Lee Assoulin joined the family business after college. However, his move to fancy.com helped him develop a work ethic that was later useful for him. Unlike some merchants who made the switch to ecommerce because of the pandemic, Lee has been in this space for about eight years and knew it was only a matter of time before the explosion happened. These and other experiences gave him the stamina to start his own company, Stonecutter, where he manages an even larger catalog.

Key Takeaways

In this interview you’ll learn these from Lee:

  • Being at the right place at the right time sometimes requires effort
  • Don’t start a partnership when you have nothing to offer
  • Treat your clients as partners because you’re in it together for the long haul
  • How to set the trajectory of where you want to go
  • There’s no guru or main man in MDS
  • MDS brings you together with people who understand your pain points

Lee Assoulin Interview with Nick Shucet

Nick: (00:04)

Here we are! Million Dollar Sellers podcast. I'm your host, Nick Shucet. We have a great guest today, Lee. He's been a long-time member of MDS and it's been great getting to know him a little bit. I'm really excited to sit down with him today. So what's going on, Lee? How are you doing today, man?

Lee: (00:26)

Things are good, man. Definitely been a crazy year and just trying to catch up and keep up. There's more activity in the space than ever, which is amazing and exhausting all at the same time. But everything is positive. No negative complaints on my end. Thank God.  However, it's been a nonstop grind and I've always said it's better to be busy than bored. So I'm definitely busy

COVID: Exploding Ecommerce and Online Businesses

Nick: (00:56)

Right on man. I can relate, I got my hands in a lot of different things and it's just crazy what COVID has done. For e-commerce and online businesses in general, it seems like things are just exploding. It's just definitely hard, man.

Lee : (01:16)

Yeah, it's pretty nuts. I have talked to people whose businesses are not doing so great. It's heartbreaking at the same time. There's that expression of COVID. However, I did well during COVID and you kind of feel bad. But this space exacerbated the growth. Five years’ worth of e-comm growth just happened like that. And so, being well-positioned and knowing that this was the future before everybody else knew it.

You just have a leg up and so it's not like, “Oh, my business closed, and then I'm rushing into the Amazon space.”  I’ve been doing this for seven and a half, almost eight years now. And so yeah, I knew the space was going to explode. It was a matter of time.

Nike: (02:02)

Yeah. It is crazy to think of that as a right place, right time scenario right?

Going Where the Waves Are Strongest

Lee: (02:07)

But that's the thing, It's not necessarily a ‘right time, right place thing. I've been here, standing and waiting for the wave to come so I can surf.  Let’s use this analogy. As a surfer, you paddled out. And you've pretty much put a lot of effort and you've been waiting in that spot and finally, the wave comes.

When you put a lot of effort into getting to the right spot and finally, the wave comes, everyone thinks you were at the right place at the right time.

To everybody, Nick was in the right place at the right time. But you’ll say, “No man, I did a lot of work to get to where I am and then the wave took me. It's amazing. But a lot that happened right before that was a lot of compounding work.

Nick: (02:44)

Yeah. Let's back up a little bit. Did you always think you would be in this position? That you will be in e-commerce?

The Historian Who Knows Jewels

Lee: (02:58)

No. I graduated college as a history major with no clue on what to do. I never had an internship in my life, I was just a traveler. I traveled every summer. I graduated in 2008, which used to be the worst time to ever graduate. Before 2020 totally took that candle. In 2008, everything crashed. I had no job, so I went into the family business, which is a wholesale costume jewelry company that my mother owns. So, I did sales and production. So we did like J. Crew, Banana Republic, and Urban Outfitters.

My mother designed the jewelry and had a huge staff of people and I helped with sales. I flew to China to help out on the production side of things. I was there for about four years and learned a lot, but it’s a family business, and I didn't want to step on my mother's toes. We had mutual respect for one another. I also viewed the future of the tech boom and everything that was happening.

So I left there and worked at another company called fancy.com. It was a tech startup with a mixture of Amazon marketplace, Pinterest, and Instagram.

