As many businesses migrate online, it has become more important than ever to find the right kind of people who will help you rise above the crowded space. Host, Nathan Hirsch, talks with serial entrepreneur, Tim Jordan, about eCommerce and hiring remotely. Finding success in this industry, Tim shares with us his journey of deciding to become an entrepreneur and facing the challenges in his path towards building a successful eCommerce business. He details to us what he looks for when hiring and shares his insights about online platforms and lead generation. What is more, Tim lets us in on his other businesses, Private Label Legion and Hickory Flats.
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A Guide To Building Success In E-commerce With Tim Jordan
My guest is Tim Jordan. Tim, how are you doing?
I’m good. How are you?
I’m doing great. I’m looking forward to hanging out with you at SellerCon. It’s always fun to catch up and hang out with the eCommerce community.
I love it and I dread it because it’s a lot of fun but it takes a lot of energy out of me. I’m going to be at SellerCon, then IRCE in Chicago and then I’ve got some projects I’m working on out in LA.
For those of you who don’t know, Tim is a serial entrepreneur that found eCom and never looked back. His team not only sells their own products and brands across multiple platforms but through their community the Private Label Legion, they help countless other entrepreneurs meet goals and scale their businesses as well. We’re going to talk all about that. I also know you hiring a lot of remote people but first let’s take a gigantic step back. What were you like growing up? Were you a straight-A student? Were you a rebel? Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I was a horrible student. I never studied and I never did my homework. I was the guy that always had zero on his homework because I was too distracted to do it, but I did well enough on test that I skirted through high school on a C average. It’s the same with college. I was an entrepreneur back in school. Back in fifth or sixth grade, I remember that the school band had a fundraiser where they’re selling these king-sized candy bars for $1. I remember talking to my dad about it and I said, “I wonder if I could do that?” We drove to Sam’s Club and we bought this big box of king sized KitKat, Reese’s and Snickers bars and they were $0.45 apiece.
I started toting these things around school and sell them for $1. I did that for two months before finally one of the teachers is like, “I don’t even think this kid’s in the band.” The band director caught me in the hall and says, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m selling these for the band.” He says, “You’re not in the band.” I made money. I got free candy bars. In fifth or sixth grade, I got addicted to my first hustle and I never went back from there.Find a business partner and a mentor. Network with people because you can’t do it all. Click To Tweet
How did you eventually end into eCom?
It was completely by accident. I was a full-time firefighter and paramedic. With the way our schedules worked, 24 hours on and 48 hours off, we had a lot of free time. I had some different companies, construction companies and things like that. I ended up hooking up with a buddy who has started a company that supplied goods to the US State Department. Have you seen the movie War Dogs? It’s a popular movie and they’re getting involved in gun running and selling guns. My job was exactly that but the non-military side. Instead of guns we were selling diesel generators and truck tires and all sorts of stuff.
I got involved in an international commerce because I was sourcing all over the world and shipping all over the world and then found that I had some great wholesale accounts. I hired a guy off Craigslist to teach me how to sell on what it was going to be eBay and Amazon. We ended up hitting our first $1 million in sales in seven or eight months. I eventually started leaning into the whole concept of, “If I’m selling wholesale, my suppliers would cut me off at any time and I’ve got no business.” I started delving into the world of Private Label. I hate the term Private Label because it implies putting a sticker on something, but it’s private products, private brand, building a platform agnostic eCommerce business. It’s been a wild ride since then.
You work with a lot of eCommerce sellers. I know you talk to a lot of eCommerce sellers, a lot of which are into doing Private Label. What are some of the common mistakes that you see or some of the maybe success stories of people who are crushing it with Private Label?
We get it in our own way. One of the biggest struggles that we see is all of us for the most part started out as a hobby, as a side hustle. In our mind our business is a hobby or a side hustle and we think small we don’t think big. The other thing that we do is we become perfectionists. We become control freaks because we had to bootstrap this and do it ourselves, everything’s got to be perfect and then we hit this ceiling because there’s only so much we can do. I tell people all the time, “Find a business partner and a mentor. Network with people because you can’t do it all. You’ve got to learn. You’ve got to augment your strengths. You’ve got to figure out what other people are going to do better than you and you can swap time with them at something your faster at, all of these different principles. Another huge one is building a team. That is one of the scariest things that you have to do in building a business but you have to do it because otherwise you’ve only got so many hours a day and skillsets.
Whether you build your team with business partners or with virtual assistants or physical on the ground freelancers here with you. I’ve done all of it, I’ve done all of those things. You’re never going to get pass that ceiling. You’re never going to start scaling. Some of the most successful business owners that I’ve met, that I’m personally friends with and in our inner circle are those that realized that they needed to gain some humility. That humility being, “I can’t do it all and I can’t control everything. There are some things I suck at and I needed to find someone better than me.” I don’t know computer coding at all, that’s why we hire VA’s to do all of our backend technical work. Do I have a clue to what they’re doing? No, they just do it. It had to take me this maturity and this gaining of wisdom to realize, it’s better for me to let somebody else start handling this than me trying to screw it up myself.
