What Should Every Entrepreneur Be Watching On TV? Surprise – It’s Not Shark Tank

Success is not going to happen by wandering around and picking up gold nuggets. Success is going to happen when you dig through piles and piles of dirt. Success is earned.

Hi gang,

Shark Tank is a great show and every single entrepreneur should be watching it.  I find the premise amazing. Each week, several different business owners pitch their business ideas to The Sharks – a motley crew of hugely successful business giants. If the pitch is right, the product is good, and the presenters are deemed worthy, the Sharks will agree to fund the businesses with their own money.  If you’re an aspiring business owner, appearing on Shark Tank is like being hit by a bolt of lightening made of gold. Even the businesses turned down by the Sharks still see huge changes in their businesses on the PR of being on Shark Tank alone.

sharktank2

I actually sit down with my whole family every week to watch Shark Tank. I’ve got 3 young entrepreneurs to train and when else can I explain what a “royalty in perpetuity” is?

But Shark Tank is not the best show on TV for entrepreneurs. Know what is?

Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush

gold rush

I mean it’s hands down, no questions asked the best show about business on TV. Let me explain.

Gold Rush follows three different gold mining operations spread out across Alaska, Canada, and, this season, South America. The show documents each team’s quest to locate, dig for, and cash in on the most wonderful treasure of all: gold.

The three teams are very diverse.  You’ve got:

1. The Dakota Boys: Fred and Dustin Hurt – a father/son team with a small crew.

dakota

2. 316 Mining: a larger, highly experienced crew led by the hapless Todd Hoffman (way more on him in a minute)

todd

3. Parker Schnabel, a 19 year old kid from a mining family who has come into his own this season.

parker-schnabel-bio0-1

 

What does Gold Rush teach us about owning a business? Let me count the ways

1.  You have to chase a dream. That dream may not come true, but you have to chase it anyway. The guys on Gold Rush, when it comes down to it, really don’t know if there’s any gold. They rely on their experience, their faith, and their pigheaded determination in the hopes of striking it rich. They toil and toil for days and weeks without knowing the moment of truth.

2. Successful businesses don’t succeed for no reason. It takes hard work. If you don’t know anything about gold mining, then what you think is that these guys take pickaxes and find large chunks of gold nuggets lying around.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The fascinating discovery of Gold Rush is that most gold exists in little tiny flakes, barely visible, scattered within tons and tons and football fields worth and cities worth of worthless dirt.  To get the gold, these teams work and work and work and work. It’s not magic or rocket science. It’s the day to day hard work that gets the gold.

3. Successful businesses are the sum of hundreds and thousands of individual decisions. Sure, every business has that Eureka! moment where everything can change, but for the most part, a business will succeed and fail on small decision after small decision after small decision, day in and day out.  It takes excellent, consistent leadership skills to accomplish that. The guys on Gold Rush, on a daily basis, have to make quality decisions about where to mine, how to mine, how to use their equipment, how to fix their equipment, how to use their labor, and how to ensure their efforts are getting the gold.

4.  Creative problem solving is critical to success. At the end of a mining season in Alaska, it gets cold…and snowy…and then colder…and then the ground and equipment freeze.  Parker Schnabel faced this exact problem at the end of this season and he was not at the goal he wanted for himself for the year.  So how do you fix frozen ground? You blast it with water – and that’s exactly what he did, which added weeks to his season. There are dozens of examples of creative problem solving on Gold Rush, but you get the point – problems will arise, and solving them correctly can guarantee success.

5. You need a good leader.  Nothing is more important to a company’s success. If you want to watch the effects of bad leadership on your business, you have to look no further than Todd Hoffman and the 316 Mining Crew. I spent a lot of this season yelling at my TV. Now, Todd’s crew is excellent – he’s got the incredible Dave Turin, Todd’s experienced father Jack, the jack-of-all-trades Jim Thurber, and many other very good men. But a good crew is nothing without a good leader, and Todd Hoffman is one of the worst I’ve seen.

