With both parents owning small businesses, it might surprise you that Fernando Campos never considered entrepreneurship as a career path.
The school prepared him for the financial sector, and he thought that was where he would make the most money. But nothing could prepare him for the unhappiness he saw in the industry.

Luckily, he wasn’t alone. For two years, he worked with his co-founder, Nick Young, to help build startups. They then decided to apply their tech knowledge to Ecommerce.  In 2014, they decided to do private labels on eBay, but an Amazon package changed their trajectory.

Key Takeaways:

  • Getting over that fear of reaching out
  • When you start making $20,000 in profit, consider hiring a qualified coach
  • What to look for in a good coach that can help you scale
  • Making the most of coaches to structure your organizational chart for growth
  • Using coaches to direct conversations to bring the right questions to the surface
  • Start building with generalists; introduce specialists
  • Reduce mistakes by investing in your team
  • The three stages of growth: Marines, army, and military police

Fernando Campos Interview with Nick Shucet

Nick: (00:04)

Hey, what's up, everyone. Welcome to the Million Dollar Sellers podcast. Today. We have Fernando on the call.
Thanks for coming on today. Fernando, where are you calling in from?

Fernando: (00:17)

Thanks, Nick, I really appreciate you having me. Right now I'm in Waikiki, Hawaii.

Nick: (00:26)

Nice, How long have you been there? 

Fernando: (00:30)

Yeah, we got here in January. My fiance and I have been traveling the U.S. for most of the pandemic, I guess since July.
And so in January, we decided to relocate somewhere a little bit warmer. But also where COVID was really low. And so, we've been hanging out here in Waikiki. 

Nick: (00:50)

Nice man. And you've been doing some surfing from what I remember, right? 

Fernando: (00:54)

Yeah. Good memory, I'm learning. It's still early days. I'm not that good, still longboarding but I absolutely love it.

Nick: (01:03)

Nice. What else are you getting into out there?

Fernando: (01:07)

Oh, man. We have a decent amount of friends here, so it's been nice to have a community. We've been doing a lot of hikes. I did this one called Olomana, it's an adventure. Surfing is a big thing. Hawaii is amazing. Most of the activities were outdoors, so we spent a lot of time at the beach. We walk out to the beach every day for like sunset and just hang out, and have a few beers, it's pretty keyed.

Fernando Campos: Transition Into Ecommerce

Nick: (01:47)

Nice. That's amazing. I love the opportunity that eCommerce offers. Where we can still have a business running yet we're out doing all these great things that we want to do. Is that a reason you got into e-commerce? How did you end up getting into e-commerce? 

Fernando: (02:07)

Yeah man, absolutely. Like a lot of us, I read "The 4-Hour Workweek" and that kinda screwed me up, in terms of not wanting to work. Especially working for somebody else. So that was kind of a matrix. You take the pill and then you just see everything a little bit differently.

The 4-Hour Workweek book by Timothy Ferris

How did I get into entrepreneurship? I don't know why, but I never really thought of entrepreneurship as a career path. Which doesn't really make sense since both of my parents own small businesses. I went to USC and everything is about finance, like going into investment banking and that's where you're gonna make the most money.
But I worked in finance for about a year and a half, I hated it. I realized that everybody above me didn't seem that happy.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Fernando: (03:05)

Nick, who's my business partner and best friend from college, was going through the same thing in that corporate world. So we both decided to quit our jobs and go into tech startups because we thought that was the best place to learn entrepreneurship. There was a well-known company in Santa Monica at the time that was getting a ton of press.

Everybody wanted to work there, so we quit our jobs and took a hundred percent sales commission role to work at that company. It was brutal. We were probably making about $2,000 a month—we were poor. We were basically living on credit cards. But it taught us so much about grit and starting companies. We learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. And, it ended up being an amazing training ground that helped us get to where we are.

Nick: (04:07)

Nice, man. I love that you guys took that sales job. But did you just completely bail and go all in or was it a slow process?

