Archive for the ‘Goal Setting’ Category

My Life is Progressing at a Rapid Pace

Posted on February 9th, 2015 in Amazon, Business Development, Goal Setting, Lessons, My Story, Reflection, Self Improvement | No Comments »

I couldn’t believe how long my post was in December. I’ve never had that much to write about in just a 30 day time span. We’re now in the beginning of February and things are moving so fast that I feel like if I don’t write them down I either forget them or they become irrelevant.

In December I mentioned the beginning of my partnership with Ricky and how we were planning on developing our own course teaching the concepts of how to manufacture and private label brands. I didn’t really know much about Ricky at that time because I had only met him in Lithuania. I could sit here and write all about Ricky and how he owns two Million Plus per year businesses and how we were planning on working together.

I could write about how he completely opened up to me and shared tons of resources. How much confirmation I felt when I looked at his hiring processes and the management systems of his business and I realized I was already building the same systems into my business. When you’re on your own, sometimes you feel like you have these great ideas and you’re doing everything right, but never really get confirmation that what you are doing is the right thing. To look into a young multimillionaire’s business and see the exact same systems and processes is amazing and lets me know how close I really am to blowing my business up beyond my wildest dreams.

But all of that stuff I could have written about is irrelevant now. I’m on my final day of a 7 day Vegas trip that has completely changed my life. Unfortunately tomorrow I have to tell Ricky we aren’t going to be able to move forward working together anymore.

The course we were building would be in direct competition with Amazing Selling Machine. Granted, the ASM guys are so much more advanced and we wouldn’t even make a dent in their business if we did 6 figures with our launch. But the point is, no matter how much money I could make working with Ricky, I don’t want to do anything to get on the bad side of ASM.

Next month, I’m going to Aruba with Matt and Jason (creators of ASM) and about 30 other 7 and 8 figure business owners for an exclusive mastermind. They are literally going to break down my business with me and help me scale it up rapidly. I’ll get to the details of that whole mastermind later in this post, but the point is that I’m leveling up so fast I can’t believe it. It’s hard for me to decompress sometimes because so much is going on in my life. A couple weeks ago, the idea of working with Ricky was the most fantastic opportunity ever and now it feels like a footnote that I can’t even write about because it’s in my past.

Jason Katzenback and Matt Clark Jason Katzenback and Matt Clark

When I came back from Lithuania, I approached my life and my business from a whole different perspective. That whole experience expanded my mind and helped me think bigger. Before this week in Vegas, I had this goal that I was going to do a million dollars in top line revenue in 2015. It felt like a lofty goal, but the more I thought about it and talked to myself in my head, I knew it was possible. Even if I fell short, I knew I was going to get damn close to that million. Now I just feel like I’m going to completely blow through it and do over a million.

After my Christmas stock out, my sales have been shit. I haven’t even checked Amazon in about 2 weeks, but I think I’m doing about 5 thousand a month on Amazon. But I’ve been spending my time working on my systems and building the infrastructure and advertising funnels that are going to take me well over 100 thousand dollars per month consistently as soon as I flip the switch.

All I need right now is access to capital. I have the confirmation and I have the confidence and I have the support structure around me to grow fast without the wheels falling off. I just have a couple more small pieces to fit into puzzle and I’m golden. Most importantly, I know exactly what to do to fit those pieces in.

So that’s the big picture.

Now I’ll try my best to provide a linear recap of this week and how I’ve arrived at that big picture. I’m sitting in an open tent in sunny 70 degree weather in Vegas right now smoking a cigar and writing. Hopefully I get into a flow because I feel like I can just sit and write for 10 hours straight right now.

Decompressing From The Week Decompressing From The Week

I don’t come to conferences for the content anymore. I’ve heard it all before and I have more than enough skills and business acumen to succeed. I come to conferences for the networking and to develop relationships that help me level up.

Because of my network and my relationships, I was able to get into a small mastermind led by Ezra Firestone the day before the ASM event started. Ezra is one of the top ecommerce strategists in the US and probably the world if you get down to it. He owns multiple brands and has consulted for some monster fortune 100 companies on their ecommerce strategies. Facebook actually called him up a few months ago because they were making so much money using Facebook advertising. Facebook literally wanted to know what the hell they were doing to make so much money on their ad platform so they could incorporate his feedback and build a relationship with him and his team.

So the day before the event, I spent 8 hours in a small room with Ezra and about 20 other very high net worth people learning from him. Learning everything he’s doing and how he is designing his funnels. How he scales business process and the services he uses to coordinate everything into a money making machine. I got to ask him questions and get on a first name basis with Ezra and all of these other amazing people that are doing amazing things in life and business. Again, the content was just content. It was good, but what I really got out of it was confirmation again that I AM a fucking rock star and that I am doing everything right. I can’t stress enough how important that is to me.

Ezra Firestone Mastermind Ezra Firestone Mastermind

I sat next to Ken (bald guy behind my hat)  for the entire time at the mastermind. Ken owns multiple real estate businesses and is developing some condominiums right now. He also owns a couple supplement brands that he’s in the process of scaling up. Next to Ken was Freddie. Freddie is an older guy that’s been around the Internet Marketing space pretty much since inception. Freddie is partners with Jerry West, who is arguably one of the best SEO guys in the world and the only person I will listen to for SEO advice. I was actually going through one of Jerry’s courses on the plane ride to Vegas.

I also got to meet Alan (far left of picture). Alan is a Scottish guy with a ridiculous accent that I can barely understand half the time. He lives in Panama, has real estate businesses and a brand in the home and garden niche. He’s in the process to scaling up over a million this year as well. He also knows and is involved with Simon Black’s sovereign man confidential. Think I had an in with Alan when I told him I was one of the 50 entrepreneurs from around the world that Simon selected to come out to Lithuania for a week last summer? Alan also knows the owners of Red Frog beach in Panama, which coincidentally is exactly where Justin has his condo in Panama. I’m going to introduce the two of them this week.

I also met Iyathos (half head next to Ken) from Colorado. He’s doing about 250 thousand dollars per month with his physical product brand. Another guy I met in the mastermind was this Indian dude Mikial (next to Alan). He has a speech impediment and as bad as it is to say, I let that influence my perception of him and I didn’t really go out of my way to meet him at first. When I did meet him, I found out that he used to be a trader and was a multi multi millionaire and had Maseratis and houses all over the world. Then he lost it all in 2008. Now hes building up his empire again. Cool and Funny ass dude. We had some really fun times drinking together.

So I met all these people and hung out with them all day. Most of them are doing more than I am right now in business, but guess what. I was able to hang with all of these guys intellectually for the whole weekend and I actually taught them a lot of stuff. They were coming to me with questions and I had all the answers and strategies that they wanted to learn.

Now that I knew all of these guys, I had my own crew to hang out with through the entire event. Remember a few months ago when I promoted the ASM course and did over 130 thousand dollars in sales for ASM? Well, that got me a VIP pass to the live event. VIP means that my badge had a little ribbon on it that signified status. That little white ribbon made everybody treat me differently this whole week. I don’t get caught up in that status bullshit normally, but it is amazing how that changes perceptions.

When you have a conference of about 4,000 people and you are one of the few VIPs, you are a big deal. The only other way to get a VIP pass to the event was to pay an extra $10,000 just so you could hang out with and network with the other VIPs. Just to get good seats, people were showing up and waiting in line at the Venetian at 6:30 in the morning and the doors didn’t open until 8:45. I hung out later at night drinking and partying with all the other VIPs and then would roll out of bed at 8am and walk over to the conference center. 4,000 people had been waiting in line all morning and I just walked right by everyone and took the elevator up to our private VIP room. Sat down, had a banana and a coffee and shot the shit with all of the speakers and other VIPs. Then we’d walk in to the conference and take a seat in the second row from the stage. That’s what I mean when I talk about status and networking and the ability to get on a first name basis with all of these high net worth people. (No, I’m not on a first name basis with Kiyosaki or Branson. Just pictures)

Robert Kiyosaki Robert Kiyosaki Sir Richard Branson Sir Richard Branson VIP Badge VIP Badge

 

One morning I was sitting there having a casual conversation with Robert Kyosaki’s wife. Then I’m sitting there talking with Jason and Matt about the future of their business and getting inside info on what’s going on. I don’t know the exact numbers for their business, but I think they are around the 100 Million dollar mark now after launching ASM 1 about 2 years ago. They just rebranded and purchased the domain amazing.com for $780,000 and their goal is to become the number 1 place where aspiring entrepreneurs go to learn how to build and scale businesses.

Matt’s only 28 years old by the way. When he was 25 (my age) he had built 2 million dollar ecommerce businesses already, but he was in about 180 thousand dollars of debt and had no way of paying it back because his businesses weren’t profitable. Now look at him and what he has helped create in just the last 2 years. Matt is definitely a robot though when it comes to interpersonal communication. I think when you are so business oriented and you have to think and make decisions at such a high level every day, you can become devoid or detached from emotion. I find myself getting that way sometimes when I get super consumed with my business.

Last night was great though because we were all out at the bar and Matt had a few drinks into him. He loosened up and Matt, Alan, and I talked for probably about an hour and a half. It was funny because for the previous couple days Alan kept telling me he heard Matt was part of the brotherhood. By brotherhood, I mean the skull and bones Ivy League school type of thing. The secret society that the movers and shakers of the world are all a part of. Movies and the media have kind of sensationalized the whole skull and bones secret society thing, but it’s real and we talked about it over some beers.

Alan literally just called him out straight up on it. In the middle of our conversation Alan was like, I see you are here with so and so, what’s it like to be a part of the brotherhood? This is top secret kind of stuff and I have no clue how Alan was able to track some of the members down and know who they were. For a second Matt just looked at us with a bit of shock and then just started talking about what it was like to be a member. What he said made a lot of sense.

If you’re a local business owner, there’s a network group for you. Once you get into 6 figures, there’s another networking group you get into to associate with those like minded people at the same level as you. Same thing when you start doing a million a year. As you keep going up though it gets harder and harder to find and associate with the people that are on your same level.  That’s pretty much what it is. It is the premier society of the people that make the world move.

After talking to Matt, Jason comes over with Shane and says hey what’s up Mike how’s it going? I’m literally on a first name basis with these guys. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on my blog before, but Shane is actually Jason’s brother. I was in a mastermind with Shane for the past year and we did calls every Friday afternoon to share strategies with each other. We also partnered up on the ASM launch so I’m very close with Shane and now I’m connected with Jason. Shane is in a similar level up position right now because Jason brought him into his business and is funding Shane on a bunch of projects. A couple months ago, Shane was doing about 100K per month. Now his goal for this year is to do 1 Million per month by the end of the year. All of the sudden, Shane now has 8 brands in different niches and he’s taking his business international. He just started selling in Europe and he’s working on tapping into India and South America as well. Unfortunately we are not masterminding together anymore because he is in the next level of people now, but I consider him a true friend and he’s someone I can call whenever I want.

At the bar, Mikial also introduced me to the guys from VOX. In the US there are pretty much 5 companies that manufacture every type of supplement and consumable. All of the major brands all come from the same places and they keep all of the formulas secret for everyone. VOX is a very big deal. To put their business into context, earlier last year a ton of people rode the Garcinia Cambogia wave. Overnight, tons of people were doing in some cases 300 grand per day selling just Garcinia. VOX was the first of the supplement manufacturers to develop Garcinia 80% which at the time was the highest level out there of the active ingredient. So when you look at their business, they were selling to all the people that were doing 300K per day. I can’t even imagine how ridiculously wealthy they got feeding the wave.

After hanging with those guys for a little bit, I’m sitting at the bar talking to this guy Gabe who partnered with Anik Singal on the ASM Launch and they took 2nd place. I don’t know his specific cut of the money, but in total they did about 2 million bucks I think on the launch so he made a nice chunk. We’re sitting there talking and right behind him is Yanik Silver. In terms of movers and shakers in the world, Yanik is on the same level as Matt and Jason, Ryan Deiss, Perry Belcher, and Simon Black. Check out Yanik’s bio, it’s pretty ridiculous http://yaniksilver.com/who-is-this-yanik-silver-guy/

So I go to Gabe, watch this, and I make a joke and made fun of Yanik. I’ve never met him before, but it was a funny ass joke and he came over and we started talking with him. We all did our introductions and when he got to me he mentioned he thought we had already met before. Want to know why he thinks he already met me before?

Yanik runs a group called the Mavericks http://maverick1000.com/#!/ . They only accept a certain number of people in the group and you have to be a millionaire to get in. They coordinate exotic adventures all over the world and all the millionaires just go and do shit like climbing mountains or sky diving and then hang out and network together. It’s a couple grand per month to be a Maverick and it’s simply for the opportunity to do cool shit with other super successful people. Shane is joining the Mavericks now by the way.

Yanik also runs a similar camp to Simon Blacks for young entrepreneurs. I think he calls it MaverickX. I knew this going into our conversation and I also know my friend Jock Purtle that I met in Lithuania also went to the Maverick X camp last year. So I mentioned to Yanik and I asked him if he knew Jock. Of course he did, and then I dropped that yea I know Jock from Lithuania because I went to Simon’s camp.

Yanik and Simon as far as I know are the only 2 people around that do these young super successful entrepreneur camps so I knew they were friends. I’m also pretty sure Simon is a Maverick as well. So anyways, we talked about that stuff for a while and now I’m on Yanik’s radar. The reason I think he thought we already met is because Simon just released his video for this year’s camp in Lithuania. Guess who has a 20 second speaking role on that Video? Yours truly! Yanik had to of watched Simon’s launch video and already saw me before we met at the bar. All of my networks are starting to intersect and IT’S FUCKLING AWESOME!

Side note: How cool is it that I have known Shane and Jarod for the past year strictly through the internet and skype. Never met either of them in person until this week, yet we did the 130K plus launch together and have helped each other grow our businesses exponentially over the past year. I feel like most people couldn’t comprehend having internet relationships like that, but that’s what’s so cool about the technology we have available today. I did the same thing with Justin. Never met him in person until we knew each other and worked together for over a year.

Me - Shane - Jarod Me – Shane – Jarod

As for Aruba, it cost me 15 grand to go with those guys and mastermind for the 3 days. Before Lithuania if I was faced with that decision I would have said I couldn’t afford it. Guess what? I still can’t afford it, but I did it. I did it because I know the relationships from that trip will sky rocket my business even further than where I am now. I need to come up with another 10 grand by the end of this month so my credit card doesn’t get declined. It’s a scary position to be in and it’s risky, but Fuck It. I’ll come up with the money and I’m willing to go into some debt to get it. If I didn’t have all of the confirmation about what I’m doing in my business, then I would have had to miss out on the opportunity. But I do have that confirmation and I know I’m going to ramp up very very quickly as soon as I flip the switch when I get back.

I’ve built my business to be a multimillion dollar business even though our revenue isn’t there yet. So the way I look at it is that if I truly believe I’m going to do a million this year, then I’ll profit somewhere in the 300K range. That 15K is a drop in the bucket. Again, it’s not about the content, it’s about the relationships. I was very nervous when I committed to Aruba because I could easily put that 15K into inventory and advertising to grow my business. But that would be a short term view on things and that would be chasing money. Instead, I’m investing in my long term because I know it will work out for me.

Over the weekend I did a core values exercise with an executive coach. One of the things I learned about myself when I did my introspection was really my view points on money and risk. I’m where I am at today because I’m not attached to money and I’m willing to take significant calculated risks in order to get high pay offs in the long term. From working with Justin unpaid for a year to learn about entrepreneurship, to walking away from Ben’s equity offer in Canada, I’ve been making decisions not based on money, but based on gaining experience and working on myself and my skill sets.

I haven’t discussed it yet, but I’m going to be doing a TV infomercial for Cave Tools. That’s going to cost me 7 grand minimum and there is a high chance it could flop. If it doesn’t do well in the test market, then I essential paid 7 grand for a sales video. If it does well in the test market, then I crush my million dollar goal because I have the funnels already built to capitalize on the halo affect of that campaign. I’ll say it again, I don’t have the money in pocket right now for this stuff. But I’m thinking bigger and I’m putting myself in situations where I can make it work. I’ll get the money for it and I’ll turn it into a profit.

If the infomercial is a flop, then I got experience in that market and dealing with tv producers, etc. That’s worth it to me. To go to my original point, I’m not afraid to lose money and I’m willing to put myself out there and I think that’s really one of my core values that I want to stay true to.

With Shane out of the picture, Jarod and I have decided to continue moving forward with ASM Elite. ASM 5 is launching in April, so we are planning on doing another very large launch and this time splitting it 2 ways instead of 3.

I’m just thinking of it now, but we definitely need to have the conversation regarding ownership and funding of software tool development. That whole thing fell through with the 3 of us, but I think Jarod and I might pick that back up where we left off.

The first night of the event we hosted a dinner party for our members in ASM Elite. We went to a really nice Italian restaurant called Buddy Vs. Shane was there the night before and spent $900 just on himself between drinks and food. We weren’t planning on picking up the tab, but everyone kind of expected it so we decided to just split it 3 ways for a party of about 20 of us. The damage wasn’t as bad as I expected, but we figured if we could get at least 1 new signup in April out of it then it pays for itself.

