A lot of Amazon sellers tell us it's all they can do to keep their heads above water. As soon as one problem is resolved, another one pops up. Sound familiar?
There are so many things that can go wrong in any given day, and it seems like the more money you make, the more problems you have to deal with. But it doesn't have to be this way!
Carlos Alvarez joins us to discuss how he has efficiently grown 52 successful businesses! Get insights into lessons learned and tips you can take away so your own businesses run like clockwork.
Chris: Hey everybody, I'm here with Leah McHugh. We're glad you can join us. We're very happy to have Carlos Alvarez with us today. And thank you for participating as a speaker for Seller Velocity.
Carlos: Absolutely. I'm very excited about it. And thank you and Leah for having me on the show.
Chris: Carlos has launched 52 businesses, right Carlos?
Carlos: Well, a lot more. Currently have 52 launched. A lot more than we have 52.
Chris: We saw you recently at the prosper show, went to your presentation, talked to you quite a bit before and after just about businesses that are trying to get more efficient, right? And you know all about that because you've got the group in Florida, you've got your podcast that I've been on a couple of times. Thanks for having me on. But most importantly, for our Seller Velocity Conference, attendees and listeners today, you've got tons of experience with righting the wrongs and correcting initial mistakes that people make so that you know how to kind of take them to the next level. When they're established, they've got a couple of years under. Their brand is going well, but, they're having lost time accidents, right? And some inefficiencies that are bogging them down instead of growing, they're putting out fires things like that.
Leah: Too often, we're seeing sellers who just don't have processes in place. It's always difficult to make the time to make those processes, but I think, it's so much easier once you do that. So, I mean, if you're starting fresh of like, this is a mess, what should I do? What would be the first thing that you would recommend that sellers do?
Carlos: There actually is one thing I feel, and I can't take total credit for this. This was a coach that I hired way back in the day, named Chris Ducker. Who compiled everything into a $10. It might even be free on kindle, but $10 book called 'All Virtual Freedom'. And since then, I've really built my own stuff on top of that. But it's creating four lists, as dorky as that sounds, if you skip this step, it's going to wreck havoc later on. And those four lists are everything you love to do in your business. Everything you hate to do in your business. Everything you do to manage your business. And everything you do to grow your business. At first, I would suggest eliminating everything that is sales or strategic off that list, because you're going to keep that. There'll be a time later, but right now, keep that. That's you, that's the small hinge that swings the big door, so to speak. Everything else, what I do is I begin assigning a time value next to them. If something takes me 15 minutes every day, I'll put 15 times seven and then a number. A total number per week. And then I do that for everything. And then I go back again and I assign an experience level next to it. Because there's a difference of me needing to pull a report and paste it on a Google sheet versus me needing to create formulas on a sheet and have a template and do V lookups and all this other stuff that I don't even know how to do now. And, there's a different skill level that's needed. And I assign that skill level. So what this does is it identifies what most people just think, oh, I just need to hire somebody for PPC. That's all I need to like free up my time. Like that's the knee jerk reaction. When in reality, you're very clogged up with a lot of other things and you'd have a lot more time freed up to maybe work on PPC or maybe hire a better person for PPC. Maybe build more SLPs down the road, if you did these lists first. You're also let me add, in a way. I sometimes I don't like to say this because it'll throw you when you're creating the lists and that is, you're really building a job description with these four lists because once you've identified what you should get off your plate, you now need to hire it. And this gives you a very great start on a job description. It's the experience you need. How many hours per week you need them and exactly what the tasks are. I hope that helps as a one thing to start.
Chris: It does because you'd be surprised how many people take that stuff for granted and or mentally copy and paste some ideas, but don't follow through on it or don't come up with a detailed list. And I did read that book, when I was starting my consulting business, I read that book back in 2015. And I mean, the first takeaway was don't do everything yourself. Right. That was one of the main points. Don't assume it's my business. It's my show. I got to do everything. But to graduate to those lists that you mentioned. Excellent starting point. Yeah.
Carlos: You'd be surprised, you guys wouldn't be surprised, but I've been shocked at how many people will lie on their own lists. Because there's this thing in the e-comm world that you should never be touching box tape. Like to seal your own boxes, right? Like you need to hire this.
Leah: Really? That's where I started.
