Vi: Thank you. It’s good to meet you finally.
Jim: Hey, great to meet you as well. We just met a couple minutes ago, so I get to hear along with the listeners your story, which is where I want to go right off the bat.
Vi: Gotcha, okay. I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’ve been in business for myself since probably 21 or 22, stabilized into the spa industry. I had day spas for almost 40 years and had done everything from restaurants to breeding and training exotic birds, you name it. I’ve done it along the path.
Jim: That’s incredible. There’s so many great stories. We just breezed through some incredible stories I’m sure of blood, sweat, and tears, failures, successes, right?
Vi: A little bit of both. One thing that I learned definitely is I made enough mistakes to become really good at what I did. That was what that was. The reason I left the spa industry, my main spa had caught fire and that was central. I ran all locations off of that. When that went down, the business went down. Of course there was a bunch of insurance money. I went to open up a new location and it ended up being just a horrible situation, bad timing for the building, and hence, why I’m here today.
Jim: Gotcha. I got to imagine that’s quite a momentum shift too.
Vi: Especially I’m as computer illiterate as they come.
Jim: We’ll get into that in a minute. I’m talking about losing your business to a fire and then trying to restart the same business, just that momentum. I experienced that in 2017. Even though I have a digital business, we lost my home office that I’m sitting at now. This was a pile of rubble. You can go back and see the pictures. I shared them. I thought, hey, we’ll get an insurance check. Life goes on, but it’s so disruptive and all the little things you can’t imagine. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Anytime I talk to someone who’s experienced it, I have this camaraderie moment of just like, oh, I know the feeling.
Vi: It’s so excruciating. To me it was so excruciating to give up a business that I absolutely loved. That was my identity. Then I had to figure out, okay, now, who is Vi really outside of Vi the spa owner? It was really traumatic. That’s why thank God I ended up in this. It answered so many boxes that needed to be checked in my life – this brought to the table.
Jim: That’s incredible. I love how you’re trying to swing us into the main point of this program. I have a question for you before we do that, which is going to seem like that’s out of left field. I’m curious, you seem like the person as all successful entrepreneurs recognize. You’ve built a lot of relationships over the years with significant people that have poured into your life and you’ve poured in theirs. Have you been able to take any of that with you from your old world of spa into the new world or have you just maintained those as friendships? I’m just curious. That may seem like a strange question, but I have a reason for asking.
Vi: Something just came up just last week in fact. I’m from Hawaii, and a woman that I know there, we were major competitors, but two of the closest friends you’d ever run into.
Jim: Trust me, I understand that.
Vi: Yeah. She contacted me the other day and she said, “I heard you’re selling on Amazon. I’d like for you to wrap my line.” I used to have my own skincare line. That was part of our thing was we both had our own lines and all of that. She’s just approached me on that. It’s something I’m going to talk to Gail about.
Jim: Yeah, and Gail being your coach in our program, which for the listener’s sake, that’s phenomenal – she’s such a beautiful person and great coach, just tremendous. I’m so blessed to be on this team with these great people.
Vi: Oh, God. You draw to what you give out.
Jim: Thank you. I’d like to think that I reciprocate all the love that they show me. It’s pretty incredible family around here. Okay, I love you set it up perfectly. That’s of course one of the models we teach. Have you dove into the Proven Product Partnering module of the proven Amazon course yet? Spend a couple hours in there, it’ll prep you for the conversations you’re going to have with your friend on how to get her brand up and rolling.
You’ll probably end up helping her set up her own account and you’ll get a percent. You do all the work. Every check Amazon sends her, you get a cut. It tells you the details of how to build that out. That’s a perfect example. It’s not like you left that whole world behind. Those relationships still matter. They still count. They’re actually propelling you in some creative fun ways in this new arena, right?
Vi: This is the first one that has my old friends that has entered into this world where everybody else’s old employees, or clients, or friends, and people tend to stay in my life.
Jim: You strike me as that kind of person, just infectious energy.
Vi: That’s when we go back to when I was six.
Jim: Wow, that’s incredible. You females have that figured out. Lifelong friends among guys are more rare I think for some reason. I don’t know why.
Vi: Is it?
Jim: It feels like it is. I don’t know any guys that hang out with the same guys they hung out with when they were six. I know a lot of girls who have maintained, females who have maintained those relationships over the years.
Vi: I think some of that is also island life because we’re smaller. Everything’s more condensed and we know each other all of our lives. It doesn’t matter that we’re separated by an ocean now.
Jim: Yeah, that’s true. There’s probably something to that, and it’s a different pace too. I lived in the Keys in Key Largo for a while and definitely a different pace where it’s warm and sunny year round and it’s a smaller island. You’re like, yeah, it’s a different pace.
