The experience of Scaling their Amazon business. They tried to outsource Amazon tasks and got frustrated.
They hired people for Amazon tasks and were unimpressed with existing hiring platforms, like:
Found amazing people to outsource Amazon tasks to, but frustrated with the hiring process:
They thought: in 2015, there must be a better way to do this?
Connor is the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of Freeeup, a platform that exists to help Amazon sellers outsource tasks.
Been in the e-commerce world since 2009.
Met business partner Nathan Hirsch in college.
Scaled business to over $25 million in products and hired over 50 people.
Hiring forces you to revisit SOPs, which is very powerful.
If you’re consistently adding products.
Someone who specialises in this.
How to create text
Is it worth getting input from an Expert to get SOPs and patterns better before outsourcing?
Yes, it definitely is. It’s pretty affordable because you won’t need to do this often and it won’t take much of an expert’s time to create templates and SOPs for you compared to doing it yourself or creating it with the outsourcers.
Because it’s a specialty that takes time to develop.
You can outsource things
With both Connor and Nate’s businesses, they got outside book-keepers in early.
They aren’t specialists in this. You can bring them in as soon as it’s a few hours a week.
Connor and Nate have a US accountant (CPA) for year end accounting.
But they have an outsourced book-keeper who knows the systems/software well and works with the accountant.
Accountant keeps eye on book-keeper.
A lot of it comes from financial measurements. If you have enough profits to reinvest, you look for areas of growth.
Do it on a trial-and-error/testing business.
Maybe 2-3 areas of growth – slowly invest in each of them
Run tests on those areas for 1-3 months depending on what it is, and measure results on
For what’s working, scale up
Different ways to scale
Both ways can work. But new products are riskier.
Connor would start increasing sales for current inventory before starting something new.
There may be more juice to squeeze out of the existing products.
A lot of it is personal preference.
Level below you/partners – takes time away from you having to daily management.
Also you may not be the right person for the job!
Good to hire when you’ve hired 3-5 people – it’s a lot of daily management at this point.
If you find someone who is really organised and whose approach gels with you.
-set correct expectations up front
-set expectations that they are responsible for them checking in with me at START and END of their work
– eg 2 hours a day – message on Skype
– “I’m working on XYZ today”
At the end: “I created 2 product listings today, let me know your responses to these”
– Have people on a regular set time for working
Your chance to be a leader
Connor and Nate do big quarterly meetings per team.
They go over new goals each month.
Each quarter, they also do a one hour one-on-one with every member of the team
Nate and Connor open calendars to set up a 30 minute chat, to ask Qs
Email [email protected]
Amazon hiring Tips with Connor Gillivan
Hiring VA for Amazon tasks with Connor Gillivan
How to Hire for Amazon tasks with Nathan Hirsch
Freeeup comparison with Nathan Hirsch
How to use Freeeup with Nathan Hirsch
Michael Veazey 0:56
Hello ladies and gentlemen welcome to another interview in the 10 k collective podcast very happy to be in the new podcast focus on a very burgeoning and growing sector of people which is Amazon and e commerce sellers who are already established and are benefiting from the huge rise in the volumes and quality of e commerce so delighted to welcome back a friend of the the amazing FB a podcast the sister podcast kind of given from free up content is the Chief Marketing Officer of free up and free up is to put it in simple terms and we can discuss what this actually means the place to go for Amazon outsourcing specifically, although I know they’re getting broader and broader all the time of what they will offer. So kind of Welcome to the show.
Connor Gillivan 1:38
Awesome. Thanks for having me, Mike. Appreciate it.
Michael Veazey 1:40
It’s a pleasure. So we’ve had you on before the amazing FBA. But for those who haven’t heard from you, can you give us a quick background about yourself? And then we’ll we’ll talk quickly about free app as well summarize what that is.
Connor Gillivan 1:51
Yeah, of course. So I’ve been in the e commerce world since 2009. My business partner, Nathan Hirsch, and I met in college, we started buying and selling products online while we were still studying in college. And then about four years after we we scaled that business up and ended up having a team of over 50 people and selling over $25 million worth of product in those six full years of running the business. And from a lot of that hiring and frustrations that we ran into with other online platforms, we decided to start free up in 2015. And I’ve been in charge of marketing advertising content and growth for the business since then.
Michael Veazey 2:35
Great. Okay. So sensing that you start off by scratching your own itch, which is so often a great reason for starting a business that you were scaling up, which is a word we want to come back to you because that’s really one of the focuses of the 10 k collective podcast and indeed the masterminds of the same name and frustration with it existing things. So that’s obviously very good start. What about free at then can you give us a quick background on what’s about?
Connor Gillivan 3:00
Yeah, of course. So. So like I said, we we used a lot of the larger online hiring platforms with our first Amazon business, we used up work, we used Fiverr, we used freelancer. And we we found some amazing people. But we ran into a good amount of frustrations as well. We found ourselves spending too much time posting jobs and interview and embedding the 20 plus applicants, you’ll get every time you post, we ran into a lot of turnover. And then we didn’t feel like we are supported by those platforms, because they were so big, they didn’t really focused much on customer service. And so in 2015, we we kind of looked at each other. And we said, you know, could we create a better way to do this with the knowledge and experience we have from the past three years or so. And that’s really when we set out to start free up and the core differentiators between us and our competition is the answers to those frustrations. So the first thing is we received thousands of applications from virtual assistants and freelancers every single week, we put them through our own unique interview and vetting process. And then we only allow the top of 1% into the network. So right off the bat, as a business owner, you’re getting access to a much more high quality selected network of people, as opposed to some of the other platforms out there. And then the second thing is, once you post a job with us, we actually have a team that looks at your post looks at your requirements, makes it available to all of the freelancers on the platform. And then we introduce you to one qualified candidate at a time, so that you’re not overwhelmed with 20 plus people reaching out to you and trying to set up interviews with you. And we can introduce you to one at a time, as many as you need until you find that person that’s the best fit. And then the last thing is we’re just about customer service driven company, from running a business on Amazon for six years. everyone listening probably knows how important customer services to Amazon and how they measure that with all their metrics. So that was something we wanted to carry over and really make it more of a hands on solution than just another software platform that you could hire from.