Take this season, for example.  Todd’s crew did pretty well last year in Alaska, hauling in more than $1.5 million in gold. They were on a good claim with good equipment.  So what did Todd do this year? He abandoned his good claim and hauled the entire crew down to Guyana in South America because he’d heard somewhere that there was good gold there.  He spent what seemed like months scouting locations and finally settled in Guyana. He shipped all of his equipment and all of his crew to a dense, rainy jungle with impassable roads that they had no experience mining in.  Then, Todd surprised even me when he….left his men behind and went home for a while. That’s right – he abandoned his operation. He just told his guys to “get some gold” and left.

The rest of the season went tragically if predictably.  The Guyanese jungle proceeded to kick the 316 Mining Crew’s asses for the entire season.  The rains made the roads pure mud. They couldn’t find a spot with gold. They couldn’t get their equipment to work correctly in the humidity. The heat and humidity and mosquitoes were unbearable. Todd returned to a disaster – there was no gold, tens of thousands of dollars wasted, and a dejected and upset crew.

Again, Todd made another bad decision. A local Guyanese crewman mentioned to Todd that there might be diamonds on the land, and without hesitation Todd said “Yeah man, let’s do it.”  With zero experience, Todd Hoffman and his crew were instant diamond miners. Near the end of the season, Todd met with the claim owner and told him that he had found no gold but that he had found a jar full of diamonds.  The moment was gut wrenching – the claim owner took the jar of diamonds and said “these are worth maybe $1,500 dollars.  Get off my land”

A good leader means everything.

 

Gold Rush is the best show on TV for entrepreneurs because it lays out the harsh reality of what owning a business is.  To succeed, you have to be a creative leader and  a consistently good decision maker. You have to work really hard. Every day. There may not even be any gold, but dammit you’re going to try.

Most importantly, success is not going to happen by wandering around and picking up gold nuggets. Success is going to happen when you dig through piles and piles of dirt. Success is earned.

-Kevin

Come play with me at GodImSexy.com

 

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Want To Be A New eBay Seller? Good Luck…

I have fielded some incredibly disturbing calls lately from companies wanting to do business on eBay, and I want to talk about that for a bit

10ebay

Hi gang,

There is an old Chinese saying: “May you live in interesting times”

I could really write an entire blog post just about that saying.  To me, it means this: “Hey pal, I hope your life isn’t boring. I hope that interesting things happen to you, around you, and because of you.  I didn’t say ‘good things’ or ‘bad things’ – I said ‘things’

Of course, I always hear the voice of Mr. Miyagi in my head when I think of that saying, but that’s beside the point.

As a 12 year e-commerce veteran, I can honestly say that I am living in interesting times. I’ve been completely immersed in e-comm both as the owner of a large online seller, as an e-commerce consultant, as an e-comm writer, and as an executive for e-comm companies. I have watched small companies become big companies, big companies spectacularly fail, and other companies completely pivot when they see an opportunity. I’ve seen technology change so dramatically that it has completely leveled playing fields and totally changed the rules of the e-commerce game.

At one time, many moons ago, I was a large eBay seller. By large, I mean we were selling 5,000 items a day on the site and were the 25th largest seller in the world. At the same time, we were in the Top 15 of all Amazon media sellers. Neither relationship ended well but when I write my book about those two experiences, I will absolutely say they were interesting times.  Regardless of what my personal experiences have been on both sites, I remain very respectful of what both companies have accomplished and the potential for both in the future. I actually feel like a battered spouse – both companies have treated me in the worst way possible, yet I have a very soft spot in my heart for them because they have been such an integral part of my business life.

Now, I am an e-commerce consultant and a writer.  I’m in a very unique position to leverage my extensive background, especially with third party e-commerce sites like eBay and Amazon, to guide other e-comm companies and help them succeed. It’s a great gig for me because I have walked the walk and can really help others avoid the minefields.

I have fielded some incredibly disturbing calls lately from companies wanting to do business on eBay, and I want to talk about that for a bit because I’m just concerned by what I’m hearing.

