EcomCrew PodcastEcommerce

Episode 16: Life as an Ecommerce Entrepreneur

Today we thought we’d talk about life as an ecommerce entrepreneur. Being your own boss has a lot of glamour to it. At least to those looking in from the outside. The truth is, it’s hard work. We share our own feelings on entrepreneurship and lend some perspective for those wanting to leave their 9 to 5 job for entrepreneurship.

Not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship and there is nothing wrong with that. But so many people are getting caught in the pitfalls of owning a business. Many people think their business will be a clockwork process that will be ran by others eventually. This is a lie, a properly run business will require most if not all of your attention to get off the ground.

We are going to share some tips today so you can maintain your life and business balance effectively.

  • Why it’s important to get out of “the office”
  • The benefits and downsides of fear
  • The importance of “option 2”
  • Mike’s top 4 tips for entrepreneurs
  • Grant’s top 4 tips for entrepreneurs

Mentioned in today’s episode:

eCommerceFuel Forum

BB (Business Breakthrough) Live

IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference and Expo)

If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast please go to and fill out the contact form. Also we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes. Thanks  for listening!

Full Audio Transcription

Mike:   Hey, everybody.  This is Mike.

Grant:  And this is Grant.

Mike:   And welcome to this week’s episode of the EcomCrew podcast.  This week, Grant and I are going to be talking about kind of a day in the life being an entrepreneur and things to be thinking about as an entrepreneur and how it can be cool and how it can be bad and things we’ve kind of stumbled and fell and kind of got back up again and those types of things.  So we thought this would be a fun episode because we’ve been talking a lot about specific things to do to grow your business and, you know, how to make more money and all these different things and it sounds kind of glamorous, and for me, it is in a lot of ways.  I mean I love what I do and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  You know, I quit my day job, if you will, back in 2004 and haven’t looked back and haven’t regretted it for a second.  And, you know, for me, it would be pretty tough.  I mean I can’t even imagine a world of going back and having to work for someone else.  But, you know, the world needs those types of people obviously.  Otherwise, entrepreneurs can’t be successful.  You need employees to work for you.  So, you know, I think of a lot of it is a mindset and just an innate trait that you’re kind of born with and we’re going to be talking about that kind of stuff today.

So to kind of kick it off, this was actually Grant’s idea and I love this idea so I’m going to let him kick it off and we’re going to just have a lot of back and forth kind of candid conversation today and kind of just change things up as we have a little bit different format for today compared to our different episodes.  So with that, Grant, take it away.

Grant:  Okay.  Thanks, Mike.  And like Mike, I’ve been outside of 8:00 to 5:00 grind ever since 2003 so I guess I’ve got exactly one year on Mike so guess that’s one thing I can hold over his head.  Both our football teams lost so we’re just going to cry together that way.  Yeah, it an interesting topic because me and Mike are already really, really big on continuing education and I think most entrepreneurs know that really the only true way that you learn in this field of business – and when I say that I mean just, you know, running your own business – is that it’s really life lesson.  And, you know, we enjoy doing the EcomCrew podcast a lot, but like Mike said, it’s all operational, you know, how to do A to lead to B.

But really the main cog behind your business is you and it’s kind of a duh moment, but the reality is that you’ve really got to work on yourself and that’s really going to be the main thing to how you succeed.  And an entrepreneur is a fun job and I wouldn’t trade it.  I mean I love what I do as well and I don’t really feel like I’m working, and pretty much all entrepreneurs that you talk to and probably you yourself, you know, you first had a little bit of success, you don’t really feel like you’re working.  You kind of feel like you’re making money or you’re just hustling or you’re making it work but you’re not working.

So the problem, though, is that it’s hard to kind of take a step back once you’re into that mindset and go, “Okay, well, how do I improve my boss or how do I get feedback?” because you are your own feedback.  So that’s why were’ big fans of, you know, trying to figure out what other people are doing and talking to other entrepreneurs and that’s why networking and at least getting out of the house and figuring out, you know, what other people are doing and talking to other groups of likeminded people’s always a good thing.  And I know Mike’s on the eCommFuel forums and he goes to events and I also – I mean that’s one of the reasons me and Mike probably get along so well is that we think alike and we balance ideas off each other all the time and it helps keep us sane.

So I would say one of the first things that you need to do really as an ecommerce person is to just find somebody that you can relate to and if it’s just like a meetup or just somebody else in the field or join a forum or something, not just for knowing how to run a better business, but just somebody that you can talk to on a daily basis.  Now, I’m sure many of you out there probably have, you know, friends and wives or girlfriends, husbands, you know, or what not, but it’s just not really the same.  Nothing replaces truly a good coworker.  There’s a few people that are simply born with the ability to just lone wolf it the whole time and, you know, that’s great if you have that ability, but the reality is that most of us can’t do that, and even I’ll admit, you know, I get pretty darn lonely at times if I’m just working by myself for like a week at a time and what not.