Michael Veazey 5:21
Yeah, it makes sense. And I have to say that my experience with you is that if there are issues or if you need some responses to hire, you and Nathan are really responsive, personally and happy with other people that I’ve introduced to you as well. So I have to second with my experience that that is very much how you work. And obviously anyone who’s survived the bloodbath that is Amazon is a seller knows how obsessed our customer service is a very scary place to sell to. But it’s a very, very good company to model customer service excellence on so we’ll we’ll talk about that as well a bit later as well when you get into specifics. So let’s talk about in general, first of all hiring then for e commerce sellers. What kind of roles would you first high four. And it may sound like a nice naive question for more advanced sellers. But I know people who I personally know people, not all of them, but I work with them. In masterminds, you’re doing about a million pounds a year plus, and they don’t have any single staff at all. No VA is nothing. So it’s not just for the newbies. So if you’re going out of that, I presume that having said that they would have hired photographers and things like that. What are the first roles you might have for?
Connor Gillivan 6:25
Yeah, so So one of the first roles for me is customer service. I know it’s scary to some people, because you’re putting that kind of into the hands of someone else. But my reaction or my answer to that is that if you’ve been running customer service for your business, and you’ve built it up to that level, on a yearly basis, you should have pretty set processes in place of how to handle all sorts of different customer service, emails, issues, returns, refunds, cancellations, etc. So that’s, that’s one I would pass off first, just because it’s time consuming, it will become even more time consuming as you grow. And it’s just something that’s happening at all times. So it’s a big distraction for you as a business owner, if you keep getting pulled into customer service issues, when you should be focused on actually growing the business and doing other things.
Michael Veazey 7:17
Absolutely. And I think one of the really bad things I was in is because the impact of a negative review can be so big on a single skew or product line, that it’s very emotionally distressing to the business owner and I think actually being one removed from that keeps you focused on Okay, you can’t control some things like Amazon being, you know, useless with customer support or them giving, you could argue too much power to the consumer. So those because they’re out of our control, I think it’s very dangerous to focus on them. Yeah, I agree with that. I mean, it’s a slightly different thing from the time thing. But yes, I think it’s not just a distributor, it’s a wholesale, resentment creator. And I think the less time we spend bitching about that, that the richer we’re going to be so Absolutely. Okay, so customer service. Now, you mentioned this is so we’ve got to address because it’s scary to some people because it’s a frontline thing. And it interacts with Amazon’s customers directly. Now. I do know one person, very smart guy. So it’s not from stupidity. He’s got a big team. I think he passed the million dollar a month mark a while ago with his businesses serious player. But he had an entire account suspended because of some incompetent VA sending a an email, which was suicidal, judged or not precisely worded to a customer. They flagged it up and Amazon suspended the entire account costing him at that point, I think half a million dollars a month. So how how can we ensure that that sort of thing doesn’t happen?
Connor Gillivan 8:39
Yeah, of course. So great question. You know, my, my two things would be it kind of, you know, make sure you know who you’re hiring, make sure they have years of experience working through Amazon before and even put them through the ringer, what before you actually have them work on your account, give them 2030 emails, have situations that are common and see how they respond. So you can make sure that they’re kind of following all guidelines, they understand what Amazon’s looking for, and you’re confident in what they’re actually doing. And then the second thing would be, create as many email templates for every single customer service situation as possible. If you know exactly, you know, the 15 most common situations why customers are reaching out to you. And you can have a can template where the the person that working customer service for you is only editing, you know the name and a few other things. It’s going to allow you to keep everything a lot more systemized and avoid those situations where they’re writing the full email and it could lead to issues with Amazon flagging something.
Michael Veazey 9:46
Yeah, that makes sense. So I’m going to guess basically, that means you can the problem is going to come then from how you create the emails rather than the implementation by the customer service. But so the onus is on you to write good emails, I guess and, and just come back to the point of how many need we analyze this one since NK collective mastermind meeting because one of the members who’s left not because he wasn’t doing well, but because she’s basically a digital nomad now, so she could make regular physical meetings in London. But we sat down and planned out she was worried about customer service outsourcing. And we figured out there were nine areas in which you need templates. And then you need a couple of SAP standard operating procedures for refunding replacing and a couple of other things. It boiled down to not that many different templates. Actually, we got it down to nine, I think I mean, maybe 15 more realistic if you’re taking care of edge cases. But yeah, and and also, what it forces you to do is really think through exactly how it works, which I think just to just in a broader front is, is a discipline that imposes on you, isn’t it outsourcing seems like you’re doing it to get the work off your plate. But I would argue actually, it forces you to clarify things just like this morning, I was speaking to a project manager I’m about to hire not so much for the Amazon business at the moment. But for the amazing FBA while the tank a collective cost to launch it. And she was asking me embarrassing the obvious questions like do you have a launch time scale? Do you have role descriptions, and I didn’t have any of that stuff. So the fact of interacting with other people forces you to clarify your thoughts, right. And if you’re writing every email from scratch, then you’re doing you know, several hundred thousand a year upwards, you’re really wasting a lot of time, right? That’s the other thing I would say.
Connor Gillivan 11:23
Yeah. And just on top of that, it also gives you personally a checkpoint to come back to right. So when we create email templates for our business are set up. So PS, we try to revisit them every three to six months, just to make sure that they’re up to date. And there there are any issues that are coming from them. Or if things have changed in the business, you know, your templates may slightly change. So it kind of keeps you honest to if you look at it that way as well.
Michael Veazey 11:50
Yeah, I think absolutely that there’s the thing is that there’s many accompany and quite big ones. I’ve done bits of tempting and become deserve the years never had a proper corporate a job because I’m unemployable, I think I’m too independent minded. But which is why I love running my own business. But it’s one of those things that people create one team somewhere beavers away possibly for a year or two to create massive manuals, and then everyone else just ignores them because they’re not usable. So that interaction between a real person and what you think of a standard procedure, sort of forces you to look at whether it’s usable, whether it’s up today, it’s accurate. So yeah, you’re right, keeps you honest, I like that way of putting it. Because otherwise we write stuff. And we kind of think we’ve done it, but we haven’t really unless somebody is using it. So great. Thank you for that idea. So customer service, as you said, scary, but really an important one. What are the first roles would you hire for them?
