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154 Time Management for eCommerce with David Aggiss Part 2 of 2

The great thing about running an Amazon business is the freedom it allows in your personal life. You can go on holiday as you want and you can take a day off as needed. You set your own schedule and make your own deadlines. That also creates one of the more difficult aspects of your job as an Amazon seller, time management. Today on the show we have David Aggiss and we’ll be discussing time management techniques when you’re running an online business.

Time Management for eCommerce

If you are first starting out, the challenge is finding enough time to work on your business. You have your full-time job, maybe a spouse and children, then your Amazon business on top of that. It’s going to lead to some late nights and long days. That’s the struggle of it. It’s important to set aside time-blocks for specific tasks. If you start working without this, you’ll end up working on a number of things and accomplishing nothing.

Customer service is a daily task. You’re probably going to be in Seller Central a lot anyway, which is a good thing so you can respond to customer questions and other issues as they arise. Once a week, you want to look at your listings. See if there is any way to improve them. You should take a look at your PPC and keywords to make sure they are performing how you want.

Time Management when Expanding Your Business

Expanding your business is an evening job. If you are looking to research new product lines or find new suppliers, make sure you have a few weeks available where you can put in some serious evening hours. You’re going to have to work everyday with emails back and forth with your suppliers, especially if they’re in China. Unless you can get on a Skype call, this process could take a week or more because of the time difference.

Skype is recommended to help speed up this exchange. However, keep in mind that if you’re looking into several suppliers, that Skype could get overwhelming. It is easier to maintain all the information if you limit it to email since that has understood, built-in limitations. Also, you will have a record of everything discussed.

Outsourcing

If you find that you don’t have the time to handle everything that you need, consider outsourcing. Be aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Focus on your strengths, outsource your weaknesses.

If you are making enough money from your Amazon business that you can afford to outsource, then you are probably pretty proficient at the day-to-day Amazon tasks. Then you’ll want to continue to handle those. If your background is in web design, then build your website yourself.

If, however, you don’t know the first thing about building a website and you have no idea how to work on social media, outsource those. Chances are you can find someone that will do it better and faster. If a task is going to take you a week, but someone who is an expert can do it in a day, pay them to do it. The task will get done several days soon and you now have that week to work on something you’re an expert in.

Focus Management

While time management is important, focus management is as well. Like I said before, you have the freedom to make your own schedule, but you don’t have a boss to keep you on track. It’s easy to lose focus and let your business suffer because of it. You have to keep in mind why you want to run your own business. Whether it’s to have a luxury house, nice cars, or to simply spend more time with your family. Whatever it is, whether it changes over time, always remember that and let it be your motivation to stay focused.

122 Big Business Vision- St Paul’s Cathedral, London

Have you got a vision for you business?

I have to confess. I have spent way too long, jumping from product to product, trying to make a buck, which is fine. However, after a couple of years, I stop and think, “What’s it all about?” This is a very important question you must ask yourself, and it’s something that will change over time.

When I first started, my vision was to make a lot of money quickly and put it back into my life, into other projects that were important to me. While that is still a part of my vision, it has grown. Now my big picture is to build a business that I can sell for a decent amount of money, and be proud to own because it is producing really beautiful products; rather than before when I would grab any product that looked like it might sell.

If you take the St. Paul’s Cathedral, the full vision of the architect was never realized. As beautiful and amazing as it is, there plans were much bigger.

The first thing is, you have to start with a plan

You may not be working with stone and mortar, but it is still very similar. The financial aspects are similar. You have to work within a budget. Maybe you have more than you expected, maybe less.

In your business, you have to worry about competition

There are many other people that are selling the same or similar products to the same customers. You need to plan ahead to combat that.

  • Your plan needs to be fluid

You need to make your plan with the understanding that it will change. Amazon is always changing things, moving the goalposts. You need to have a plan that can adjust to change with it.

  • Be Realistic

You can’t go in with £5000 and expect to turn in into £500,000 by the end of the year. Big visions are great, but you need to make realistic goals. You can’t invest peanuts and expect to turn it into a mint overnight.

While this has always been the location of the St. Paul’s Cathedral, the original burned down, along with a lot of the city, in The Great Fire in 1666. You need to be able to handle setbacks and recover. Sometimes we make a bad product, sometimes we get close to bankruptcy, sometimes we have business partnerships that go bad.

Out of that makes room for something bigger. A lesson to learn from the cathedral is the chance for renewal. When thing go wrong, that can open the door to create something much bigger, much better, and a much stronger vision. You can take lessons from before. Figure out what worked, and recreate those things, and figure out your mistakes and avoid them.