So, you know, it’s always good to get out of the house and I’m sure Mike will even say that, you know – I mean Mike’s got a wife and she does great cooking and what not but I’m sure Mike just wants to get out of the house every once in a while just to get out, and he’s got his own office too.  I think that was, you know, a great part for him.  Yeah, you get a little bit of cabin fever just staying in.  So going out, networking, meeting people, it adds a whole lot more dimension to what you do and if you’re not doing it, you should definitely do that.  What do you feel about that, Mike?  I’m pretty sure you’re on the same board but maybe you can tell our listeners how you kind of go out and meet people and whatnot.

Mike:   Yeah, for sure.  I mean I think that this is probably the most important thing as an entrepreneur.  You know, it’s something that I did quite a bit back in our old industry.  You know, I was very well connected with the people that ran online poker room.  We did online poker affiliate marking, just for those who don’t know Grant and I’s background.  You know, I talked to a lot of people in the industry that were doing similar things to us.  It was a very difficult industry to do that, though, in because everyone was pretty underhanded and backstabbing kind of mentality and we were all going after the exact same customers so it was a very difficult industry to do the networking and talk about your business, but we did that nonetheless and the other thing that helped is, you know, we got a point where we had a 66-person company and, you know, the executive team that we had, there was a couple of really smart people on our executive team and we were able to balance things internally.

But if you’re in a smaller company situation, which I’d venture to guess every single person listening to this podcast is in, you know, you’re either a solo-preneur or you have a five-person or less company.  You’re not generating any new ideas internally that don’t come from yourself.  I mean your employees at that level are not going to be, you know, driving business decisions and the way that your company’s going to be formed over the next 6 to 12 to 18 months.  So that’s kind of the rut that I found myself in when I left the online poker affiliate industry in 2010, you know, Grant and I started doing a bunch of other affiliate marketing things together and we kind of stumbled upon ecommerce and, you know, I found myself basically in a situation where it was just, you know, Grant and I, and then when we started doing things more on our own with Cutting Board or Ice Wraps or the coloring project or things like that, you know, it was even more day to day on my own.  And, you know, step one was getting the office and getting out the house, which I think is incredibly important to separate your, you know, home and work space and time if you can do that – something I’m still working on doing a better job of.

But yeah, having an office in a comfortable work environment that’s quiet and away from distraction I think is really important and you can do that with co-working spaces these days.  There’s a lot of these offices that have popped up in just about every town where you can go rent a desk at a co-location, co-working office for, you know, $300 a month.  And to me, that’s money really well spent.  I mean it’s great working from home but, you know, when I work from home, I feel less than hygienic.  You don’t get up and take a shower because you don’t need to and you’re kind of sitting around in your shorts and, you know, you end up in this kind of rut and almost depressed because you’re not getting out and enjoying the outside world and communicating with people.

So I think that that’s, you know, one thing, but taking to a next level, like Grant was saying, I mean I think that being part of other groups is incredibly important and it was actually kind of a New Year’s resolution for me last year, you know, January 1st, 2015, to spend as much time as I possibly going doing that type of networking.  And I’m not really big on New Year’s resolutions.  It was just kind of – that was something like became important to me around that time of the year, and as a result of that, you know, I had joined the eCommerceFuel forum, which Grant mentioned.  I mean to me, that’s the single best place to start.  If you’re listening to this podcast and you’re not a member there, I highly recommend joining.  I know Andrew Youderian very well, the guy that runs that.  I certainly don’t get a commission or anything for mention this and this isn’t like a paid ad spot or anything, it’s just something that I personally feel very strongly about.  And it’s a closed forum for only entrepreneurs and ecommerce store owners and I think it’s just a great place to interact and ask questions and to contribute knowledge, which I think is another important part.  I mean being able to contribute knowledge to others feels good and at the same time, it doesn’t make you feel like a mooch for doing nothing but asking questions.

So there’s a good community there of people that are doing just that, and as an offshoot of that, one of the things that they offer is to set you up in a mastermind group with likeminded people that are at about the same level store volume that you’re at in a, you know, not conflicting industry so you’re not talking about things that are going to be viewed as competitive or anything like that.  So for me, that was another great stepping stone.  I got matched up in a mastermind group of people that knew a hell of a lot more than I did about certain things and I knew a heck of a lot more than they did about certain things.  I mean my strength coming into it was Amazon.  My weakness I would think would be, you know, email marketing and Facebook ads and things like that.  And because of that mastermind group, I can now say that, you know, I’m pretty close to expert level in all of those areas.  I mean we’ve been crushing it with Facebook ads, we’ve been crushing it with email marketing.  We’ve sent over 60,000 emails this month, or in the last 30 days I should say, which is crazy.  And, you know, we’re converting a lot of traffic based off of email marketing, direct response marking, and Facebook ads and it’s all because of the mastermind groups and it’s something that I’ve taken to the next level.