Vi: Oh yeah.
Jim: All right, let’s keep your story rolling. I have a feeling there’s all kinds of fascinating vectors we could take off on with you. This is an e-commerce seller’s podcast so we’ll do our best to keep that in mind as we roll. I apologize, I’m the one taking this off track, not you. Let’s go with your story. You got into e-commerce after you pivoted away from the spa business?
Vi: Yeah. I just was trying to figure out what am I going to do because I thought – you couldn’t get any more signs that it was time to shift than a fire. I meditate every morning, every night without fail, and so I just opened myself to just guidance. It was something I had seen online and my gut told me that, try this. Let’s just see. You know how to do business. You’re smart enough to not be incarcerated, so let’s see where it goes.
I went ahead and I started researching to see where was the best route to go. I almost went another direction and my gut pulled me back your direction. That’s when I ended up with you guys. Then I went through the course. I spent months really focused on going through this because I wanted to learn this. Finally, I came to the realization it was a conversation that I had had on the Facebook group. I said, “Do you really think that it’s necessary to have a coach?” Somebody had emailed back and said, “Well, it’s really a lot of hand-holding times a gazillion.”
It goes so far beyond that because I know without a doubt in my mind, had Gail not been my coach, I would never be here today because I would have defeated myself along the way. This was so far out of my wheelhouse for one thing and then let’s compound that with the simple fact that I do not understand the computer. I always had young employees and I’d say, “Hey, would you take care of this for me?” That’s where I came from. Gail, I don’t have enough words. I just don’t have enough words. That’s part of what I really was hoping to just encourage people. Get a coach. If it’s doable, get a coach. It’s a game changer from top to bottom.
Jim: If people didn’t know better, you almost sound like a plant that I paid from some local community college acting class to come on and talk about how great our coaching program is. I didn’t know you were going to go there, but we do hear stories like this frequently. I love you said you were told it’s hand-holding. It’s instructional, it’s informational, but we take it seriously.
You may have heard me say this before, Vi, but for the listener’s sake, there’s two things we’re looking for when we bring coaches on-board. All of our coaches, we’ve got around 30 or so at this point, they all have these two things in common. They’ve got a teacher’s heart, which not everyone has. There’s some really smart, capable people out there that just don’t have a teacher’s heart. That’s okay, not everybody does, but they just truly are fueled by the thought of helping people go through a proven process. They love it. They’re energized. It’s like we almost wouldn’t have to pay them and they just love doing it, that kind of person.
The other thing is they’re very successful. They know their stuff. They’re patient with a teacher’s heart and they’ve built a great business. Those people are diamond in the rough, as is Gail, and so many of our other coaches. I hear similar accolades and they’re all better at coaching than I am. I lack the patience. If you’d come to me and said, “Jim, will you coach me? I don’t know anything about computers.” I say, “I don’t think I’m the right guy. I don’t have the patience to be honest with you. I just don’t have the patience. I’m the wrong guy.” That’s why we have such a diverse team of great talent and different personalities. You’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit. I could talk to you about business all day.
Jim: Let’s go into your business a little bit. I want to hear a little bit about it. You came in pretty cold. It reminds me a little bit of the story of Abe, Abe on our team, Ortolani. He’s actually one of our coaches now too, but he had never touched a computer or smartphone in his life and he became one of our leaders in our community, like digs into the data.
Vi: Isn’t that crazy?
Jim: He found his niche. He found his thing. He was wired for this and didn’t even know it. Had he not hurt his back doing construction, he never would have discovered like, man, I really enjoy this.
Vi: Yeah, isn’t it something? Because I love it. For one thing, I’m a workaholic, so this is a workaholic’s dream.
Jim: You can get up at 3 in the morning and work.
Vi: What’s that?
Jim: You can get up at 3 in the morning and work if you want to.
Vi: Exactly. I do a lot because I talk to brokers all over the world. Earliest bird, I’m all about that. A lot of times, I’ll get up because I’m able to talk to people at that time of the morning and they are happy to close the deal before 6 a.m., which works for me.
Jim: That’s incredible. Where do you live now? We didn’t catch that.
Vi: I’m in Missouri now.
Jim: Okay. That’s not Hawaii.
Vi: That’s a little landlocked, isn’t it?
Jim: They have real winners there too. How are you doing with that?
Vi: It’s a form of torture, believe me.
Jim: Yes, I understand, Indiana. Tell me about your business. You’ve given us a couple hints about it. What are you doing? Let’s share some of that story.
Vi: Okay. I started off – this is always the joke between Gail and I. When I was first trying to figure out what I was going to sell, I had bought a bunch of bee houses.
