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129 My New Year’s Resolutions No. 1

Happy New Year!

I am back after a much needed break. It was nice to get away and spend time with my family and reflect rather than constantly being in action.

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I’m going to be doing a mini-series focused on the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I will be changing things up this year and I’m going to resolve to not do things rather than the usual resolutions to do something; I’m going to take away instead of adding.

The Wrong Way to do New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions tend to revolve around exercising more, going running, learning to cook, starting a business. Just stop. Where are these resources coming from? Where are you going to get the time? The money? The mental focus? Where is this going to come from to accomplish these new things?

My philosophy is: you have to stop some habits first. There is still 24 hours in a day. Your bank account still holds the same amount of money. Your anxieties, your stress, your reservation don’t magically reset with the new year. Whilst it is important to have a plan, I think it’s more important to make the space for these new plans. You have to make time, money, and above all, mental focus. While, for many people, mental focus seems less important than time or money, it’s not. Trust me. I’ve been at this game for a couple years now and your mental focus is your most important asset. All the money in the world won’t make you successful if you don’t have the mental focus.

My To-Not-Do List

The first thing I want to stop doing, is trying to pursue too many business models at once. At the moment, I am solely focusing on private label, and I’m basically going to stay with that. I’m trying to do various different things in my life and it’s time to give them up. The most important thing I have given up, is the last of my piano students. I wasn’t enjoying it and it was adding quite a bit of stress. While it’s important to have off-Amazon income, it was taking too much of my focus.

What can you give up from your daily/weekly schedule that will clear up time and mental focus? It might only be a few hours a week, but those few hours can be spent on better pursuits. For me, it means more time helping you out with the podcast, helping my mentees, or focusing on the mastermind group.

Learn to Give-Up Products that Don’t Work

I am giving up products that are a disaster. While that may seems obvious, it’s easy to fall into the sunk cost fallacy

. Launching a new product takes a lot out of you. It’s takes time, energy, and money. Once you put so much into it, you become attached to it and it seems like everything is wasted if you walk away from it. So you keep sinking more and more into trying to force it to work rather than cutting your losses and walking away. You have to take into account what the market will bear. The market being your consumers and competitors and the law of supply and demand.

I tried to make one product work and it nearly put my entire business at risk. It was getting many negative feedbacks (NOT reviews!) which could have led to my account being suspended. That would have put other products at risk that were actually performing well.

I have probably spent several thousand dollars on that product over that course of a year and a half. I put time and effort into it, spent some money and time with a designer,  hired a photographer. None of that matters because the market has spoken!

Another product I eliminated sold quite well around Christmas 2015. However, when I ran the numbers it just about broken even. I realized that if it’s not going to make a profit at Christmas, then it’s not worth the effort I’m putting into it.

Consequently, this year I had a niched-down version of that product and it sold even better. I sold around 1095 units during the Christmas season, and I only have a few left. I turned my cash over in a about three months. From the time I put the first deposit down until now. It was about 25% margin which, while not exciting, is definitely worth renewing. None of that would have been possible if I tied all my money up in that other product that sold, but didn’t turn a profit.

Harden Your Heart towards Your Products

By giving something up now, you can re-purpose those resources into something more valuable. My suggestion is to be hard-hearted about your products. If they don’t sell, cause problems for your account, or don’t turn a profit when you run the numbers, cut them loose. If you haven’t ran the numbers to find out whether you have been profitable, January is a great time to do it.

The London Mastermind

Need more personalised input on issues like this? Live in the UK in or near the South-East? You might want to consider joining us for monthly meetings where we can thrash out all the issues like this one for YOUR business. Check it out here.

127 Why Email is Killing Your Amazon Business

Today, I want to talk to you about focus and your use of your time. Everyone in this business seems to go through this same things: overwhelm. I did a whole series on this that you can find here:

  1. #73 Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm – Part 1
  2. #74 Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm – Part 2 – Energy
  3. #75 Prioritising Tasks – Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm Part – 3

However, today I want to talk about the biggest time-suck in your life, which is email. Email is one of those things that seems like a productive use of your time, and if you worked in a corporate environment, or still do, you can relate to this. Email is one of the most common things in everybody’s life. For many people it’s the first thing you do in the morning.  You go through your email with your coffee when you wake up. If this is you, STOP.

Take Control of Your Agenda

If the first thing that you do in the morning is work on emails, whose agenda are you following for your time? Not yours. I’d say it’s being set by the people that have emailed you which could be anyone.

