Interview with Felix Thea from Shopify Masters

Blog-Header

A few weeks back I was asked by Felix Thea if he could interview me for his podcast Shopify Masters. Being a big fan of his podcast of course I said yes!

You can listen to me ramble on about how we generated so many good reviews, trademarks, patents and all that type of jazz here > http://shopifymasters.org/quadlockcase

You can also subscribe to Felix’s podcast on iTunes here > http://shopifymasters.org/itunes

Read More

5 Reasons why outsourcing is better then employing staff

outsource

Ask anyone who runs a company or start up what’s the hardest part of business and nine times out of ten you will get the answer “people“. Employing people is time consuming, expensive, difficult and can create serious problems, especially if you employ the wrong person. People are human and here in lies the complexities of dealing with them. Emotions, health, personal issues, opinions, beliefs, the list goes on.

By employing people, managing all these human traits is your responsibility and can have a big impact on the day to day dealings of your business. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that good people are what make a great team, and great teams achieve amazing things but in any business there are tasks that no one likes doing. These are the task that if you can, you need to out source.

Here are my top 5 reasons for out sourcing

5. Makes Scaling easier

If business is booming and your growing quickly, having a task outsourced makes scaling easier and a lot less painful than having to employ a bunch of people to keep up with demand.

4. Redundancy

People get sick, plain and simple. If you only have one person doing a particular task, when they are sick that job just doesn’t get done. Outsourcing it creates redundancy. By outsourcing you can having multiple people trained to do the task, so if one of the out sourced team members can’t do it, another steps in.

3. Time Zones

If you services a global market (like we do) then your business hours are only going to align with 1/3 of the globe. Customer Service is one area that has some great advantages from out sourcing especially if you can do so to people located in different time zones. We outsourced our customer service to Influx which has teams of customer service agents all over the world. This allows us to have customer support agents working round the clock. In doing so our email response time dropped from 24 hours to five!

2. Only pay for what you need

As an early stage boot strapped start up every penny counts. When you outsource you are able to reduce your costs by only using and paying for what you need, as you need it. When your business scales you’re costs will increase but so should your income so it should all work out. If it doesn’t then you may be regretting outsourcing your business plan.

1. Flexibility

Weather you’ve just started your business or have been running it for a while, having the flexibility to pull in more resource when you need it and scaling them back when you don’t is very, very handy. Outsourcing provides this flexibility. Daily our online order volumes are pretty consistent. This makes managing order fulfillment pretty straight forward, however throw in a promotion or a new product launch and order volumes can go through the roof!

We outsource our order fulfillment to Shipwire (a 3rd Party Logistics provider). Shipwire can quickly scale up their team to handle the increased demand and then drop back to regular volume once the wave has passed. They can also help you get product out to locations all over the world much faster than shipping from your office.

Not everything can be out sourced and there are definitely some things that should never be palmed off, especially in the early stages of your business. If you do out source tasks it important that you jump back in every now and then to make sure you still have your finger on the pule and that the task is being done to a satisfactory level.

Check back soon on how to identify tasks that can be outsourced.

 

Read More

Product Market Fit – If you build it, will they come?

That voice resonating in Kevin Costner’s head if you build it, they will come was wrong…Plan wrong. This may apply to building a baseball diamond in a cornfield or building the World’s tallest building but it does not apply to building a product! If you have an idea for a product, app or services, don’t go dumping all your savings and every spare minute of your time into building it until you have spoken to at least 20 people about it. And 20 is the bare minimum.

You may think you have an idea for the best product in the world but unless your market is made up entirely of you, it may not appeal to anyone else. There’s a fair chance that other people will have different opinions, ideas or suggestions which could make it a lot better than you ever imagined. To have a successful product you need it to appeal to a large number of people and unless you consult a large number of people about your idea before you build it, you might end up in a cornfield wonder where all the people are.

Having a great product that appeals to a large bunch of customers is referred to as product market fit and its critical for a product to become successful. No one ever made much money building a product no one wants.

the-homer-inline2

Knowing this I am still amazed about how many people claim to have a million dollar idea but refuse to discuss it. “What if someone steals my idea?” To be honest the average person is not going to steal your idea. Ideas are a dime a dozen and everyone has one and in the scheme of things an idea is the 1% inspiration and the 99% perspiration required to turn the idea into some thing real…well, most people just can’t be arsed doing. Obviously there are some people you don’t want to tell and for good reason. These people include anyone who is active in the same space and has the ability to easily act on your idea. Use common sense when selecting who to disclose your idea too.

Make sure you select a well rounded group of people to discuss it with. No point just showing it to friends who will tell you its a great idea. You’re looking for people who will look for the problems with it and try to shoot holes in your idea. And when they do, take note as these are the same objections your potential customers are going to have when they are deciding on if they should purchase your product so if you can get rid of the objections your one step closer to a sale.

There’s been many times when people have shared their top secret idea with me and I do a quick Google search and say, “you mean like this”? I don’t mean to shoot down their idea, by all means finding out that someone has already acted on your idea proves there is a market and there’s always room for competition, but the more people you talk to the more likely you are to shoot down a bad idea early or turn a good idea into a great one.