Jim: A bunch of what, bee houses?
Vi: Bee houses. They’re just big, and not thinking about the whole picture because I didn’t know it at that point. I didn’t know it. She’s patiently going through with me trying to wrap everything, and it took one shipment for me to go, “Yeah. No, not doing that.” Then I put my head to it and said, “Okay, what am I most familiar with? Let me try to at least come close to my wheelhouse.” I went, okay, fragrance, cosmetics, skincare.
That’s where I stand now is fragrance – not fragrance. I’m going to be moving in fragrance, cosmetics and skincare, and started off – well, I’m up to a typical day I’m selling about 1400 a day. I have dropped this month, but it’s because I’m running out of product. I constantly have it churning. I don’t do the wait for the product to sell and then I do this. No, I’ve constantly got it churning all the time. Typically, I’ve got three shipments of maybe 300, 400 pieces per shipment going out a week.
Jim: Right, okay. Are you doing the business yourself?
Vi: Yeah. I hired my ex-husband to wrap and tag. I just finished adding on a warehouse. I’ve got a couple acres here. I put a warehouse on the back side of my house, which now has become shipping and receiving. Then I’ve got all storage and prep. I have a freestanding garage that I totally built in. Now, I’ve got this huge warehouse out there and it’s highly effective.
Jim: You broke up just a little bit there when you were answering how many people besides you. You said you have one person helping prep. Is that what you said?
Vi: Yeah, my ex-husband. I hired my ex-husband to help me.
Jim: Gotcha. Okay, yeah, it broke up for a moment there. I’m sure there’s stories there too. That’s awesome.
Vi: It’s crazy. It’s a lot and I know that I’m verging on having to hire someone, but I’ve been enjoying not having any employees. I typically would have at least 30 employees and now I’ve got 1.
Jim: Yeah. You can ramp into it nice and slow at the pace. The business will slowly become more about you becoming a leader. It’ll feel like very familiar territory I’d imagine as you grow because you couldn’t run multiple spas by yourself. You had to find good people. The only way to scale is to be a leader. If you’re going to have people, you got to lead them. The leadership journey is coming at you again, I promise you, Vi.
Vi: I was enjoying not having that, to tell you the truth, but it’s – to grow at the pace that I want to grow at –
Jim: No hurry, but I’m a firm believer. You can probably attest with your years of entrepreneurship that there’s no such thing as a steady state business. It’s either climbing or it’s dying, and you can only do the dying thing for so long before you got to change something.
Jim: It’s going to grow because you’re good at what you do and – it’s going to grow. It’s coming. I’m just giving you that friendly warning. It may be a year out there, but it’s coming.
Vi: Yeah. In the past year, I’ve doubled. I’ve definitely doubled my business and now it’s to the place of trying to figure out, okay, we’re starting to generate some serious income now.
Jim: Those numbers are significant for sure.
Vi: Being only two years in, not even quite two years, but I’ve never grown a business this fast before ever where it’s just pretty insane.
Jim: The stories we hear from this community are pretty incredible. We almost take it for granted. We’ve heard it so many times and we’re coming up on 1,000 recent success stories in our community from Amazon based, in most cases, fairly new sellers. In many cases, there’s nowhere near as qualified to run a business as you, although you offset that by saying, “I never use computers.” That’s part of the gig and you figured it out, so kudos on that. I want to hear more about these products you’re selling. Is this your line of products now or is this –
Vi: No. I do just name brands, strictly name brand products.
Jim: Stuff we’d all recognize.
Jim: Okay, so you’re using the Replens strategies?
Vi: I have not gone through the Replens course.
Jim: Really? How do you find profitable products?
Vi: I’ve got brokers that I work with, and they go direct-to-manufacturer. I’ve gone through process of elimination with my brokers. They give you offers, give you offers, and then you run your numbers, accept, reject, buy, buy, buy, and then that’s that. It’s shifted now where I’m able to go, “Okay, I want Chanel. I want Christian Dior. I want this, I want this, I want this,” and I know exactly where to go. Now, I’m finally getting the full list instead of just an offer here and an offer there.
That has shifted and it’s just been through time that I’ve proven myself as a buyer. It’s definitely shifted from there. As long as I’m hitting my margins, I’m good. Everyone knows what I’m looking for, and so it’s just become more and more easy. They like it because I buy a lot, and then I’m not trying to nickel and dime. I know that I have to buy a lot of product, and that’s the only way to do it is to do this.
Jim: You’re getting your price competitive advantage by buying more than most people are willing to buy and you’re buying large quantities?
Jim: Understood. I got you. That’s slightly riskier territory than we get most new sellers into, but again you have business experience. Were these connections that you had before or did you find them?