The conclusion I’m beginning to draw from these case studies is that eBay really doesn’t want to do business with new sellers unless they are large enough to be recruited by eBay’s Business Development teams. Let me give you a few examples:

Last fall, Company A decided that it wanted to be an eBay seller.  They formed a company, leased a warehouse space, negotiated with suppliers to bring in some inventory, and hired a few people to get things rolling.  They opened up a new eBay account and a new Paypal account, and got busy listing items.  On the first day of operations, they were stopped from listing any more items on eBay.  They had listed 10 items.  On their eBay account was a message to call in to discuss their selling goals, so they did.  The eBay representative told them that because they were a new company and because it was Q4, their company had to prove itself a competent seller.  So they were limited to selling 10 items for the month.

ex

You read that right.  Again, this was a company that had formed an LLC, leased space, hired people, and bought inventory with the purpose of selling on eBay.  In addition, PayPal, which eBay owns, told them that it was going to hold up to 100% of the company’s funds for up to 21 days, and may force them to maintain a 25% or more balance long term if they wish to sell on eBay.

Company B tried to start an eBay business about 5 months ago. Their initial limit was 10 items a month, but after maintaining 100% positive feedback, after 3 months eBay lifted their limit to 100 items a month. On the 5th month of business, after the company still had 100% positive feedback and had now qualified for the Top Rated Seller program (which is supposed to be eBay’s best sellers), the owner called in to ask for another increase.  The eBay representative’s first question to her was to ask her where specifically she bought all of her merchandise from (that’s right – The Forbidden Question). Then the rep told her that they were raising her limits to 200 items a month.  When she asked the eBay rep why the amount was still so low, the rep told her that eBay didn’t want her to “grow too fast and not be able to keep up”.

What has happened with both of these companies?  Well, unfortunately, Company A was forced to shut down before it even got started.  Luckily for Company B, she opened an Amazon account at the same time she opened her eBay account.  When the eBay rep told her that eBay was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the growth and limited her to 200 items a month, she was selling approximately 200 items a DAY on Amazon and growing rapidly.

These are just two of dozens of examples I could provide and I could go on and on about it, but let’s just go with a few comments:

1.  What company could possibly survive and grow with that level of constraint on them?

2. What is the point of the eBay Top Rated Seller Program? Isn’t it supposed to be for the best of the best eBay sellers? How could you qualify for that program and then be severely limited and not wonder what the value of such a program is to a seller?

If you are a large company and want to be an eBay seller, that is a completely different story.  eBay will grant you substantially lower fees, raise you up in search results, not punish you for your feedback, and even open specific brand pages for you.

The irony of all of this is that, many moons ago, me and the other Top 100 eBay sellers were in constant dialogue with eBay execs about unlevelling the playing field. We demanded better rates, higher search results, more leniency on feedback, and the ability to brand ourselves.  At that time, all of our requests were denied.

I wanted to discuss these new developments with the other Top 100 eBay sellers, but I can’t find any of them on eBay anymore. Seriously.  About 90% of them are gone now.

sorryfolks

Interesting times.

-Kevin

Come play with me at GodImSexy.com

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GodImSexy Greatest Hits: eBay Announces “FreeBay” – The Completely Free Program

To enhance the recent fee changes that will force sellers to offer free shipping, eBay announced this morning that all sellers must offer their items for sale for free as well.

Hi gang,

I remember writing this post very clearly.  It was during the ChannelAdvisor Catalyst event in 2011. eBay had just announced another round of fee increases but, more importantly, they announced that sellers who offered free shipping would now get a huge bump in search results. It was another move that really frustrated the sellers. It also happened to be April Fool’s Day.

As I wandered through the halls of the conference the day it was posted, more than one person stopped me to tell me how great the post was and that I had really nailed their feelings about the Free Shipping mandates by eBay. It felt great…

…until a high level eBay exec rounded the corner and came right at me.

“Freebay, huh?” he said. “Yeah, that’s REAL funny”. He walked off, unsmiling.

You can read the post in its’ entirety over at Startupnation where it was originally posted.  Just click HERE

FS

Enjoy!

-Kevin

Come play with me on Facebook! and here at GodImSexy.com

 

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How To Be Rib Punched By An Old Lady At Goodwill

I recall a Firm Rule Of Life: When you’re in a crowded elevator and someone rips one, everybody’s just going to blame the fat guy.

Hi gang,

There is literally nothing better on the planet than being in a Goodwill on 25% Senior Discount Tuesday.

goodbrace

On Tuesdays, Goodwill becomes Florida.  There are elderly people bumping their carts into one another, standing next to each other yet shouting conversations so the whole store can hear, and paying for their merchandise with piles of loose change. It’s Heaven. And by Heaven, I mean it’s Satan’s Anus.

My advice to anyone is to just stay away from Goodwill on Tuesday. But for thrifters, that’s like telling a crack addict to “just lay off the stuff for today, Bob”. Good luck.

Here’s what happened to me on Tuesday at Goodwill.  I am not making a word of this up.

I was standing in front of the DVD’s, just browsing through them for any gems I might spot.  Out of nowhere, this spitfire of an elderly woman was standing right next to me – like literally out of nowhere, like she was a Sith Lord or something.  Not only is she standing next to me – she’s practically standing ON me. That’s right folks – she’s crowding me out. She’s blocking my path to the DVD’s like a defensive guard.

Baffled, I turn to her and say “mam’n, I’ll be done in just a second. You’re standing a little to close to me”

Without the slightest hesitation, she screams “THEY’RE NOT JUST YOURS!!! THEY’RE MINE TOO!!!” loud enough for half the store to hear her.

As I stare at her, I realize that half of the store is looking at us, and I have the sad realization that a big brown man is not going to win the hearts and minds of the Goodwill over an old lady.  I back off.

Here’s the part where it gets nuts.

I spend a few minutes looking at the books, and Crazy Old Lady gives up her DVD search and walks away. I wander back over to the DVD’s and begin looking again.  Just then a Goodwill employee walks over and sets a few more DVD’s on the shelf.  I pick them up, take a look, and set them back down.  Goodwill guy shows up again with more. He sets them on the shelf. I pick them up, take a look, and set them back down. For a third time, the Goodwill guy walks over and sets down a few boxsets. They look pretty interesting.

As I reach my hand out to pick them up, I suddenly hear “No. NO. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” from my right. As I turn my head towards the racket, I am slammed into from the right by, you guessed it, Crazy Old Lady. She flies between me and the DVD’s, knocking my hand away and slamming into my ribs.

“I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THESE FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES!!!!” she hisses at me as she scoops them all up into her arms.

Again, I feel the judgemental stare of the Goodwill, and realize that I am just not going to win this situation.  I recall a Firm Rule Of Life:  When you’re in a crowded elevator and someone rips one, everybody’s just going to blame the fat guy.  I was the fat guy.

“All yours,” I say. I walked out of the Goodwill with my hat in my hand.

Do NOT go to Goodwill on 25% Senior Discount Tuesday.

-Kevin

Come play with me at GodImSexy.com

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The Funniest Thing I’ve Seen In A While: Netflix Drone To Home

Hi gang,

Seriously, this could NOT be any funnier. Amazon probably had it coming. Enjoy!

 

 

-Kevin

Come play with me at GodImSexy.com

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Wal-Mart Passes The Torch And Magnifying Glass To Amazon.com

Does Amazon deserve all of this negativity? Well, like every company that becomes a larger and larger force in the world, it absolutely deserves scrutiny.

Hi gang,

Simpsons-Angry-Mob

Remember way back like 3 years ago when Wal-Mart was the Evil Empire?  It seems you couldn’t turn a page or click on a website without hearing more news about how terrible Wal-Mart treated their vendors and employees.

Welcome to Press 2.0, where Amazon.com is the new punching bag.

There’s news this morning that Amazon is being sued over their Prime Third Party pricing. The suit makes the claim that third party FBA sellers inflate their prices to compensate for shipping (expert side opinion: um, duh! I have SOOO many stories, particularly from the mouths of eBay people, about free shipping. That’ll be another post) and so Amazon makes a higher fee on the commissions earned from the sale of an FBA item, which in turn contradicts the “free shipping” portion of their Prime program.

You can read the entire story over at Geekwire

That lawsuit comes on the heels of another story making the rounds about the treatment of Amazon workers in their distribution centers.  I can summarize it very briefly for you: it’s bad. TheGuardian.com has a good in depth story about it here .

A dew days ago Salon.com joined the fray by publishing a pretty scathing report titled “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers” . Summary: Amazon treats its’ employees badly.

And of course, I would be remiss not to mention my own nightmare story about Amazon, their FBA program, and Warner Bros, which is the most widely read blog I’ve ever done and still generates several e-mails a week from petrified Amazon sellers.  My story remains at the top of the most active posts over at Startupnation.com and can be read here:

Third Party Sellers Need To Rethink The Amazon FBA Program

By the way, I am writing a new post which will update you on this story and answer some frequently asked questions about it.

Even the Wall Street Journal has jumped in, having independently investigated Amazon on several claims of counterfeit and fraudulent items being sold on their site. I was interviewed for that article as well and the reporter had a very good handle on the issues facing Amazon when it comes to policing their own site. You can read that article here

Does Amazon deserve all of this negativity? Well, like every company that becomes a larger and larger force in the world, it absolutely deserves scrutiny. I think it’s fair to question any company on their treatment of employees, customers, and vendors. Every large US company has been held up to the candlelight at one time or other – Microsoft, GE, Apple, Walls Fargo, etc – and Amazon should be no exception.

It baffles me, though, to read the reactions to these reports from people.  As any seller can tell you, FREE shipping does not mean free. Having the lowest price means the lowest margins.  There’s a cost to all of that, knuckleheads.  To excel in some areas, Amazon has to give in other areas. People. Compensation. Benefits. Third Party Seller Services. Etc. Yes, you can get that video game tomorrow or even today

Is Amazon a bad company? Based on what you know about my dealings with them, you’ll be surprised to hear that I don’t think so.  They are an amazingly innovative company with vision that rivals and even surpasses the Mount Olympus of Vision: Apple.

But, like Apple, don’t be surprised when a few cockroaches scurry for cover after you lift up the rug and look under it.

-Kevin

Come play with me at GodImSexy.com

 

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GodImSexy Greatest Hits: Amazon.com is 50 Shades Away From Owning Retail

Amazon wants to be your go-to retailer for anything and everything, and so they are moving in a block over and they are going to begin delivering your orders the same day that you order them

Hi gang,

50shades

I wrote this blog a year and a half ago for my good friends at Outright.com – it’s amazing how well I nailed it 😉  The predictions I made in this blog are downright eerie now:

“Amazon wants to be your go-to retailer for anything and everything, and so they are moving in a block over and they are going to begin delivering your orders the same day that you order them”

Also, so many of you enjoyed last night’s post about Amazon taking over the USPS that you can re-read it here

Anywhoo, pop over there and see for yourself:

http://outright.com/blog/amazon-com-is-50-shades-away-from-owning-retail/

-Kevin

Come play with me at GodImSexy.com

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Could Amazon.com Be Angling To Buy And Privatize The USPS?

Is it really that much of a stretch for Amazon to step in and take it over? If the USPS were privatized, would anyone really be upset at faster delivery times and cheaper postal rates?

Hi gang,

I know, I know – that sounds insane, right?

Right?

Look, Amazon has been in the business of insane for a long time.  It was insane to try to sell every book in the world all on one website.  It was insane to open up 20 gazillion distribution centers. It was insane to offer free 2-day shipping. It was insane to offer same day delivery. It will be insane to offer delivery by drone.

Yet Amazon has done or will do all of that (by the way, the drone thing was the single most brilliant PR move in the history of PR. Drones are years and years and years away, yet the entire country was talking about it non stop the day after it was announced, which just so happened to be Cyber Monday. Just….freaking….brilliant)

Amazon has always had a very clear mission: make their customers happy at any cost.  To do that, Amazon must control the entire process end-to-end. Can you imagine being insanely driven to satisfy your customers and then handing off your precious cargo to the USPS for delivery? That’s like handing a bouquet of balloons to a car full of clowns holding needles.  Seriously, it must keep Mr. Bezos in cold sweats every night.