Fernando and Nick: Competing for a Sales Position

Fernando: (04:19)

Yeah, that's a great question. They had a brutal interviewing process. You would go through the resume screening. And then they had one or two phone screenings. Then if you made it through all those rounds, they did a two-week training boot camp. It was for eight hours a day, Saturday and Sunday, for two weekends. And it was basically like a survivor. 

Basically, they sat us down in a room of about ten people. From the beginning, they said, “There's 10 of you, but only three of you are getting the job.” And we were competing for a hundred percent sales commission role.  They sold us the dream and I had a good financial salary. But, every day I’m reminded that it wasn’t making me happy.

And so, we competed for four days, basically over two weekends, and practiced pitching, doing mock phone calls, and so on. And it's funny because Nick and I knew each other from college and were thinking “Oh man, what if they only take one of us? We're gonna be heartbroken.” But fortunately, we got two out of the three spots and ended up joining our first tech startups.

Putting What You Learned to the Test

Fernando: (05:50)

What's interesting is that the company ended up dying after a year. It was crazy because they raised a hundred million in valuation. We were about 15-16 employees, then scaled to about 80 within a year, all in Santa Monica.  It didn't have the right unit economics and so the company ended up shattering. But it turned out to be a great thing for our careers.

We grew from about 15 employees to about 80 within a year. And the company raised up to 25 million.

I moved to SF, to join a company called AnyPerk that’s now rebranded as Fond. I ended up becoming head of sales there, which is crazy in the grand scheme of things, with just one year of sales experience. But I ended up hiring about 70% of the team.

The company, I think, has raised like $25 million and I basically helped start that company.
Nick went off to an amazing company called TaskUs. I think the last valuation was about 500 million, which is massive. And so it's been great for us.

And after two years of that, we ended up coming together and started this together.

Nick: (07:05)

Nice man. I feel sales jobs are the closest to entrepreneurship without being an entrepreneur. I feel a lot of us go through that phase where we want to get paid for how we perform. So we do an hourly job and we have that mindset of, “How can I get things done faster in an hour?”  And when you start getting it done faster you start thinking of how you want to make more money. So, when you don't get the raise, you feel like, “Man, I'm outta here.” 

Fernando: (07:43)

You're so right. I think there's something beautiful about not having as much of a cap on how much you can make. You get whatever you take down or kill—someone salespeople refer to as hunters. And so having no ceiling in terms of commission or bonuses, is definitely a really big motivator. 

Nick: (08:11)

I agree. I went through it. I sold Cutco knives from door to door. You had to ask for referrals at the end of your pitch. That was my first sales gig. I did Timeshares for a while and that was an interesting one. They were pulling in people off the streets of Virginia Beach with free gift cards to Captain George's or so. Then these guys were selling them $10,000 to $15,000 Timeshare packages in two hours. 

Obviously, the conversion rates were low, but it just blew my mind. They had it all mapped out. The training, the steps, and everything they had in place.
It was a great experience, even though I wasn't that successful with it. I learned so much from it.

Fernando: (09:12)

Yeah. Getting over that fear of reaching out, asking for business, getting on calls, and talking to people is so helpful for entrepreneurship. I heard this early on in my career, which I think was helpful. At the end of the day, if you're running your own business, there's going to be some sales aspect to your job. Whether you are convincing people to join your company and to believe in your vision early on. Or you're selling to basically earn business to grow your firm. Or a combination of the two.

Getting over that fear of reaching out, asking for business, getting on calls, and talking to people is so helpful for entrepreneurship.

I think there's always some kind of salesmanship that's involved in entrepreneurship, regardless of what you're doing. And so for me, I didn't really want to do sales at the time. I love it now, but at the time it seemed like a dirty job. I'm so glad that I did it. So now I feel comfortable asking you for business and I've figured out how to present myself, how to win friends and influence people, all that kind of stuff I think is really huge.

