EcomCrew Podcast

E221: Lessons, Stories, and a Personal Vow – Takeaways from ECF Live 2019

I've said it before and I'll say it again: EcommerceFuel Live is my absolute favorite ecommerce event in the world.

From power-packed presentations and interesting entrepreneur stories, to a personal vow to abstain from alcohol, this year's ECF Live did not disappoint.

A roster of brilliant speakers

ECF Live boasted a strong list of speakers this year and the following are my top 3:

The Epic Battle Between Amazon, Walmart, and Brands – Jason Goldberg of

I consider this to be the star of the conference because this topic is very timely with Amazon quickly rising and Walmart falling behind. Jason talked about how Walmart is scared of following the footsteps of Sears and what they're doing to avoid that.

My Company, Myself: Identity and the Entrepreneurship Journey – Dr. Sherry Walling of Zen Founder

Dr. Sherry has been a guest on here before, and the episode I did with her is probably one of the best in the EcomCrew Podcast.

Her ECF Live presentation discussed an issue that's not unique but highly pronounced–and destructive–in entrepreneurs, and that is tying one's identity with one's business.

Shipping – Craig Gentry

I found this talk interesting not mainly because of the topic, but because of the speaker.

Craig was the type of reserved guy who I had to force to talk during the speakers' dinner, but when he got on stage the next day for his presentation, he was this totally different person. He was able to captivate the audience while showing them graphs and tips on how to not lose money on shipping.

Stories, takeaways and my personal vow

While ECF Live has brilliant speakers to learn from, that's not the reason why this event is a personal favorite of mine.

You'll read this on ECF Live's landing page: “What makes eCommerceFuel Live different than other events? That's easy – it's the people.”

And it's true. The people who join the event make it all the more special. Below are a couple of highlights and takeaways for me and Dave (and no, I did not get pranked this year):

  • What venture capitalists want is not always what people want. One ECF member just bought a company that once received a $750 million VC funding for an amount ridiculously lower than that.
  • More and more people are buying rosters of FBA businesses. While this is good news for people who want to exit by selling one day, we think this could be a precursor to an FBA bust.
  • Dr. Sherry Walling's talk hit hard, and we realize we need to extricate ourselves from our businesses a little bit and maintain a healthy personal life.

One of the biggest highlights for me personally is that I took a vow to never drink alcohol for an entire year.

ECF Live has an after party (and then an after after party) and a lot of us, to put it eloquently, end up getting wasted.

But then I realized some members still have fun without having a bit of alcohol in them, and this, coupled with the fact that my hangovers are getting more and more brutal, made me decide to go on the entire year without a single alcoholic drink.

Understandably, my friends are not too happy about it, but I can say that it has been a good decision so far.


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Click here to join the giveaway.

Until the next one, happy selling!


Full Audio Transcript

Intro: This is Mike and welcome to episode number 221 of the EcomCrew Podcast. So glad to have you guys along with us today. And today, I have my trusty partner in crime Dave Bryant calling in from the great white north up in Vancouver, Canada to discuss a recap of Ecommerce Fuel Live. Our favorite talks and takeaways, some big things that happened there, you're definitely going to want to stay tuned. There's actually a pretty epic thing that came out of Ecommerce Fuel Live this year and we talk about that probably about three quarters of the way through the episode.

But overall, it was a great event. As always, it's the one event that I look forward to more than anything else throughout the year. It's kind of like a fraternity meetup, something like that, a bunch of awesome people that go to that. And for me, it was an extended trip. I was there almost a week early, hung up with some friends for a couple of days and then Dave and Dave came in. It's always fun hanging out with them, and we got a lot of cool things coming up for EcomCrew based on that. In fact, Dave is flying down here in just a couple of weeks to do some new stuff. We have some new courses and stuff we're going to be releasing for EcomCrew and one of them is going to be a free one, which I think you guys will all enjoy.

All right, so before we jump into today's episode, I do want to remind you guys you can go over to for your chance to win an annual membership to EcomCrew Premium. We just started doing this last month. I think we're going to do this for the next couple of months, but we had our first winner last month David Waller. I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly David Waller won $1500 dollar membership to EcomCrew Premium annual membership which is going to get him access to us via email and for recorded courses that we have, access to our Facebook group, and our monthly webinars and all that good stuff. So congratulations, David. And whoever wins this next month, congratulations to you too. Good luck in the contest, again, All right, let's hop into today's episode, which we'll get into right after the intro.

Mike: This is Mike.

Dave: This is Dave.

Mike: And welcome to this edition of the EcomCrew Podcast. How is it going Dave?

Dave: It’s going good aside from some microphone issues, so I apologize for sounding worse than normal.

Mike: Well, it's probably snowed under or something up there in Canada.

Dave: I wish I could blame it on that. I think it's user error going on here.

Mike: You guys if you could have like a camera in the office or be a fly on the wall at the EcomCrew headquarters over here, this happens like literally every single call, so I'm used to it by now but it's actually pretty funny.

Dave: I'm only to blame for maybe three quarters of the events that we experience though. You are to blame for the other quarter.

Dave: I never professed to say that I was perfect man; I'll take a take a quarter of the blame.

Dave: Yeah. I still remember me being in China for seven months and you blaming me over and over again for my terrible internet in China, then it turns out that it was actually your San Diego internet not mine.

Mike: That's not true, that's not true. It was definitely — there was one day where the San Diego internet sucked and it's definitely, it's where we like live in this high tech city but there's no high speed internet, I don't quite get it. I mean there was decent internet but not fiber or something that's super-fast, but any rate.

Dave: That's okay, we'll make do with what we got.

Mike: I'm guessing people didn't come here to talk about microphones and internets though.

Dave: No, people can relate to this though. Everyone can relate to a microphone issue or a Skype issue or to some annoying technology issue.

Mike: Yeah, so the main meat and potatoes of today's episode, we wanted to do a recap of Ecommerce Fuel Live while it was still fresh in our minds. There was no recording on the beach pranks this year. I didn't get myself in trouble; I didn't bring the microphones with me. But it was still a great event. This is an event that I look forward to going to every year. This year didn't disappoint for me. It's become way more for me at least about hanging out with the people that go there than any of the sessions or anything although I do enjoy the sessions as well. But Andrew really did a great job intermingling that aspect in this year, way more than ever with a lot of the activities that beaded.

Dave: Yeah, it's funny; it seems most ecommerce events are kind of going that way where it's 90% networking, partying, some type of adventure/ excursion, and then 10% talks and presentations. So, I think this podcast isn't necessarily going to be a recap of the presentations but maybe more than anything kind of what we learned from talking to other e-commerce entrepreneurs and kind of what's, I don't know different trends going on and different exciting things that people are doing in their ecommerce lives. So, not to bore anybody with just a recap of presentations that they may or may not have heard, hopefully we can just kind of share some cool things that we've heard from other e-commerce entrepreneurs.

Mike: Yeah, definitely. So you want to get the boring stuff out of the way real quick as I did put up a couple, I did have a couple of things from a couple of talks I want to mention real quick and then we can move on to the other stuff which I think is definitely a lot more fun.

Dave: All right, head on with the boring.

Mike: So, I wrote down my three favorite talks, the things that I did take away that I thought were interesting. In number three, my third favorite talk was Craig Gentry’s. I don't know if he were in the room or not Dave when he was talking about shipping?

Dave: Yes.

Mike: But for me it was just more entertaining just listening to this guy. I had really got a chance to know him the night before dinner, Andrew just being first class all the way as usual sets up a dinner beer for speakers, so we all get to hang out together at a dinner. He did something really cool this year that he hasn't done in previous years, which I hope he does in the future, which is to rotate the tables three times. So, throughout this couple of hour dinner, you get to chat with at least eight to 10 different speakers. And Craig was there at one of my tables at one point. He was like this kind of quiet reserved guy; I kind of forced them to talk a few times as the rest of the table was like strong dominating conversation. And then he gets up on stage and it was like just this opposite guy that was up there than I've been at dinner.

Dave: Yeah, it's funny how people have a different stage persona than necessarily their kind of their more intimate persona. Reading Steve Martin's book, basically his biography and he talked about how he’s just an absolute introvert but of course you see him on camera on stage and completely the opposite. And definitely with Craig, I actually didn't get a chance to talk to him in person, but on stage loud and boisterous and charismatic. So, obviously different from what you experienced kind of one on one.

Mike: Yeah, for sure. And so, for me as I've tried to get better at speaking, people like him intrigue me because I want to be able to do the same. It was obvious that even if you didn't care about what he was talking about which I was in that group because we don't ship things, he still captivated the audience. But I put this on the list because I think a lot of listeners probably do ship things. We use Amazon as our 3PL so we're like shipping basically zero from our office, so shipping rates that don't really apply to us. We have to basically take whatever Amazon is providing us and that's what we're going to pay versus the old days where we used to have UPS or FedEx account.

But basically his presentation was about negotiating with these carriers. And the reality was and what I realized myself even thinking back to the days when I was doing this, that you're probably leaving a lot of money on the table when it comes to shipping. There's a lot of different things you can be looking at. Everything is basically negotiable. And people get fixated on one part of the contract and don't think about all the other things. And basically he had a 30 minute presentation, so I can't regurgitate all of it here, but he had a chart of all the different things you can do to negotiate and I found out that be pretty interesting.

