. So, it’s amazing.
Victor: Thank you. Thank you. Again, it means a lot. I mean I kind of along the way, I developed some mental health issues, and I will say like, wow, that is a real thing. I actually, because when I moved back to my parents, it’s so humbling, I really, really needed that kind of like getting my ass kicked. I still getting my ass kicked, I’m like literally learning how to become a man, I’m a baby. I like learning how to become – I have a baby due in like two weeks, so I’m freaking out on like the rent, the real life.
Mike: You’re a baby having a baby.
Victor: I am a baby having those.
Mike: Well congratulations. I’m sure just like every other 20 something year old that has a kid, they figure it out. And it ends up working its way out just like it has through billions of other people through history. So, I’m sure it’ll work its way through.
Victor: Yeah, man.
Mike: So, talk about some of the — I mean, if you’re comfortable, the mental health stuff, is it related to business, the stress of the business, or is it something completely unrelated?
Victor: Well, yeah, so I had to travel near and far to get to solve these issues. It was like, really tough. What happened was I had experienced basically malevolence. Whenever someone experiences betrayal or malevolence, it’s going to impact you and so that’s just what happened when my childhood friend kind of dissed me. And so I wasn’t getting support from other friends around me. And so, I just turned inward, right? And I basically hated my business partner every day for like several months, and our amygdala is not meant to handle it. We’re not supposed to go through chronic stress, we’re supposed to be able to usually to solve it.
And so I developed — so what happens is if you have chronic stress for a period of time or trauma, your amygdala grows and it shuts off, it dampens your prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is like the part of the brain that that surveys for threats. That got big on me. I did some brain scans.
Victor: I worked with neurologists and that ended up becoming big to where I ended up having a twitch. I ended up with a twitch. It was so embarrassing, like I am an extrovert and [inaudible 00:22:45] people, but because I had this thing that happened, this trauma, I got really, really — I just got really screwed up. I would talk to someone and after about a minute, my mouth would start to twitch. And I was like what is going on? So I wasn’t aware of it first, it took me — I just stopped talking to people and that’s like social anxiety. I’ve never had that before. And so it was okay for me to kind of just not worry about it at that time that much just because I was cool. I’m just going to go back and build the business, and I don’t talk to anybody except my wife.
And that’s no way to live because I did that for quite a bit. I was in bad shape. I had a temper; I wasn’t showering for three or four days. I’ve always been a personal trainer, I have a few fitness certifications, and I gained 30 pounds. This was right when all the lawsuit and Christian Planner was going on and the twitch happened. I couldn’t even talk to people. And so yeah, I was in bad shape. And I would remember I could not deal with stress. My stress response was really poor. I would just lose it. I’d lose my temper. And then that’s because I moved to LA. I was like, all right. I can’t live like this anymore. And I saw on Joe Rogan, the Joe Rogan podcast a neurologist. Are you familiar with the Joe Rogan podcast?
Mike: I am yeah. I think the famous one that comes up to mind recently is when he was talking to the Tesla guy, right? So everybody was — Elon Musk episode was really interesting. That was actually the only one I listened to all the way through, but I’ve listened to lots and lots of episodes in part.
Victor: Right, right, right. Yeah, I’ve always been a Joe Rogan fan and there’s this one where he had a neurologist based at Los Angeles, a neurologist professor at UCLA. And he has a company called the Peak Brain Institute and he does neurofeedback. Have you heard of neurofeedback?
Mike: I have yeah.
Victor: Oh wow. Okay. So basically, I moved to LA. I said I needed to move out of my mom’s house and I moved to LA to do that treatment. And I care about and basically neurofeedback for your audience, neurofeedback is a treatment where you hook up wires to the brain and use electricity to open up new resources in the brain. And the neurologist on the Joe Rogan podcast said it’s the silver bullet for anxiety, ADHD, stress, and even PTSD for veterans. And so I was like man, the VA hospitals hadn’t helped me at all; I might as well just go and give it a shot. About three weeks into the treatment, I’d go there three times a week; sit there for 30 minutes to watch a screen with wires hooked up. About three weeks of treatment, the twitch went away.
And I was like, whoa, the twitch just went away. And then I just started talking to people again, I’m in LA, I’m just like, we’re out of a we work, I didn’t know anyone. And the first moving down there was like hell just because I didn’t have any friends, I was working in my business. But once this twitch went away, I felt like I could start talking to people. And I started talking to people and I started making friends again, and then I was happier. I spent like a whole month not working because I was just so — it was awesome in this almost new skin. And I could control my emotions more. He kind of turned down the amygdala a little bit and the rumination in the head, and then in the brain.
