My Amazon Journey | Chapter 4 – Overflow

So, dear reader, if you’ve followed the past three chapters patiently, you’ll be pleased to know I’m now starting to reach the core of why I started recording all this stuff in the first place!

Back in 2002 I started my first business on the side, selling bespoke products for the coffee industry. It was a great little business, which really only started through a personal need that someone else saw, and told a friend who told a friend, I launched a website and started taking orders. 10 years later it was recognised as the premium brand in that niche of the industry. Things were always very busy because I was learning so much about running a business, and didn’t have great systems, so at this point I sold the business as it was too much to keep plus my day job.

The next 12 months were so peaceful! I’d come home from work and not have to worry about suddenly remembering an order I had to deal with, or a quarterly tax submission due that day, or a hundred other things a business owner has in the back of their mind. It was so nice to be free from all that.

However 18 months later and a house move later, I needed a second income to meet rising family expenses, which is why I bought the Amazon business. Since I’ve been running this business I have never felt busier. Of course I knew this from my coffee business – when you’re starting a new business that’s completely to be expected. Just think for a second about the things which needed accomplishing in the first 12 months:

  • Spend hours following dozens of modules of training videos
  • Choose a new brand name
  • Find a new product supplier
  • Set up website, email
  • Create text for auto-responder emails to customers
  • Shoot new photos for original product
  • Rewrite product listing
  • Learn all Amazon’s policies, occasionally falling foul of what’s OK and not
  • and a whooooole lot more

… all while holding down a full-time job and trying to be a family man!

So over time I got used to ‘feeling busy’ being normal. Yet six years on I still feel just as busy. While I have a virtual assistant now to handle most of the day to day operations and free up my time, my head is just as full of aaalllll the things I still have to do. I have the flexibility as to WHEN I work, but when the time comes here’s what work has felt like for me:

  • “I guess I’d better start work” without really any idea of what today is for or what it’s going to bring
  • Turn on computer, open email
  • Respond to anything needing attention
  • Go back through older emails and maybe deal with something I’d missed
  • Open Amazon Seller Central, look at orders and think how it compares to yesterday
  • Notice another tab in my browser with a notification that came through overnight. Check that out
  • Read the news headlines
  • Look at my personal youtube channel, see how many new subscribers I got, respond to comments
  • Do a bit of random youtube searching, maybe watch an old cricket video or some random thing.
  • Realise I need to get some work done. Come back to Amazon but not really being sure what to do.
  • I might notice the Advertising tab and look at my sponsored ads campaigns. I might see something needing attention, e.g. update some keywords. Then I’d get interrupted and the task would end up only half done, or only done in one marketplace out of eight.
  • Get distracted again
  • Check email again
  • Take a break and have morning tea
  • Maybe do some work on a new product
  • Notice another notification
  • Get distracted by some papers on my desk
  • Repeat

You get the idea. And when I had a whole day working, it would be like this for a good part of the day. Sure there would be times I’d review my metrics and take note of the conversion rate on our products (the percentage of people who purchased a product out of the total number who clicked on it). I’d sometimes spent several hours creating new inventory shipments to comply with Amazon’s storage limit guidelines (and this would be a looong job each month or two). I spent a good week mid 2020 going through some third-party warehouses who may have been able to store some stock for us while waiting for it to get to Amazon, and another week learning a new inventory management tool. But at the end of the day, these things were a lot of work; they really didn’t move the dial of progress forward; and really… there was NO goal. No vision. No structure. And I was very frustrated. I would feel like I’m working for hours and really not achieving that much, really not knowing what I SHOULD have been doing.

The Overflow Mindset

You know what it felt like? And this applied at my day job too. I felt there were simply too many things on my plate to even get my head around the scope of them all to work out what needed doing first. “Does this new task go at #85 on the list or #86?” I simply had too much coming in to know what to do. So I ended up just doing something on the list, ANYTHING, knowing it needed doing but not knowing its value. An email would come in – I would just deal with it straightaway so it was off my plate, so I didn’t have to work out where it fit into the big scheme of things and when I should do it. My list of jobs was like a giant bucket full of bits of paper, each having a task on it – and I would just dip my hand in there and pull something out and do it. My whole work life was madly trying to stop the bucket from overflowing, and just hope that by getting things done the business would move forward. Of course I never consciously thought this but it was the sub-conscious hope.

Another factor was that through my own insecurities I love other people to love my work because that makes me feel better about myself, temporarily. So I would go above and beyond with customer service, often responding as early as possible even if it wasn’t that urgent, so people loved my brand and loved my product, both of which I had built, and I felt better. This was the same in the coffee business, and it’s no doubt a factor as to why the product and brand were both successful. But it’s not the most effective way to use one’s time as a business owner.

This was the only way I felt I could make progress, but I knew it was unproductive.

And this pressure of two jobs and trying to stay on top of everything overflowed into my personal life, in lack of headspace. I didn’t spend enough time with the kids, consciously present with them. Other things in life I might have liked to have done were often left by the wayside, sitting there, undone, latent reminders that I still hadn’t gotten that part of life sorted out.

I was tired, I was frustrated. I felt like I SHOULD feel successful. I’d done a 6 week road trip with the family in 2017; 3 weeks’ family holiday in the UK in 2018; three month road trip around half of Oz in 2019, and now a full year on the road in 2020. I saw $300k of revenue in 2020 looking back at me. Yet it didn’t feel successful. I still had to watch the bills, I wasn’t sure where the business was going, and I knew I spent a lot of time really not achieving a whole lot.

You get the picture.

The start of the change – REAL Coaching

Towards the end of 2020 I knew things needed to change if the business was going to be successful enough to rely on for our single source of income.

I mentioned back in the previous post that the Amazing Accelerators program I’d followed had been discontinued after I finished it. It was a great program, and looking back I probably could have gotten more out of it if I’d had more focus and less distractions from work. However while the program didn’t go on, the people who ran that program for (Isaac Kuhlmann and Kirsty Verity) periodically emailed me about their own Amazon coaching group, REAL coaching, and I wondered if this might be of any use. I felt like I really needed focus and direction.

I emailed Kirsty and explained my situation, and we had a bit of back and forth about where my business was up to and the roadblocks I was facing. By now I had 7 products in 8 marketplaces, most of which weren’t doing that well, and all this overhead of trying to stay on top of everything was causing a lot of distractions from the few gems which could really move forward. Of course I’d set the business up to try to have a cohesive product line, but it meant having some underperforming products which distracted from the good ones. What they were offering sounded good – a small group environment, online training material, no shiny objects, but it included one-on-one coaching to your specific business situation. I.e. not just a cookie cutter “Here’s a course, follow it and it should work out”.

There was another mastermind group I’d heard of and was also considering, so I had a chat with a chap I really respect, Mike McClary. He’s also one of the co-presenters of Amazing Selling Machine and I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with him on several occasions. Now if you’ve ever been to any conferences you know the people who get up on stage and do the talking, you tend to put them up on a pedestal. I remember the first Amazing seller conference I went to I saw all the trainers and mentors around the bar talking and laughing with each other and I knew no-one. I felt like they were the cigar-smoking, champagne-swilling elite set while I was scratching around for crumbs of information to try to help me. When in reality they probably didn’t even know I was there needing help and were just chatting with friends. Anyway I digress. Since I got to know Mike I have never found him this way. While I’ve only spoken in person a few times, I consider him a friend on account of how helpful he is and down to earth and not at all stuck up; although having only crossed paths with him a few times I guess I can’t claim to be ‘friends’ as such.

Here’s how it went:

So based on this I decided to join REAL coaching in December 2020.

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