What if I want to patent the idea? This complicates things but there are still ways to discuss it your idea with people with out publicly disclosing it. Non Disclosure Agreements are one option but you may also be able to gauge feedback on the idea with out disclosing your IP.

That voice in Kevin’s head should really have be saying “if they want it, you should build it”.

 

 

 

Read More

To start a business you don’t need an idea, you need a problem.

I meet lots of people that say “I’d love to start my own business but I don’t have an idea”. Sure, its pretty hard to start a business with out an idea, well a successful business at least, but you don’t need an idea to start a business. What you need is a problem.

Ask any business owner or entrepreneur how they ended up running their own business and there is a fair chance they will say “I couldn’t find a good solution for this”, or “I wasn’t happy with what was available” or “I felt I could do it better” so I decided to do something about it. Good ideas come from trying to solve problems. They are born out of person frustration and the thought that there has to be a better way.

So stop trying to think of an idea for a business, and start looking for things that piss you off, annoy the hell out of you, or just don’t work . Then start coming up with ways to fix those things. If something pissed you off there’s a fair chance it pisses off a lot of other people too but most people are to lazy to do anything about it. Instead of complaining about that thing that pisses you off, starting coming up with ways to make it better. You never know, you might just come up with an idea that is so good you are compelled to start a business around it.

Read More

The humanising factor

Quirky recently released a product in collaboration with GE called Aros. It’s a smart air-conditioner which can be controlled by a smartphone. If you’re not familiar with Quirky, they are a company who manufacture products which are dreamnt up by people like you and me. In fact anyone can submit an idea to Quirky. But if you can’t think of a good idea you can contribute to (or ‘influence’ as Quirky says) someone else’s idea. If the idea gets enough traction Quirky put it into production and give back a small percentage of profits to the person who came up with the original idea as well as the key influencers.

Quirky’s latest marketing campaign for the Aros is built around a video show casing the manufacturing process of the Aros. The video shows factory workers at various stages of production assembling tooling, painting parts, screwing in components, braising tubing, testing, packing and eventually shipping the products out of the factory. The focus is on people making the products, not machines or robots. There are very few shots that don’t feature a person doing some of the work. It’s a very well put together video however the focus on people left we with a very different feeling when compared to watching the making of the Apple iPhone 5C.


Making of the Aros Air-conditioner

Being a designer I love seeing how things are made. I find the manufacturing process more interesting than the product in some cases. If I have witnessed how something is made I get to see all the effort and technology that goes into a product and I am more likely to want to own it. This was definitely the case when Apple released the video showing how the iPhone 5C was made. The technology and precision involved in making that handset was up their with fine watch crafting.


Making of the iPhone 5C – The manufacturing component is from 1:35 – 2:20

The big difference between the videos is that Apple does not show a single factory worker. Sure there is more robotics and automation involved when assembling an iPhone compared to an air-condition but I guarantee there are lot of other steps which involve actual real people assembling iPhones that are just not shown.

The two videos left me with very different feelings. The Aros video made me feel for all the factory workers assembling products all day long getting paid very little for their efforts. Where as the Apple video still makes we want to buy an iPhone 5C and I don’t even think about the factory workers because I don’t see them in the video.

I respect Quirky for showing it how it is, however I wonder if the humanising factor will have a negative effect on their marketing campaign.

How did the videos make you feel?

 

 

 

Read More

Smartphones are the center of the Universe

japan subwayWhether you like it or not smartphone are the central hub of your life. If you can name just one person you know who does not have one (apart from your grandparents) i’ll be surprised.

And it will come as no surprise that we’re not attached to our smartphones purely for communication purposes. The average person would spend more time on Facebook and playing Candy Crush than making actually making phone calls. But for some reason we feel the need to carry these with us 24/7 so we are never out of reach. But with the way technology is heading we’re going to be reliant on our smartphones for a whole lot more than just google.

I recently installed a Kwikset Kevo lock on my house which allows me to lock and unlock the front door via bluetooth using my iPhone. To me this is great because I no longer have to carry a key to get in my house. The downside is if I get home late at night and my phone is flat I’m stuck outside, that and my wife recently discovered it keeps track of all locks and unlocks so she knows what time I really leave for work in the morning. But I am happy to take the chance for the convenience of not having to carry a key.

If I am driving somewhere I have never been before I use my phone to provide directions and traffic updates. I threw out my street directory a long time ago. If I go for a ride I connect my phone to my bike using my Quad Lock bike mount and it monitors my speed and distance travelled. I ditched my Garmin cycling computer in favour of this as its much easier to use and saves me from having to remember to bring another device. Last week I was at Sauced and I was able to pay for my lunch (4p’s pasta is the bomb) via Paypal with my iPhone. Why don’t all stores have this?

The smartphone has replaced a lot of “dedicated devices” and its going to replace a lot more in the future… And its not just devices… credit cards, and cash are two which come to mind… guess I no longer need to carry a wallet.