I’m not actually a member of three different groups and we meet at various times.  One meets every week, the other two meet every other week.  You know, so I’m committing basically an average of two hours a week of my time to these mastermind groups, but the fallout of that is incredible.  And actually, just was in a mastermind meeting this morning and a whole bunch of really cool information came out about some stuff on Amazon that I didn’t even know about and we’ve been selling on Amazon for a long time – probably something we’ll talk about in a future episode.  But the reality is that you don’t know everything and you’ll never know everything and having people that have, you know, done whatever it is and sharing their experiences with you is amazing.  And once you get a comfort level where, you know, we share our screens, we talk specific numbers about what we’re doing each month.  We all feel like comfortable with each other because we know that we’re in different industries and not going to go after each other’s business.

So, you know, I think that stuff is incredibly important and just to add one more thing before I toss it back over to Grant, you know, attending industry events, that’s one thing that Grant didn’t mention.  Last year, I attended either three or four industry events and went to eCommerceFuel Live.  They do a live event and last year it was in Nashville.  I mean that was an incredible event, not necessarily as much for the people that were speaking, and those were definitely good speakers – I got a lot out of that – but also the people that I met.  Developed a lot of really good relationships.  One of the other masterminds I mentioned that I’m in right now spurred out of that meeting, that event.  Some really great friendships started there as well.  I also went to 1-day BB Live.  It’s a one-day business breakthrough.  It’s an even that Pat Flynn and Chris Ducker put on here in San Diego this year, so since we were close, we went to that.  I also went to IRCE, which I forget what that stands for but it’s like the internet retail convention and expo or something along those lines up in Chicago.  That was a great event.

So, you know, going to these events, again, I think mostly from the people that you meet and the stories that you hear about other people, which is kind of what we’re talking about here today.  We’re just kind of, you know, when we get past this, the things we’re going to be talking about are just the struggles that we’ve been through.  You know, as an entrepreneur myself, I don’t really need a lot of people motivating me and I don’t really suffer from a confidence issue.  But I think always in the back of your head, you’re kind of – there’s some doubt there, like, “Am I doing the right thing here?  Or is something doing this better than I am?  Or, you know, am I just wasting my time or whatever?” because there’s always some seed of small amount of doubt I think in the back of anyone’s head.  And hearing someone else that’s going through those same exact struggles that you’re going through day in and day out or knowing that maybe you’re doing a little bit better than they are, that reassurance like just kind of gives you some warm fuzzies inside and makes it a lot easier to kind of keep on going on.

So, again, apologize for the long ramble there.  Just had a lot kind of on my mind and want to turn it back over to Grant and let him have a few minutes here to talk about some other stuff that we want to talk about in this podcast.

Grant:  Yeah.  So Mike was talking about doubts.  And one of the greatest things, I think – and there’s even the book about it, you know, The Gift of Fear.  And that book is a whole different kind of subject matter, but it’s healthy to have fear of failure.  If you don’t have a fear of failure, then there’s something wrong with you.  Essentially, you’re generally considered a sociopath or some kind of person that, you know, just jumps into the deep end without thinking.  And that’s a horrible trait to have as an entrepreneur.  On the other hand, being paralyzed by fear’s not good either.  Generally, those people never end up becoming entrepreneurs anyways because if you are afraid, going into a game where there are no rules is generally not the cup of tea that you like to partake with in the morning.  So –

Mike:   Yeah, just real quick, I mean I think you definitely need a certain level of risk tolerance to be a true entrepreneur.  You know, I think that’s dead on.

Grant:  And I pretty much think it’s no coincidence that a lot of entrepreneurs started off when they were single and young because they had nothing to lose.  And that’s how I started.  I was working a job that I was commuting 90 minutes a day each way, traveling about 100 miles a day and it was a miserable just and my motivation was – well, it was miserable and I’ve always been motivated by money, but more than that, I think just the motivation of doing something on my own has always been a pretty big one.  But more than anything, it was the ability not to have to worry about stuff on the side.  It’s not to say that if you’ve got a family or you’ve got, you know, kids, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.  There’s plenty of stories of people that have successfully done it.  One of the things that I always say – and I’ve had to repeat this to Mike, too and he’ll tell you this, that I always say don’t bet the house.  And that also is the same words that are echoed by, you know, two of my favorite people like Mark Cuban and those other guys in the Shark Tank.  I mean if there’s one thing that you should always, always say to yourself, it’s never bet the house.  And –

Mike:   You mean literally in this case.

Grant:  Yeah, literally.  Just –

Mike:   Don’t bet your home.

