Michael Jackness Interview with Nick Shucet

Nick (00:06)

Hey, what's up, everyone. Welcome to the Million Dollar Sellers podcast. I'm your host, Nick Shucet. And today we have Michael Jackness on the call from EcomCrew.

Mike! What's up, man? How are you doing today?

Mike (00:18)

How's it going, Nick? Good to see you.

Michael Jackness's Entrepreneurial Journey

Nick (00:24)

A lot of people in the Amazon space will know exactly who you are, right? EcomCrew has been in the game for a little while, putting out, in my opinion, some of the best information in the Amazon and E-commerce space. For people who are not in the Amazon space, why don't you, tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Mike (00:57)

Sure. I've been working online since 2004. I was doing affiliate marketing back then and got into E-commerce in 2012.

We owned treadmill.com and that was our first E-commerce site. So we were affiliate marketers and had bought a bunch of keyword domains.

One day, I got tired of being an affiliate and wanted to add more value. I felt the type of affiliate marketing we were doing was going to go the way of the Dodo bird. I didn't think Google was going to allow those types of sites to rank much longer. It took a little longer than I thought because Google is making a big push to penalize a lot of affiliate sites, especially the types we were running. So it's definitely been a good move.

Ecommerce offers you more control than affiliate marketing. And you can decide what kind of value you want to add to your customers.

It was a dropshipping site where we sold a couple of million dollars of fitness equipment. It was either jumping off of a bridge or selling the site because drop-shipping fitness equipment against the manufacturers themselves was kind of a miserable experience. Imagine having to deal with pricing, the inability to deliver, and all the other heartaches.

But I also fell in love with e-commerce at the same time as we were doing that. I just really enjoyed having that touchpoint with the customers and controlling the entire sales process, unlike an affiliate. So after we sold that, we bought a site called icewraps.com and that's really when our Amazon journey started. The site came with an Amazon account and so since then, we've been Amazon and Shopify sellers.

Nick (02:45)

Nice. And was that your first journey into entrepreneurship or did you dabble in some other things before you got into affiliate work?

Mike (02:54)

Yeah, I've pretty much always been an entrepreneur. I didn't go to college, I started my first business when I was 18. I was more of a computer nerd growing up and it was just the right place at the right time when it comes to that because I'm not sure what I would've done with my life otherwise. Luckily, in middle school and high school, personal computers were just becoming a thing in people's homes in the late eighties and early to mid-nineties. When I was growing up, I was just really taken by them, mostly because of video games.

To be realistic, I loved playing some of the early PC video games. So, I learned DOS, back before Windows came out and I learned about Windows and I was just like kids today that are used to all these new technologies.

In 2000, when eBay was still new, I was a power seller in the DVD and coins niche. I gave that all up when I started affiliate marketing.

At that time, I picked it up really quickly, and it was mystifying to adults. They were just like, how do I put this box in my house and use this word processor to print? It was all just brand new, and again, I was at the right place at the right time. I started a company to help home users with their computers. Eventually, based on statistics, you could go to a home that also had someone running a business.

So one day, I ran across this guy who needed help putting together hundreds of computers for a larger business, and they eventually ended up giving me a job. I also did a lot of eBay selling back before 2000 when eBay was just brand new. We were a power seller. Selling DVDs and coins were the niches we got into. We did that up until we started the affiliate marketing business in 2004.

Once that took off, I gave about $50,000 with the inventory to a friend who was helping us pack poker chips. I gave it as a “thank you and good luck” gift for all the help. And that was the end of my eBay journey.

Nick (05:14)

So it seems that through your journey, you were always adopting new technology. Picking up on things pretty quickly, and staying ahead of the trends, especially in the digital space. Is that still the case, or have you dialed that back a little bit as you've gotten older and more experienced?

Mike (05:41)

Yeah. Especially over the last couple of years, I’ve found it a lot more difficult. I don't know what it is and if it happens to everybody with age. On our podcast the other day, I was talking to a 61-year-old woman. When she started selling on Amazon. I thought that was awesome, but I was just talking about how I think it's got to be more difficult as you get older because I've definitely felt that.

I also think that once you're somewhat financially secure, the hunger isn't quite there as it was when you had no choice. If you want to eat, you'll figure things out. And so just being honest with myself, I found that it’s a little bit more difficult to put in the work when there's already food on the table.  To some degree, I think, compared to the average person out there, I'm kind of an overachiever when it comes to that, but compared to myself, say 10 years ago, I feel like there's definitely a difference.

Nick (06:46)

I can definitely relate to that. Looking back to my younger days, it always took some massive problem or some difficult situation for me to really spring into action and decide, “All right, I got to get my stuff together and figure this out. And now I've gotten a little bit older and been in business for a little bit. I wonder, “How do I capture that Nick in those moments, tones it down a little bit into something that can be consistent, and repeated over time. Rather than just being in a cage fight. 

Mike (07:31)


Nick (07:31

What does your journey through business look like? I imagine you've learned so many different things. And I feel it falls back on developing those processes and systems and figuring out how we can carry them in our day-to-day life.

