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NeoDialectic

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My business partner and I recently sold our successful online business for 8 figures. You can see @fastlane_dad intro page here, and mine here. We have had businesses in alot of categories, but have limited experience in old fashion "shaking hands" type businesses. Our primary expertise is online sales, marketing, marketplaces like Amazon (and others), bootstrapping, and mindset. One way we want to give back to the community is by guiding people that are still on their entrepreneurship path.

We figured one of the more impactful ways we can do it is by answering peoples questions publically versus in DM's or personal consultations. So if you want our opinion/advice about your personal situation, we will be happy to read through your questions and give you a personalized answer. But it has to be public. That way everyone can read and discuss our answers. If we don't have experience in a topic, we will let you know.
 
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ji1029

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My business partner and I recently sold our successful online business for 8 figures. You can see @fastlane_dad intro page here, and mine here. We have had businesses in alot of categories, but have limited experience in old fashion "shaking hands" type businesses. Our primary expertise is online sales, marketing, marketplaces like Amazon (and others), bootstrapping, and mindset. One way we want to give back to the community is by guiding people that are still on their entrepreneurship path.

We figured one of the more impactful ways we can do it is by answering peoples questions publically versus in DM's or personal consultations. So if you want our opinion/advice about your personal situation, we will be happy to read through your questions and give you a personalized answer. But it has to be public. That way everyone can read and discuss our answers. If we don't have experience in a topic, we will let you know.
I'll give this a shot. Idea is for a startup that provides small businesses with no HR presence yet with documentation relating to onboarding, off-boarding, etc. My partner is the HR expert, and I will take care of building the website initially. I've tried to work through the CENTS model to evaluate whether it's fastlane or not and I'm just not sure.

Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated!
 

Tonci

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My business partner and I recently sold our successful online business for 8 figures. You can see @fastlane_dad intro page here, and mine here. We have had businesses in alot of categories, but have limited experience in old fashion "shaking hands" type businesses. Our primary expertise is online sales, marketing, marketplaces like Amazon (and others), bootstrapping, and mindset. One way we want to give back to the community is by guiding people that are still on their entrepreneurship path.

We figured one of the more impactful ways we can do it is by answering peoples questions publically versus in DM's or personal consultations. So if you want our opinion/advice about your personal situation, we will be happy to read through your questions and give you a personalized answer. But it has to be public. That way everyone can read and discuss our answers. If we don't have experience in a topic, we will let you know.
Hey thank you for sharing your story and offering your help!

Since you ran a business with a partner, I would like to ask, what are some of the qualities that you look for in a business partner? What are your thoughts on doing business with friends?
 

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I'll give this a shot. Idea is for a startup that provides small businesses with no HR presence yet with documentation relating to onboarding, off-boarding, etc. My partner is the HR expert, and I will take care of building the website initially. I've tried to work through the CENTS model to evaluate whether it's fastlane or not and I'm just not sure.

Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated!
Sure - I guess more so then anything I don't understand the product yet and have loads of questions.

Is the product 'documentation' strictly or is there more to it? Is there software that goes along with it? Outsourced phone support of any sort?

What will your website offer? How do you plan on establishing the 'need' in the marketplace and testing out your idea?

How will you achieve scale on this - my assumptions would be through advertising? Word of Mouth? What are your initial marketing plans once this is all up and running?

These are some of the things you have to work and think through many times before sitting down at the computer to begin any sort of work moving forward.

Many of businesses' CAN be directed or turned into a CENTS business either initially or down the road - it just all depends on what you are selling and how you will go about it.
 
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ji1029

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Sure - I guess more so then anything I don't understand the product yet and have loads of questions.

Is the product 'documentation' strictly or is there more to it? Is there software that goes along with it? Outsourced phone support of any sort?

What will your website offer? How do you plan on establishing the 'need' in the marketplace and testing out your idea?

How will you achieve scale on this - my assumptions would be through advertising? Word of Mouth? What are your initial marketing plans once this is all up and running?