Mike: That was like literally the next question I was going to ask you is how have you been able to cope with stress since this time? So I mean, obviously some of it sounds like it came from the treatment you have, but some of it you had to manage. I mean, are you able to manage your stress levels day to day better?
Victor: Oh, yeah. My wife is here and on speaker. [overlapping 00:27:17] She just nodded, she was lucky. And I invested in the equipment and both my wife and I now do the — I mean not only does it help with the stress response, I mean, there’s a quote by — I don’t know if you heard that book, Man’s Search for Meaning?
Mike: I’ve not heard that book, no.
Victor: Oh, man, check it out. It’s about this psychiatrist who is basically in a concentration camp, and he’s Jewish, and he’s a victim in the Jewish concentration camp and great philosophical book. I’ve heard from people on the street that you’re pretty philosophical nowadays, right?
Mike: I am. I am definitely getting to become a philosopher more and more these days.
Victor: Yeah man. And so Man’s Search for Meaning, there’s a quote in there that says, there is stimulus and there is response. In between that is your ability to make a decision, he says in between that is freedom. So you think about people who just respond to their environment, whatever environment it is. A good example is like people who are like road rage, people who can’t control, regulate their physiological response to the environment to where they’re screaming at you on the highway. That is no way to live, it’s just no way to live, and it all stems from the brain.
And to answer to your earlier point, yes, it has helped me. We invested in the equipment, it helps me immensely, not only with stress response like I’m able to kind of sit if there’s like a trigger or whatever, that should get me upset, I can sit with it more and just kind of respond more appropriately and allow the emotion to pass rather than to respond in an instant, which is huge I think. It’s pretty massively huge. Not only that, I’m able to dial in just the best sleep I’ve ever had. I get seven hours of very deep sleep on consistently every night, and if I noticed my sleep kind of sleep quality deteriorating, I’ll hop on the neurofeedback machine and my sleep is perfect. So yeah.
Mike: Interesting, man it’s such an incredible story to get to this point. I think switching gears from kind of historical like I mean, where do you see things going from here? We’re recording this, it’s the end of 2018. What do you see in 2019 for Christian Planner?
Victor: Well, we’re interesting crossroads, we’re kind of like trying to break into the next phase, come out of the startup mode and into like a real company. And so, I brought on — I’m more of a creative kind of emotional guy, I’m a generalist and I screwed up the supply chain basically for the past couple of years. And so, against my own advice, I took up an equity partner. But he’s a great dude, he is a sweetheart, he’s an MBA from Stan. He was actually the guy who was — I was part of NYU mastermind and he was the guy who led it and he is a venture capitalists for the school as well.
So he’s just a pure numbers guy. He’s doing supply chain and customer service, so we’ve improved a lot since he’s come on board. He’s been on board for about a year now. And both of us want to turn Christian Planner into a well oiled machine, but we really love your model Mike. We want to — I’d like to start other — I basically like to leverage our email list and try to not only launch new products but if we find a product that has the same success as Christian Planner did like a same product, like candles for example, we would love to kind of build multiple ecommerce companies around the one centralized team.
Mike: Got you. Yeah, I mean it’s a lot harder than it sounds. We had a great episode about how — it was the Ecommerce Fuel Live episode, we’re like up talking on the deck and had a few drinks, and I was talking to Dana about how in theory it should be so easy just to stamp the same thing over and over again. You got you got the audience, you got this business model that works really well and you should be able to replicate it easier the second time around than the first time around, but for whatever reason it never really gets that way. And the Ecommerce Fuel forums, the private forums over there, just this month, there was this really great conversation about, should you double down on existing business or go off and do something new.
And actually that post was made because of a conversation we were having in episode 200 of this podcast. Someone had mentioned they wanted more clarity on what I thought about this. So, now I would definitely say double down on this for as much as you can before splitting off because the shiny object that — what ends up happening, at least for me as an entrepreneur and this was what I was talking about in the Ecommerce Fuel thread, I’m not in it really for the money. I mean, obviously, money is an important byproduct of being able to live and the result of that is important. So it’s like, I can’t say with a straight face that it doesn’t matter at all. But it certainly is not the number one thing. I mean, the thing for me is the thrill of building something new and building something from nothing.
