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

 

Share

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

Share

Facebook Buys Whatsapp For $16 Billion. Entrepreneurs Worldwide Crap Their Pants

Best Buy is worth about $9 billion and has roughly 150,000 employees. Facebook just paid a 5 year old company with 55 employees twice the market cap of BEST BUY.

Hi gang,

ex

Well, you’ve heard that Facebook bought Whatsapp – which frankly, not many people stateside have ever heard of until today – for $16 billion. Let’s do math.

To put this in perspective, Whatsapp has 55 employees.  Facebook just paid about $291 MILLION per employee. Whatsapp is less than 5 years old.

Best Buy is worth about $9 billion and has roughly 150,000 employees. Facebook just paid a 5 year old company with 55 employees twice the market cap of BEST BUY.

Exqueeze me? Baking powder?

We can debate the merits of such a play or whether or not this was a good deal, etc, but here’s what I really want to say:

Entrepreneurs everywhere – sit down, shut up, and get to work.

Your dreams can come true.  Your hard work can pay off. You can change the world. And maybe, just maybe, you can get hit by a Thor thunderbolt of lightening made of liquid gold.

Seriously, get to work.

-Kevin

Come play with me at GodImSexy.com

Share

Starting an Amazon and eBay Business in 2014

Hi gang,

Just wanted to bring your attention to a recent blog post of mine that is generating a lot of interest over on Startupnation.com.

If you’re thinking of getting into the eBay and Amazon business, please read this first!

eBay and Amazon in 2014

Best,

Kevin

 

Share