These are some of the things you have to work and think through many times before sitting down at the computer to begin any sort of work moving forward.

Many of businesses' CAN be directed or turned into a CENTS business either initially or down the road - it just all depends on what you are selling and how you will go about it.
Thank you so much for the response, it is greatly appreciated.
 

NeoDialectic

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Hey thank you for sharing your story and offering your help!

Since you ran a business with a partner, I would like to ask, what are some of the qualities that you look for in a business partner? What are your thoughts on doing business with friends?

This is a pretty large topic, but here it goes. There are probably 2 seperate questions here.
  1. What traits do BOTH partners have to possess to foster a healthy business partnership
  2. What qualities/skills in a business partner mesh well with your qualities/skills
I think the following traits are very important for #1
  • Capable of setting boundaries
  • Capable of being confrontational and standing up for yourself
  • Capable of separating the friendship and the business partnership
  • Be willing to compromise
  • Have their ego in control
All these traits build a foundation to the partnership. Alot can be written on each of them, but to me, they allow the partners to be able to set expectations of each other and resolve issues when expectations change or are unmet. Most people focus on the first part, but find out when it's too late that the only constant in business is change and their partnership can't adapt to the shifting landscape.

Moving onto #2.

The following are a list of things that would facilitate a less rocky partnership
  • Your goals and values should be aligned
  • You should have similar financial habits
  • You should have similar work ethics
  • You should have compatible power mindsets. It's NOT OK if both people are stubborn leaders as they will bump heads eventually. It's NOT OK if both people are passive as this will hamper decision making. It's OK if one person like to take lead and the other prefers to follow. Its probably most IDEAL if both people have leadership qualities that they can exert, but also don't mind taking the backseat if the situation calls for it. This last one describes @fastlane_dad and I partnership and is probably one of our biggest strengths. We are both very easy going, but grab the reins when needed.
The follow are a list of things that would make 1+1=3 in a partnership
  • Specializing in separate skills. This refers to things you guys know how to do or specifically like to do.
  • Having different iritations. This refers to things neither of you may specifically like to do but don't mind doing
I haven't wrote specifically about this topic in the past, so I'm sure I am missing a few things. This is a good start to get you thinking in the right direction though. The advice to not start a business with friends is generally good advice. But that is simply because most people can't separate business & friendship and people also have very different personal financial habits that may not be immediately apparent. So it's not just because something is inherently wrong with starting a business with a friend.

It's no accident that alot of what I said is just basics of how to have GOOD RELATIONSHIPS in general. A business relationship brings additional intricacies, but many of the requirements are similar to building any type of relationship with someone.

Keep in mind that this advice is based on you wanting a long term good business relationship. Plenty of partnerships work long enough for people to become successful and then break up. But they were still successful so it's not the biggest deal. So it may be OK to get into business with someone that doesn't fit all your criteria. You just have to be cognizant of this and plan accordingly.
 

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Thanks for contributing!

1) What's your process on validating ideas and when or how do you know it's a dud / move on to next idea?
2) Is it still a good time to get into ecom despite huge shipping costs eating into margin and logistical barriers?

Cheers!!
 
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MrE

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Hi NeoDialectic! I appreciate you investing your time into others by sharing your experience, knowledge and wisdom.

That wasn't intended to be a segue but since we find ourselves here....
Have you worked with financial investors or have you been an investor in other companies?
If yes to either one, what advice would you give in regards to finding an investor who sees what you see for the future of your company?
If an investor wants a percentage of the company, how do you determine what that percentage would be?

So far my investor experience is this:
- A family member gave me $5K to do as I see best with it and not wanting any of it back.
- A friend of a friend of a friend is willing to invest $10K that I can repay with no interest. He doesn't want to own any percentage but wants me change some things to his liking. His 'liking' has no idea what he talking about so the money is still on the table.
- A man who invests for a living wanted to invest $60K (3 x $20K) and have 49% of the company. He backed out shortly after Covid hit.

I am not convinced that I will need an investor but these questions come up in my thinker now and then.

Again, thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.
 