It’s good to make sure you have the right mindset but, I believe, success follows hard work. So e sure to go back, if you haven’t listened already, to episodes 115 to 120, for an overview of how to increase your profits by increasing sales, and reducing costs.

Think big. Act Big. If you are in London or come down to London, consider being a part of the AmazingFBA Mastermind group. My goal is to have two levels, one for those getting started and another for those that are much further along. All that is coming up so stay on the lookout.

112 JFDI – the Everyday Secret to Being Productive

JFDI -it’s nothing fancy; it’s a London saying. But it works…

If in doubt – stop making excuses. If you know you need to do something, Just Do It! It’s like Nike said (but with less swearing).

Sounds simplistic but it’s the  mindset that gets stuff done: come what may, whatever it takes, whether you’re in the mood or not, inspired or feeling flat…do it anyway.

#92 What are your Amazon Business Daily Rituals?

When you work on your own, it can be easy to fall into bad habits and drift or even go backwards.

Ideally, one key thing is to be sure you aren’t on your own too much – you need to connect to fellow entrepreneurs. Join a Facebook Group, get a mentor and or join a Mastermind group.

But there are inevitably weeks and days at a time when you’ll need to get and keep yourself going.

For me, that is simply taking a walk first thing in the morning and making phone calls to fellow entrepreneurs (nowadays I also often make a call to my business partner).

What are your rituals? Let me know in the comments below.

This episode is one of the **Summer Series** of bite-sized chunks of Amazon Strategic Goodness!

#89 Why Amazon Got Me Up Early This Morning

Part of the “Summer Episodes”

This quick episode tells you why Amazon got me up early this morning. I’m not going to tell you why here – you’ll have to listen!

This episode is one of the **Summer Series** of bite-sized chunks of Amazon Strategic Goodness!

#85 What the sea can teach Amazon entrepreneurs about time management

#85 The sea…and Natural Rhythms

It’s funny how interacting personally with basic natural forces reminds you of some Business basics for Amazon. Here are a couple of thoughts that have struck me while swimming in the sea off the South-East coast of England:

There is a natural rhythm to everything in business. Just like the ebb and flow of the tide, it’s almost like a force of nature. If we learn to recognise hear or see those rhythms, we can work with them not against them.

Examples of natural rhythms include:

  • The economy of a country which has an Amazon marketplace: consumer spending ebbs and flows with the economy, which tends to follow the Business Cycle of around 11 years.
  • The seasonal ebb and flow of product demand in retail – especially on Amazon! Late November and December are normally epic demand for most products; January is often quite dead. BBQs sell better in the summer, and so on. Plan accordingly
  • So you need a marketing calendar: Feb: Valentine’s Day; Mother’s Day; Independence Day (USA) or Bastille Day (France)
  • You need to reverse engineer from this to your procurement (buying/sourcing) calendar: when do you need to place an order for products in order to get a product launched and ranked for Christmas sales?
  • Your own business will have natural rhythms to growth process – at what point do you need to outsource prep? (so you don’t have a living room or garage full of boxes!) When do you take on a VA?
  • Your own personal rhythms are also important: when are you at your most productive? When do you need to build exercise into your day and/or your week?

If you can schedule things in these various levels of business in a way that works with the natural rhythms rather than against them, you’ll find you are riding the waves rather than fighting against the tide!

This episode is one of the **Summer Series** of bite-sized chunks of Amazon Strategic Goodness!

#81 Richard Branson’s Top Productivity Tip

Richard Branson is famous as a serial entrepreneur. And a very rich and consistently successful one at that.

So when someone asked him for his best way to be productive, what do you think he said? Listen to the podcast to find out!

This episode is part of the **Summer Series** of bite-sized chunks of Amazon Strategic Goodness!

#75 Prioritising Tasks – Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm Part 3