And the thing that that I’ve struggled with in my career and I’m working on more especially recently here is that just be happy with what I got and try not to let the shiny object thing detract me because the reality is if we just spent more time on one brand and just those products and not having to try to replicate everything times four, it would be a lot better and we would have probably a more efficient, leaner, more profitable company. And again, at the end of the day if money is the number one objective of a company which I guess by definition it’s supposed to be, then you’re probably better off doing that.
And the shiny thing which is let’s go launch a podcast and then a blog or new brands and all these other things because it’s exciting, but that wears off. It’s kind of like a dopamine hit for a drug addict or anything else or someone that uses their cell phone too much and they’re just — and you get diminishing returns every time you start doing another one of those things that the amount of happiness you get from it is last name. And the amount of time you get happiness from it decreases as well to the point where all of the baggage that comes from doing all those things ends up adding up to be the seesaw tilts the other way. And then you’re not happy, right? So, just something to keep in mind.
Victor: Right. I mean, you’re pretty much where we want to be and I’m not taking that lightly. That’s for sure. Well, yeah, I know. And so we’ll see how it all pans out. I mean, that’s great advice. I had a lunch with a friend today who gave me the exact same advice.
Mike: And I just look at your site here and again, congratulations, it is amazing what you’ve been able to do, but it’s been with one skew. So I mean, it looks like you’re trying to launch a second one later this year, but I could see at least 10 skews with a brand like this where there’s different layouts or you come up with different concepts for things that can help increase your average order value and get people to do multiple types of journaling or other slight offshoots to this. There’s slight offshoots but not major offshoots. They can still be under the Christian Planner brand versus trying to launch a candle brand.
That’s like another whole animal that you don’t know anything about, you don’t know like the manufacturing or the margins or how to — if it’s even going to even sell and all these different things versus you have a built in audience here. We actually went — I think one of the things we are helping with as a part of EcomCrew Premium, it just happens to be we make a product very similar to this, not a Christian planner but just a journal. So we have a manufacturer that we were able to send your way.
This is a very high margin product that’s easy to make, it never goes bad, so if sales go slow down, you don’t have to worry about like if something happens to it versus a candle maybe over time if it’s in a warehouse environment where it’s like getting hot and cold, hot and cold over time maybe it doesn’t burn. I don’t know that much about candles but there’s other things to be thinking about that if you have — you could probably take Christian Planner to a $10 million brand way easier than trying to do two $5 million brands.
Victor: Right, right, right and you know what, to be quite honest with you, I don’t know if I have the juice do another — I mean I would only do — I mean honestly I’m like fumbling on my words. You actually inspired us to pursue that model, so thanks Mike for convincing me otherwise. Honestly you’re like a huge inspiration to like follow that.
Mike: Just do what I say, don’t do what I do.
Victor: So funny, but I honestly don’t even have the bandwidth right now to launch another brand. If we were to do that, I would hope that we have a little more firepower infrastructure team in place.
Mike: That is definitely really important and advisable, for sure. Well, I can’t thank you enough for coming on and sharing your story. It’s been absolutely amazing. I wanted to save some time here at the end to give you however much time you needed to ask questions you had. So let me just kind of switch gears completely on this podcast now and let you ask any questions you might have of me.
Victor: Oh no, I should have prepared. I do have a few questions.
Mike: If you have no questions, that makes my life easier.
Victor: I wasn’t expecting to do that.
Mike: No, of course. I appreciate you coming and doing this.
Victor: Okay. Have you ever burnt out?
Mike: Yes, for sure multiple times in my business granted. I’m not sure how much detail you want me to get into. But the quick version of it is the thing that – and this is something I’ve been working on more recently as I’ve gotten more philosophical and taking the time to actually evaluate myself in life and just other things in general versus — I think this was just a part of growing up. As you said, you feel like a kid, you’re going to be in your late 20s, you’re surely not a kid anymore. But I felt the same way at your age and even into my 30s where because I never really took the time to necessarily emotionally develop and think about what I wanted out of life other than just kind of thinking day to day and just kind of shooting from the hip which is what I had always done to survive when I was younger, because I did not come from a family of privilege.
So and as a part of my personality and the thing that I realized is that the thing that to this point in my life I’ve only known how to do things one of two ways which is like all in or not do it at all. I mean, just like all in with disastrous repercussions of ignoring personal well being and health and relationships and family and the things that are probably more important in life. But this is the type of thing that I went through because it’s part personality part survivalism, and just wanting to do the best I can at something. And when you run at that speed for a certain length of time, you’re going to burn out, I think it’s inevitable.