Michael Jackness: Sticking to What Works

Mike (07:51)

Yeah. I can see “Traction” behind you. That book has made a huge difference for me. Looking back to 2004 when we started the affiliate business, at our peak, we had 66 employees. It was a poker affiliate, so it might just have exploded. I've always been a “strike while the iron is hot” kind of guy, so I'll tinker with a lot of different things that don't work. “I don't care if I lose money on them,” “Let's just throw a bunch of different spaghetti at the wall and test things out.”

Then when I find something that does work, I kind of have that “all-in” personality. That's certainly how that was with the poker affiliate days as well as this Amazon world. When we first discovered Amazon in 2015, I immediately realized that this wasn't going to last forever. I think there are businesses that when you find one, you can take your time to grow slowly. But in a case like the Amazon world things change rapidly. Whatever you're doing today is not going to work tomorrow.

You’ll be crazy to expect an opportunity window to stay open indefinitely. So we took an “all-in, crazy, put the pedal to the metal” kind of mentality from 2015 to 2019 when we sold one of our businesses. In terms of systems and structure, the thing that's really helped us over the last couple of years has been “Traction.” I realized that there was always something wrong with all these businesses that I had done, from 2004 up till we read traction in 2016.

The problem was that I had the plan in my mind, I knew what I wanted to do, but no one else really knew what we were doing. So, what I wanted to do often changed yearly, monthly, sometimes weekly, or daily. I wake up in the morning and want to go do X, Y, Z. The next day, I would want to go do A, B, C. Then, when I tell this to my employees, they start to wonder which one's more important. And I didn't even know the answer to it a lot of times.

It was the typical visionary entrepreneur problem, and so after reading Traction, we hired a COO. Someone who was a good implementer and acted as the shield between me and basically all of our staff.

When you read Traction, it brings things to light. I had a look at myself and realized some hard truths. One thing entrepreneurs or type A personalities don't like to do is admit they’re wrong or not good at something. I'm super competitive, so it's hard for me to say, suck at something. Whatever it is, I want to be good at everything. I want to win at everything

But that's not possible. So after reading the book, I had a light bulb moment and realized, this is what's happening in our business. It might not have made a difference if I read that book at 25.

Reading Traction helped me realize the need to complete a plan and stick to it. And also, the importance of passing a clear message to my employees. 

I realize now, that I'm constantly operating like a zigzag, all over the place. We never take the time to actually finish the plan and anything I had done in my life to that point where I had actually finished a plan, worked really well. So, I used our COO as a shield between me and the staff, as I said earlier. I don't want to take them off course. So, when I lay out a plan for them, I need her to be firm.

Whenever I say, “Oh, let's go do this or that,” I want her to say, “No Mike, you've told me that this is what we’ll do. Why are we changing it? Like this is going to cause all these other ripple effects in the business.” Now that we're a few years into this, it's no longer hard for me to stay the course. But in the beginning, it was much more difficult. And so we create a five-year plan with Traction.

They ask you to do a 10-year plan, but I think that's crazy in the e-commerce world. At the end of the day, you don't have to follow the book word for word. I think that that's also a mistake, you can adapt to what works best for you. And so for us, what really works well is a year plan. We put a lot of evidence since we spend a lot of time laying out what we want to get done for the year, our goals for the year, and the period of time when we can all get our heads around it.

Things inevitably change every year, but not so much that we're gonna have a business that looks so different at the end of the year that we can't recognize it anymore. And so we lay these things out and then we break it out by quarter. So, they’re 13-week sprints, and my responsibility is to help plan those quarters and leave people alone.

In all honesty, It's really difficult at times because in week one or two, inevitably, it's like, oh man, there's this new thing I found on MDs. Let's go try this. And so I have to do that. I have to be the person to go try it. And if I feel we should do it at scale, I have to wait until week 14. That's to the next quarter basically, to say, this is what we're going to do next quarter.

Meanwhile, all the things I thought about the previous quarter will be implemented in that quarter. What this does is it allows us to say, “Hey Employee, here's a list of things we want you to get done over these next 13 weeks.” In large part, we are not a micromanagement organization, so you just go get your stuff done. You have your daily responsibilities and your weekly responsibilities as well, but these are things over and above that we want you to accomplish. You figure out a way to get that stuff done.

There are no excuses at the end of the quarter, You have to go get it done. So we allow them to have autonomy and take ownership and get these things done. And they know, because we've now been doing this for multiple years, that we aren't going to throw them a curveball in the middle of that time period, which I think is the fair thing to do.

And that's really helped in terms of systems and processes.

Select the Best of Your Ideas and Stick To It

Nick (14:56)

Yeah, I love how you laid that out. You touched on a lot of great things. One that really resonated with me was how you mentioned your role is to plan those quarters. And I think a lot of people and entrepreneurs would identify as visionaries if they understood the difference between a visionary and an integrator. As an entrepreneur, we get these big ideas in our head and they make sense and then you try and tell somebody and it becomes a little difficult.