Connor Gillivan 12:43
Yeah, another one would probably be listing products. And this kind of depends on how much inventory you’re deciding to carry. But if you’re consistently adding products to your Amazon catalog, it’s probably smart to bring on someone who specifically spent analyzes within Amazon product listing, you know, they have a good template themselves for how to create the title, how to create the the bullet points and the description, and what other information to include in how to target keywords so that on search terms, your product is showing up over some of your competitors, they can look at the images and make sure those are good or ask you for more photos, if if they think that it could be more compelling and make the listing better. I think a lot of people, they may keep that on their their own plate, because they they have a standard way for doing it. But for me, I always think there’s ways you can improve. And that would be one area where you save a little time yourself anytime you’re going to list the product. And then you’re getting a specialist to really knows a lot more about it. And you can still stay involved that more of a managerial level. So maybe before it’s published, you’re able to take a look at it provide any feedback, or you just give them the go ahead and say, Hey, this looks great. You know, let’s, let’s get that published and keep moving forward.
Michael Veazey 14:02
Absolutely. So I just want to intervene on a couple of things yet again, from my experiences in the 10 k collective and even the million pound mastermind where got people doing between $1.2 million for the lowest level and several million a year. It’s incredibly easy as the entrepreneur especially when your money is at stake or some of your you got one of those shareholders. So easy to assume that you’re the only person you can do and you’re going to do a better job than others, I would actually challenge that greatly. In most cases, people can really improve their listing a lot. Because we often do that, if there’s somebody who’s working on a fairly more basic level of they’re new to the mastermind, will often say okay, you know, you’re struggling with optimization, and you think you can get a better listing working and they bring it up on you just checked your heads, basically. So there’s always improvements you can make, and somebody who spends their life doing that is lot bound to be better than somebody who spends their time split, quite rightly, between lots of different things sourcing and supply chain going possibly to conferences or masterminds. Yeah, so so specialization is another thing that I thought I would emphasize to people if you’re scared about it. And even though I’d like I said, I know people I take my hat off to anyone who’s doing one and a half million dollars a year with no help. But it’s, it’s the hard way to do it. And trust me, you are not the best person to do listings in most cases. But the other thing say is that creating a template should be your job as a management creating an excellent template and sort of markers of what’s good, what’s bad or indifferent, I think is way more powerful than then fussing over individual listings. So I would agree with you massively on that one. So what specific practices, would you because this is something that you’re gonna have to win people off this control? What’s been your experience with working with entrepreneurs and getting into work with listing specialists? What’s the best sort of approach for somebody who’s new to handing that off for the first time?
Connor Gillivan 15:46
Yeah, for sure. So it kind of comes back to a kind of a philosophy that myself and my business owner, Nate, we kind of have when it comes to delegating and in working through new things, and then taking them off our plate. So the way we kind of do it is we we ourselves perfect it first, we then create our process for it. And then we we go ahead and go through the process of passing it off. So I think that three step process makes it easier for entrepreneurs to go through and understand and feel confident that what they’re passing off is, is going to be a good end product as well. So as an entrepreneur, if you already know how to list the product, okay, then you’ve already perfected it, right. So move to the next step, go ahead and create your your recipe for how you create the best possible listing as far as you know, so so build that out, build out your template, maybe have a few examples in there as well. And then go ahead out to to a site like free app or other places online where you could find an Amazon product listing specialist interview, if you ask them specific questions about product listings, so you can kind of see what their understanding and knowledge is of it, find that right person. And and then kind of go through and onboarding process. So share with them and your SAP, have them look through it, have them maybe give feedback and ideas of other things that they know, and how they could improve your SAP and template. And then have them create maybe 123 sample product listings, give them feedback based off of that showing you know that you guys are on the same page. And then once they hit that final one, and you’re like, Wow, this is great, it’s even better than what I could do, then it’s time that you could actually pass it off to them and kind of set up a system for managing and working with them on a regular basis.
Michael Veazey 17:36
Okay, and we’ll talk about setting up a system and managing them in a second. So that sounds like an excellent process. It’s quite basically, I suppose what you’re doing is you’re you’re being courageous enough to hand things or to hire somebody, but then you’re being thorough enough to go, here’s an ESOP and then get them to do an example of it to check they’ve understood, because it’s one thing to say. And the classic thing I used to teach English as a foreign language for a bit and very interesting that the way people are trained in that is excellent, because it’s it was big, you know, multi billion dollar a year industry. And we were trained very thoroughly one of the things they said never say give somebody an instruction. And they say, is that okay? Or do you understand because nobody wants to look stupid. So they just say yes, but what you need to do is to what what they call concept check. So you know, Is it this? Is it that or even better just have them start and then correct course, because almost certain you’ll find where they start, you go? Oh, I see what you mean. No, I didn’t mean that. I mean this. And as soon as you actually start, that’s when the reality of your communication comes in, I say. So we’ll talk in a second about the system. Because I’m very interested in that as somebody who’s not good at managing people’s particularly I think communication and sense of interviews is a very specific thing. But first of all, when it comes to your best guess at what you think you’ve perfected, I’ve already implied that getting some input from other people in the mastermind has really helped to change people’s view of what they think is a good listing, is it advisable to get some input from an expert in that area first, so not so much somebody does it day to day, but somebody who’s really, you know, world class at this? And is that something that free up offers? Or would you just suggest going to, you know, some kind of Guru type?
