Welcome to the process, to e-com profit podcast, where we know top line sales, just isn’t enough to have the business of your dreams, learn to run a profitable business online that doesn’t run you.
Welcome to the process to e-commerce profits podcast. We are really excited to share, about what we’ve learned about what we do, and how we help businesses. I’m gonna leave it to Cindy to kind of tell you a little bit about what we’re going to be talking about on this podcast.
Thank you, Robyn. well, our mission for our podcast is to help e-commerce businesses build a profitable business, one that they run instead of the business running them.
And, you know, we wanna make sure that we start with a little bit about us so that we kind of have, you know, but we have a unique perspective on, running e-commerce businesses. You know, I started as a seller, and then I coached a lot of high-volume sellers. So not only have I actually physically held the inventory now, have I, you know, I’ve actually had the cash flow issues. I’ve, I’ve had to be frustrated with Amazon because, you know, big portions of my inventory had been lost or moved or something along those lines. but we’ve also looked at a lot of different Amazon businesses across, across a lot of different sourcing methods. And that gives us a unique perspective to see what really works and what doesn’t work. you know, we’ve spent the last several years analyzing launch strategies and, you know, what really looking at prop businesses that are profitable and businesses that are in trouble and we’ve been able to identify, and we wanna share with you some of the tips and some of the, the identifiers that we see that helps to make a successful profitable eCommerce, one that, that you run instead of it running you.
So, how did you get started with this eCommerce accounting business?
Well, first of all, I was a stay at home mom and I was looking for something to do to help supplement our income and to provide some flexibility so that I could be with my daughter, in those years, because I was, I was a stay at home mom, but I was also homeschooling. And so, I needed something that was flexible. I needed something that provided a little income to help me pay for my daughter’s tutoring. And the idea of working remotely really appealed to me in my corporate job. I had; many years of accounting experience had installed accounting systems. a couple of times as our, our, corporate business grew. And so accounting kind of came naturally to me and I was, consulting with a friend of mine in her business and really, she needed to move her accounting online as well.
So about that time, QuickBooks online was coming out into the, forefront as being an application that you could use remotely. And so, from that perspective, I built this remote accounting business to allow me to be home, take care of my family’s needs and, also serve clients. one of the things that I learned pretty early on was that my clients were struggling with cash flow and with profitability. And about that same time, I happened to meet Mike McCowitz and heard him speak on profit first as he was introducing that book. the, the first self-published version back in 2014, and I knew it could help my clients. So, I joined forces with profit first become one of the, first profit first professionals. And through my interactions with Mike, went through some coaching with him to learn about, how to develop a niche to grow our, you know, our businesses. And so, I had a few e-commerce clients and from, working with Mike and working with those e-commerce clients, I knew it was a good fit. And, so I focused down on being able to serve those clients effectively since about 2015,
You know, we have had mutual clients and, that we’ve, we’ve shared where we, we both have, have had access to those things. And you’ve come to speak at several of my retreats where we’ve looked, you know, we’ve had like high volume sellers come, as you looked at so many different, types of Amazon businesses and e-commerce businesses. What has been the thing that has surprised you the most?
Well, I, I think, you know, coming from a more traditional corporate type background, I just assumed everybody understood the ins and outs of businesses and of, of business and how it worked. And what I realized is that people were coming into Amazon as a side hustle and that for, for our clients, they got it right. They figured out how to sell, and how to make money selling on Amazon, but they didn’t really understand how to create the systems, put the processes in place to really grow it as a business instead of, growing it as a side hustle and, and, you know, being scrappy every day. And, you know, there’s a certain great feeling to all of that as you’re getting started, but it can’t last forever, and people burn out on it. And, I hear people say, I just don’t know what I wanna do this. I, I can’t get away to take a vacation. This thing is running my life. And so, one of the things that we like to do is help people get in a situation where they’re back in charge and they get the help they need, they put the systems in place so that the business is really operating, in a sustainable way, not totally dependent on the owner, burning the midnight oil all the time.
And I’ve seen, you know, you working with businesses that have been able to, to do that, have been able to kind of get them from a place where they were completely crushed by, you know, by their payments and their loan debt and giving, getting them to a healthy place. And I think you’ve even had some of those businesses ultimately be able to exit, right?