For me, I always wanted it to happen really fast. But now that I've stepped into that role a little more clearly, it is like a quarterly plan. These big ideas we have in our head, take a while to implement or take a big team to implement if you want them quickly. And sometimes I'm just blown away at all the information we can process in our minds. I don't know if everyone operates like that or if it's just like what the visionaries have.

But when you started to put your ideas down on a flow chart or on paper, did it feel good to get them out?

Mike (16:13)

Yeah, it definitely does. Another thing that made me realize is that trying to implement all my ideas or chasing every single idea isn't realistic. And, so in everything else in life, you have to pick and choose. You only have so much time in a day or so much money, resources, or whatever it is and you have to pick and choose between the things that you want to do.

The types of entrepreneurs that we are tend to think of things much quicker than they can be implemented. And yeah, there are too many things. You can't do them all. And so it's forced me to pick just the best ideas. If I'm to go to my COO, it's interesting because even though I'm the owner and the boss, it doesn’t matter.  She does a really good job and she's going to push back and challenge me. She’ll say, “You're trying to do too much. We can't fit that much into a quarter.”

And so I know now that I have to pick just the best things and what happens to me, at least this might happen to you as well, is our ideas run out of gas. I wake up in the morning like I want to go run PPC and we gotta do it right now, And then like two or three days later, you are on another idea. You might even realize that the thing that you were super excited about isn't really that important.

Another thing that I’ll do all the time is, to come up with an idea for a new business. We'll start selling marbles now because they’re the hot new thing. So, who cares about these baby toys that we already have? And the next week I’ll say, “We're going to sell tea or, CBD is huge, we're gonna get on, and you're constantly trying to go from thing to thing.

And I’ll realize that a lot of those ideas will fizzle out over a relatively short period of time. I once woke up and I was gonna sell ballet shoes because the opportunity came across my desk. And I realize now how ridiculous this is. And so now I feel it's embarrassing to go to her with things like this or change my mind so often. When you try to communicate that to someone else, you realize that it doesn't matter if you're the boss or you're paying someone else. It just sounds stupid.

Select the Best of Your Ideas and Stick To It

Hiring a COO

Nick (18:52)

Yeah, I'm with you. I haven't gotten to the point you are, but I've seen the flaws in my ways and how I've tried to operate. And Traction has cleared that up. I've got a path on where I need to go to fix all that stuff up. I think this is really valuable for so many people in business.  What did the process of getting your chief of operations look like? What was the cost? How long did it take you to find her? And what is the return you would put on that relationship?

Mike (19:36)

So the process basically was, I read Traction, I think in the first or second chapter, where they lay out the visionary and the integrator implementer type of role. It was just like a light switch. There are very few times in my life I can remember having that instant impact or Aha! Moment. I knew this was something I gotta figure out. So from that moment, within just a couple of weeks, I had put together a job description. I think I posted it on ‘Indeed’ and ultimately I found this person.

But it took, if I remember correctly, five or six months to make the hire. I knew that it was a very critical hire that I couldn't go through a second time, these are the types of hires that can make or break a business. You're investing, in our case, low five figures a month into the salary, plus all my time, because I knew I had to do a data dump from me to him or her. And it takes time to develop this relationship and trust and all these things.

Having to do that a second time I realized, would have killed us. So I put a lot of effort into finding who I thought was the right person. It turned out to be a really great hire. She still works with us and it's been great. At this point, she largely runs the business. Once we’ve decided what we want to do, I hand off and let the chips fall where they're going to fall.

It's also made my life a lot less stressful and more enjoyable because I'm not dealing with a bunch of things that I'm not good at. I don't want to be hearing about employee problems or having to set goals or do performance reviews or all these things that I'm just awful at. And so they never got done and our team was all over the place because of it.

And people just never had a good feeling about working for our company. But now, I spend a lot of my time talking to her and also our manager at the Philippines office—most of our employees are in the Philippines. We talk about the culture we want to set. These are the benefits we want to have. We want to make sure that people realize that we really care about them.

And for me, the best way to actually deliver on that is to mostly stay out of their lives because I'm not good at doing performance reviews. I'm an empathetic person, but I'm also not a good listener, And I don't wanna be hearing about their sick aunt or they hurt their finger and they can't come into work today and so on. I just don't do well with those things.

But we have someone in those roles that handles those things and Jacqueline, our COO in particular.  Once we hired her, I had written up a brief for her. I remember it was a five or 10-page brief. It was about the company and what we wanted to do. I asked her to read Traction and we were gonna go through this process together and what I wanted the company to look like. So it took about six months to a year before I felt really confident about her and that role. 

It also took training to allow that to happen, because it's very difficult for our types of personalities to just allow that to happen. But I was committed to it because again, I read traction. I identified that this was a problem in multiple businesses and it was something that I just had to do. I felt if I was gonna go figure out how to build a landing page, that I had no idea how to do it. I was going to figure this thing out. That was the thing I figured out that year and I feel we did a good job with it.

How Hiring the Right Person Helps You Maintain a Balance

Nick (23:46)

How did life change once she settled Into her role, maybe a year down the road, how did things change for Mike? What opportunities opened up? How did it change your personal life? I imagine there was an impact there as well. 