The USPS loses a Bazillion Kazillion dollars a year. It’s completely inefficient and technically archaic. USPS employees are forced to be apathetic – there’s so much red tape in that system that employees couldn’t improve it if they wanted to, and so they just zombie-out over time.

Is it really that much of a stretch for Amazon to step in and take it over? If the USPS were privatized, would anyone really be upset at faster delivery times and cheaper postal rates? Would the USPS drones be afraid of dogs?

What would that be…350 million US Prime Members?  That’s a lot of Downton Abbey streaming, folks 😉

usamazon

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.  Am I insane? I mean, more than normal?

-Kevin

Come play with me at GodImSexy.com

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Business Travel: Riding In Satan’s Anus

Luckily, it was 72 degrees outside and so inside my car it was only 125 degrees – 145 degrees under the towel.

Hi gang,

Do you remember when you were in college and during winter break you went to a bar where actual grownups were? While you stood in your group of college buddies arguing over the best drink names, do you remember overhearing the table of business people next to yours talking about how they were looking forward to the conference in Orlando next week? One guy would say how he hoped he wouldn’t sit next to a fat guy on the plane and the others would just crack up laughing. Another would say they’re staying at the Embassy Suites, which had an awesome breakfast buffet. Do you remember that twinge of jealously you felt for them? How you could not WAIT to travel somewhere on business someday?

That memory danced across my mind the other day at about 6 am as I stood in the interior hallway of a Super 8 hotel next to a kindly older couple in their underwear. We had all just been roused from our beds by the hotel alarm, which told us to go to the central hallway because there was a funnel cloud spotted nearby. The skinny long-haired guy wearing a Van Halen 1984 t-shirt on the other side of me was clearly worried and, fortunately for me, was puffing away on a cigarette and blowing smoke all over the hallway.

I suppose there was a time when I really enjoyed travelling on business. Visiting new cities and having adventures used to be quite a hobby for me and I was always up for it. In a given month, it was fairly normal for me to drive a convertible in Malibu, watch the fountains at the Bellagio, and help sail a boat in Boston harbor. In fact, I would say that I’ve probably forgotten more travel adventures than many people have experienced in their entire lives, and I am very grateful for that.

Somewhere along the way, the excitement of the journey begin to wear a little thin. I don’t remember specifically – maybe it was the time I flew to Seattle having forgotten my drivers license. Outbound, the Charlotte airport let me through by verifying my identity. Coming back, the Seattle airport waited until I had checked my bag to tell me that I had to wait in a special “this guy looks suspicious” line* until long after my plane had left. And that was just the beginning of that story. Or maybe it was the time that my plane landed in Charlotte after a 5 hour flight and the pilot could not get an answer from the tower for over an hour.

Regardless, the shiny penny of travel has dulled and tarnished over the years.

On my way to the Van Halen chain-smoking guy Super 8 my silver Suburban, which has over 220,000 miles on it, decided to turn on me once again. My heater became stuck on the hottest setting and began relentlessly blowing out piping hot air. I couldn’t stop it and the hot hair was literally burning my leg hair off. So I drove four hours with the windows down and a towel wrapped around my legs.  Luckily, it was 72 degrees outside and so inside my car it was only 125 degrees – 145 degrees under the towel.

Actually, the heater situation was probably a hair worse than what my car did to me the previous business trip, which was to completely lose all power in the middle of a turn.  By all power, I mean the car turned off, the clock died, the power steering stopped – ALL power. That one only cost me a tow to the local repair guy, who literally fixed the car by sliding the battery over 2 inches and pretty much laughed at me as he was doing it. I would have been insulted, but honestly I was too curious to know why the 6 teeth he had didn’t tear into his gums every time he ate a piece of chicken.

I’ve renamed my car Satan’s Anus. It only seems appropriate.

satansanus

-Kevin

Come play with me at GodImSexy.com

*If you’d like to read my entire account of that disastrous Seattle trip in all of its’ 3 part glory, start here.

 

 

 

 

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