It had cool lifestyle photos, you could swipe up and like. I was their GMM and VP of Ops. So, I jumped in as employee number seven. They raised like $60 million. It was a hell of a ride, for two and a half years of just grinding. But, that's where I learned a lot of my work ethic. And also where I began to realize e-commerce is the absolute future. That did very well, but I jumped into the Amazon space. My mind was absolutely blown at the exponential potential of Amazon versus your own .com site.

Nick: (05:08)

Yeah. The potential and market reach on Amazon is insane. What led you to look at Amazon and give it some thought? And what did that process look like for you?

The Path to Ecommerce

Lee: (05:24)

I left Fancy, but not with another job lined up. I just threw myself into the universe and hoped things worked out. I knew a guy named Eli. He owned a yoga clothing company, called RBX, and his active work clothing company was doing amazing numbers in wholesale. And he did not have a dot com presence.

So I said, “Hey, I just ran a very large e-comm site, I can pretty much run your own direct-to-consumer. Even though you are wholesaling, we can launch your. Com.” So we worked together. I bought into that company, we built up that .com and it was great.

Once we launched, we were hoping and praying we were going to get this flood of sales. And I had these strategies for Facebook ads and Google ads. And when you start to realize that you got 10 sales, and nothing's really hitting, you get a little bit nervous. So I got nervous and decided to try to sell these goods that I bought from all these guys everywhere.

When I launched on Amazon, I can't say the exact numbers, but we did millions in the first eight months. And I was mind blown. I was like, “Wait a minute! Amazon is where you buy books, electronics, and home goods.” I was selling activewear clothing. I never buy clothing on Amazon. So that was my Aha! moment. And then you start talking to other Amazon guys, and one guy was selling air mattresses and he's making $3 million a year on a SKU.

“Wait, what are you talking about?” And you just start to talk to more people. That was seven years ago and it was just like, How much are you making? What are you making? What are you selling?  Who sells that? And that was a massive light bulb.

Nick: (07:37)

So seven years ago, you got started on Amazon with this new venture, with your buddy Eli. You guys threw some products up on the platform and within about eight months, you were already doing seven figures in revenue?

The Foundation for Compounding Success

Lee: (07:51)

It was an established brand. They are already sold in places like T.J. Maxx and Ross. It was a big brand. But they just weren't selling online. So for me, that was a massive leg-up. It was pretty quick. What I did was, I implemented a lot of systems and processes into software such as, how to list.

At one point, we were managing 10,000 different ASINs. It's a lot because you have to upload images, new copies, and all that. And there were two of us handling the process.

It's not like you're lifting four SKUs, three variations. There are four variations for every color—small, medium, large, and extra-large sizes. At one point, we were managing 10,000 different ASINs. It's a lot because you had to upload images, new copies, and all that. And there were two of us handling the process. So that built a lot of stamina and also the wherewithal to manage a lot more.

From there, I ended up leaving RBX on great terms, he's a great guy and great company. And I started Stonecutter where I manage a bunch of other manufacturers and brands on Amazon.  That gave me the foundation. And we're talking about compounding success. I went from Fancy to working in RBX, building up the knowledge and know-how to manage a large catalog.

Now, having an agency where I'm managing an even larger catalog has become more manageable because of my background and what I've done.

Nick: (09:15)

Yeah. Being able to get a lot of products up is a game-changer for an Amazon business. I experienced that too, but mine was a little different. However, we were reselling other brands as well that were in high demand. And I remember when I figured out how to do the bulk uploads. I thought, “Oh man. I can get thousands of items in a day and sell stuff tomorrow.”

It's like I had figured, finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or something. How did you feel when you made that million dollars? Was it the moment you've been waiting for all your life?

The Tiny Victories

Lee: (09:55)

The day that I did a thousand dollars in sales, I actually remember exactly the shitty windowless cubicle I was sitting in. I was jumping up and shouting Yes! And so it was a really great feeling. Then, I jumped from that flagship account that was on its way to doing crazy numbers, and they did succeed. Then we went into the consulting agency space and just got any client, at any cost. We were out, fully on our own without any backing, and that was tough.

The day I did $1,000 in sales, I was sitting in a shitty, windowless cubicle. I was jumping up and shouting "Yes!" It was a really great feeling. But then, you do that again for client after client and you have that same success story. This time you hit $1,000 a day and then you hit $2,000 and then $10,000. We even have clients that do upwards of $40,000 to $50,000 in a day and it's amazing.

Being able to replicate success daily gives an amazing feeling.

But that didn't happen overnight. That took like two to three years. It's all progress. It doesn't matter what brand you are, people expect this automatic success on Amazon I've worked with some of the biggest brands and that's just not how it goes.

Nick: (11:10)

Does your evolution as an Amazon seller or as an entrepreneur tie into you as an individual? You talked about helping these other brands get to that point of getting a thousand dollars a day and helping someone else do that. Do you get personal enjoyment out of doing that as well?

Lee Assoulin: Core Values

Lee: (11:36)

I'm implementing Traction. I’m not saying this for you, Nick, you know about it, but to all the other listeners out there. We went through our core values and it was really pretty evident what my core values are. And how they are implemented or instilled in my business and my employees. I’ve got to think of them off the top of my head, but one of them is, ‘get shit done.’ I'm a grinder.

Although I like to sit back, I can get my hands dirty if I need to. One of them is partnerships. We care about our partners, I don't view my clients as clients, but as partners, because, at the end of the day, we're in this together. I'm not in this for a one-year or six-month run, where I'm going to help you reach a million dollars, and then you'll go on to do it yourself.

It's like, wow, Lee knows all of the tidbits that I would have to have an employee research network. And so here I have a whole team around me and in essence, every marketing dollar that we spend, I view it as my marketing dollar.

I treat your clients as partners because, at the end of the day, you’re in it together for the long haul… if I don't like you as a person, I won't take you on as a client

At the end of the day, I care that you're profitable. I care that you're not wasting inventory. I care when you're sold out, obviously because I take a percentage of the sale. But with all my clients, if I don't like you as a person, I won't take you on as a client. That's not a partnership I want to be in at the end of the day. And so I've learned that through my previous works, and people I've worked with.

You Win When You Both Win

Lee: (13:13)

It's a hard lesson to learn, but that's what I enjoy the most. I enjoy people, I enjoy working with people, and helping people. And you win when you both win. It's awesome. It's like when you hit that sales goal and they say, “Aw, I'm so happy to pay you this commission check.” And you say “I'm so happy to take that.” That's a great feeling.

Nick: (13:38)

Yeah, it's amazing. That’s one thing I've learned through experience, over the past few years. As part of my evolution, I went from being the guy that does it all, to realizing, I can't do all of this. I need help, I need the right people, I need a team. When you start to open yourself up to that and you get connected with the right people, you start to realize some things.

“What was I thinking doing all this stuff on my own? How did I do it?  It's almost like a force that you tap into and didn't realize was there. But now, you have so much more momentum going forward. And if you're able to recreate that and scale that, amazing things happen, in my opinion. Do you have specific experiences in your journey that really stick out? Where do you partner with someone and really just see things go to the next level?

Lee: (14:44)

I've never taken on a partner in Stonecutter. I've been offered money and, in a way, looking back, if I actually took that money, I would have grown a lot quicker than I did. I’d say in the first six months it was only me. Then after six months, I hired somebody, and she was with me for four years. Then we hired another employee to help me with copywriting.

Later on, I hired a VA and I had a team of about four. My agency has been up and running for four and a half years. And for two to three years, it was run by just four people. And it was very exhausting. I was the guy on the phone with Seller Central. At one point we were managing 14 accounts, not once, for the people. So it's like every listing came down, it was just a storm, day after day after day, but I genuinely couldn't afford it.

When you start to open yourself up to asking for help, you get connected with the right people. You start to wonder, "What was I thinking doing all this stuff up on my own? How did I do it?" I'm sure everybody has felt it at some point, but I had imposter syndrome. I didn't know what I was doing, and I had a hard time accepting how much I should charge.

People were telling me, “Oh this is what I charge other agency friends of mine. And I was like, “What? I'm charging nothing.” And he said you're wasting your time. And I said, “But I can't change that. That was a hard moment. But the moment I realized I could, it was amazing. I’d say, this past year was great for me. So I went ahead and just said, “you know what? Instead of taking profits, I'm going to reinvest in my company.”

We now have nine people. my overhead ballooned by about 3X and I've actually cut clients. So I have fewer clients and more employees.

Setting Yourself Up for the Right Systems Surpasses Goal-Setting

Lee: (16:59)

Again, I viewed that as a leap of faith into the universe, that I needed to set myself up for the right systems. As opposed to just goal-setting, because you hit a goal and you say, “All right, I'm here.” Then you give up, I know I do that. More like, “When I hit that goal. I don't need to work out anymore” or “I hit that revenue goal, I can take my foot off the pedal.”

But if you have the right systems in place, you're going to just continue to make more. So we have the right people, and that's what I'm doing, I'm investing in my people.

Nick: (17:35)

What's that process looking like for you? Are you looking for local talent for the most part? Or are you getting some more overseas?

Use Your Core Values as a Foundation for Team-Building

Lee: (17:43)

A little bit of both. We have VA's. We have a chief of staff in the Philippines that I pay a nice sum and a lot of people in MDS will be like, wow, nobody pays what I pay. But I'm happy to pay that if she gives me the value, which she does. She's helping me with HR and she's building up the team in the Philippines and we have four people there soon to be five.

And those people are specialists. So we have a logistics specialist, a listing specialist, and a PPC specialist. But when it comes to the strategy, talking to clients and figuring out the underlying basis of what they want? What do they need? What are they asking for? That's where I have U.S. employees.

Your business relationships will break when the model doesn’t work for both parties.

So my CMO is located in Brooklyn, and I have two account managers, one in New Jersey and the other in New York.  As you can see, this is my bed right here, because of COVID I gave up my office building. So building up a team has been a lot of fun, but I'll say, outlining what your core values are and then hiring into that has been important.

Without Shared Values, Relationships Break

Lee: (18:59)

One of the reasons why I and one of the original people I hired ended up separating was, it wasn't the right fit for her. It was not what she wanted to do in the long term. But you want people to be with you for a longer term because they want to be there. This is what they want to do. And they share your vision as opposed to wanting to go and be an entrepreneur themselves.

Then you're working for the wrong person. Unless you want to partner with me, then that's a different conversation.

Nick: (19:32)

Yeah. So you've mentioned Traction a little bit, for anybody listening that doesn't know about Traction. It's the entrepreneur's operating system. It's a really great book. And you know, my favorite thing about that book is the structure. It gives you that roadmap to success. And when I did my vision Traction organizer, I started to work backward. It was like, this is what I want. 

And I immediately saw it, it was like the road to get there. Like all the way down from the 10-year goal, to the level 10 meetings that we do every week, to the to-do list, that gets done. And I realized this is the path to my goal.  How much of that have you used from that book to build where you're at right now with your hiring process and stuff?

Set the Trajectory of Where You Want to Go

Lee: (20:28)

We're still implementing right now, running level 10 meetings. I’d say that it's been interesting.

Stop and Think About Your Goal

Lee: (20:39)

I think one thing that most entrepreneurs don't do is stop and think about what that goal is, at the end of the day. And I think everybody should do that, not only as an entrepreneur and for your business, but for yourself. I'll tell you a story I’d written in MDS at one point. It was right after fancy.com. When I worked there and I left, I had no job.

I had no girlfriend and no money whatsoever. And somebody told me, “Hey, write down what a regular boring Wednesday five years from now looks like and I said okay. They say, “Be as detailed as possible.

  • What time do you wake up?
  • Who are you waking up next to?
  • Where do you live?
  • Are you walking to work or driving?
  • How many people are in the office?
  • What are you eating for lunch?

Every detail.

Write Out Your Dreams

Lee: (21:32)

And so I wrote it out. I said, “I want to wake up next to my wife in Tribeca, which is an expensive part of New York.” And I had no girlfriend at the time. “I want to walk to my office and have 20 employees.” I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to problem-solve. Take the time to actually think things through... I pretty much set the trajectory for what I wanted that day to look like without worrying about how I get there.

But what it did was it gave me that, I know where I want to land this plane. I know where I am now. And if I know where I want to land it, who cares how I get there?

I set the trajectory for what I wanted that day to look like without worrying about how I’d get there… I came very close.

Now Five years later, I’m married, living in an apartment in Tribeca, I had an office with three people, not 20. But hey, you know, I came awfully close.

Dreams Come True

Lee: (22:18)

When I got married, I wrote out another five-year plan. And I promise, I was almost in tears. If I had that day, it would be the best day ever. I'm getting there.  So knowing where you want to go, taking the time to think about where you want to be as a person and where you want your business to be.  Most people just grind without thinking about what numbers they want to hit in reality or further out, and why they want to hit those.

Or what they want their employees to be like because most people just get caught up in the day-to-day.  And so taking the time to actually think those things through has been revolutionary.

Nick: (23:03)

Do you think you’d have had this happen If you didn't take that time out to write it out? To manifest it by saying, “This is what I want.”

Try Not to Lose Focus

Lee: (23:16)

I don't know. I'll tell you though, it's not like I kept that in my mind every day or I read it every day. I put it out to the universe. And in every step, especially nowadays, when you have your level 10 meetings and you know what your one-year plan is. You have your rocks, and that's what you're going towards. And if it's not getting towards that, why are you going there?

Before this podcast, somebody sent me a picture of a McDonald's Pokemon card. And said supposedly the value of these is skyrocketing. Do you have a McDonald's next to you? And I said “Dude, I'm trying to build a business. I'm not running to a McDonald's to go buy a Pokemon card, man.”  Maybe I'm missing out totally, but this is not in line with what I'm trying to do. I'm not trying to sell Pokemon cards on eBay. it's not my model.  

It's just not a shiny coin, because a lot of entrepreneurs, especially myself, just love the idea of chasing new opportunities and then end up catching nothing. Just catching the wind.

Nick: (24:34)

Yeah. I really loved that journey. I've had a similar experience in my life, going through tough times and just calling out what I want. And then trying to make my beliefs and my actions fit that goal. Not just throwing a penny in the fountain and hoping everything plays out the way I want it to. And that's really why I like Traction so much for a business.

It gives you the vision, the goal, and the actions and it also gives you the plan to take those actions with you and your team. And that’s critical in making those things happen.  So, what does that look like for your business right now, with the level 10 meetings and accountability charts and other things? What type of systems and tools are you using to make those things happen?

Importance of Systems and Processes

Lee: (25:34)

I'll be totally honest with you. About a year ago, we didn't have structured systems, no SOPs, and I've been in business for years. I knew how to do everything. If a new employee came in, I literally sat with them and ran them through everything. I wasn't paying top dollars, I was scrappy, I was just trying to figure it out.

An Opportunity to Breathe

Lee: (26:01)

These systems and processes have given me the opportunity to actually breathe. So I sat for two months making Loom videos on every single little step of how to make coupons, even though that's on Amazon. Like, here's how I make my coupons. But taking the time to set up your systems is more important than setting your goal because, without the systems, you're going to fail.

I read this somewhere; winners and losers both have the same goal. We both say, Hey, I want to make a million dollars. Winners and losers both have the same goals... systems and processes make the difference. One guy makes it, one guy doesn't. What's the difference? The guy who made it set up the right systems and hired the right people.

They might make less profit, but at least he made a million. So it's a matter of just being prepared and taking the time to work on your business, which I didn't do for years. By the way, I'm making this whole thing sound like this was crazy great explosive, nonstop. But there were sleepless nights and tears, I was broke and didn't know how I was going to get through it. It wasn't an easy journey and any client I bring on, I always say, Amazon is not for the weak at all.

It's a constant battle every day. But if you have thick skin and you have half a brain, I think you can totally succeed. And at the end of the day, you make money. You can't do this cheap broke.

What Kept You From Giving Up?

Nick: (27:49)

What kept you going through those tough times? Why didn't you just give up or try something else, go check out the Pokemon cards.

Lee: (27:59)

Not to get emotional, but it's my wife, without a doubt. You've got to realize, seven or even about four years ago, going and telling somebody, “Hey, I'm going to go sell on Amazon” was difficult. Unless you are in MDS. That's the best part about MDS for me, you can relate. I know how to talk to people, when you discuss what you are dealing with, people just relate and understand.

But, talking to a friend who's in real estate, a doctor, or a lawyer about my listing being hijacked, I feel they don't know what I'm talking about. And so the first two years, it was a massive struggle getting accounts.  When you're in an agency model, You take a percentage. And so you're really building up their account and you're not making that much money because I'm not automatically getting massive brands. You're taking what you can get.

When Love Hurts

Lee: (29:05)

Dad, if you are listening to this, I love you. Don't worry about it. But, there was a point where my father actually called me and said, “Lee, I really think you should go into real estate.” And I said, “I know nothing about real estate.” And he said, “But I know people who are making a lot of money in real estate. What you're doing is good, but I think real estate is the right move for you.”

I actually broke down. Wow, not that my father didn’t believe in me, but he was nervous. And now I’m nervous. It's like when the doctor starts screaming and you start to wonder, "Wait! Do I have to be concerned right now?" When the doctor screams, and you start to wonder, "Wait Do I have to be concerned right now?"

Support and Affirmation of the Best Cheerleader

Lee: (29:56)

But my wife really sat me down, and said, “Lee, I believe in you, you're on the right path, and you have a goal, just don't get distracted. Don't worry about it, we're in it together.” And she really stood by me throughout. I’d not have been around without her, I’d have given up without a doubt. 

Nick: (30:18)

Wow. That's amazing, man. And how long ago did you say you had that conversation?

Lee: (30:24)

It's been about two years. It was right before I got married.

Nick: (30:35)

How does it feel man, to know that you’ve accomplished all that since then?

Lee: (30:43)

Honestly, it's great. The other part I'll mention is, going in and taking a look at other people's products and saying, “Hey, you know, I'm making all these other brands and manufacturers a lot of money because I know what I'm doing. My team and my processes are all great. We know how to launch properly, we know the keyword, we know PPC so well and I'm so proud of what we've built. And it came to the point I thought, “Well, why am I not selling anything myself?”

Overcoming the Fear of Success

Lee: (31:14)

And it was always from a massive point of fear. I’d say that's my biggest issue. And while my wife has always been a great cheerleader, no one, except me, has ever been able to extract the fear from not failure, but success So I've never really been super, super successful. And I've been around a lot of super successful people. But, I get nervous.

I feel if I succeed, and when I fail, I'll look like an idiot. As opposed to if I just stay on status quo, no one's gonna say, “Oh Lee had it, but then lost it.” So I never brought in my own products. I looked at weighted blankets, air fryers, and all the generic stuff before it took off. In a way, I wish I had done it, but I didn't because I didn't believe in it.

My Partners

Lee: (32:09)

And that was my issue. I can't do things without conviction, and so what I ended up doing was launching a party game with my partner, who I actually worked with over at RBX. The one other person that was like my right hand. We love working together and so I brought her the idea that I had to launch an adult party game. She loved the idea and we made it our own brainchild and launched it together. And that just did extremely well.

I actually partnered with a couple of MDS guys. Me and my partner, Alyssa, (not in MDS) We weren't really pushing the ball alone. I had Stonecutter do my consulting and she had her own stuff going on and I just needed more help. And I realized, ‘Less of a pie that's larger, is better than, a hundred percent of nothing.’ So, we actually partnered with a couple of guys in MDS and it was an amazing decision.

‘Less of a pie that's larger, is better than, a hundred percent of nothing.

I’d say having partners is always difficult, but really pushing it along to find success and realize, “Wow I found my stride” is an awesome feeling. Not like proving my dad wrong. My dad's always believed in me. It's more of a primal fear of you wanting to take care of your child. I want to take care of myself and my future family. It's a matter of, if you just keep going, right, It's that compounding effort. And you just know that the wave is coming.

Keeping the Momentum Up

Nick: (33:55)

So, with that in mind, what are you working on now to keep that momentum going?  What's your vision for your brand management company? What's your vision for these other brands that you've created yourself?

Identify the Type and Number of Clients You Need

Lee: (34:08)

Yeah. Right now, we definitely have a clear path as to how many clients we want to have. We're taking on more and more PPC-only clients as well because we’ve built that team. So that's been great.  In general, I think our track record speaks for itself as to what we can accomplish. But the main thing I do on the consulting side of the agency is analyzing accounts.

Don't Be In That Partnership if You Can't Add Value

Lee: (34:34)

I've analyzed a bunch of different people in MDS and flat-out told them, “Hey, I can't add value.” That's my number one core value of Stonecutter. If I can't add value, I can’t help you and grow your business more than I'm going to charge you. Then I'll just tell you, “Hey, stick with the guy that you got, or go in a different path because I'm not the right guy for you.”

And that goes back to the partnership side of it. In that sense, we have a great value proposition for people that we know, we can help, and things that I can take a look at and say,” I know I can do this, I know I can do X, Y, and Z, and grow you.”

Royalty for Game Ideas

Nick: (35:11)

So on the account management side of things, I think we're really buttoned down. On the game, and that's like my own products that we're growing, we now have three games. We're launching at least three more this year and partnering with a few different people and giving them a royalty if they come to us with a game idea. But not making a monopoly for instance and calling it something else.

You can come to us and say, “This is how the game’s played, these are the words, these are the rules,” and everything’s fleshed out. We'll produce it, pay for all the marketing and we pretty much cover everything, then give a royalty. That’s a new model that we're going after.

Cosmetic Line

Nick: (35:56)

And then the third thing I'm working on is my own general products, I'm going into the cosmetic line, that is what I'm looking into right now. It's really exciting, but again, I do get those shiny coins moments. I see “cool opportunities” Like cryptocurrency, and Bitcoin trading, just like “dude, what are you doing?” Those things can make you a lot of money, but you can also lose a lot of hard-earned money that you've worked for.

And so you end up focusing so much of your day, refreshing a screen that you shouldn't be refreshing. You worked hard for those dollars, go and keep doing what you're great at. Again it all depends on what your eventual goal is and whether or not you have a disposable income. But I just find myself wasting time there.

Nick: (36:54)

Yeah. I definitely deal with that. I think most entrepreneurs do. I  just try to do my best to reign it in. I know it's not going to change, I'm always going to be attracted to the shiny object. So I learned a long time ago that  I can't always try to make myself change. I have to work around the fact that I'm probably not going to. So I have to put these checks and balances in place to keep myself focused on where I really need to be.

When You Get Distracted, Retrace Your Steps

Lee: (37:28)

Right. But, I also think, you can go and set all these boundaries and you can say “Hey, I'm going to do X, Y, and Z. But people end up getting way too distracted, from their actual goal. So you can get distracted, it’s an entrepreneurial thing. As long as you come back to the right path, and you achieve those five or 10-year goals, then it’s fine.

Who cares what happens along the way? but you have to make sure you achieve those set goals and not get totally sidetracked.

How MDS Contributes to Your Business and Life

Nick: (38:10)

So obviously, I think the MDS community plays into that idea as well. It's a kind of double-edged sword because they can be the ones who put that shiny object in front of you. But at the same time, the cool thing about MDS is that they're almost short-cutting you to the successful part of it. You have these guys, who know investing, the stock market, Shopify, and all these other things. 

I’ll tell you one of my favorite things about MDS. When you get into MDS after crossing that million-dollar mark, you’ll be surprised. MDS allows you to go way further to the next level. How has the MDS community shaped your trajectory and your path for your business and your personal life?

Motivating and Daunting at the Same Time

Lee: (39:10)

Oh, huge question.  I'll say one thing about what you just addressed. Getting into MDS, you're surrounded by some of the most successful entrepreneurs on Amazon by far. And that can be both a motivator and an absolute soul crusher. Then you start talking to somebody, like some of my friends do like 10, 20, 60 million dollars on their own accounts.

And you start wondering, “I don't know what I'm doing. How did you get here?” And so it becomes very daunting. Then you see people posting like, “Hey, I bought this car and I bought this boat or I'm making stacks on stacks.” And you're just sitting there thinking, “Man, I just bought myself a new pair of Havaianas because I'm broke.” But you're keeping it afloat, especially because a lot of guys in MDS are not doing crazy numbers. A lot of your money is tied up in inventory. And so you are actually broke.

Your money is your account that you'll eventually sell. And so I feel that actually brings you down a bit. But then you realize that those guys gloating isn't the norm, but the far few between. And when you really get to know individual MDS members one-on-one, they're just the most encouraging cheerleaders out there. It doesn't matter how much you make, What matters is how hard you work. If you're a good person and are willing to give back.

So, I’d say I've been in MDS for a while as member 35. It's been absolutely life-changing. Not only like a Rolodex or Google. When I have a question, I just type in the search bar read a couple of threads, and boom. I don't need to go and tell forums or anything like that. But for the first MDS trip, going to Mexico, I ended up booking one day before. I didn't think I was going to go. And my wife and mother-in-law actually said, you just gotta go.

Healthy Relationships

Lee: (41:41)

Without a doubt, that was the moment I met people with whom I ended up partnering. People that I talked to legitimately every day. I call with any complaints and questions and life problems, and these people become my best friends because being an Amazon seller No one in the outside world understands what you go through. No one can understand what the whole music sounds like when you call Amazon. Nobody else gets it except these people who are in the trenches with you.

And that's a comradery that you don't really get elsewhere.

Nick: (42:19)

Yeah. There's definitely something special about the group. I don't really know how to put a finger on it exactly because it's not the only Amazon Facebook group. There are hundreds of them. But I think it's the in-person events. You connect with these people, we have a lot of virtual events. And there's an unspoken bond that you become a part of as soon as you enter the group.

No Main Guy in the Middle

Lee: (42:48)

Well, when it comes to the other groups out there, I definitely think that MDS is just so different. There’s no guru and there's no main guy in the middle of the team we are learning from.  We're all learning from each other. And I think that's a massive part of it because when you start to learn from one another, you become friends with those people.

Anybody who hasn't gone to an MDS event, or even if you're not in MDS, and you're just listening to this, just go meet other sellers. It doesn’t matter if they are big or small, you never know who's going to provide you with that nugget.  I always take time out of my day to help. If you help people, I guarantee you, the moment you have an issue, they're going to jump to help you. And that’s what I've done with MDS. 

I just dedicate a certain amount of my time to talk to certain people and just see how they're doing, and if there's anything I can do to help. And It's always very rewarding on my end.

Nick: (43:58)

Yeah, I can certainly attest to the fact that Lee's helped me plenty of times. And a lot of members in the group are like that. They want to help and they know that’s the way to get what we want back to us. I guess we can just call that karma. But yeah, that's my favorite thing about the group. MDS has absolutely changed my life as well, on so many levels. Part of it is meeting great people like Lee and other members of the group. And, you know the connection just sticks. 

You meet these people at an event, and then you just keep the friendship going. I've been in the group for five years and it sounds crazy to say that, you know, since 2017. Oh, I didn't even mention that Lee's on the advisory council for MDS.

MDS Advisory Council

Lee: (45:10)

That's right,  there's an advisory council that also watches people who have started a business when they first were in MDS and then sold it. And watching everybody grow from where they were to where they are now is amazing. A lot of guys in MDS know my story, they know where I was and I called them on those sleepless nights I felt like crying because I didn't know if I was going to make it. 

I called people in MDS and they cheered me on. They said, “Dude, you got this.” So seeing where I am now, a lot of them truly stood by me. I can say my wife is my number one cheerleader because she is. But everybody in MDS, at least the people that I'm friends with, has always been incredibly helpful and supportive, which is super very important.

Nick: (46:08)

Yeah. It's critical to my success, where I'm going, and where I want to be. I don't know how all this would have played out without making these connections that I did through being a part of the group. It's been absolutely amazing.

Lee: (46:28)

Life-changing, the word is, life-changing. It’s definitely been life-changing without a doubt.

Nick: (46:33)

Thank you so much for coming on today. It's always great to sit down with you, man. Looking forward to the next time we can do it at one of our in-person events, I'm really looking forward to the next one. 

And thank you so much. It's been an honor to be able to interview you, and thanks for coming on, man.

Lee: (46:37)

My absolute pleasure. Thanks so much, Nick. I really appreciate you guys having me on.

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