Dinner was great because we got to meet all of the people under us. We are all pretty much their mentors now and they come to Jarod and myself with business questions all of the time. Some of these people are way more wealthy and experienced than I am in business, but I’m in the position of mentor because I know ecommerce inside and out now.

We actually have about 10 people from this weekend that bought the ASM course for $3,500 but didn’t come in under a group like ours. Just to have the ability to get mentored by Jarod and I, they are willing to pay us $1,500 a pop to join our group and have access to us. All of our members also have friends and family that they want to be able to join and get in when ASM 5 launches in April.

For each new signup, Jarod and I get to split a $1,500 commission. As soon as we get back, we are having our developer build in a sub affiliate link software to our membership site. So now we can make all 40 of our current members sub affiliates for us. That means when they promote our group to their friends and family, they will get a couple hundred dollar kick back.

It sounds like an MLM type of thing, which I would never ever do, but the reason it works is because we are actually and truly making our members rich as hell. These guys are going from regular jobs to making 10-20k per month in a few months based on the education provided in ASM and the mentorship we provide. They want to tell everyone they know about the course because it truly is life changing for them and we are in the perfect position to capitalize on the opportunity and make everyone else rich in the process. It’s awesome.

A couple of our members actually approached us this weekend and said they feel bad because they are taking up our time with questions and they want to pay us for our time. So now Jarod and I are going to roll out a monthly consulting retainer to our group so they can get a certain amount of access to us per month. It will probably be about $50 a month or something depending on how we structure it, but when you get 40+ people paying you that kind of money it becomes some serious passive income. Income we can use to develop more software and to build our own businesses.

We all met in a bad ass suite in the Venetian last night for beers and we were very open with them about it. It didn’t feel like we were selling to them at all because it’s what they want. We’re going to release a survey to the whole group so they can be brutally honest about what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong so far. That way we can continue to develop our membership and release information and software that they need to succeed.

We’re also looking forward because ASM 5 is the last time they will release the course in the US. After that they are going to be releasing a course on how to break into Europe. Jarod and I need to now set up business entities and get our businesses up and running internationally so when the time comes for the next launch we are still ahead of the game and can provide the value they need. I can barely keep up on inventory now in the US, but that just means I need to get more capital and use it to fund inventory for an international subsidiary.

Cave Tools in my opinion doesn’t even lend itself to a European market because bbq is such an American dominated lifestyle. In Europe they live in cities or in rural areas. They drink beer in the pubs versus Americans that have yards and like to drink beers outside and grill. If I’m going to do this successfully, I’m probably going to have to start a new brand all together and start researching and getting into the minds of my European customers.

All of this sounds great on paper, but the problem outside of capital is really bandwidth. I don’t have the time to do all of this stuff. That was one of the big questions I spoke to Ezra a lot about. All he does in his business is create ideas and then he has smart team members that do all of the work. I need to become that visionary in my company instead of the operations guy.

One of his biggest pieces of advice was about hiring smart help before you have the work for them because it forces you to utilize their help to the maximum so you get your money worth. I’m going through this with Dorothy now. She’s may be working 30 ish hours per week right now, and that is forcing me to delegate more and more work to her so I can get the value from her time.

Filipinos are great, but at the end of the day they are task based. I need a “Mind” to work with me on my team. Someone I can say hey we’re doing this project, now get it done. I know I’m not going to get the value out of this person and I may go red for the first couple months, but that is going to force me to delegate more and after the first couple months the business will be doing way better because I’m not stuck in the weeds anymore.

I was thinking about all of this before I came to Vegas and I’ve already got my first real hire figured out. Remember my unpaid internships at Penn State? The type of person that is willing to do an unpaid internship is exactly who I need. I don’t need a technical person, I need someone who is hungry like I was when I worked for Justin. Somebody that understands the tradeoff of building experience and deferring money in the beginning so you can focus on building your skills and experience. That person is Ryan and I’ve already talked to him regarding a possible job. I was on the fence about it before this week, but now I know I need to hire him no matter what.

The good thing about Ryan too is that he’s just coming out of college in May. I can hire him for cheap, somewhere in the 25-30K range per year and I will completely change his path in life. By living at home and working for me for a year, he will learn more about business than he ever imagined. The best part is that he knows it and he shares those values.

Can I afford him right now? No. But I can’t let that influence my decision. I need to think like a multi million dollar company and I need to act like one because it’s coming. If I can plug him in as a manager so Dorothy and Caecilia can report to him then I am golden because that frees me up to work on business growth for the majority of my time. If I can train him to make operating procedures on his own and teach him how to work with VAs then my business grows exponentially. I don’t give a shit about hard skills. I care about mindset and he has it and that’s why he’s going to succeed in my company.

This is going to be the most wild ride of my life. I have the entire map and the entire vision and the skills to make all of this work.

It’s getting late and I’ve been at this for quite a few hours writing. The last little story I’ll include on this post is pretty interesting.

Matt and Jason ran an Aruba mastermind back in October. I went out to the bar with a bunch of the people that went to it so I could pick their brains. I had talked to most of them with the exception of this one guy John. He had been kind of eyeing me up and giving me looks all night. He finally comes over and starts asking me about my business and we’re talking for a while. It’s mostly me sharing about myself so when I turn the conversation around to start to get to know him a little better, I ask his name.

He tells me his name is John and I introduce myself as Mike and he says yea I know. I actually know everything about you and your business already. I’m the owner of Grill Beast and we are direct competitors.

Now I’m like shit, I just told this guy so much stuff. But it turned out to be awesome. He had been trying to figure out how to approach me the whole time because in this situation most people would probably be very stand off ish because of the competition. But we were both cool with it and he told me how much he loved my brand and that they spoke about my company a lot in Aruba and he was kind of using me as a model. This guy came out of nowhere and started crushing me on my thermometer listing. I told him how I saw him fly up and it forced me to raise my game to compete with him.

We started then talking about our suppliers and cost of goods sold and all sorts of stuff. At the end of the day I don’t care if he knows about me and he doesn’t care if I know about him because processes are what drive business. We’re both not trying to dick each other over and the healthy competition forces us to raise our game.

It was really cool to actually get insight into his business. Especially after he literally knew everything about me and had been trying to reverse engineer all my shit for the past couple months haha

 

4th Quarter Madness – Michael O’Donnell

Posted on December 22nd, 2014 in Amazon, Banking, Business Development, Cave Tools, Coaching, Goal Setting, Management, Outsourcing, Sales, Shipping, Training | No Comments »

4th Quarter Madness – Michael O’Donnell

I just outlined the topics for this blog post and holy shit a lot has happened since my last post on November 2. Last year I didn’t get to fully experience what a Q4 was for ecommerce because I only had a grill brush and our grill set had just recently launched and had no traction whatsoever. The last month and a half has been absolutely crazy for the Cave Tools business and just for life in general.

The craziness is what I love about being an Entrepreneur though. Whenever you ask somebody “What’s New?” you normally get the standard response of “Same old, same old.” The fact is, when you have a regular job, you pretty much repeat the same things every day and nothing ever changes. I on the other hand don’t know where to start half the time because once I get talking, I could go on for hours. This blog post only covers the last month and a half, but it might be my longest blog post ever.

Books I’m Reading

Before getting into the meat of things, I want to talk about the books I have been reading. I really feel like the books I’m currently reading have a major impact on my thought processes and how that manifests into results for my business.

Recently, I finished the book Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman. This book was recommended to me by my good friend Clayton Bradshaw and his description was that the book was his “Bible” when it comes to advertising. I can honestly say this was one of the best marketing books I ever read. It reminded me a lot of Influence by Robert Cialdini, but thinner, more current, and much more direct.

This book has done wonders for me when it comes to writing ad copy and positioning my products and brand. Drew is from the Philadelphia area as well which is pretty cool because he references things in the book that I can relate to. He also used a local ad agency as one of his examples. I had the opportunity to meet the owner of this company last year when we brought him in to speak to the MDM group.

I knew right away that he was legit and I spent a ton of time talking to him and asking about his influencers. He was a big Glazer Kennedy (GKIC) guy back in the day and I could tell when I read through all of his materials. To see this guy used as an example in “The Bible” on advertising about a year later was really awesome.

Currently, I’m about 75% of the way through “Introducing NLP,” a book that was recommended to me by hypnotist and master internet marketing mentor from Sovereign Man in Lithuania, Cliff Mee. I rarely quit on a book once I get started on it. I like to power through even if it’s not a book I am enjoying. The first 30 or so pages of this book were very dry when they were discussing the Neuro side of Neuro Linguistic Programming. However, I powered through that part and the rest of the book has been fantastic. I’m loving the linguistics side of thing and how they break down true meanings behind words and how people say them.

I have no intentions of putting in the time and effort to become an NLP master right now, but the book has been incredibly insightful. From a psychology standpoint, it’s been a wonderful book.

The next book up on my list is Spin Selling by Neil Rackham. I learned a ton from J Massey in Lithuania and his system for sales was very impressive. This book apparently provides the core foundation on how he structures all of his sales calls so I’m really looking forward to it.

After Spin Selling, I have “The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels” written by Alex Epstein. He was a speaker I helped bring in from the Ayn Rand center back was I was up at Penn State. We really hit it off and I’ve done a below average job of keeping in touch with him since. We exchange emails maybe once per year. Anyways, he has been doing an excellent job building the Center for Industrial Progress and is really starting to make a name for himself so I’m looking forward to reading his book. I also have “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” and “Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language and Never Forget It” coming up in my queue. Very excited for both of these books as well.

Cave Tools Featured on The View?

Shortly after I posted my 3 month follow-up blog post on November 2, I received an email from an Advertising Agency that works with Television stations. Normally when I receive these types of emails they are spammed out, but they were claiming to be able to get me on some big name TV shows so I responded to see what was up. Before she could disclose any information to me, I had to sign an NDA.

I did a little research on the company and they looked legit. The NDA wasn’t crazy, just pretty much saying I can’t disclose who they were because they were a behind the scenes agency and they don’t want random people contacting them. They prefer to reach out to brands that they have already researched. I returned the signed NDA and then a couple days later we jumped on a phone call.

She didn’t really give me too much information at all. It was more of an on the spot interview about my company, our brand values, what separates us, how much inventory we hold in stock, etc. For not really knowing what to expect on the phone call, I thought I did a really good job. She loved the meat claws in particular, but because they only sell for around $12-13 she said she would want to bundle the claws with the digital thermometer and market them on TV shows geared towards women and moms.

Before she could discuss any further with me, I had to sign more documents. They sent me a blank IRS W9 form that I had to fill out and a 9 page contract with crazy regulations in it. I read through the entire contract a few times and wrote down all of my notes. I also sent the contract to my dad and asked him to do the same. Later that night we compared our notes so we could be absolutely certain of every term in the contract. Basically the contract amounted to if anything got messed up in any way, they would take my first born child haha

Some of the terms in the contract included:

  • They determine the price they sell my products for on the TV show (Basically would be doing a flash sale similar to QVC but on different networks).
  • They won’t pay me until after they have all my inventory and the flash sale is over
  • They can return products with no penalty or charges at my expense
  • I can’t display any logos or anything showing that Cave Tools appeared on certain TV shows (Basically they own all IP related to the promotion)
  • If there are any delays in shipping, I get charged 3% of the total purchase per day late (this was huge considering I needed to front everything and not get paid until the end). In addition, I would get charged a $10 per unit fee that was not delivered on time. When you’re talking 4,000 products, I consider that taking my first born child and destroying my company
  • I needed to up my business liability insurance from $1 million to $2 million dollars. This sounds like a lot, but it would only have cost me about another $200 to up the insurance.
  • When we shipped them the products there were lots of specifications as to what needed to be shown on the outside of each carton. Missing 1 single element would result in multiple other penalties. FBA warehouses would not be able to do this for me, so I would need to place a certain amount of inventory in a storage facility and have them custom prepare my products for shipment to the Warehouses of this Ad Agency.

After reading through all the regulations and with the understanding they would be purchasing 2,000 units of thermometers and 2,000 units of meat claws, we decided we would do it. My only concern was that I wasn’t going to have enough inventory on the back end to support all of the extra promotion and sales.

I returned the signed documents and was asked to provide my Best Price that I would sell to them for. With wholesale, I normally sell at around a 30% ish profit margin. However, with all of the additional risk associated with this contract, I discussed with my dad and we decided to give them pricing that would secure me a 50% profit margin on the sale.

I was worried that my pricing would be too high for them because their model really is to do a flash sale at deeply discounted prices. It also said multiple times throughout the contract that this is not something we should be expecting to make a lot of money on and that it was more of a chance to get mass exposure for the brand. I gave them the pricing anyways and figured that if they rejected we could always negotiate and see where things went from there.

She got back to me and said that my pricing was a little high, but they could still feature me on The View! The only problem I saw with it was that I literally had about 10 business days to get all of the inventory prepared and shipped to their warehouses.

At the time (and still currently) the longshoreman union in Los Angeles was kicking up a lot of shit because they knew it was the holiday season and they had leverage. Even though the average salary is somewhere in the 150-200K range per man, they wanted more money and were randomly stopping work and congesting up the ports to cause a big stink. I had a shipment of Meat Claws that waited at the port for over 12 days before they even unloaded the carton. I also had a shipment of thermometers on the way which should have been in on time, but as of the time I’m writing this now Dec 14, it still has not been unloaded at the port. The ports were also adding an extra $1,000 fee on top of all containers to account for the congestion.

This extra fee by the way was illegal, but they were trying to force it through anyways the bastards! Eventually the lawyers settled the extra fee dispute and they weren’t able to charge the extra fee on containers that had already been waiting at the port. I did however have to spend an extra $450 out of budget as a proportional fee on my thermometers container.

In the end, I had to back away from the opportunity. I asked if we could follow up and do the promotion in February for a Valentine’s Day style promotion, but have not yet heard back. I’ll follow up again with her in January so I have plenty of time to prepare this time around.

I still think the opportunity will be available and I’m happy I didn’t chase the money/exposure because I never would have been able to handle it. We’ll talk about that later on in the post.

Boston Coaching Gig Falls Apart

In November I talked about an opportunity I had to become an ecommerce coach with a wholesale company based up in Boston. At the point, I knew that something had to give because I was going to be taking on more work than I could handle. The payment they were offering me was only $40 per phone call, but the upside was that I’d have the opportunity to do 3 events before the end of the year and make about $2,000 per event.

Shortly after hiring me, Chris went on his honeymoon and was out of the picture. While he was gone, his brother Alex was running the operations of the company. My $40 per half hour phone call really turned out to be per 1 hour phone call. They also had absolutely no structure and I was pretty much learning on the fly.  The students they brought into the program were all very suspicious of the company as well and thought the whole thing was a scam. It wasn’t a scam, but they were just growing too quickly to keep everything running smoothly.

I started out doing the coaching calls and was also putting in a lot of extra effort problem solving and doing non coaching call types of things. Then when it came time to do the first event, I spoke to Adam about my flight and he told me they were trying to cut costs so they wouldn’t be bringing me to the event. I explained how that was a condition of my hire, but he really didn’t give a shit and said Chris wasn’t here so he was making the decision.

Alex also got me on an hour phone call and was trying to get me to show him my entire business model and advertising funnels so he could copy it and create a course on my business model that he could sell to his students. He wanted me to pretty much do all of this for free and was pissed off when I told him I wasn’t going to just turn over my entire business for $40 per hour in coaching calls.

The writing was on the wall for me, so after about 1.5 weeks I told him I wasn’t going to work with them anymore. It’s taken me until yesterday to actually get paid for the coaching calls I did. I’m still getting emails from their students now who they took over $10,000 in fees from and haven’t delivered on any of their promises. When I spoke to Justin about it he agreed with me that it was ridiculous and said he thinks they are the kind of guys that bill first and worry about delivering later. Definitely not stand up guys or the type of people I would have any interest in working for.

I guess I’ll chalk this one up to a learning experience. My biggest motivation for doing the coaching was so I could learn the wholesaling business model. I didn’t even get that out of it. I downloaded all of their material before I quit and when I went through it, it was all pretty much bullshit. Their whole company is really built just on a fantastic sales pitch, but there is no substance behind it when it comes time to teaching what they preach. I feel horrible for all of the suckers they get to sign up for their programs.

Developing Marketing Automation Tools and Partnership

Not a ton to report on the development of our Ecommerce Marketing automation tools. We have all been very busy, but Jarod has been managing our Indian programmer and we have so far completed  2 of the tools. A couple more are on the way still and the website itself is starting to look pretty nice.

I created our product listing blueprint and the product launch guide based on all of the strategies Shane, Jarod, and myself use on a regular basis. They came out really nice and we have added those guides and all of our webinar recordings to the website for our students.

We started talking the other day about how January is the time when we will need to finally turn this thing into a legal business structure and give it a name. Right now everything is on a handshake basis so we definitely need to protect ourselves. There’s also a little bit of tension going on between Shane and Jarod because Jarod and myself have been doing more of the work, Jarod especially. I’m hoping it all blows over because even though Shane isn’t a major asset when it comes to marketing and operations side of things, he has all of the personal connections and relationships we need to get our product into the hands of mass customers with little effort.