What do you look for when you’re hiring someone? In terms of not the skill, that depends on what you’re looking for, but in the actual person.
I look for the ability to learn. I used to try to hire experts and the problem with experts is they think they know everything. I would rather have someone that has an exceptionally good attitude and exceptionally good team loyalty and team focus. Someone that can learn quickly so that if something comes up, they can figure it out themselves and learn quickly. All those things as opposed to an extremely high skillset because every business is different. If I hire somebody with ten years experience in digital marketing but they come into my brands and we’re trying to get them do digital marketing for our brands, they don’t understand what we’re doing. It’s like we’re beating our heads against the wall trying to get them to relearn everything. There are so many resources out there, there’s so many educational resources where if you hire a good freelancer whether they’re virtual or not, you can get them trained. They can become tremendous assets to your business. It’s more of like a character and attitude thing that’s more important than skillset.
What do you think of the eCommerce businesses should be hiring maybe first or second? Where should people get started in their hiring process?
eCommerce businesses are selling products. The two things that you need to outsource first are handling your products. Find a prep center because if you’re putting tape on boxes and putting FNSKUs on products, you’re wasting your time. You can outsource that extremely inexpensively into the higher level stuff. The other thing is, a buddy of mine calls it a spaghetti map. Map out your entire day. Hire someone to follow you on for two or three days and log everything you’re doing.
Look through that list. There’s a bunch of bullcrap on there that you don’t need to do. Going to the bathroom is probably something you can’t outsource. Every day, if you’re an Amazon, Shopify or eBay seller, you’ve got to worry about customer service. You’ve got to worry about checking things, a whole list of things like, “Are my listings up? Am I indexing? Are my PPC head still running.” All of these is maintenance that takes hours but can easily be outsourced.
If you do a spaghetti map of your day and figure out what you’re doing that you can easily show someone else to do, you’re not just freeing yourself up because you’re going to take on more work. You’re replacing yourself on the easy tasks so that you can focus on the revenue creating tasks. Unfortunately, following up with customer service and making sure that your autoresponder or email program work, that doesn’t make you money. It’s maintenance that has to happen. I tell people all the time, half of your day can be outsourced at least, but you got to write down those tasks so you can start pinpointing which ones they are.One of the best trait and skills a person must have is the ability to learn. Click To Tweet
You’re someone that’s traveling a lot. You’re always moving and you’re busy. You’ve got multiple businesses. How are you communicating with all these different people from all over the world?
One thing I had to do as our team grew larger was I had to hire a general manager. She was my very first freelancer in Hickory Flats here in the US and now she’s my general manager. She’s in my office and I give her six or seven tasks. She sits down and then she’d launch them out to our army of VA’s essentially. We use Trello for project management. She loads Trello boards up for everything. We use Airtable for creative. We have a VA that manages our brands of product range and social media stuff, Pinterest, Facebook, ads, Instagram stuff. They do all the creative elements in there that we approve and they load it up to the schedule.
I am not the one to sit on my computer. I had a phone call with this high-level guy and the first thing I did when he called is I went outside. I walked around our office because I can’t sit in front of a computer. I use WhatsApp all the time. I have big WhatsApp groups built. I have all of my assistants and all of my freelancers on WhatsApp. Sometimes if I have a brain fog, I get in my car and drive. I’ll start driving around and I’m voice noting.
I have a VA that specifically takes all of my WhatsApp communications and delegates and organizes. We have a Mastermind program for Private Label products and we have a Slack channel built out where clients or members of the community Mastermind can load tech specific questions. I’m not in Slack. I never log into Slack. I never check it, but I have a VA who monitors that full time. She copy and pastes the questions to my WhatsApp. I read it and I send a voice note. She uploads the voice note as an MP3 to Slack and transcribes it into written text.
That’s amazing customer service and all I do is read, speak, put my phone down and she does the twenty minutes of work to answer that question. Our clients are ecstatic, we’ve done a good job and it took me two minutes to do. For me, WhatsApp is huge. I hardly ever check my email. I hardly ever check my Facebook message. I’m trying to outsource all of those points where my VA’s will consolidate all that communication at one spot where I can easily manage and handle it.
I know you sell across different platforms. People are familiar with Amazon and Shopify. Are there other platforms that are working for you?
Those are the big ones, Amazon and Shopify. We’re working on a plan to start selling heavily into retail stores and we’re using VA’s to do these. We’ve never shared this with anybody but I’m going to share it with you because this is so cool. What we’ve figured out is a lot of retail stores especially niche retails stores, boutique stores do not necessarily go to trade shows anymore. That used to be what you did. You went to big trade shows. They’re online searching but they’re all online themselves.
What we’re doing is we’re hiring a couple of VA’s that find every boutique store in one of our niches for one of our brands in every state. We’re using Google, go to their website or Yelp. They load their emails into a spreadsheet, load those into a mail list and we start sending this very tactical email campaigns to all of these people. I don’t have to do anything. We can easily add 80 or 90 qualified emails a day just by VA’s scouting and searching. We figure out open rates and retargets and all that crazy stuff. We’re even using VA’s to get into a retail stores and nobody is doing that. It’s pretty awesome.