Vi: I found them.
Jim: Wow, that’s a story. Tell us about that.
Vi: It was a lot of mistakes. My first transaction was with Europe and I lost 10,000 on my first transaction. You’ve got to be careful. I didn’t know at that point what to look for as far as people being fraudulent with it. I just didn’t know. That was a hit. That was a significant hit.
Jim: What’s the lesson there? Give us a lesson there, Vi. What led you to make that decision? You don’t have to call out the website of the company or anything, but how did you end up in that trap? Talk us through it. Give us a little more detail there if you could.
Vi: I think that I had put out I don’t know how many feelers. I had gone on to different sites that if you’re looking for wholesale skincare, this is where to go, and I started putting out feelers. They ended up contacting me. Now, I’m used to people contacting me, but I’ve been doing this long enough that people would contact me. In the beginning, I didn’t see that as a red flag. They had the list. They had everything. Everything looked legit.
Jim, this was insanity. They had taken this to the point where they even – I was able to track the movement of my shipment. This shipping company was non-existent. It was a website. It was beyond belief what had happened with this and come to find out the whole thing was fake.
Jim: None of it existed.
Vi: Live and learn. It was a costly, costly lesson.
Jim: There’s a story I don’t know that we’ve ever shared on this podcast. I don’t think we ever did. When we were looking for our son, when he got his black belt, our son Zane, one of the rewards we gave him, we said, “You get a certain amount of money if you achieve this goal that you’ve had for a long time. When you hit it, what do you want to do? How are we going to spend this money?” He wanted a corgi, the dog. See, there was nowhere around here that we could find one, but we found somebody who had one online and went through the process, and checked it out, and thought it was legit.
Same thing happened to us. I don’t remember exactly how much money we lost, but it was significant, getting the dog transported and all that. We started getting suspicious when the prices started getting added on to the end and it started to feel like how much money they could take us for. We’re like, “Wait a second,” because they already had some money from us at that point, so yeah. We ended up getting a corgi, legitimate. Learned my lesson.
The first question I asked them was, what vet do you use for your dogs? They told me. I called that veterinarian. I looked on Google and it really existed. I said, “Do these people do business with you?” They said, “They absolutely do.” You can never do too much homework in validating, and when you’re dealing with international especially. That’s one of the retail new sellers especially stay away from. Alibaba, there’s some good stuff on there. There’s a whole bunch of crooks on there too and you and they blend in.
Vi: See, I won’t even touch that. In fact, I don’t deal with out of the country anymore at all. Even when I had the spa, I was importing Thai balls. Have you ever heard of Thai balls? It’s like poultice. They use on horses if they’ve got a bad joint. Anyway, it’s a massage thing. I was importing the first order, 10,000. Second order, 20,000. Third order, they got me.
Jim: You hear those stories that the quality is great in order one, maybe even order two, but then that third order, you’re like, “Yeah, I like these guys. I can trust them.” Big order, it’s either terrible quality or they take your money and run and shut down. What happened? Yeah, that’s the models we teach just to help people avoid those minefields. We teach people to ease into it. You can see the value of that like easing into it, slow and steady, small risks, test small, lose small, so you can win big later, versus going all in. So many disaster stories from – I think it’s important that you share these. Thank you for being transparent because this is going to save a lot of people, a lot of heartache to hear this.
Vi: It’s crippling. Thank God, I’ve had enough experience in business too. Although it hurt me financially, I could still take it in stride and know that, okay, now I need to go make that 10k up. Rather than feeling defeated by it completely, okay, now I saw that as – okay, now I need to make this money up. Get on it.
Jim: Good for you.
Vi: Oh, God, it gets scary because you’ve got a lot of money moving at once. The way I buy –
Jim: Yeah, especially the way you’re doing it now, but you’ve eased into it.
Vi: I did. Ease into the product for one thing, checking out. Just because the numbers make sense doesn’t always equate, especially because it takes me a couple of months to finally get everything processed, ordered to them. They process it, they send it. I process it, I send it. Amazon processes it and sells it. That’s a two-month process. Despite any of that, a lot happens in two months on Amazon.
Jim: Things can change, sure.
Vi: Oh, boy. I project forward a lot when I’m looking at numbers and learned a lot of mistakes. Just because I’m buying it at a good price doesn’t always mean that that’s a good thing because a lot of other people are buying it at a good price. I try to keep it up high enough that not everyone will try to compete with me. I’ve got a little less competition.
Jim: There’s always a game in there, right?
Vi: There is, and that’s half the fun to me. That’s half the fun.
Jim: I completely agree.