I think a lot of the tension also has to do with the fact that Shane and I are making a killing over the Christmas holiday with our Amazon businesses and Jarod’s is lagging behind. In the end, I think it just has to do with the seasonality of our products, but anytime you see your partners making 4 times as much as you, there is going to be the fear of missing out.

Shane’s brother Jason, the founder of ASM, is also in the market to purchase tools from people. Lately it seems like all of the successful people in ASM are creating their own tools. It’s a race to the finish line for who can create the best tools and take them to market the fastest because there is the opportunity of a buy out on the table. It would be really cool if we could get this entire business set up and then cash out only 3 months later. That is actually very likely right now!

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Explosion – Tis the Season for Cave Tools

It seems like every time I get some success and start to get ahead of the game I get a bunch of shit dropped on my lap. I think it was the great Sir Isaac Newton who said for every force there is an equal and opposite force. This time around the negative force wasn’t anywhere near equal to the amount of success we had, but we definitely have a lot of shit to deal with as a result of our holiday success. For now though, let’s focus on the positives.

This year I wanted to do things big for the holidays. In September and October I did a lot of research and built a list of big time product review and mommy bloggers that I wanted to review my products. Some of these websites get around 30,000 views a month on regular months of the year and way more during the holidays.

Out of my list of about 50, only about 20 got back to me and said they would do reviews for me. I shipped out free products to every one of them and also requested to be listed in their Holiday Shopping Guides that they put out for their readers every year. One of the ladies got back to me and said she landed a big time advertising spot for free for her blog and wasn’t going to charge me at all. She loved my Meat Claws so she featured the post at the top of her blog. Throughout the entire holidays, her blog was featured as a banner wrap on double decker buses throughout San Diego and Los Angeles and I was the first thing people saw when they went to her website!

From an inventory standpoint, I started preparing back in August and I pretty much doubled all of my inventory for each product. When I ran my projections, I was expecting probably about a 50-80% boost in sales so doubling up would have left me with plenty of extra after the holidays were over. The worst thing I could possibly do was stock out during the biggest shopping month of the year!

Looking back, I probably should have 7 X’d my inventory because sales went absolutely crazy for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and I didn’t even discount my products. After those two days I started scrambling to get more inventory on planes as soon as possible because I knew I was going to stock out at Christmas.

At around the same time, the Port Unions started kicking up a lot of stink in Oakland because they wanted to be paid more. Those guys all make around 180K per year plus benefits, but they knew everybody was trying to get shipments in for the holidays so they had leverage.

They all pretty much just stopped working and allowed the ports to get extremely backlogged. One of my Meat Claw shipments sat on the boat for 2 weeks before they even took the container off and processed the inventory. After they finally processed my boxes, they needed to be shipped to my warehouse in California and then shipped out again to go on to Amazon warehouses, so this delay was major.

The Ports then (illegally) tried to impose a congestion fee of $1,000 on every container because of the backlog. Lawyers got involved and ultimately they weren’t able to charge me for my meat claws because they had already been sitting there waiting before the fee was announced. My thermometer shipment however did get knocked and I ended up paying an extra $450 because of the damn unions.

The thermometer shipment left China in October and as of today (12/21) they still haven’t reached my warehouse in California. That shipment in itself has been an absolute nightmare. Normally I ship the thermometers by air. You need extra documentation and testing that costs about $5,000 per shipment for the batteries to be approved for air shipping. What I do is allow my manufacturer to coordinate the shipment because they send them to Hong Kong first and then to the US and get around this ridiculous fee. What I didn’t know was that I can ship them via ocean with no problem and use my own guys. So my manufacturer coordinated the ocean shipment and about 2 days before they left port I realized they only did the shipment, not delivery to my warehouse or customs clearance or anything else.

Basically the thermometers were just going to be dropped off in Oakland and nobody would know what to do with them. I started scrambling to get the back end shipping figured out and my manufacturer said to simplify things they would just let me use their freight forwarder. So now I’m dealing with a Chinese freight forwarder (Dolphin Logistics) and signing power of attorney and other documents for a company I know nothing about. Dolphin was making me incredibly nervous because they were so unorganized and they kept asking me dumb questions like is my warehouse on a military base? They were probably just checking off boxes on the forms and making sure, but come on!

Instead of paying the Chinese freight forwarder, my manufacturer paid them directly and then refunded me the excess money I sent them (about $1,200). The freight forwarder won’t give me an invoice for this shipment because obviously the manufacturer took their own spread on the deal, but I’m just happy they were able to figure it out for me.

So all of this shit is going on and at the same time the holidays are here and people are buying like crazy. At one point, I was selling over 100 Meat Claws per day! (UPDATE: 12/29/14 reviewing sales reports. Before stocking out I had 3 days in a row of 300+ Meat Claw sales) To offset the demand I was increasing my prices like crazy. My grill set normally sells for around $29 and at one point I had it up over $40 and they were still flying off the shelves. I literally stocked out of everything except my grill brushes and now I won’t be back in stock for at least a couple more weeks.

Sales were skyrocketing overnight. I went from my best ever of around $1,500 in one day to stringing along multiple 6-$7,000 days in a row!

 

November 22 2014

November 22 2014

November 28 2014

November 28 2014

December 2 2014 - 50K

December 2 2014 – 50K

December 9 2014 - 80K

December 9 2014 – 80K

December 11 2014 - 85K

December 11 2014 – 85K

Up until this point I have been completely self funded so there is no way I would have been able to prepare for the holidays the way I actually needed to. Next year I’ll have a line of credit from the bank so I should be in really good shape.  I think I could have probably done a good quarter million dollars in a month if I was fully stocked up. And that’s with only 4 product lines! Next year I’m going to be super aggressive with my bank funding so I’m hoping to have at least 8-10 by that point. For the record…I also received my ASM Affiliate check this month and had Hyacinth Marketing revenue of a couple grand. Can you say first 6 figure month? Boom Baby!

Of course, with every two step forwards I take, I take one big step backwards. We had a customer service nightmare on our hands I ended up over selling the Meat Claws by over 1,000 orders before we realized what was happening and could shut down the listing. We had to cancel all of the orders on Dec 18 and then inform everyone they weren’t getting their products by Christmas time and they weren’t getting them until Jan or Feb now either.

This whole issue was actually Amazon’s fault and they accepted responsibility for it. But at the end of the day, we took the brunt of the hit and people were justifiably extremely pissed off. I had to sit and write a letter to send to everyone explaining the situation. In the span of about 3 days, Caecilia and I probably fielded over 4,000 emails. Just day and night doing email all day long. It was brutal, but the letter helped soften the blow and I don’t think we are going to get a ton of negative press and feedback online as a result. Amazon is set up so you can’t bulk email customers, but Caecilia found an intricate work around to do it so we were at least able to bulk email the letters. She gets paid hourly, so I gave her a bonus of 10 hours worth of money because of the amount of time she saved us!

Sometimes shit just happens that’s out of your control. Here is what I wrote:

Dear Customer,

I’m writing this letter to express how deeply sorry I am that you will not be receiving your Meat Claws order.

Over the past two weeks, both Caecilia and I have been reaching out to provide updates on the delayed shipping situation. We gave you our word that no matter what, we would get your order to you before Christmas.

Today is now December 18th and unfortunately we are spending our day cancelling/refunding orders instead of shipping them out. This is not a situation we are taking lightly. We pride ourselves on going above and beyond with our customer service and always providing fast shipping for our customers. Today we let you down.

For some of you, this letter will seem unnecessary. For many of you, this letter won’t be enough.

I understand that many of you are angry and if I was in your situation I would be to. I’m not writing this letter to point the finger at Amazon or attempt to justify the actions that were taken. There are always 2 sides to every story.

At Cave Tools, we believe in full transparency. For those of you interested in an explanation, I have laid out all of the facts on page 2 of this letter.

They say that somewhere between 20 and 80 percent of customers will do business with a company once and never again. We sincerely hope that you will give us another chance to earn your business in the future.

Next time you shop for Cave Tools on Amazon, use coupon code QQZJQ3VZ at checkout for a 30% off discount. This coupon code will apply to our Grill Brush, BBQ Tools Set, Meat Claws, Digital Thermometer, and our Meat Tenderizing Hammer (available in February).

Caecilia and I will be working around the clock to make sure we answer any and all questions you may have. You can direct your inquiries to orders@mycavetools.com  and we will do our best to answer as soon as possible.

For the next week, I have redirected our customer service phone line to go directly to my cell phone. If you call (267) 282-1009 you can speak with me personally.

 

Sincerely,

Michael “Medium Rare” O’Donnell

Signature for Story

Cave Tools – Owner

How Fulfillment by Amazon Works: Cave Tools (the seller) sends inventory to Amazon warehouses. The warehouses receive the inventory and typically within 48 hours that inventory is available for shipping out to customers. When an order is placed on Amazon, a message is automatically sent to the warehouse and order is shipped to the customer immediately.

Timeline:

  • November 24: We stocked out of Meat Claws
  • November 26: New Meat Claw inventory shipped to Amazon Warehouse. We set the restock date on Amazon to December 8th and started accepting pre-orders with the understanding that all orders would be shipped no later than the 8th
  • December 1: Meat Claws received at Amazon warehouse and expected to be processed within 48 hours. Even with holiday delays, we have plenty of time because we set our ship date to December 8
  • December 3: We receive notification from Amazon that 100 units have been lost. We shipped the Meat Claws in boxes of 40 each, which means they would have had to lose 2.5 boxes. Investigation ensues. There is still plenty of inventory to satisfy our commitments even if they can’t recover the lost units.
  • December 6 – 8: Inventory still showing in “Receiving” status. Phone calls to support every day notifying them of December 8 shipping commitments. We are told that our inventory is being expedited and that it will appear by “The end of the day today”.
  • December 9 – 12: Phone calls every day explaining that we are now late on our orders. Amazon assures us they are accepting responsibility and explains that for some unknown reason their computer system decided to ship all of the inventory to another warehouse across the country.
  • December 13: Amazon support notifies us that our inventory is now expected to be available on December 17 and we will be able to make delivery in time for Christmas
  • December 14-16: Phone calls to support checking on status. No new information
  • December 17: Inventory still showing as 0 units. Support launches another investigation. At 7:30pm we are notified that our new inventory, which was supposed to be reserved for customers like yourself, was actually sold and that is why inventory is showing as 0. Amazon accepts responsibility for the error and support does not know why we were previously told that our inventory would be available by December 17.

 

The news we received yesterday came as a complete shock. How could we possibly have sold the inventory without knowing about it? Why were we continually told that our inventory would be available to ship to customers before Christmas?

 

 

 

There are many unanswered questions right now and we are still reviewing all of the information with Amazon to see how we can get to the bottom of this. More importantly, how we can avoid something like this happening again to us and other Amazon Sellers in the future.

While I don’t want to speculate about why we were told certain things about expected delivery dates, I can offer my best explanation as to how I think the inventory was sold without our knowledge.

When inventory is received and processed at Amazon warehouses, we are normally notified that the entire shipment is now available for shipping. For example, if we sent 100 units, after they were processed, 100 units would show as available inventory on our dashboard.

According to my conversations with Amazon Support, this didn’t happen. Instead, small spurts of Meat Claws became available at a time. Using the above example of 100 units, this means that throughout the day 10 units would become available, then 5, then 7, etc.

Before our Seller’s dashboard could update the inventory numbers, those incremental units were being sold already. As far as we knew, Amazon support had been telling us that it would all be received on December 17 and our inventory stayed at 0 on the dashboard.

The next logical question would be how did we not notice the additional sales revenue coming in since these units were in fact being sold? Even though the inventory stayed at 0, our Seller’s dashboard would still be reporting the additional income.

Amazon shows us total sales on a day to day basis. However, this sales number is a top level number that includes all of our product lines together. The specific data, such as how many Meat Claw sales were sold on a given day typically lags behind a good 2-3 days.

Since the Meat Claw sales were coming in incrementally and both us and every Amazon support person we spoke with was under the impression that our inventory was still being transferred from one warehouse to another, we were unable to determine what happened until yesterday.

To Amazon’s credit, their support staff spent a good 3 hours yesterday sorting through all of the information before they could come to this conclusion and let us know what happened.

 

As mentioned previously, we are not trying to point fingers or justify the events that happened. We truly believe that at every step of the way both Cave Tools and Amazon took actions and communicated with customers using the best knowledge that was available at the time.

We are sincerely sorry that you did not receive your order and we hope that the above explanation provides some clarity as to why.

We are continuing to review all of these events in detail to see how we can learn and grow as a company. You are a valued customer and we will do our best to earn back your trust.

Trouble in Wire City

At the same time all of this was going on, I was having some serious wire transfer issues.

Chinese New Year is coming up soon and the entire country pretty much shuts down for a full month. Nobody works or does anything. The problem with this is that if you want to stock up for summer time, you need to place your orders before the holiday and hopefully ship out as soon as they get back to work so you can be ready in time.

After what happened to me last summer with my grill brush stock out, I wanted to load up like crazy. For my first time ever, I’m actually filling an entire ocean container with Cave Tools products. It will be a split between 3,000 grill sets and 3,500 grill brushes. So I spoke with Tracy and just like normal I sent my 30% deposit so we could start manufacturing. About 15 hours later Tracy Skype’s me and she’s upset.

She forgot to tell me that they changed their banking information since my last wire and they couldn’t receive the money I sent them, about $5,000 worth. Not only that, but the company name changed, the bank changed, and the account numbers all changed. Can you imagine the look on my banker’s face when I went down to work out the recall?

I’m not sure how true this is, but this is my understanding of the way it works over in China. Non Chinese people are not allowed to own manufacturing facilities. So they get a Chinese guy to own the place and then a bunch of foreign corporations own various percentages of his company. Throughout the year, they change the banking and business names around so they effectively distribute their income to the various accounts of the actually businesses that own the manufacturing facilities. This is obviously very shady and probably not legal from a tax standpoint in China, but that’s on them. I’m just a paying customer 🙂

The recall took about 7 business days and somewhere along the line intermediary banks took about $150 out in fees. I got my money back and then re-wired the full 100% to Tracy and everything worked out. They even started manufacturing before they received the money so I wouldn’t get hit with any delays. It was an honest mistake and Tracy helps me out so much throughout the year anyways so I wasn’t angry with her. I let her save face and we moved on.

While this wire was under investigation, I had another wire I sent for an order of Meat Claws that my manufacturer claimed they never received. The money had left my account already and we double checked that all the banking info was correct. What the fuck!

So now we started a 2nd wire investigation to see what happened and determine if the Chinese bank was trying to screw me. Meanwhile, my manufacturer was storing my products in their warehouse and wouldn’t release for shipping until the balance was paid. They ended up storing my products for almost a month before they finally said I needed to pay and get rid of them because they didn’t have room to store them. Now I had to float another $4,000ish so we could move forward with shipping before I received my original money back.

The Chinese bank kept telling my manufacturer and me that we needed to produce what’s called the swift 103 bank copy. I drove down to my bank 2 days in a row asking for the documentation, but the banker I was working with had no clue what it was. She called the wire department a few times, but wasn’t asking the right questions and I was getting pissed off and arguing with her. Basically as soon as she heard the first no she just told me nobody knew what the swift 103 was. Even though this is a universal bank form for wires.

I was being really short with her so finally she just gave me the phone number to the wire department and said call yourself because nobody knows what you are talking about. I was on the phone with them for less than 7 minutes and I was able to get to a manager that knew what they were talking about and they sent the 103 swift to the Chinese bank.

After the investigation was complete, they said the reason the bank didn’t accept the money was because on the beneficiary company’s name we left out the Co, LTD. at the end. What a fucking joke! Of course the intermediaries took out some fees again along the way, but in the end I got most of my money back and the Claws are on the way now.

New Website Finally Launches

About 5 months ago I purchased cavetools.com so I could eventually move away from mycavetools.com. When it comes to web development, I have worked almost exclusively with WordPress throughout my career. WordPress is great, but the platform itself is meant for informational websites, not ecommerce.

I had a pretty damn good ecommerce set up on WordPress, but it was buggy and often times I was getting calls from customers because they couldn’t place orders. I get around 3,000 visitors per month to my website, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t converting into the sales numbers I would expect. I was literally only doing a couple orders per month using that website even with all of that organic traffic.

For my new website, I wanted to use an ecommerce platform that would convert my visitors into buying customers. I did my research and chose Shopify as the platform I was going to go with. I then went through a bunch of ecommerce training materials and started analyzing big ecommerce websites like Amazon and Zappos to see what kind of marketing features I wanted to pull in to my website so I could maximize conversions.

I then took my whiteboard and drew up the website design and wrote up a word document explaining all of the features on the site.

Home Page

Product Page Design

I then contacted my shopify development programmer in India, Nalini. We discussed all of the features and the intricacies of the design. From a coding standpoint it wasn’t going to be easy to do what I wanted to do. I understood that, but I also wasn’t happy with the development time and final price she gave me.

So I started contacting Shopify development agencies in the U.S. to get a comparable rate and see what they could do. In the end, I found an agency up in New York that’s run by 2 brothers that used to be big time ecommerce guys back in the day before starting their agency. It was only going to cost me about $500 more than using Nalini and I would be able to call them and speak with them since they were in New York. Part of me was also interested in how they handled the entire web dev process since I do a lot of that stuff in my marketing agency.