NeoDialectic

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Thanks for contributing!

1) What's your process on validating ideas and when or how do you know it's a dud / move on to next idea?
2) Is it still a good time to get into ecom despite huge shipping costs eating into margin and logistical barriers?

Cheers!!
1)

We like to call your selling point "the rub". It could be a new marketplace, a new product, a new marketing strategy for existing products, etc... Depending on which of these things you are validating, the process could be wildly different. If I had to distill it down to some basics that they all share it would be:
  1. Figure out what aspect of your entire business is providing the differentiating massive real or perceived value
  2. Find a way to provide that value but using the easiest/fastest/cheapest way were you may be very far from satisfied from the end result but it "gets the job done"
  3. See if there is any response at all. A strong response is a win, a weak response where you break even is a win, a weak response where you barely get any sales or a response where you don't get sales is a lose.
  4. If you lose, you can try another iteration or two to modify some variable. Otherwise you move on from that idea.
A lose does NOT mean that the idea isn't workable. It just means that under the conditions you tested it, the value you are providing isn't so large that it overcomes alot of the other issues. When you are just starting a business, don't you want to stack the deck so you run with something that has alot of market demand as it is? MJ kind of talks about this when he says the product should have a pull instead of you trying to push it on people.

So I can give you an example of this when the rub is the product. Lets say you realize how much of a hassle it is to always have to lug out your huge vacuum to clean your car. You look online and there are no such thing as portable car vacuums. It sounds like a GREAT idea, but I wouldn't invest 10s of thousands of dollars into developing one. The first thing I would do is find the smallest vacuum that is on the market and find a cigarette lighter inverter. I would make a marketplace listing for "portable car vacuum" and when something sells I would send that combination. Many people would point out all the flaws... Yea. There is a ton. Everything from poor conversions because of unprofessional looking product page to customers not being too happy that they paid X amount for what turned out to be a jerry rigged solution. You would likely be surprised to find that most people would still be happy with your product because it solved their issue and that is really what they cared about. But the most important thing is that you got a real world signal. You found out that people ARE looking for portable car vacuums and they ARE willing to actually pay for it. Then depending on the response I would invest either a little to make a beta version and keep testing or invest as much as needed to make a well thought out final product. So if the response was ok but not overwhelming, I would find a company that makes generic vacuums and contract them to just add a cigarette lighter transformer directly into the unit. It will still not live up to your dream of a product you would be proud of and one that would impress customers. But it will now be a professional looking package and that should raise conversions and give you a clearer signal.

2)

Absolutely. What does shipping cost and logistics have to do with anything? If it costs you more, you just charge more. That's how inflation happens, but that's a macroeconomics problem, not yours. If you are referring to just finding junk on Alibaba and trying to resell it; that's been a dying "new business" strategy for 2 decades. Chinese companies are selling directly to consumer on Amazon and you will never beat them on price. Everything's possible with enough ingenuity, but this isn't the type of business we are talking about here. I personally would always recommend against getting into a business where you have to compete on price, unless you found some kind of ingenious solution to make it 10x cheaper yourself.
 
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NeoDialectic

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Hi NeoDialectic! I appreciate you investing your time into others by sharing your experience, knowledge and wisdom.

That wasn't intended to be a segue but since we find ourselves here....
Have you worked with financial investors or have you been an investor in other companies?
If yes to either one, what advice would you give in regards to finding an investor who sees what you see for the future of your company?
If an investor wants a percentage of the company, how do you determine what that percentage would be?

So far my investor experience is this:
(#1)- A family member gave me $5K to do as I see best with it and not wanting any of it back.
(#2)- A friend of a friend of a friend is willing to invest $10K that I can repay with no interest. He doesn't want to own any percentage but wants me change some things to his liking. His 'liking' has no idea what he talking about so the money is still on the table.
(#3)- A man who invests for a living wanted to invest $60K (3 x $20K) and have 49% of the company. He backed out shortly after Covid hit.

I am not convinced that I will need an investor but these questions come up in my thinker now and then.