Grant:  Yeah.  And the reason is that I’m not here to tell you, you know, what is your risk tolerance.  That’s not what I’m here to say.  But what I am saying is that you will hardly ever be in the right mindset if you were gambling outside of your acceptable level of risk, and then everybody knows what that is.  You know, to some person it’s one thing, to somebody else it’s another.  But when you’re betting on your ability to like keep a home over your roof if you fail, that adds so much stress to your business that there’s almost no way that you can succeed unless you’re just some kind of superhuman or superman or something.  Now, it’s one thing that – let’s say you’ve got maybe, you know, five years of payments left and you’re taking a 20% equity out and your wife’s employed.  You know, there’s always these if and/or but factors, but what I’m really saying is that don’t play outside of your comfort level because it puts you into the wrong mindset and it leads to too much fear.  And I see this –

Mike:   Just real quick on that Grant, I had a couple thoughts.

Grant:  Yeah.

Mike:   I’m just curious of your thoughts on this.  I mean this is something that I think that both of us have been through.  It might be interesting for our audience.  I mean I do think that – and I agree like wholeheartedly with what you’re saying because if you’re under that kind of pressure, things can go sideways pretty quickly.  But I do think that there’s something to be said about at least pushing, you know, a little bit outside your comfort level where you, let’s say, have $100,000 in the bank just to use a round number and you’re going to put $10,000 of your savings in there and if you lose that, like no big deal, versus putting $75,000 of your savings into it and just being more motivated and having more behind it.  I think that what both of us have found is, you know, when we’ve done well and are more complacent and don’t have the passion or motivation because it’s not a significant investment at that time, it ends up being a not as worthwhile project or the level of commitment like maybe isn’t as high versus maybe the situations we’re in now where, you know, we have a significant amount into what we’re doing and that kind of spurs the motivation.  I mean what are your thoughts on that?

Grant:  I think there’s definitely something to be said about fear for a motivator.  There’s a healthy level of fear.  So I think maybe if I were to rephrase it, I would probably say something like, “Always have option two.  Don’t put yourself into a situation where option two no longer exists.”  And I think that might be a better way of saying it.  That might be a more universal answer because Mike and I always have option two.  Not that long ago, even I was looking at option two when I said, “Well, you know, I’m not sure how things are going on like a bunch of random things.  I think I’m just going to invoke option two,” which is, for me, getting an 8 to 5 doing marketing somewhere else and take a look at, you know, applying for some jobs.  And even then I had my side gigs that I was doing but I was just saying, “Well, you know, I can always go back to the corporate world and just work for somebody.”  And my side of the requirements I would say would be in the $130,000 to $150,000, which is pretty high.  And for, you know, in the middle of a tech marketing in Seattle.

So, you know, you can make a decent livelihood out of that and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of salary but, you know, me and Mike would prefer more.  But it’s not a bad option and I guess I would say when you’re looking at betting the house in a literal and proverbial kind of way – let’s put it into another situation, and this might be a little bit more accessible but let’s say you’re a college student and you’ve got an engineering degree and you’ve got an opportunity to join a startup.  Which one should you do?  Join a startup or continue college education?  You know, I think this is going to be a controversial answer, and I think, Mike, you might have a different answer than me too, but in my opinion, if you’re within like striking distance of that degree, you always could get that degree because that will give you option two almost for life.  you will never be in need.  And if you join the startup and you fail, you might say, “Well, you can go back and get that degree.”  That’s going to be a lot harder.

A lot of high risk-taking entrepreneurs will say, “Well, option two could lead you to a huge range of wealth.  You know, what happens if the startup explodes?  Look at Facebook, look at Bill Gates.”  And I say, “Yes, indeed.  Look at, you know, Bill Gates and look at Zuckerberg.  There’s two of them in a world of six billion people.”  Like you have better odds of winning the Powerball than, you know, becoming Bill Gates or Zuckerberg.  And there’s definitely something to be said about those guys having talent, but they also had a lot of luck.  And, you know, nothing to take away from them, but you don’t want to supplant luck when you can do it and to me it’s simply just consistency.  Now, being an entrepreneur, you’ve always got to have that level of unknown, but I think if I were to boil it down, a true entrepreneur knows when they’re looking at luck versus when they’re looking at a controllable outcome.

And like when me and Mike for into ecommerce, we knew, because we did the market research, exactly how much traffic was in the field, what the margins were, what generally was going to happen and what we were expecting to happen, and that’s when it becomes a business decision.  If we went in there and we’re like, “Well, I’m pretty sure that’s a market here.  I’m pretty sure  people will like it.  I’m pretty sure this,” “pretty sure” means you don’t know – I can’t swear.  You don’t know anything and at that point it’s luck.  You’re betting on blind luck.  And a lot of people win by luck.  And –

Mike:   I think that we were kind of in that same – like I think, the way I look at it, luck and being at the right place at the right time in the online poker kind of craze and I would look at what we’re doing now as way more of a controllable outcome kind of thing.