I got a quote from them and also documented all of our conversations so I could use similar processes on future websites we build in Hyacinth Marketing. He also gave me a 2 week turnaround time which was great.

In the end, the website turned out fantastic and I couldn’t be happier with it. In the last 7 days we’ve already done over $1,000 in sales and I have inquiries for 4 rotisserie grills. They were the toughest thing to sell on my old site and now people want to buy them all the time from me. Here’s a screen shot of the new site:

website home page

The day after we launched the site (Dec 9) I had an awesome idea. I wanted to see if my graphics guy Ibrahim could photoshop in my tongs on a kickass banner image I found. So I brought out my product light box and took like 30 pictures of the tongs at all sorts of angles and sent it over to him. It only took him about an hour’s worth of work, but he did a fantastic job. Far exceeded my expectations on what the result was going to be. I gave him a 3 hour bonus payment on top because I was so happy.

Before After

The new website has all sorts of really cool features such has product zoom when people hover over an image (same as Amazon) and 2-step opt in processes all over the place for lead gen. Instead of normal email capturing like you see for our VIP member’s area In the footer, I have buttons all over the place to give away the free recipe book. When people click on the button, they think they are getting it for free so they mentally commit to it. After they click the button a pop up appears and asks them for their email.

Since they already mentally committed to it, they are way more likely to give their email address. The system I’m using also pre populates their email address in the field if they’ve been cookied on other websites before that also use this system. The result is that they mentally commit and then their email is already typed in so they only have to accept and they get it. Really awesome technology!

I also created semi-automated funnels for retailers who want to carry our products and bloggers that want to do reviews. In the past we did everything on a person by person basis, but now I’m able to build email lists of each type of person. In the future I’ll be able to contact them all at once and provide consistent messaging. I can see us running liquidation deals and things like that for wholesalers when we want to move a lot of inventory at once.

I already received a call from Cigars International because they want to carry our products on their website. Normally wholesalers order like 5-10 units at a time, but they want to purchase an initial order of 500 meat claws. Only problem is I don’t have any left in stock after Christmas, so we’ll follow up in January with them.

On all of our packaging we advertise free recipe book with the purchase. When you offer it for free with the purchase, people get pissed if you then ask them for their email address because technically it’s not free now. So what we do is we insert a business card into every package telling them where on the website they can go to download the book and people don’t have to give their email address.

This insert strategy is great because I can sell products anywhere, including in retail stores, and people still have to come back to our website. On that bonus page, I wanted to devise a special offer that I could give people so I could capture their information. The problem with Amazon is I don’t get people’s email addresses so I can’t build my own customer list. The list is a major asset for the company so I created what’s called a self liquidating offer.

A self liquidating offer is simply an offer that you break even on, but still acquire a customer. I wanted to find something valuable I could give away for extremely cheap that would help me acquire customers and be enticing enough for people to buy.

The two big things people in my industry are always looking for are internal meat temperatures and wood smoking flavors/temps. So I found a guide for each online and told Ibrahim to recreate them exactly but with my branding on it. Then I just went in and changed the suggestions and wording around so we weren’t stealing anything and nobody was going to try and sue for copyright infringement.

I then had both guides turned into magnets. The internal meat temperature guide is for the refrigerator and the meat smoking guide is an outdoor magnet for the grill. The beauty of this all is I’m acquiring customers for break even AND I’m getting branding in their households. Every time they have a party or people over, they see Cave Tools front and center. Brilliant!

I actually thought up this strategy randomly about 6 months ago as I was driving into Philly for a lacrosse game. I was so excited and knew I was going to forget it so I made an audio recording on my phone and just talked for 30 minutes straight about all the details so I had it down. I also spoke with Justin about it and he helped me finalize my strategy. I think originally I was going to give the magnets away for free, but he mentioned that would kill me from a cash flow standpoint and that I’d much rather break even instead of taking a loss.

Just like everything else I do in my business, the magnets had to be scalable. I wasn’t going to be manually shipping all of these things out to each customer. That would take forever! I did a little bit of searching and found a local mailing fulfillment center that could print and ship all of the magnets for me. To keep the costs down on the offer, we only ship them once at the end of the month and use USPS.

I just got all of this together and finalized 2 days ago. Just in time for everyone to open their Christmas presents and go download their recipe books. I also shot a video of me personally thanking every customer for their purchase and put that on the bonus page and also ask for people to leave a review right there on the spot.

This is perfect because we are getting them right when they are the happiest and just opened their product. We are giving them a free recipe book and some other really valuable and cool offers. They can’t possibly be unhappy because we have given them what I like to call a Customer Experience.

bonus

Corporate Structuring and Taxes

We’re coming up on the end of the year. While it’s great that we made a huge chunk of cash here at the end of the year, I need to watch out for the tax man. Since I started Hyacinth Marketing in 2012, I’ve been using my Dad’s accountant Bobby Trauffer for all of my stuff. Bob is good, but at the end of the day I have no relationship with him and he has messed up a couple times on me before.

Over the past 2 years I have been a part of a local business group in Doylestown and had the opportunity to meet and become very close with an awesome accountant. So starting January 1, I’m going to be moving everything over to Doug. I’m also hoping he can help me out with tax planning next year because this year I am screwed.

I decided to reinvest almost all of the money into new inventory and product lines. If I could do this much money with 4 product lines, imagine how much I could do when I add more. So In the past month I’ve spent probably about $60,000 ish between inventory, fulfillment, new product samples, paying off my loan to my dad, etc. Then I come to find out that when you reinvest money in inventory, it doesn’t count as an expense on the books. What that means is that even though I no longer have that money and I did the right thing and invested in my company, it will all be taxed as a profit to the business.

I haven’t gone through everything to prepare for taxes yet, but I’m not looking forward to it. I have a feeling Uncle Sam is going to put me through the ringer.

Currently Hyacinth Marketing is an LLC and is the only business I have. Cave Tools is just a brand name that Hyacinth Marketing owns. Eventually down the road I’d like to sell Cave Tools so I need to have separate books and corporate structures for each company.

I met with my attorney Ron last week and starting January 1, we are going to do a downstream merger and asset purchase. Basically that’s a legal way of saying I’m starting another company and it’s going to buy all the Cave Tools stuff off Hyacinth for free.

We’re also going to change Hyacinth Marketing into an S-Corp so I can pay as little as possible in taxes. The new company is also going to be an S-Corp as well. The way I understand it is that as the owner of an S-Corp I have to pay myself a “Reasonable” salary. Reasonable is not defined by the IRS, but if we made 100K I would probably have to pay myself 50 or something like that to pass through without any flags. That first 50 would be taxable, but then I could do a shareholder distribution for the other 50K and that wouldn’t be taxed. I like the sound of that 🙂

The new company is going to need a name and I don’t want to call it Cave Tools. The reason for that is because people can do an importer record lookup and figure out exactly where I source my products if the name was Cave Tools. Nobody is ever going to know the name of the company because Cave Tools will be the DBA name, so I’ve decided to have fun with it. We’re going to call the new company Medium Rare Industries!

One of the other really cool things with having 2 companies now is that I can bill Cave Tools from Hyacinth Marketing. Basically throughout the year I can allocate expenses to certain books and that way I can keep them both under certain tax brackets.

We’re also going to be adding a 3rd company in there for the partnership with Shane and Jarod, so Doug is definitely going to have his hands full with me for accounting.

Hiring a Full Time Marketing Employee

Remember Karen? The full time marketing girl I hired and was really excited about? Well she strung me along for about a month with excuse after excuse and I finally had to fire her. I tried giving her the benefit of the doubt so many times, but at the end of the day she really set me back.

So now we have Dorothy on board and she is doing awesome so far! She costs more money, but she also has way more experience and she can think for herself on a lot of things which is good. She’s a single mother of two and I have her working my hours, which is her night shift. Hopefully once she is fully trained we can work out a better arrangement for her so she can work regular hours and still have enough communication with me.

Right now I have her trained on Blogging, Press Release writing and Social Media. This week we will be adding in Video Marketing and then some other specific marketing strategies. My plan is to just keep teaching her stuff until I can fill a full 40 work week for her of just straight marketing. After that, I’ll hire another person and cross train them. With all the different strategies I have in my head from over the years, I think I could easily have 2 people working 40 hours a week just on marketing Cave Tools.

The thing I love the most about having Dorothy on board is that it is forcing me to create operating procedures for every aspect of the business. I read and learn so many strategies every year that I never have a chance to implement. When I train Dorothy, I create a detailed word document explaining all of the instructions. Then I shoot a video of me following the instructions to a T and demonstrating the strategy.

I probably have about 20 operating procedures right now. My goal is to build out operating procedures for everything in marketing and then start doing operating procedures for operational tasks as well. This is exactly what I did for Caecilia too. She has a 15 page Customer Service Representative manual with instructions and videos on how to do everything she ever needs to do.

When I’m done, I’ll pretty much just have like a monster book on how to run my company. I’ve talked before about my online resource training center I set up called Hyacinth Connect. Each employee gets their own area they have access to and then inside the area is all of their training materials. Instead of just giving them pdf operating procedures, I added in a wiki so everything is editable.

Whenever the wiki is edited I actually get an email about the updates. So at this point I know for a fact they haven’t been using it the way I want them to. But my goal is to start to train them to update operating procedures and add new operating procedures on their own when they discover new ways of doing things. I’ll work more on this aspect once Dorothy is fully trained and can manage her own work week. Since I get email notifications when the wiki is updated, I plan to start giving small bonuses to incentivize the behavior.

Considering Credit Cards

Up until now, I always just used my bank credit card for the business. However, my dad suggested I start getting airline credit cards and rewards cards. I spend a lot of money every year for business expenses, so I might as well start getting free flights from it all!

Looking into the various cards now, but hoping to rack up some serious points in 2015

Mentoring Matt Greenwood

I met my friend Matt Greenwood while I was in Lithuania. At the time he was developing an app and running a nightlife company in Madrid. The company was still pretty young, but it seemed like they were on the right track.

We were speaking the other day on Skype and Matt told me about how his company went under and he moved back home and had to get a job. Shitty situation, but something almost every entrepreneur has to face. I’ve been speaking with Matt pretty regularly now and helping to mentor and coach him along.

He has a job now, but he’s working on a couple different ventures on the side. I’m teaching him a good bit about outsourcing and really just being there for advice when he needs it. It feels great to be able to give back to people in the Lithuania group.

Meeting up with Tim Murdoch

Tim Murdoch (Head Coach for Montreal Lacrosse Team) was in town the other day and I got to meet up with him and grab a couple beers. His son Max had a lacrosse tournament in Feasterville, which is only about 20 minutes away from me. Unfortunately 2 teams canceled last minute, so the tournament was over after only a couple games. A lot of the parents were pissed off because they traveled from 9 different states to get there and their kids only played 2 games.

We dropped Max off at the hotel and went out for a two hours to catch up on life, business, and lacrosse. I don’t know how much I’ve talked about Tim on here in the past, but he’s a beast when it comes to business. He makes a very good living doing consulting for large companies. He only has about 5 clients and tries to work a maximum of a couple hours per day. The rest of his time he uses to coach lacrosse and enjoy life.

It was about a year ago he told me how he knew the founder of this new company and the guy was giving him an equity stake in it. The company pretty much hired Oxford Linguistics experts and developed an algorithm that aggregates public tweets and based on public sentiment they can very accurately predict what will happen with certain stock prices.

Tim went to Princeton and Harvard and sits on the US and Canada businesses board, so he knows everybody. I pretty much just look at him like The Great Connector. He was telling me how in after only a year already, the company is growing like mad. They expect it to be worth around 600 Million in about 2-3 years. Pretty much everybody in the financial sector is trying to license their software from them. They launched  with Bloomberg as their big whale and now they are almost at the point where they could fully stand on their own without Bloomberg just because everybody wants in now.

This was about 2 weeks ago so my raw facts might be a little off, but out of say 14 of the big wall street investors in the company, Tim has introduced the founder to 6 or 7 of them.

It’s always great speaking with Tim because he gives some outside advice on how I’m doing in my company. Somewhere down the line I can totally see him recommending a big client or important person to me. Definitely one of my best personal relationships that I try to keep warm and check in with every couple of months.

Webinars with Ricky

Last week my friend Ricky from Lithuania reached out to me with an idea. It had been a little while since we last talked, but he wanted to run a partnership idea by me and also catch up on life. We haven’t had a chance to speak yet in detail, but here is a synopsis of what’s going on.

I kind of forget Ricky’s entire background, but I’m pretty sure he worked at Goldman for a while and then quit to start his internet business. He’s a year or two older than me and has lived all over the place. He also hates digital footprints so he has almost no public presence on the internet. In 2015 he finally wants to come out of the shadows and stop being a behind the scenes guy.

Ricky is big on info products and webinars. Between his businesses they did about 2 Million last year in webinar sales. He’s also a workaholic similar to myself but on a different level. If you take everything at face value, it seems like he works about 12 hours a day 7 days a week all year round. I don’t think necessarily because he has to, but he wants to. Just like me, but on a more extreme level, he really enjoys everything he is learning and is passionate about his business.

So anyways, Ricky is a great guy and he was also the one who started our monthly Blacksmith webinar training series where we all teach each other different strategies we know. He tried launching an Amazon business last year in the adult niche (Aka Dildo Store haha) and completely failed and had to liquidate his inventory.

His idea is to partner with me on a webinar series that will teach people more about the physical products business model. He has all the webinar systems in place so he’s thinking that if I put in some up front work with him, he can probably do a good 5 figures with it and I would get a new passive income stream out of it.

If this was anyone else contacting me for this opportunity I probably wouldn’t do it. Ricky is such a smart guy though and in exchange for my knowledge he’ll pretty much teach me the entire ins and outs of the webinar business. Like I said, we haven’t had our full catch up conversation yet, but this could be a really good opportunity moving forward into next year.

I’m also thinking of eventually turning my outsource work into an online course. If this works well, Ricky would be my go to partner to help me launch it. When I’m done, I’ll pretty much have a turnkey content marketing outsourcing course that people can just hand off to outsourcers and blow up their businesses.

Objectives for new year

We’re already at 25 pages of content, so I’ll wrap this up quickly. Some of the work goals I’m setting for next year include:

  • Adding in digital cooking courses that I can upsell to all of my physical products customers. These would be almost 100% margin and my product sales already prequalify everyone so it’s the perfect money making storm. I have Chef Carmen lined up for some conversations in January. I’m not sure if I really need to bring him in on this though or if his credibility would be worth it. In the end, he has the expertise, but I’d be writing the course content anyways. He would just be the guy to cook it all up.
  • This is an entire blog post in itself, but Estonia just released a business E-Residency program where people from anywhere in the world can easily set up an Estonian corporation and take advantage of the tax breaks and be outside the reach of the US Government and US Dollar. I’m just going to say that for now this is on my radar and could be a real possibility a few years down the road
  • 2015 will be the year of email marketing for me. My people received probably 4 or 5 emails all year last year. That’s horrible! With my new expertise in funnels, I plan to start developing really intricate relationship building sequences and use email to generate a lot of additional revenue
  • Money Goals? I have no clue what I want to make in money. I just want to keep driving on because I love what I do and what I’m learning. The 4th quarter this year was fantastic. With the different businesses I have going on and the addition of a bank line of credit this year, I think there is a real chance that I can do $1 million next year. For all I know I can either far undershoot this goal or crush it. Regardless, it’s all about the ride

Sovereign Academy 3 Month Checkup – Mike O’Donnell

Posted on November 2nd, 2014 in Business Development, Coaching, Consulting, Goal Setting, Lessons, My Story | No Comments »

Over the past 3 years, I’ve gone to quite a few seminars and marketing conferences. I always learn a lot of new techniques, pick up 1 or 2 new key relationships, and come home energized and ready to grow my business. However, this increased drive and energy typically fades after a couple weeks and I return to my “normal” working habits. Granted, my new normal is at a higher level than it was before, but the energy boost and increased drive is what fades away.

This time around was different. I didn’t come away from the Blacksmith camp with a checklist of marketing techniques I wanted to implement. Instead, I came away with some major mindset changes that have allowed me to get out of my own way and really take my business and life to the next level.  I also came away with about 40 new key relationships and a firm support group of other entrepreneurs my age all striving to better their lives on a daily basis. I can’t hold myself accountable to my friends at home. They are in a totally different place in life and have completely different goals than I do.

With the Blacksmith Alumni facebook group, I now have a group of people that I can hold myself accountable to that will help me raise the bar for success and keep my focus on the things that are important in my life. I really want to go back to Lithuania next year. For that to happen, I need to take action and prove to you that I’m worth your investment. I’ve been incredibly busy since returning home and wanted to take this opportunity to share with you everything I have been working on.