Again, thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.
We manage our money now and invest it. But it kind of sounds like you are asking about angel investing or finding funding. If that is the case then unfortunately I can't help you there. I don't have the proper experience to feel good about giving any confident guidance.

Since we are here though, I can tell you my opinion on what I would be most comfortable doing personally and the reasoning I'd have for it. Which may be wrong on average and/or wrong for you. Again, I don't have direct experience in finding funding.

The #1 thing I would do is not take any investments from people I know. However if you do need it, then you need it. Guy #1, I would take his money since it is no strings attached and do my best to make sure I make it worth his generosity. Guy #2, I would not take his money. I would never cede control over trivial amounts of investments, but even if you need it, I wouldn't cede control and I would negotiate for him to either trust your instinct or not. Guy #2. The usual "don't take investment $$ unless you need to" applies. BUT, in certain circumstances I would definitely take investment from a seasoned vet even if I didn't need the money. The purpose would be to tap into his experience and network that could help the business. For example, I would take money from the guys on shark tank just because I know that they will immediately make some calls and get the product into X, Y, Z stores. That is an invaluable asset to the business regardless of what they invested.
 

NeoDialectic

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Let's say you're a young dude in his early 20's and want to start selling stuff online and have a profitable store on Amazon or some online marketplace. You're patient, willing to learn anything, but starting with no experience. What would you do from square 1 to get started?
Read MJ's books.

/End post

But honestly.....It's not about reading 10x more books to gather 10x more theoretical knowledge, hoping that some idea will just magically appear in your brain. It's about doing. Making money selling on Amazon is similar to making money anywhere. Obviously there are some unique properties or strategies. But at the end of the day it's about providing real or perceived value.

If you are dry for ideas, I would actively try to find a few hobbies that you can dive into. As soon as you are exposed to these new worlds, you will see there is opportunity everywhere and somehow everyone is flush with cash to buy thing they shouldn't be able to afford! Try to come up with solutions to common complaints or even complaints you have once you are immersed in the hobby. This could be physical products, educational products, literature, entertainment, etc.. Most will be bad ideas but hopefully one will eventually be a good idea. You just keep trying until one sticks.

It's been a very long time since I read his thread so I may get details wrong , but @biophase detailed how he successful grew a business by just improving on a a product with existing DIRECT competition. He didn't invent the ghillie suit. It was probably invented over a century ago! He just took peoples complaints of products currently in the market and made small alterations to address those complaints. That's it. Simple, but not easy. Nothing outside of what you are comfortable with and already doing every day is ever easy.
 
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NewManRising

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What's the number one piece of sales/marketing advice you could share? What was your most effective channel or strategy that gave you the most success??

What is/was your process for finding a viable product/idea to execute on? What criteria did you look for? How did you do market research or understand there was a big enough need?
 

NeoDialectic

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Let's say you're a young dude in his early 20's and want to start selling stuff online and have a profitable store on Amazon or some online marketplace. You're patient, willing to learn anything, but starting with no experience. What would you do from square 1 to get started?
I've thought about this some more and I don't think I gave you as good of a reply as I could have.

Can you answer the following things:
  • What is your square one?
  • What are you currently doing to come up with ideas?
  • Have you tried listing anything on Amazon or online before? No? Have you ever sold anything anywhere before?
  • What skills do you currently have and do you have any strengths or strong interests?
  • What experience or skills do you think you are lacking that is stopping you from advancing?

Okay I'll ask a different way.

What specifically did YOU sell on amazon that did well?

As is typical of asset sales.....We are bound by a non-disclosure agreement from discussing what we sold.

What I can tell you is that we have sold products on Amazon in the following categories: beauty, health, personal care & automotive
 
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I've thought about this some more and I don't think I gave you as good of a reply as I could have.

Can you answer the following things:
  • What is your square one?
  • What are you currently doing to come up with ideas?
  • Have you tried listing anything on Amazon or online before? No? Have you ever sold anything anywhere before?
  • What skills do you currently have and do you have any strengths or strong interests?
  • What experience or skills do you think you are lacking that is stopping you from advancing?