So I think we’re looking at ways to shift things around in 2019. I kind of alluded a little bit to it at some recent episodes and we’re going to get really in depth in Q1 of 2019. But just to try to take a more measured moderate approach. The reality is that when I’m all to a certain extent that in the beginning of it, it works out really well. But the reality is that over any length of time, what ends up happening, its detrimental. It’s certainly detrimental to all the things I mentioned but also to the business whereas you’re building a non sustainable business. And so it’s definitely caused burnout a few different times. I’m certainly pretty close to that point now where I’ve identified it probably earlier than I haven’t other times in my life, which is good. So yeah, that’s definitely happened in the past.
Victor: Okay. So what — because I burnt out a couple of times within this thing and I’m getting excited about the next phase like building a team and all that stuff, so I think I’ll be okay. But when you’re burnt out, do you have like, since you’ve done it, if you burnt out a few times, what do you do to kind of bounce back?
Mike: Yeah, I mean, the way that I’ve had to handle it a couple of times I’ve done is just to walk away, walk away from that business completely, usually by selling or giving notice of some sort, it depends on a couple of different things. That’s long stories both time, but it’s important to me to make sure that the people around me aren’t necessarily negatively affected by that situation. So there’s usually some planning that goes into it, where as smoothly as I can for everyone else around me, even if it takes me fighting through a burnout period to get through it, to make sure that partners are treated fairly, or employees or vendors or whatever other things that are around me because that stuff is really important to me.
But when I did it after being kind of burnout from poker, I gave nine months or so notice and said, look, at the end of 2010, I just don’t want to be doing this anymore. And we need to all figure out a way to make that happen, where it’s amicable for everyone. And again, because I wasn’t quite like your ex business partner, I didn’t want my cake and eat it too. I was like, this is this is my decision. I want to treat others like I want to be treated. I’m asking you to take on more responsibility and run this thing, and you surely need to get a salary for it or compensated for it in some way to make it fair for everybody. So it was easy to come to those terms if you’re fair in that moment.
And so it was actually quite painless. And we bought an RV and we are beat for two years and just like literally took off for a couple of years to mentally recharge. And the other time was when I moved to Texas and ended up in a bad business relationship with someone that convinced me to start a business with them and he stole a bunch of money from us and caused a bunch of other habit that took multiple years to recover from. And it was a similar situation where I just took off some time and we still had the RV at that time. So we just got back in the RV because we had not sold it at that point, and then went back to the East Coast and spent some time with family and things like that for a while. And it was great.
I mean, it actually really helped kind of mentally reset. So that’s just how I’ve dealt with it. There needs to be some amount of time. Each time is different but just a period of mental clarity. And again, my goal moving forward is to not need that counterbalance to such a drastic state of mind. So, if you put yourself in a let’s say it’s a scale of one to 10 and one is like where you’re not working very much intense, like when you burn yourself out. And if you run it to 10 for a period of time, then you have to go back to a one because you’ve burned yourself out, you have to stay at this one state for a long period time. That’s not healthy to like — I mean, it’d be like the same thing as gaining 100 pounds or losing 100 pounds, gaining 100 pounds losing 100 pounds kind of thing, that’s just not a healthy state.
So it’s more trying to be somewhere between like a four and six over a sustained period of time where everything is kind of working. So it’s not a four hour workweek kind of thing, but I think the thing that I need to avoid is getting into the 80 hour work week thing, which I’ve done a really good job of recently. But to start this business, that’s what it took. And I still believe that if you’re starting a new business, you have to be prepared for that. I personally don’t know how to get a business off the ground where it isn’t like just complete all in craziness if you want to grow something that’s going to scale and double every year, and kind of do the same thing that we’ve done over the last few years.
But I think the way that I will approach the next thing if I do something else will be to create like a forever business or like a more long term thing that can — I think EcomCrew is like more of a great example of that where you just invest a little bit of time every day, every week, every month, putting out great content, putting podcast to go, just keeping that constant pressure of a little bit over a long period time can make a really big difference, versus trying to make the world spin the other direction, like you’re trying to put so much effort and you’re trying to stop the world from spinning clockwise and make it go counter clockwise or something. It’s really tough.