Nick: (10:26)

Yes, communication is key. Cutco and  Timeshare could teach you the skill. But at the end of the day, how invested are you in selling knives and someone else's timeshare operation? I'm sure now that you have a successful business and you're trying to bring people in, you feel good about talking to people and selling them on it. You now know what you're able to do and accomplish. And that's when the magic happens.

Fernando: (10:58)

Right. A hundred percent.

Nick: (10:59)

That's what I really liked about Amazon. I started out with dropshipping and you could literally list hundreds of listings in one day. Once I figured out how to bulk upload we just had so many sales coming in, literally within minutes in some cases. That was my first experience with Amazon. How did you go from this tech world to the Amazon world?

Building Your Business With Experience

Fernando: (11:32)

After two years of helping build startups, Nick and I were at that point where we felt we'd done it successfully for other people. So, we decided to do this ourselves. We came from tech and so neither of us are engineer. But a lot of our close friends were in eCommerce and built really successful startups. And so we thought of eCommerce as a great place for business people to succeed. 

Overall, we thought that we could apply what we’d learned in tech. Moving fast, breaking things, and then, coming into eCommerce and having a different perspective—a different skill that would suit us well.

No one orders on eBay anymore. And it's clearly not moving in that direction where eBay's gonna catch up

So, for the first four to five months, we built our own website, that was more like Huckberry, if you're familiar with them. But it was more like highlighting products that followers of Tim Ferris would love—we love Tim Ferris clearly.
The products were an intersection of tech, fitness, and design. 

What we realized was that the model was hard for us to scale. And since we were bootstrapped and didn't want to take outside investment it'll take too long to get back to making six figures a year. So we scrapped that after a few months. That was our passion project and it was cool, but we just wanted to make money, to be honest.

The Decision: Amazon vs. eBay

Fernando: (13:14)

And so we said, “What if we just buy and resell stuff in bulk like a private label on eBay.” This was late 2014 and we were working at Nick's apartment at one point and then one day we opened the door and received a package.   It was an Amazon package. And that was a light bulb moment for us. We were going to sell on eBay when we ordered everything on Amazon. Like no one orders on eBay anymore. And it's clearly not moving in that direction where eBay's gonna catch up.

So at that time, we were wondering, “Can you even sell on Amazon?” And that was the whole million-dollar question. So we started Googling around and there were courses out there to follow. So we ditched the whole eBay thing within a 10-minute conversation and decided, “Okay, we're doing Amazon.” However, it was still too early to judge since we didn’t have that much information. But, surely things were shifting that way. So that was it. 

Lessons Carried From Startups Into Ecommerce

Nick: (14:24)

Nice. So what are those lessons that you learned from the tech startups?  I like how you mentioned breaking stuff quickly. It took me a while to learn that in business. I come from a traditional educational background where you're taught to not get things wrong and you want to get a hundred on the test. So I limited myself so much because I was trying to get everything right before I would actually do anything.

What would you say you learned from the startup world and applied to e-commerce that helped you get there faster?

Done Is Better Than Perfect

Fernando: (15:06)

‘Done is better than perfect’ is a big lesson. I think a lot of people have that tendency to really strive for perfection, which I think is great. But I think startups ingrain it in you. Like the famous Reid Hoffman quote, the founder of LinkedIn: "If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late." And so, it's figuring out what is that MVP or viable product, or whatever.

“Done” is better than “perfect.” People tend to strive for perfection and they end up not taking action.

Right now we're working on our automated reporting dashboard. So we're applying a lot of those same principles to get the MVP to get the basics done. And from there, we’re going to launch that and start getting feedback from our customers. We can then start leveraging that to make improvements, so it's not just like us doing everything in a vacuum. I would say that's a big one.

Start Building With Generalists

Fernando: (16:03)

One of my mentors from the first startup taught me some things. He said for the first year or so when you're building a company, you want generalists. You want people who are really fast learners and can basically wear a lot of hats because you're still figuring a lot of things out.