  1. WHAT TO WORK ON
    1. What you work on (effectiveness) is way more important than how well you do it (efficiency).
      1. Prioritising is absolutely critical. It is probably the single biggest factor after. This takes discipline, courage and energy. If you lack those, work on your mental and physical state. Go for a run. Phone a friend (Briefly!). Have a quick coffee. Whatever works for you. Then crack straight into it.
    2. How to identify what to work on:
      1. What worries you most?
        1. What are you avoiding that you know you need to do?
        2. Which area of the business feels most neglected? If you’re just starting out, it’s going to be product selection. If you’re next down the line, it will be finding suppliers etc.
        3. What keeps you awake at night?
      2. What great opportunity are you neglecting?
        1. e.g. a new product line;
        2. a new sales channel (eg eBay);
        3. building an email list;
        4. new marketing channels (eg Facebook)
  2. WHAT TO WORK ON FIRST
    1. COVEY GRID: Urgent vs. Important projects and tasks
      1. Urgent things are driven from outside you. I use an exclamation mark! to mark these
        1. external to your business e.g. HMRC (tax man in UK!); suppliers; Amazon
        2. internal to your business e.g. a VA or business partner
        3. They can fill your days but it’s reactive not proactive so it’s not a way to grow a business well. If you’re short of energy and time you may have to just deal with these however for now.
      2. Important tasks – are driven by long term impact. I use an asterisk * to mark.
        1. it can be avoiding large negative impact e.g. getting corporate tax return in on time to avoid fines and legal issues
        2. it can also be gaining long term opportunities e.g. more revenue from another sales channel (eg Shopify site or eBay)
      3. Tasks can be both urgent and important.
      4. Work on Cat. I tasks as a top priority
    2. The Covey 2X2 grid: classify your thoughts/projects/ worries:
      1. Cat. I urgent and important matters- things that have big impact and have to be done, e.g. getting corporate tax return in on time to avoid fine and legal issues.
      2. Cat II: Important but not urgent. Things that have a big impact but not driven from outside. Eg. for me, creating and gearing up email marketing, setting up a Shopify website; Exploring Vietnam as a place to source from
      3. Cat III – urgent but not so important, e.g., responding to an email from a potential supplier who needs to know from you before Chinese New Year closes factory for the month.
    3. The Covey Grid: prioritise
      1. Do Cat. I urgent and important first. Once done, try to avoid this being a crisis next time.
        1. example:tax return: put the date for annual corporate tax return in your iPhone calendar with a date 4 weeks before to get in touch with your accountant.
      2. Make time each day to deal with III urgent crises. Again, try to find a way to make this systematic so it doesn’t end up driven by urgency so much.
      3. CRUCIAL: Carve out a sacred time to work on Important but not urgent tasks.
        1. 3 hours a day is ideal if full time; 1 hour is good if part time; even 20 minutes is effective if you’re cramming it in very part-time.
        2. After you have dispatched the most urgent tasks or projects, go straight to your most effective ones.
    4. The Lee/Schwabb nuclear method:
      1. If you’re really overwhelmed, this is the most effective single method I’ve ever met:
      2. list your biggest worries/urgencies etc.
      3. [star the important and add ! exclamation marks to urgent] [my addition]
      4. prioritise ruthlessly from most important on
      5. limit strictly to 7 tasks. 5 is better. 3 is more realistic.
      6. Work on the most important/urgent task until it is done or pushed as far on as you can
        1. example: getting Freight Quotes.
          1. Email 3 potential Freight Forwarders to check what info they need
          2. Gather obvious info like weight, dimensions, supplier address from supplier. Check the product value frm supplier emails. That’s one email but a crucial one.
          3. Check receiving address in USA e.g. EZPrep. One email.
          4. Check which duty category your products are in. One quick look up
          5. That may be all you can do in one day. But you’ve moved the task on as far as you can.
          6. When you check email in the afternoon/evening, if you have all that info, collate it then send it the FF.
  3. TIME USAGE
    1. Lack of time is lack of priorities. Worth reiterating. Always aim for an outcome/goal!
      1. if you can’t plan for a year, try a quarter
      2. If you can’t think that far ahead, try the next two weeks
      3. If your energy is low and your brain is mush, plan the next hour at least! What do you want done when you stand up in an hour from your Mac?
      4. One hour of great work is probably worth more than a day of nonsense activity. I’m ashamed to say I still end up doing the latter too much. Forgive yourself and move on.
    2. Multi-tasking is BS for any important activities. Turn off all distractions when working.
      1. Don’t read business emails in bed. I’m bad at this but have learned it doesn’t help your relationship and also you worry about things you can’t change at midnight.
      2. If you need to talk to your supplier at 1 am, do it. But don’t kid yourself you’ve turned in for the night. You’re working. You’ll need to get up a bit later, next day, probably, at least after a day or two of this. That’s okay. Plan accordingly. Just don’t do it in bed or you’ll end up not sleeping because you’re thinking about business. Time to sleep is time to sleep, even if it’s just 4-6 hours a night for a bit.
      3. DO NOT check social media while you need to compose key emails etc etc
      4. DO NOT get seduced into checking email inbox when you just need to send an email out. If needed, compose your email on Word/Notes/ etc etc and then get in and out as fast as possible in the actual email programme. (I’m bad at this but I’m learning…gradually)
      5. It sounds obvious but don’t do a Pokemon Go and walk into the path of traffic while Skyping your chinese supplier. Confession. I’ve come close.
        1. Don’t even think of texting while driving. So tempting. So illegal and so dangerous. Listen to a podcast and accept you’re driving. Or, pull over and take care of it there and then.
    3. However, certain tasks can be LAYERED.  Examples:
      1. Listening to this podcast while running for example.
      2. Taking care of phone calls while walking to the PO to collect a parcel from Amazon with a supplier sample which you weren’t in to collect (guess what I’ve just been doing!)
      3. Reading and replying to emails while on a train. (Don’t do it walking down the platform in London. It’s full of fast moving people. Don’t embarrass me by asking how I know not to do this)
  4. STAYING POSITIVE
    1. Do a gratitude list every evening before going to bed. It’s amazing how effective this is. I’ve been doing it for several months now and it really does help you stay positive.
    2. Remember to build in exercise, at least some sleep and at least some decent nutrition. If you’re overwhelmed, remember to take care of your body! Nothing beats physical energy. 
    3. Only Connect – isolation is a dream killer! Get yourself into some kind of mastermind if you’re not already and find out how others cope with real life as an entrepreneur.