Victor: Well, it’s interesting to strike that balance because you’re saying one minute you’re saying you’re like an all in binary type of guy which is also me, but then it sounds like you really respect the process at the same time.
Mike: I do.
Victor: You really respect which I don’t tend to respect.
Mike: I’m at a conflict man. It’s, being an entrepreneur is tough. And this is one of the things that I think is unique about what we do on this podcast is, I’m an open book about it. Because I know I’ve had a lot of private conversations with others about this stuff. So, I know everyone feels this way. But like you said earlier, you were embarrassed by the situation that happened with your ex business partner, you went to court, you lost. This is unfortunately the way that society sets us up. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about there by the way, nothing at all. This is the course of life. Nothing goes perfect all the time. You got to bounce back from adversity and all these types of things, and your friends and family should be supporting you during those moments and not ridiculing you.
And we put ourselves in that situation, or allow us to be hanging around people that make us really feel worse about it. But people don’t talk about it often. So I try to be open honest about it as I can, because I think it helps other people relate to those situations and help them work themselves through those things.
Victor: Yeah. So, have you had to cut like friends out that you’ve been friends with for like a long time? Has there any been — I’m like kind of going through that right now. But have you ever had to do that?
Mike: I have, yeah, I have. I’m not going to name them by name, because I’m not that kind of person and that’s not my thing. I usually when someone – I stopped talking bad about someone else, I usually try to change the subject or I have very little input. There was actually a question that came up. We were playing this game at a friend’s house in Vegas a few weeks ago, and the question came up. It was like this game where you answer yes or no. And the question was, do you gossip about your friends? Or I think it was actually gossip about your friends. I was one of the only people that put no one there because it’s just not my thing.
But I can’t say at a high level, I have cut people out of my life. I mean, at the end of the day, they’re the ones that are responsible for making me feel bad about myself. And those are not the people I want to be around. I want to be around people that I know that if I need something from them, I can call them at any time and they’ll be there for me just in the same way that I’m there for them. And it’s the type of people I want to be around, or not the people I only hear from when they need something. Those types of people that I’ve just kind of cut out on my life where I’ll hear from the two years later when they need a favor of some sort.
And that’s the only time you hear from them versus you just call and ask how you’re doing or texting how you’re doing, or emailing you or the only time you hear from them is how can you help them. That’s not a friend. That’s a leech on your life and there’s a lot of other things like little things like that. But yeah, I’ve definitely established a core group of really close friends and they mean the world to me and I try to spend a lot of the free time that I have been able to carve out of my life now by working less hours and stuff, making sure that I’m there for them, at any time whatever it is, and I don’t say no anymore to spending time with them.
And a great example was this Thanksgiving. I drove out to Vegas to be with them, and in previous years I hadn’t done that. I had put the business ahead of that friendship and that of family depending on what Thanksgiving it is or what holiday it is. And this year I’m also going to the East Coast to be with my family over the holidays and see my mom and dad. I don’t have a big family anymore, but you can very easily make an excuse of, oh man, I got to work or I got this other obligation and it’s a very easy trap to get into it. And those are the things that I’ve been working on trying to do a better job of.
Victor: Well, I wasn’t expecting to ask that nor receive that with. Thank you so much.
Mike: Yeah, of course.
Victor: I do have one last question.
Victor: So I’m struggling, so we’ve been always since we started, we’re smart. It’s me, my wife, now a partner. We have a couple of agencies now that we work with as well for advertising. And then also we brought on a project manager, kind of marketing manager gal. I don’t know if it’s the right — my question is what should my [inaudible 00:49:40] for my day to day to look like at this point in my business, or I think I feel like that’s like a really hard question to answer. Maybe the question is what’s your day to day like? How has your day to day evolved over time? Do you have any advice for me? That would be awesome too.
Mike: Yeah, I think this is another one of these — first of all, it’s a very personal thing. Like everyone wants something different out of life in the stage of life that they’re in. And some people, it’s interesting. One of the questions that comes up a lot in high level masterminds that I’ve been in, a very typical question to come up is, what’s your number? That’s a very, very typical question, again, at a private mastermind setting. And it’s interesting in that number being like, how much is enough money, right? Like when you have $5 million, $50 million, $500 million, what’s that number?
And so it’s interesting the range of numbers that I hear from people to that question, and I think a lot of it derives from that is what do you — like you got to always begin with the end in mind. So, what is the end goal that you’re looking for? Are you looking to retire at 60 and have five houses, and 100 million dollars in the bank and live like a baller? Are you willing to sacrifice what it’s going to take doing those 60 years to get to that point? Or do you have a more meager outlook on life where you’re just happy living in a tiny house, and have a truck that’s driving around the country or something and you have very little possessions or responsibilities and you want to retire at 40? There’s definitely different outlooks.
I don’t know that any one is more right than the other. I don’t think that’s fair for me to say one way or the other with that. I can say that I think that striving for more money and things can be a disease and cloud what’s really important in life and at some point, you may or may not regret those decisions. But not everyone feels that same way. And it’s hard to say, but there’s definitely a more of a movement in general in the world, especially in first world countries of experience is over things and I’m certainly moving towards that myself. So I think that what your day to day looks like needs to be defined and predicated based on that long term goal.
So I would sit down again, begin with the end in mind, like really sit down with your wife, and say this is what we want, this is what the number is, this is where enough is enough, and work towards that goal. And don’t let the bright lights of — as your business goes from 400K to 1.2 to 1.6 to hopefully three and five and 10, change that because what ends up happening is as you get more money, you spend more money. And the goalposts change because you’re getting this short term happiness [inaudible 00:52:39] where it seems like as you’re — and I’m going through the same thing.
So I’m a hypocrite for even — but I can say from my experiences, I wish that I treated differently of not letting those goalposts move because it is definitely it’s easy to get sucked into that vortex of, oh man, like I can go out and buy a $200,000 car now, instead of a $50,000 car, and I can buy a $5 million house instead of a $1 million house, and I can fly first class or a private jet and eat caviar or whatever and all that stuff is really, really cool. And then what ends up happening is you end up meeting friends and hanging around people that are of the same mindset.
So then you’re in this comparing yourself to the Joneses with another class of people. And it makes it really easy to get sucked into it and way harder to step away from that. And it’s just something to be aware of, and not like get sucked into that and try to have a more disciplined long term plan. It’s something I wish that someone had told me when I was 10 or 15 years younger. It would have definitely helped. But some stuff you got to kind of go through an experience yourself. I think it’s like you’re about to have a kid. I mean, the kid is going to want to put his hand on the stove and you will tell them over and over again, do not put your hand on the stove, it’s going to hurt.
But until he sticks his hand on the stove, it’s hard to convince them otherwise that it’s — until you kind of experienced some stuff, I do think some things at least in my life, some things I’ve learned from other people, most of the things I’ve learned by self realization, by going through it myself, experiencing the pain of the counter balance of what I thought was awesome about something and then going okay, well, here’s the repercussion and maybe I’ll do it a little bit differently next time. And that’s certainly — and try not to make the same mistakes over and over again, which sometimes you do, but try to learn after the first time and improve upon it.
Victor: Right. Awesome man, thank you so much.
Mike: Of course, it was a pleasure having you and congratulations on building what you’ve done. Best of luck in 2019, I hope you come back on the show this time next year and tell me that you did 3 million. It’ll be awesome and definitely wish all the best. And you had mentioned wanting to come out at some point to San Diego. I look forward to seeing you out here or somewhere on the speaking circuit someday.
Victor: Awesome, awesome. All right, Mike, you have a great night.
Mike: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
And that is a wraps folks. Hope you guys enjoyed the 212th episode of the EcomCrew Podcast. If you want a chance to be on your very own Under the Hood segment, go to EcomCrew.com/UndertheHood to sign up today. Again, if you’re a Premium member and you want to do that, you will get special treatment. We obviously have less Premium members than we do listeners, so we’ll pick from a smaller fishbowl if you will, on the Premium side.
But we still want to get normal listeners in as well. We want to try to spread this around as much people in the community as we possibly can. So EcomCrew/UndertheHood if you think you have something interesting to share with our audience, and you could use some help with your business that you think might help the audience. That’s the whole key here is to both share an interesting story and or share a problem that you’re having in your business that isn’t just exclusive to you that can help a lot of other people out there with their e-commerce businesses.
That’s what we’re trying to do here at EcomCrew, and that’s certainly the kind of thing we’re looking for on Under the Hood. So if that fits you, again, EcomCrew.com/UndertheHood for the show notes for this episode. If you have any questions or comments about this one in particular, as always, EcomCrew.com slash episode number which in this case is 212, EcomCrew.com/212. All right everyone. Hope you guys are having a great start to 2019 and until the next episode, happy selling, and we’ll talk to you then.
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.