Carlos: Well, yeah, you should start there.
Chris: I'm pretty sure Jeff was sealing boxes in that Bellevue garage. I mean, Jeff was personally sealing boxes, everybody just, just in case there was any doubt over the origins of Amazon. You go back to the nineties. Jeff was packing books, alongside a couple people I met while I was working there.
Carlos: Absolutely. But I have a close friend, Gabe Cosio. He's a very successful Amazon seller. He's been selling. I jokingly say, he's been doing e-commerce since before the internet. He still loves sealing boxes. So at first he would probably find himself not putting on that list. Cause you're worried that some other, , more savvy entrepreneur is going to scold you for that. But no, you should really put what you love doing on the list. I mean, that's what we're doing this for, right?
Leah: Yeah. And I think, sometimes if you remove all of those less mental intensive activities. You can't constantly be doing strategic planning 24/7. So when you're doing those repetitive, laborist tasks, that's when I get my best ideas personally. It's like when you're in the shower, your brain can wander. And that's when you come up with really great ideas. Cause you're not actively trying to think of them.
Carlos: Well said.
Chris: When you're not singing in the shower, you're brainstorming these fundamental concepts. No, but I like what you were saying. I mean, don't lie to yourself, have an honest conversation with yourself about what you're good at and what you're not. There are things we know we're not good at, in the Amazon space. But we see a lot of sellers, their accounts suspended their whole business is down. They're like, I can do this. This is my business. I have to be in charge of this. I have to do this. And, I have to put it charitably or diplomatically, but I'll look at their plan of action or they're appeal and I'm like this needs a lot of work. I don't say it's terrible. Sometimes it is terrible, but I have to tell them , redirect your energies, where this can be, either having us do it, or have somebody at your company who understands this better or can learn it quicker. Do it not necessarily the owner. That's one of the honest conversations we try to force people to have, but you're having them with people I'd imagine within your group. People are struggling with, I don't know how to manage this task. I don't know how to grow. I don't know how to, I don't know, fix listing problems if their listings aren't optimized. I'd imagine all these things come up for you quite a bit.
Carlos: Yeah. A hundred percent. I mean, it's not that if you know these four lists that you can now, it's not going to absolve you from, if you're doing some fundamental things wrong in your business. Like, your account gets suspended and you just go searching for some random template that someone would take put online, an SOP is not going to save you from that. So, I think one of the biggest issues I see now is, and I mentioned this in prosper. Was when I started my main goal was to make a hundred thousand dollars a year. And I thought that would solve everything on earth, that number. And, I was focused on that number. I have people in my group, every single event that come up to me and want to know if I think if they source this product, it's a great path to eight figures. And I'm like what happened to 100K?
Leah: The marketers have taken it up to eight and nine now.
Carlos: Eight figures? Jeez. Okay. So I think some of that is the problem. You compare your chapter one to somebody, is that saying, comparing your chapter one to somebody else's chapter 20.
Leah: Right. And I also, I've seen at other conferences I've been to, they'd make you do the activity where you're making that goal. And then also what you will do once you reach that goal. And I found that, nine times out of 10, the goal would be up here and the change to their life would be down here. So it would be, I want to make $10 million a year and then we'll hire a cleaner to clean my house. It's like, whoa, you could probably hire a cleaner now, but it's just these crazy goals.
Carlos: Yeah. I've made all those bad choices. I've done all that. You must be talking about me cause I did that a long time ago. I've done that. It's I don't know. SOPs will definitely, I couldn't do what I do without SOPs in my business. I still at night check to see if I have a little red flag on some of my accounts as I'm going to the bathroom. My SOPs as they relate to the dreaded account suspension are more preventative. And it's more, hey, if this happens, everything stops and we deal with this. Like, we don't ignore this, like that sort of thing. I think there's too many people that just knee jerk reaction, go online. Or see the word template that sounds cheap and convenient, but that's usually one of those instances where cheap is very expensive.
Chris: Something in advance. That's what we're trying to get people to look at. And I'm sure in your group, you're focusing on like six different things they need to be prepared for in advance. What are a couple other ones that you try to get people ahead of the curve on so that if something negative happens to them, whether it's a fake negative review, anything really that they've got a 1, 2, 3 step process. Can you mention one or two others?