Connor Gillivan 19:11
Yeah, great question. So it is something that free up offers, we can definitely help in that area, we have high level experts, and then we have, you know, lower level VA. So we kind of have the full spectrum of different talent that you can find, I that is something I would definitely encourage as well. And it’s almost someone that you have in your back pocket, right. So maybe you you find an Amazon specialist that has a very good understanding, they’ve built an Amazon business from scratch before, maybe they still run it themselves, but they do consulting on the side and work with other business owners and help them build their business. And you tap into them for certain things. So like you said, Maybe you think you’ve perfected the listing process, but you, you go to your Amazon specialist, you spend an hour with him, and you go through your recipe, and he kind of breaks it apart a little bit and adds in more things so that it it really is perfected. And to his knowledge, it’s at the highest level possible. So so I think that can be really valuable. It’s something you can manage with your budget very easily, because you’re not going to be using them, usually on a consistent basis. But it’s someone you can always touch base with on certain things. Or it’s someone that can keep you honest. So let’s say every month, maybe you have an hour meeting with them, you just kind of keep them updated on the business, they do a comb through of your Amazon account, and give you advice on where they think you can keep improving. So that can be a really great resource to have as well. Yeah,
Michael Veazey 20:36
I’d agree with that. I’m and I’m not sort of trying to pitch the business, I do do Amazon consulting, but generally speaking at the lower level, so beginners, and when you get into the more advanced levels, and I plug people into the wisdom, the mastermind, which works very, very well. But yeah, it’s more practical to be able to just get on the phone I or a zoom call, I do that myself, Jason miles of winning on Shopify, and I find it it’s just here’s the thing, if you’re going to spend 10s of thousands or even more people, then you might as well get the bang for the buck. And and the other thing is the last opportunity cost. If you haven’t optimized if you can get your listing conversion up from 15% to 18%. across multiple skews, if they’re doing well, that can be a massive amount of money. So it’s a question of before you outsource what you think is good, just interrogate whether it really is good, because my experience is that there’s a lot more work that needs to be happening before you worry about outsourcing a mediocre process. So yeah, I encourage anyone to do it, whether it’s a free app or whatever else that That, to me, has been one of the game changers for the members of their mastermind. So so we’ve got customer service, obviously, straightforward in a lot of ways, but a bit scary. So there’s a high risk, but low scale in some ways. So we need to just be careful how we do it listing specialist. What other kinds of things would you hire for that point?
Connor Gillivan 21:50
Yeah, I think another good one to talk about is PPC management if if the Amazon business owner is using that to grow their Amazon business. And the reason I say that’s a good one is it’s a little bit different from the other two in the sense that it’s a skill, it’s a it’s a specialty that takes time to develop. So my my kind of thought around, that has always been, I always try to outsource things, that one is taking up too much of my time, and just as below my pay grade of where I should be spending time on the business. And then the second is areas of the business that I just don’t know enough about. And it’s probably going to take me three to six months of full time practice to become a specialist within that. And then that’s time I could be spending on other areas of the business where I already have skills and expertise. So I think PPC is a great one, that entrepreneurs can look into it that they’re tapping into this specialist or a small boutique agency that all they do is is Amazon PPC. And they can really tap into that and take advantage of that and have that become almost a partner of their business in helping to grow and scale.
Michael Veazey 23:04
Yeah, it makes sense. And I think that’s where judgment call a again, it comes down to the humility to know that you’re not going to be amazing and everything and and to recognize, I guess Jackie Moore talks about this a lot your areas, your in competence, which is kind of easiest to outsource. For me project management, for example, which is why I’m just hiring somebody now. competence. And I’m what he calls excellence and then genius and genius and possibly a bit exaggerated. But yeah, it’s it’s quite good to know, I think that most of us have a fairly narrow skill set where we’re really, really, really good. And if you’re ambitious enough to scale a big business, I think outsourcing to people who are truly excellent when you’re just mediocre is a smart move, right? I mean, if you’re, for example, got a genius at picking the right product lines, that’s really, really valuable. I would strongly argue you should stick to that. And just get get the PPC off your bait because plate because there’s a lot of people who are good at that these days. And the other thing is that when you learn it, you got to relearn it because Amazon keeps moving the goalposts. Right. Right. So that there’s quite a few areas where there’s more sort of stability and longer term expertise. You know, if you learn it once, you can keep that but I mean, in PPC, I’d rather have somebody else sweat to learn the latest kind of wrinkles, because they change it a lot
Connor Gillivan 24:15
in the industry. So for someone who’s who’s maybe scared or timid to pass that off, couple things to think about is if you try to do it yourself the money that you’re spending doing yourself, you’re, you’re probably not using it optimally. Whereas if you were to go and spend a little bit more by hiring a PPC expert, you may be spending a little bit more, but you can think about your money actually being used optimally in terms of using advertising and growing your business. And then it’s just again, kind of what we’re talking about is just another thing you’re taking off your plate. You can even learn from that PPC expert as they’re working on it for your business. So over time, you could become a lot more familiar with how PPC works. So that money or you’re paying them your most getting two things out of it right, you’re getting your money more optimally used in terms of ads, and then you’re also learning on the side just based off of what they’re doing and in the meetings that you have with them. Absolutely,
Michael Veazey 25:12
yeah, completely. And I do know somebody while ago I was chatting to about him, he’s got something I think from free up, at least at that point he was using and said, Look, I’m getting a return on investment on it is very simple. So I think Yeah, and that’s the bottom line is not being afraid to invest in something as long as it’s measurable. And you can see there’s a return on it. And the thing about Amazon ads, as long as you know your numbers is very measurable, you know, you’re either getting a return on the cost of ads, plus the hiring fees for the person, or you’re not right, as opposed to seeing them as separate things and measuring them artificially separately. Speaking of which, then we talked about numbers. What stage would you I mean, I don’t know there’s something you offer better what stage would you start involving an outside bookkeeper in the business.
Connor Gillivan 25:53
So we with both of our businesses, we got out an outsource bookkeeper pretty early on, just because neither of us specialized within bookkeeping, it’s not something we really enjoy doing, then. So even when it was taking us a couple hours a week or a month, it was just something we want it to be handled by a professional. So I think you can bring in a bookkeeper, you know, pretty early on. But once it’s it’s taking up even a few hours of your week or month.
