The Road To Amazon Seller Success Is Paved with Failures
Transcription of the video below:
Keith O’Brien: Okay Keith O’Brien here from markethustl.com. I’m here with friend and client Garland Sullivan, in Jacksonville which is where Garland is from and has his business. We are here in his warehouse actually, very cool spot. How many square feet do you have here?
Garland Sullivan: This is just right around 5000 square feet
Keith O’Brien: So, 5000 square feet, little front office that is under AC in the back where everything is happening in the background
Garland Sullivan: Yeah, all the goodies.
Keith O’Brien: All the goodies. We’ll show you a little bit of what that looks like here in a bit. But it’s really cool. His partner Max just walked back in, so we may throw him on for a little cameo. But it’s an opportunity to spend some time with Garland. They do both sides of the business. They do retail arbitrage, which is how you started right?
GV: Ya, retail arbitrage
KO: And a growing private label business. I just looked at their board and they’re on track and projecting to do five million this year turnover so that’s pretty significant. If I remember right, you just had a birthday?
GV: Yep, just about a month ago.
KO: Which makes you?
KO: So turnover of five million dollars, 26 years old and it certainly doesn’t suck. So what we’re gonna do is ask Garland a couple of questions and we’re going to get Max in here. Just jump in man, jump in, he’s going to have the captain’s chair. Just throw him in the middle.
GV: This is Max
Max: Hi. Hey guys
KO: I’m the least important guy in this video, so I’m going to stay right in the corner of the screen. So you guys met back in college?
GV: Ya, we met, we swam together in college.
KO: You swam together.
GV: Ya, we were swimmers, so that’s how we initially met
KO: And Max, still has the shaving going on, blessed with no hair.
Max: Blessed with no hair. For sure.
KO: You took a little bit longer to get swim ready. I want to start off, how did you guys get started? What was the beginning like? How long ago was it? Just kind of walk people through the process, the people that are watching this are in all stages of their business development. So how did you guys get started, what did that look like?
GV: Basically, Max was intrigued about selling online, especially through eBay or Amazon and just flipping products, and so we read a book on flipping products online and Amazon and sure enough, our other roommate at the time, his girlfriend had a friend that was doing this full-time, for about nine month to a year ahead of us. We were like, “Wow, look at this guy.” he’s got a real business just by flipping products on Amazon. So we saw what he was doing and he kind of mentored us from the beginning and now we kind of go back and forth on trying to see who is doing more numbers.
KO: Wow. So that guy is still doing it? Did you learn from him when you first started?
GV: Oh ya, big time. We wouldn’t be here, where we are right now, without him.
KO: Cool. I’m gonna slide this around so people can actually talk to people and don’t have to keep looking at me and I’m going to go off camera. So we’re good. It seems odd, people are watching the side of your face. Alright so how long ago was that?
GV: So that was in ’13, when we started it part-time and took it full-time in August 1st of ’14.
KO: Okay, so you had the last four months of that… do you remember what you grossed the first year?
GV: The first year? We barely broke the million mark of 2015.
Max: No, from August to December.
GV: Oh, August to December of 2014, we did a 130k in revenue.
KO: So you’re like “Okay this thing’s got some legs.” We’re turning over 30-40 thousand a month, and we’ve been in the business for like a couple of weeks.
GV: Ya, basically.
KO: That’s exciting. And this is four years ago and you guys were 22? 21-22.
GV: Exactly, right out of college and then in 2015 our first full year we broke a million in revenue and then last year we did 2.6 and this year our goal is to do five.
KO: How never to have a job as an adult by Max and Garland.
KO: That’s great. You just went through it: ’14 you turned over a buck 35, ’15 you turned over a million, ’16 was…
Max: ’16 was 2.6
KO: That’s a big year. That’s a big jump. At the beginning, you have nothing but growth right? But when you hit a million to 2.6, that’s a big jump. You’re pushing some pretty good number through. If you look back, what could you attribute to that two and half times growth.
Max: I want to say funding and being able to bring on a team.
Max: That was a big difference.
KO: So talk more about funding, this is all still arbitrage?