If you think that your boss or your clients won’t be understanding, then maybe, you can prioritise them and only them by filtering your inbox. Though, I’m not entirely convinced that you have to respond to them by 9 am. However, if you do, them schedule a time for that rather than react to the email coming in.

Chances are though, you could get away with answering emails twice a day. 11 am is usually early enough for most emails; then again at 4 pm. If this makes you uncomfortable and you’re worried you may miss something important, put it in your signature. Let them know that you don’t read emails often and offer an alternative way of contacting you if it can’t wait. Let them know that they can contact you on your mobile. Now, don’t put your mobile number in the email. The people that will need to contact you via mobile with have it. You don’t want to get a bunch of random calls throughout your day. That would defeat the purpose.

The purpose is to take control of your time. By limiting your time spent on email and limiting who has access to your attention, you are able to plan your day as you see fit rather than being bombarded by random conversations that make it impossible to focus.

Limit Social Media

Another thing that people do is check Facebook obsessively. Personally, despite have a lot of Facebook friends because of the podcast, I don’t get on Facebook much. Giving credit to Tim Ferriss of the 4-Hour-Workweek, we don’t increase productivity by adding things but rather by removing them.

What this Means for Your Amazon Business

The number one productivity killer is email. If you are letting it take over your life, stop right there. If you are looking for a specific email, say from a supplier, that will help move your business forward, then order your inbox by the “From” field rather than “Date”. That way you can look for a specific person rather than being saturated with all the emails you have received recently.

Another time-trap with email is when you are trying to compose a message to go out. Obviously, you have to go into an email system to do this and then get sucked into your inbox. What I have begun to do is draft the email outside of the system. I will go into notes or notepad and compose it there.

If you are going to be sending similar emails to different people then make sure you are using templates. This does two things. It creates a standardized process so your are simply doing copy, paste, send, rather than typing it up every time. It also keeps you off the email system. So you pull up the template, then dump it into the email system rather than spending too much time in your email.

Don’t Use You Inbox as a To-Do List

Some people use their inbox as a to-do. Their messages are a list of task to be done. If that’s you, don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there. Instead, make a separate list. During your scheduled email time, make a list of what needs to be done. Use the previous day’s emails to create your to-do list for today.

Take Control

Schedule time to check your email and never make it the first thing you do. Have your own set of priorities that you need to work on that will move your business forward.

I have one space left if you are looking for a mentor and are serious about building a business. Go to http://amazingfba.com/mentoring if you’re interested.

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.

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119 Are these Hidden Amazon Costs Killing your Profit?

This is the 4th of 5 episodes in the mini series with One aim: Increase Your Profit!

Today we address the less sexy side of increasing profits: decreasing costs! All of us are to some degree aware of costs when ordering inventory because a sudden spend of several $1000 in one go generally gets your attention!

But there is a hidden profit killer that I’ve fallen victim to too many times: OVERHEADS!

Your overheads creep up over time, it seems, like weeds! Add the latest software product once a month, use a VA for research, add a bank account… and it can add up over the months to several hundred pounds a month. If you are running a huge business, that’s fine – but is it in proportion?

Here’s what works for me: every 3-6 months latest (don’t leave it for over a year like I used to!), I download a CSV of a bank statement. I go through all my expenses and ruthlessly cull half or even 2/3 – anything the business doesn’t really need yet and isn’t necessary for expanding in the next 3-4 months.

For research, having played with many tools, I now use just two paid ones for the majority of work: Jungle Scout* Chrome Extension and Keyword Inspector. (*affiliate link)

Two free tools to track sales and price history: Keepa and Camelcamelcamel.

Other overheads:

Check the best deal for a business address, phone numbers.

Do you really need complex accounting software? I’ve used Xero and A2Xaccounting for 2 years. I still can’t make my bank accounts reconcile with the system – the result is that the Xero accounts are wildly out with reality.

I’m giving up and saving myself £50 a month.

For sales and profits tracking, I find cashcowpro really really helpful at just $29 a month or so.

Bootstrap to start with, get the cash coming in and THEN spend a proportionate amount of money on overheads. You should in any case do things manually to start with so you understand your business numbers and processes.

Face it, we mostly check our sales stats more than once a day! It’s so easy to overlook overheads but the danger is that all your hard-won gross profits get swallowed in your overhead. I’m embarrassed to admit how long I let that happen. Don’t copy my mistake!

 

118 the 3rd way to increase your eCommerce/ Amazon Sales

There are only two ways to increase your Profits in any Business:

  1. Increase your income
  2. Decrease your Costs!

in this 3rd of five parts in this mini-series, we talk about the 3rd way to increase your income. It’s called increase AOF – and it’s the most ignored!