Mike (23:58)

Yeah, looking back to the day that we hired her now, I was working 80 hours a week, sometimes even more. Didn't really take time for me, my friends or family, you know, all the things that are actually really important.  I feel like we were all over the place as a company. We got a lot of things done, People will always look at us and Marvel at the success, which is another drug that makes you, keep on doing the same stupid stuff, over and over again.

I think that our employees just didn't know what our actual objectives were, or what we were trying to even really accomplish. But now, we've corrected all that, we've got a set of core values that everybody understands. Everybody understands what each of our brands is what we're trying to accomplish and what they do.  We set goals every single quarter and stick to them.

We share our results with our employees and give them bonuses based on their performance and goals. We make sure that they get performance evaluations and are mentored properly to get the proper training and more.  And for me, I'm working significantly fewer hours. Now that the pandemic is coming to a close here in Vegas, I’m able to enjoy life and enjoy my work—have a more balanced approach.

I did an episode about this thing called The Four Burner Theory that also coincided with Traction. So now, I try to keep those things in balance, which is, work, health, friends, and family, and try to give them all as much as I can equal attention. It's never gonna be perfect. It won't be 25, 25, 25, 25. But over the course of a year, I like to look back and feel like, yeah, I did a pretty good job making sure that those things were all covered.

Mike’s Businesses

Nick (26:02) 

Yeah. I think, as an entrepreneur, we get into it and we want to control our personal lives somewhat. We want to be able to visit family, we want to be a good father, mother, whatever the case may be. And during the process of making that happen, it can be easy to get lost in the weeds. You've created a job for yourself, you are working, you're not spending time with your friends, You're missing out on family stuff and not taking holidays off. I catch myself doing that. If it's not Christmas or Thanksgiving, I'll probably go to work, because it's just where I'm at right now.

But it's that constant conflict of two different goals in my mind. And implementing Traction really seems to be a great solution to that. So, to the listeners, Mike, why don't you let them know what you've been able to accomplish? How many businesses have you had or running right now?

Mike (27:23)

We run five businesses right now, four e-commerce brands, and then EcomCrew And Traction has allowed us to make sure that each of those brands is getting the proper attention, and that we're setting the proper goals.  We’re going to try to pair down on that. Because of Traction, I don't think running five brands is necessarily an accomplishment. Certainly, traction helped make running them smoother.

But, I've also realized that, if you chase two rabbits, both may get away. So I've been really disciplined, making sure that the rabbit is eCommerce. I think the rabbit at the end of the day is just trying to get down to one brand and so slowly but surely we sold one brand in 2019. I think we're going to sell another one hopefully this year or next year. 

I really miss Colorit, the brand that we did sell was a great brand that you can kind of really get behind. It was a well-rounded brand that wasn't just Amazon.  So that's one of the things I've been thinking through because it's difficult. You're managing an email list from multiple companies and trying to manage social media profiles for different companies and brand messaging and other things.

And even though we do a really good job with that. And, we have different teams siloed in our organization to help manage all that, I feel like you can still be even more concise and clear if you have just one thing you're going after. Unfortunately, I don't think we actually have that right now. which is kind of a bummer, because in terms of where e-commerce is going, the thing that I've been thinking a lot about is, I don't want to be just a pure Amazon seller.

I want to make sure that we have other assets off Amazon and there are other components I've come to realize that are really important as well.  So we wanna make sure that we're doing all those I's and crossing those T's. so we're working towards getting to what we ultimately wanna do from that perspective. But yeah, I mean, we certainly couldn't do the things that we do now if it wasn't for Traction. I mean, it's helped allow us to even run multiple businesses. 

But I’ve found a pattern. As entrepreneurs, we think that we can do a second, third, or fourth thing that we were successful at. and it'll be just super easy. We think running one e-commerce business should make running another one easier to handle. This is a fallacy. It's never quite that easy. In fact, I think it's actually more difficult to run two things than one business. The economy of scaling never seems to quite work out the way you think it will, at least at the smaller size.

If you get something like a Thrasio, maybe it's different. You have a hundred different brands and it's just Amazon and you're not trying to do a whole bunch of things outside of that is one thing. But when you're a smaller company like us, Trying to do the types of things that we're trying to do. I think it actually becomes more difficult.

Resist the Urge to Add ”Just One More Thing”

Nick (30:26)

Yeah. I think one thing people underestimate is mental fatigue. You touched on it pretty concisely. As a small company, even though you've implemented Traction and you've delegated work, at some point in your mind, I'm assuming you're having random thoughts of all five brands. Letting go is like a mental exercise. Handling five different companies will fatigue people, in my opinion.

It's just another kind of battle going on in my mind and I don't hear a lot of people talk about that. But big brands like Thrasio have such a big machine that just swallows that up.

Mick (31:46)

You could equate it to them playing a different game, but we look at that and wanna try to play the same game. You can't try to play at the NFL level when you're actually bowling in the bowling league. I think that we can get sucked into this type of thing and a great example of it would be, let's say you find a new trick, right? Say there's a new cool link that people are talking about right now in MDs. Okay. So we're gonna go try that.