#74 Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm Part 2 – Energy

  1. EPISODE #74 : Your personal “state” – assess your personal energy/focus?
    1. how is your health/physical energy?
      1. If you’re exhausted, you may simply have to rest for a day, a week etc to recharge.
      2. If you’ve been living on takeaway food for 6 months (guilty), how about a week of decent eating?
      3. If you gave up on your exercise regime for lack of time, consider working out at least 3 X a week. Someone once asked Richard Branson what to do to get more done. His answer? “Work out”
    2. how is your mental focus?
      1. Lack of priorities means you haven’t really genuinely made big picture decisions (see part 1 episode). Make some. They will mutate, which is fine, but get a clear direction. Then work on the priorities as below.
    3. Be realistic
      1. You’ve just started another business, quit your day job, had a new baby on top of your existing young child? (you know who you are…!) Of course you’re exhausted. You’re going to have to outsource heavily and/or accept that progress will be slower. Doesn’t mean you won’t get there. Just don’t kid yourself you can work 20 hour days for months at a time. Won’t happen.
    4. Get help.
      1. If you have a mentor, reach out.
      2. If you are in a mastermind, reach out.
      3. If you have an accountability partner, reach out.
      4. Don’t isolate. Equally, don’t connect to lots of randoms on Facebook. Connect to chosen people who are focussed and helpful people. Ignore moaners and bullshit artists. HOWEVER…
    5. Cut out information overload. “Increased output necessitates decreased input”  (Tim Ferriss again).
      1. If you’re on Facebook groups about Amazon every ten minutes, cut that out!
      2. Stop reading the news. Especially if you live in the UK. Brexit and other nonsense will carry on whether or not you read news/listen to Radio/use Youtube. 
        1. NOTE: I’m not doing as well at this as I should. I used to think it was “irresponsible”. I no longer do. If you can’t use the information, it has no practical value. When you had to vote, there was practical value in politics. But the referendum is over. You have little control over politics. Ignore it – OR join a party and demonstrate! Choose. Just don’t passively fill your mind. If you are not overwhelmed, by all means follow events. We live in interesting times. If you’re overwhelmed, it’s a toxic luxury.
      3. Cut out social media. Totally.
        1. Facebook is like Crack for addicts. Youtube is even worse for me personally. Twitter not. etc.
        2. Note: These things are designed to be addictive. They are monster business successes because of this. Learn from their example but stop being a victim. Be the creator of addictive products, not the consumer of them.
      4. Replace online crap with exercise for 20 minutes a day
        1. Run, yoga, whatever it is. Exercise is way way more powerful than yet another bit of info. Get into your trainers and listen to this podcast while you run!
    6. Minimize email time.
      1. Tame your email checking times
        1. NEVER start your business day with email. Start with urgent matters followed by business growth tasks.
        2. Limit email to twice a day max. If you’re really busy – once a day max.
        3. Try to take care of it while commuting on a train etc. Or in spare moments. I find I get emails done 3X quicker on my iPhone on a train than sitting at a desk. It’s harder to type for starters! That’s a  GOOD thing. Limit the undesirable!
      2. Put the timer on!
        1. When you check emails, put a time limit on. I generally find in a full 8 hour+ day, I can check emails for 30 mins in am and 10 mins pm and I’m done.
        2. When composing an important email, put a time limit on. I find 3-5 minutes enough for most.
        3. If you spend 10 minutes plus,  because it’s crucial and the info needs to be accurate, make it a template you can re-use. e.g for getting supplier quotes etc.
      3. Be ruthless and systematic when you do touch email
        1. Delete things from your inbox first. Most things simply need deleting. Don’t read obvious nonsense
        2. DO NOT read interesting but irrelevant emails. Archive them and look at them in your mythical “spare time” later
        3. Respond to crucial emails first. If you don’t get to others for a few days, tough. They’ll live.
        4. develop the art of polite concision. Ie without being rude, be simple and very direct
        5. Give clear fundamentals e.g. what, when, how, why etc. – e.g. “I need X,Y,Z pieces of info by A deadline for B reason”
        6. especially, use numbered lists. e.g.
        7. “ Dear Supplier, I need info for my freight forwarder.  Please tell me the following info about product X: 1 weight of each carton in kg 2. Dimension in cms; 3. total value of the consignment; 4. Your address. Please let me know by Friday 22 July latest. The quicker I get this, the quicker I will place an order with you.
          Thank you very much in advance! I appreciate your work. Best wishes, Joe Bloggs”