Michael Veazey 26:21
Yeah, that makes sense. And the other thing I’d say is, it’s just so dangerous to run without knowing your numbers, which is kind of rare at the more advanced levels. I mean, you get that with people doing a few thousand dollars a month, sometimes they really have no idea about the profit or loss. But it’s unusual at the higher levels. But that isn’t to say that people couldn’t do a better job on it. Or certainly, if they’re doing it manually, I would really argue that it’s not knowing your numbers is critical. But doing the manual labor, I just don’t think makes sense or be above a certain point.
Connor Gillivan 26:48
And something off of that too. You don’t have to necessarily have a inexpensive bookkeeper, the way we like to set it up is we have a US accountant, a CPA, who does our kind of year and tax filings and and does the overall strategy and management of our accounting. But then we have a outsource bookkeeper who’s very affordable, very intelligent, knows the accounting software that we use very well. And he he works in unison with our our US accountant, so that they can keep everything on the same page. But you almost again, you’re kind of using your money and in a great way, because you’re getting a little bit of a discount on the regular, let’s say monthly work that needs to be done through the outsource bookkeeper. But then you have a high level person at the top who’s overlooking everything, keeps an eye on the bookkeeper and make sure that everything’s good in terms of your taxes and everything else that needs to be considered.
Michael Veazey 27:43
Yeah, and the other thing that I just I found very helpful when I started an Amazon account before I even got a bookkeeper involved. So I went to my accountant at the time and said, Okay, can you help me set up my chart of accounts in at that point, it was zero late to move to QuickBooks, because there’s so many transactions fly around in Amazon if you start off, or if you’ve got any substantial income. And especially if you’re trying to scale up, and you’ve got kind of creaky at the seams or poorly structured accounting, then it’s going to be creating so much additional work for your bookkeeper. possibly the worst case scenario is that they’re inputting a ton of data, they just don’t need to measure because it doesn’t do anything meaningful, or the opposite, that the tax authorities really, really want some data, you don’t have it measured and at the end of the year, you’ve got a massive scramble to look through emails and random PDFs, and stuff, right. And we’ve all been there, I’m me possibly more than most. So yeah, I would really urge people again, it’s can comes down to hire an expert for a few hours just to get the structures in place. Before you worry about hiring people to do stuff. I was at least smart enough to do that. I’m not particularly smart at how I ran the system. Yeah, I really think that’s something that a lot of people I mean, some people have the luxury of financial director that works full time for their business. There’s no coincidence that the businesses I know that scaling really fast and and doing so profitably have got finance director really highly plugged in. So I just think, again, if you’re ambitious and scaling, that the overlooking the accounting pieces, because it’s a bit of a cost is just really, really short term thinking. So um, let’s talk about scaling. So we talked about a few obvious sort of smaller scale things you can do to just outsource and basically the traditional thing of getting stuff off your plate and freeing yourself up a bit. But let’s talk about scaling up. So do you have a sort of particular? This is a open ended question. So we’ll knock it around, see where it goes, you have a particular sort of approach to or philosophy to hiring for scaling up in general?
Connor Gillivan 29:36
Yes, absolutely. So in terms of when we’re scaling and hiring we, so the way we do it is it a lot of it comes down to those financials, right. And it, it builds perfectly off of what we were just saying, if you don’t have good financial bookkeeping, it’s harder to make those decisions. So for us when it when it’s time to win our financials look at a good enough place, and we have enough profits to reinvest into the business, we’re looking for areas of growth, and the way that we do it is is very much on a trial and error in a testing basis. So, you know, we may identify 123 different areas of growth that we we think that helps scale the business and bring in more clients and, and help us to build more hours through the business. And will will slowly invest into each of them, whether it’s us first spending that time working on those areas. Or if we have to get an app to help us go ahead and try it out. Or if we hire a specialist, that’s another way of investing and kind of testing those things out. We’ll usually run tests on those, those areas of possible scale for one to three months, depending on what it is and try to really measure the results to see how they’re impacting our overall financials and overall growth. And then for the ones that are really worked, we’ll go ahead and push forward with them either stay at the same investment that we did to start or increase it a little bit. And for the ones that just didn’t perform as well, what will slowly scale those back or just completely cut them out, so that we can try other ones and find the ones that are really home runs for us.
Michael Veazey 31:17
Excellent. That makes so much sense. And I’ve been reading a lot of Jim Collins books recently, or listen to the audio books, in some cases, both getting a bit obsessed with that again, but one of the things he’s talked about recently is great by choice, what is one of his latest books, which is about not just the companies that made you know, grew and became great in financially in terms of customer service, etc. and products, but also the ones that did so in very unstable industries. So one of the classic examples, Southwest Airlines, which in an industry where nobody makes consistent profits, and a lot of them go bankrupt, has made profits for the last whatever, 40 years in a row, which is crazy, including 911, everything you know, the early 70s with the price hikes and in jet fuel, and Microsoft is in there as well. era when Apple was pretty weak as Jobs had left, and that kind of thing. And one of the habits they have is these as they call it, five bullets and then fire cannibals. So in other words, they test it as more scale. And then they only invest in stuff that’s got a proven empirically proven it. They looked at the numbers, and it’s actually success. And he said that the difference in success failure rates is just massive. So what you’re doing is really textbook stuff I’m and that makes a lot of sense to me. Are there particular areas in Amazon where you see rather than just sort of outsourcing day to day stuff? We’ve been talking about where you’ve seen growth for clients by outsourcing or involving people in new areas?
Connor Gillivan 32:37
Yeah, I mean, there’s there’s different ways to scale an Amazon business, right? So it could be you it’s you know, it’s do you try to increase sales for your current inventory and current products, you can do that kind of with some of the ways we mentioned before, whether it’s improving your listings, or your your keywords, or your Amazon PPC, and kind of seeing what comes of that. And then there’s the option of trying to source new products and find new opportunities where you think you could get sales with with a different type of product and try to scale in that way. So I’ve seen it go both ways. I personally think it’s it’s smarter to test out increasing sales for your current inventory before starting on something new, just because if you’re already seen some sort of sales and some sort of sales growth with those current products, there’s probably still more water so to speak, that you could squeeze out of the sponge, whereas going with a new product. It’s just a lot riskier, right, you, you may try five new products and invest a bit more than you would in products that you already have. And maybe one of them works out. So yeah, I mean, there’s those two kind of disciplines or ways that you could go about it. And you can always and involve people in the process if you want to as well.