Grant:  Mm-hmm.  I agree.  I’m the first one to admit I was in the right place at the right time with poker and I got lucky.  You know, I don’t feel like there’s shame in that.  I just understand that I’m not going to say I was a genius and knew the industry was going that way.  It happened to be a hobby that I loved and it happened to explode at the same time and it happened to be that I was in the right place to learn about search engines and marketing and had a great SEO backer and from just previous projects that I did.

Mike:   I think it’s like luck plus hard work.  You know, I mean like money didn’t just fall out of the trees into our lap.  I mean there were a lot of 18- to 20-hour days and I can think back to me like multiple days a week falling asleep and just sleeping for the night at my desk with my head down on the desk.  You know, you’re basically going nonstop.  So I mean it was – but I think, at least for me, I knew we were in the middle of something that was lucky and that I was in my mid- to late-20s by then and, you know, been kind of an entrepreneur my whole life and knew that these things only come around so often and I feel the same way about ecommerce right now.  But I feel like when you’re an entrepreneur and you’re onto something that is working really well, you need to invest a lot of time into it.  And, you know, that part is not lucky.  I mean the hard work and perseverance part is not luck.

Grant:  Mm-hmm.  And I would say like the older that we’ve gotten and the more experience really, more than anything, the main lesson that you learn from testing your luck is that if you test it wrong, then it leads to failure, then that’s a true lesson that an entrepreneur learns, which is that failures usually cost you money and that hurts a lot for people that are motivated by money.  It’s a huge lesson and one of the greatest things to come out of failure is that, you know, you learn not to do it again or you learn hopefully the right way of doing it.  And that said, I think being iterative and knowing how to test out an idea is always like one of the best things you can do as an entrepreneur because Mike and I both suffer from this, which is the, you know, too many irons in the fire kind of deal, like, “I want to do this, I want to do that, I want to do this.”  And one of the easiest ways is simply do a small little test and make it enough so that if it fails – and be ready for it to fail – it’s not going to, you know, leave you without option two.

And it’s kind of sad because I do see on some of the like ecommerce forums out there and, you know, other people like the Shopify and BigCommerce forums that people have spent their $30,000 to $50,000 on a website.  They’ve got like $100,000 in inventory that they purchased, you know, they took out a loan, they got friends and family and there’s not a lot of sales.  And they might have a market and they might have, you know, a potential ability to sell it but they don’t have enough money to invest in marketing.  You know, that’s a little bit of the dream that’s being sold nowadays and we always try not to like push that unrealistic expectation, but marketing’s like a legitimate industry.  Like if you don’t pay for marketing, that’s like not paying for a sales guy.  That’s like not paying for gas in the car.  That’s like a radio station that had no billboards or you know.  Like people aren’t going to just magically stumble across you and give you money.  And those guys relied too much on luck, and they also relied on kind of the bad assumption that things were just going to happen because they put the effort.  And that’s unfortunately like a very tough lesson to learn on ecommerce and you don’t want that lesson to bury you.

So it’s definitely something that having a proper head and not being too optimistic, not being pessimistic, but just being able to see things the way they are, that’s really the nirvana of what it is to be an entrepreneur not be clouded by judgement, which is really hard I think.  Me and Mike often – once we get our ideas wrapped around something, we keep looking at reasons to get into it.  That’s why it’s good to have other people because one of us will say, “No, no, no.  that’s a bad idea.”  So Mike’s told me I’ve got plenty of stupid ideas many times in the past so I can thank Mike for that.

Mike:   Yeah, we’re definitely good at that.  So we’re kind of running out of time with this episode.  I wanted to maybe just take a minute, Grant.  I’ve been writing down a list of, you know – I actually have four here – top four things an entrepreneur should be considering so I’ll run first through them and maybe we’ll just take a couple minutes here to wrap up this episode.  I think it’ll be kind of a neat way to end and I’ll just go first here but the first one is change.  Mentioned probably 10 times already in this podcast the book Who Moved My Cheese? but I think the number one important thing is to just be nimble on your feet and embrace change and, you know, be the leader as change is happening and not just dig your heels and be like, “Oh, this is what’s been working,” and get complacent.  I think that that’s a very dangerous position to be in and by the time you, you know, realize that you’re in that spot or willing to make a change, it’s going to probably be too late.  So I think being able to change and handle that – I mean in the online poker industry, that was something that we just got hit with time and time again.  A lot of people just gave up and ran away from it and, you know, we still have a viable business that we’re not a part of any longer but that’s still running today because we were willing and able to deal with change.  So that’s the first one.