Lifestyle Changes and Liberty

One of the first lifestyle changes I made was to commit to reading a minimum of 10 pages per day before I sit down at my computer and start working. I downloaded an app called Habits and placed it on the home screen of my phone so I can see and track my commitments every day. Some of my other habits include working out every morning, getting out of bed by 6am at the latest, and doing daily meditation. The app is great because I see a big red circle on my phone every time I don’t complete a habit I committed to. As J Massey would say, If I want to be a person of integrity, then that starts with living up to my own expectations. If I say I’m going to do something, then I’m going to do it.

When I compared myself to the other Blacksmith members, I would say I was above average in entrepreneurial education, but I had a lot to learn on the liberty side of things. Before the camp, I really didn’t know much about Simon or have a firm understanding of the current international economic situation in the world. When I returned home, I immediately became a member of sovereign man confidential and I started reading The Creature from Jekyll island.

I literally read through all 600+ pages of Jekyll Island in under 2 weeks. I couldn’t put the book down. It completely opened my eyes to everything going on in the United States and the federal reserve and changed my outlook on the world. Between reading Jekyll Island and SMC, I’m continuing to read and expand my knowledge about what’s going on in the world.

Out of all of the mentors, I connected the most with J Massey and became very interested in Real Estate. I read Cash Flow Diaries and subscribed to his podcasts so I could learn more about real estate and make use of my time while driving in the car. I also took a real estate investor I know out to lunch to pick his brain about getting into wholesaling. Then I joined a bunch of local Cashflow 101 meetups and started attending local real estate events so I could build my network and learn from more people.

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs About Money

For me, playing Cashflow with J helped me overcome some self limiting beliefs I held about money. Before the camp, I had been growing my physical products business solely on profits. Whenever anyone asked, I was proud that I never took any investment to grow my business. After hanging out with J, I learned that that was the complete wrong way to look at things and that if I had my systems in place that I should be accepting to money so I could accelerate my growth.

I started sitting down for meetings with my local banks to see what type of financing they could provide for me. I also sat down with my friend Alan who is a mortgage broker. He has connections to tons of investors, so we started working on deals to see how much money I could raise. Just sitting down to have these conversations with everyone was incredibly enlightening for me and I learned a ton.

I found out that the banks wouldn’t give me a business line of credit until I could show a tax return with a minimum of 150K in revenue. My business was on pace to do over 150K in revenue this year already, but last year I only did around 60K so I would have to wait until my tax returns in January if I wanted to go that route.

The investors that Alan introduced me to all wanted equity in my company. For the amount of money I needed, I wasn’t comfortable giving away equity and the interest rates they wanted to charge on short term loans were through the roof. I considered all of my options and ended up taking a loan for $15,000 from my dad. I already owed him about $5,000 so I figured I would put the money into inventory and hopefully be able to pay him back after the holiday season. Once January came along, I could get up to a 150K line of credit from my bank and use it to pay off my debt to my dad. That way I would be solely responsible for all of the money owed.

I used the money from my dad to fund inventory purchases for my current products and also planned to launch a new product before Christmas. With my levels of sales, I should have had enough money set aside for inventory, but I mismanaged my cash on hand. I was tracking everything up to this point on excel spreadsheets and never had a true financial picture of where my company was at any given point.

Mismanaging my cash flow was a big mistake that I couldn’t let happen again. So I met with my accountant and over the next couple weeks I went through the painful process of importing 1,000s of transactions into quickbooks online. Now I have a clear financial picture of what’s going on in my business and can run financial statements and appropriately reserve money for future expenses.

After funding inventory, I wanted to use my excess cash to develop new products that I could launch before the holidays. Timing was tight because it typically takes about 70 days from the start of manufacturing for me to get my products in the warehouses and ready for sale. I ran into a bunch of snags with manufacturers and ended up abandoning the idea of having new products by the holiday season. Having new products would have generated more money, but I didn’t want to rush things and launch a product that didn’t meet my quality standards. Instead, I devoted my efforts towards something I hoped would make me even more money in the short term.

Amazing Selling Machine Launch

In October, the Amazing Selling Machine course reopened for sale to the public. This was the course I went through that helped me learn how to source and manufacture products. I partnered up with Shane and Jarod from my Amazon mastermind group to sell the course as affiliates. I’ve been around the internet marketing industry for years, but affiliate marketing was new to me so I was excited to see what we could do.

The course cost about $3,500 so with each sale we would get a $1,750 commission and split it 3 ways after expenses. None of us had an email list to market to, so we decided that we needed to create an awesome bonus package if we were going to get people to sign up under our group. We started out by researching the bonus packages of all of the top affiliates from last year’s launch and we did our best to match or provide a better bonus where we could.

We tried everything when it came to driving traffic for people to buy the course through our link. We each placed about $1,000 into an account and then used it to pay for facebook ads, twitter ads, craigslist postings throughout the country, a news paper classified ad, and even some plenty of fish (dating website) ads targeted at entrepreneurial type of people. Nothing was working and we were spending a lot of money and time to make this work. By the 2nd video of the launch, it looked like we were only going to make a few sales and barely make our money back. Let alone still having to provide all of the bonuses we offered.

Then, one night as I was working it came to me. Why were we spending so much money trying to drive cold traffic when the other bigger affiliates were just going to poach our sales anyways? What if we flipped everything upside down and only focused our advertising on people that we knew were already interested in the course. Under each sales video in the launch there was a facebook comments feed. Each video literally had 1,000s of comments from people who had watch the videos and engaged with them.

I called a meeting with Shane and Jarod and told them we needed to stop all of our advertising immediately and only focus on the people who engaged via the fb comments. I did a little bit of research and about 5 hours of work later I built a scraper that dropped the profile urls of every commenter into a spreadsheet. We now had a list of about 2,000 unique people we could market to.

If you send a private message to someone on facebook you aren’t friends with, it goes to their “other inbox” and they never see it. However, if you pay about $1, facebook will drop the message in their regular inbox and they are pretty much guaranteed to see it. We now had a $1 cost per acquisition for targeted traffic.

Jarod had a background in creating bots with a software program called uBot. The next day, he created a program that automated the entire process of private messaging everyone on our list and accepting the $1 charge. We split the list into 3 and we each ran the program on the background of our computers and messaged every single person. This automation program saved us probably about 20+ hours of work!

Instead of telling them to go to our website and “check out our bonuses” we decided to send them a message telling them we created a skype channel where they could ask us questions about the course that weren’t answered in the videos. Everyone had questions and our message wasn’t trying to sell them, so we had excellent response rates. Now once we had them on skype we would friend request them and engage in conversations. On the final days before the cart closed, we were able to follow up with phone calls to every non buyer and convert them over to our group.

We went from a potential total failure to ranking #14 on the top affiliates board and selling over $125,000 worth of the course in 7 days! After expenses, we all cleared about $20,000 in profit and will be paid after the 30 day refund period expires at the end of November.

For me, this is a completely life changing amount of money. I’m 25 and still living at home, so all I wanted to do with the money was just pay myself and finally move out again. But that would literally be the worst way to spend the money. Not only would the government take a huge portion in taxes, but I would be ruining my opportunity to put that money towards other cash producing assets such as new inventory and new products.

New Business Opportunities

I’ve discussed it with my dad and when I get paid, I am going to pay myself about $3,000 to keep myself going and make a payment of approx $5,000 towards my loan from him. The rest of the money will be spent towards new products (possibly launching a new brand) and towards a new business I am forming with Shane and Jarod.

There are approximately 5,000 students who are in or have gone through the Amazing Selling Machine course. All of these people and other Amazon sellers need marketing tools to help them promote their products. Our goal is to reverse engineer all of the software out there and start making our own versions and selling monthly memberships to people. We each left money in the shared account and already have a full time programmer working on our new software suite.

Once it is finished we will be giving all of our members who joined under our affiliate group lifetime access. We will then use their word of mouth and also tap into the ASM facebook group and other Amazon groups to get an initial base of users. We will not only be making money off of our new software suite, but we will also build a giant list that we can market to for the next ASM launch!

Becoming an Amazon Coach

Right around the time we were wrapping up the affiliate launch, my mentor Justin Lee gave me a call. I worked for Justin as an unpaid intern for a full year while in college so I could get firsthand experience from an entrepreneur. Justin has played a major role in my success and helping me become the entrepreneur that I am today. After spending some time catching up, Justin told me that he ran into an old real estate buddy who started an Amazon wholesaling business about 5 years ago. They were growing faster than they could keep up with and were looking for some coaches to help them out with their growing student base and he wanted to know if I was interested.

I spoke with his friend Chris Bowser and he ended up flying me up to Boston last week to meet his team. Chris essentially owns 3 businesses in one. They run facebook and radio advertisements in cities throughout North America and drive people to free events where they learn about wholesaling on Amazon. From the events, they sell people on a coaching program and 3 day boot camp to get them up and running. Once the people are trained, they can purchase products directly from Chris’s wholesaling business which uses bulk buying to pass deals on to their students. It’s a very cool business model and I’m excited to learn the wholesaling side after being on the private label side of selling for the past year and a half.

Starting this week, I’m taking on 5 new coaching students and I’m expected to increase that number over the next couple months. They are also going to be flying me out to some of their events. With everything I have going on right now, it’s probably not worth my time to be doing the coaching for the amount of money they are paying me, but I’m very interested to learn this new business model and I think the relationships I build with Chris and his team will be very beneficial for me in the future.

Marketing and Outsourcing

At the same time as all of this is going on, I still have my Marketing agency providing SEO, PPC, and reputation management services. I decided that I would just keep my current clients and stopping trying to get new ones because I would rather focus my time on all of these other amazing opportunities. However, I keep getting phone calls and new referrals coming in from all over the place. This past week I on-boarded 2 new clients and have 1 more on the way. It’s funny how you can go through droughts in business and then all of the sudden everything tends to hit all at once.

Right now I’m working 7 days a week just trying to stay on top of everything, but I’m absolutely loving it. I’m learning a ton and I’m challenging myself every day to work smarter and more efficiently. I’m also building a bigger and better team around myself to handle all of this new business.

Starting Monday morning, my first full time outsourcer will be coming on board. In the past I’ve always done hourly or fixed projects with my outsourcers. Now I’m at the point though where I have the cash flow and work to support someone full time. I’ve created a full online training resource center for Karen with written and video instructions for everything she is going to be doing. In the beginning, I will have her doing blogging, video marketing, press releases, and social media management for Cave Tools. Once she gets comfortable with that, I will start training her on how to take over some client work for my marketing company.

Last Thursday I held my first training webinar for the Blacksmith alumni and went into detail about my entire outsourcing system and management practices. It felt awesome to be able to give back to the group and share my knowledge with them.

Mike O’Donnell’s Goal Setting Framework

Posted on March 1st, 2014 in Business Development, Frameworks, Goal Setting, Lessons, My Story, Philosophy, Reflection, Self Improvement | No Comments »

Back in October, someone posted this article on Facebook http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304626104579121813075903866 and a bunch of us got into a very deep discussion about it. The article was written by the creator of the cartoon Dilbert and discusses how the Secret of Success is Failure.

The controversial part of the article and the reason it generated so much buzz is because Scott Adams says that goals are for losers! If you read the article it will make much more sense, but the point he is getting at is that there is always a feeling of emptiness when you achieve your goals. You have that slight high and then you are faced with the question “Now What?” I achieved my goal, I should be happy because this is everything I have been working for for so long. Often times people get depressed or lose their focus because they don’t have a proper road map for after that goal. Scott says you should be focusing on systems instead of goals. When you have a system in place, failure is just an obstacle on your way to success. Achieving goals are just milestones on your journey. I completely agree with everything he says in the article. In my opinion, the set “Short, Medium, and Long Term” goals mantra that you always here is bull shit. It doesn’t work and it sets you up for failure.

Today, I watched a 1 hour presentation by Todd Herman (Google him, he’s a fucking beast) in which he explained a framework for managing your goals. This framework was like the Scott Adams article on steroids and has inspired me so much that I stopped everything I was doing to do my own self evaluation based on his framework.

If anybody is reading this blog post, I recommend you open this diagram in another window so you can follow along as I build my goal setting framework. I have no doubt that once you understand this framework that you too will want to reflect on your own life as I am doing now.

 

goal setting framework

 

The top of the pyramid is “The Outcome” or what I ultimately want to do with my life. Ever since I read The 4 Hour Work Week, my outcome was to live that cush lifestyle and become a tycoon of business without having to work long hard hours.

As a full time entrepreneur for over 2 years now, I have gone through more bumps in the road than I care to recall. I’ve done the standard goal setting approach and have subsequently gone into mini depressions. I’ve lost my course more than a few times and at this point last year I was even calling it quits and looking for a “job” on career builder like a little bitch.

In Todd’s presentation, he talks about how “You set goals to feel alive. You’re searching for meaningful experiences of connecting a feeling to yourself deeply. “ But to bring things full circle you need to go Through your outcome.

The brain interprets things very literally. If your goal was to make it to the NBA, but you got a career ending injury 2 weeks after signing to a team, what kind of fulfillment is that? Yea you achieved your goal, but now what?

When Todd works with professional athletes, he gets them to tell him their outcome and then he repetitively drills them with the question Why? Why is that your outcome? It normally takes about 17-23 times of answering the Why to get a substantial answer from the person and to get them to see Through their goals.

If you asked me a few years ago what my outcome was, I would have said to live the 4 hour work week lifestyle. Some of my other answers would have been to make money, to have freedom, to achieve lifestyle design, to be able to move out and support myself on my own as a business owner.

The final “outcome” I just listed has been my biggest goal over the past year. I’m living at home right now and it sucks. I’m missing out on lots of things that I will never get back in my early 20s. Yea, I go out all of the time and do fun stuff with my friends, but I don’t have the autonomy I had when I lived on my own in Montreal. I can’t just bring a random girl home from the bar. It’s difficult to get into a relationship with a girl when everyone I meet lives 45 minutes away and I would basically just have to crash at their apt every weekend like a leech. These may seem like superficial kinds of desires, but they’re true and they are a major part of your early 20s. So that has been my outcome since I moved home from Montreal. Living on my own and supporting myself with my business has been the epitome of my “Success.” If I could just achieve that outcome.

The truth of the matter is that everything I just listed above is just a goal that if I achieved, I would feel empty inside and maybe go through a little depression because of the “Now What?”

Todd says that to get Through your goals, you need to add the words “so that.” The So That helps you build “Your Story” around your outcome goals. I want to move out of the house so that I can regain my autonomy. But there is so much more to that once you start asking Why?

I want to achieve these things so I can give back what? So I can do what? Why am I breaking my ass trying to build 2 companies at the same time and taking on ridiculous amounts of work? Is it to make a million dollars so I can be a young playboy and bang super models? Yea, that would be great for a while, but are money and lifestyle my true end goal or outcome? Or is there a different outcome that I want to achieve. Something that will give me a fulfilled life and make me feel happy.

Taking on my first intern has been an amazing experience for me. I have the opportunity to mold a young budding entrepreneur and pass on all of the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired over the years. Teaching my intern gives me an amazing sense of fulfillment and when I listen to myself giving him advice it puts everything into perspective on how far I have really come. Being a mentor and the person he looks up to for guidance and advice makes me feel truly happy. It’s like I’m experiencing what it’s like to be a father for the first time. Teaching your children the right mindset and giving them advice so you can watch them grow up and succeed in life in whatever they do because you helped them build a solid foundation.

Public speaking has also been a passion of mine for about 2 years now. I love the rush I get when speaking from stage and have often envisioned myself giving seminars to 1000s of people from stage and teaching them. That’s always been a goal of mine. The underlying motivation here really comes back to teaching and giving back.

I’ve always had a very capitalistic mindset. The idea of volunteering and giving back has never been something I could truly relate to. One day when I have tons of money I’ll give back, but until then I just need to focus on making tons of money. I remember when I was working with Wayne and he asked me why I was trying to launch the National Alliance for Student Debt Awareness with him? My response was that I wanted to make money and that I wanted to expose myself to him so I could learn from somebody that had much more experience than I did. I never really gave a shit about “The Cause” like Wayne did. My motivations were selfish (in a good way) and I was very clear about that.

Now that I’m reflecting and going through this exercise of using the goal setting framework, I see that I CAN give back and I CAN make lots of money and achieve all of those other goals at the same time.

So what is my Through Outcome that I’m busting my ass to achieve?

I want to build Hyacinth Marketing and Cave Tools into power brands and I want to build them in a highly scalable way that allows me to achieve lifestyle design. There’s no doubt about that. But I want to do these things SO THAT I can pass my knowledge on to my interns, students, family, and friends. So that I can speak from stage and help change people’s lives. So that I can do my Couch Surfing Across America trip. So that I can travel the world and have incredible life experiences. So that I can meet new people and share stories with them. So that I can be the exception and show other young people that if they really want something that they can achieve it. So that I can choose something new to learn each year such as learning a new language or becoming a true competition BBQ Pitmaster AND have the time to devote to these things. So that I can acquire all of the knowledge and skills and experiences that many people could only dream of.

That is my true Through Outcome when I look at my life as a full circle. Not just some empty goals that I want to achieve. I set out to start my own marketing agency, now what? I set out to build a physical products business, now what? Just like the NBA player I achieved those goals, but there has to be more. This is my more and this is my destiny in life.

The mid level of the pyramid is your performance goals. These are the goals you need to achieve to reach your desired outcome. Typically, for 1 outcome goal you will have multiple performance goals that you need to achieve to get there.