Michael Veazey 34:00
Yeah, that makes sense. And I think I would agree with you that improving existing products. I’m not I was just working with somebody who’s coming into the 10 k collective masterminds in we went through, we talked through things in an interview before we came in. I said, Okay, so it sounds like yeah, you need to hire staff to scale up. But before you do that the first port of call is optimizing existing listings, improve the profits without much extra cost, that gives you then the cash flow to start hiring and people to then expand into new product lines, etc. So yeah, that makes total sense, right? It all comes down to cash flow a lot of the time, doesn’t it? It’s kind of brutally simple. So again, coming down to measuring the financials properly. So yeah, it all ties in beautifully, which is good, because that was a no question that I’d really planned with the and assuming that we have some ideas of outsourcing, then, while one major question is, are we using staff to scale up the question of outsourcing versus in house? Because it’s obviously a quite a big question, because some we see successes in in both ways and failures as well. What are your also thoughts on that? Obviously, I realize you’re biased as any intelligent this does, because you do outsourcing. But what’s the comparison between the two? What are the pros and cons of each.
Connor Gillivan 35:10
So there, there’s definitely pros and cons of each. I think a lot of it also comes down to your personal preference as an entrepreneur and business owner, and just how you want to personally run your business. But in terms of outsourcing versus in house, I think in house, the you know, the pros are, you’re working with someone directly there, most of the time, they’re going to be full time. So you have someone full time directly invested into the business. And they’re going to be able to learn your whole company and help in different areas and almost become a partner to you in a sense. So those are those are kind of the great things that the cons, I would say, of someone in houses, you just have more overhead. So you have less freedom in terms of cash flow to experiment with things. And then I personally think when you hire someone full time, you you’re more getting a generalist rather than a specialist. So they’re going to be good at a number of different areas of your business, unless you just hire them full time to do one specific thing. But then that’s kind of a pretty large expense. So those are some kind of thoughts on in house. outsourcing, you of course, can kind of get economies of scale where you save money, by hiring people for specific roles for only certain hours, you don’t have any of the overhead of employees, whether it’s the office or health insurance or paid vacations, things along those lines. And I really like it. Because anytime in the business, you’re never too dependent on one specific person, you may have, you know, someone doing your product listing, and they’re working four hours a week, you may have someone doing your PPC and they’re working 1015 hours a week you have someone doing customer service, but maybe you have two people on customer service. So you always have variety there. And the other great thing about outsourcing is it’s always you can stop and go if your business somehow hits a halt, you can pause a few of the freelancers that you hired and lower your internal costs until it picks back up and and then you can bring them on for more time. Whereas full full time in house, you’re kind of stuck with that that set overhead per month based off of the the salary that you set them up with. So those are just some general thoughts there. Happy to answer any other questions you had off of that tip.
Michael Veazey 37:30
Yeah, excellent. Well, they make a lot of sense I’m I think it comes down to that five bullets then fire cannibal saying I mean, even if you can eventually hire in house, which is, you know, has many pros in terms of being more, you know, invested more of a partner more of a permanent presence. But yeah, I think in terms of the vulnerability of business, particularly something as volatile in terms of sales, even if it’s a well run, even as an excellent Amazon business, I mean, it’s very seasonal retail generally, isn’t it particularly in certain categories, like toys and games is crazily seasonal. So makes sense to have a certain degree of financial flexibility just to make sure that you don’t end up without death of the business by running out of money, as somebody put it, the only way business dice is running out of money. So having variable or flexible overheads is absolutely critical to help that. So let’s talk about management then. So we talked about what to outsource, we talked about some of the ways to, to hire people or to get them on board. And we’re not going to really talk about big onboarding, because I guess in a sense, you guys do a lot of that we could talk about that in depth. Let’s talk a little bit about hiring briefly. But let’s talk about managing I’m just gets the idea of a project manager because I’ve just hiring one. So let’s talk about that. Is that some of the you would hire? And at what stage? Would you do that?
Connor Gillivan 38:43
Yeah, good question. Project Managers can be amazing. They’re kind of that level of management below you and a number of other people in the business. And it kind of takes time away from you having to do the daily management and keep people honest in their roles. I think it’s a good time to hire a project manager after you have, let’s say, three to five people that you’ve hired. And because at that point, you’re it’s just a lot of daily management in terms of, you know, checking in with each of those people, assigning them new tasks, meeting with them, to keep up with them and make sure they’re on track for their goals and deadlines. And that can I mean, it can just start to take a lot of time up in each day, and maybe, you know, a couple hours. But if you hire a project manager, and you’re able to just disseminate goals, information to them on a regular basis, and they’re the ones that checking in with each of the people and then sending up that information to you in a daily report, it saves you a lot of time. And if you can find a good project manager that you like a lot, and that is very organized and kind of works on the same passion as you it can be a really powerful role to have within the business. Yeah,
Michael Veazey 39:54
and and the other thing I would add to that, and you know, maybe many of the people listening will be much more organized people than me, but I mean, I don’t think I’m completely incapable of management. But I’m saddened and humbled to realize have spoken to a project manager this morning, he just asked a couple of basic questions like, okay, so for this 10 k collective product launch, for example, podcast launch, which is very similar, in some ways to product launch on Amazon, having done multiple ones of those in my time that okay, have you got a timescale for this? If you got a timetable with milestones, like the answer’s no, have you got a rolls the your, you know, product? Sorry, a role description for the people you want to hire. To help you with this? I’m like, the answer isn’t embarrassed, no again. So frankly, once again, I would challenge the idea that you’re the best person to run your business in some ways. I mean, certainly, if you can find somebody who’s an actual project manager, that can really free you off. And there’s one person that I know in the 10 k collective once you’ve been in power mastermind now who he’s got one person who brings it he brings along to meetings and share her job is basically to catch on millions of ideas, he comes back for the meetings with a ton of things to improve, she catches it organizes it, he sort of fires off a crazy email at eight in the morning, and then goes up for a run or something. And then she organizes it so that when it hits the office about 1011 in the morning, then she’s she’s organized it and started to delegate it. And that makes a lot of sense to me, because some people are just very creative and not good at managing and some people are great at managing and not necessarily got the sort of crazy drive that it takes to drive the business forward. So it’s a personality type sometimes right or, and or skill set. So it is not just and once again, I just want to emphasize none of this stuff is just about I could do it, but I’m getting rid of it. Because I’m saving time. A lot of it is this person is going to do better than you and if you’re not sure that’s true, try hit. So anyway, or maybe it’s just me. So you’re talking about then finding the right person, obviously, somebody really organized and whose approach gels with you when there is obviously a question is, the next question is how to find that person? And how do you select that person?