I currently run a home services company and it's doing just fine I don't plan on selling on amazon. But I know for a fact that 80% of the young dudes who don't have a business who stumble upon this post are going to be thinking almost the exact same thing and will be combing through any content from you looking for some "how" information.

For example if you ask me about how to succeed in my industry I could talk for 15 pages and I actually have done that on threads on here where I just completely dump everything I know onto the page and provide value. How to get sales, best avenues for doing so, what to offer, what not to offer, etc. Literally everything from managing employees and hiring, to customer service and software we use, down to the details like how we price things and why.

It's difficult to word the question correctly since I'm not the one who knows how to make a shit ton of money on Amazon, you are.

What specifically are the things that you do when finding a product, deciding what to do and what not to do, how you go about sourcing things, etc. If you can list software you use, tricks you've learned, and other things of that nature, it would be infinitely more valuable than any entrepreneur cliches. We've pretty much all read the book here, nobody is going to appreciate "just provide value, follow cents, work hard".

For example, if I said "you have 90 days to make money on amazon starting with 10k and none of the other products you've put on there before" with a gun to your head, what would steps 1-10 be? That's what I'm asking.
 
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@NeoDialectic appreciate you giving back!
would like to setup a call with you and the wife to help with her amazon arbitrage biz. how to 10x what she is doing.
i'll dm
 

NeoDialectic

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@NeoDialectic appreciate you giving back!
would like to setup a call with you and the wife to help with her amazon arbitrage biz. how to 10x what she is doing.
i'll dm
ZCP, at the current time we aren't doing any private consultations. But we would love to answer any questions or discuss openly on the forums so that everyone can get value from it.
I currently run a home services company and it's doing just fine I don't plan on selling on amazon. But I know for a fact that 80% of the young dudes who don't have a business who stumble upon this post are going to be thinking almost the exact same thing and will be combing through any content from you looking for some "how" information.

For example if you ask me about how to succeed in my industry I could talk for 15 pages and I actually have done that on threads on here where I just completely dump everything I know onto the page and provide value. How to get sales, best avenues for doing so, what to offer, what not to offer, etc. Literally everything from managing employees and hiring, to customer service and software we use, down to the details like how we price things and why.

It's difficult to word the question correctly since I'm not the one who knows how to make a shit ton of money on Amazon, you are.

What specifically are the things that you do when finding a product, deciding what to do and what not to do, how you go about sourcing things, etc. If you can list software you use, tricks you've learned, and other things of that nature, it would be infinitely more valuable than any entrepreneur cliches. We've pretty much all read the book here, nobody is going to appreciate "just provide value, follow cents, work hard".

For example, if I said "you have 90 days to make money on amazon starting with 10k and none of the other products you've put on there before" with a gun to your head, what would steps 1-10 be? That's what I'm asking.
Good points! Thank you for your feedback. @fastlane_dad and I will have to discuss this and get back to this thread with these details. Maybe it would be even better to start a new thread offering a detailed sample process of exactly how we would create a new product for Amazon from start to finish. Step by step, as you mentioned.
 
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we would love to answer any questions or discuss openly on the forums so that everyone can get value from it.

Excellent approach. Very mature way of creating lasting value! Kudos. And congratulations on your success. It’s great to see people like you here. We need more!
 
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theguy22

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My business partner and I recently sold our successful online business for 8 figures. You can see @fastlane_dad intro page here, and mine here. We have had businesses in alot of categories, but have limited experience in old fashion "shaking hands" type businesses. Our primary expertise is online sales, marketing, marketplaces like Amazon (and others), bootstrapping, and mindset. One way we want to give back to the community is by guiding people that are still on their entrepreneurship path.

We figured one of the more impactful ways we can do it is by answering peoples questions publically versus in DM's or personal consultations. So if you want our opinion/advice about your personal situation, we will be happy to read through your questions and give you a personalized answer. But it has to be public. That way everyone can read and discuss our answers. If we don't have experience in a topic, we will let you know.
I made a thread about domain expertise, what are your views on the issue?
 

