Episode 91: Ecommerce Growth and Profitability With Dana JaunzemisOctober in Ecom-Crew-Podcast
Today’s episode is a pre-recorded episode. At the time of this podcast, Dave and I are attending Global Sources. These pre-recorded episodes are a great opportunity to interview some highly successful ecom business owners. My guest today is one of those highly successful ecommerce entrepreneurs.
Dana Jaunzemis is the owner of Homehealthtesting.com. She purchased the business at a time when she saw the potential for profitability. That eye for good business decisions seems to be Dana’s superpower. This is her seventh business she has purchased and she has owned it for seven years. On today’s episode, Dana tells me what draws her to ecommerce and why she feels she is so well suited for it. Dana has some great insights into ecommerce business. Tune in for some solid advice from this awesome entrepreneur!
Here are some of the points of our conversation:
- Why Dana likes ecommerce so much.
- Dana’s addiction to the “growth phase” of business.
- What Dana looks for in a business opportunity.
- What caused her to shift her perspective on her business.
- Why a company should have a “comfort zone.”
- Why Mike likes to focus on growth.
- Why Dana likes the business to business model.
- Problems a large amount of overhead can cause a business.
- Dana’s top 3 skills set.
- The importance of knowing your metrics.
- How to be more efficient in your business.
- Is being “addicted” to growth a bad thing?
- The dangers of “hyper-growth.”
- Why ecommerce conferences and meetups are so important to the community.
A special thank you to Dana Jaunzemis for joining us today! She and I will both be attending EcommerceFuel Live in January. For more information on that event, check out the link below. We will be getting back to live episodes on Facebook soon, but at the moment Dave and I are traveling a lot, so please follow our page for updates.
Resources Mentioned Today:
If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast you can now email us directly at ecomcrew.com! Just send those emails to [email protected] Also, we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
Full Audio Transcript
Mike: This is Mike, and welcome to this edition of the EcomCrew Podcast. Not quite sure what episode this is going to be, this is one of our prerecorded deals. I’m going to be doing a bunch of traveling to China and Hong Kong and Philippines, and also going to be at the EcommerceFuel live event coming up here in just a couple of months.
So trying to get some podcasts on the can, so not quite sure what episode number this is going to be at. But I try to do these pre-recorded ones with interviews, so I can accommodate interviewees’ schedule, because they very rarely can do them live at Monday at 4pm when we try to do our live recording.
So this is someone that I have known for a couple of years. I met her at EcommerceFuel Live back in Nashville. She was one of the first people. I remember I was walking towards my hotel room checking in, and I was walking down the hall with someone else and they were like high fiving and hugging, and I realized later why.
Dana is just a mainstay in the industry, and everyone loves her. She’s just a great person, excited to have her on the podcast today. She is someone that I have come to know and respect more than just about anyone else in the industry. She has really got her s*** together. We never try to say curse words here, but her stuff together, and it’s fun talking to other really smart entrepreneurs.
And it’s interesting just how even though we’re all entrepreneurs, and we’re all kind of have the same goal of selling things, that we develop different perspectives on life and on business, and just kind of how to approach things. It’s neat when I sit down with Dana, every time we get together; we just kind of compare notes, and discuss different strategies. And I certainly take away things that I’m going to do differently in my business, in my life, and I think that the same is equal for her.
And so we’re just going to do like a little campfire chat kind of thing today, and just kind of talk through some of our different perspectives, and let you be a fly on the wall in some of the conversations that we’ve had in the past, and definitely excited to have her on the podcast today. So without any further ado, I want to welcome Dana Jaunzemis to the show. I was like just joking with her before the show how to pronounce her last name, but we’ll talk about that in a second. Welcome to the show Dana.
Dana: Thanks Mike Jackness.
Mike: Jackness, yeah. So I think I was going to make fun of this. Growing up, people had a field day with my name because it’s just so easy to do a play on words. But I was like your name is just too complicated to make fun of. It’s just like — it’s like, yeah Dana Jauz-Jauz-Jauz, yeah whatever, they just like give up and move on and pick on you for something else I guess.
Dana: Right, exactly.
Mike: So let’s tell people just a little bit about what you do, your main company. Your ecommerce journey here is with a site called Home Health Testing, tell folks a little about what that site is, and how you came to be having that?