Connor Gillivan 41:52
Yeah, of course, I mean, so. So you can use any online hiring platform free up is obviously an option. You can go through your network can see if anyone else has worked with other project managers that they really liked in the past. You know, there’s there’s a number of ways you can use different platforms or your network to find people, when it comes to actually interviewing and choosing that right person. The way that I usually break down my interviews focuses a lot on who that person is, after I realized that their skill set is actually there. So if I interview them enough, or ask them enough questions, where I’m I can tell it, they’re organized, they’ve worked with other people in a project management role, you know, I feel satisfied in that aspect of them being able to actually complete the work. But then it comes down to this is someone you’re going to be interacting with on a daily basis? Are they someone that has the same values as you do? They are they’re going to be as committed to the business as you are they if you’re fast paced, are they okay with that? Are they fast paced, so asking questions around who they are, personally, what they care about, what their values are, what’s most important to them, that can give you a really good idea of if you guys are going to gel together as you work with one another. Because the last situation you want is you find someone who’s really good at project management, but you guys just don’t really get along. A relationship doesn’t really develop. And I think that can hold you back over the long run.
Michael Veazey 43:17
Excellent. That makes sense. So let’s talk. So we talked a little bit about hiring thing, but assuming that that will skip over that for the moment because they’re using free app or something like that. So let’s talk about managing staff briefly. Because obviously, there’s there’s a huge area, what what would you say are the biggest mistakes that you see freelancers, because obviously, you deal with so many freelancers every day and e commerce entrepreneurs, what are the biggest mistakes that ecommerce entrepreneurs make when they are managing outsource stuff?
Connor Gillivan 43:47
Yeah, so I think one of the biggest ones is, is just, they don’t really have a system, or a way to actually go through the daily management with someone that’s remote. If you have someone in the office, it’s a lot easier to pop over to their desk and have a conversation with them to get an update or see what’s going on. When when someone’s remote. I see a lot of people that are hiring remotely for the first time that they kind of hire that person and just assume that they’re going to do everything perfectly. And you know, they maybe they forget to check in for even a full week or two weeks. And they’re surprised that everything isn’t as perfect as they wanted it to be. So I would say that’s probably the biggest mistake is just not not doing those check ins as they should and being a good remote manager.
Michael Veazey 44:37
Yeah. And by the way, I full disclosure, I’m and I even with some of your employees, I’ve used a wonderful bookkeeper with you guys who I think was a very sharp, competent guy, but I managed, I’m ashamed to say in exactly that way, I’d fire a task and then be out of touch for ages and then go back and go, why isn’t there done that always terrible. And I did apologize quite a lot to him. Because I just I knew I was being a bad manager. But the trouble. You get caught up in running around doing stuff and hard to manage. So what’s this sort of, for somebody who’s new, relatively new to outsourcing? What are the simpler solutions that are going to take a ton of time because there’s always that chicken and egg thing is now I really need to outsource because I’m too busy. But because I’m so busy, I can’t manage person properly. So how do we square that circle?
Connor Gillivan 45:22
Yeah, of course. So for me, it’s all about setting the correct expectations up front of how you want that management and communication to happen. So So for me, anytime I I hire someone, I’m not expecting that I’m going to be personally checking in with them every day. But I set an expectation that they’re responsible for checking in with me anytime they start an end work for me. So if I have them set up on a, you know, a regular two hours per day that they’re working on something, anytime they sign in, and they start working on that they should be sending me a message on Skype, hey, Connor, you know, I’m getting started with this work. I’m going to be working on XYZ today. You know, I’ll be here for the next two hours. If you have any questions, let me know. And then at the end of those two hours, hey, Connor, I was able to complete, you know, five new product listings today. Here they are for you to review them, send me any feedback once you get a chance to look at this. And for me, even if I’m busy during those two hours, at the end of the day, or at the beginning of the next day, I can I can kind of put myself in a schedule where I kind of check those updates from the people that are working with me, I communicate with them as I need to. And then if you have them on a regular set time that they’re working, you also know when they’re on so you can catch them there, you can ask them questions or kind of give them more guidance on what they’re doing. So I think that expectation right there just setting it, so it’s in the balls in their court to be following up with you. It just makes it a lot easier on your end, and you’re constantly getting those updates. And then you can kind of react them as as you can. And as you have the time to.
Michael Veazey 47:02
Yeah, that makes sense. That’s really, really good. And that’s exactly how I didn’t do it last time. So that’s good, good learning. The other thing you’re implying is how people are regular set time for working, which being people obviously, there’s so many myths that lock around about e commerce, but one of the things is that it’s great to be able to just work in your underwear from home. And my experiences. Yes, I can do that. But that’s actually a very bad thing. One of the virtues of an office is you’ve got a physical location you traveled to, and you’ve got a set timetable, and you’ve got somebody checking in with you and keeping you accountable for doing it. So for me, anything that goes back towards regularity and routine is actually really helpful. So the idea of having people on a regular set time, you know, two hours a day, but maybe it’s Monday to Friday, like 10am to midday, Eastern Time, or GMT or whichever time time. Very, very helpful. So thank you for that very simple ideas. Now tell me a bit more about some ideas about management, the processes and rhythms. And that’s one very simple thing. Is that that sort of daily check in, do you believe in sort of more often having weekly and monthly meetings and things like that? What’s your sort of thoughts on that?