Introducing Specialists

Fernando: (16:21)

But as you scale, you start putting in people that are more specialized, especially after that year mark.

If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late. - Reid Hoffman

It differs from company to company. If you’re working part-time, maybe it takes a little bit longer. But you’re bringing more specialists to round out your team and go really deep.

It’s okay to use generalists when you start a business. But as you start to scale, start replacing important roles with specialists.

Now at this stage, we've been running the company for six years. Everyone we hire is very specific. We’re looking for people who have been VPs in another company and have already seen a company go from 30 million to a hundred million. And their backgrounds are specific. But in the early days for us, we just needed really smart and hungry people. Ideally, you had to come from a startup. So they were used to a little bit of that uncertainty and the fact that they’ll have to create a lot of structure.

Taking Advice From the Coach

Fernando: (17:24)

But yeah, I think a great way someone put it to me is the early-stage start-up people are the Marines; they break down doors, break into things and they are just trying to figure things out. Then you have the army that comes in afterward. They put a little bit of structure and they create more order. Lastly, you have the military police. They're the more corporate people, that kind of put a lot more rules and policies.

So you just have different people at different stages of the business. Few leaders and founders are good at transitioning all that through the way. And so a big thing for us was hiring coaches to help us basically figure out how to scale at each stage.

Nick: (18:09)

Yeah, Man. I love the way you laid that out. You literally just explained what I've gone through on my own, with where I started, my mindset, how I had to change that, and how I did. When I think about the people I had on my team, they were generalists. And that's who I was looking for, even though I would hear people talk about getting a specialist.

Within the past year, I've gotten more organized and I have way more insight into what we need. I can say "Hey we need someone who can really just focus on copywriting or someone who can focus on account-health for all of our Amazon accounts.” And I've started to realize those things. Someone in that position might be listening to this right now, and it’s crazy.

People outside MDS might think everyone in MDS has these big giant teams, but it's not always the case. There are a lot of solopreneurs in MDS that have done over a million dollars in revenue. I'm not sure how big you guys were when you got into the group. But man, I struggled with that for so long. So if you're listening to this now and it's really striking a chord with you, start looking at specialization. Determine what departments are taking up a lot of your time and your team's time.

And that's when you could really dig in and say, “Okay I need this person or that person to do this specific thing.”

You might think everyone in MDS has big giant teams, but it's not always the case. There are a lot of solopreneurs in MDS that have done over a million dollars in revenue.

It sounds like you had a great mentor to teach you that stuff. You can see and hear a lot on the internet, but a lot of them are noise. And sometimes, you just don't know what to do or implement. But if you've had someone who's walked that path, that's close to you, that's great. I'm glad I ended up there anyway. My road is just a little more windy. These are some things I've learned in the past year. Once you get the right people in, things start to click and you just see the progression.

And that's another thing I love about business. Things get better when you're able to figure those things out and see the results of implementing them. How did you guys start to build out your team for Amazon? Did you use any EOS or program that you really attribute that success to when it came to building out your company? 

Fernando: (20:53)

In the beginning, we had hired in the Philippines and India in our previous startups. And that was always something in the background of our minds that we were going to do. But, at the time we thought we'd only do it specifically for really basic responsibilities like customer support, maybe lead generation, and stuff like that.

Doing It Yourself

Fernando: (21:20)

I remember at the time it was just Nick and I. Whatever the responsibility was, we just found anyone more prone to it and that's just going to be assigned to them. The business was getting bigger, and we scaled really fast. We were doing, about 200K a month, in month six or month seven.

Hire a good finance person because your level of financial acumen needs to be really high. Then, hire coaches and have them help you scale.

And I remember Nick and I were just catching up and I asked what he was organizing. He said I got to do my support tickets and I thought, “Wait a minute dude, you should not be working on support tickets. We need to hire someone in the Philippines or somewhere right now that will take it.”