Here are some of my current performance goals:

  1. I will develop the processes for a call center so I can expand the website development portion of Hyacinth Marketing by 1 week from today.
  2. I will implement my project management software marketing strategy to build copious amounts of back links and increase my exposure and referrals for Hyacinth Marketing by 1 week from today
  3. I will start developing my 4th Cave Tools product line and launch by the end of May
  4. I will start to penetrate the Competition BBQ community and leverage my exposure to grow Cave Tools by 1 month from today

Before moving on to the final stage in the pyramid, we need to discuss the difference between Ow! Brainers and WOW! Brainers. Performance goals are great, but the difference between achieving your through outcome and failing lies in the way you have trained your brain.

Both Ow! Brainers and Wow! Brainers follow the same path in life. You have your starting point, your goals, and your Ideal Outcome.

People that are Ow! Brainers are stuck because they are constantly trying to go from Goal to Outcome. Wow! Brainers on the other hand, focus on getting from their starting point to their goals.

Ow! Brainers are fantastic at saying I started here and I’ve done all of this work and I still haven’t achieved my desired outcome. They quickly come up with all sorts of excuses as to why “This isn’t for me” or why it will never work out. They jump around from opportunity to opportunity and they eventually quit because they never get to achieve the desired outcome. They look at the top of the pyramid and say holy shit that’s a far ways away. They build their internal story around this mindset and then they quit. I’ve been on the Ow! Brainer side of things plenty of times so far in my life and I can completely relate to this mindset. I’ve accomplished a shit ton of things in my short career, but I still haven’t reached the financial success I have always been striving for.

Wow! Brainers are different. They go from the starting point to their goals and then they look back and say holy shit, look at everything I have just accomplished. If I keep making progress every day and knocking off my performance goals, I’ll eventually achieve my desired outcome.

Yea, I’ve achieved a shit ton of things in my short career and the monetary gain hasn’t been there yet. But the Wow! Brainer side of me says look at all of the knowledge and skills and experiences I have acquired. If I keep at it, I will achieve my Through Outcome because I’m building a foundation that can never be taken away from me.

This brings us to the bottom level of the pyramid which is your Process. Your Processes answer the questions of What, How, and When. The beauty of this stage is that YOU are 100% in complete control over your processes and how you spend your time. Performance goals are only about 90% in your control and there are other factors that affect whether you hit your performance goals or not. Processes are 100% on you. You need to take Personal Responsibility if you want to start hitting your performance goals.

A Process Goal for me would be that every day I am going to spend 10 minutes researching online and reaching out to BBQ teams and Pitmasters to give them free products or ask to be a sponsor. The great thing about the Process stage is the old 1% theory. If you work to get better at something by just 1% every day, then it will take only 70 days until you have doubled your effectiveness in that area. If you follow the 1% rule for multiple areas of your life every day, it will have a geometric compounding effect.

The Process stage sums up the entire framework with the word “INEVITABLE” By building and following your Processes, you make it INEVITABLE that you will knock off your Performance goals and reach your desired outcome.

It doesn’t matter that I haven’t been a huge financial success yet because I have a framework or system in place that I follow every day. It may take me a few more months or a few more years before I will be able to start living my Through Outcome the way I envision it. The point is that it truly is INEVITABLE that I will make it there.

As long as I am making progress each day, I will hit the bend in the exponential curve and everything will fall into place.

IT IS INEVITABLE

Michael O’Donnell Learns Life Changing Frameworks

Posted on March 1st, 2014 in Frameworks, Goal Setting, Lessons, My Story, Self Improvement | No Comments »

To put this post into perspective, last night I went out into Philly for a $28 open bar from 9-12pm. I got 3 times my money’s worth of the open bar and I loaded up with 4 more mixed drinks before 12 to keep me going the rest of the night. We didn’t get back to my friends place until around 2:30AM.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am busy as all hell with different projects that I am working on and at times I have been feeling completely overwhelmed. Luckily for me, I built an in house project management system last week and have been offloading everything in my mind into it because I literally haven’t been able to sleep for weeks because my mind is racing. I’ll make another post soon on the Project management system because I have a ridiculous marketing strategy behind it that will help grow Hyacinth Marketing exponentially over the next 6 months.

With that said, I am no stranger to work hard play hard. I got my ass up and made my way to Starbucks by 11:30 this morning and have been working ever since. Normally I just go right into things and get lost in my work until around 7pm at night (sometimes forgetting to eat because I am so immersed). At that point I go back over to a friend’s apartment and get blasted and go out.

Today is different. I closed all of my email down and decided I was not going to work at all today. I was going to spend my entire day working on myself and knocking off self education goals that I have been sidelining.

I just finished watching a presentation that has been on my list for about 2 months that I’ve been putting off. This presentation moved me so much and really struck home, so I decided to place all of my notes and pictures below.

In another post, I will be working through my own thought processes and building out my own framework. I’m also planning to reenact this exact presentation on video myself because for me it was that incredibly powerful and the notes don’t do it justice.

Your Potential – Todd Herman:

Frameworks for unleashing your potential:

 Performance Protocal Framework

For athletes that have been very successful, they hate when people say they have a lot of talent. The reason is because talent refers to genetics and basically says you did nothing to get where you are, you were born with it. Code is your genetics, the stuff you were born with

Competence is the collection of skills you have built over time and knowledge you have acquired. Everyone has the capacity to get more of competency.

The Catalyst is the motivating force or the drive that you have within you.

Kids are a great model to look at. They have what’s called intrinsic motivation. They have a desire to learn to grow and to explore the world around them.

When Competence and Catalyst match up you get motivation.

When Competence and Code match up, you get “A Calling” something you were drawn to do.

When Code and Catalyst come together you get Confidence.

This model is called the performance protocol. When all 3 are working together, your performance matches your potential. At that point, Code pretty much gets taken out of the equation

 

 

Goal Setting Framework:

 goal setting framework

Heider Simmel Study: We as human beings despite whatever information is in front of us, we attach a story to everything.

Most people goal set to a destination. Once you get there you feel kind of empty. That’s because you went to it, but you didn’t think through the goal. You need to go through that goal and tell the story of that goal.

You set goals to feel alive. You’re searching for meaningful experiences of connecting a feeling to yourself deeply.

Most athletes and type A individuals are really really good at the “Outcome”. What is it you’re shooting for. If you are not getting the satisfaction when you achieve your goals then you are focusing on the Outcome too much. You need to go Through your outcome.

Examples of outcome goals: Winning the race, getting a medal/trophy, making X amount of money per year.

How to goal set through the outcome. If your outcome goal is to retire, you goal set through that by saying so you can travel, so you can be your own boss, it’s the why behind it. Think about what you are giving or what it will do for me to achieve that outcome goal.

When you keep repetitively asking someone why they want to do this? The surface answer is rarely something that really evokes a lot of emotion and motivation. Keep asking someone Why and then typically by answer 17 or 23 you will uncover the real Through Goal.

Outcome goals are great, but you need to develop that story around it. The middle level is performance. Performance goals sound like this:

I will improve the number of vendors I reach out to in China from X to X+5 by Date

I will improve the number of sales I get from 10 per day to 20 per day by 1 month from now.

This model works for anything you are trying to achieve. The key words are “So That” I will shoot for this outcome goal so that I can give this back or so that I will be able to do these other things.

I will improve my pushups from 10 per day to 100 per day within 1 month from now so I can get ripped and live a healthy life style so that I can play with my kids and not get tired out from being a fat ass.

How is not important in this stage. If you have 1 outcome goal, you will typically have 3,5,10 + performance goals so you can hit that mark!

 

Performance goals are very important because there are 2 types of people. Ow brainers and Wow brainers. The word success is a crap word. Value is a better word.

Einstein had a great quote: He said don’t become a seeker of success, become a person of value. None fears value. People have a fear of success but nobody fears value.

You have your starting out point and then you have the where do you want to get to. What’s the ideal. Both Ow! Brainers and WOW! Brainers have the same path.

Now you establish your goal in the middle. If you are caught in the OW brain side you are stuck trying to go from goal to outcome. Versus people on the WOW side who focus on getting from the Start Point to the Goal. You need to work your way out of the OW brain side. Most people are not wired to be on the WOW side.

Ow brainers are fantastic at saying I started here and I’ve moved forward and done all of this work…but I’m still not at my ideal. This isn’t for me, I’m not going to do this.

Wow brainers are not the same as everyone else. You start at your start point and now you’re here (wherever that is) and here is what you do differently if you’re a Wow brainer. You say look at everything I’ve just accomplished.

Ow Brainers look at the top and they say wow that’s a bitch to get to the top, it’s never going to happen. You start telling yourself some bullshit story about how you’re never going to get there and why it will never work. How you’ve quit a million times before

Wow brainers are looking up from the bottom at the next stage and saying look at all I have accomplished. Let’s keep going because I’m making progress towards the top and I’ll eventually reach my outcome goal.

If you implement this model in your life it gives you a framework to run your days and achievements through and catch yourself. If you’re stuck on the Ow side and you just do this over time, you rewire your brain. You’re not stuck where you are, you can change yourself.

If you’re an OW brainer don’t write down what you want to do today, write down what you don’t want to do each day and start tracking that shit.

Everybody always keeps some type of log book about everything they are planning to accomplish each day. At the bottom of each day, put a little number from 1-10. Over time you will start to see patterns on what your “8” days look like versus what your “2” days look like.

Your next questions are What, How, When? At the bottom of the triangle is your Process that you will do to achieve your performance goals.

Every day I will wake up and do 4 sets of pushups until failure. Today I might only be able to do 40 pushups. Tomorrow I can do 42. A week from now I can do 60, and so on.

You have control over Process Goals 100%. You are responsible. Performance goals, you have control maybe 90%, Process is all you 100%.

If you are an athlete you are constantly bombarded with did you win the game? If you are a parent and you weren’t at the game, the worst thing you can do is ask them did they win the game? Children internalize that as if I win because mom and dad get excited about it, that means that they love me. Sports are about developing, learning, growing, gaining skills. Not about winning. You’re not toughening up your kids, you’re teaching them what not to be.

Process goals are all about the What the How the When and how to schedule that into your calendar. Follow this framework and you build a real support system to achieve your performance goals.

The word that sums this entire framework up is “Inevitable” How can I make it inevitable that I can retire by the age of X so that I can give the lessons that I’ve learned to my family or friends, help them to achieve some of the things that they want to go after, and do more of the things that I really want to do such as travel, experience new things, meet new people, tell people about my journey.

You make it INEVITABLE by doing the PROCESS goals and reaching PERFORMANCE goals. The lessons that you learn along the way are the things that are so incredibly valuable to you and everyone else around you.

The great thing about the PROCESS area is the 1% factor. If you improve yourself by just 1% each day, how many days does it take for you to double your effectiveness in that area? Just 70 days…

If you do this in multiple areas of your life, the improvement is geometric and has a compounding effect. Instead of asking yourself how can I be incredibly successful? Ask yourself how can I be Average today? Take the pressure off of yourself. Schedule in 2 days of the week where you are just going to be Average. It’s amazing when you release a whole bunch of that pressure and those average days becoming amazing and great days.

3 Things to take action on right now.

1.)    Know your outcome and wrap your story around it. How can you go through that outcome?

2.)    Measure your performance. Simple numbers, I will improve X to X+ by deadline.

3.)    Build the process. Give it some legs underneath it and energize it with action stuff.

The brain has an amazing way of seeing to the horizon line 3 months out. 1 year goals are hard for the brain because it is a little bit too foggy to see that far out. Do 3 month focused sprints.

Is my 3 month goal going to be mastering the mechanics of getting stuff into Amazon? Build the process and performance metrics around it. Give yourself the deadline a sprint to it. Chase it!

goal setting framework

Mike O’Donnell Gives A Status Update

Posted on February 24th, 2014 in Business Development, Cave Tools, Goal Setting, Lessons, Management, Media Buying, My Story, Outsourcing | No Comments »

I have been horrible at writing lately, so I figured I would at least give a status update on what has been going on in my business life. I would love to write about each of these things in more detail, but I just don’t have the time. Or maybe I am just not prioritizing this blog enough, but it is what it is right now.

What’s Going On:

  • I have my first SEO intern working for me doing about 10-15 hours of work per week. I built a 12 week course on my own platform which will allow me to scale with multiple interns. Course is set up as Major project week 1, redo project week 2 with some tweaks. After every 2 weeks the intern must write reflection post on our interns blog to help solidify their learning. Week 3 starts a new major project and everything builds on itself as they go through the 12 week course. Students get College credit for completing the internship
  • About a month ago, I built my own software (I coded it myself:) which allows me to scrape the business owner name and contact information for companies in pretty much any area that don’t have a website yet. Today I am hiring a data entry person for dirt cheap to run the software all day and upload leads into a CRM system. I also started the process for hiring my first cold caller/ telemarketing employees. They will call all day to sell websites using my script. Anybody that bites will be set up with a phone meeting with me where I will close them. My website developer will take on all new projects and follow my detailed instructions for exactly how we are building every website. Basically I’m productising small business websites and scaling. Once the process is smooth we should be able to increase lead generation at the top of the funnel and increase throughput
  • I have a phone meeting later today with a Famous TV personality in the weight loss niche. She is a B-list celebrity, which for my purposes is perfect. We’ll be discussing building an apparel ecommerce website for her. She has already mentioned promoting Hyacinth Marketing and Cave Tools to her following. I plan to close the deal and over deliver the shit out of her. Then I’ll open the conversation for not just promoting Cave Tools, but becoming the face and celebrity endorsement for the company
  • My 3rd product line, digital cooking thermometers are finishing being manufactured this week and will be thrown on a boat so we can get them live selling. I also have samples on their way for a 4th product line which also sells more year round. Really working hard on leveling out the business to avoid the seasonality trap I got stuck in this winter
  • This week I will be receiving my sample for our first full size Cave Tools grill. It is a combination charcoal grill and vertical rotisserie. Absolutely bad ass and super high quality craftsmenship. Still working on finalizing the details of our agreement, but it will be a private label dropship deal with a welding company in NY to create the grills. The design itself is an award winning design, but they are welders not marketers. Best part is I never have to stock inventory or risk capital to get going. Once orders come in I parse them through and the grill is manufactured for the customer and sent directly to them. I’ll finally have some high ticket items to legitimatize the brand.

Cave Tools Lunchbox1 20140212_211604

  • I’m sending sample products out today to Restaurant Depot, which is like the Sams Club for all restaurant owners. Also working on getting samples out to MrBarBQ as they are very similar to Restaurant Depot, but primarily focus on BBQ niche
  • I did a 1 yr national advertising deal with the National Barbecue Association back in November. I spoke to my rep this past week and they said I am outperforming the industry average by over 200% and I’m getting tons of brand engagement and follow up searches. They were trying to sell me on an even larger advertising package, which sounded pretty fantastic from a value standpoint. However, I declined because I need to expand our product lines more first so once we do kick the advertising into high gear I can have better conversions through cross sales, upsells, etc.
  • I got invited to a major auction in Las Vegas in May that draws over 20,000 retailers and distributors. I’m not personally attending, but I will have trained sales reps selling my products to the attendees. They take a 20% commission, so I don’t intend to make money here. I intend to break even and get as much brand exposure and engagement as possible. I also get a full data list on everyone that showed interest in our products so I can remarket to them afterwards. The list itself is priceless
  • I took a different angle with FB. Instead of working on the Cave Tools brand page, I set up a general interest group called I Love Barbecue. The reason being that people are less likely to like a brand page because they feel the company is making money on them. With a general interest group it is very open and people easily like the page. I am currently getting likes for less than $.05 a piece. We are well over 1,000 likes and the page is getting all sorts of engagement from Barbecue Associations and Enthusiasts posting pictures. When the Thermometers are ready, I will have a huge and captive audience to run a deep discount deal to. The deal will be giving away 50 free products, but it will be viral in the sense that in order to qualify they need to share the deal on facebook to their friends. The additional exposure will be huge. I  know other people who have done this with amazing results.
  • Today I built out a full advertising campaign for a real estate investor. I am getting much much better at media buying and conversions. This REI is part of a group of close to 100 other REIs and he has been talking about me a lot. Best part is that his original campaign was worse than horrible so without even trying I will look like a genius. I also built this guys website and he has already passed on a solid lead for another person that wants something similar.
  • We’re almost finished the completion of the Penn State specific classified ads website. This is a cool project that is basically creating a CraigsList clone but only making it university specific by email address for posters. Once they build a following at PSU they will approach other universities and I’ll be the web dev for each new site.
  • Just finished a website for an author and will be helping him with his book launch when they are done being printed. Interesting book that targets Atheists market and was rejected by over 100 traditional publishers because it was too controversial.
  • Planning a full rebuild of Hyacinth Marketing website to showcase client success stories and focus on Web Dev, Media Buying, High Level Consulting, and SEO only.
  • Planning to migrate Cave Tools over to a more robust ecommerce platform so we can really build out the sales funnel and increase conversions on the site. I’ll write a recap post of the website as it is now before I get rid of it. I learned so much through the development of the current website that I never knew before and I have tons of cool shit going on on the website!