You know, we already talked about the next one here, which is always keep learning.  You know, I absolutely hate people that are – I hear this all the time.  I even hear it in some of my masterminds sometimes.  It drives me crazy.  Not going to call anybody out by name, but it’s like, “I don’t know how to do that,” or, “I can’t figure that out.”  I mean it’s just, you know, I realize you might not learn how to be a programmer or something to that level of complexity but, man, there’s freaking Google and you type in stuff into Google and you can figure out how to do things.  I’m not a programmer either but, you know, I can get 80% of the stuff done on my Shopify store without needing anyone’s help because I can type into Google how to do something.  Same thing with the Facebook ads and some of the other things we’ve been working on lately.

You know, we had a question actually come in this week and someone was asking, you know, training classes that I recommend.  And unfortunately I can’t really recommend any.  I mean I’ve actually spent about $5,000 last year on continuing education type stuff in the ecommerce area and I think I’m just not going to spend any this year because I learn more figuring things out on my own.  And some of them gave me the right guidelines of things, you know, directions to kind of go into and lit a fire under my butt to maybe try some different concepts, but in the end, they don’t really give up a lot of really good media information and that information’s actually really worth tens of thousands of dollars and I don’t really know of any classes that dive into that level.  I’d love to hear comments.  If anybody has them, you know, send them in.  maybe they’re classified as I’d love to attend but maybe our audiences will.  So always keep learning.

The other one’s timing your business.  You know, there’s the book Four-Hour Work Week, which probably 99% of people in this podcast have listened to and, you know, I kind of call BS on that mentality.  I mean it’s a great lifestyle if you want to get into that and get into a type of business that affords that, but in ecommerce and running these types of businesses that we’re doing today, I mean it’s a 10- to 12- to 14-hour day job, five, six, seven days a week and if you think you can do it part-time or do it four hours a week as it’s getting started, when it’s in that startup rocket ship growth phase, I call BS.  I mean there’s no way that I could hand the reigns over of everything that we’re doing to someone else and let them do it in the growth that we’re going through right now.  I mean we’re growing at 10% to 20% per month, month in and month out since we’ve started and I’m forecasting to do the same growth all through this year.  I hope the following year, but I don’t like to plan that far ahead.  But certainly this year, it should be no problem growing at 10% to 20% and, in order to do that, it requires a lot of time.  And it requires my time.  There isn’t someone else I can just hand it to and just hope that it gets done.

Now, down the road, you know, my long-term plan is, you know, three to five years from now, is to have lots of good processes in place, which we’re developing as we go this time.  That’s one thing I learned from other businesses: good processes.  And, you know, we’re passing things off as need be to virtual assistants or other employees to get that stuff done, but in the early going, you know, in my opinion, if you aren’t willing to invest the time like and do the soul-searching, then don’t bother doing it at all.  And –

Grant:  And I’m going to jump in on that real quick, too, Mike, which is that, you know, I second that call on the BS on the four-hour work week.  I mean nobody that’s ever been wealthy in their life has ever worked four hours unless your last name is Vanderbilt.  I mean it’s part of the dream that they sell, right?  It’s kind of the seven-minute abs, or is it six-minute abs?  I mean it’s just the crap that they shovel down your throat.

Mike:   Six-minute abs, dude.

Grant:  Yeah.  The only person that makes any money is the guy selling you the four-hour work week book.  I mean let’s face it: the business of selling dream is a very lucrative business and that’s why you’ll never hear us selling ebooks over here.  We’ve got our own business already.  I don’t have to sell you a dream.  If anything, I think me and Mike are generally the voice of reason.  We tend to say, “Listen, this is like the reality.”  Same kind of goes with VAs.  There’s a lot of VA businesses out there and I use a VA, Mike uses a VA but my VA doesn’t do anything except for like grunt menial work.  If I think I can possibly expand my business using VAs, I would because the ability to pay somebody $4 an hour to do, let’s face it, the work of a $25 an hour employee would be fantastic.  But a $4 VA does exactly that: they do what you would think somebody being paid $4 will do.

Now, you know, they can probably do a lot of things in their home country that wouldn’t be possible here for $4, like some light graphic design or, you know, some spreadsheet modifications here and there, but if you think they’re going to take like fiscal accounting classes and managerial accounting and suddenly be able to do your bookkeeping and keep everything to a T, they’re not going to cost $4 anymore.  They’re going to get pretty competitive and leave your butt.  So this arbitrage of taking these low-cost VAs to try and expand your business, it’s crap.  I mean they have a purpose, but you can’t run a business on VAs unless you go into the business knowing beforehand that this is going to be a VA type business that you can do.  If you have a hands-on type business where you’ve got a lot of care and consideration, that’s not something you can simply go, “Oh, I’m just going to throw on some, you know, foreign workers and everything’s going to be fine.”  It’s not.  All right.  So that’s my peace right there.