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I made a thread about domain expertise, what are your views on the issue?
It looks like you had a bunch of smart people already reply with nuanced and well thought out replies. In summary, I agree with most of the people responding. Domain expertise is definitely ONE thing that can be used as leverage to start a business. However it is far from the only way. Domain expertise the way you describe it (7 years on the job) is not needed. At all.
 
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theguy22

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I have created my own customised travel scratch maps that I plan to sell on etsy, amazon and a website of its own. I have iterated the product to make it better (in my opinion of course). The product design is fully made. I've spoken to suppliers to suppliers and they are able to make it as soon as I give them the go ahead. But I'm keen to test out the product first before I place an order, how would you recommend I go about doing this? Would I need to spend loads on facebook ads?
 

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Simple question that I know won’t have an easy answer :)


Sell at a loss/breakeven to establish the brand or go for profit from the beginning ?

Estimated customer lifetime value : £180
First purchase : £60 (break even for us)

The rest is 80% profit


Would you go for this or charge something like £100 or more for the first purchase?

Thank you !
 
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NeoDialectic

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I have created my own customised travel scratch maps that I plan to sell on etsy, amazon and a website of its own. I have iterated the product to make it better (in my opinion of course). The product design is fully made. I've spoken to suppliers to suppliers and they are able to make it as soon as I give them the go ahead. But I'm keen to test out the product first before I place an order, how would you recommend I go about doing this? Would I need to spend loads on facebook ads?
Without being intimately familiar with your exact product and field, I will probably have a few questions before I can really answer.

First one is whether you are able to create samples of the product without a huge investment of money? This can include
  • Repurposing existing products and add your value manually
  • Negotiating with the supplier to create a small run for you... Even if you are super over paying per product...for example getting 15 at $20 bucks a piece versus ordering 1000 at $2 a piece.
 
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Simple question that I know won’t have an easy answer :)


Sell at a loss/breakeven to establish the brand or go for profit from the beginning ?

Estimated customer lifetime value : £180
First purchase : £60 (break even for us)

The rest is 80% profit


Would you go for this or charge something like £100 or more for the first purchase?

Thank you !
Are you talking about during the testing phase of the business when you are just seeing if the market even wants your product? Or are you talking about when you already have products out there that have sales?
 

woken

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Are you talking about during the testing phase of the business when you are just seeing if the market even wants your product? Or are you talking about when you already have products out there that have sales?
I’m talking about it as a general business model. Break even on the initial purchase and profit from future purchases.

Kind of like the modern day printer and ink. Sorry if I couldn’t find my words but I think you get my point now.
 

NeoDialectic

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I’m talking about it as a general business model. Break even on the initial purchase and profit from future purchases.

Kind of like the modern day printer and ink. Sorry if I couldn’t find my words but I think you get my point now.
I'm still not really sure if I am getting it because it seems self-evident. A business model that successfully makes more money from ta customer than you paid to acquire said customer, is a good business model.

Is it the right business model for you or your venture? That's a much different question and would require alot more details.
 
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theguy22

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Without being intimately familiar with your exact product and field, I will probably have a few questions before I can really answer.

First one is whether you are able to create samples of the product without a huge investment of money? This can include
  • Repurposing existing products and add your value manually
  • Negotiating with the supplier to create a small run for you... Even if you are super over paying per product...for example getting 15 at $20 bucks a piece versus ordering 1000 at $2 a piece.
I can get the samples made, they are relatively expensive though but not a huge amount of money in an absolute sense. The market value for just one quantity of a sample is $80, but if I was to bulk order the price of a piece is £$3. I would retail one piece at around $35-$40.
 

NeoDialectic

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I can get the samples made, they are relatively expensive though but not a huge amount of money in an absolute sense. The market value for just one quantity of a sample is $80, but if I was to bulk order the price of a piece is £$3. I would retail one piece at around $35-$40.
Whats the minimum order for bulk pricing?
 

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