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322 Starting a Private Label Business: 5 Mindset Blocks & 5 Solutions

The topic in this episode was inspired by a conversation I had with a mentoring client who reached out to me for help with motivation. Mindset is one of those areas that is a key part of success. So today I’m going to talk about five mindset blocks for those who are just starting out with a private label business, and their solutions. Read More

299 Time Management for Amazon Entrepreneurs – 7 Tips from Tim Ferriss

I often find that irony in that a lot of time management systems and advice is that they take a lot of time. So I’m going to keep it brief. The tips in this episode are from Tim Ferris’ The Four Hour Work Week. Read More
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246 Self-Motivation for Amazon Sellers

Today we're talking productivity and self-motivation. Momentum is a physical metaphor. When you set yourself in motion, you'll remain in a state of motion. Motivation is what gets you in motion to begin with. Read More

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.

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.

111 The Trump Antidote!

Forget Trump – Do this Instead!

Following on from my encouragement to move on from stressing about Trump and Politics generally, here’s what I suggest you need to do:

Take action!

Instead of focussing on events out of your control, focus on what actions are under your control.

If thinking global is stressing you, think local. Do some retail arb, go to talk to a mom and pop shop about wholesaling their goods; there are so many possibilities. Even just do some freelance work and earn some cash to put towards PL inventory.

Keep It Simple!

I saw a YouTube video today that gave me a simple idea for selling some spare stuff around the house which I was going to throw out anyway.

I scanned some of these things, and the stuff that looked it might make a tiny profit, I listed on Amazon.

I then thought I might as well take the next step and buy a few of these products which I might or might not make a profit on but which, according to the app I used, should give me a good chance of doing so.

It’s something I’ve been intending to explore as various people (podcast listeners, Facebook Group members, Mastermind members etc. ) keep asking me about Retail Arb.

Is it going to make me rich? No. But while I wait for 1200 units of PL product to arrive in the USA, some more products (for another business) are being manufactured in the USA, and I’m waiting to see if the USD/GBP ratio will make some specific PL products profitable to have manufactured, it’s a fun and potentially very productive new avenue to explore.

Plus it’s so simple, anyone could get out and give it a go.   

Stop using “Research” as an Excuse

It’s completely true that finding a successful Private Label product takes some serious research. So make sure you have find the right formula, and work really really hard to find the handful of products that are worth having.

BUT…keep the momentum going.

If you’ve been “researching” for over 3 months, I don’t believe you’re really researching any more. You’re avoiding the expense, potential disappointment, the potential embarrassment and…let’s call it what it is… the Fear of actually taking action.

Don’t feel bad, and don’t think I’m saying I’m always better – I’ve fallen into this trap myself – and more than once.

That’s why I know how crucial it is to keep momentum.

If you have a product that you think looks good, get samples from 2 or 3 suppliers!

If you’re not sure about the market, why not do some retail arb, buy some products from Aliexpress or other way to verify the market?

The point is – you ONLY get real feedback from the market when you actually try to sell something. And you can only see if a product looks good if you order a sample.

Try something on a small scale. Try several things in fact. If they don’t work, adjust course until they do.

110 Stressing about Trump is FOOLISH and Losing you Money!

Newsflash: stressing about Trump is FOOLISH!

If you’re an Entrepreneur, you have 3 main resources.


In reverse order of importance:

Investment Capital

3rd most important.

Obviously, Money is crucial for any product based business, especially if you’re going to do Private Labelling. That said, it’s possible to start Retail Arbitrage or Online Arb with a tiny budget and wholesale with a few hundred pounds.
Having a budget of several 1000 can still easily lead to business failure without the most important resource.

Sadly, I’ve been there.

Time

2nd most important

It is so important to spend enough time working in the right direction. Not working for money hour by hour; learning your craft, staying up to date, connecting with the right people; working to find the right niches, the right markets, the right products; making informed decisions.

Investing time can make up for lack of capital if you invest it wisely.

But it’s still possible to spend hours, days, months and years (even decades) with a lack of the last element and get nowhere.

I was there too – for way way longer than I want to admit.

Focus

Most important resource

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were once asked at an interview which quality they most admired in a person. Their answers were unanimous: focus.

Not coincidentally, these were at one point the richest two people in the world.

If you have focus and put in even a small amount of time each day, week, month and year, over time, you can build some real momentum. If you add serious time, you can build serious momentum. Add some real money, and you that’s when massive growth can happen.

The thing is, one reason why focus is the most precious resource is because it is in the smallest supply. It’s a biological fact that decisions and self control both diminish blood sugar and there is a limit to how many decisions you can make a day and how much focus you have to spend.

If you allow your precious focus to be dissipated and taken over by events out of your control, you won’t have enough left to drive forward actions that are in your control. 

If you have to follow politics, only follow that which is directly going to affect your business. In my case, that includes:

  • Trump’s alleged policy on Taxing Chinese Imports at 45% (this will take serious time to happen if at all)
  • the USD/GBP relationship – this reacts immediately to geopolitical events. For any Amazon seller based in the UK, this is crucial as most of us buy in USD from China. For me, there is a Go/No go decision riding on it.

HOWEVER – Bitching, anger, resentment, trying to convince others of your politics – that’s all an indulgence and a waste of precious mental focus. Just leave that to other people. Be the focussed person and win out over the people who are wasting their energy. 

#96 Amazon Mindset Learnings from Musicians

Having just played piano for music auditions in London recently, it struck me that the Main mistakes made in auditions are the same as those made by many beginning Amazon entrepreneurs. mindset strengths or  mistakes and doing it well – needed for auditions for peak performers  are the same as those needed for Amazon

Mistake #1 Failure to prepare

Solution: Prepare!  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Xmas sales are big in retail. Plan your inventory accordingly. Plan your cash accordingly. If you’re just launching a Private label business, plan your capital needs upfront (hint: £1000 isn’t enough for private label! Don’t believe the hype – it’s designed to sell courses, not make you money!)

Mistake #2 Getting put off by mistakes

Solution: When you have a basically sound plan  – keep going! Mistakes are not reasons to lose focus or momentum. Or rather, they can be  – but don’t let them! Stay focussed and learn fast!

Mistake #3 Expecting to be great first time out

Solution: Practise! The best way to do a great audition is to do several – some good, some bad, some mediocre – and to learn from the experiences. The best way to do pick an Amazon product or do an Amazon launch is the same. Plan accordingly (don’t put all your money into one product, for example), start manageably and scale up with experience.

A great bit of advice is to start with Retail Arbitrage (retail arb or RA) or Online Arbitrage (OA). I haven’t done it this way so I can’t guide you properly, but if you are US based, Jim Cockrum is your man. Check out his site My Silent Team.

Mistake #4 Not getting training (or just learning from Podcasts and Facebook group aka “Drinking from a firehose!”)

Solution: Get the best training you can afford. Yes, podcasts and Facebook groups are free and an excellent place to gather info. But it’s too much to absorb and nobody can really structure it to be step by step in those formats.

I would get training from someone who knows what they are doing, preferably geared to your particular finances, circumstances and experience.

Above all, I would get myself a group of peers who you can grow with (find out more about the Amazing FBA London mastermind- on waiting list only at the moment). For me personally, this has been the single biggest success factor so far, hands down.

#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!

#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”