Dana: I bought the business. So Home Health Testing is something like the seventh business I think I have purchased. So that’s kind of my bigger long story picture is I’ve always bought businesses after the first startup that I loathed. So when I bought Home Health Testing, it was just a ecommerce place, small business. And I’ve had it for seven years and grown it substantially, and since then also purchased another ecommerce property.
And I actually have just found that of all the businesses I’ve done, ecommerce seems to be the most fun, and attracts like the best people. Like meeting you and everybody in ECF group, EcommerceFuel group is just an amazing group of people to hang out with. So I feel like in my career I finally found my home in ecommerce of all places.
Mike: Yeah, I definitely agree. I mean my past life doing online poker affiliate marketing, if you can think of all the stereotypes of the online gaming world, they’re very true. And it was just full of people that had questionable morals and ethics, I guess would be the nicest way to put it. And I just didn’t fit in, in that business, and anybody that I ever talked to would be a competitor, a cutthroat competitor. So it was very difficult to talk about anything you were doing. So I became basically very sheltered and didn’t discuss anything I was doing. And it’s just not a healthy way to live life.
And like you said I mean in ecommerce everyone, I mean very few people are going to be a competitor to you unless they’re even selling coloring books in my case, or home testing kits directly. They are not really a competitor. So you can compare notes, and everyone’s had like the same struggles, right? So I think that it’s just instant camaraderie. And yeah, there’s a lot of like awesome people. I couldn’t agree more.
Dana: Yeah, it’s just great fun. And like you said, I mean comparing the notes, and that’s what I’ve learned so much, and talking to you and listening to your podcast is that’s exactly what you do, is just kind of share strategies and everything. And like you said, it doesn’t — we’re not competing against each other. It’s a big market out there for all of our goods. But the core of what we’re doing is sort of pretty much the same.
Mike: Yeah, and even if someone is a competitor, I don’t wake up every morning thinking, I want to have one 100% of the coloring book sales worldwide. I mean that’s not even remotely realistic. So even if you have a competitor, it’s still not that big of a deal. Just the one thing I obviously don’t really appreciate is someone like copies the exact item we’re doing like word for word or something like that. Besides that it’s like whatever.
Mike: So obviously we could have a whole another episode on just buying and selling businesses. That’s something that you kind of excel in. But I did want to just ask a question real quick of why buying a business that’s already existing versus starting one from scratch?
Dana: For me, I just like the growth mode. I like to have data behind me that can help me make decisions. So startup is too random for my — just the way, how my brain works. It’s just very difficult, and like I said random. Is this going to work or is it not when you don’t know. But when you have history behind a company and you know five years of sales to look at, and what’s selling and who’s buying it, that’s when I get excited and I love that part of business. So I get the shortcut and just stop doing the startups and buy someone else’s.
Mike: Yeah. I mean I have done both. I mean we have a couple of sites that we run that we purchased. They were existing sites and have had a lot of success. And then we’ve launched things like ColorIt or Wild Baby from absolute scratch. And it’s interesting because we know how to grow an audience and grow products. But then you’re still taking a chance and trying to find your way in the world, versus having something that has all the data behind it like you said, where you know exactly what people are buying already, and that they have an affinity for your brand, and things of that nature.
So, there’s definitely a lot of positives there, but then also you’re paying for someone else’s work. But at the same time when you find — I think your sweet spot is to find a business that’s built up this core customer base and sales data, but now they’re struggling for some reason, and you feel like you can move the Rubik’s Cube a couple notches and get the sales back. Is that kind of fair?
Dana: Right yes and they’re profitable. I don’t buy one — so far I have never bought one that’s losing. That’s not profitable. So I see great value, and if it’s profitable, can we make it more profitable?
Mike: Got you. Cool, yeah it’s definitely interesting perspective. So yeah, so I think the main thing that we want to talk about is just kind of our directions here. It seems like every time we meet in person, you’re in one phase of business and in life, and I’m in a different. For me, you were looking at hyper growth, and I think for you, you’re looking at hyper profitability. Is that probably a fair way to put it?
Dana: Yes, uh-huh.