Getting Extensions of Yourself

Fernando: (22:06)

So we started with the generalists, people who could take on admin roles and tasks-support. Like an extension of us. And that was great because it helped us scale to about 10 million a year. And over time, we needed a more experienced team. So you asked about EOS. Mentors had encouraged us to hire coaches and not be cheap about it. There were two pieces of advice. One, hire a good finance person. Because your level of financial acumen needs to be really high.

Hire Coaches to Train Your Leaders

Fernando: (22:53)

Then, hire coaches and have them help you scale as leaders.  The CEO coach was really helpful for us in terms of implementing a lot of those EOS best practices. Everything from the level tens. We don't follow their initiative structure because we got something from a different coach called OKRs. It's a slight variation of it, but then we actually like it a lot better.

But, we try to pick and choose based on what we learned from our employees who are really experienced. Then external consultants help us make fewer mistakes.

Nick: (23:39)

Nice man. Definitely some good advice. I started out in arbitrage reselling and in that community, there's a big push against hiring coaches. They say, “Nah, just go on YouTube, man, watch YouTube videos.” When I look back on it, they're not valuing their time, and that includes me. They're not putting a number on what their hourly time's worth.

At some point when you've got some money coming in, you've got to realize how much you make in your business working hourly. That helped me decide what to focus on. However, it's a tough mindset shift. Did you guys ever go through that or did you feel that tech startup experience kind of skipped that for you guys?

Early-stage start-up people are the Marines; they break down doors, break into things and they are just trying to figure things out.
Then you have the army that comes in afterward. They put a little bit of structure and they create more order.
Lastly, you have the military police. They're the more corporate people, that kind of put a lot more rules and policies.

Qualities of a Good Coach

Fernando: (24:34)

That's a good question. Maybe it's because we're Asians, so it's like an investment in education. I don't know if I can say that.  A lot of people say it's too expensive. Our coaches are really expensive to be clear. But I think there's just so much missed opportunity without them.  I think the cheapest way of doing something is to buy the book and then try to self-implement it. The next level up is buying a course with a package that contains coaching sessions.

The most expensive, but I think the most effective, is hiring a coach. And it's not just any coach. It's not a life coach that just decided they didn't like their career and decided I'm going to become a life coach.

An Experienced Entrepreneur That You Really Respect

Fernando: (25:26)

The coach must be an experienced entrepreneur that you really respect. Someone who can come in and say, “Hey, you wanna get to a hundred million? I've done it. I can tell you exactly what you need.”

Dedicated to Your Business

Fernando: (25:39)

Getting an advisor is cheaper than giving away equity if you're building something really big. They must be invested in you and ready to meet with you frequently. And should do so many things that you normally can't get.  Even if you get a friend to be like a sounding board, it's unlikely that your friend is going to go through and meet with your leadership team. And they might not be able to find out who's really good. 

For instance, let's say I have a VP of finance. For me, this is the first VP of finance that I've ever hired. So how do I know if this person is good, an amateur, or not just fit for the job?

A Strong Third Eye

Fernando: (26:24)

Having that outside perspective of someone who has met tons of VPs of finance is important. They’ve interviewed them for their clients and hired them on their own. So, they can say, “Yeah, this person's coachable or should be a VP.”  Or maybe, you honestly need to hire a CFO. you have to know that this person you’re hiring is going to get you to that hundred million or whatever your number is.

Makes You Feel Accountable

Fernando: (26:45)

Also, it creates an amazing outside accountability. For instance, Nick and I have been friends for so long. So if I'm late on something, he'll be like chill, don't worry about it, and then if he's late, same thing, because we're friends. But with the outside coach, we’re committing to getting things done on time. And we respect him so much that we're not gonna drop the ball.