Yes, we have. I mean, you know, it’s, first of all, you do need to figure out how to get profitable, but as you get profitable, then you can use that money to start to put in place the systems and the order in the structure of things so that you can, get out of the day to day and, and start really working on designing your business. And what we find is that clients that focus on those things really can grow and scale more quickly, and they’re in a better position and look more attractive to a buyer when it comes time to exit. And this past year, it’s been exciting to see some, some of our, long term clients make some, some really good money, on these businesses that they’ve built over the years. And, you know, just really see the payoff of what they’ve been working hard for.
What other ways has you have, like your small business experience made it say you’re really able to help your clients?
Well, first of all, profit first I’m, you know, I, that, that was a starting point for me. It’s been tremendously helpful in my business. I see the impact that it has with our client’s business, when, when the pandemic started and there was so much uncertainty and Amazon was shutting down what they would accept. I was getting emails from clients who were on profit first saying, thank you so much. We’ve got cash in the bank and we’re gonna be fine. And we’re so glad that we have this reserve built up. The other email I was getting was we don’t know what the heck we’re gonna do. Can you help us figure out how we’re gonna make payments? You know? And so, I like the first emails better. So, profit first is kind of a foundational thing. You have to have good finances and, good, good books and good understanding of what your books are telling you, but you also have to have a good system for managing your cash flow too.
And so the, so the, the, the idea of getting cash management and profits in place first really sets you up then to work on systems. I’m a big fan of Mike Mac Callow’s, book that followed, profit first called clockwork, which is about designing a business that supports, supports the seller so that they can actually, put some order in their business and focus on those design things that are gonna be better strategically suited to, to helping that business grow and helping the owner feel fulfilled by what they’re doing instead of completely drained at the end of the day.
And I know that neither of us want this, podcast to be in, you know, an, a, a advertisement necessarily for our business, but we, what we really wanna do is we won’t be able to reach more people and help get that result. What is the thing that you see that’s missing the most when you are talking to new potential clients that’s kind of missing in their businesses?
I think, understanding the, the finances, you know, they’ve, they’ve worked really hard to understand how to get, how to sell and how, and that changes all the time. So it’s never something that you said it and forget it, but their on top of those systems and, and are aware of their, their importance, but they don’t really always understand how to look at the financial side of things and see what those numbers are telling them, so that they can start to look at things a little more down, you know, downstream of what’s coming and how to, how to get prepared for that. But I’d love to, I’d like to get to know more about, how you got into the place of becoming a seller and, and the journey for where you are now, Robin. So, let’s, let’s talk a little bit about how you started as a seller and, and, and what motivated you to do that?
Well, you know, it was, it’s completely unpredictable that I’m an owner of an agency now because, you know, over 11 years ago or 12 years, it all kind of is a blur a long time ago in a land far, far away, not actually, but, the, I actually was a youth minister and we couldn’t make ends meets, and my son was sick and we just had to do something. So, I took a hundred dollars out of our emergency fund. We started buying things on eBay and then Amazon, we started to grow that business in just a few short years. We built that to a million-dollar business. Then we started coaching other high-volume sellers, kind of like you, we started to say, okay, here’s what we’ve learned. And here’s, you know, things that, you know, we needed to understand about cash flow and, you know, the way that we manage inventory and even listing optimization.
And we went from kind of buying things in stores to buying things wholesale as, as a seller, we realized then that Amazon was a huge issue for brand owners for, you know, manufacturers. It was just a very big pain point. It was a frustrating place to have their goods sold, whether they liked it there or not. And so, we started about five or six years ago. We started our agency kind of one-on-one client, then a couple, and then we’ve kind of built it, since then. and you know, now I get to work with these amazing companies. Some of them are like shark tank size, you know, that they, you know, they have their product there, they have some sales and they’re, they’re, they’re working on scaling. and then we have some companies that are as big as, you know, publicly traded where the, the amount of, increased revenue that we were able to get them was able to bring in additional rounds of investments.
So it’s really fun. I, I know that what I do helps people hire more people, make sure that they have, get to see their kids, and, and actually can be present with their kids because they’re not, while they’re playing settlers of QAN, they’re not thinking about how am I gonna make that next Amazon payment. so, you know, it’s, I love what I do. And, I I’ve had the chance to speak at Harvard for women’s entrepreneurship day, which was a huge honor. And, it, you know, I was, I was there for that. And then, I write on a regular basis for search engine journal, and I’m an SCM rush academy professor, which doesn’t mean much in the Amazon space, but if you are from the Google space, you’ll know that there are, are very well respected, software service that helps people with optimization. So, I’ve got to speak at really amazing conferences and do really great things. But the thing that I love most is helping people, especially now that I’m working with brand owners is having those businesses be profitable, having them be able to expand their reach, and when I’m working with resellers help making it so that they, they can have the business that they started, this whole thing to begin with.
Yeah. I, I, you know, that’s the thing when people start a business it’s to achieve something and, it’s usually they didn’t have in mind staying up all night, trying to figure out how the, to, how to solve the next crisis. And, so it’s nice to be able to help people get to that place of peace of mind. You know, you you’ve talked about being in business, for 10 or 11 years. And, and that is a long time by small business standards. but in the Amazon world, that’s like a really long time because I mean, I’ve, I’ve been working in the Amazon space since 2015, and I can see just the dramatic change that has happened in, in that time, time span and, and, you know, and COVID changed everything just here in the last couple of years. so what have you seen, what are some of the, the big changes that you’ve seen over the time you started as a, as a reseller?
You know, Amazon is almost completely different. I mean, the fundamentals are the same, there’s a listing page, you know, you’re trying to get, you know, you’re trying to have your product be seen by more people, FBAs been around for a very long time, but, you know, things like safety and compliance, weren’t an issue when I started, you know, there were not as many brands that actually cared about Amazon, when I started. So the, the type of business that does well on Amazon has changed dramatically. And part of that is because the platform continues to mature. So, you know, when I started everything was the wild, wild west people were, you know, repackaging food and ways that were really illegal. And, you know, like there was all sorts of craziness that was happening on the platform. but you know, now, you know, Amazon’s been taking a lot of that more seriously, so it does take more strategic thinking more like you, you do have to actually have a more well thought out plan.
and, you know, especially with COVID and the supply chain issues, a lot of, margins were sh shrunk in the last year. So, you know, what we see is the people that are doing well, the people who’ve been doing well this whole time, they’re willing to kind of continue to kind of keep their eye on the horizon and change their business and adapt to that marketplace change, because what worked five or six years ago doesn’t work today. and that’s why it, it can be hard for people who are trying to figure out Amazon going off of YouTube videos, because at that YouTube video was made four years ago. You know, maybe everything in it is inaccurate or could actually get you in trouble now. So, it’s hard to tell what the right advice is for Amazon. but you know, what we have seen is just, you know, it’s not just a cash grab anymore.
You do have to have this well thought out strategy. You need to have good marketing fundamentals, which honestly you did not need to have, seven years ago. It was just a cash grab. and so, you know, it, it’s not harder and it’s not easier. It’s just different mm-hmm. And the obstacles that you face are different, you know, when I first started, you know, there was no calculator to tell you whether or not it was profitable. We were kind of guessing on some things. We’re like, oh, well, I’m selling gift for three times. That item must be profitable. And you know, now we’ve got all these tools that can tell us all the data on these products, but there are more issues when it comes to dealing with Amazon customer service and seller support that maybe we didn’t have. So, it, you know, it’s just an evolving place. and so you have to be prepared to have some patience and know that Amazon people at Amazon are way too busy to have an agenda against, against you. So, it’s just looking at how can you make it work and coming with like a, a solution oriented mindset as my daughter’s elementary school, trying to teach her, you know?
Yeah. That, that that’s a good life skill, for sure.
What other skills do you see that people need to have to be, an Amazon seller in today’s climate?
Well, first you need to have an understanding of the fundamentals of marketing. Now, if you’re just reselling Nike shoes or Lego, then you know, this isn’t going to be as important because, you know, to be honest, they’re doing most, those brands are doing the heavy lifting for you. They’ve already developed the fan base. They’ve already developed the community. They’ve already developed the buzz, but especially if you’re developing your own products or you’re working on launching products that maybe are not as well-known at Amazon understanding the basics of marketing, understanding, you know, what is a customer avatar or what is, you know, what is a funnel? How do we move people through what is, you know, the indoctrination sequence that we want to kind of bring people through off Amazon, to help people become aware of our products. And then, you know, if you are running any kind of ads, then we really need some, somebody on your team.
That’s good at analytics, somebody who can look at the ads and say, this is working. This is not working. Somebody that comes with if then, mindset doesn’t have to be the same person. And in fact, usually the person that’s good at, marketing’s not gonna be good at analytics. So, you can hire this piece out. that same analytics person is usually gonna be your chair, the person that’s gonna say, let’s make sure that we’re checking voice of the customer on a weekly basis. Let’s make sure that we’re doing these things to ensure that the account is healthy. We’re dealing with anything that comes up in that account health, before it becomes a problem. then the biggest thing, and the thing that PI people out of business the most, I think is cash flow and profitability. especially when margins get tight. I see people take lower and lower margins because they’re still trying to grow.
And what can happen then is that you’re, you’re continuing to squeeze and you can, we’ve actually, you’ve seen this too. They, they do grow their top line, but they’re actually making less money than they did when they were selling $300,000 less. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm . So, you know, it is really about making sure that you’re really thinking things, those things through as you’re developing your business, and then now more than ever, you really do need to have some sort of understanding or hiring out somebody who has an understanding of logistics. That, that means getting the products to you, especially if you’re importing. But you know, now there are times where you do need to have, you need to be thinking a little bit in a, in a more advanced strategy about how you’re getting your products to Amazon. Should you be using small parcel?
Should you be using LTL, or should you be using, FTL? you know, we had a client that over Christmas there, their new, it was a, it was a supply chain nightmare. You know, they wanted to have their new product launch in May. It didn’t arrive until, November 30th. And so, in order to get it live for Christmas, we really did need to utilize FTL in order to get it checked in quickly. Luckily, they were near, a, a vendor that we have connected people with that allows them to kind of get access to that kind of shipping. so, we really do need to think about, you know, how you’re getting your products to an Amazon. When is it right to FBA? When is it not right? And, you know, all of those things put together, but really keeping an eye most, you know, first and foremost on profitability. And it, there are times where maybe you might take a hit on profitability, but there needs to be a path to sustainable profitability. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to do all of these things that you’re really doing in these, in the business.
Yeah, that’s the thing we see over and over is people get attached to maybe to an original product that’s not profitable anymore, but it really sucks cash out of the business just to keep that, product on the, in stock. And, and by doing that, they’re taking cash away from, things that really are up and coming and are making money. And, and just that whole portfolio analysis, of what’s making money for you now, it, it changes over time. So, it’s the kind of thing you have to look at over and over. Well, Robin, I’m really excited that we’re kicking this off. we, we both have talked shop for years, as we’ve talked at, conferences and, and with, joint clients. And so, it’s really exciting to, to look at this podcast as a way that we can give back to give back some practical skills and knowledge to people, so that they can run a successful business.
And, you know, when, when you start that business, you start off with a dream and, and very quickly it turns into overwhelm . And so, I, I know you share, the same goal as I do that. We want people to, to achieve the dream and to build a business that provides them the cash that provides them the, the time and, and space in their life that they can actually be, be present with families and, and do the other fun things like, hobbies and sports, cetera. So that’s our mission for the podcast. and we’re super excited to, to come to you, and share these tips.
And, you know, we’re really looking forward to helping, you know, if, if you’re struggling, then we wanna help give you some tips. We’ve seen it one time, sometimes making one adjustment or one, just adding one best practice. Maybe it’s even just as simple as doing a weekly cash flow projection, that can really make the difference between life and death, not to be overly dramatic, for your business, or being able to be able to not fire or lay somebody off. And we know that right now, businesses are being pinched more than ever. And so, this really felt like a good time to do this. So, we hope that you’ll enjoy the podcast. If there’s something you’d really like to hear us talk about, we’d love to hear from you. you can reach out to us. both of us, all of that information will be available in the show notes. but we wanna be here to help, the e-commerce businesses have everything that they need to be successful. So that’s it for today’s show. we are looking forward to many more episodes, and we hope that you have a fabulous day. Thanks for listening to the process, to e-commerce profits podcast.
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