Mike: So I mean I guess having you go first, I mean what is your thought there? I mean what is your thought process on – I mean you obviously have been growing. So it’s not like you don’t care about growth or don’t want growth, because you have been growing. But it’s at a more traditional double digit, low double digit I think growth rate per year, versus us we’re trying to be in like two to three hundred percent per year. What has changed the perspective for you to take things a little bit slower and easier, versus trying to be on the rocket ship?
Dana: So it’s kind of been just an evolution. I would say that I used to not think this, and I can hear myself, my younger self saying, “If a business isn’t growing it’s dying.” I think I used to say that all the time. And I’ve kind of evolved in the last few years of when you get your business to a point that when you look at what double the sales will mean to what the infrastructure you need to have to support that is going to mean, is that a path you want to go down?
And I’ve just kind of started looking at it a little bit differently. It’s not like you said, we still are growing, but I’m not in the hyper growth mode. And I’m not saying that I want my business to be twice as big in a year or two, because actually I don’t. I’m looking at that and saying, “You know what, I’m really comfortable here.” That doesn’t mean I can slack off necessarily, but I can take my foot off the accelerator, and make some different choices which I like. And I think in the long run and in all the businesses I’ve been in, I finally have learned where maybe my best skills are suited and my comfort zone.
So I’ve grown bigger, and then I realized that all the overheads started taking over, and actually the organization became more important than the business I was running, just the management of the people and the infrastructure. And it decreased our profitability, and I thought it would increase it. When we moved over several million in sales, I thought — and it didn’t get better, it actually got worse. And so I think it’s a strategy that has just come to me slowly where I’m like, you know what, this is where you’re comfortable. This is a good place to be. How is it possible to maintain that and not chase growth?
Mike: And have a good work-life balance in the process, it sounds like.
Mike: So you brought up a bunch of things I want to ask follow up questions to. But let me take a moment to give my point of view just so people can understand the other side of the coin. For me I am a little bit younger, I’m not a whole lot younger than you, so I think that does have a part of it.
Dana: It does.
Mike: Certainly as I’ve grown older I’ve realized things do change. You hear all these stereotypes, and you’re like when you’re young you’re like yeah whatever. Like I’m not going to be that way, or it’s so far in the future that’s no big deal, and it actually comes up quicker than you think. So I’m definitely getting it more now than ever. But even in my — I guess my business, my entrepreneurial journey at this point spans 15 plus years, so 15 years straight.
And really since I was a kid, I was an entrepreneur, but the last 15 years particularly since I “quit my day job.” And I’ve been out doing my own thing. What I’ve realized is that finding a business that you can make successful is actually tougher than it sounds, or that you might think. I mean…
Dana: I agree.
Mike: So I mean you have these kind of like ups and downs, where you have a business that’s wildly successful, and then everything kind of comes to end for whatever reason. For us it was online poker, so it was kind of a fad partially, and partially the government was passing laws to stop the online poker rooms from operating, which was a struggle. So outside influences was a struggle, and there’s been a lot of things I did like SEO and Affiliate Marketing, where things worked really well for a long time, but then Google penalizes you or whatever, and all of a sudden your business is gone.
So, there’s been these ups and downs. And for ecommerce for me is like one of these ups right now where it’s just like I feel like we’re riding the wave. And what I’ve learned over the years is that that wave only lasts for so long. And I don’t know how long the ecommerce wave is, but I feel like I’ve developed a certain set of skills that are applicable on a very finite amount of time. And I don’t know if I can reinvent myself 6 to 12 to 24 months from now again and again like I have in the past. The future is unknown.
So for me it’s take advantage of it while you can, and put the foot on the pedal as hard as you possibly can while you’re running a successful business. It might not happen again. It could be like one of these once in a decade type things. And then I also ask myself the question of like how many more times in my life do I want to be going through this? And I start to feel — this is probably about my fourth time of going through this. It’s harder and harder every time for multiple reasons.
I mean number one I’m older, so just not having the energy. Number two, what I’ve realized is that it’s not as exciting anymore. Like it was a lot more exciting I think when I had my first business that was successful, my second that was successful. And even now I’m doing something completely different this time, it’s also got a lot of similarities.
And so the excitement level is gone. It’s almost like heroin that after your fourth or fifth hit, it’s no longer as good as the first. So that’s an overview of kind of like where I’m coming from, and why we’re pushing for growth at the time that we are.
Dana: Right, and I think on that I understand what you’re saying on the you know for ecommerce being we’re in this time right now where that is a great business model to be in. But I think for me because of the type of businesses I like, which usually have a strong B2B component or repeat customer component, I look at it as the mode of distribution that works right now. But I think it’s possible that I could still be doing that even ten years from now with a different model but the same thing. I think each business possibly could have a little bit some variance in that.
Mike: I definitely agree like B2B is almost like an asset that you can count if you look at it from not your traditional definition of an asset. But when you have a business account there is a lot of longevity there, and you know you’re going to get month after month or quarter after quarter or whatever business from them, versus when I wake up on the first of the month, I got to go out and beat on doors or launch new Facebook ads or whatever to get that business. So I agree there’s definitely…
Dana: Yeah, so each business yeah.
Mike: Yeah it’s interesting.
Dana: Each business model could have a different variation of that. But for me I’m looking at it and saying, I don’t necessarily have to, it would be okay to take several months off or a year off from growth and move to cash flow mode, versus aggressive growth. I might be wrong. It might be a horrible decision.
Mike: I think you’re dead on with especially because of the type of business you have there. I mean it’s unique. I don’t know, it’s interesting, I mean like being honest, is that something when you bought the business that you were looking for or it just kind of happened to be that way?
Dana: I do, I always do look for some version of I like to work with other businesses or entities of some sort more than direct consumer only.
Mike: Got you.
Dana: That’s my…
Mike: So that’s like a pro tip for the audience, right? I mean, I think you are dead on. It’s not something that we have at all. I mean we don’t have any real B2B aspect to our business. And it’s something that maybe we should be looking into. We did it for IceWraps at some point. We were doing some stuff with insurance companies, but they were buying onesies, twosies, and sending us a check, and it wasn’t worth our time. You probably get much larger orders that are worth your effort.
Mike: Interesting. Cool. So there’s three things I wrote down when you were talking about just kind of your business model and why you aren’t looking for growth and where you are at, and one of the key things is and we’ve talked about this a couple of times before. We actually even talked about today. Is this kind of concept of you can take a business to a certain point, and anything past that point reduces the profit margin, the net profit margin at the end of the day. And it’s curious because I’ve been through this. This is our third business that has become seven figures and hit this point, and I couldn’t agree more with you. And I don’t want to steal your thunder, so I’ll let you kind of give your thesis here on what this whole concept is.
Dana: Well, for me in my experience and this is also outside of ecommerce, and I had a service business. I’ve had different types of businesses, and it seemed that somewhere and I kind of equated a little bit to annual sales. But this is again and my experience that when a business hits somewhere between the million and a half to three million range, and I know that’s a pretty kind of a broad range, but not too much. It’s gotten over the hump of that million dollar range and gross sales for the year.
But then up till somewhere two and a half or three million, that to me is like the most profitable place, because as an entrepreneur, as a small business owner, we are able to use our skills to make the company better, and to really build a — we have at that point a solid, hopefully a solid business that was profitable at the 500,000 reins. And by the time, then you’re really starting to use all of your overhead to really produce solid profits.
After that range however, and I’ve asked other entrepreneurs this too. And everybody that’s kind of feels in that range, the people I’ve talked to that is somewhere in there, that if you move over the two and a half or three million in sales, that next level that is the growth it’s going to require to get there and the overhead, your profitability will start declining as far as the percentage that you can return to the bottom line.
Mike: Yeah, and we both agree, I mean I think that happens for a couple of reasons. I was thinking about this more as we were talking. I think the first reason is to get past the next level, you need to make a big hire, which like hits right in your bottom line big time. I mean if you’re looking at someone that’s $10,000, $15,000 a month or whatever something in that range, that’s going to really hurt the profitability of a one or two million dollar business.
Mike: But you as an entrepreneur physically just can’t do more than so much stuff even though we all think of ourselves as superheroes. I mean we’re all still human, right? So I mean that’s one thing. And I think another thing and maybe this is – I’m curious to hear from our audience in the comments or something after the episode. But for me I find that once you get to this point, you also start adopting less profitable pet projects on the business. Is that when the two million range is probably hyper focused on one thing, and it’s like, oh this is successful, what else can I be doing?
Dana: Yes, I hadn’t thought of that, that’s a great point, yes. And you have the resources to you think to execute, and all it does is dilute what was making your money.