Connor Gillivan 48:11
Yeah, of course. So I do. So once you get to, let’s say, again, that three to five people that you have on your you’re working with you, I like to set up weekly meetings, kind of all hands meetings, where you find the time, everyone can come to it. And that’s your opportunity to be the leader, right. So you’re going to share updates on what was achieved in the past week, you’re going to welcome any new people that you’ve hired and introduce them to everyone else. And you’re going to share goals for what’s coming up in the next week. And then you’re going to ask your the people that you’ve hired for them to share their updates from the past week as well, so that everyone’s on the same page. It’s that one opportunity where you’re all together remotely. And you can keep them motivated and make them feel like they’re part of something. They’re not just a you know, a distant person working on one aspect of this business, but they never get to learn anything else about what’s going on.
Michael Veazey 49:10
Yeah, obviously them one person who’s doing really well, Ashley Pierre, so I’ve also interviewed him for the podcast, he’s an e commerce entrepreneur, and he refuses to use the word VA. And he was correct people when they use that, as a team member, don’t hire VA team members, which I think is an important distinction and makes a lot of sense. Because that feeling of shared ownership on one of the things that that is so clear to me, both with VA, but also with myself is that money is just not a big enough motivator. It may seem like it would be for an entrepreneur, but it never is. Having recognition from your peers is critical is another reason why people come to masterminds, because they can go out and kind of do a humble brag, you know, and say, Oh, I’m so grateful that I made a million dollars this month. I’m like, dude, you’re just bragging. And that’s absolutely fine. Let me buy your beer, you know. So I think that’s critical for all of us. And again, yeah, people overlook that easily. What about monthly meeting? These are sort of bigger, you know, bigger rhythm meetings?
Connor Gillivan 50:03
Yeah, yeah. So we so we have that the weekly going on at all times. And then we do what we do is we do big quarterly meetings per team. So we’ll, we’ll kind of, we have those goals for the quarter, we share those, we continue to talk about those throughout the quarter. And then at the beginning of each one will will have another meeting with everyone and go through new goals and kind of what we’re working towards. And then every quarter, we also do one on ones with with each person on the team to share feedback to give them an opportunity to voice any opinions or feedback or issues that they’re experiencing. And then to also just kind of praise them a little bit, you know, thank them for being involved in the business for all their hard work. And also give them some constructive feedback on how we think they can keep growing. And if there’s resources we can provide to them, we share those as well. But it’s really just that opportunity to say, Hey, you know, I care enough about you being in this business that I’m going to give you an hour, so we can chat and you can share anything and voice your opinions.
Michael Veazey 51:08
Yeah, and that’s, that’s really, really important. I’ve noticed also that Nate’s got a great habit, because it’s obviously your business is growing pretty fast, you’ve got a great habit of checking in with me as a client as well, which is not the same thing. And I recognize as a motivation for somebody who might give you money, but nevertheless, pretty rare in my experience, and people who provide services to me that they actually take the time, just drop me Skype and say is anything that can help with and quite often there is actually because I’ve had on the back of my mind, I’ve had, you know, I really need to hire a bookkeeper, for example, as I did a while ago, even though I probably managed atrociously badly, that was entirely my bad, I think they seem to excellent at the job. So, so look, and we could talk for hours, I’m away, you’ve got a dash off and do other things. So couple of things. First of all, obviously, if people want to get ahold of you and find out more about free app and what they do the obvious question, but it’s going to be asked, Where do they go to find that out?
Connor Gillivan 51:54
Yeah, of course. So you can go to free up com It’s FRE up calm. And then Nathan and I both also open up our calendars to anyone that wants to speak with us. So right on the website, you can access either of our calendars and set up a 30 minute call just to chat or ask us questions or kind of get advice about outsourcing? And also give those to you so you can include them in the show notes here. Yeah, absolutely. And and yeah, you can also email me at anytime it’s just Connor co NNOR. At free up calm, and I’m happy to you know, chat with anyone or answer any questions.
Michael Veazey 52:30
IX. And so remember three E’s, guys free e up.com. And final question, then what was your if you had to distill all your knowledge by outsourcing for e commerce into one, two or three pointers, what would those be?
Connor Gillivan 52:46
Yeah, that’s a retail question.
Yeah, for so I think, for me, when I was first running my Amazon business and made the transition to outsource seen in hiring people, it was much less about how do I do this and much more about the mental challenge of actually getting over me doing everything and being able to trust someone else. So I think that’s your first thing is, you know, come to terms with yourself that, in order to grow your business past that million dollar mark, maybe you’re going to need other people and the people out there, there’s a lot of smart people, they’ll be able to add value to your business where you can. And it can keep you focused on where you do add the most value. So So kind of keep that in mind first. And then the second thing is just start slow. You know, if you’re uncomfortable about it, or even if you’re confident about it, find one person hire them, have them work a, you know, five to 10 hours per week for you understand what your management leadership communication system looks like, and perfect that with that first person, and then slowly higher in other areas of the business. You know, I think that’s a much better approach than trying to go all in and hiring multiple people and then it kind of backfiring and you feeling like it wasn’t a good experience. So start slow slowly, and gradually grow as as you see the business grow, and then kind of take it from there.
Michael Veazey 54:13
Yeah, grow grow when you’ve got it. You’ve got your systems. sausage. Yeah, makes sense that these are excellent pointers. I mean, they you know, it’s a brutal question, but you’ve dealt with it beautifully. So thank you very, very much for coming on sharing your thoughts and your wisdom on the outsourcing topic. And hope to get your net back on the podcast later in the year to expand on this ever, ever exciting and ever interesting area in business.
Connor Gillivan 54:38
That’d be awesome. Thanks for having me. Thanks so much for coming on.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai