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November 7, 2020

Strategic Quitting in eCommerce businesses

Strategic Quitting, Sunk Costs & eCommerce Business Owners

“Quitters Never Win”

Vince Lombardi said “Quitters never win. And winners never quit.” I think that is quite wrong. Today, I want to talk about why Lombardi was so wrong and why quitting can be a powerful strategic action that underpins massive success.

Yes, you heard right.

Giving up in the face of adversity is often the sign of weakness you believe it to be. And yet…Strategic Quitting can be one of the most powerful, positive things we ever do in our lives and businesses.

“What?!” I hear you exclaim. Well, let me explain.

Ecommerce success – and the Strategic Quitting that often lies in the past

E-commerce is exploding at the moment. That means that many of us see crazy numbers posted all the time by power sellers in Amazon.

And we’re very aware of that. Those of us who are members of communities of serious sellers are seeing our colleagues businesses exploding. You may be lucky enough to be seeing them in your own business!

I’ve had the lucky position in the 10 K collective mastermind of observing over the last three years. How several of the members businesses have grown from $1 million run rate to triple that. And that’s before Q4 even kicks in. And we’ve even witnessed one member smash through the eight figure run rate ceiling. By the way, this was at a healthy profit too.

Now these results are all very impressive. And the entrepreneurial energy strategy and street smarts behind that are equally impressive. But I behind the  perseverance and stamina and hard work, there are some  less glamorous, but equally essential abilities. Including the ability to know when to quit.

Learning the right lessons

There are some experiments that were less, certain, less impressive. And experiments is really a polite way of saying, finding out what works. Which ends up looking like an overnight spectacular success. It takes a lot of trying things that didn’t work

Danger in such situations is to take the wrong lessons from the very impressive activities of the entrepreneurs. Sometimes, of course the entrepreneurs themselves are not aware of the reasons for their own success.

Yes, perseverance energy and focus are obviously critical in any challenging activity.

Business sport or performing arts spring to mind as challenging activities. Having experienced classical music and London theatre worlds in the past, I’ve seen similar patterns in business hyper- growth companies.

All take a huge amount of persevering through difficulty. No question. Also, money is important, particularly of course, in business.But persevering with what? Using energy, for what things? Focusing on which things? And spending money on which areas?

I know for a fact that one of the businesses that smashed the eight-figure Mark recently that I’ve personally worked with would never have got there if they hadn’t quit. Not quit being in business. Not quit the category of products they are in. But quit persevering with a business model that business used to run, that was pretty much broken. If they hadn’t stopped putting energy into failing way of doing things, if they hadn’t, in other words, quit a lot of things.

The Heretical Truth: (Strategic) Quitting is Essential to Winning

So that’s why today I want to talk about quitting. It’s a very unsexy topic. It’s even seen as something a bit shameful. And it’s even kind of heretical, if you believe in the American dream as a kind of almost religion for entrepreneurs. And yet, I think it’s a very important topic. I’m not talking about quitting in the face of difficulty challenge or pain. That’s clearly not the route to success. What I’m talking about is a concept called strategic quitting.

For which I thank Seth Godin, the wonderful Seth Godin. Quitting is a bit like the sort of photographic negative of succeeding, the opposite of succeeding. What it does is make mental space, focus, energy, and money available for other things. And I want to relate this idea of strategic quitting from Seth Godin’s book, “The Dip to e-commerce.

And I don’t think we can really talk about that without another one of Seth Godin’s favourite. That’s the idea of sunk costs. Sunk costs are something Seth Godin has repeatedly discussed in his podcast,  and his blog amongst other things. And I think these two concepts of strategic quitting and sunk costs are so incredibly relevant to people selling on Amazon, that I really want to get this message across. And I’m going to quote a lot from Seth Godin, um, because I think he says things beautifully.

I want to relate some of this stuff to e-commerce because I think it will serve you my beloved listener.

3 Part division

This really comes in three parts.

First of all, I want to talk about the work by Seth Godin around sunk costs, which I think is a simple, but really difficult concepts, simple but difficult can go together by the way. Simple to grasp really difficult to implement sunk costs.

The second thing is Seth Godin’s concept from the book “The Dip” of Strategic quitting.

And then the third area is what I’m going to try and tie these together into a few simple e-commerce examples that I hope you can relate to.

Seth Godin – A Genuine Business Thought Leader

First of all Seth Godin. Seth Godin is an amazing business leader and a thought leader. The word thought leader is much abused. There are lots of people who call themselves thought leaders. In my experience, most people who call themselves thought leaders are in fact thought followers. They shout loudly about one’s concept that somebody else told them a while ago, which I haven’t really thought about since.

Honestly, I guess I have to classify myself as a thought follower as well. Now I think that’s okay. We have our place, but I’m trying to connect to you. To the work of a true thought leader I would say Seth Godin has 100% earned the title of thought leader.

Sunk Costs – a pre-requisite of Strategic Quitting

So here’s what I take from Seth Godin’s blog posts about sunk costs. I’m actually going to link to an  entire blog post in here. So here’s the blog post by  Seth Godin. Please just read it before you continue the rest of this article, otherwise it won’t make any sense!

Good decisions (and sunk costs)

So that’s the great Seth Godin’s thoughts. And I really think this is incredibly strong stuff. It’s easy enough to grasp intellectually. And if you think it through, you’ll really begin to see the truth of it. Although it takes a little bit of thinking because it is a bit counter-intuitive. But to emotionally make your peace with that, is incredibly important.

Premature Quitting

And I’ve seen this play out a number of times with really successful Amazon sellers and some who’ve totally got nowhere. And everyone in between. People often have a product that is not as good as they want, that can come in different forms. One is of course the classic that you think our product will sell and it simply makes no sales.

And that’s very common in people with early stages and also those more advanced sellers with more experiences. Well, the difference is normally that people at the early stages just quit the entire business model of private labelling on Amazon. Based on one particular product line not  working out.

That’s obviously not necessarily the right kind of quitting.

Foolish Perseverance

The opposite though is often the case that people will continue to sell a product because they put months and months of their life into it and be working really hard. Yes,  it kind of makes sales, but not what they expected. Or maybe has very thin profit margins. Sadly,  I see that a lot,  even with seven figure Amazon sellers. I’d love to think that if you’re a 7-figure seller, if nothing else, I’d love to  just get you to rethink about quitting. It is simply not  about quitting being just for outreach failed products. It is often most needed for those in between the cases that are not actually really good but not so bad as to force you to do the right thing and shut them down.

I’ve seen that all too often with my clients.

Seth Godin’s “The Dip” and “Strategic Quitting”

So let’s talk about “The Dip”, which is Seth Godin’s book about it strategic quitting. So what is the difference between quitting and just strategic quitting? I really would urge you by the way to buy the book. I’ve just ordered a physical copy again. I’ve just really listened to my audible version of the book and it is really clear minded. Not overly conceptual, but yet the concept of clear and practical, I cannot say enough about it. Just go read the book.

So here’s what Seth Godin says in the Dip right at the beginning.

I feel like giving up almost every day. In fact, not all day, of course, but there are moments. My bet is that you have these moments too. Most of the time with deal with these obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get discouraged and turned to inspirational writing light stuff. And Vince Lombardi like quitters never win and win is never quit.

Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time. Most people quit. They just don’t quit successfully.

So let’s reflect on this genius insight. First of all, I think this is so on the money.

When Quitting is just plain Giving Up

There are times when people quit when it’s way too early, because they have no idea what the future potential of their business is.

It is  obviously true that you can quit based on the fact that you’re getting impatient or it’s hard work to do something, and that’s not the kind of quitting I’m talking about.

I see that incredibly frequently with people who are quote, starting up an Amazon business, that the only problem is not that they’re a startup. I’m nothing against startups. I salute the courage needed to really get a business from nothing to existence.

The trouble is most people quit before they even make any revenue at all. So how can you even tell whether the market wants your product and if you’ve launched one single product, how do you know whether you might’ve just iterated? Two or three times or launched two or three other products and they wouldn’t have succeeded. It’s hard to know because that’s probably quitting way too early. . So I’m not talking about that.

Strategic Quitting

What’s very, very interesting is this thing that “Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

What a great quote. I think this is absolutely been true in my experience of some of the best entrepreneurs I know who are, as I said, maybe they’re getting it to eight figures profitably now, but they quit a lot of stuff on the way to that point.

Being the “Best in the World”

Now, one of the things that Seth Godin talks about is the importance of being the best in the world. let’s explore what Seth means by these statements, the best and the world. He says:

Our culture celebrates superstars. We reward the product or the song or the organization or the employee. That is number one. The rewards are heavily skewed so much. So that it’s typical for a number one to get 10 times the benefit of number 10 and a hundred times the benefit of number a hundred.

It’s always like this, almost always. Anyway. It’s called Zipf’s law . Winners win big because the marketplace loves a winner.

So, if we apply this to Amazon, it is not subtle. You can see this all the time. If you have two or 300 SKUs/product lines, like a couple of members of the mastermind, if they apply 80, 20 analysis, you’ll find this shows up very clearly. I remember one of the members did this exact thing and came back with a graph. Which was fantastic because it was so clear. I think about 10 out of the SKUs (product lines) they had on Amazon were responsible for most of their sales. tt was not subtle. And that’s how it always works.

What I’m talking about today, I suppose, is this:to go back to that person and say,  “Why are you still selling the other products?”

The Long Tail is not the answer

Yes, sure, there’s a long tail as Chris Anderson famously articulated back in 2007 with his book of the same name. Very good book as well.

But…what would happen if you took the money, time and energy that you’re using on things that hardly justify their existence in your catalogue – And tie up money and time –  and you put those into things into your proven winners? What would happen then?

Here’s another quote from Seth Godin about this.

Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most. Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny majority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new. In both cases, it’s about being the best in the world. About getting through the hard stuff and coming out on the other side.

Strategically Quit the wrong stuff

And here’s what Seth Godin says in summary:

“Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other.”

Seth Godin continues:

People don’t have a lot of time and they don’t want to take a lot of risks. With limited time or opportunity to experiment. We intentionally narrow our choices to those at the top. Everybody does. As a result, the rewards for being first are enormous. It’s not a linear scale. It’s a curve and a steep one.

Being at the top matters also because there’s room at the top for only a few scarcity makes being at the top worth something. Anyone who’s going to hire you or buy from you is going to one day. If you’re the best choice. Best as in. Best for them right now, based on what they believe in what they know.

And in the world. As in the world, they have access to.

So let’s reflect together on that for a minute.

First of all the counter-cultural statement that you quitting can be really strategic, very interesting stuff, and very true.

The Average is the Enemy of The Best

But the main point he’s making about the other side of that is if you don’t quit. Because you can kind of be okay or average or mediocre or even quite good. Or even good rather than the best. What you’re doing is you’re missing out on potentially being the best at something else. Because of course, time and money and energy are limited things, especially in entrepreneurial companies where everything’s growing rapidly.

Or at least some things are growing rapidly. So I really think that the other way to put, look at this is this. If you look at an Amazon average results page and you simply run the numbers using Helium 10 – or whichever one of the analysis tools that you can use to see what the sales are – in a mature market, you’ll very often find that there is a steep graph, which has a majority of the market share going to one or two brands.

Now it’s not always that extreme – and I don’  advocate entering a market with that kind of structure – but that’s where you want to end up.

And that’s where some of the people that I know have really killed it on Amazon have exactly ended up. They dominate the search results. And as, a result, more importantly, they dominate the market share. In other words, the percentage of the market that they have.

The Star Principle

Now, this relates very strongly to the star principle by Richard Koch, which is also one of the most amazing business books out there. And I’ve talked about that enough. My mastermind members get sick of me talking about it, but I’m no apologies because that’s also one of the most important books you can read.

But I think that’s the flip side of the same thing, which is to say if it is incredibly valuable to be the best in the world for a particular type of person with a particular type of need in a particular kind of world. So in other words on Amazon is not just online and you know, it could be that if you have a local shop, you might be the best bakery in North London, for example, for bagels. Okay. Well, that’s in a certain kind of world of North London, the best thing in the world of bagels, right?

Strategic Quitting Mediocre Products makes space for Excellence

But whichever way you cut it. I think it comes down to really quitting places where you are mediocre because the future of a mediocre product is violently different from the future of a really excellent product that is quotes the best in the world. Really, really, really different. And I think simplistic statements in Facebook all the time or other places like that.

Really do push us in the direction of persevering, no matter what, and blaming ourselves, or somehow judging ourselves if our products or services aren’t that successful. Because the truth is most products and services on that successful and that’s okay. But if you quit the things that aren’t that successful and really work hard to work towards the things where you can –  at least even on paper, as it were theoretically, – be super successful, the best. In your customers’s eyes, in a particular narrow world. And the Internet’s all about that narrow, personalised “world”. Then,  if you quit the crappy things and you make time for those things, you have at least some kind of shot at being seriously successful.

Strategic quitting in Amazon and ecommerce

So let’s bring this back to e-commerce and specifically the Amazon context. I think there are four types of strategic quitting that are possible. And some of which are really powerful and others of them are appropriate are the points.

So the four times I think are

  1. The type of activity, the business model that you’re running, because I think there’s some business models that are not appropriate for some people are never going to be a win for certain people or certain types of businesses.
  2. Your business or brand as a whole.
  3. A part of your business or specific product line or products. And that’s really something worth examining.
  4.  Relationships, which is probably the most emotional and possibly the most important part of strategic quitting. So let’s go through these ones.

Quitting the wrong Amazon Business Model

There are many different business models in the world. And e-commerce, I suppose, is a form of business model as an industry, I suppose.

Quitting Retail Arbitrage or Wholesale Sourcing

The business models that exist within the Amazon world that I, and most of my listeners will be familiar with. And you may be as well would revolve around Amazon, such as retail arbitrage, online arbitrage.

Um, wholesale sourcing. So buying from existing brands in order to retain them on Amazon. Private labelling or custom manufacturing. And I guess then there would be things like, uh, working on behalf of other sellers to manage their accounts. So the agency model.

And it may well be that you need to quit being a retail arbitrage in order to focus on private labeling, or you need to gradually refocus your energy and money from one to the other. Another transition that I’ve seen is that people gradually quit being a wholesale sources to developing their own unique custom products.

Strategic Quitting of Selling to Retail (ie just focussing on Direct to Consumer)

Sometimes there can be a really painful quitting that I’ve seen the couple of businesses in the masterminds, one of whom is probably halfway through this. And they’re eight figure seller that I can think of. Is probably all the way through this now. And that is transitioning from.

Selling. As a manufacturer and brand owner, rather than just a retailer. Selling your goods at wholesale prices to end retailers and also selling direct to the consumer via Amazon, or indeed your own shop. That is a very difficult. Situation because I have not yet seen anyone. He can really truly make that work. There are awkward compromises required.

But of course, if you’ve been doing that for years and years, sometimes decades in, in the case of very established businesses, then it’s a very painful thing to quit. Selling to. Other retailers and high street retailers in order to sell direct to consumer.

The COVID Correction

Of course it’s less painful than it was a few months ago. If you’re listening to this in any time under sort of lockdown, it’s less tempting!  But even so, it’s still difficult to give things up that have made you revenue in the past. And that is one of the strategic piece of quitting that I know a couple of businesses have done.

I’m not saying that anyone has to do this or should just mindlessly do this. It needs looking at in a very analytical, thoughtful way at the reality on the ground of your business. But it’s certainly one of those areas where you may want to consider strategically quitting the business model .

Quitting ecommerce altogether

So there’s some simple examples for new people to Amazon. I mean, it’s a lot simpler. Some people are just really technophobes, they don’t dislike computers. They don’t, in some cases, even own one, which just blows my mind that somebody should consider.

Running an online business without a laptop.

I literally experienced recently that a client. Tried to start an online business without owning their own laptop. Now, it never occurred to me that anyone would do that. And try and run a sophisticated multi hundred thousand dollar business from my L. Iphone

Selling your old Amazon Seller Central Account

By the way, if you have had an Amazon business or an attempt at one in the past, and you’ve got an old Amazon seller central account knocking around that, you’re no longer using:

I had a conversation with a colleague of mine the other day, they reached out to say something else. And he said, Oh, by the way, we’re buying old seller central accounts that were established for 2018. Do you know anyone who’s got one? And I said, well, actually,  I’ve got one from one of the several businesses that I’ve been through over the last few years.

And I said, yeah, sure. I’d be interested to explore into that. We had a very respectful and frank chat. And he’s probably going to go ahead and buy that account and it turns out he’s actually on the lookout for other people. You have Amazon accounts that they no longer need that were established for 2018.

So, if that happens to be you, if you’re listening and that’s a classic sunk cost, by the way. If you’ve got an Amazon seller central account, you no longer use,  he may be able and willing to buy it off you. Obviously you’d have to have a conversation-  but I can make an introduction –  just email me  and mention this.

Planning to Quit

So let’s talk about the difference between strategic quitting plus plain old quitting. Otherwise known as giving up because it’s hard. So Seth Godin talks about this in “The Dip”.

One critical point is clear from what he says:  you need to plan in advance when you’re going to quit strategically.

So I think one of the differences between quitting in the moment and quitting strategically is something like this: Either you have the potential to be the best in the world at something; or  you will never be particularly good or you or your product or your business.

And what I take from that is:  you should have some way of assessing roughly where there you’re going to be capable of being the best in the world or not. And then if the feedback from the marketplace is telling you that you’re never going to be the best in the world, you should quit.

You should plan in advance that you will quit if you don’t believe you can be the best in the world. Remember that the definition of “best” and “the world” is relative to the very narrow, particular set of people – of particular types of consumers, clients, or prospects, whatever word you want to use for people who may buy your thing.

Asking the right question, not knowing the answer

Now, interestingly, Seth Godin says The following in his blog post The Dip and knowing when to quit

Asking the question, the one I get asked the most, how do I know it’s a dip or a dead end? is the wrong question….No. The key insight is to ask the question, not to know the answer in advance. Asking yourself,  “is this something that will respond to guts, effort and investment?” helps you decide whether or not this is where you can commit. And then if you do commit, you’re not browsing, you’re in it.

So what does Seth mean by all this stuff? Well, I guess the key is that great question:

“is this something that will respond to guts, effort and investment?”

Now that is a great question because it implies that guts,  effort and investment are going to be needed, which is really important. So what I’m not trying to get across is the idea that just luck or great strategy is enough to succeed clearly rubbish.

Equally, though,  if something won’t respond to guts, effort and investment – and I think a lot of us know in our heart parts when that’s the case –  that’s the time to strategically quit.

Not because you won’t have to put guts, effort and investment into succeed in any kind of business, but because it’s a bit of a tragedy to put all ofd that into something, when you feel it will not really respond to the effort – no matter how much you put in. And there are lots of Amazon product situations where it really is that situation.

Strategic Quitting 3: Abandoning a Business Model that doesn’t fit Your Risk Profile

Another reason to change business model and quit strategically. It is because you recognize that something just isn’t going to work for you. Private labeling, for example, doesn’t work for some people because they don’t like the risk involved. It’s high risk, high reward. The guys who succeed with Private Labelling that I know are actively energised by the risk and the big rewards. It gets them going.

However, some people prefer the lower rewards, but higher certainty of wholesale sourcing, for example. I know a couple of fine business people personally who have made that model a massive success as well after really failing at private labelling. Others I know started with wholesale sourcing but are gradually transitioning over to private label.

Quitting a product

So the second type of quitting is quitting, a product or product line, and this is really such an important ability to quit. I have seen so many clients and discuss so many times in the masterminds where. Really good business owners. Are not willing to let go of the sunk costs in a product line because it’s still making sales in there. Send kind of profit.

Now of course, profit is better than no profit and killing things prematurely is not smart business strategy. However  if you have several products that are really making the majority of your profits, and you have a lot of other goods that are tying up capital effort and above all management time,and  at best mediocre, you really need to consider whether you should strategically quit selling them.

Remember: the mediocre is the enemy of the good. And if you really want to cut through the noise in the marketplace today, nevermind tomorrow when the marketplace is blown up in size (which is already happening under COVID), I just thoroughly believe that you really need to be willing to kill your darlings (as they say in the writing world).

Be Willing to Have Difficult Conversations

And this is a really difficult conversation to have with your business partner, or your team and to have indeed in the mastermind. It is almost embarrassing to suggest to somebody that they give up on something they spent a lot of time and energy on.

Of course this is not a casual decision. As an outsider to the actual business, one can only kind of hint at the possibility. In the end, the decision is  for the business owner/manager who has got the deep inside knowledge of The whole picture to make that call. Assessing the financials, the practical implications, the implications of relationships with vendors and suppliers and so forth is something you can only really assess with hours of detailed reflection.

But quitting a product line that is mediocre, rather than downright terrible, is still one of the most powerful things you can do to set your business up for much faster growth in future. Despite the fact that it requires soul-searching and a sense of loss (and of course dealing with the very measurable loss of revenue short-term). Perhaps, indeed, it’s precisely because of this soul-searching that it’s such a strategic competitive advantage. After all, your competitors will find this as hard as you do. If you have the courage to trade the short-term sense of loss for the longer-term big wins, and your competitors don’t…well, it’s clear who has the advantage, longer term.

Strategic Quitting 4: Quitting a Brand

What we haven’t talked about, of course it’s quitting a business or a brand as a whole, which is not the same as quitting a business model, but actually some of the. people I know in the 10 K collective have more than one brand.  The most extreme example is one person with five brands. Several have two.

One of the members has got two brands and is  actively going through the process of preparing to sell one at the moment. That’s potentially really smart.  Because giving up one brand means you can put a ton of money and effort into one focus place. And focus matters when it comes to making money by selling your business. Talking to experts in selling businesses to serious investors, for example, Jason Somerville and Chris ship filling of Global Wired Advisors, they were pretty clear that a very focused business focused around one type of category of products is going to be much more sellable and valuable that  something split between different markets.

Now, if you can sell a business for say, half a million dollars today and grow the other businesses of a similar size in a more focused way to a bigger size, that has much more potential than  along with two brands. One of the brands is almost bound to have lower opportunity, growth and profit than the other, by nature of probability. In this case, it’s an interesting nuance to the idea of strategic quitting. It’s not a question of quitting as a business  but quitting being the owner (and manager) of the business.

It’s a strategic kind of quitting of the ultimate kind, really. Which is strategically exiting the business.

The Runt of the Litter

The runt of the litter – whether a piglet or a dog – somehow feels like the plucky underdog we all love to root for. That’s fine with children or animals. Trouble comes when we start to get as attached to to products or brands as much as we would to our children or our pets. That turns out not to be wise.

There are more brutal ways of dealing with Brands.  Just as a portfolio of 50 products may have a handful of duds, sometimes the smart thing to do with multiple brands feeding off the same pool of cash, energy and focus (so effectively one business) is to kill an entire brand off. If you have five brands, I’d be pretty amazed if the Zipf Law (aka popularly the “80/20 Law”) didn’t mean that one of them is significantly under-performing the majority, and one of them isn’t significantly more profitable than the rest. It’s just a law of the universe almost as reliable as the laws of motion (or gravity if you’re more Earth-bound!)

Quitting (Business) Relationships – Business Partners, Employees and Roles

The fourth type of quitting is relationships. And of course, ending any form  of significant relationship is a painful thing emotionally. A business partnership is the most classic relationship that may need to be quit. And in fact, at some point it’s going to come to an end, even if it comes to a very positive end, when hopefully you  both sell a business that you own.

I’ve finished business partnerships myself. I hope I’ve done it amicably. I was just not aligned anymore with where my partners  wanted to go with the business.

In one case, when we started the partnership, business priorities were put pointing in one direction. And then by the end of the relationship, my personal priorities had changed. For example, my priorities for allocation of my own capital changed a while ago when I got married and my wife and  wanted to buy ourselves a property that we would be able to live in . I think was a good use of capital, but it meant that I wanted to get the capital back out of the business and sold it to my business partner.

That was a fairly easy amicable decision. There are obviously other things that can happen with business partners that need more negotiation. For example, one of them wants to keep the day job and keep a security of income whereas the other wants to go all in on the business.  I’ve seen that a number of times. Another classic is that one partner needs more money out of the business as salary for family reasons, whereas the other wants to reinvest the money.

It’s not an easy decision to quit a business partnership but, unlike a business sale outright, that doesn’t necessarily mean the same as quitting the business associated with the partnership. One of you can buy the other out. That’s also quite a common scenario I’ve seen. A lot of emotion and detail needs to be worked through  -but sometimes it can be the beginning of a freedom to really grow the business with the right people on board the team.

Letting go of employees or workers

If you are an employer or engage workers, you may need to let one of them go at some point if they’re not that good at the job.

And that’s a painful and unpleasant process and no wonder most of us put it off, but there’s often, often a great win on the other side of that unpleasant experience and being wind to quit on somebody, if you like, or get them to quit. Is. A pretty powerful thing. You’ve done the right way. Unpleasant needs to be dealt with legally and ethically. In my experience, this isn’t hard to diagnose.

Most of the time, if you are have employees or engaged team members of any kind, you’ll likely be painfully aware of your unhappiness with one key employee. It’s usually more a question of the courage to do the necessary thing; and the willingness to go back out into the hassle of defining a role, advertising, hiring and onboarding in a more thoughtful way. Yes, potentially a lot of hard work, no question. Some heartache, no doubt. But how can anyone build a serious business without having people they trust on board?  Painful…but powerful.

Deleting underperforming Roles (from your Org Chart)

Another thing you may do is you’ve got somebody who’s very good at what they do, but what they’re doing is really irrelevant to the success of your business. For example, I’ve had clients say “We’ve got a social media guy, but I don’t know what he does all day.” This was from the man who pays the wages of the whole company effectively, as the CEO and I believe majority owner of the business.

Now, tt may be the social media guy is giving a presence to your brand in social media in a very valuable way. He may be fantastic at that as well. In which case you could probably should keep both the position and the person. However,  it may be that – while the person is fantastic at  the role (doing what you’ve told them to do) –  it’s quite possible that the entire role may be meaningless to the success of your brand. And if it’s taken time and money, it may be that you need to just get rid of the role. In other words, make somebody redundant, and not replace them  with somebody else.

Painful? Absolutely. But…it means you’re now free to put the money and effort into something more productive.

In crazy COVID times, there are obviously a lot of pressures on people to let go people. And maybe for financial reasons, you’ll have to do that. And that’s not pleasant. That’s the world acting on you. But again, it can be done reactively or it can be done with strategic thinking. So that is to say, you may panic about the lack of money and fire everybody, or you could say, well, we are going to.

Summarising Strategic Quitting

So let’s recap. I think really the main points that Seth Godin is trying to make –  and I’m obviously twisting his concepts to my own ends here: the idea that with sunk costs

“…past expenses have nothing to do with the future economic decisions. And past profits have nothing to do with the future decisions.” #

Strictly speaking, I guess, pretty much everything is in the past, if we’re being literal. So I guess that implies that we should – at least periodically –  assess everything from a fresh, brand new perspective. And look at it and ask ourselves, “Has got a bright future?”. And if the answer’s no, I guess what Seth Godin is encouraging us to do – and I would say from experiences, the right call – is to give it up. To quit – mindfully, strategically. Whatever “it” is. Relationships, businesses, business brands, product lines… Even an entire marketplace.

I imagine that eBay was a really sexy place to sell in 2005. I don’t know from experience, I wasn’t selling on it, but I know a lot of people got started on eBay. When Amazon third-party marketplace didn’t exist. Is that eBay great place to sell in our relative to Amazon? Well, I really haven’t sold in both, but my experience from those who have says, that’s probably not the case. So sometimes the entire marketplace needs to be moved on from, and that’s not easy, but may still be the right call.

To Quit or Not to Quit, That is the Question

I love the energy that comes from juxtaposing these quotes:

Vince Lombardi: “Quitters never win and winners never quit.”

Seth Godin: “Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

I believe wholeheartedly in the value of thinking this stuff through – and indeed, talking through the implications with your team (or indeed a mastermind). This is not overnight success stuff. It’s not  “Yes, I’ve got that insight. Now I can just go and do it.” It’s a question of deep thinking, mindful discussion and reviewing the facts viewed through a particular lens.

So that’s the message, I guess I’m trying to get across to you as sunk costs, strategic quitting, and really thinking how that applies in your Amazon business.

Successes have quitting in their history

I just want to finish this by coming back to where we started this conversation, which is talking about the amazing successes. We’re seeing some people in, particularly the people that I’ve seen, who’ve actually recently strategically quit the 10 K collective group, because if somebody who’s doing, I don’t know what, but over $20 million worth of revenue a year could be even more,  is somebody whose needs, I can’t personally serve with the groups I run at the moment. For now, we don’t have any groups that serve the need of multiple eight figure sellers. Although that is something I’m aiming to develop in 2021.

However, it does seem based on the numbers that we are serving the needs of people between $500K and $5-6 million a year pretty well! Some members have tripled their business this year. It’s an exceptional year for ecommerce, so I’m not going to suggest that I’d expect that kind of growth in future. But it’s clear that with the growth of members’ businesses, and a 20-month average stick rate, that something is going right.

By the way if you want to check out the 10K Collective Mastermind, we are in process of transitioning from just treating Zoom/online work as a necessity while London is locked down, to making a real virtue of it. We are working hard to make a new, more focussed and even more ambitious way of working. So if you’re doing at least $500K a year on Amazon, stay tuned.

If you’re in that difficult early stage of doing your first six figures a year (so around $10K a month) on Amazon, I’m going to be starting a group in the new year to cater for your needs as well. If that’s you, we don’t have a sales page up yet, so just email me  with the Subject Line “6 Figure Mastermind” and we can set up a conversation.

I hope this has been thought provoking and gives you the courage to do the right things in your business. If you need to. And that at the other end of it.

They’ll come back and thank me in two years time, if somebody says I started reading where Seth Godin and his book was amazing and it changed my life. I’ve already served it. If somebody comes back and says, I stopped doing this crappy thing, that our business that I knew was wrong, but I hadn’t had the courage to change until I thought about it.

Then I’m a happy man, because I’ve served you well. Thanks very much for listening.


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Michael Veazey

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