Dave: Yeah it was very interesting, and at the same time my previous company we were almost all merchant fulfilled. And I do not envy those days at all when we had been negotiating with UPS reps and FedEx reps and play them off one another basically as a game going back and forth and just trying to negotiate the best rate. It's a waste of time that you have to do that but if you don't kind of know the tricks of the trade, you can get screwed over on your shipping rates. But now being in the same boat as you, it's almost all Amazon doing our shipping. I do not long for those days at all where you had to play these games with the shipping wraps because if you don't play the games you're going to get screwed over and it can cost you five figures, six figures even in loss rates.

Mike: Yeah, no doubt. All right, so my second talk I have here was Sherry's talk. Her talk was titled, my company, myself identity and the entrepreneurship journey with Sherry. So Sherry is someone who's been on this podcast, we’ll link to it in the show notes. I've also been on her podcast. I personally think that they were two of the best podcast episodes I've ever done. This is not patting myself on the back, but more just I listen to a lot of podcasts. And people oftentimes are reserved or don't want to talk about some of the dark sides of entrepreneurship and in business.

And I think that that stuff is important to talk about, it’s one of the things I advocate and try to make sure that we're always talking about the good and the bad on this podcast. And her talk was, was just brilliant. I thought she did a really good job talking about this journey. I thought, again, looking at speakers and trying to learn from other speakers and trying to do what they do to become a better speaker myself, I thought that and she was the most polished speaker that we had there at the event. She was really captivating. I found her talk to be incredibly interesting and I thought she did a great job.

Dave: Yeah, I went back and actually listened to a couple of her podcasts, including the one on EcomCrew. And so, I’m kind of familiar what kind of things that she talked about. And so even before the presentation, it really resonated with me because it's something I'm being aware of now, more and more is that my personal identity is not really separate from my business identity at all. I don't know how it is for you Mike, but I don't know how I kind of value myself as a person all seems to come back to how I value myself as an entrepreneur. And I realized that's a really toxic thing to do because most importantly if something ever happens to the business, well, what happens to me? Am I also a failure which isn't hopefully true? So, it's this whole mind shift that I'm trying to get out of.

Mike: Yeah, and I actually think that EcomCrew actually makes this worse in a lot of ways because you're so publicly talking about this stuff, and so that identity line gets blurred even more because there isn't as much of a separation. I mean, obviously there's a business life and a personal life but a lot of times, these things kind of commingle. I mean, we’ve become good friends with a lot of people that I met through this event, ECF in particular. And so, a lot of that identity, those lines get really blurred. This is not your typical nine to five type job, where you leave the office and there's a hard stop and a hard line.

So, I think that it's something I've become aware of as well and something I've been thinking about a lot more, which I never even thought about it, never even really, it never even was something that crossed my mind until you're talking to someone like her and also people from my mastermind. I think that it's something we all need to be aware of.

Dave: So, putting you on the spot…

Mike: Oh gosh.

Dave: Is there anything in the last year or so that you've kind of made an effort to associate more with your personality that's not business related, like something that you've tried to work on personally, a value that you value that isn't business related?

Mike: Yeah, I mean…

Dave: You get what I'm saying?

Mike: I do. I think that the thing that I think that I made the biggest shift for over the last couple of years really is finding the time to do stuff with friends or family and not always making the excuse of I have to work which is really easy to do. And it's definitely made a big difference. I actually was just in Las Vegas this past weekend for the Super Bowl. It's a party that we've been going to pretty much every year just because we still live there. And we didn't go to casinos; it wasn't like the type of thing that you think.

This could have been in like some small town in Oklahoma. It's we go hang out with friends and they're really great friends but someone, we were having a late night talk and they're like man, I like just really impressed with how you find the time to do stuff like this to come and do this. And I told her, I was like, look, it's not easy all the time, but you can say no to a lot of things and you choose what you say yes to. And you can — if something is important to you, you will find the time. And for a lot of my life, it's always been like something to do with work, it's always been, I'll find the time to start another project or to work harder, more hours or whatever, and not find the time to hang out with family or friends which I think has been has been a big change.

Dave: Yeah, I've noticed that too. I mean for quite a while I was basically all my friends and all my basically associates were people that I had some — that I valued some type of business end with. So, my friends were people that I thought could help me grow my business or help me grow financially. And that's just a bad way to think, there’s other things to look out for in friends. I kind of lost touch with a lot of friends growing up who they are different ways professionally and so I kind of lost touch with them a little bit and more importantly, even my wife, we have totally different businesses.

She's a commercial banker, I'm an entrepreneur so we don't have much flow and I felt that's getting disconnected there too just because our businesses weren't aligned. But I don't know, I don't think that's necessary to live a fulfilling life I guess to have friends who have totally different [inaudible 00:14:13] than you. I don't know it's just a habit I'm trying to get out of.

Mike: Yeah, and just one last thing on this, I was mentioning that EcomCrew was kind of dangerous to allow this, and the reason for that is I think the same thing that happens when you're hanging out with other business friends and associates is in that when you have a cool story to tell it's fun to like get on the podcast and the attention as much as I'm not that guy, like I mean I actually find it to be awkward in a lot of ways. I'm kind of like that Steve Martin character that in my real life I’d rather be with like three or four people in a quiet setting.

And what ends up happening in business or in e-commerce or when I'm speaking is I'm getting attention from hundreds of people at a time and it's something I'm still uncomfortable with in a lot of ways, but even if you're in a smaller setting, and you're hanging out with other business people, the lure to push things in your life a certain direction because you want to just be on par with other people, be able to be in the conversation of, oh yeah, I'm a million dollar seller, or I'm a $10 million seller and associate yourself with that can be dangerous because then you'll push yourself to do those things for all the wrong reasons, which is something I've been very cognizant of for quite a while now.

That was something I kind of figured out in the online poker days, but it's still dangerous. It's still easy to get sucked into with that. I'd be lying if I didn't say it wasn't flattering having people come up and saying like I love what you're doing, and I'm sure you enjoy it too Dave. and it pushes you to want to do that more regardless if that's what you really want or not. So, it's something to be just thinking about a lot in all aspects your life.

Dave: Yeah, yeah, I totally agree and kind of have these expectations put on you from — fortunately I don't have as much fame as you, internet fame as you, but you do get these expectations put on you from people who are following you. And they have these kind of conceived notions of you that you try to live up to, even if they're not necessarily true.

Mike: All right, so enough about that, we can show our time up with that. We should do a whole podcast about this as I still find this stuff to be really fascinating. But we have a lot of other things to chat about in our 30 minutes today. So, my last number one talk here, I thought that this was the star of the conference for me because it just, it appeals to my senses of data and macro stuff, and big things to be thinking about. And it was the epic battle between Amazon, Walmart, and brands that Jason Goldberg did. I got to know him at dinner one of the nights talking to him even more, awesome dude; he has his own podcast as well. The name of it is escaping me right now, but we'll definitely put that in the show notes.

He does it with another gentleman, just super smart, super witty like dry humor sarcastic dude that is like a spitting image of me in that department. But also the stuff he was talking about I thought was fascinating which mostly was Walmart is like scared out of their mind right now of Amazon and they don't want to become Sears. And how are they going to not suffer that same fate. And he also had this awesome chart up there of the top 10 largest brands, I think it was by decade over like the last 100 or maybe 150 years. And basically, what's happened is by looking at that chart is everybody that hits the top of the mountain always fall from grace.

This is a cycle that happens in just about anything, whether it's business or politics or countries and power and all this different stuff. And Walmart I think is definitely cognizant of this and try not to become the next sears. So, I don't know if you found that presentation to be interesting as well Dave but I loved his talk.

Dave: Yeah, absolutely. And his podcast by the way is

Mike: Thank you.

Dave: Yeah, I have the power of Google in front of me while you're talking.

Mike: Nice. I just couldn’t think of it.

Dave: I mean his talk was fascinating. I think a couple of things that stuck out to me with his talk was how much money Walmart and even Amazon lose on the majority of their SKUs, and this is something that they have the power to do that. Us kind of smaller private label brands don't do. So, he says that Amazon lose money on about 70% of their SKUs things like milk and eggs and those things basically to get people in there. Where they’re really making money is just on the accessories and all these more niche items things which e-commerce entrepreneurs tend to be attracted to. So, it’s just amazing how much money these big box retailers are throwing away on the majority of their shelves just to kind of chase that end of tail or those end of tail items.

Mike: Yeah, yeah exactly. Yeah. I thought that was all fascinating. I forgot about that stat. That was definitely one of the things I'm like, oh my god, so how do you compete, right? I mean, it shuts the little guy out and it's why Walmart can come into a town and basically monopolize a lot of sales and a lot of other places go out of business because they're able to offer those things at a lower price and get people in the door like you said and they go buy the higher margin stuff while they're there.

Dave: Yeah, it's kind of interesting; Vancouver the council here is never allowed a Walmart into Vancouver. And it makes me think about how behind the times the Vancouver city council is because Amazon's – they’ve basically given a free pass to Amazon to take over all the Vancouver marketplace by not allowing Walmart inside, and I think Amazon is a lot more detrimental to an economy. So, just kind of brought up a weird peculiarity about Vancouver, and Walmart kind of is shifting place in retail I guess.

Mike: Yeah. The other thing that was interesting about Jason, one of the things that came out in the talk we had at dinner was there was this whole talk about how Walmart is the most hated company in the country or maybe in the world.

Dave: Not for long.

Mike: Not for long. Yeah, it was definitely, that was other only thing that was really interesting. And actually Walmart has been doing a lot of things behind the scenes to work on this as well. It was really interesting, just some of the — first of all, they raised the minimum wage to I think he was saying $15 an hour nationwide, which I was shocked that I didn't even realize that. They have a lot of really interesting green initiatives and a bunch of other stuff that I thought was interesting. And they're working on this image thing of not being like the 800 pound gorilla just gobbling everything up.

And you might have thought that was more, this is capitalism and they're doing it out of their own best interest. I don't think that they're actually necessarily doing it because they're starting at a place from good but if that's what has to get them there, then that's fine too because it's good that they're moving in the right direction. But Amazon seems to be the one that is starting to get the bull's eye on their back or their chest or maybe both. And I think that I can understand why as an Amazon seller, some of the things that's happened to us, why they could be at that target.

Dave: It's kind of funny though. I think Amazon and tech companies in general are less self-aware of kind of their position in society and like people's minds than kind of traditional companies like Walmart because I think about Amazon, they always seem to be late to respond to public media outcries. And I think, I don't know if I'm right or wrong, but I think that Walmart was more self-aware of this and they're being a little bit more proactive about having that positive image within communities and the country. And I don't know, Amazon just, I don't think they have all those initiatives that Walmart does. I'm thinking even like a charitable campaign because Walmart have like a charitable campaign under their name, like all the major retailers do.

Mike: Yeah, I don't know. That’s the thing that I don’t know about.

Dave: The same thing even with Facebook. Facebook again, they’re facing all this public right now, and I don't know, I just think that a lot of these tech companies aren't as self-aware as more traditional companies are, that are kind of dealing with people on a more intimate basis and actually face to face.

Mike: All right, so those were the good. I'm sorry.

Dave: I was going to chime in here. One quote that Jason had too, which I thought was great is that Amazon solve buying, but they stop shopping.

Mike: I love that quote. I actually wrote that down too, it’s so true. Yeah, I don't know if that was something that he came up with, or someone else but that's a great quote.

Dave: Yeah, and very true.

Mike: All right, so those are my favorite talks. We were talking before, I don't think you want to go over a list yourself, but you had some other things you want to talk about. So, let's kind of shift the stage here and talk about some of the more fun stuff that kind of happened at the event.

Dave: Yeah, maybe we can just kind of pivot here to talking about interesting I guess stories that we heard from different entrepreneurs. And by far, the one that stood out to me and I have to be careful what I say here because he doesn't want us disclosing everything publicly yet until things have kind of finalized. But there is a good friend of ours who bought basically a former e-commerce company that had I think 750 million dollars raised, hundreds of employees, and he basically bought it for a song. And I can't say the number, but it was a very, very small amount of money. He bought it on his own, didn't have to raise money or anything. So, it gives you some idea of the magnitude of the scale.

And it was just amazing how far this company had sunk. And again, I can't say the name unfortunately, but everyone would know and I think especially in our sphere. And it's amazing how, I don't know how some tech companies, they raise so much money through venture capitalists and again, there's that disconnect with what people really want and I guess what VCs want.

Mike: Yeah, it's funny, I was just at the bank last night, and I was telling them — they opened up some new account because we're trying to break up all of our companies into individual accounts and everything. And we were just talking about business and entrepreneurship and these guys had this idea to create this app and never really followed through with it. Then eventually I saw that they like, raised $8 million and launch the app or whatever. And I was like, look man, just because there is $8 million dollars does not mean that they made any money.

So, I agree there definitely is a disconnect there. And it's when you're spending other people's money, and you're also getting paid at the same time, you're going to have a much different frame of mind than if it was a bootstrap type company. And there's definitely a lot of times where the needs of investors and the motivation of the person trying to execute and all these different components don't necessarily line up, the stars don’t necessarily align. Obviously, there's definitely success stories that come out. Those are the ones we usually gravitate towards, but the reality is, is that most of these things fail just like any other business.

But yeah, I mean it's interesting how this company raise hundreds of millions of dollars and just ended up being this crash course of what not to do. And I hope that our friend is in that great spot to turn that around. And I mean, certainly with the mount he put into it, I think that — and knowing him, it's probably a shoo in for success. I don't want to shake some of that, but I'm excited for him.

Dave: Yeah. And I remember there was a time with me where I wanted to raise venture capital money. I don't know, that was like, one of my bucket list goals. And I realize now that venture capitalist, they're trying to go for the big home runs, even if it means taking 100 companies and destroying 99 of them just to get that one Facebook or Twitter or whoever it might be. So for most entrepreneurs, I think VC money is normally a bad idea.

Mike: Mm-hmm, I agree. All right, so you want just kind of go back and forth here with some other interesting things.

Dave: Sure.

Mike: So, I'm going to throw — this was another talk really thing but this was my talk. So, I just want to talk about that real quick, I talk a lot about this on the podcast, but I don't know. Like it was like one of these things where I feel like I had a breakthrough and kind of like finally got over the hump of this is the most terrifying thing in the world to me. And it was almost exciting to do it this time for me rather than something that I was super stressed out about. We still put a ton of effort into it, and I want to thank you and the other Dave for that as well because Dave makes this stuff look so good.

So, it's easy to be more confident when you're up there with a great looking presentation. But I thought that it was the best talk that I've given to this point, not necessarily the content part of it, although I thought the content was good, but just the stage presence and not rushing things, not talking to quickly, not saying um a zillion times or all these different things that I think are important as a speaker. And yeah, I think it was good and I'm looking forward to continuing to get better at it. But I walked away from it feeling I guess proud is probably the best the best word I can come up with, and that's not something I usually say about myself. So, that was a pretty interesting takeaway for me.

Dave: Yeah, I actually didn't catch most of your presentation. I had something else occupy my time at the moment.

Mike: You had to wash your hair or something like that.

Dave: Yeah something, cut my toenails or something. But I caught the Q&A at the end and I watched the replay. And one thing with you is that I think you do the Q&A's, that's kind of where you shine. I don't know, you have a very personal tone with people and very authentic and genuine. And I think that's even a better part of the presentation than your actual presentation, then catching some of the ways that you helped answer people's questions that they had a view of the end, something I actually think I can take a lot away and learn a lot from you about.

Mike: Yeah, it's interesting that you say that because I actually agree. I mean, I think that — no, I mean, it's true I look forward to the Q&A part. I look forward to because I find it to be the most challenging part of the presentation because you have no idea what's coming, and I thrive on that, I really do. I am a sick, twisted individual. But not knowing what the question is going to be and having to come up with an answer, it's almost like improv, like you're having to come up with an answer on the fly. But it's easy for me to do that because like I'm in the weeds doing this stuff every day.

I also think that the other part that makes it fun or whatever is that if I don't know the answer, I’ll admit it where a lot of people will try to come off as being all knowing or whatever. If someone asks a question, I don’t know the answer, I'll just say, sorry man, I don't know how to help you with that and move on to the next one, because I do like the challenge part of it. And the presentation part is done, the hard part is done, the part where everybody is staring at you and focused, it feels like they're all like laser focused and going to burn a hole through you with a laser, that part is done. So, it's the time to relax. It's more fun. I enjoy that part. I really do.

Dave: Yeah, we're completely opposite in that regard because I'm the type of guy who stresses out under that kind of improv situation, and I'm the guy who will take a 30 minute podcast and prepare for 20 hours for where you just turn on the microphone and do it. I don't know how you do it but I definitely envy you.

Mike: This is why they have chocolate and vanilla in the grocery store and tell you about it.

Dave: I guess, where do you get these examples from?

Mike: All right, so what's the next one on your list?

Dave: Oh Mike, the next one for me is the number of people that I've talked to who are doing FBA roll ups. And we've had RJ on the podcast, he talked about trying to basically acquire 101 FBA businesses, Shaquille, I forget his last name.

Mike: He's going to be on the podcast by the way.

Dave: Right on, he’s a very cool dude, totally different from RJ. RJ is raising money to buy a bunch of these businesses, Shaquille is doing it all basically bootstrapped and basically trying to roll up. I don't know how many he’s trying to roll up but I think probably a dozen plus FBA businesses and hopefully exit at some point I would imagine. And yeah, it's very intriguing what people are doing just buying a bunch of FBA businesses and kind of conglomerating them and getting huge economies of scale. And part of that is kind of attractive to me just being able to build a massive FBA company.

Mike: Yeah, I don't know how to rectify this internally because when I see this happening, it's actually to me it's a warning sign. When money is gravitating towards like institutional kind of money is like gravitating towards something that's usually one of the last parts of a cycle. So, it does worry me but it also intrigues me at the same time because a lot of times, it could be still really, really early and I do think that we're still very early. I think that the reality is that this is kind of probably the type of thing like after a recession; people were just buying homes for cash, because they knew eventually they were going to be worth a lot more. And I think that you could say a lot about these roll ups right now. They're buying companies at 3x multiples, which is actually quite low and using economies of scale to make it more like a 2x multiple.

And the reality is, you're never going to get a 33 to 50% return doing anything else and then you still obviously own the asset. So, I don't know, it scares me a little bit from the perspective of I see a lot people doing it, this is not an isolated thing anymore. And again, like a lot of times, this becomes one of the last steps of a cycle. But at the same time, I think this is a little bit different situation, and I also find it to be encouraging at the same time that there's a lot of money out there of people that are interested in these types of businesses.

And I certainly have a history of buying and selling things and so it's exciting time for me because I think that there's an opportunity to be going through and cycling things. And specifically in e-commerce, the best time or really the best way to really unlock the money from the business is actually sell it versus other passive income type businesses that don't have inventory and stuff. So, it's an interesting thing to me from a bunch of different perspectives.

Dave: Yeah, I understand your take on it. I don't know, I think my take is more that there's a lot of e-commerce entrepreneurs who are deadly afraid of Amazon and probably I'm rightly afraid and they're also other businesses for way too cheap. And I can speak from experience as somebody who's probably did that in 2016 and what's the old investment saying, by fear and celebrate? And I still think I don't know, there's so much fear and I think there's more fear than greed right now.

Mike: Yeah, I think that's a fair statement and I'm probably more in the fear camp because I kind of talked about this in one of the recent episodes, just that when you get the ratios of risk to reward a little bit out of whack and see a few things happening out there, it definitely makes me a little jittery. But I definitely, I also said the same thing in that podcast that if I was 100 millionaire, where like, I had more money than I knew what to do with, this would probably be where I would be putting all my money at this point, because it is still like this gold rush. And I think we're still early in the process.

Dave: Yeah, I mean, I've been for about five or six years from I think about 2010, I said e-commerce is going down, the bubble is going to burst tomorrow and eight years later, it seems to be growing so fast. So, I've been on the fear camp for a while too and I think I'm slowly climbing off it.

A: All right, so next thing on my list, it's a big one, but I took a vow not to drink for a year while we were at ECF, pretty crazy but…

Dave: Who are these bad influences that you're talking to?

Mike: I know, I know my friends are not happy about this, but I'm actually pretty happy about it. It's been a couple of weeks now. I just got back from that Super Bowl party I was just talking about and made it through the entire weekend of being ridiculed for not drinking. But I felt a lot better the next morning that everybody did, I can tell you that. But no, this is actually something I've been thinking about for a while. It's interesting when I was younger, I didn't really drink at all. It's something that I've been doing a lot more the last 10 years and certainly the last five years since I've been in e-commerce as it is a high stress business and I find that drinking helps get my mind off of things.

I don't think that I have a problem but I think a lot of people that say that might have a problem as well, but I'm actually pretty confident that it was more of always like a weekend thing or a social thing. And it would be pretty damn rare like almost impossible to find me ever drinking at home during the week without — just my wife and I. But just like anything else I do in life, when I drink I like to do it to extreme and do it all in and do it right. And that's a little bit hard in your body when you're putting that much alcohol in, and as I get older, the next day has been really tough.

I’ve felt like if I'm going out drinking on a Saturday that I basically lose my entire Sunday, so I'm trading two for one for my time in the wrong direction and yeah. And the thing that really kind of inspired me to do this more than anything, over the last six to 12 months, I've met a lot of people in e-commerce that don't drink. And I'm not going to call them up by name but they’ve become really good friends of mine and it's interesting like we would be out hanging out with these guys, and you and I Dave could be like off in this boondoggle or whatever face of getting smashed and they would just be hanging out with us and getting along just fine.

And a conversation came up with another person that I met at ECF that was kind of like the final straw that also didn't drink. And I was like you know what; I'm going to give this a try. So that's kind of like where it came from. And I'm serious about it just like anything else I do, I put my mind to it and it's something that I plan on accomplishing without much of a problem, and we'll see how it goes. It might be something that I decide next year that I want to break that trend, or maybe it's something I continue.

But there wasn't like a big bang, there wasn't anything crazy that happened. It was just something I have been thinking about for a while and I realized mostly because like there is no middle ground for me. It's not like, oh well, just only have two drinks max or something like that because that's something I can't do like, whatever it is, whether it's drinking, gambling, business, some video game I get involved in, there's never something in the middle.

Dave: Yeah, I've kind of taken the Chinese approach to drinking more and more lately, and avoiding the social drinking and having a couple of beers and just drinking just because you're in some type of social occasion and doing it more of the Chinese style where you use it as a business utility. And if you're out with somebody new, and there's always a lot of shyness and nerves and that type of thing affecting the relationship. And so how do you solve that, you go and you get wasted with the guy.

So, I do think there actually is a very practical business purpose of drinking. And so, that's been more of my approach to drinking lately and trying to avoid the social drinking where having two or three drinks doesn't do anything. It doesn't calm the nerves or anything. It’s just poison that you're putting into your body. So, that's kind of my approach lately, in the past few years, at least.

Mike: So, when you go out drinking with me and get completely hammered, you're doing it to calm the nerves. And what was the other thing you said with the business thing? Because probably you just said, it was pretty funny though, because [overlapping 00:37:55] pretty crazy stuff.

Dave: Well, my focus is more to get you to be a little bit more loose left.

Mike: Because I'm usually too shy and reserved.

Dave: Well, what people don't realize too is with the podcast, you've been doing this for three and a half years now and you've been drunk every single time.

Mike: This is the first ever podcasts I've done.

Dave: But no, yeah, I do think turkey does have some practical purpose even for me and you one on one. We're not reserved around each other but I do think I don't know, when we're drinking it allows us to share some of our crazy thoughts a little bit more liberally without restraint.