Well, which brand do you want to try that with first? It's probably your hero brand, so let's go try it with that first, and let's see if you have success with it. Okay, great. Now let's do it at scale for the other brands and you go do it for the next brand and the next brand. By the time you're at brand four, you’ll lose the excitement, even though it's important.

It's just, that nothing ever gets the exact amount of attention that it should when it's being divided. And that’s what it comes down to, regardless of how good you are. And it's tough to admit that you're not doing the best job at something. But to be realistic and honest, it's never as good for the other brands because you can’t give them the same attention.

Your best employees and ideas end up in one place. Everything else gets the second-best version of you and it eventually shows. And even then, the first brand actually really suffers as well. Even though the best resources aren't necessarily on the other brand, you're still spending time on it. And at some point, you're in these planning sessions and don't want to talk about these things anymore.

‘Essentialism’ is a great book on this topic as well. It says if you focus on just one thing, and say no to so many more things, you'll be better off. The entrepreneur's tendency is to want to do just one more thing, one more brand, one more product, one more idea. But it's very similar to a heroin addict. They internalize things in their mind like, “Just one more hit.

I'm gonna stop after this one, like I know I shouldn't be doing this, but this time is the last time,” until they're in the hospital or dead. I think that’s how entrepreneurs are, especially the type of entrepreneur that I identify myself as. It’s as powerful as any drug and you have to be very careful with how you deal with it.

Nick (34:51)

Yeah. I like the analogy, man. I think a lot of people underestimate the idea of what's going on in your mind. When you're chasing these new ideas or a drug addict is chasing another hit, there’s similar chemistry going on up there.

Mike (35:13)

I agree a hundred percent. The fact that entrepreneurs are celebrated makes it more difficult.  If you're a drug addict, society looks down on you. They wonder how you managed to lose all your money or your family. If you have a food addiction alcohol addiction, or any of these types of other things, society looks down upon it. But when you're telling people that you're working 80 hours a week and you're successfully running these different companies, everybody is like, oh man, that's so awesome.

I wish I could be like you. It's funny how things are looked at. The positive reaction doesn’t let you see where you’re going wrong, it makes it even more difficult. It's something that's taken me a long time to realize. And so I think the first step to fixing a problem is realizing that you have one. So we've definitely really been working towards those things. And so it's not just Traction that has helped with that, but some other things that are also of help along the way.

EcomCrew: Giving Away the Secrets to Amazon Success

Nick (36:13)

These are definitely words of wisdom. I know you've come to this conclusion through experience and I think you're right. You can't show up your best, across five different things. Your intentions might be good, but your energy will fizzle out and that will affect a lot of things. So, talk to us about EcomCrew, what made you decide to give away secrets to your success on Amazon, and what's the mission and purpose behind that?

Mike: (36:56)

Yeah, when we first started it back in 2015, 2016, I was a member of e-commerce fuel, even till date., It's a great community that I’ll highly recommend to everybody who's a seven-figure seller. They won't take just Amazon sellers. If you're listening, watching, and a seven-figure seller that also sells off Amazon, then it's just a great community. 

The community part is just amazing, I've made a lot of really great friends. Dave Bryant, with whom I do the podcast, is also a member there. I think that's actually where I met Ian originally as well.

I was writing about things in the forum that, to me, didn't seem like much of anything. I was converting from Yahoo stores to BigCommerce for that Iceshop store that I was telling you about. We were doing some email marketing, ads, and other things, and people felt it was amazing.  I realized that, at least in that community, a lot of the e-commerce people are product people first.

They have a family business, or they had some idea about something that they invented or some type of product, something I'm very jealous about, by the way, they develop really amazing products, but they're not really necessarily tech people at heart. I, on the other hand, came into it very much as a tech-oriented play, a Marketing type play. That's what I’d done my whole life. And the product development part has always been the hard part for me.

So realizing that we were doing stuff that was mystifying and cold to a lot of people, I started documenting this on EcomCrew. It allowed me to get into a lot more of those conversations about it. I think there was a thousand-word limit on a post on e-commerce fuel. So I would take the time to write a 2,500-word post with screenshots and a lot of details.

And I remember actually thinking I don't really have any preconceived notion of where this is going, I'm just going to do it. I know when you write great content, good things come from it because I have been doing that for years. So I felt it could open up great opportunities and we would see where it would go. Maybe it would be a business later, maybe it wouldn't, but I really didn't have anything that I thought through.

Over time, I realized that the biggest reward is that it opened up every door. As the co-founder of EcomCrew, I can email anyone and they'll return my email so that's really where things have really paid off.  You know, if I need to talk to somebody, I can get a hold of them, And that's tough in this day and age. I get emailed dozens of times a day, I have someone who sits in front of that and just deletes them.

Again, as I was doing it, I really liked the community. E-commerce is very different from anything else I have done. When I was doing affiliate market, especially in a niche like online poker, everyone that you come in contact with is kind of your enemy and your friend, I guess maybe at the same time, but mostly your enemy.