Jim: I love that, the free market of Amazon, and anybody can come in potentially at any point in time. Even if you got a private label brand that’s true, they can come in and compete with you and it’s a true free market scenario. I want to dive into a few more areas like some advice that you might give to people. I want to hear some more numbers from your business, as well as anything else you want to share. That’s the theme I have for the rest of the show. Let’s dive into your business a little bit more, any lessons that you’ve drawn out. Anything else that you think new listeners especially might benefit from hearing from your story.
Vi: I think again I can’t stress enough how much the coaching has helped me. That would be the biggest game changer of my entire experience. That was my biggest game changer.
Jim: Give me more specifics on that then, because you talked about you’re trying to sell a big, bulky, heavy item that was difficult to ship them. Gail talked you through that. Give me some more specifics. Are there any instances that stand out to you that were of special significance, aha moments maybe?
Vi: As far as with coaching you mean?
Jim: Yeah, since that’s such a big part of your story. What else can you tell us about it?
Vi: She has helped me. Not just her because she’ll reach out. If she doesn’t have the answer, she’s going, “Okay, I’ll get your answer.” I received a cease and desist letter for Josie Maran, one of the brands that I was selling. When you receive something like that the first time, that’s scary. She had somebody else take a look at it. I don’t remember exactly who it was, but she had somebody else take a look at it and he gave me his input. I then at that point decided whether to continue selling or not. Was this a growl or were they going to take a bite out of me?
I had come to the decision that it was more of just a gentle growl. Then of course my tactics shifted. Rather than sending in all that I had of that line, I would send in 10 pieces, 20 pieces, and hold back. That’s when I started. I thought that that had become a smart way for me to handle things so that the right hand never knew what the left hand was doing. Nobody had a clue as to what kind of a competitor I was if they were looking at the numbers.
Jim: For sure.
Vi: Yeah. That has I think been smart for me because I’m staying underneath the radar where the Josie Maran could step in. If they don’t want you selling their line, close it down. Make sure that nobody sells it. That happened to me with Perricone. I had just spent over 20k on Perricone and then Amazon quit selling it. They dated it. Here, I sit with Perricone.
Jim: What’d you do with that inventory?
Vi: I’m still trying to move it.
Jim: Are you using eBay or what’s your –
Vi: We’re trying to sell it on eBay and really nothing was happening there. I even am talking to an old friend of mine to see if she might do a Shopify or something. For me to try to put more on my plate at this point, it’s to that point, something’s got to give and I’m hoping it’s not me.
Jim: Understood. As far as selling $1400 a day so you can make up for mistakes over just a few weeks if there’s mistakes you made. You just try to minimize those mistakes while you’re trying to find a way to liquidate that big purchase. I think you maybe, in some sessions with Gail, might want to spend some time looking at Replens just so you can get a little better at picking which products you will and won’t get into and really help you hone those skills, because I imagine, do you get a wholesale list of products? You have a full list they send you? It’ll really help you go through and pick which ones you should and shouldn’t be looking at.
Vi: Oh, okay.
Jim: Do you use Keepa at all yet by any chance?
Vi: Oh, I live and die by Keepa.
Jim: Good, okay. You’ve got a lot of the Replens thought process already in you without realizing it because that’s a lot of what we teach in Replens is Keepa is a must-have tool. I’m glad to hear that. It would surprise me if Gail hadn’t turned you on to that yet.
Vi: Yeah. No, she did that right out of the gate. I cannot conduct business without Keepa. I would make bad buying choices, so why would I do that? I’m working with Keepa. SellerBench, I just bought SellerBench in and that’s tremendous. They’re just helping me with the back-end, making sure that I get my refunds and different things that I should be getting. Oh God, I think that they’ve already brought in 1600 of money that I just wasn’t even taking care of.
Jim: Yeah, the money that Amazon knows you have in a service. There’s multiple services like that out there that basically, they help you audit your account and make sure you get what you have coming when there’s refunds from the customer and you’re owed some money or whatever. Amazon breaks or damages product. There’s several ways that Amazon owes most of this money. Yes, there’s a lot of good services out there that perform that. That’s good. That’s smart. You’re at the level where you could use that for sure.
Vi: Yeah. I’m just surprised at how much money has come back. I’m really surprised. I think that they’re only charging me 25% of whatever they recoup. That’s a no-brainer right there. For the IP claims, I don’t remember what it’s called, but Acism.
Jim: AZ Alert maybe?
Vi: What’s that?
Jim: AZ Alert.
Vi: I think with that is. I think that’s tremendous just to know, am I possibly walking into a bad situation? It stops me. It will always stop me.
Jim: Have other sellers had a problem with this brand? Yeah, that’s good information to have at your disposal for sure.
Vi: Yeah. As much information as I can get, that’s my best decisions right there is thoughtful decisions.