Mike: Yeah and you end up in this, oh I’m making 20,000, 50,000, whatever dollars per month, I can afford this.
Dana: Right, yes.
Mike: So I think the thing I’ve been trying to do for me lately is, yes I can afford it but should I do it? Just because I can afford doesn’t mean that I should do it. Yeah, so I think that it’s probably those couple of things that are reducing profitability. But I would also say that by doing that it also allows you to turn the business eventually someday into a more passive business for you if you have that person and that infrastructure. Obviously if you’re the one doing all the work, you have to continue to do all the work to continue to have that profit.
So there could be a time in your life where if you want to make the business more passive, and also for me I do hope that as we have gone through this threshold that you mentioned, and definitely have had to make that hire now, now that it helps us get to an eight figure level, and mid-eight figure level even. And yes the profit margin number might be smaller, but obviously the total number of profit, the dollar number…
Dana: Will be bigger.
Mike: Will be bigger. So I mean yeah, but it’s definitely interesting.
Dana: Yeah and I think it’s always a matter of what are you willing to give up to get, what are you going to get out of it, what’s your why of your doing it? And for me right now looking at where we’re at in business, the why is, why do you want more if it’s going to take your profitability down and require different skills maybe that I don’t want to use, management skills of people, versus what I really like doing, which is just running a small business.
Mike: Yeah, it’s actually a perfect segue because the next thing I wrote down here was the best skill, where your skills are best suited. I mean what do you perceive yourself really, what your top three skills are in like running a business? What are those things that help you in this lane of the one to three million dollar range, get the max profitability out of this business?
Dana: I think for me it’s strategy, marketing, and I’m not sure, cash flow management if that goes with strategy, I’m not sure. But I’m really good with the numbers and the management of profits, and understanding how money flows through a business. So that makes us very profitable because I get it, and I’m really religious about income statements and profit and loss statements on a monthly basis so that I can make good decisions. But the strategy of the business and the marketing is the fun for me. That’s what I like.
Mike: I definitely love the marketing part. So if you’re focused on profit, you’re looking at your PNL, your income statements, balance sheet, you’re looking at the numbers in detail, what are like the top things that you’re looking at on a weekly or monthly or quarterly basis to drive that profit number as high as possible?
Dana: Well, I mean for us we’re definitely — a full income statement every month allows us to see profitability, and then understanding how that’s affecting our cash flow. And since we’re not in hyper growth mode, our profits actually pretty much always turn into cash now, unlike when we were growing, doubling every year, our profits were going toward that growth, either buying the advertising with the marketing money, or buying the inventory. That actually both, all that money was going into growth, and we were still profitable.
And that’s kind of my decision mode this year was, you know what, I’m just going to not be as focused on that growth, and we’re just going to let these profits accumulate. And so for us it’s like moving more into cash flow mode even though it’s really the same business, it’s just we’re not reinventing or reinvesting all those profits. So it’s just running a good set of numbers as far as our income statement, and understanding our margins on our products, spending time selling more of the higher margin products is a big thing for us.
So we identify which products can deliver us the most profitability, and work on those, and then analyzing our expenses. And we’re not real big in like cutting expenses, that’s usually not it. But the one thing I do that I think has really helped us is I look at all of our largest expenses, most of them on a weekly basis when it comes to marketing, and we make sure they’re profitable.
So each ad channel that we use, we have a short version of an income statement every week. So we know if it’s profitable, because I don’t want to get down to the end of the month and realize that we spent $10,000 on Google, on Shopping or something, and then shipped all these orders for nothing. And I’ve seen it happen, so I know it can happen. I mean we’ve done it before where I wasn’t monitoring it on a weekly basis, and we shipped a bunch of orders at a loss, and I don’t like things like that to happen anymore.
So we monitor all of our biggest expenses for marketing. We do a short version of a profit and loss every week, and then obviously a full business profit and loss every month.
Mike: Yeah, very cool. And we definitely — it’s embarrassing I mean especially as we’ve had this new person start, it’s like one of the things, and you use examples of things that have happened. We’ve let things go months sometimes without realizing that there was an issue, because we’re just not looking at it as often as we should be, because we’re focusing on the sales part of it rather than the profit part of it. And as you get more SKUs and more brands, it gets even more complicated to look at all this stuff. So it’s one of the few first things that we have been looking at here, getting some reporting together.
Actually you shared some stuff with me that’s been really helpful. We’re working on putting together similar reports that kind of customized to our business, and making sure that we’re looking at those things on a weekly basis, because you can move the bottom line by many points by making sure that those things are being addressed on a weekly basis.
Dana: Yeah, making sure nothing breaks. And so our weekly dashboard is designed to give me one number that that can tell me that everything is working. So whether that be the mobile conversion rate on every site that we manage, so that if I just see that number, then I know we don’t have a broken cart. But I see it every week, and I know what I can — from my dashboard I have a check pretty much on everything.
And if something — if sales went down, I can usually look at my weekly dashboard and say, I can pinpoint it. I can just look straight at it because I know my numbers so well from how many orders came in over mobile, how many orders came in on our website, all those. But it would be different for everyone’s business, but my big thing is don’t let anything break, don’t let it break and get out of control. So you’re doing damage control, because it’s hard to get back. If you let one ad campaign fall off the chart for a month, it’s hard to get it back.
Mike: I agree, yeah. That’s like actually one of the things that we’ve been focusing a lot here. I mean not just ad campaign, for us it’s like running out of stock or something, or those types of things like also they cause a big problem.
Dana: And that’s the thing about like getting off the growth mode allows us to just spend some time, even if you only take a month off or something and just say, I want to know that we are efficient and all of our systems are working, and are we doing this the best way we can? And that’s what we’ve spent this year doing is analyzing all our systems and just saying, are we doing this the best? Is this the best way to do this? Instead of let’s just do more.
Mike: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. We are at the beginning of the year spend one month. It was like the month of January is going to be let’s just focus on the profit, and we were able to triple our net profit just doing that for a month. So I mean you’d be surprised how much you can get done in a short amount of time because I wasn’t really focused on like looking at every SaaS app that we have, and is it necessary, or is a big thing.
Or looking at PPC costs is probably the biggest. Like let’s just look at — take some time and look at that, and making sure we’re bringing in inventory a lot more efficiently, and not having to go, oh crap like I need in a panic airship stuff over from China which is outrageously expensive. And we fixed basically those three areas, and I mean it set us off on a really good path for this year that made a big difference. So even if you’re in hyper growth mode, I still suggest taking a moment to look at your profit and make sure that you’re on the right track. I mean Dave who’s kind of the co-host of the podcast here, I love his saying that, “revenues are vanity and profits are sanity”. We use that all the time here, and it’s certainly true.
Dana: Right yeah, I think that’s I think what you did taking a month and just saying, we’re going to look at everything is a great; I think everybody should do that. But it’s hard, I mean it’s hard to set aside the time to do it, but I find it so worth it. Especially if you’re a couple years into your business, maybe it’s not as much worth it in the first year or two. But three, five, seven years in, you develop a lot of really bad habits. You’re doing things so backwards because you just keep bolting on another function as you grow.
And like you said just SaaS apps, and you realize, oh well these two things do the same thing, but we got that one to do that, and we got that one to do something else. But we don’t need to pay for both, we could combine. I mean there’s just so many efficiencies that the only person who is typically going to find it is the owner of the business.
Mike: Yeah, or in my case when we’ve now hired a director, and I have to explain to them what we’re doing, and it’s like you’re embarrassed as hell. I mean that’s when you’re like, like we wish to do it, I wish we could be doing this a better way.
Dana: All right. Well, and did you find that every time you’ve purchased a business the seller is like so humiliated when they turn it over to you?
Mike: Yeah, they are definitely, they like — there’s definitely, I don’t know why we do it this way, or this just could be done a better way. But then they tell you, I wasn’t doing it, or how they got into that mess to begin with.
Dana: So we have a joke here at our office, we say, what are we doing that’s cringe worthy, you cringe when you tell someone.
Mike: Yeah I like that, that’s funny. Because let’s see, just we’re running out of time. We try to keep these roughly at 30 minutes. But I still want to ask another question because I think there’s one more thing left to quickly hit that we talked about before we hit the record button. It’s kind of a two-fold thing. Number one, for us entrepreneurs addicted to growth, is that bad, we were talking about the heroin effect earlier. I definitely think that I am.