When it comes to business, they wanna rank for online poker or number one on Google as well, so it's very difficult to be open with people in that arena because they're coming after you. But in e-commerce, it's almost impossible to have that same thing happen. Say, I sell colored pencils and coloring books, the chances of you doing that are near zero or I sell ice packs, again, same thing, almost zero.

And even if you do, I'm never going to sell all the world's gel pens or colored pencils ice packs stuffed animals, or all the other things that we sell. That's never going to happen no matter what. I don't necessarily want a smart guy or girl competing against me, but there are already plenty of smart people out there competing against me. And I just need to stay in my lane.

If the repercussions of helping a thousand people is that one person might make my life a little bit more difficult, I feel like that's reward enough. And I also was at a point where I was more financially and emotionally secure in my life and business. There are people who spend time doing charity or being philanthropic. And to them, that’s more rewarding than anything they've ever done, 

After a long thought, I felt I could apply that to this world better than at the local food bank. Helping people with e-commerce is not charity but I feel I can make a bigger impact. I thought about where I could help hundreds of people make a whole bunch more money. And hopefully, at some point, evolve into them doing something more philanthropic. 

The only time I ever do any one-on-one consulting for an hour, it's always all donated. So I do it very rarely because I charge a lot, but I try not to ever do it.  It has also become a good business, which wasn’t the original plan. It's turned into a nice little side thing as well and it's been fun and enjoyable. I get to talk to all these other amazing entrepreneurs and interface their lives, helping them further in their careers, business, and lives.

It's just neat to see one of the people in our community just sold their business. They were one of the first persons who joined us and then eventually built something and then sold it, which was nice to see. So, it's been an interesting journey. And one last thing that it did is, it forced me to do public speaking, which I was terrified of. So it got me out of my comfort zone and forced me to get up in a room filled with hundreds of people. 

In other words, it’s helped me conquer that fear as well. So that's been another cool thing as well.

Nick (43:41)

Yeah, I think What you're doing is great. Imagine the difference in the impact of giving someone a million dollars, versus teaching them how to make a million dollars. Once they’re able to learn all these skills, make that million, and sell the business, they’ll carry on that legacy. Then, it’ll be an overflow to people around them.  I recently purchased the EcomCrew premium for my business and I like your course. I also like ‘Sellers systems,’ but it's not as structured.

I can't really send anyone in there to take the course, because it's not organized that way, though the Information is solid. But I feel like yours is a little more organized and easier to follow. I've listened to the secret sauce webinars. there was one you did with an SEO guy. I obsessed over that.

Mike: (44:56)

Yeah. he's awesome.

Nothing Beats a Great Community

Nick: (44:57)

You completely laid it out. If someone follows that plan they are not going to fail. You guys have so much good content.  As for your podcast, you share all the information for free, which can make people overlook it as something below standard. But it is 100%. So I love listening to you, I love the content you put out and I'm excited to see what my team can do with that information.

Mike: (45:47)

Cool. I appreciate that. What we’re trying to do with that subscription is to make it fun. From my perspective, the value isn't necessarily the courses. We put a lot of work into them and I think they're good. However, people steal them or propagate them all over the internet. If you search Google for EcomCrew courses, you can buy them for about $49 or so. It's obviously highly illegal, but people do it all the time.

So we try to make the value of everything. But the secret sauce webinars you're talking about can't be lifted because they're live webinars. They assume we upload them, but people don't have access to them to steal them. Also, We do the monthly Q and A webinar where people come in and ask questions live. I think that type of help is priceless as well as the email support. If you've got a question you can email us, whatever it might be.

We've either been through it or someone in our community has been through it. We're going to try to help. It's just that one time a year and it can make a big difference. So those are the things that we really try to add in the value, We're there to help you with whatever. And it's Dave or myself answering the emails, not a VA. That's actually what I spend most of my time doing these days.

Manning those inboxes because someone else is helping run my ecommerce business. So I put myself in positions where only I can do the tasks. That's why I try to spend time on my timeline. And so that's where I think that the value for EcomCrew really comes in. 

Nick (47:51)

Yeah, I totally can see that. The community is where it's at. That's what you can't steal, you can't hijack and you can't shortcut a good community. It's why I love MDS.

Mike (48:05)

MDS. I was in Thailand right before the pandemic and I made a post. I said, “I'm going to be in Chiang Mai, does anybody want to grab lunch?” And 12 people came to lunch the next day. That's the thing that's really valuable. Right? I mean that was a great time, it was just great hanging out with everybody, you get some great ideas and friendships. Those are the things that actually matter.

Of course, material things are definitely important, don't get me wrong. Again, that's why we put effort into it. But things change so quickly that they're almost out of date the minute we release them. MDS is just great. Think about the trips down in Mexico or the ski trips, or the fact that I was in Thailand, and boom, there's all those people instantly there. That to me is where the real value is.

Nick (48:50)

Absolutely. Well, Mike, before we wrap up, I have a couple of quick-fire questions for you.

Mike (49:00)

These are always intense. This might be where your editor has to come in and help me out.

Nick (49:04)

I'm sure you'll have some good answers for us. What's the best book recommendation that comes to mind right now?