There is probably more stuff going on right now I can’t think about. My mind has been racing lately and it’s very difficult to keep on top of everything. I’m really working on getting out of the employee mindset and focusing more on C-level and scaling processes. Lots of stuff coming together and I can’t wait for the summer when Cave Tools picks up again and I start having more cash flow to play with.

 

Cheers,

 

Michael “Medium Rare” O’Donnell

Inside the Mind of Mike O’Donnell – August 2013

Posted on August 11th, 2013 in Amazon, Business Development, Cave Tools, Couch Surfing, Efficiency, Goal Setting, Lessons, Management, Media Buying, My Story, Self Improvement, Shipping | No Comments »

This is more of a general update kind of post where I want to touch on a bunch of different things that are going on and also take a snapshot of what I’m thinking right now and planning for in the coming months.

Hyacinth Marketing

First things first, we have Hyacinth Marketing. The company is doing pretty well right now and I have been using almost all of the profits to support the growth of Cave Tools. If I didn’t have my clients at Hyacinth, I wouldn’t have nearly enough capital to be as aggressive as I am with Cave Tools. Right now the only sales I’m doing for the company is attending my breakfast meetings with the Million Dollar Marketing (MDM) group. In the past 2 months I’ve given 3 prepared speeches to this group of Doylestown business owners and these guys literally think I’m the smartest marketing person they’ve ever met. I share a ton of strategies and advice with them and they have been referring a good amount of clients over to me. It’s literally like having my own sales team working for me. They actually invited me to a golf outing next Friday with a ton of business owners in the area, so I’m really excited about that. Apparently the keg is tapped 2 hours prior to tee off so it should be a fun day.

Unlimit3d

The Unlimit3d project also started almost a month ago. I built a project management platform for this entire project and between my team and theirs, we have about 9 people communicating and sharing files every day. However, even with the ease of collaboration we are already falling behind schedule. As far as my estimates go now, I think we are between 10-20 working days behind where we need to be to keep pace. The problem is that we are still stuck in the graphic design phase and because Unlimit3d has so many people involved on their end, nobody is taking the lead on feedback because they are afraid everyone wont agree. This is causing us to have feedback response times of close to 48 hours sometimes and it is really slowing things down. I’ve had a bunch of talks with Unlimit3d and my development team on ways to improve efficiency with the feedback process. They’re getting better, but at this point we are already behind and there’s not much we can do about it because we don’t want to start coding and then have to do a ton of rework. The entire website is broken into 6 milestones, so the longer milestone 1 takes, the longer I need to wait for my milestone 2 payment and the less aggressive I can be with using that money on Cave Tools.

Cave Tools

Speaking of Cave Tools, we’ve gone profitable! Well…only for a short period of time. I described Cave Tools to my friend the other day like this, “I started out by digging a 2 inch deep whole with my initial investment. As soon as I filled it up to the surface, I decided to dig a 4 inch hole in the same spot. I’ve filled that up a couple inches so far, but then the other day I just dug another 6 inches deep.” Basically, due to such a lengthy supply chain (approx 2 months), even though I am making profit, I am not making enough to support growth on the timeframe that I need it. Therefore, I’m drawing money from Hyacinth to drive growth and hoping to make it back on the backend.

Right now I have another shipment of 2,000 grill brushes on its way to me now. Due to the money restrictions, I was late on placing my replenishment order in time to make sure I don’t stock out. It took 20 days to manufacture the next batch of brushes, but because of my tardiness I had to split the shipment into 400 brushes via air and 1,600 via boat. To put the cost in perspective, it costs me about $900 to ship 400 brushes via air and about $1,200 to ship 1,600 brushes via boat. That’s a ton of money I’m now losing because I don’t want to be faced with a stock out. This also counts as 2 separate imports, so instead of paying the fees twice, I decided to get a continuous import bond. Now, I’m a registered importer and can do as many imports as I want for a year without paying a fee each time. It’ll pay off by the end of the year, but for now it’s more money. The 2,000 grill brushes was my 4 inch hole. My new product line is the 6 inch hole…

Product Development

My next product line is a 3 piece grill set: Spatula, Fork, Tongs. From a money standpoint, this is pretty much triple my initial investment for just the brush because we have 3 new items. Depending on my cash flow, I may have to actually take investment to afford it, but I really don’t want to do that.

I haven’t paid to start manufacturing yet though because I’m waiting on my samples to arrive, hopefully this upcoming week. I’m super excited about this because I literally spent hours researching different sets and designing these samples. For the grill brush I just picked out a certain model, but the 3 piece set I actually designed. I also had a mold developed so I can brand them with the Cave Tools logo. Here’s a few pictures of what they look like:

 

IMG_4593

IMG_4601

 

I can’t wait to get my hands on them and just hold them! My goal with this set was to make them incredibly strong and durable. I took the average steel thickness in the grilling utensils market and increased my thickness by 20%. For approximately $0.40 per unit extra in steel, I will probably be able to increase my sell price by about $4-5. I have 2 sample sets coming in right now. One has a strengthen slot, which curves the metal a little bit to make it stronger and the other is just flat steel. I’m going to be comparing the two and also soliciting feedback from people to see which they prefer more.

These sets will most likely retail in the $30 dollar range. The best Weber set sells for $31 so I’m thinking of charging $32-35. I have a bunch of marketing ideas planned for when I finally launch the set and I’m also going to be building an early bird waiting list primarily via facebook where people can get a 20% coupon. I’m also thinking of doing a direct mail campaign to all of my grill brush customers. Something like a teaser post card with a coupon code.

Sales Trends

From a trend standpoint, I have noticed that my week to week growth has started to level out. We’re still making solid sales numbers, but the growth has slowed down, which is not good at all. I think it is do to a combination of our promotion efforts slacking a bit (Because I am very busy with Hyacinth) and possibly the seasonal effect. We are getting closer to the end of the summer so people are probably just not buying as many brushes. I have a couple of solutions on my success list to keep my growth trending up and protect against a winter slump in sales. My success list is different from my daily to-do list in the sense that these are strategic business advancements that will take my business to the next level. Building my wholesale program for instance was something on my success list.

Success List

At the top of my list right now is utilizing Multichannel Fulfillment to increase my ecommerce footprint. So what does this mean? I’ve outsourced all of my warehousing and customer service to Amazon and yes, they charge me an arm and a leg for it. Since I’m already paying them for this stuff, I might as well use them for sales I make outside of Amazon. Basically, my goal is to get listed on as many ecommerce stores as I can and when orders come in from those channels, I pass them through to Amazon and have Amazon ship for me. This means I can now get listed on websites like Buy.com and newegg.com and the other big ecommerce stores on the internet. There are many benefits to this from a marketing standpoint, sales, brand awareness, etc. I’m in the process of compiling a list of sites right now that I want to target. Then I need to build the processes to automate order handling from the various websites. This creates more of a management aspect for me unlike Amazon where when I make a sale they instantly do all of the order management. If I’m late on passing my orders through, then I get bad feedback and pissed off customers. That can’t happen. I also need to build processes to track my profit and loss on each website so I can be sure to focus my marketing efforts at the high converting channels. Finally, I need to figure out how to simplify all of this so my assistant can handle everything for me and just give me a weekly progress report. Sounds difficult, but I get a chubby for business development work, so I’m excited to take on the challenge.

Next up on the success list is becoming an expert at media buying. Media buying scares the shit out of me because it costs a lot of money and I have heard tons of stories of people losing their shirt with poor purchases. In short, media buying entails building out a profile for my ideal customer (ex: Male, 21-35 yrs old, interested in grilling, etc.) and then running targeted banner advertisements on the websites that the person hangs out on. I could run the adds by going through an advertising network or by doing direct purchases from individual websites. In order to do direct purchases, I need to build my own ad server to rotate and serve my ads. This is cheaper in the long run, but to get enough test data I’m going to need to go through an ad network.

The ad networks used to be reserved for just the big brands like Coke because they have outrageous minimum budgets like $10,000. Just to get enough sample data to optimize a campaign, you need to blow through at least $5,000 and have enough money left over to make it all back. However, Real Time Bid (RTB) networks have become readily available in the past few years which makes it easier for someone like me to break in. Basically, I’ll be able to bid in real time on remnant advertizing inventory that wasn’t sold via the big networks. I’ll still have to blow through about $500 in a test budget, but then I can optimize my campaign for the highest converting websites and approach them for direct buys.

My strategy for Media Buying is to target websites with a large visitor base that matches up to my demographic and also target sites with a visitor base primarily in the southern U.S. states. This way I can keep my sales consistent during the winter time in the north. In order to do this the right way and not lose a bunch of money, I need to do significant competitive intelligence research to figure out what the highest converting offers are for the grilling industry (ex: Free Recipe books, discount coupons, etc.). Once I figure out what my offer will be, I need to create it and then drive traffic to an email opt in form where I will give it away. Then I need to convert email leads into product sales on the back end. It sounds funny, but I don’t want to do what Weber is doing because they are very corporate. A lot of their marketing is designed for branding, not direct response marketing. I’ll probably end up breaking down all of Grill Daddy’s advertising because they are more of an internet based company.

Retargeting is also going to be a big factor in boosting my conversions. Retargeting is placing a cookie on someone’s browser when they visit your site, which then shows your ads all over the internet and literally follows them around to make it look like you’re everywhere. The majority of people will leave my offer page right away without giving me their email, but if I retarget them I will reclaim a lot of those visitors at a later date.

To be clear, my experience with paid advertising is limited to just Google pay per click. I’m pretty good, but I’ve never run any type of campaign this complex before or built a significant email list. I have a shit ton to learn and I want to get this all set up by October so I can be ready for the winter. I purchased a media buying course the other day from some pretty respectable internet marketers and I also got my hands on some training documents from Gauher Chaudhry, who is one of the biggest paid traffic guys in the world. I’m trying to do about an hour a day of studying and then I need to start testing on a small scale so I can scale up. As scary as this is to me, I know that if I master Media Buying, I can scale the shit out of my company and start to become a big player.

Traditional Marketing

I decided I need to be doing some more traditional marketing for myself as well. Instead of just doing online press releases, I need to start getting featured in newspapers and branding myself as a young up and coming entrepreneur. This will bring publicity to both of my companies and will also help drive traffic online and give me back links from authority news services. Regardless of how much money I’ve made so far in my career (very little compared to if I had a job), my on paper resume sounds ridiculous right now: “23 year old entrepreneur who has started 2 companies in the past 2 years, conducts business all over the world, and has 8 employees in 4 different countries. Has never accepted any investment and has built everything from scratch with hard work, determination, and virtually no budget.”

I dropped a quick email to a reporter that covers the bucks county area and I have an interview coming up next week. My plan is to get featured in the business section for print and online and then use that credibility to approach larger newspapers.

Couch Surfing

I originally planned to leave for my couch surfing across America trip in September after our fantasy football draft in Atlantic City. There is no way in hell that’s a realistic option for me anymore. I have way too much shit going on to just pick up and leave. I’m also strapped for cash right now because of everything I’m working on. I’m thinking a realistic departure date is going to be sometime in March/April of 2014 because it will be getting warmer for my trip and that also gives me time to do test runs where I couch surf for say a week at a time and learn how the logistics are going to work.

Working From Starbucks

I had quite the week this week working out of different Starbucks. The only people that are in a Starbucks during the day for the most part are entrepreneurs and people doing business meetings. I always have my headphones on, but when I hear an interesting conversation going on, I turn the music off and eavesdrop with absolutely no shame. They think I’m working and listening to music, but really what I’m doing is qualifying them. For the most part, I listen for a couple minutes and then go back to work, but sometimes I find some gems. This week was a good week for me.

Early in the week, I overheard people discussing a business plan for some SAT tutoring service. They talked about SEO and the need for a website multiple times in the convo, so as soon as their meeting was done I introduced myself and gave them each my card. Later in the day, they both checked out my LinkedIn profile and then within a half hour I had a voicemail on my business line asking for a meeting with me. Easy Peasy.

On Thursday, I overheard a conversation between a real young kid and a business attorney. He’s only 21 years old and his business which I will not include here, has already done over $1 million in revenue for the year. He recently fired his cofounder because she blew 250K on bull shit and now she is causing legal problems for him. After the meeting was over, I grabbed the kid and went with the I love meeting other young entrepreneurs approach. We talked for 15 minutes about different stuff and exchanged cards. I’m planning on following up with him sometime this upcoming week and seeing if he wants to grab a few drinks. Surround yourself by smart people and build relationships with movers and shakers and somewhere down the line it will pay off.

On Friday, I was working out of a starbucks in Philadelphia. This old dude was working behind me and looked at my screen and asked if I was building a website. I wasn’t, but a conversation ensued and this guy who I thought was a kook, actually turned out to be incredibly interesting. He went from being a taxi driver, to landing a job from a passenger in his taxi, to becoming a self taught programmer, to designing one of the world’s first heart monitoring machine software’s, to becoming #1 ranked in the world at competitive air hockey, to having an asthma attack in which the doctors fucked up and paralysed him. Ever since the accident, he has problems focusing and he talks weird, which is why I thought he was kooky, but he is intelligent as fuck. We literally talked and exchange stories for 3 hours on Friday (which I made up by working until 8:30pm fml) and he has invited me to stay at his house in South Texas when I do my couch surfing trip. He also took my card and wants to introduce me to a bunch of business people he knows in Texas. During our talk, we got onto the subject of encryption and I got an entire rundown of how to encrypt devices and back them up. He was at Starbucks on Friday rebuilding a computer’s operating system and he had a bag of flash drives. Each flash drive contained its own linux operating system on it. He basically had 7 different portable operating systems stored on these encrypted flash drives that he could plug into any computer and boom he was up and running.

Based on what I learned from Joe, I set up a bunch of encrypted files on my computer today. With my level of encryption, not even the NSA could break into my computer to look at my documents if they wanted to. Seriously, and the NSA knows it, which really pisses them off. Not that the NSA would ever solicit my documents or anything like that, but if my computer were ever stolen like it was in Montreal, all of my information is safe. Furthermore, I now plan to back up my files everyday on my encrypted flash drive so I can be completely portable instead of having to drag my laptop around. Bad Ass!

Mike O’Donnell Reaches The 30 Day Milestone For Selling Physical Products With Cave Tools

Posted on June 30th, 2013 in Amazon, Business Development, Goal Setting, Sales | No Comments »

Wow! I can’t believe I have finally reached my 30 day mark for selling physical products online. I remember back in March when I was winding things down with Wayne and trying to regroup so I could focus on Hyacinth Marketing again. I was thinking of importing some cell phone batteries and selling them on the side so I could learn the ropes of physical products and working with China. Then my idea transformed into making Fat Head style wall stickers and selling them because the unit price was so low and I could form a white label relationship with a domestic printer. One thing led to another and I spent about 2 months learning and building up the infrastructure for Cave Tools to get ready for the big launch on May 28, 2013.

Before I get to the results for the first 30 days, I’d like to talk a little bit about what’s going on behind the scenes. Everything in this business revolves around driving qualified traffic to the product page. Right now my product page is converting at around 10-11%, which is really good considering that ecommerce conversions are typically around the 3-5% range. My goal is to be making 15 sales per day on average by the end of month 5 because that would put me on track for 100K per year revenue with just this one product. Based on my math, that means I need to get about 150 people to the product page every single day. This assumes people only purchase 1 at a time, which in my case I’m selling 1.14 brushes per purchase. I’m working on a couple strategies to increase that number so people start buying multiple brushes and giving them away as gifts.

In one of my updates a couple posts ago, I talked about the excel dashboard I was creating to manage the entire marketing of the business. I didn’t really know what I was building when I first started on it, but every time I go into it I upgrade it. This dashboard is ridiculously awesome and is allowing me to track and manage literally every aspect of my marketing strategy. Right now I’m executing 15 different marketing strategies to drive traffic and build SEO value of my various websites. In SEO terms, I’m using a nice mix of White hat on the front end, a little bit of Grey hat to boost them up, and then a couple sneaky Black hat strategies to promote my promotions.

Without going into the details for each strategy, this is what we are doing for promotion right now: Press Releases, Blogs, Squidoo Lenses, Videos, Social Media, Reviews promotions, Amazon ads, Facebook Ads, Coupons Code Websites, Article directories, Wikis, Pdf Directories, RSS syndication, Commenting, and Autoresponders. Getting all of these strategies up and running was difficult because they all needed to be interconnected and congruent across the board. Without my dashboard, it would all fall apart. Lately, I’ve been focusing on going back to each individual strategy and making them more efficient and powerful. I still have a few more strategies I need to add to my list. Building an Email List is at the top of the priority list right now because it opens the doors for so much more customer contact.

I’ve also mentioned about hiring people and “Silo-ing” the business. I haven’t really been doing much of that yet. My assistant Caecilia has 9 jobs she is doing for me on a weekly basis right now. This is a huge help because it frees up tons of my time to focus on strategy and managing the business. I also just hired a new person a few days ago named Anj. It’s taking a little longer than expected to get her up to speed, but once she gets rolling I’m planning on giving her close to 25-30 hours per week worth of work. I’m super excited to get her to that point because that will kick all of my SEO and traffic efforts into overdrive.