Jim: I want to talk about your numbers a little bit. You said $1400 a day. It’s on a average. What are you hoping to do in 2021? What’s your target for the year?
Vi: You mean 2022?
Jim: No, for the rest of this year. How do you hope to end this year, 2021? What number do you want to finish out at?
Vi: I was really hoping to hit 2k a day was my goal.
Jim: For the year, half million, you’re not sure where you’re at for the year so far?
Vi: Oh God, I’d have to pull up some numbers to get that.
Jim: Oh, that’s okay. You don’t have to do that.
Vi: I’ve been at 1400 a day for the last three months on average because I jumped from 1,000 to 1400. First of the year, I was at 1,000.
Jim: Last three months, you’ve been at about 1400? I like how you’re processing your goal in a daily goal. You want to be at 2,000 a day. You’re not necessarily even thinking about – a lot of times when I say, “Hey, what’s your goal for 2021?” People have a number in their head. I don’t necessarily. I’d like to see our daily sales at a certain level. It’s higher than where we are now. That’s how I process things too is daily or weekly goals. It sounds like you’re well on your way and potentially with Q4 coming up.
Jim: Some sellers see 70% or 80% of their revenue in Q4. It can be incredible. I think you could be sitting on a half million plus year for 2021. It sounds like to me with the momentum and the direction you’re going. Maybe not a bad goal to set. Look at your numbers and see. Now, what’s your margin if you happen to know?
Vi: My lowest is 30% after all, everything. I typically fall in at about 32% after all Amazon fees, product cost, everything. Then that’s what I’ve ended up with.
Jim: That’s solid. That’s a solid business.
Vi: It’s hard to get it, but I get it. It means some getting up at 3 a.m. to talk to my people. This is about relationships. People think, “Oh, you’re just working behind a computer and that’s it.” No, this is about relationships.
Jim: Yes. You’re speaking my language. You’ve heard me say it 100 times on here. Some people try to operate in denial of that truth, but it’s about you have an advantage because of the relationships that you have and that you build.
Vi: Yeah. They’re so happy because I pay instantly. I am a good buyer. I’m a good buyer. This isn’t a game. I’m running a business, but I get along with my brokers really, really well and they’re just so happy to offer to me before anyone else. I’m a little bit spoiled there.
Jim: That’s so great. Do you get on the phone with them or Zoom?
Vi: Yeah, everything’s on the phone. Either that or I do the – oh, what’s it called? It’s texting, because one of my main brokers is in Australia. She and I just text back and forth. Most people, it’s phone now. Most of them it’s phone.
Jim: Here’s the thing. I call it the superpower. I actually did a podcast episode. It’s probably 40 episodes back from this one, maybe even 50. I call it the secret superpower that most of us as Amazon sellers never tap into. The big takeaway is using the telephone, making phone calls, sending a text that says, “Hey, can we talk?” Not, “Hey, let’s text or email,” but like, “Let’s talk.”
Like we’re doing right now, if people are watching on YouTube. Get on the screen and talk. That gives you such an advantage because so few people take the time to do that anymore. They want to do an email. They want it impersonal, place the order online. They don’t have to talk to anybody. Real business isn’t done that way, so you understand. I think that’s maybe your spa days coming back like, yeah, of course you get on the phone if you want to get something done, right?
Vi: Sure. It helps if you’ve got a problem with a product arrives. I just had an order come in that was totally demolished. Had I not have had my relationship with that broker, she wouldn’t have gone to that and I was able to deal with the situation. It was all done with ease. It was very comfortable. Why? Because we already had a very strong relationship. She knew. Whenever I receive a shipment, I always will shoot a text or make a phone call. “Thank you. Everything arrived. It was perfect. I really appreciate you”. I get it. I absolutely know how I would feel if somebody made that call to me.
Jim: Yeah. That’s a huge advantage, it really is. I even look at some of the local store managers around here. It’s the same thing. When the truck arrives on a Friday, just because I’m in there and I’m friendly and I’m helping to clean up, and our shoppers are good people, and we’ve got to know them, they’ll text us and say, “Hey, we got another of the four cases of that product you guys love. Should we just keep it in the back for you?”
Corporate policy is they don’t do that for people. They do it for us because we’re friends. We’ve built a relationship. I like to say, “Hey, what’s your favorite snack? Because I’m checking out and the cashier is busily working.” Next time they see me, they’re going to remember me. That doesn’t happen. You can work years somewhere and not have somebody buy you a snack at checkout, but those little things, those little advantages that you gain. I’m not using people. I’m building real relationships. You need to genuinely care about these people. That probably comes back from your spa days too, right? The more you care, it just shows. It comes through.