Mike:   Yup.  I mean I was just mentioning processes.  That’s where processes really come into play.  I mean we’ve been writing very detailed processes to let a VA be able to do certain things, but I wholeheartedly agree with Grant.  I mean there’s only so much they can do and people get this false sense of security or whatever the heck you want to call it in their head.  Dream is probably another word for it, that, you know, this $4 an hour employee’s going to like be running their business someday and that just isn’t possible.  I mean they can do things that, if you give them a set of instructions step by step and they don’t have to vary off of that list at all those are the things they can do.  If it requires, you know, creativity and using your own mind to basically do whatever the heck you want, that’s just not going to happen in my opinion.

So any rate, last thing I have on my list here after process stuff is focus.  Grant mentioned that earlier.  You know, there’s that saying if you chase two rabbits, both will get away.  You know, it’s been tough for me because I mean it’s easy to have that squirrel syndrome.  That’s actually a joke here in our office.  You know, phone rings or text goes off or email comes in and I like divert my attention to it and everyone’s like, “Squirrel!”  Or a package turns up, “Squirrel.”  So it’s easy to get diverted, especially when you have ADD like I do.  But I’ve been really disciplined about just staying focused on ecommerce stuff and, you know, I’ve been pitched a lot of other interesting opportunities over the last year and ecommerce is going well and I am just laser focused on dealing with ecommerce and sticking to, you know, four brands or less for the stuff that we’re working on and some people might even argue that that’s too many brands, but we’ve been able to see success and have a very clear plan and path in place for those brands and it’s helped us, you know, grow at that 10% to 20% per month, which is all I’m caring about right now.  And, you know, long-term, we can hire up more people as we can afford them and address the things that we’re not hitting on with each of those brands but for right now for me, it’s just grow the top line revenue number as quickly as possible, expand our business as quickly as possible, and worry about those other details later.

So that’s my quick and dirty list.  Grant, do you want to kind of go over your list to end the show and we’ll wrap it up for this week?

Grant:  Okay.  So my four points – and first, I want to say that Mike’s got some really, really good points.  So I guess we got eight total points over here.  My four points: the first one I will say is that, one, understand that talk is cheap and we talked about, you know, meeting other entrepreneurs and whatnot but one of the most difficult parts of being with other likeminded ADD, want to take on the world as their oyster kind of people is that ideas are aplenty, but execution is always lacking.  Understand that talk is cheap and that anybody that says, “Hey, we should get together and do this, we should get together and do that,” – until they have a business model and money in a bank account, just assume that they don’t mean anything, that they might as well be talking about the Super Bowl champions in 2050 by the time they’re going to get around to your idea.  They’re not.

And it’s very, very rare to actually meet somebody that you’re going to partner with on a plan and you’re going to waste a lot of money and a lot of time pursuing people that, you know, theoretically want to get into business with you.  So, for the most part, work on your own business, keep your head down, and mingle, network, you know.  Just always kind of nod your head at people that propose stuff at you but you’ll pretty much know when somebody truly, truly is interested in becoming a partner because they’ll probably have a business of their own, too, and they’ll, you know, have time to dedicate.

So next is following along with that, you know, the next important trait for an entrepreneur is plan and execute.  Don’t get luck involved.  Don’t just toss your dice out and hope for the best.  That’s not a business plan.  That is suicide.  That is putting yourself in front of the train and hoping that it misses and that, you know, you can catch your lucky break.  That’s not how a business is run.  Hopes and dreams do not run anything in this business.  You plan.  You create a business plan.  Even if it’s just yourself, I recommend creating a business plan.  I’ll say I’m a little bit hypocritical because I don’t do this myself.  I don’t write down, you know, a 10-page document or whatever but I do actually have a notepad and I jot down all my ideas and I try to organize it before I do something.  And Mike knows I’ve got a famous 10-foot by 6-foot whiteboard that isn’t attached to the wall and I carry it and I put it down on the floor.  I do have this, right, Mike?

Mike:   Yup.

Grant:  Yup.  And I use the whiteboard and that’s my diagramming board and that’s where I plan.  And then once I plan, I execute.  And I execute because I know exactly what my plan is.  And if you simply go in and execute without a plan, you know, you’re just swashing around in the water.  You don’t have anything that you’re doing.  You’re doing the, you know, “How do I do this? I don’t know how to do this,” asking everyone for help, trying to pay for somebody to come figure it out, you know, you’ve got and expensive consultant now and you don’t have anything going on.  So plan and execute.

Mike:   I do think there’s such a thing, though, as paralysis by analysis.  I mean at some point, you can overanalyze and I definitely wholeheartedly agree.  I mean you want to do planning and make sure that you have your ducks in a row, but I think, you know, part of a successful entrepreneur is just being able to pull the trigger and do it.  At a certain point, you’ve just got to do it.  So any rate, move on.