Mike (49:12)

Well, Traction. I think we just talked about that today. I really think anyone that runs a business should read that book no matter how big or small you are. I think it can really help set the right path for you in the way that you might structure your business moving forward.

More Books for Personal Growth

Nick (49:28)

I can definitely support that, definitely a good book to read. Does anything from a personal perspective, come to mind, any books you've read that have really helped you on a personal level?

 Mike (49:40)

I'll give you the book I read most recently. I think those are always the ones that are fresh in my mind. It's a book that I wished I read when I was 25. I can tell you that it's called the Psychology of Money.

I highly recommend this book. This is again on a personal level. But, unfortunately, I figured a lot of these things out already, through 20 years of doing all the wrong things. The Psychology of Money will really lay out if you are younger and you can shortcut all the mistakes I've made. Basically, stop looking to people who are richer than you or perceived to have more things than you as your mentors.

Lots of them are broke or will be broke, investing in things for long periods of time, picking a number, and sticking to it. A lot of us keep moving the goalposts. I'll be happy once I get a million dollars, now I just need two, and now I just need five, now I just need 10 and it's insatiable. it'll never end.  And so we became pretty minimalistic.

In the 2018-2019 time frame, I wish it was something that I had figured out a lot sooner. We bought a house last year, that's the smallest house we've ever owned and we're happier than we've ever been. You don't need a 6,000-square-foot mansion on the mountaintop. So it's just a great book. I highly recommend it.

Mike’s Hobbies

Nick (51:04)

Nice. I'll add that to my list. I haven't read that one yet. Alright, how about some hobbies? What else are you into besides five businesses? What else have you got going on?

Mike (51:16)

Well, those come and go. It's interesting, over the years, it's been like bell-bottom jeans. My hobbies will come and go like that. And so the one that I sink back into these days is playing poker. Ironically, it's so funny, that we're living in Vegas again. I really enjoyed going out in person.  I've just been playing poker and I really enjoy it. Still love it. I've always loved it, but for a long time, I got away from it.

I also love playing tennis. I stopped because of the pandemic. So I think, in another month or two, I'll feel comfortable going back to the gym again, when they get rid of the mask in the gym, I will start playing tennis again. The other hobby I've always loved is traveling, which again is kind of like those bell-bottom jeans. When the pandemic happened, we were actually living full-time on the road, just doing a bunch of traveling.

We'd been to 56 countries. So, you know, a lot of the world has been awesome, but being forced to stay in one place has also forced me to just realize how exhausting that was and the fact that you never have roots down and you're not spending time with your friends and your community and so it's actually been really good. We haven't really gone anywhere.

I haven't been on an airplane since February of 2020. But yeah, traveling was always a hobby and I'm also a big foodie, I love going out, especially in this town, experiencing food,

Nick (52:55)

That’s definitely my biggest expense, food. Like I'll have a shirt with a hole in it. 

Mike (53:07)

Yeah. I’m the same way, My wardrobe is so pathetic. I'm not a clothes, jewelry, or watch guy, but I’m definitely all about experiences. Now that things are opening back up again. We just went to a hockey game, which was awesome. The Las Vegas Knights game was a playoff game, which was fun. We're going to buy concert tickets for five or six different shows. We go out to all these awesome restaurants. We just went to Mayfair the other night, which is a supper club here at the Bellagio.

It’s a dance and singing cabaret kind of thing, with great food. It's just absolutely amazing. Having another watch or another car does nothing for me. 

Meeting Eugene

Nick (53:50)

Have you ever hung out with Eugene from the group?

Mike (53:53)

Yes, I have, down in Mexico. 

Nick (53:56)

Did you guys get some food together? He's a foodie too.

Mike (54:00)

We were just at the all-inclusive place down there. So it wasn't anything all that spectacular, but yeah. Tell him when he is in Vegas next time to look me up and we'll go get some. There are some crazy experiences here in Vegas. We were just at Mayfair the other night, and I got this Wagyu hand rural thing, that was like Wagyu beef with caviar and a piece of gold.

Actually, it was ridiculous, it was so over the top. Like things I wouldn't do all the time, but again, the experience was really good. Now I know how other people live, but that was pretty cool.

Building Habits

Nick (54:39)

Nice man. Alright, I got two more for you. What's one habit that you're working on right now?

Mike (54:47)

Oh, man. This is a good one because I'm doing this thing called seventy-five hard. Have you heard of this?

Nick (54:52)

I've heard of it, but I have not done it. It sounds intense. 

Mike (54:57)

It is intense. I'm doing it for 60 days, not 75 because one of the things is no drinking and I have a party at our house soon. So, it’s ridiculous not to be drinking. I'm doing it with a buddy. We made a $10,000 bet, which honestly is making me stick with it. There's just no way. I’d have been out the first 10 days for sure. But what you're required to do is work out twice a day, two 45-minute workouts.

We've allowed some modifications to this where you’re free to do it all at once if you want. But we try to stick to doing it twice a day. One of the workouts has to be outdoors, which has been intense here because it's been 107 degrees. It’ll probably cool down because it's only 84 here right now. But on a 170-degree day, it's hard to go out and get a 45-minute workout.