Max: There’s was a little bit here and there maybe some closed-out buys and what-not. Funding, you know, we started with credit cards, then being able to maybe get higher credit cards or start getting loans, and got loans from some private investors and so that kind of opened the windows to really start cranking and going for it. Then after that line of credit from another bank came, not too long ago but it kind of just snowball effect once you are able to prove yourself, there’s no reason why a bank or maybe someone you know that has a lot of money wouldn’t lend you some or invest in you, you know?
KO: Ya, you have already proved the model.
KO: Alright, and then you mentioned funding and a team. So what did you do? How did you start pulling on a team to work with you?
GV: Well, we didn’t know anyone when we first came here. Basically, we tried to find a way to – first thing we needed was help prepping, cause that’s an instant help and need, to fix. RA business is to instantly figure out how you can purchasing more products and not having to prep. So that’s the person that we found – a prepper. Then we went from “how can I duplicate one of us shopping?” to “How do we get people in the field shopping for us and then bring it back here and have the team prep it as well.”
KO: Good deal. So the arbitrage business and private label, similar, same but different right? I mean a lot of similarities in terms of once you get it on Amazon but a lot of differences pre Amazon right?
Max: Oh yeah.
KO: Now you guys are doing more private label. What are you guys enjoying more, do you have a preference? What’s the split on your total revenue right now?
Max: The RA, OA all that stuff flipping and turning is way bigger than private label. We still haven’t, we still want to hit a million in sales for private label, but we’re not even close to that. But it’s just a complete different world. It’s cool to have connections on both sides, you know? Other sellers and just the success rate in the long term and the exposure and these things the private label sellers have is just, the upside is way bigger than the other side of the business.
KO: Frustrations at different levels of the business
GV: Oh 100%. So for example, the biggest thing is, we start with our RA model. With our RA model we were able to expand and grow really quickly, but at the same time it would be really hard for us to sell our company. So the same people that started private label businesses at the same time we started our RA business, we’re seeing them selling from anywhere from a million to eight million dollars in that three year span. And so we’re like dang, there’s no way we could sell our business now for that much, no way.
KO: I think they could but that’s a whole other story
GV: Well hopefully Keith buys it alright? That would be great.
KO: So if you’re watching and you’re looking. What I like about your RA business is what you talked me through, it’s incredibly systemized. You know, you guys have processed everything out so that it is very teachable and duplicatable and it’s less reliant on your brain power than it once was.
GV: Oh yeah.
KO: To me that’s a very sellable business, when the entrepreneur is not the issue, right? And you guys have done very well in removing yourself as the issue in your business for quite a while now. So don’t hold out, there’s a buyer there somewhere for every business, right?
GV: Could be you!
KO: Most of our clients -private label clients – talk about what your experiencing, maybe the thing that you’ve learn from RA that’s been most helpful for you in private label? Or something you’ve wished you would have applied in the PL business now that you’ve been doing it for a little bit.
GV: I would say organization is huge. I would say our accounting. So we brought in an accounting team so that was a huge move in understanding on our RA side. Cause our RA, you have so many credit cards, so many gift cards, so many moving parts all the time and with PL it’s not nearly as many moving parts. Just knowing that, and having that base of somewhat managed this million part business was a huge resource that we had going into private label on the management side. What would you say?
Max: What was the question again?
KO: I don’t even remember. What did you learn from your RA business that you transferred over?
Max: Ya, I’ve learned a lot about how products moves on Amazon. What to look for, you know, trends and that. How to read Amazon listing, all those things. But it truly is a completely different world. So I’m having to basically relearn everything and I’m trying to master things myself at least to keep up to a point where I can teach someone else and so that’s where my focus is now to hopefully to be able to duplicate myself and all that stuff. It’s not as easy as just “buy this, sell this”.
KO: Right, I know that you guys are clients of ours for one of your products, you have applied some of your – building the team, outsourcing as part of you RA business you’ve applied that to your PL business. To know that these guys are going to turn-around five million this year and in their private label business, you guys are outsourcing your listing optimization, you’re outsourcing your photography. Right? And your outsourcing to other teams and professionals, even if you know how to do it all. What’s your kind of thinking on that?