Pretty soon, I will also be selling in the Sears marketplace. My application is still under review right now, but I am expecting to hear back by tomorrow afternoon. Once I get approved, I will be sending a small batch of 150 brushes over to the Sears fulfillment centers and then the rest will go out to my Amazon warehouses. I was able to get my inventory limit raised by 30% this week, which is cool because it gives me more flexibility. The Unlimit3d website is set to begin within the week, so I’m planning on taking some of the profit from the first milestone payment and placing another order for grill brushes. Since I need to project out at least a month in advance, I think I’m actually behind schedule for my next order. The worst thing that can happen right now is to stock out of inventory, so if I need to I’ll just have to put them on a plane again instead of a boat.

I’ve also been doing a lot of research trying to figure out what my next product is going to be. Right now, I’m thinking it will be a 3 piece grill set with a Spatula, Tongs, and Grill Fork. My only concern is that right now I want to spend as much money as possible getting the grill brushes into a top position. If I start splitting my resources between the 2 products I will spread myself too thin. By the time the set releases it will also be winter time so I won’t be selling as much volume in the northern states. Definitely still have a lot of thinking to do before going down this road.

Now for the first month’s results…In the first 30 days, we sold 192 grill brushes for total revenue of $2,847.69. I’m happy with these numbers for the first month, but they are definitely not where I would like them to be. I’m still well in the hole for my investment and it might take another 2 months before the business goes positive. My next mini goal is to do 5K in revenue in one month. Everything I’m doing is building on itself, so I’m hoping to be able to reach this goal by the end of month 3 at the latest!

Mike O’Donnell Brainstorms His Couch Surfing Across America Trip

Posted on June 24th, 2013 in Couch Surfing, Goal Setting, My Story, Self Improvement, Speaking | No Comments »

When I studied abroad in Ireland in my junior year of college, I remember hearing a story of someone that a friend of mine knew who couch surfed their way through Africa. The idea of couch surfing instantly took hold of me and I wanted to couch surf through Ireland. For whatever reason, I never took the trip. The idea of couch surfing scares the shit out of a ton of people and admittedly it is a little scary for me too. I’m guessing nobody wanted to go with me so I bagged it.

I considered couch surfing while I was living in Montreal. My lease was up and I had less than 5 days left to find a new apartment for 2 months. I set up my profile and everything, but found a new apartment with 2 days to spare. Sweet deal too because I lived with a 28 year old girl named Yseult with huge tits. She had just returned from living and scuba diving off the coast of Portugal for 6 years. But I digress…

The point is, I never couch surfed and I want to do it really bad! For the uninformed, check this out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couch_Surfing#Conception

Basically, you set up a profile online and then people allow you to sleep on their couch for a few nights while you are traveling. It’s free accommodation and you meet some really interesting people. The idea of sleeping on a strangers couch in their house is obviously something that scares a lot of people and has to be really weird at first. Especially if you stay with a creeper. However, the online community of couch surfers vouch for each other so you know if people are cool or not. Still risky, but fuck it. It’s all about the experience. I can fend for myself.

Right now I am in the process of streamlining Hyacinth Marketing. My billing is automated and I rarely meet with clients anymore. Besides word of mouth, I’ve actually stopped all prospecting and marketing of my business and only do phone calls and skype chats with clients. The Unlimit3d website is set to start in about 2 weeks, so that should provide ample income for that business to survive in addition to my clients I already have on a yearly contract. Cave Tools is all online and I can work that business from anywhere with an internet connection. My biggest problem is going to be with Taxes. I have been getting fucked over and over again for almost a year now with late tax payments and missing forms. I am inept when it comes to accounting and getting my taxes in order. I used to think it was my accountants fault, but he always has himself covered and every time there’s a problem it turns out it was my fault. God Damn IRS!

My solution I am thinking of now for my taxes is to set up an Earth Class Mail account so all my mail is pdf’d and sent to me via email. I can send checks from my bank and pay my accountant more to have him send in my forms instead of me keep trying to do it myself and somehow messing up.

My original idea was to couch surf out to Texas and hang out with my friend Jordan. Take about 2 months or less and weave across the U.S and stay at friends places along the way and some strangers in between. I have friends in New York, Maryland, Virginia, Atlanta, Colorado, Minnesota, and a bunch in Texas so it would be a cool trip. Cashing in on some nice Hospitality and working out of Starbucks along the way.

During my 7 hour car ride home from Montreal 2 weeks ago, I expanded the shit out of this idea. Back when I was studying abroad in Ireland again, I started writing a book. I wanted to make a study abroad guide for Ireland with all the best restaurants and things to do and avoid. The idea of becoming an author has always been really cool to me and it brings huge credibility to your name. I wrote about 30 pages of the book while I was over there and then never followed up. I guess the Guinness got the better side of me 😉

The idea of writing a book was replanted in my mind in 2011 when I was in San Antonio and listened to Bill Glazer speak at the Local Mobile and Social Media Summit. I can at least say that I took action from his speech and followed his other big piece of advice when I joined Toastmasters in Montreal. The book part however never took hold and to be honest, sitting down to write is a pain in the ass. Unless I’m writing about personal experiences like I do on this blog because then it just flows and I can bang out over 1,000 words in a half hour.

Back to my idea…

My plan now is to leave the first week of September for at least 3 months and make my way out to California and back. Maybe even stop in Vancouver to see Justin and Dreama and hang out there because I hear it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I purchased the domain http://CouchSurfingAmerica.com and I am going to blog about my entire experience every day along the way. Break it up into goals before I leave, goals along the way (launch a new product on the road ;), talk about who I stay with, the crazy experiences I encounter, what to pack, etc.  I could do a bunch of press releases and promote the thing so I have followers the entire way on my blog. Maybe even have a form so people can put me up for a night or contact me where ever I am. I also want to have my graphic designer create a cool map with my path tracked along it. When and if I return, I will hire a ghostwriter to take my entire blog and turn it into a book. I can then leverage my network and get consulting form someone who has done a hardback book launch and see what I can do. Maybe travel and do some speeches about my experience, who knows. The blog is also going to be no holds barred. Everything will be documented, including interactions with girls and anything else that happens. Going RAW

Leading up to my trip, I plan on taking a bunch of mini trips like I did in Montreal for a week. Maybe go to New York or D.C for a few days each and work the whole time. I don’t want to get stuck in the rut of going out and partying every night along the way. Just casual traveling and working like nothing changed.

On a side note, I message my Mexican friend Argelia the other day on Facebook. I met her while I was in Punta Cana on family vacation a year and a half ago and we became “friends.” She still messages me every now and then so I figured what the hell, why not. She said she would fly out to Texas and hang out for a week while I’m there. I think she’s 30 now and last I spoke she was still single and was all about the idea of hanging out again. I’m sure she’ll make a nice entry on my no holds barred blog haha

Mike O’Donnell Working Hard On New Amazon Business

Posted on April 27th, 2013 in Amazon, Business Development, Efficiency, Goal Setting, My Story, Outsourcing, Reflection | No Comments »

I made a pretty bold claim in my last post. 20 days ago I said I was going to be building a new business and would be generating good cash flow by May 10th. Well, I’ve worked for 18 of those 20 days on weekends and at nights and I’m ready to give an update.

Once I decided on grill brushes, I started interviewing manufacturers and negotiating. I decided to go with a manufacturer in China because they were obviously more competitive than the domestic manufacturers. I did however receive sample products from my Chinese manufacturer and then ship them out to a domestic manufacturer out in Wisconsin. The manager there was very aggressive and wanted to win my business. She took the specs of the product and figured out her price, but she still wasn’t even close. It would be nice to be a made in the USA product, but that’s not going to happen.

This happened during one of my first Skype conversations with the Chinese manufacturer. Not the most professional verbiage, but she’s definitely a keeper!

[4/08/13 12:31:46 PM] Tracy: so.. do you still have any question about the order?

[4/08/13 12:32:29 PM] Michael O’Donnell: Not at the moment. I need to have a discussion with my partner and then I will get back in touch with you

[4/08/13 12:33:38 PM] Tracy: Ok .. then I am going to take a bath .. BTW.. you are so handsome on that pic .. 😉

[4/08/13 12:36:34 PM] Tracy: have a nice day .. bye !

[4/08/13 12:48:05 PM] Michael O’Donnell: haha Thank you

 

Another Chinese lady from a different manufacturing facility said this to me:

hello Michael

[4/22/13 9:25:42 AM] Ruby.Y: Do you see the series “the Vampire Diaries”?I see your pic,and think you and Stephen who in the series something look like 😛

 

I looked him up. I don’t see the resemblance, but I’ll take the compliment. All these Chinese ladies trying to woo me into working with them. Americans should take some notes 😉

 

Sourcing from China has been interesting because I knew absolutely nothing about shipping 20 days ago. I think I’ve shipped maybe 3 boxes in my lifetime and they were domestic, so I had a lot to learn. Luckily for me Bob’s job is to ship things all over the world, so I had him as a resource.

The first step was to figure out how all of my brushes would be packed and how many boxes I was shipping. We’re placing 40 brushes into each box with dimensions of 56X26X58 cms and each box weighs approximately 8 kilos. We’re shipping 25 boxes (do the math and I’m importing 1,000 brushes), so that translates into 2.1 CBMs.

Now that I had my dimensions all figured out, it was time to start speaking with shipping companies. Bob was a major help with all of this. I also introduced him as my logistics manager to the Chinese manager Tracy and he started speaking Chinese to her. She got super wet over that and I think if he was over there she would have invited him into the bath with her. But that’s beside the point.

We figured out the HTS code (still not sure what this is) and Bob hooked me up with his friend Michael O’Donnell (truth) who is an import broker. I paid Mike to set up my import bond so I could place it on my shipping mark and send to China so they could place on the boxes. Then came the confusing part. Once in America, I need to split up the boxes and send to 3 different fulfillment centers (East coast, Midwest, West coast). I kept changing my mind on where things were going and switching up the addresses, which caused a mess. Then I decided to ship them all directly to my house so I could inspect them and then ship out. That caused more issues because now I needed port to door service and since I’m residential it costs more than shipping to a commercial location. Such a mess!

When I shipped my sample brush out to Wisconsin, I noticed that the Parcel Place in Newtown counted as a commercial shipping location. Boom, problems solved! For 3 bucks a package I could have them all shipped there, inspect them, and then ship out to each fulfillment center that day!

Now that that’s figured out, I’m in the process of pinning DHL and Fedex sales reps against each other so I can negotiate the cheapest shipping price. We’re shipping these via air cargo instead of by boat so I can get up and running quicker. Next shipment will be by boat, but for now I’m stuck paying the more expensive air freight prices. We still don’t know what the actual shipping price is going to be because the rates change daily and our shipment date is May 10th (gonna push my cash flow deadline back a few days). I’m expecting it to be around $4,000 to ship them all in. On the surface, that’s a HOLY SHIT high number, but for 1,000 brushes that just adds $4 to my unit price for each. Considering I’m saving a ton of money going to China, that’s actually not that bad. This first shipment is all about getting the business up and running. If I tried to be perfect and maximize my profit at this stage I’d never get off the ground. I’m moving at a blazing speed right now and there is no time for me to be perfect. I’ll refine later.

Next step was to create a brand name. I decided to go with Cave Tools because I want to play on the whole Man Cave theme and eventually expand into other manly products. Being the cheap ass that I am, I hired a designer from Sri Lanka. The dude could barely speak English, so I had to do a lot of back and forth with revisions before the Hand Tag design as complete. In hindsight, I should have paid a few extra bucks to get someone I could communicate with. It would have saved me money in my time.

 

 

Looks pretty damn good though if I do say so myself! A whopping $22 out the door for this gem!

Next thing I had to do was get high quality pictures for my product listing. Online shopping is highly visual, so you need to have kickass pictures if you want to get attention. I originally was going to have a Photoshop master create a digital image for me. Basically, I was going to have him create my product from scratch in Photoshop so I could show more details than a picture would ever capture. This was going to run me around $100 and I didn’t really feel like paying that. I also didn’t want to hire a professional photographer to take pictures for me with their super high end cameras. What to do? What to do? Solution: take pictures with my regular camera and have them professionally retouched to enhance the details.

So that’s what I did, I enlisted my mother to be my camera person and we went out to our grill and started taking pictures. Problem was that our grill grates look like shit after years of poor cleaning and there was rust everywhere. Hardly the image I want to portray for my grill “cleaning” brush. Fran had the bright idea of going to Home Depot and taking pictures using their brand new grills. Perfect! People were giving us really weird looks, but we had no shame. Upwards and onwards!

Once I had my pictures, I needed to get someone to retouch them. I have been burned by Bangladeshis in the past, so as a rule I never hire anyone from Bangladesh anymore. This time however, I made an exception because my man Ibrahim had a hell of a portfolio and his rates were dirt cheap! Before I share some before and after pics, I have to share this message that he sent me because it’s hilarious. His profile picture makes it even more hilarious haha

 

hello boss
how are you ?
i hope you are well by the grace of almighty .
boss i have completed your other 5 images work.
please see the attachment and if you have any problem please inform me and i will be trying to overcome it.
thank to you.
regards
ibrahim

Here are 2 before after pictures to show how great he did:

 

Before:

 

After:

 

 

Before:

 

 

After:

 

As you can see in these pictures, Ibrahim is the Fucking Man! I had him retouch 8 pictures for me at a negotiated rate of………. $2 an image. Being the gentlemen that I am, I gave him a bonus and paid him $20 for all 8 images. I’ll be working with him again in the future for sure!

 

Ok, shipping taken care of (almost), packaging and branding complete (Need website to finish branding), High quality pictures finished, now I need some sales copy.

Sales copy was written by yours truly. Started off by doing deep keyword research on both Amazon and Google and then dove right in. Amazon only allows 2,000 characters including the html tags for formatting (bolding, italicizing, etc.) o that’s not a lot to work with. This stuff may change over time, so instead of linking to it I will show a picture:

 

 

So now that everything is set up, we need to start marketing the hell out of this thing. Of course, I don’t want to have to do everything myself. That would be silly!

Right now, I am in the process of hiring a writer that will provide me with press releases, articles, and blog posts on a weekly basis. I’m thinking we’ll do 1 of each per week and then I will turn them into videos as well. All of this will be templated out in the next week. For example, all articles will be 500 words (100 intro, 300 body, 100 conclusion), standard article resource box and contact box. I will generate a list of headlines and my writer will fill in the places to make them unique per each article. All articles will be focused on 1 keyword specifically with the ability to target other keywords in the list I provide. You get the point. When I’m ready, everything will be pretty much drag and drop for the writer and I will order content in bulk so I can clump their research time and get cheaper rates. Every piece of content will also be “Spun” into about 50 slightly different versions of the same piece of content. This is so we can avoid duplicate content all over the internet. Make sense?

Each type of content is going to have specific instructions as to where to post, what automated tools to run it through, and what to do with each piece of content on certain days of the week. We are literally going to be building thousands of links per month to my product page and my Cave Tools website to blast this thing to the top of the search engines. Since I’m leveraging Amazon’s authority, I can build a ton of links without getting in trouble. As you can imagine with 1000s of links per month, this can get out of control very quickly.

Well, on Thursday night I stayed up until 1am building a ridiculous excel dashboard that is going to track everything. Every single link I build will be tracked on a micro level down to the exact keywords that are used in every post. Then I have a clean macro dashboard sheet that will tell me with one glance, how many blog posts have been done (and on which platform: wordpress, tumblr, blogger), how many press releases, how many articles, videos, micro blog posts (twitter, etc.), etc. On top of that, I also have a pie chart that shows the percentage of times each keyword has been used so I can keep track of my keyword usage and add substract keywords as necessary.

What I have built (still designing parts of it) is a massively complex personal SEO system that I can manage with very little personal time of my own. Why you ask? Because I have templated everything out and I’m in the process of dumbing all tasks down into instructions that a robot can follow without messing up. However, instead of having a robot do it, I will have my personal assistant in the Philippines, Caecilia, run this system for $2.50 an hour.

I just stopped writing this blog post for 45 minutes because I remembered an article I read over a year ago. With a little bit of research, I just figured out how to build my own web scraper by modifying the code from other people’s scrapers. On top of that, I figured out how to set up an automated timed scrape that streams directly into a Google Docs. What does this mean?

Well, part of SEO is to promote links you have built, not just build new links all the time. When you send a press release out to 100 sites, you end up getting much more links because other news sites pick your release up. This normally within a week or two news websites will stop picking it up because it’s old news. If you do a search for your exact press release title a week later, you may see there are 500 links to it because of the additional pick up. On top of my current system, I am now going to build a timed Google scraper that automatically finds all of my extra press release links a week later, drops them into a spreadsheet, which I will then create a process for Caecilia to add to my URL booster. Remembering that article right now probably just tripled the effectiveness of what I am going to do.

In the last 20 days I have gone from knowing nothing about physical products to building the processes and systems to go into Beast Status all while running my marketing company. The anticipation for my first shipment to come in is literally killing me right now. Let’s get this show on the road! http://www.amazon.com/Grill-Brush-Stainless-Porcelain-Char-broil/dp/B00CATVET0