Mike: Yeah, no I agree. I mean I definitely think it has a place. I'm certainly not telling people or advocating people stop drinking or saying that there's some moral or religious or whatever other reasons to not be doing it, it was more of a personal decision, something a challenge for me, and I'll report back how I feel about it when more time goes by. I mean I'm happy about it so far, but it's only been a couple of weeks but I can wholeheartedly say, I mean, I'm actually being serious about this. I mean, when I was in Vegas this past week and these friends of mine are there, they love to drink and they were out drinking pretty much every night we were there, and they got up the next morning feeling like crap. And I didn't have any of that.

It was nice just getting up and being like, when is ones breakfast and they're still like laying in bed just kind of caught up in the fetal position. So, that part I did enjoy and it was actually interesting being the only server guy in the room during game night and stuff because we like to play a lot of games. And I don't know, I actually found it to be even more entertaining watching these guys. I felt just fine, so we'll see how that goes. It's definitely again, it's still very early and we'll see how it progresses over the year.

Dave: Yeah, well, we're a month into it. And as you were telling that story, my daughter just walked in and said, how's the podcast going?

Mike: Nice.

Mike: Dave had a poor sick little girl at home which is unfortunate.

Dave: And as every family with an entrepreneur in it knows that it's that the entrepreneur in the family is the one who looks after the kids when they're sick from school.

Mike: Yeah, that's the bonus part that we never get credit for.

Dave: Well, everyone knows as entrepreneurs we don't work at all and all that money gets magically deposited into our bank account.

Mike: Yeah, exactly. Any other takeaways from ECF?

Dave: No, I think that's pretty much it.

Mike: Can I mention one more thing?

Dave: Absolutely.

Mike: I thought that the marching band thing that we did, I just fumbled that marching band. I don't know I can't say that, but Andrew hired — I don't think this can happen in any other city but New Orleans but he hired a marching band to walk the entire 200 people or whatever it was, maybe it was 250 with all the plus ones down the middle of main streets in New Orleans with a police escort. And we walked; I guess it was probably about a mile from the hotel to where we had I guess a little afternoon party which was another great social activity too. It was a bowling/ shuffleboard/ open bar and buffet.

But it was great obviously talking with everybody at the event, but I just thought it was so cool walking down the street with this matching band that I’d never seen anything like that anywhere else in the world.

Dave: It was cool. And I got to give my hats off to Andrew. When he raised the prices from I think $800 for ECF to what was it 1500, he almost caused a small mutiny and I figured that he was probably going to take all that money and put it back into the event and do some pretty cool things. And the marching band very cool, the float making very cool, he definitely went all out and that 1500 bucks didn't all go into his pocket. He obviously spent a lot of money on the event.

Mike: Without a doubt. Yeah, the bowling thing, it's not cheap to run on a whole bowling alley for half a day with open bar and opening party with open bar, closing party open bar.

Dave: Getting Mike Jackness speaking fees paid for, not cheap.

Mike: Exactly yeah, I mean he's actually on a payment plan for that. Awesome well, I think we're over so I think we're going to close it for this one. I have one more thing on my list but it's not that important. So, I hope you guys enjoyed the recap. If you weren't able to be at ECF Live, I recommend trying to come to the event next year. It really is a world class event; it's a great opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people. And I am already looking forward to next January or whenever it is, wherever it is. This is the one where I book early and put it on my calendar. I very rarely book things that far out, but it's the one thing I like to go and make sure I'm at every year along with Sellers Summit is the other one I really enjoy going to. But yeah, it was a blast. And if you were there, it was great talking to you and meet you.

There was a couple of people that are in the ECF community that are also EcomCrew Premium members. I didn't even realize it which was pretty cool getting to see them there. When they came up and said hi, I was like, oh my gosh, you're here. So, that was pretty cool. But yeah, definitely an awesome trip overall. And Dave we got to hang out for a bit with the other Dave as well. So, there's some cool things coming for EcomCrew that kind of came out of that. So, we're excited to announce those later this year. And I think that's going to do it for this episode, guys. So, until the next one, as always, happy selling and we'll talk to you then.

Michael Jackness

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.


  1. Hi Mike,

    I decided to not drink as well for a year and started this 2 days after Thanksgiving. I’m 44 so realized drinking was beginning to have a toll on me more and more as I got older. I’ve had no alcohol in almost 14 weeks now and LOVING IT!!! Along with doing Keto, I’m feeling great, more energy, losing weight and having much better focus. I’m starting a new e-commerce business for 2019 so need all the positives I can get while I’m still young (at least at heart) haha

    Thanks again for all the great content. Was shocked to hear about how VC’s look at every investment. Hopefully I can build my e-commerce empire and sell high before what may befall as Mike have alluded to.

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