Nick Shucet 00:00

Welcome to the Million Dollar Sellers Podcast. I'm your host, Nick Shucet. Today we have Jason on the call. I know he's been around for a while. I saw that you started your business in 1996, which is pretty amazing. Thanks for coming on Jason. For those listeners that don't know you, why don't you go ahead and just tell a little bit about yourself, what life's like at home, and what you have going on business-wise as well?

Jason Hanan 00:27

1996. I guess you don't get gray hair for nothing. I've been doing this for a long time. We started out as retailers in Manhattan with a store called Entertainment Outlet, kind of like Tower Records was what we used to do. Really started it while I was in college. Used to literally rollerblade to another wholesaler and put CDs in my bag and put them on the shelf and that kind of thing. We grew that to three stores in Manhattan.

When you're in Manhattan, you usually are powerful sellers volume-wise. You may not be making money, but you definitely sell a lot of stuff because you pay the rent. Part of what we did was turn our retail business into a wholesale business as well. We were wholesaling out CDs to the rest of the country and DVDs and stuff like that. Very early on we realized that we had a ton of inventory and we actually started selling products on eBay and on Amazon.

Way back in the early days, pretty quickly, we realized that eBay was a big pain and Amazon, FBA was just so easy. We just started really shifting all of our resources into that. We've been writing software and building processes in our retail store, which eventually turned into a warehouse forever it seems. How to forecast, are we profitable, and how to price around, all of those different pieces?

It just feels like we've been doing this stuff forever. That was how we got into the Amazon business.

Nick Shucet 02:14

Nice, man. I know you have a lot of interesting things going on. You've got the software that you're providing, which I think is a pretty unique one in the business. I want to talk a little bit about that in a minute as well. How did you get into this entrepreneurial lifestyle? What was life like growing up for you in New York? How did it lead to entrepreneurship?

Jason Hanan 02:39

Basically grew up in Brooklyn. My dad owned pharmacy-type stores, like a Rite Aid type of business, where I would get on a bus with like a little bus with no air conditioning and leave from college and go to Union City, New Jersey from Manhattan in order to count toothpaste and socks and women's underwear. This is torture. Anything but this, please.

We got the opportunity where we got a phone call from my uncle who is like, I got a store, we want to throw some stuff in there. I have used movies and music and we need someone to help us figure out how to sell it. Well, I'm in. It's not toothpaste. It's something that's a little more exciting. Just get me out of this industry because it was really miserable.

I really took that on just very early on. I think I just had a love for music and movies in the beginning anyway. I really just retained information, I have a little bit of a photographic memory. I think I just retain information quickly and was really just very into dealing with people and they would say, I like this artist. I would know what shelf it was on, even though nothing was in alphabetical order.

Yep, saw that here. I really just was super into dealing with people and just loved what I was doing. Then I worked in a law firm at some point also for I think it was two weeks and by the end of the second week, I went into the person who hired me and said, all right, I'm sending faxes, I like handing faxes to people. I think I can do more. She said, all right, well, you'll get there.

I didn't come to work the next day. She called me and she's like, where are you? I was like, you said when you get there, call me and I'll do something else. She's like, that's not how this works. I was like, yeah, I'm not really cut out to work for people. I can't just run around with mindless stuff. I'm gonna have to figure out how to do something for myself because this is not me being somebody else's employee.

I think really early on, I realized that was not something that was gonna work for me. My whole journey through business has really been a journey to try and figure out how to not work for someone else. Let me just figure that out and at all costs. We definitely had some scares along the way. We're selling movies and music. It's 2004. Tower Records goes bankrupt.

The world is clearly gonna start to end. We were just definitely sweating as streaming became more popular. Around 2012, 2013 started to get really ugly. Amazon was no longer doing a lot. What are we going to do? My brother used to be a business partner. He went off on his own to do his own thing with somebody else. He ended up working for a company called RBX and they opened a direct-to-consumer business as long as he was really opening retail stores originally.

They as an afterthought were like, we're trying to do our own website. He said you should really be doing Amazon. He told the ownership over there, you should probably call Jason and Lenny. He was part of our business. Just see what it is. We explained to them, you can list, even this, you can do all of these things. It's not that hard. They're like, we know what you're talking about.

They said, can you do it for us? We're like, can we do it for you? They're like, yeah. We'll pay you to do this for us. We're like, okay, I think this might be a thing. We actually started warehousing for them and we started really handling that. We became a 3PL and an agency in the same motion. Then started to tell other people, hey, we know how to do Amazon.