AOF=Average Order Frequency. Simply put, we are trying to get our customers to come back and buy from us more often!

This is not just a marketing idea – it affects all your business decisions. For example, if you go into a category like supplements, or say sell shampoo, it’s obvious that it’s a product that gets used up (renewable), and thus that at least potentially, your customers might come back.  If you go into something that you put in your body or on your body, you need to source from USA, UK or Europe.

So your initial choices make a real difference. If you really want people coming back, you need to build a strong brand and also offer some clear difference or value. Otherwise, in reality, customers buy from Amazon rather than your business and thus probably really shop on price.

The more you want to do this, you need to start building your own lists (especially email lists). Remember the old internet marketing saying: “The money is in the list”. Email is still worth more than any other asset eg compared to Twitter, Facebook, Youtube followers (although these do have value- this Podcast is an example!)

In order to build your email lists, you need to be very careful around Amazon’s TOS. There are other methods (like, for example, Facebook marketing to launch your product – and build your email lists at the same time).

 

 

113 Know Where You’re Going with your Amazon Business

There is a triple metaphor here. Simple stuff but still true:

  1. Know where your business is heading. And where it is right now. If you don’t have goals, you won’t know where it’s heading. And if you don’t measure your position accurately (eg cash, cashflow, P & L etc), you won’t even know where you are now.

2. Know where you are going. How does your business fit into your life? How does it serve your goals?

3. When you are literally having  goods transported from one side of the globe to another, check  all the details twice. Where is it going from? Where to? Exactly? Have you got the commercial invoice, purchase order etc. all sorted?

Freight is one area where just doing it needs to be tempered with double checking all the details!

#101 Finding a Killer Amazon Product Part 1 of 5: Generate Great Ideas

Generating Product Ideas

Generating Product Ideas

The first step to finding a Killer Amazon Private Label Product is generating good ideas.

I think there are basically two ways to do this:

Option 1: Organic Ideas

  • Brainstorm – I use a tool called Workflowy but a Google doc (especially good if you’ll be sharing with a partner or VA) or Word or Pages (Mac) document would do. Or even a notebook!
  • Go to Argos, Tiger and similar shops – maybe Tesco for UK if you’re after clothes or Walmart in the States
  • Look at physical catalogues like Argos etc
  • Sign up for specialist magazines or catalogues eg for Cookware
  • Look around eg your kitchen, friends’ kitchens, etc.

Option 2: Use research tools to generate ideas

  • One tool I’ve used is the Product Database from Jungle Scout (affiliate link). I personally tend to start from ideas but if you’re more numbers driven, this tool can be great. I have a couple of my mentees who love starting this way.
  • If you do it this way, you’ll need to start off with some criteria. I’ll talk more about this at the next stage, but I would avoid cheap, light products. The $20-40 selling price range is where everyone else is; I suggest going much higher. You can do interesting things like only looking for products above 5 lbs weight etc. Have a play and see what comes out.

Either way – we just gather ideas at this stage, we don’t want to rule out too much. First we gather, then we whittle down ideas.

 

#94 The Seven Steps of an Amazing Amazon Business Launch

  • Amazon Overall Startup Process – 2.5- 6 months
    • 1. Product selection – 4-12 Weeks / Many Hours a week!
    • 2. Business setup – 2-4 weeks/ A few hours only
    • 3. Sourcing – 3-12 Weeks or More! / Many Hours a week!
    • 4. From Port to Live – 1-3 weeks/ A few hours
    • 5. Product Listing – 1-2 days/ A few hours
    • 6. Product launch – 1-2 weeks/ A few -many hours
    • 7. Stabilise – Ongoing/ 2-3 hours a week, then say a day a week

Which of these areas is your biggest block to progress? Let me know at http://amazingfba.com/fb !

#91 Why Amazon means I’m not going “Back to School” this Year

This is the traditional time of year for “Back to School”  – not just for pupils, or parents of pupils, but also for those of us who have to work in them…until now!

Amazon and the online world have enabled me to quit all of my “day job” work that I wanted to leave. It works! However, I want to say that it has taken me about 2 1/2  years to get to that point – so the pitch of getting free of the day job within 3-6 months is unlikely. Possible – but unlikely. You’ll have to work, take calculated risks and have a decent amount of capital. With those behind you, you’ll need good training and a community of fellow sellers.  Combined, these give you a real chance of succeeding in your goal.

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!