We get to read 10 pages in a book, drink a gallon of water, stick to a diet, and a couple of other things. But I’m enjoying the habits that it's helping me to develop. I've never been a big reader and technology has made it even worse. Like I've always had ADHD it's been very difficult to just sit down and read a 300-page book. I tend to consume my information in 1000 or 2000-word blog posts or stories or something like that.

And very rarely will I sit down and complete a whole book. You know, I might read the first couple of chapters on a plane one day, but then never, never get back to it. And so I'm hoping that this habit sticks. And I think that the whole idea of 75 hard is that by the end of it, you developed some good habits. The other one I hope sticks is, I've really come to enjoy going for a walk every day. I mean it gets me outside and gets me away from the computers.

It gives me some time to think about stuff, listen to some podcasts and I just kind of got away from that. A lot of times my wife will come with me, it's a good time for us to just go together and do that together. So those two things, I really hope are habits that I really stick with. 

Nick (57:05)

Yeah. I can really relate to the two. About reading, I found myself not really reading anymore. This upsets me because when I read certain books, they impact the way I think, the way I speak, and my relationships with other people. And I missed that, but I fell into that trap as well, where I only read 2,500-word blog posts, Facebook posts, like that became my reading. and then the walks, I'm a big fan of 10-minute walks.

I lost shape when COVID hit. The gym shut down when my third child was born, I was getting pretty out of shape, man. And I focused hard on my diet and I did 10-minute walks every day. I lost 30 pounds and kept it off. So, I’m also a big fan of the walks. 

Mike (57:52)

I've only lost a few pounds. It hasn't actually helped me lose that much weight. I've actually been eating a lot more. So it's kinda of funny because things are opening up, we have been going out a lot, and my diet is intermittent fasting. And so I've been doing that pretty much any way, but you're allowed to eat whatever you want in between those hours. And so I've taken advantage of that, but I have been going out and being active every day. We normally just sit at my computer and get fatter.

Differentiating Successful and Unsuccessful Amazon Sellers

Nick (58:29)

Right on man. Well, hopefully, that plays out exactly how you want it to. Alright, Final question. What do you believe sets a successful Amazon seller apart from an unsuccessful one?

Mike (58:53)

Yeah, I think that if you asked me that in 2015, you would've got a completely different answer. I think the answer today is someone who has outside traffic. You know, some ability to send traffic from some other platform to Amazon. I really think that that's the differentiator. And I think that the gap is going to get bigger, so that can manifest itself in a few different ways.

It can be your own blog that you have. You rank organically on Google for terms that you can then send affiliate traffic off to Amazon. It could be relationships you have with influencers on YouTube or Instagram, that can send traffic off to Amazon. It can be your own Shopify store, an email list on Facebook, my chat lists, and so on. Those are all super white-hat ways of doing it.

There are also some black hat ways to do it as well, which I'm not as big of a fan of. I don't think that those are sustainable long-term strategies. I think the black hat method can do this stuff artificially for some period of time, but it's costly. And again, it's unsustainable versus the other stuff I mentioned is a very long-term way of thinking about it.

Nick (1:00:11)

Yeah. I like those long-term strategies. They turn into assets that just produce for a while versus a hack that just disappears when you wake up and it no longer works. Mike, thank you so much for coming on the show. It was really good chatting with you. Where can people find you if they want to get more information?

Mike (1:00:32)

Yeah. EcomCrew is probably the best way to get to me. you can either go on the website, look there, or you can email support@e-commcrew.com. The emails addressed to me, always find their way to me as long as they're not some type of spam. I've gotten a lot better at what I was talking about earlier, trying to free up my time and make me more efficient as a CEO and a human being.

So, if you want to get a hold of me and you've been watching this, just say, “I've been watching Mike on this podcast, and want to talk to him about X, Y, Z.” Make sure you get it support@ecommcrew.com. Also if you have any other questions about any other stuff we have? You can ask it through there as well. I largely stay off of social media. I am on Twitter and Facebook, but probably the best way is just to shoot us an email.

Nick (1:01:30)

Alight, Mike. Well, thanks for letting me into MDS and making it through the noise filter. 

Mike (1:01:38)

It's all about relationships and people. I mean I've known Ian for a long time. I think MDS is a great resource for the e-commerce community. Not just the example I mentioned in Thailand, but there are a lot of cases like “I’m in big trouble right now and I need your help.” I love seeing how everyone flocks to help. Whatever it is, we've all been through these things. And that's when you really need help. Right. That's what this is all about.

The cool thing about e-commerce versus the affiliate marketing I was doing before is the way penalty is handled. If someone got an affiliate and complained that Google just penalized them, everyone would laugh at them and say, thank God they're penalized. But in e-commerce, we've all been through this and have that common thread and want to help that person get unscrewed, especially if it was like a really unfair way that it happened. So, I’m always here for you guys, whatever you need. 

Nick (1:02:41)

Alright. We appreciate you saying that and thanks for coming, Mike.

Mike (1:02:45)

Absolutely. Thank you. Take it easy.

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