#71 – 7 Amazon Myths for Private Label Startups

  • Amazon Myth #1 Startup capital : $1000 is enough.

    • The first Amazon myth is that you can start a Private Label business with $1000 or so. Reality: $1500 is an absolute bare minimum; $3000 is more realistic for private labelling. 
    • Of course you can start making money on Amazon with just a few hundred dollars – but not with Private Label, unless you get very lucky. You’ll be looking at models like Retail Arbitrage, Online Arbitrage or flipping generic products from Aliexpress to Amazon. That’s all cool – go for it! Just be clear that that’s a different way of doing things.
  • Amazon Myth #2 Simplicity: It’s simple to run an Amazon private label business. 

    • Reality: Amazon is highly automated. But product ordering and freight are not. The business of finding products that will actually sell at a profit is not that easy. And ordering from China the first time takes some experience and willingness to learn a lot fast. 
  • Amazon Myth #3 Speed of ROI: you can get your money back fast (say 2 months)

    • Reality: In theory, you can; in practice, it could take 6+ months. From idea of starting this to reality of PL product live in Amazon usually takes at least 4 months at a minimum.  
  • Amazon Myth #4 Scalability: You can just grow this to any size without adding to your business

    • Reality: Amazon will scale selling and fulfilment- but your capital is not going to grow so fast as to organically expand aggressively with private label because your money will only turn over 3-4 times a year.
    • If you scale up your scales 10X, then you increase your capital requirement 10X. Expecting to 10X your capital in one year, or even a few months, means a 1000% ROI per annum. That’s pretty unlikely unless you get very very lucky. And luck is not a strategy you can depend on.
  • Amazon Myth #5 Systemisation: Amazon takes care of nearly everything

    • Reality: Amazon takes care of sales & Fulfillment. But you need to Select product niches and find/work with suppliers. Of course you can – and should – create automated systems and delegate. But that takes quite a bit of time, experience, money and effort. 
  • Amazon Myth #6 Saleability: It’s easy to sell your business after 12-18 months if wanted.

    • Reality – actually can be true. But you are looking at 10-20X monthly cashflow – it’s not about sales volume so much.  And you will need to have built a sustainable business – see Coran Woodmass’s excellent interview for more guidance on the reality selling an Amazon business. 
  • Amazon Myth #7 Sustainability: Amazon is growing; commerce is growing, therefore there is room for lots more Private Label sellers and it’s easy to make sales and profits.

    • Reality: Yes Amazon is growing and dominates ecommerce; However, there are many PL sellers – it’s now competitive. To make sales and profits, you need to look HARD and move Fast and expect your products to have a shorter lifespan than previously.
  • Extra Myths:

  • Time Needed – Myth: You can work this on a few hours a week & Succeed
    • Reality: You can and should work it part-time. But it’s going to take many hours a week (probably 20+ hours/week)
  • Skills – Myth: It’s quick and easy to learn the necessary skills
    • Reality: You can learn anything but you’re going to need to work hard and keep working
  • “It’s Easy” – Myth
    • Reality: If it looks too good to be true, it normally is! Real things require real work. By all means work smart, but expect to work hard at least upfront.

Creating an Private Label business is much much easier and lower risk than a brick and mortar retail business. And it is still a huge opportunity. But it’s good to go in with your eyes open. That’s actually one of the key ways to maximize your chances of success.