Vi: Yeah. I was in so many hotels, the hotels that I didn’t – I had a lot of satellites in little baby spas in some of the hotels. The other hotels, typically at Christmas, I would always pull up to the concierge and drop off bottles of wine for all the concierges because they were the ones referring people. I do the same thing now today with my brokers where I’ll fire out a bottle of wine or something that I know that they’re going to like. It’s what I would do with my friends. It’s no different. It’s the thank you. All I’m doing is acknowledging that I appreciate them.
Jim: Exactly. Yeah, that personal touch goes a very, very long way. Even though we’re in the Internet business e-commerce, you’ve done a great job. I think that probably explains a lot of your success as well. This isn’t the kind of stuff they teach you when you get an MBA. This is the kind of stuff you learn when you run a successful business with 30 employees for a few years. It’s like you’d better be personable. You’d better be better be up. You’re not allowed to have a bad day in front of everybody. Yay, you got to be on. You got to be going. That business building warrior mentality and people want to – you want people happy when you show up.
Jim: It really comes down to that.
Vi: That’s the thing. It’s not a show. Is it part of my persona, my business persona? Of course it is, but it’s also an extension of just who I am.
Jim: That’s right. Gail warned me. She said, “She’s a very positive person. You’re going to love her.”
Vi: I just love Gail. I can’t say enough about Gail.
Jim: I love the relationships that form out of these coaching student relationships. Oftentimes, the student becomes the coach and they do projects together. We’ve been doing this 16 years now so you can imagine some of the incredible stories. I don’t get filled in until years later in some cases and I’m just blown away. We attend each other’s weddings and kid’s birthday parties and just the level of relationships that are formed because – my theory is I tend to think that the best relationships you’ll have in life, at least a lot of them, will be formed out of what you do, especially if you do it well in your business. Those are going to be the best relationships you have in many cases. It sounds like you’re a living testament to that.
Vi: Yeah. She’s someone that I truly consider my friend, because it has gone beyond coach where I just – she’s in my heart. Yeah.
Jim: That’s phenomenal. I love to hear it. If you keep it up, she’s going to want to raise, so we should probably stop there. I’m just kidding of course. That’s one of the things we pride ourselves on in the industry is we pair coaches really, really well. I think that’s why we’ve survived so long is very little the money trickles to the bottom of this organization. It goes out into the coaching program and the coaches who do the work. We’re taking good care of them.
What lessons would you have for the new students in the community maybe who are considering doing this? Anything else you’d have to say to them besides the coaching piece, like anything else that comes to mind? Not to put any pressure on you, but I just want to make sure you have a chance to share anything that you had on your heart about –
Vi: I just think the biggest thing is hang in there. Pay attention because as much as you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it. It’s not going to happen for you. This is hard work, but it’s good work and it’s worth every minute of it. This is an industry that you learn so much from every day. This is not you learn and then you just go and you’re successful, no. You learn and you have to learn enough to be able to at least get off the ground, but your everyday – oh my God, the lessons that I learn along the way every single day.
I think that’s part of my appeal to this because I’ve got one of those minds that just is constantly going and absorbing. I like this group. I don’t interact a lot with it, but when I do have time, I like to dive into something. It’s healthy. It feels healthy to me and that is so gigantically huge for a business to not have a cancer within your business.
Jim: Negativity is one of the hallmarks of many of the forums. I don’t know how much you’ve spent time in e-commerce forums, but one of the worst places you can hang out as an Amazon seller – and Amazon is actually fully aware of what I’m about to say. If they were being transparent, most Amazon employees would completely agree with me on the fact that the worst place you can hang out as an Amazon seller is inside Amazon’s own seller discussion boards. They’re toxic.
They’re just one complaint after another piled on with more complaining and not a solution to be found. People even intentionally misleading each other in many cases because, hey, you’re my competitor. Why would I help you? Have you heard the cake versus candlelight analogy that we use around here? You might like this, Vi. If you haven’t heard it, there’s probably a handful of others. We don’t see success as a cake, we see it as candlelight. Success as a concept isn’t a cake because if it’s a cake, that means if Vi gets a slice and then I get a slice, and a couple of our friends get a slice, well, there’s not much cake left. You better hurry up and get the cake or the success is gone.
That’s a cake. We don’t see it like cake. We see success very intentionally. We drill it into our leadership team and into all of our students as well, and you’ve picked up on this without even hearing the story. It’s like candlelight. Meaning, we can light as many candles as we want and it doesn’t take away from anyone else’s candles. It’s a viral thing. You can spread it as much as you want. There’s always room for more success in e-commerce, and the numbers back that up. It’s not just some kind of pipe dream.