Grant:  No, actually that’s a really great point.  I actually had meant to talk about that.  And I actually think executing is more important than planning because at least when you execute, you tried.  So if you have to, if you only have to pick one between execute and plan, as an entrepreneur, I say execute.  And with everything that I said, rick tolerance and, you know, not going out and [inaudible 37:42], like if you absolutely have to, then just execute and get it done but please, God, plan beforehand.  But as an entrepreneur the one thing that, you know, me and Mike hate and every other entrepreneur that actually has their hat in the ring hates more than anything is the guy that stands on the sideline going, “Oh, I would’ve done that but…” or, you know, “I totally have this idea for this but…”  There’s always a “but.”  There’s always some guy with an idea that has never done it and that’s because they are either – like what Mike said, they’re overanalyzed or they’re just scared.  And maybe they’re scared for a reason.  That’s okay.  It’s okay to be scared, but if you’ve got your plan and your plan looks good and you don’t execute, that’s a problem with you or it’s a problem with them.

So that going into my next one is have a healthy respect of fear.  You don’t want to be too fearful, like Mike said.  If you overanalyze, you’ll always find a reason not to do it.  There’s always going to be a shark somewhere in the ocean, you just don’t know where.  It might be at the harbor.  Do you want to jump into the Great Barrier Reef after there’s been, you know, a big kill, right in the middle of shark-infested waters?  No.  But see?  I’ve given you a lot of qualifications why you shouldn’t do that.  Should you jump into the Pacific on a nice sunny day?  Sure.  You know?  There’s always going to be a little bit of risk and you should have a healthy respect of fear, but you shouldn’t let it overtake you.  I don’t really go by the “trust your gut.”  I think that’s all kind of BS too.  I think that’s probably the worst statement that’s ever been given because gut is nothing more than experience.  And if you say, “Trust your experience” to somebody that doesn’t have experience, all you’re saying is, you know, “Don’t make a mistake.”  You only say, “Trust your gut” to somebody that’s been around doing something for a very long time at what they’re doing because at that point, it’s second nature.  So that’s why I say have a healthy respect of fear.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, like go back to step two: plan and execute.

The last one is going back full-circle.  Take care of yourself.  It’s very easy to lose yourself, you know, working all these hours and your personal life might go to shambles, your health might go to shambles.  I think almost every entrepreneur probably has some kind of, you know, “Man, I wish I was at the gym more,” or they’re on the complete opposite track, which is that they’re the alpha personality that’s always at the gym at, you know, 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning to get their workout and then they go and get their stuff done.  But take care of yourself mentally, physically, financially, too.  You know, if you get to the point where you really should be calling it quits, bring in a third person, have them evaluate, ideally another entrepreneur because if you bring in an 8-to-5er that has a low risk tolerance, they’re just going to project their low risk tolerance to you.  Bring on a guy that’s actually done it, and not some over-confident guy, you know, somebody that says, “Listen, you’re doing X amount of money for this amount of revenue and this amount of profit, you’re working this much.  Maybe it’s time to call it in.”  No one ever wants to do that.  It’s the failure lesson that you’ll learn the most from though, but it’s hard to see outside yourself every once in a while.

So when I say take care of yourself, I really mean just every once in a while, just kind of take an assessment, step back, just see how you’re doing in everything and that’s what it’s all about too because if you don’t take care of yourself, then what’s the point of running your own business?  So that’s my piece.

Mike:   Excellent.  I think that’s a great list, Grant, and a great way to wrap up the show this week.  So I think next week we’re going to have one solo-cast.  I have a topic I was going to talk about next week and then the following week, Grant and I will be back together again.  So next week I’ll be talking to you one-on-one and two weeks from now Grant and I’ll be back with a joint episode.  So looking forward to it.  Until then, have a great week, everyone, and we’ll talk to you next week.

Outro:  If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.  Head over to and sign up for the EcomCrew newsletter to get regular updates on what’s working in ecommerce today, and get the latest from our blog.  If you haven’t already, we’d really appreciate an honest review in iTunes.  These reviews help us make sure we’re delivering exactly the content you need to be successful.  And make sure you subscribe to the show for more tips to move you up in the business ladder and into success.  We’ll see you next week.

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.

One Comment

  1. I was excited when I saw the title of this episode. I live in the middle of nowhere, and there are almost no networking opportunities. I’d give anything to bounce ideas of someone experienced in online businesses. When you mentioned Ecommerce Fuel Forums, I was excited again, I went to apply and they require you run an Ecomm store. So I didn’t apply, but they flashed a “why didn’t you apply form” so I told them and asked if there was alternative. I can only bounce ideas off my dogs so long before one of us goes crazy :)

    Are there any other good forums/communities you would recommend?

    Again thanks for these episodes, this one hit home for me.

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