But can the smartphone be replaced? Wearable technology you say. Well it has been generating a lot of buzz lately but its not going to replace your smartphone, at least not in the near future. Google glass needs to pair with a smartphone to be able to do pretty much anything. A Smart watch isn’t very smart if it can’t connect to your smartphone. Activity trackers can’t tell you much until they sync with your smartphone to diagnose the data.

Until they can figure out how to fit the same amount of technology in your smartphone into something this size of a 20 cent piece, or smaller, and with decent battery life, the Smartphone still reins king.

If you don’t already cherish your smartphone, you better start to, as they are becoming a critical component to interact with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

I was recently contacted by a young entrepreneur who was looking for some advice on manufacturing a product. His email title was “Young Entrepreneur NEEDS your help!”which got my attention. This guy was looking to produce a product and by the sounds of his email it was has first time in the game. His email was short and concise and asked one question. It was a simple and to the point and I knew the answer so how could I say no. I sent him a quick response which answered his question and explained the reasoning behind it. He emailed back straight away and was very thankful for the response. Along with his thanks he asked a few more questions, one of which was that he was considering a professional mentor which he would have to pay a decent sum of money in exchange for some of the mentors time each month. He wanted to know if he should spend the money on the mentor or put it towards another critical business costs. The problem was he couldn’t afford to do both. My reply was again very simple. Why pay for advice when he was doing a good job of getting it for free?

He approached me with a cold email, having no previous introduction and I answered his question.  The answer I provided could potential have saved him ten’s of thousands of dollars. I was the right person to ask the question because I have been through what he is going through and he knew that.

In my time I have found that most people are happy to share advice, especially if its an area they are very familiar with and you approach them in the right way. I’m not against paying for advice but before you do there are a lot of other ways of learning from peoples experience and are willing to share their stories…and all you need to do is ask.

Read More

Want to start your own business? Quit your job.

I was at an event the other night at Depo8 and was chatting to a group of people about business and how I got started in my own business. When I asked them what they do I found out that they each worked for a company doing a job that they don’t really like. Each had an idea for a business but none of them had any idea about how to start.

I’m a pretty straight up kind of person so I told them – Quit you job. The answer got mixed results but most looked taken back by my simple answer. One by one they respond with reasons why they can’t quit their jobs. “What if my idea doesn’t work?” “I’ve got bills to pay?”  “I don’t know how to do A or B so how can I start a business?”

Stop making excuses and do it! Nothing makes you more committed to an idea than if it’s your sole focus. And nothing makes you more committed to making an idea work than if your depending on it to put food on the table.

Sounds scary right? But it doesn’t have to be. When I say quit your job, I don’t mean right there and then. You need to have a plan and a set of goals which will allow you to quit your job and survive for 6-12 months. This gives you a buffer zone if your business doesn’t bring in the bacon straight away.

Before I quit my job I saved up enough money to keep me afloat for six months, 12 if I could handle living on a tight budget. I had to be able to pay rent and buy food for long enough to get my business to a point where it was providing enough income to pay the bills.

A friend of mine, Steve Sammartino, once told me that everyone can work 6 months of the year and take the other 6 off. All you need to do is save 50% of what you get paid in the first 6 months! Simple.

I also had a look at my personal skill set and had a think about what skills I would need to run my own business. The skill I was lacking and was most critical to running a business was sales. I had dealt with clients directly in my pervious jobs but only once the job had been won, I was never out on the front line trying to woo new clients. Not being one to sit around, I got busy learning about sales. I did the obvious things like reading sales books and went to a few sales seminars but quickly I figured the best way to learn was through experience. The next day I started looking around for sales jobs. As luck would have a sales job opening came up at a company which sold CAD (Computer Aided Design) software. Not just any CAD software but the package that I had been using in my profession for 5-6 years so knew it inside and out, plus I knew the industry and the types of companies they would be selling to. I meet with the sales manager and convinced him to give me a shot in a sales role. After a few interviews and a technical tests to prove I knew my stuff, the sales manager was convinced enough to offer me a sales position, with a shitty base wage. Getting paid a crappy wage to learn is a lot better then having to pay for a training course and 100 times more effective in my books. I accepted the position, quit my previous job and started my journey into sales.

I spent almost 12 months in that sales role. I hated it at first but kept tacking away, and eventually managed to start landing sales. By the end of the year I was pretty good at it, sure there were a lot of things I didn’t agree with but none the less I earn’t my sales stripes and got paid to do it!

Now with some sales skills covered, enough coin in the bank to keep me going for six months, I pulled the pin, quit working for a boss and started on my journey to running my own business.

It doesn’t have to be scary and its not a massive leap of faith. Worse case scenario, at the end of your six months if your business idea isn’t working as well as you had hoped, all you need to do it find a job, work for six months, save up some money, and try it all over again with a new idea. You’ll learn more in six months running your own business than you ever will working in a job you don’t like for six years! Get and plan and have a crack. You will never look back.

 

Read More