E-commerce is only 10% to 15% of all economic activity in the US. It’s rocketing up. We need to help each other. We’re not among competitors. You’re among fellow business building warriors. That’s the main point, and that’s what I think you’re picking up on is it’s ingrained into the spirit of who this community is to be helpful. Because as I’m sitting here, Vi, and I see your story, you’re one of those people that very easily, six months or a year from now, could be coming back and you’ve got a multimillion-dollar business and you’ve got things to teach all of us.
We need that relationship. We need that creativity. We want you to see us as, hey, this is the group of friends that helped me get where I am now. I’m going to help them. It’s what I know. That’s how our community has grown. That’s how we find our leaders.
Vi: That’s why you’re successful. That’s no question there. To see somebody that is truly happy when I’m succeeding, that’s what I get, and a lot of people aren’t. I mean, a lot of people aren’t. It’s nice to have that.
Jim: For sure. You could get me started on another soapbox there and I won’t spend much time on it, but our culture does not celebrate financial success. That’s a shame because there’s only one way to succeed financially in business and that’s to serve really, really well. That takes a lot of blood, work, sweat, tears, early mornings, late nights, sacrifices. A few people will ever understand the backbone of our culture is what I call business building warriors. Without us, the whole thing falls apart pretty fast.
Jim: Eighty percent I think of our economy, 80% if I’m not mistaken is small business owners.
Vi: Small business, yeah.
Jim: If we all just shut down, it’s over. We are the economy, right?
Vi: Yes, we are.
Jim: Good work, Vi. Anything else on your mind before we start to wrap this one up? This has been a delight for me. I really enjoyed hanging out with you. You need to come to one of our live events too.
Vi: I wanted so badly to go to the expo. It just was too soon off of everything that had been going on.
Jim: Sure. The right time will happen. You’re going to love this community as you get to hang out with them in person even more so, I think.
Jim: Yeah. Anything else on your mind? Otherwise, I’ll start to wrap this one up.
Vi: Okay, yeah. No, I appreciate your time on this. I love talking to you.
Jim: Oh, it’s been a pleasure, Vi, it really is. Since I was a kid, I don’t know, just entrepreneurs have always held a special place in my heart. I remember driving past little businesses and seeing, “Sorry, closed,” and just wondering – like there’s a family that used to rely on that business. They used to have jobs there. The customers that used to go in, it would break my heart. I remember thinking, “I want to spend my life helping people keep their business open and grow,” and just something inside of me. I think God put it there. I enjoy entrepreneurs.
I can nerd out all day. I could do 15 interviews like this in a row and have a blast. You’ve been a pleasure to hang out with today, Vi. I’m going to talk to the listeners for just a moment and just say, hey, I hope you enjoyed this as much as Vi and I did. We had a good time together today. If you enjoy episodes like this, there’s one thing we ask you. This is how you pay us back is to send your friends or anyone who’s looking to make more money or use the internet creatively to silentjim.com. Tell them to check out the podcast. Listen to a few episodes. They might get hooked.
That’s the only thing we ask in return for this free show. If you’re watching on YouTube today, there’s one other thing I want to let you know. Most of our episodes aren’t on YouTube. Most of them are audio only. When we don’t have a guest, sometimes we’ll just go audio only or some of our older episodes didn’t have video. You need to get over to silentjim.com and check out what you’ve been missing. There’s a lot of good episodes over there too.
Last thing, Vi mentioned earlier on the community. We’re going to have a link in the shownotes today to our free Facebook group. It’s about 66,000 people that hang out from around the world, business building warriors. We’ve all subscribed or at least the vast majority of us to this concept that success is like candlelight, not cake. There’s no poverty mentality allowed. It’s an abundance mentality. We want to help you succeed. Come hang out with us if you’re not in Facebook yet for that.
We have many people, Vi. I don’t know if you realize this or not. The only reason they use Facebook is for that group. They can’t stand Facebook otherwise, which I think is pretty funny, but that’s where they hang out there with us. Do that if you’re not doing it yet. God bless all the business building warriors out there. It’s been a pleasure hanging out with you today. I hope you found some inspiration. I know I sure did, some infectious energy from my new friend Vi. Great stories.
If you’re interested in our coaching program, Vi mentioned it a few times, you can go to jimcockrumcoaching.com. Again, link in the show notes for that as well. Everything we mentioned today we’ll have links there, but we’ll have another great episode for you like this one again real soon. Thanks, Vi. Appreciate your time today.
Vi: Thank you. I’ll see you soon.
Jim: Right, bye-bye.
Speaker: Thank you for listening to Silent Sales Machine Radio. Visit silentjim.com for a link to our free newsletter, our free Facebook group, and all of our resources mentioned on today’s show.