Dana: I am.
Mike: I’ll definitely admit it. But you’re kind of in this like not growing as fast range, and the question is, is it dangerous to get off the growth train in some way? I mean whether you — I mean everything comes to an end at some point. So at some point you might want to sell your business, or maybe if you are growing more you can put more cash away over those years, so there’s always going to be a what if. But is there a danger in kind of being in the spot that you’re in?
Dana: Well, on the addictive thing, I do, I agree with you. I am addicted to growth; I’m addicted to hitting higher and higher numbers every month. So for me, when I moved out of the growth mode, I had to change my metric. And that’s been an important thing for me, because I still I’m a big measurer of things, I love to measure performance. And so we had to change our metric. And I look for my addictive high and my adrenaline rush somewhere else.
And that’s been healthy and good for me to learn something different. So some of our metrics are tied to cash, some of our — we have just different cash flow or our profitability versus always higher growth. But is it dangerous? I think it could be if we were doing it without thinking about it, and if we were making this decision and saying this was permanent. But I pretty much said that 2017 was going to be my year of the same, because we had a great year last year. And I mean we hit numbers that I didn’t expect to hit in 2016, and my normal reaction would be to set a higher goal for the next year. That’s just what I’ve always done.
And so I officially set my goal was the same. And that’s been scary and hard. But I think it’s worth it, I think I’ve learned a lot of new things from it, and I don’t know what next year’s goal is going to be, and if we’re going to get back on the growth train or if we’re going to stay in this cash flow positive mode. But I think the question you have to ask yourself is why you’re doing it, and what are you willing to give up if you want more.
And I think that when I asked myself that after a great year in 2016, why do you want more, and what are you willing to give up? And I was like, you know what, I don’t want more. I’m good, I’m great where I’m at, and I don’t really want to give anything up. And I can re-evaluate that, it’s not etched in stone. I mean and here’s the thing as I watch the metrics of my business so closely, I know the percentage of repeat customers that we have, and I know — so I can look at our numbers and know if my strategy is failing. And I’m certainly going to regroup if that were the case.
Mike: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And to end it I’ll give you the opposite side of the coin, is it dangerous to grow too fast or too much, or just grow at all? And I would say, yes. It’s like I think there’s danger in anything and you can — business is not easy, there’s no safe anything. But I think with hyper growth, the dangers would be just I think inherently there’s more debt, because you’re growing, so you need more debt for inventory.
Or best case scenario is just there’s less cash. So if everything comes tumbling down one day for some stupid reason, there’s probably less cash or less reward for your effort I guess is one of the dangers. And the other danger is like I was saying before, you start to take your eye off the ball, or you start to compromise to achieve that growth. So I think that there’s definitely risk involved in that as well. So it’s interesting to look at it from both perspectives.
Dana: It is, and I want to thank you because you give that perspective a lot on your podcast. I know recently you were talking about Amazon or not Amazon, and it was a great conversation because you were just giving both sides, and you both believe passionately in your side. But it just wasn’t — those kind of conversations is you know why we all go to conferences and talk to our colleagues and friends, because we want to know what other people think about these conversations that you can’t have with their friends here in town, because they don’t understand business.
And so your conversations in person when I see you are always wonderful, but you’ve converted that on your podcast, and I wanted to thank you for that.
Mike: Well, thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in person again next time which will be probably at EcommerceFuel Live, which is January 11th through 13th. So if there’s any other people that are listening to the podcast, if you want to say hi to Dana and I, we will be there those dates. And I’ll also be at Global Sources, October 17th through 19th, which may have passed by the time this episode comes out. But if it does come up before that 3EC50 is the code there to get $50 off.
And if you happen to be in Hong Kong during those dates, please give me a ring. It’s always a little bit lonely on the road even though we’re traveling with a lot of people, it’s fun to have other people to have a meal with, or a chat with. So look us up, and let us know if you’re going to be over at either of those events, we’ll be happy to say hi to you, either Dave, myself or Dana. She’s in town, she’s very friendly as well.
So Dana, I can’t thank you enough for coming on the show today. It’s been too long. I’m embarrassed to say that it took almost 100 episodes to get you on the show, but I’m glad that we’ve finally had a chance to do it.
Dana: Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.
Mike: Thanks Dana.
Dana: All right.
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