Of Course, I have the utmost respect for Nick, but we're friends first and we don't have that same level of accountability. I think there are so many things you can learn on your own, but you're not getting that experience. And that's what we are really paying for.  We're having them come into our level tens, audit them, and give suggestions on how to make improvements.

One thing we would've never known, because I don't even think it's brought up in EOS, is we shouldn't be running the level 10. We should have somebody else running it because we should be more active participants. So that was an interesting realization I would've never thought of if it wasn't for the coach.  And so just little things like that can make improvements really quickly. And it's great. 

Now he's meeting with a lot of our senior leaders and coaching them in different areas of leadership that they want to work on as well.

Nick : (28:08)

So for the level 10 meetings, they suggested that even though you’re at that level you shouldn’t be the one leading it, but someone else.

Fernando: (28:19)

Exactly. So that's what we are moving towards right now, based on his advice. Historically, we've been running them. But now, we’re trying to have somebody else run the meeting and moderate. So, we can just be more focused on bringing ideas and creating clarity versus actually moderating.

Nick: (28:42)

I like it, man. I should probably take note of that myself because I've definitely been running mine. 

You laid out a lot of great advice there. Can you speak to some pain points that someone listening might be going through that you think could be a sign they need to hire a coach?

How Coaches Help Your Business

Fernando: (29:05)

Oh yeah. Honestly, I think once you feel safe and comfortable with your level, you have a consistent amount of revenue and can afford to live comfortably. I’ll say coaches probably run anywhere from $2,000 to $5000 a month, so it depends on how early you want to invest in it. Maybe once you're making over $20,000 to $50,000 in profit a month. At this point, you should really consider it and just think about it as investing in your infrastructure.

I know a lot of large product companies will invest like, 5% of revenue into R&D.

Investment in Your Team to Make Fewer Mistakes

Fernando: (29:52)

Thankfully, I think a lot of private-label businesses, specifically Amazon, don't have to invest that much. However, I think they help you invest in your team, in terms of leadership. And the ability to make fewer mistakes that allow you to focus on the right things is invaluable.  I think they've paid for themselves multiple times over, just by helping create clarity, helping us sometimes to shift people around into different leadership roles, just based on their recommendations.

Help to Structure Conversations

Fernando: (30:28)

They’ll help you even figure out how to structure the conversation. For instance, If you have to make some difficult decisions and personnel changes, they can help you plan the conversation. They’ll also suggest better ways to have these conversations or decisions.

Bring Hidden Questions to the Surface

Fernando: (30:45)

Since it’s your first time having these types of conversations, you’ll find so many second-order effects that you don't necessarily always think about. But they can bring them into perspective by saying, “Don't forget these other conversations that you need to have.” And I think the real advantage is that you end up having a smoother conversation because you've thought through everything. 

Nick: (31:08)

Okay. So do you hire coaches like us who have been through it and worn a lot of different hats and came out successful? Or are you hiring coaches that specialize in certain areas of business? Or both?

Fernando: (31:27)

I think it all depends on the stage of your business and what you want. My first recommendation to the listeners will be to get a general business coach or a CEO coach.

Then they should review the things in their team like

  • Your CEO dashboard or a metrics dashboard
  • Accountability chart, and 
  • The right people in the right seats. 

They’ll look at your overall system to help you prioritize. Then, over time, you can start hiring different coaches for different things.  I’ve hired a public speaking coach, Nick hired a performance mindset coach, and we have hired more CFO coaches. I think attorneys are also coaches, in a sense. So many areas of a business can use real expertise as you are growing. You might not have the budget to bring on a general council right in the beginning or a CFO.

But it might make sense to have that person coach one of the people that you have internally. They can say “Hey, here's what you need to think about in the next level.” And so it's a great investment for our team. They know that we are in for the long haul because we are investing in this. But also, you're getting better results because you're not having to pay for someone who has 20-30 years of experience, you're hiring someone a little bit more junior.

But they're getting that one-on-one coaching from someone that's been around.  Since I'm in YPO, one of the coaches does a lot of YPO business. And he does a lot of one-on-one coaching and annual planning. so he’s kind of a career coach.  The other one that we've worked with works with CEO Coaching International. He is a boss. That was what we wanted as our first coach. Someone who has really scaled and we really respect such that we take whatever advice they give. That’s what we are looking for.

And so I would say that's the background.

The Power of Operating Like Fernando

Nick: (34:05)

I hope people are taking this knowledge that you're dropping to heart. Why don't you let them know what it's done for you? Where did you start out and where are you now? Let them know the power of operating this way.

Fernando: (34:24)

It's been huge. It's hard to compare to revenue numbers especially because we've sold a lot of businesses.

Weed Out the Wrong People from Your Business

Fernando: (34:37)

But I’d say it’s helped us form a solid organizational chart and weed out people that didn't make the most sense in the organization. It’s forced us to prioritize putting the right people in the right seats. You don't really know how important that is until you make that switch. Sometimes you have those people you make excuses for. Some of them have been around since the beginning and hoping that one day they’ll magically become this Allstar.

I’d say it’s helped us form a solid organizational chart and weed out people that didn't make the most sense in the organization. It’s forced us to prioritize putting the right people in the right seats. You don't really know how important that is until you make that switch.

But when you mention enough of that to the coach they’ll say, “You got to prioritize this change.” And then they help guide the conversation and give you a lot of perspective and help you create that urgency to make those little replacements. So it ends up being better for the organization.

Reduces Stress

Fernando: (35:42)

I'm less stressed. I have just stronger people who report directly to me. And so I think there's just so much advantage of working with a coach like that.

Helps You Prioritize

Fernando: (35:57)

Those are some of the really big things off the top that help you prioritize. If you're going after a new shiny object and soliciting their feedback, they’ll say, “Well, how big is this idea?” They’ll ask more questions that will make you realize, “Maybe I should put this off” or “Maybe this is just a distraction.” You’ll find out you have so much other stuff you need to prioritize and figure out first. So I think that has helped us make fewer mistakes as well.

Nick: (36:33)

Yeah. It's great to always have someone keep you in check because no matter how good you think you are, you’re not the best at everything. There's always something we are missing. I feel it’s because we get so focused on certain things at different times. What are some of the things you have been able to accomplish? You mentioned selling a couple of businesses.

If you can talk about them, let us know what those companies were. We’d also like to know where you're at now and what you've got going on.

Selling Businesses

Fernando: (37:08)

Yeah. So last year we sold some of our brands that were sourced in China. We sold them to one of the aggregators. Shout out to D1 brands, they're great. They’re also in MDS and we sold a few of those brands to them specifically. Also as a result of MDS, we met a lot of really good friends within the community. Like you, but then also some of our actual business partners.

We partnered with Anthony Bui Tran, he’s the founder of Sellers Tradecraft. And then we partnered with Leo Limin and started Pixelfy together. So it was four of us and then that ended up doing super well.

We actually sold it in March to two MDS members, which is kind of funny. Ian, who started MDS, had also started RebateKey with Leo Limin as well and so it was kind of a cool full circle if you will. So, we ended up selling Pixelfy to RebateKey which is very incestuous within the MDS family. Pixelfy ended up finding a great home with the RebateKey team and I know they're going to do amazing things with it.

So, that's some of the stuff we've been working on in the past to fruition. What we're working on now, just Nick and I is marketplaceops.com. It’s basically a leading strategy firm for Amazon where we help with a lot of what we call the Challenger Brands. These are up-and-coming brands, like CPG brands and we help them maximize their Amazon and Walmart.

Nick: (38:56)

Nice man. It's amazing the friendships and the business opportunities that happen within MDS—talk about networking. It's such a good network of people.  It blows my mind all the time to see the things that happen when you get us all in a room together. The ideas you can have with people who take action and implement these things and that's when the great stuff can happen.

Like building the company that gets sold and then being partnered with another company and things like that man. I love hearing those stories.  So why don't you tell us a little bit more about MarketplaceOps? What type of businesses do you work with? How can people find you if they're interested in what you've got going on there?

Fernando: (39:50)

Yeah. In terms of businesses, we’re typically working with companies that are doing at least $1 million in revenue up to about $15 million. These companies have an internal team or want to replace an Amazon agency, but they want a really expert team.   We have a team of about 60 that are hyper-specialized in various areas of Amazon.

And, we work with companies that are really looking for the right partner to help them scale and hit their goals. I think that's the main objective. Although we work with a few Amazon native brands, we also work with a lot of CPG. We work with better-for-you brands as well and that's where the majority of our clients are.

Nick (40:38)

Nice. And where can people reach you to find out more information about what you have going on there? 

Fernando: (40:46)

Yeah, just fernando@marketplaceops.com or on LinkedIn, you can always reach out too.

Nick: (40:51)

Nice man. You've dropped a lot of knowledge here. It's amazing what you guys have been able to accomplish.

How old are you by the way? I don't even know.

Fernando: (41:06)

I'm turning 35 in a few weeks actually.

Nick: (41:08)

So all this before 35. That's absolutely amazing. And did you just get married?

Fernando: (41:17)

I got engaged.

Nick: (41:19)

You have accomplished a lot before getting married and having kids, which is so amazing. I think you've got so much right.

But if you had to go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently, knowing what you know now?

Things to Expect in Business

Fernando: (41:45)

Dude, honestly I'm making it seem easy. We've made so many mistakes.

I’d say two things. Firstly, failures are part of the process, and we talked about this in our team town hall, a few weeks ago.

Mistakes and Setbacks Are Part of the Process

Fernando: (42:04)

We say mistakes happen and are a part of the process. A lot of the time when you're joining for the first time, you think that everything's linear and you just go up to the right end. You feel you don't really make mistakes. But I think setbacks are a normal part of learning, which means that you're taking on risks. And that’s great. You're pushing the envelope.

So expect that as part of the process and try not to make the same mistakes over again. But just expect that you're going to make a lot of the mistakes. That's the first piece of advice.

Business Is a Marathon and Not a Sprint

Fernando: (42:37)

I heard the second one recently, and I’ve had to remind myself because I'm always super urgent and pushing things really quickly. Business is a marathon and not a sprint. And remembering that is really helpful. So, make sure that you keep your team's morale really high and that you're thinking about the long term and not just a quick buck. And keep investing in your team, your infrastructure, and your systems.

At the end of the day,  you’ll have a business that fits your goals.  A lot of people want to be able to work a little bit less or to not have to put out fires. But then, at the same time, they're like me where they’re just pushing things so quickly, that they are making a ton of mistakes. So just realizing that, comes out of sacrifice. If you’re pushing so fast you're going to have to put out more fires. So, finding an interesting balance is really helpful. 

Brand management has been helpful in focusing on:

  • What’s our system?
  • What is our reporting?
  • How’s this all going to work together? 
  • What’s our flywheel?
  • How are we going to really reinforce that and only do things that fit into that flywheel?

I think becoming more disciplined has been really transformational for us.

Nick: (44:03)

Yeah, that's great advice, I'm the same way. I like to move fast and it can wear you out. But I've been telling myself recently, “Hey, you're building an asset, you don't have to make money from this idea tomorrow.” It might come six months from now, but when you start building all those different assets things fall into place in the long run. So thanks for saying that because I constantly need to remind myself of that.

I constantly want to keep going and stay in hustle mode, so I'm definitely trying to slow down a little bit.

Fernando: (44:46)

Yeah. I think of McDonald's. I talked to the team about this the other day. It's like, I want us to run like McDonald’s you know, just perfectly smooth, everything is documented, which I would never have cared about years ago. I hate documents and SOPs.

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