Lead generation is one of those things that not a lot of businesses are doing. I use it to work with over 200 manufacturers back in the day when I was drop shipping. I use it to get on podcast. I use it to network with influencers and other business owners. You’re using it to get into retail. Having a very inexpensive VA that’s constantly doing lead generation and it’s not something you set up for an hour and forget it. They are split testing and tweaking. There are different parts that you need to continue to advance and make better but it can become an effective part of your business. Talk to me about that Private Label Legion and I also know you have Hickory Flats. Tell the audience what that’s all about and what they can get out of that.
Hickory Flats is our service business and we offer a lot of cool stuff. We do sourcing trip where we teach people how to source, where to source, give them the connections in China. We do it in Central America. We have our Mastermind program called the Centurion League. We have some other sourcing and inspection services. We do live events like we’re going to ASD and doing a one-day workshop there that’s freaking awesome. We do a bunch of those cool different stuff a year.
The Private Label Legion is our community. They’ve started to blend, but we have a free Facebook group. Go to our Facebook group Private Label Legion. Join it and check out our page. We have an awesome podcast called Legion Radio. We have a pretty substantial YouTube channel with mountains of free content. You can check that out, Tim Jordan-Private Label Legion. The Private Label Legion is our community. You can get involved in that for free and become a Legionnaire, that’s a name we like to use, and the Hickory Flats. Check either those out. They blend and mesh where you can see everything that we’ve got going on. There are a lot of free opportunities on there. There’s a lot of awesome content that you don’t have to pay for that can help you scale up your eCommerce business.
Do you have any advice for maybe a seven-figure eCommerce seller that’s trying to get to eight figures? What takes you to that level?To scale your business, constantly replace yourself and empower the people that are replacing you to do their job. Click To Tweet
You’ve got to build a team. We are in the process of hiring an online business manager/integrator. That’s a very expensive freelancer. What we found is, you’ve got to build this pyramid. You’ve got to have command structure in place. I worked for the fire department which technically is a paramilitary organization. What they determined is one person can only manage four people, that’s it. You can’t manage more than four people effectively.
If you’re at the top running your business and you’ve got an army of VA’s and all this stuff, you can’t manage people. You’ve got to start adding in management. If you incentivise them and pay those managers well. They will make sure that they’re increasing revenue with whatever they’re responsible for. I see a lot of people that are seven-figure sellers but they’re stuck. They can’t figure out how to scale that one more auction. They’re working 60 hours a week. They can’t make that one more step.
I always tell them, “Replace yourself. Find one more person in that chain that can drop down below you and spread that wider. Find a second person, so you’re managing two now, but you’ve doubled your workforce.” The other thing is take care of your relationships. Whether it’s your supplier, your freelancer, your 3PL whatever it is. If you are constantly a pain in the butt to your people, if you’re constantly nickel and diming in for everything, they’re not going to work with you. The truth is we all suck at running a business individually because we can’t do it all.
If we want to scale up our business from a little bit of sales to seven, eight, ten-figure, we can’t do it ourselves. We have to build this team. You have to take care of your assets. You have to make sure they’re paid reasonably. Make sure you’re giving them little favors and bonuses. Make sure that you treat them with dignity and respect. Make sure that you’re constantly replacing yourself and empowering the people that are replacing you to do their job. That’s when things blow up on you. You can’t stop the growth and you can scale to whatever figure you want to.
Tim, this had been great. Where can people contact you and what are you most excited about?
They can check me out on Facebook, find me I’m Tim Jordan send me a friend request. The big thing though, find me in the Private Label Legion Facebook group, that’s huge. You can also got to PrivateLabelLegion.com or Hickory-Flats.com. We’ve got some big stuff in the works. We’ve got some big stuff coming out. We haven’t released it. It’s freaking enormous on the services and content side. I’m super excited about Q4. We’ve been building up some brands and products that are mature and we can’t even keep stuff in stock.
We do some of our own manufacturing here in the US. We own our own facility. We’re expanding that. We’re in construction mode on that. We’re starting to stockpile stuff. Q4 for us on our product side is going to be freaking unbelievable. It took us a few years to get here. It took us building good team. It took us trusting and delegating to our staff and team members. I think we’re going to reap the rewards of that venture and those endeavors.
Thanks so much for coming on. I appreciate it and I’ll see you soon.
Thanks for everything that you do.
- Private Label Legion
- Hickory Flats
- Private Label Legion – Facebook Group
- Tim Jordan-Private Label Legion – YouTube Channel
- Sam’s Club
- Legion Radio
- Tim Jordan on Facebook
About Tim Jordan
Tim Jordan is a cereal entrepreneur that found e-com and never looked back!
His team not only sells their own products and brands across multiple platforms, but through their community Private Label Legion, they help countless other entrepreneurs meet their goals and scale their businesses as well!