GV: Your time is spent best at what you’re best at, then why would you spend your time on photography if your not a professional photographer or spend time on optimization when your best at just finding product. So know what you’re best at, know what you’re worst at, and that’s really huge in your business. Really know what you’re not good at, have an understanding of it and implement it to someone who definitely knows how to do it.
KO: Sure. Well it’s interesting, I see a lot of people in PL in their filling their time up or their day with stuff that is somewhat unnecessary. I mean, imagine if you were only running your private label business without, even though you’re doing a hundred thousand a year without being it full-time for you?
Max: I would want it to be full-time because I would want it to catch up to what we’re doing now. But to your point, yes, it doesn’t have to take as much as some people think it does. Depends on obviously, how many products you want to launch and all that. You know a lot of it can be delegated out to many kinds of people that can do a better job than yourself. It not only saves you time but also expedites things as far as testing your -concept – what it is you’re trying to prove so very quickly you’ll see if it works or not by delegating multiple things at the same time. You’ll have your final product per say quicker.
KO: Ya, I mean the bulk of people starting to sell on Amazon are working full-time jobs right? Amazon is their side hustle to grow into their full-time business, so they’re trying to make things work all around their jobs schedule, their family. You know, you guys are young and nimble, so you got all that right now where you can put it all into the business. You know a lot of people are starting of there in their mid-thirties, mid-forties working a full-time job and this is their next project. Being able to reduce your amount of time that your putting into the business every day, it’s really easy to get caught up in a lot of stuff that doesn’t make any money. We think we gotta know a little bit of everything about everything when it’s just not a 100% true.
Cool! So, I would say let’s us finish off this with your top thing that you think that has most attributed to your success in the business? What thing that you’ve learned and applied consistently wether it’s a personal habit or business habit that – wether is has contributed to your success in terms of revenue or just your joy of creating it. So what’s been your number one thing?
Max: For me it’s been, to be able to take in all of the failures and learn from them and being able to have a partner who is willing to kind of fail, and being okay with failure and falling forward. Very early on we made all these mistakes that, you know we would just remind ourselves “hey, that’s a learning experience right there” and we would laugh about it. It would be an expensive learning experience, but it was valuable. And so to be able to – as long as you’re learning from them, if you’re not then you’re just an idiot.
GV: That’s just insanity. Doing the same thing but expecting different results.
Max: Ya, so I would say that.
KO: What would you contribute to that, Garland?
GV: That’t a great point for sure. Another huge point is whenever I’m really working out, treating my body right, I mean usually my work life is ten times better. So I would say, I’m sure Max could probably relate on that as well. When we are definitely working out, eating right, it definitely is a different vibe that your body gives off and when you’re working, going through work and alone. I think that’s just really important is just having a routine on working out, eating the right foods and it really pays off in everything that you do in your life.
KO: Alright, so to wrap it up. And I totally agree, I think when, in the last company that we’ve built things were crazy and I’m like look I need to take my first two hours a day and go do yoga and all that kind of stuff. And my partner, I have a business partner who I’ve been friends with for twenty odd years as well and he goes “the funny thing about what you’re telling me right now, is you think the business is going to suffer with you not being there for two hours in the day and it’s the exact opposite.” You come in recharged and the amount of things you get done in a short period of time when your body is on point and your health is good. At the end of the day, what are you any of this stuff for anyway? It’s to have a little bit of flexibility and freedom in your life. (Inaudible 16:43) and not feeling excellent on a daily basis it just doesn’t make any sense. I really thank these guys for taking some time, it’s great to stop bye and actually see where their magic happens. I’de say looking into their office and checking everything out. It’s definitely functional versus style.
GV: Ya, we need a little decoration in here a little bit.
KO: But you know what people get so caught up, making sure their desk is in the right way and they have the right standing desks and all that stuff. Sure it can help but nothing replaces your butt out there and making it happen and working your tail off you know? It’s awesome. I’ve got some B-roll probably edit it in to see the operation that kicks in on average 400 grand of revenue a month. It’s pretty spectacular so congratulations to you guys. You guys have a super bright future ahead of you and thank you for taking the time.
Max: Thanks Keith, thank you for having us.
KO: Cheers! Bye for now.
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