Carlos: Yeah. There's different areas that, and you guys would know this better than me, but there's different areas that I notice are more important to different sellers at different stages. So one that, Chris you actually schooled me on, on a phone call one day and it completely changed the advice that I was giving in my group. Had to do with beginner sellers. So if something goes wrong with a newbie seller, it becomes a much more difficult conversation to explain why they need to pay X to fix this problem, because they haven't seen the X coming into their account yet. But, my biggest concerns in the area of a newbie seller starting is making sure they have all of their documents in order when they open their account. I used to just, I'm almost embarrassed to say this now, my advice used to be, if Amazon turns around and says, we couldn't verify you submit the same thing again. If you keep doing that eventually they approve. I didn't know any better, right? And then we spoke on the phone and you spared me from light. You didn't laugh at me, but you pretty much broke down, how that should be done.
Chris: So, yeah. So yeah, the new sellers don't understand because they have no past experience with it. The concept of digging a deeper hole for themselves.
Leah: In terms of having documentation. I mean, we recommend to all sellers to have an SOP for bringing on any new supplier. Any new supplier will need to hit these requirements for the invoices that they send you, these requirements for their presence online, because if Amazon ever questioned the authenticity of your products, you need to have that ready to go. You can't say, oh, I didn't have it, but I will next time. Which is unfortunately what you have to do when you don't have that documentation, but just having that ready. So, if there is any sort of ding on the account, it's not a week long or a multiple week long thing. It's like, here it is. And it's sorted hopefully within 48 hours, depending on Amazon.
Carlos: Yeah. I try to encourage everyone in the group too, just to, I mean, we live in an amazing time as sellers. You know, you guys, and a lot of other people. There are some people that put out really good information on this subject for free. So follow those blogs, listen to those podcasts like yours. And when something comes out and you do share something instead of thinking, oh, I'll just refer back to this episode when that happens to me. Get ahead of it and get ahold of that certification or that document that you're going to need. So that in the event something bad does happen to the account. You're ready.
Leah: Yeah, absolutely. And then the other side of that is even if something, if it doesn't necessarily just apply to bad things. You could say the same thing. You could throw tons of money at PPC, but if there's no plan and you don't really know who you're hiring and you're just like fix it. You could be wasting a whole lot of money that's not really doing anything for your account.
Chris: Yeah, well, we'll be talking about this a lot next month in Boston to sellers, for whatever reason on Amazon are prone to be reactive, not proactive I've found. Just in a lot of my conversations. I mean, not even if there's a specific problem that they're facing urgently right at that moment, but I'm sure you have these conversations with people too. It's not just that there's no plan there. They have a knee jerk reaction once something happens, almost as though they never anticipated it. Even though there are so many resources in this space that tell you of things that might happen to you.
Carlos: Yeah. There seems to be, an always has been, even pre-Amazon just eBay days. It was this, what is the bare minimum I need to do to get by and do this? And I think that creates that. That mindset of, being very reactive instead of proactive. I found that businesses that are proactive also seem to be the ones that create SOPs for their business. The other sellers, and there's some successful ones. I'm not, I mean, everyone's entitled to have their own business model. But their businesses, when I look at them, seem to be more along the lines of a day trader. Or maybe like very, oh, wow. That happened. I do this very, very reactive. I don't have the stomach for that anymore.
Leah: Well, and it limits how much you can do at any given time. If you're just constantly reacting to things.
Chris: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Obviously, you've got tons of information in your head and you're going to be willing to share that in Boston. We're glad to have you up here. Any other final parting words of advice or pearls of wisdom you wanna share with our attendees?
Carlos: Bring your questions to Boston. I don't have any service or anything to sell you in regards to this. So I'm a very open book. I'm going to share everything I'm doing. Everything I'm doing that doesn't work, works, doesn't work, anything. But try to stump me on this. That's how I grow. And I'm really, really looking forward to seeing you guys in Boston and I can't thank you, Chris and Leah enough for inviting me to this and for this show today, you guys rock.
Leah: Yeah, thank you for joining us.
Chris: We're really excited about this one. Different kind of conference this year. How to structure a business, how to run it efficiently, not just the standard Amazon topics so, we're pumped up about this one.
Carlos: Love it.
Leah: Thanks everyone for joining.