That really became us shifting from selling our own product to really becoming an agency and helping other people to sell their products on Amazon.

Nick Shucet 07:18

So you guys are the original My Amazon Guy.

Jason Hanan 07:21

Yeah, except we were never in the position where I had a thought to say, I want to have a thousand accounts. If we can manage a couple of counts a year, we're fairly boutique. We have like 16 accounts that we manage. We try and manage bigger type accounts and just give them a full focus. If we can't really treat people and make them feel like they're the most important thing to our company, then we're doing something wrong.

I don't know, God bless people like My Amazon Guy and these agencies that have a thousand customers or 500 accounts. It's just not something that I even dream of. Part of our business was really the software that we had running in the background to support everything that we do. My partner always wanted to push selling software.

He's like, we sell software. I was like, no, focus on what we do. We know Amazon, but we don't know the software. We basically put into place an automated pricing piece that was originally just inventory-based that would raise prices. Basically, what I would do manually, would sit there and just raise prices all day when you're running low, overstock.

I would do all this stuff manually. We basically just took the ideas that were in my head and automated them into a very pretty basic repricing tool early on. When I saw that and what we were doing internally, okay, you got me. I think we can sell this and this is not just a reporting tool, which I was always afraid to try and get into selling. Everybody has reporting.

I was probably a mistake in hindsight because we were much more ahead of the curve because we've been doing it for so long. Once we had this automated pricing piece, we went into software and were able to build out our AZ Seller Kit, which is basically just the forward-facing piece of what we were doing internally forever. That can scale to infinity without really needing to be super hands-on.

That became much more exciting. Actually, you can scale and just go on forever. In the agency model, I really feel like the bigger you get, the worse you get in theory at service unless you really are super talented, which some people are. Not even in my wheelhouse to try and be that big. I really prefer letting everybody know that we picked you to be one of our accounts and there's a reason for it.

We're in this together and you have our all. That's really more of how I feel is the right way to treat people.

Nick Shucet 10:19

Nice, I agree with that, man. It's when you care about how you're interacting with people, you wanna maintain that close relationship so things stay the same. It's easy to lose that when you bring more people into the mix. I definitely wanna talk a little bit about AZ Seller Kit, but before we jump into that, man, so you're a music guy. Big into music, big into movies.

What kind of music were you listening to back then and what are you listening to now?

Jason Hanan 10:50

We had a store on 14th Street in Manhattan, which was a little bit of a Spanish-y hip-hop-type neighborhood. When I was younger, it was Pearl Jam, Nirvana, those kinds of days, Dave Matthews band, and whatnot. That was my thing. Then all of a sudden, the Notorious B.I.G. came out with a double CD set that sold, probably had a line of 100 people outside the store to get this double CD set.

I didn't really understand what this was. I gotta put this in and see what you know what is this that everybody wants to hear. When I put that in been a rap fan since then. I am an East Coast rap guy and that one double CD set changed my whole viewpoint on music. That was it. Now I feel bad when the windows are rolled down and I drive by people because I really should not be blasting rap music here I get it.

I know the image if I saw someone else that looked like me I'm just like I'm gonna roll up the windows. I promise I really do love this stuff.

Nick Shucet 11:57

That is too funny, man. I'm like that with my kids. I'll be in the van, I'll have three kids in the car and we're all just jamming and just having a blast and I've got this other car when I don't have the van, I'll have one or two of the kids with me. It's got a good stereo system in it. I swear my kids they're addicted to it. My youngest son is obsessed with the keys, obsessed with the car, and always wants to go on a ride.

It's so cool to have those moments with them. I think about someone looking at me, who's this guy with three kids in his car pumping some Biggie music, just getting it in. It's 8:15 in the morning. I'm at the stoplight, kids are in the back just jamming with me. That's super cool, man.

Jason Hanan 13:08

it's the clean version from Spotify, I swear,

Nick Shucet 13:02

Yes, I love that man. I listen to everything. I'll still jam when a good Nirvana song comes on and stuff like that.

Jason Hanan 13:15

I have three kids. I have a daughter who's 14, a son who's 12, and another son who's seven. My 12-year-old actually plays the drums and is super into pop music and Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. It's just so odd that he's a drummer and he'll play drums to that stuff. We got very poppy in our house. He knows the top 100 songs on Spotify.

You could wake him up in the middle of the night and he knows the order changes of the top 100 and stuff like that. My seven-year-old loves Nirvana. Smells Like Teen Spirit all day long. He'll headbang to that. He just loves any type of rock also. It depends on which kid I have in the car and who gets priority for the music. We traveled both worlds of rock and basic pop music in the car.

Nick Shucet 14:20

Nice man, I love those moments with the kids in the car, just jamming the good times with them. Super cool man, I'm glad we got to know you a little bit on that level. I'll definitely make sure to bring some good rap music whenever I plan on seeing you.

Jason Hanan:

Yeah, right, if you're in Barcelona, I hear Biggie's big in Barcelona.

Nick Shucet 14:40

Man, I love it. Talk to us a little bit about the AZ Seller Kit. I looked at it a while back. I know you guys were a bit ahead. I think you guys had Google Sheet dashboards or something that you could get that had some pretty good metrics to monitor. I know you guys were early to the pricing game. What are you guys doing? Is anything crazy with pricing now from an AI perspective or what?

Jason Hanan 15:09

We are always I'll say growing and trying to innovate with the APIs that Amazon gives you. My partner, Lenny is actually now at an Amazon conference for developers and sitting with them. They don't even tell you the APIs that they have. They make it so challenging and it's so strange how little support they have. Then he's telling me he's at the conference and the developers are talking to him and they're like, tell me what you want us to do and we'll do it.

They seem so big when it, but when it comes to the APIs that they give you, like the search query performance, he's meeting with the search query performance lady and she's like, yeah, if I can convince my boss to let us do it with APIs, then we will do it. He's like, what do you need to convince her? Lenny's told her, maybe I'll get on the phone with you and I think I could convince her.

She's like, that's an amazing idea. How ridiculous is that? Amazon doesn't realize some of the tools that they have and that these things should be available through APIs. A lot of the pricing things that we do for now are rule-based. I don't believe in AI, at least in its current construct for this stuff, primarily because, and again, I could change this opinion over time as things grow.

When we were first playing with AI, it was our version of AI, of what we were experimenting with, which is not the $10 billion ChatGPT AI It's basically a fairly basic AI. When you start to see the decisions and I see this with a lot of other tools as well, specifically in advertising, when you look at the PPC AI tools that are out there, we always end up going away from them because it ends up being a bit of a black box where they can't explain why things happen.

The answer to the question is generally, it raised the bids by $4 because AI thought it was going to be smart, but it's not. They're like, oh, but there's probably a data point, so it's off, right? You get to a certain level of your business where if you're doing a couple of million dollars a year, you know what you're doing. You know how you got there so to turn the keys over to AI and you see things that don't make sense.

It's tough. When we tried doing that with pricing, we really found that I couldn't explain 20% of the pricing decisions. 80% are good, but if I can't explain 20% and I'm putting an item that is ranked on page one and is ranked number 11 in my category, I can't sleep at night if something is going to make a change that I don't know why it's making that change.

I'm still in this mode of I have a hundred if-then statements that are basically making pricing decisions, but I can look at any decision and understand why a decision is being made. I can't sleep at night unless I can look at something and say, I know why we made that decision. That's where we are now. Now as the AI of Microsoft and Google of the world start to do an analysis of spreadsheets and things like that, right now it's still very limited.

They're giving me 14 lines on a spreadsheet that you can do at a time, which is not going to help us with the 500,000 SKUs that we're managing. At a certain point, I'm sure that analysis will be better. For me as what I feel like where I feel like it's going is when you have the ability to tell AI to look at these 20 data points and tell it what you want it to do to a certain extent.

I feel like that'll really be you the next iteration of when it gets better, when you can really, talk to AI and limit its scope so you can still understand what it's doing.

Nick Shucet 19:39

It's interesting. I'm similar. I'm not scared of AI. I don't think I can be replaced by AI in the way that I leverage AI is helping me come to my own conclusion. It's like having a discussion with myself.

Jason Hanan 19:54

Exactly, just make my process faster but it still needs to be my thoughts that the end results come out of the things that I want to have happen. I feel like there is a world where we are probably different than most, but most sellers, and I feel like part of MDS, most of us are already in that million-dollar-plus. Most of the Amazon sellers are well below that.

If you're talking about like a community of people that you're selling to, if you're going to say I have a PPC software or pricing software or something that is AI heavy, a lot of the people in that lower tier, it's a huge market of people that aren't confident, feel like they don't know what they're doing and would love for something to tell them this is the right answer.

That's great for them. They're kind of PPC strategy, they're not sure, so this software will give them answers to the questions that they just were lost, to begin with. That's better than themselves. When you get to a certain level, which is what a lot of us in the group are, you have confidence in your decision-making. You wanna know that whatever software you're handing your tool over to, or your business over to, reflects the decisions that you want to make.

So far, we haven't been able to replicate that with AI, but it doesn't mean that it's not going to happen at some point. 

Nick Shucet 21:27

I think we're training it now. We're training it.

Jason Hanan 21:32

Exactly, but I think that the way that you said it really is so succinct that I want AI to just make the decisions that I would make. I still need it to be me. I think it'll get there and I think we'll learn eventually how to do that. It's so new that we're still in our if-then statement control, understanding, conservative, and just understanding every move.

Nick Shucet 22:05

I used it the other day for a business proposition I was given. If I have X amount of equity in the company and a share is worth this amount now, four years away it's worth this, how does that play out if it gets to 150 million dollars in revenue? In my head, I think I could put this math on a spreadsheet and create a formula. I'm gonna try chat GPT and I did it for 20 minutes and I showed my wife the output that I got to.

I was like, hey if you just read this, do you understand what I was trying to figure out and she did and it was six sentences.

Jason Hanan 22:50

That's great. I was looking at some forecasting stuff and I had an idea that I wanted to change. I just asked ChatGPT, how can you do this? What formulas would you use in order to achieve this goal? It wrote out a set of formulas that were basically Chinese to me. I cut and pasted it. I sent it to my data scientist. I was like, do you know what this means?

Can you do this? Yeah, I get it. I was like, great because I don't even want to think about it. I know I don't know what this means, but I have a feeling it's probably right. I could probably spend three hours, you know, cutting and pacing those forms to figure out what's happening, but somebody else knows what this means, but at least I was able to express my idea and get the answer out in a format that, you know, that ultimately gets to be usable

Nick Shucet 23:40

That's super cool how we can use it to fill a knowledge gap on our end, but we're also helping, you helped your data scientist and he may have not gotten there on his own. The ability for you and the AI and him to like collaborate is insane. It's super cool.

Jason Hanan 23:57

It is. I spend so much of the day instead of asking Lenny, who's our IT guy, I would just say, what's the formula for this? Can you do this? Can you do that? You just ask ChatGPT as if they're the smartest person in the room and usually, it's going to give you just an answer. It's amazing how much you can get out of that.

Nick Shucet 24:31

I love having it on my phone. Do you have it on your phone or the app?

Jason Hanan 24:33

Yeah, of course.

Nick Shucet 24:35

My wife will send me a text message. I'm like, ChatGPT, how do I reply to this? What should I say? No, I'm just kidding. It's so convenient on the phone, man, that you can just use it anywhere you want to. I'm excited to play around with that tool more and involve it in the business as well. Talk to us about AZ Seller Kit, man, the problems that it solves, and what makes you guys unique.

Jason Hanan 25:01

We're very heavy on reporting. Amazon has given so much more data over the last year, session data, unit session percentage, and all of those things are real now. We really specialize in accounts that have larger SKU counts. We do a really good job with exports and spreadsheets, the dashboards are nice and pretty. We give you the ability to customize the dashboards for yourself.

Save those views, and then export those views or have those views emailed out to members of the team, whether it's things that are low stock reports high conversion rates, or low conversion rate sessions. We're big believers in just looking at trends over time and trying to make decisions based on anomalies. Right? The larger your catalog is, the more you're really looking to catch the trend that has changed.

What we sell and what the sexier part of what we sell is automated pricing. That gets people in the door. What invariably happens is we get someone in the door. We have this cool tile on the top of the screen that we added four years ago that shows the additional revenue that someone has made by using the tool. It'll show hundreds of thousands of dollars for these sellers.

If an item was $20 and the software said it should be $22 because inventory was low or because the velocity was able to be supported it does that. It shows you that stat. That was the really sexy stat in the beginning that gets people in the door. Then over time as people use it, they'll say, why do you not pitch this as a reporting tool? I was just like, because no one wants to hear about a reporting tool.

They're like, this reporting is so much more valuable than even the pricing automation that's there. I was just like, hey, we built this, we're running a business. We don't sell software. I'm an Amazon agency, basically an Amazon seller. We're continuing to add the different things that we need as Amazon adds information. A lot of the reporting is geared toward understanding price changes and understanding when things change.

What happens, and we just continue to grow that dashboard and those insights, based on what we need. It's constantly evolving and it's got everything from financials. It's basically like the greatest hits of all the software that we ever used in the past. We need a replenishment tool. I'm an agency, and I can't pay for SoStocked 16 times, so we write our own version of a replenishment report.

We have a forecasting tool that's in there. We have a financial report that's like a SellerLegend or Sellerboard. We have all of that. Basically, we needed to build that for ourselves over time. We've got suppressed listing reports, we have a buy box if you have problems with the buy box. You have all of these things that you just need and we try not to have you log into Seller Central.

That's really what we're trying to avoid because Seller Central is cumbersome and a disaster, and you just don't want to be in there.

Nick Shucet 28:21

It's so hard to find certain stuff in there. I was in the product opportunity explorer the other day. Lots of great stuff in there. Really hard to know that it's there. in the product opportunity explorer the other day. Lots of great stuff in there. Really hard to know that it's there.

Jason Hanan 28:32

Exactly. Who are you hiding this from? That's really the feeling. It really is. Seller Central is very much like shiny objects show you sales. They really don't show you expenses. They don't really show you storage fees that are going crazy. All of this stuff just doesn't make it easy to navigate and easy to see. The more SKUs you have, the more important it is to have tools that allow you to see things quickly.

Nick Shucet 29:07

It's crazy, the things that become important as you scale. I'm really hard on my team about shipment documents. The warehouse and the purchasing team, they're thinking of it from their perspective. I'm like, no, something could happen nine months from now, and if we don't have this piece of paper, we're screwed.

Jason Hanan 29:28

We added it to the software and the same thing. We couldn't find the BOL all of a sudden. It's one BOL. Now that's it. We changed the tool in a week. Now we have a place where you can save your BOL attach it to every shipment, and finish, but it happened. Why? Because you screwed up one time. Somebody couldn't find a paper once and now you have a new SOP that says scan the document and attach it in the software.

Then it's there forever and that's it. Now you can sleep at night. There are a lot of things like that in the tool. 

Jason Hanan 29:57

We were at Prosper and one of the largest accounts that we have on the software, they’re the number eight seller on Amazon. She walks up to the booth and you immediately start sweating because oh man, I hope she has good news that she's not gonna yell at us, the highest paying customer that we have. She walks in and she's like, we love your software because of this one thing that we do for advertising that shows us items that have a future date.

We have an advertising report that shows you if your item is basically not available for sale now and you're spending money on it, you're basically tanking your item because you're driving traffic to Amazon and it says available for sale in 10 days from now.

Nick Shucet 30:53


Jason Hanan 30:53

Because Amazon started six months ago. They started basically taking something that's built and has the “shipped” on it because they're doing ship to Amazon once it's noted as “shipped”. They're like, okay we know what it is. It's going to be available in a month. It might go from a month to two weeks to seven days, but the minute it says available for sale in a month, you have the buy box.

If you have the buy box and you have an ad campaign running in the background, it's going to start spending. If you're spending money and it's not available, you're basically tanking the listing before it becomes live so you're paying to tank your own listing She walks in and she's like, we all live on that report. It saved us who knows how much money.

Nick Shucet 31:36

You can't really put a number on that, man. That's amazing.

Jason Hanan 31:41

To us, it’s an inch of the software. It's something that's such a minor piece so you don't know what it is but we built it for ourselves because it happens once you're like, oh my god look how much money I spent on this thing. We tank the listing. All right, what's the fix? Fix it. Go. Next. Every company has some of their own holes that they don't necessarily know.

We don't know ourselves what a hole we're filling but it's just that everything that we can possibly put in there is what we do.

Nick Shucet 32:17

I think that speaks to the value of the software. You were talking earlier about how you didn't focus on the software but you were focused on Amazon and now you have the software and you're offering it to other people but you have all this experience with things like that and things like BOLs and inventory and how it affects pricing strategy.

Someone who has a bunch of money to whip up software and sell it today, you can’t replicate that, unless they buy Jason out and bring him into the business.

Jason Hanan 32:58

It's funny because when all the money was crazy in 2021 all the aggregators were buying stuff, and ultimately there were offers to buy the tool, but it was also just offered to buy me and Lenny. I was just like, from 1996, all I know is I don't want to work for someone else. I don't think there's an amount of money that I would want to actually spend the next two to five years with.

All of a sudden, I'm 45 years old. All of a sudden, I'm going to have a boss. Now I'm going to have to answer to people. I was just like, you know what? I think I'm good. 

Nick Shucet 33:39

Dude, that's a great way to look at it because you didn't say just having, you were like how much I would actually spend over the next three to five years.

Jason Hanan 33:49

In sweat, in stress, and in life. There's the David Ghiyam mentality and God bless him. You can manifest things. There are some people who want that billion-dollar goal or a hundred million dollars. I'm good. At this point in my life, I'm looking to trade money for stress, not stress for money. I feel like if you sell to one of these companies, you're basically taking money and you're increasing the stress in your life by tenfold.

Then you potentially lose that feeling like you're living it, you're the seller, it's yours, and now you're doing things that somebody else potentially wants to do or wants to direct it in a different way. You can't necessarily make the changes that you want. Probably not the smartest guy for not selling when it probably could have been you know 20x valuations, but it's not what's important to me then.

It's not what's important to me now. I just prefer to be my own boss at the end of the day.

Nick Shucet 35:03

I'm always amazed when I hear people talk about a story like that and they just naturally have the ability to stay true to themselves. I struggled with that for a long time. I know a lot of other people struggle with that and you're able to reflect on that time way back when you were working for the lawyer and you've maintained that ability to stay true to yourself, which I think is unique and great.

That's super cool.

Jason Hanan 35:32

One of the other, one of the guys in MDS, I won't mention his name, but actually, we were on the phone last week, and there was some mistake that was made or whatever, and he's like, hey, you know what? Now that mistake just cost me probably a couple of thousand dollars, of which if I had it, I probably wouldn't know what to do with it anyway, so not gonna stress about it.

It's all good, and I'm sure everything's fine. That mindset is just so much healthier. You get to a certain amount of stuff that you have in your life. Is it worth making yourself crazy because you've lost a zero or a thousand or $10,000 or whatever it is because of something or stress to get to that next level? If it's something that's gonna stress you out, then you're just better off.

Just trade. That's my mantra. When you have the opportunity to trade money for stress, if you can afford to do it, that's why you go out and make the money. You made the money so that you could live a happier, healthier life ultimately.

Nick Shucet 36:44

Well, Biggie said it best man, “mo money, mo problems”. 

Jason Hanan 36:47 

Exactly. Here you go. Boom. Drop the mic.

Nick Shucet 36:53

He knew what he was talking about, man. I was wondering about the tool, do you guys have any convenient purchasing features? If I need to reorder a product and now I've got to order from the supplier, do you guys have a pseudo-CRM type thing built into it that helps me with that?

Jason Hanan 37:13

We have a replenishment tool built in there, which basically has, you can update your product catalog and put your vendors in there for your items and you can design your report to basically be in the format of the purchase order that you would send to the vendor and kind of save that view. Then you could basically just export those sheets with, their vendor SKUs, and their cost.

There are basically a million custom columns that you could add in and it's just a matter of building it one time. Once you set it up in that format, then it's just fill in your numbers, cut and paste, and send it off to the multiple vendors that you have.

Nick Shucet 37:49

Very cool. Nice. That's super convenient. It seems like you have a lot of features that are just good for scale. I remember being in the business and it's like man, I feel like I wanna automate this, but I also feel shitty about thinking I need to automate it because I should just do it and be done with it, but as you grow, that stuff becomes super convenient.

Jason Hanan 38:17

I'll tell you the real origin story, which I generally don't talk about too much, but the real origin story of the software is I was that. I was not a believer in automation. I got it in my head. It's not worth the time. I can just do it. We should be focused on making money, not on saving time. That was my philosophy. My brother and my partner Lenny were just always like, let's try and automate.

In 2008, I was in Hawaii surfing with my wife and I had this thing that's called surfer's myelopathy where I was paralyzed from the waist down and they had basically told me when I rolled into the emergency room that I was gonna be paralyzed for the rest of my life.

Nick Shucet 39:05

Holy crap.

Jason Hanan 39:11

Through luck, miracles, and physical therapy. I recovered and was able to with a year of physical therapy, get back to walking, running, and playing sports, against all odds. As part of that process, while I was going through this ordeal in the hospital and through physical therapy, Lenny and Adam had to do my job. I just couldn't work necessarily.

They were just saying, you got to get these ideas out of your head because we can't do your job and our jobs unless we automate it. You have to break down and you gotta tell us what you're doing so we can automate it so we can function. Then I broke down. I was like, okay, let's see what I'm doing. Let's take the ideas. How am I replenishing?

How am I changing pricing? What are all these inventory management things that I'm doing manually and how can we automate it so that they can actually do it while I am out? Then once I started to see that I was like, oh wow so I just saved six hours. It was basically 90% as good as me, but with that 10% I'll tweak a few things. That was really when my mind started to open and be much more.

Let's automate and not let me just do it because I can probably do it better. It was a big turning point in our business evolution. It really helped us to scale.

Nick Shucet 40:34

Oh man, that's awesome, first off you just made it through that. That's a hell of a journey right there for that to come out of that, that's pretty amazing. I've also been surfing all my life and never heard of this and now I'm a little freaked out.

Jason Hanan 40:50

It generally only happens to first-time surfers. It basically happens from doing this upward dog position they say that if you're on the board, they say that first-time surfers generally tend to stay in that position for longer than they should waiting for a wave. Then when you go and pop up, there's something that happens that they don't really understand that said the MRI makes it look like you've been in a car accident.

It looks like something traumatic happened. It looked like Dennis Byrd, I don't know if you remember that Jets guy who was basically paralyzed. It said it was the same MRI pattern as that guy who got like hit in the head and basically was paralyzed. That's what it looks like. It's not traumatic, but it is very specific to first-time surfers. If you're at number two, you're good.

You have nothing to worry about there. It seems that 90% of them happen in Hawaii for a reason that no one really can explain. It was on this ABC medical mystery show which was two months before I went that show was aired. I didn't see it but some other people had and there was basically this surfer's myelopathy thing and the next thing was a guy who basically is a human tree and has blisters that form a tree and he looks literally like a horror movie character.

That's how freaky. It was a me and tree guy. It's very infrequent and there's really nothing to be worried about if you're a surfer. 

Nick Shucet 42:27 

All right, good to know. Well, Jason, I saw on some of the information you gave us that you've got a pretty big team and you seem to be pretty good at team management. Before we wrap up you could just kind of drop some critical things you've learned. I think that's one of those areas where I've complicated it. I think it can be more simple.

I also saw in your notes that you mentioned, you were really good at breaking down complex problems into simple things. I think it would be good if the audience could get your opinion on that.

Jason Hanan 43:04

We've got about 25 people working for us remotely, not including we have a warehouse that has another 20 people, but that's a very different, style of managing, minimum wage type employees, and managing remote workers. What we found over time, and some people think that we're nuts, but it really works for us, is we try and find people that think like ourselves that are just mellow, same mindset, just nice normal people.

It makes a difference from the outset. You can feel a vibe and we tell them very early on that you have to log on to the computers in the office and we have your computer on. When you punch in, you can punch in and punch out whenever you want. All I ask is that if you say you're working, you're working. If you want to punch out, no schedule.

Anytime you want, you have to have a meeting. Obviously, do whatever you want whenever you want, but If you're punched in, we use a software called Time Station, then I expect you to be working. I want you to know that I have your computer on in the background, and I'm gonna be looking at what you're doing so that if you're doing something that is maybe not a priority or something that I see is doing wrong, that you could improve on, we're watching.

When people from the get-go tell you oh, that's crazy, then you're not for us. You have to be comfortable that if you're working someone can be in the way I explained it, then I was like, the world used to function in the office where the boss or the manager could walk around and just say hello and see what's flying. We try to create that sort of environment remotely where everybody knows that at any point we could be watching what they're doing and giving them feedback.

We only give positive feedback. I'll never say anything negative to anybody. It's always just let them know that we're looking like, ah, that's a good idea. You should probably tell this other guy on the team to do it the way that you're doing it. That's a nice thought process there. Then you're just letting them know that you're aware of what they're doing.

If you can give people positive feedback on the work that they're doing, the messaging is there that if they're not working, they're doing something stupid, that you're also gonna see that too. You almost don't have to be a policeman, because nobody likes that. No one wants the, “What are you working on?”, “What are you doing?”, “Why are you doing that?”

That's not really the point. The point is really to, like I was always in retail, you wanted a big security camera. That's it. I don't want to catch someone stealing. I just want to know. I want them to know that this is not a place where you get the security guards, just don't steal. You can make people dishonest if you give them too much flexibility and too much latitude.

Put the systems in place so that they're incentivized not from a monetary standpoint, but just from an emotional standpoint where they know that potentially someone could be looking at what I'm doing and I should be working. That complemented with the flexibility of doing whatever you want, whenever you want, really has been a balance that has I'll say worked more often than not.

Probably the best thing is that when somebody is not good, you really see it quickly. All right. Hire a guy. He's just not on his computer. Then you see what he's doing. It's nothing, just screens moving and it just doesn't make any sense, call them up, what's the thought process here and then it doesn't really make too much sense. The interview is great, but clearly, whatever.

I got this one wrong because this guy is not, but you see it really quickly. It's really been something that has led us. I feel like there's a certain personality type that is confident enough and comfortable enough in their own skin to feel like somebody's watching, but I know what I'm doing. If somebody's watching, that's good. It weeds out the people in that interview process that has really landed us with really just confident and good people.

Nick Shucet 47:35

Damn, that is really simple. Effective.

Jason Hanan 47:37

It is really simple. No, it is. There are some posts of Hubstaff and this thing and I have things on the software and it's taking keystrokes or whatever it is. Then they're faking out the keystroke thing. I'm watching and I'm here to help and that's really it. It's not so complicated.

Nick Shucet 47:56

I like where you landed. I started on the Time Doctor years ago. I'm gonna track everything. I'm gonna audit these guys. Then you know what? I'm just gonna go performance-based. I'm not gonna check the time. I don't even care if they check in, but I like where you landed, in the middle like in a retail store, or an office, I would see what you're doing.

Jason Hanan 48:24

That it is very retail. I grew up with everyone working and when they punched the clock and they needed to go to the store, they went to the store, but they punched their card and they left and it was fine. You knew they were gone. When they punch back in, it's also fine. The idea that you can be on the clock and doing nothing is something that to my core still bothers me from a retail mindset.

In theory, again, there are people who are salaried and that's different. The truth is no one is actually salaried in the office other than the warehouse manager. If you're working and people work 50, or 60 hours a week and they get paid overtime and they should. If you're putting in 60 hours a week and that's what the company needs then you should get paid overtime.

I hate that people that we interview sometimes and they're like we get a base salary of X and I'm like, how many hours are you working? I don't know, 55 hours a week. I was like, you're actually making $18 an hour. You don't realize how many hours you're putting in and if you actually worked and you want to get paid overtime and do whatever, either work 40 hours and get paid less or work 55 and get paid for the fact that you're putting in that blood, sweat and tears.

Nick Shucet 49:41

That's one thing I've noticed I've learned over the years is if we take the in-office example and the virtual example, I was giving people way too many tasks and they were just saying yes, and I could never see the impact I'm having on them emotionally. You're not picking up on that vibe in the office. You're not looking them in the eyes. I really had to check myself.

Dial it back and start tracking for my own purposes that what I'm giving other people and that I'm not overwhelming them and now I've swung the other way where I'm like, do a little bit less, stop trying to do so much. Let's do these three things really freaking good and then we'll move on to this stuff.

Jason Hanan 50:30

That's really where that Time Station software also where you're telling them to punch in and punch out and we've made that mistake also in the past where you sort of overload someone thinking that you know it's not so tough and all of a sudden you see they put in 50 hours that week. You look it's like yo, again forget the fact that it's overtime.

You can work. We'll pay you overtime it's fine but what went wrong? Then they explain but that's your that's your signal that you just dropped too much on someone's plate if all of a sudden they had to put in 50 hours and you find out really quickly that they were probably doing something that not too many people want to work 50 hours a week.

If they did it, then it's probably that we did something wrong if they ended up having to put those hours in.

Nick Shucet 51:13

Nice man. Well, I think that's a great piece of information that I certainly haven't really heard before but it just makes sense man. I've always been a fan of from a marketing perspective, putting myself out there, putting that out there, and letting it reject and repel the people that it's not for. That's always been my first field. It's not to attract the people I want.

It's how do I get these people I don't want out of here? Then let me talk to the people that I do want. That's worked pretty well for me in a lot of different ways.

Jason Hanan 51:55

The human strainer. Shake it and whoever’s left to keep working with.

Nick Shucet 52:01

Well, Jason, man, thanks for coming on and sharing your story and a little bit of what works for you and your software. I think it has a lot of value. I'm certainly going to give it another visit again and see if it makes sense for us now. It was a couple of years ago when I took a look at it.

Jason Hanan 52:16

Yeah, it's very different now also.

Nick Shucet 52:20

Thanks, man. For anyone who wants to reach out to you and learn more about the software, where can they find you?

Jason Hanan 52:26

You can go to, there's a Contact Us button, which mostly goes to me and another couple members of the team that are on there. We have an MDS 20% off, whatever pricing is on the site that we only advertise to MDS people.

Nick Shucet 52:41

Solid. All right, man.

Jason Hanan 52:44


Nick Shucet 52:41

Thanks again, and I look forward to talking to you again sometime soon.

Jason Hanan 52:47

Alright, thanks, Nick. Appreciate it.

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