Interview with Felix Thea from Shopify Masters

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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

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5 Reasons why outsourcing is better then employing staff

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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.

 

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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.

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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”.

 

 

 

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Free now, pay later

This week I decided to walk to work instead of riding. 5K is a short ride but it’s at good hour long walk. To make the time go by I’ve been listening to a podcast called ‘Startup’. Startup is a podcast created by Alex Blumberg about creating a startup that makes podcasts… I know it sounds weird but its an awesome podcast that is extremely well produced, very entertaining and a super intriguing story especially if you’re looking to start a startup.

Earlier this week I was reading Steve Sammartino latest rant about the John Oliver Show being pulled from Youtube, and something that Alex said in the Startup podcast resonated with me. Alex was promoting a live podcast of him giving away all his secrets on story telling, which he is very very good at. His plug was “listen live for free or pay to download it later”. Brilliant! If you want to watch it live you can get it for free, but if you want it at a later date, sure you can download it, but you’ll have to pay for the convenience.

Why don’t more content providers do this? They can generate revenue from ad’s while live streaming and then from pay per download later… When you broadcast it live, it’s free you can guarantee more people will watch it. Then people who can’t watch it live or want to view it at a later date pay. You could even charge a higher price for a version with no ads.

I also like this because it brings back a consistent viewing time slot. Media on demand removes the “did you watch (insert name of cool TV show) last night” that I remember from my school days, which was a great conversation starter. With this model you’d be more inclined to get people watching content when its broadcast.

PS: Thanks to Steve for reminding me to keep blogging.

 

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Shopify Build-a-Business winner Drones Etc interviewed on Shopify Masters

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately and by accident I happened to come across Shopify Masters. Obviously its a podcast focused on Shopify however their latest episode was great interview with Shawn Rowland from DronesEtc.com which I wanted to share. Shawn and his co-founder Jon Baird won the “everything else” category of the 4th Shopify Build-A-Business competition and judging by the interview they have been selling a shit load of drones. 

Shawn and Jon Baird wanted to create their own lifestyle and be able to take care of their growing families.  Motivated by seeing a couple friends achieve entrepreneurial success and Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week, they set out to give it one last shot at starting their own company before falling back to Plan B and getting day jobs. This is a story of how Shawn went from $200K+ in student loan debt and had to re-mortgage his home to turn DronesEtc.com to a $600K/month ecommerce store.

Listen to the podcast here > https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/how-uncovering-underserved/id900763980?i=318098710&mt=2

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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.

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CAD is the new Code in the start up scene

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I’ve listened to many interviews and read lots of books that say if you’re in the tech space learn how to code. Even if producing code has absolutely nothing to do with your role we’re told it’s beneficial to have some understanding of code, even if to just give you a basic grasp of how software works.

If you work in the hardware space the same should be said about CAD. Especially when Yves Behar just sold 75% of his design business FuseProject for $46.7M.

The way physical things are designed has changed a lot in the last few decades. In the old days people had an idea and either sketched it out on the back of a napkin or went straight to the shed and started sawing and nailing until they created that idea they had buzzing around in their head… or at least a close approximation to it. Over the years things progressed with the invention of the drawing board and “drafting tables” but ultimately things were still drawn by hand and produced using jigs or tooling which were made or machined by a real person. With the introduction of the computer some smart engineers figured they could control machines with computers allowing them to take out all the manual work and reduce the chance of errors…. They called this CNC, Computer Numerical Control. By replacing manual controls with electrical motors you could make a computer guide a cutting tool on a milling machine to create parts with amazing accuracy and repeatability. The language that control these machines is called G-Code and is a very basic form of software. Hard core machinest know this code well enough to punch G-Code manually into machines to create basic shapes but when you have a very complex organic form you’re out of luck. Then along comes CAD or Computer Aided Design. CAD allowed us to create a virtual 2D or 3D model of the object we want to create. Feed the CAD model into a CAM program (Computer Aided Machining) and the software will output the millions of lines of G-Code to cut your part or tooling to make the part. 3D Printers operation the same way by they add material instead of taking it away.

Every mass produced product in the world today is designed in CAD so if you want to start making things… start learning CAD.

Learning how to Code or how to use CAD can sound intimidating but with the rise or low cost CNC machines and 3D printing, the accessibility of CAD has improved dramatically. CAD program’s which used to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and took months of training to learn how to use are now much more user friendly and way more affordable. Forward thinking companies like Autodesk have even release free software packages to get people into CAD at an early age.

Here’s some free programs that are a great starting point if you want to learn CAD.

TinkerCAD – Web based and very basic but great to for beginners.

Sketch Up – More architectural focused but fast and easy to use.

123 D – A very cut down version of Autodesk’s flagship CAD packaged Inventor but good intro to parametric modelling

Blender – A open source poly modelling package which is great for more organic free form character style modelling.

And here’s a big list from Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_3D_modeling_software

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My interview with Yaro Starak for Entrepreneurs-Journey.com

I met Yaro Starak at a meet-up some time ago. He is a very interesting guy and had just moved to Melbourne at the time so he was keen to meet other people in the startup/entrepreneurial space. Apart from having a pretty interesting journey himself (which I recommend asking him about if you meet him) Yaro interviews entrepreneurs for his website www.entrepreneurs-journey.com

After a bit of time chatting and exchanging stories with Yaro, he asked if I would be interested in being interviewed for his website. Having never really done a one on one interview before I thought why not. Yaro’s website is similar to Andrew Warner’s site Mixergy.com without the courses and subscription fees as all Yaro’s interviews are free.

If you have a spare hour and you don’t mind listening to me ramble about how I ended up making iPhonee cases you can listen to the complete interview here – http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/13316/chris-peters-quadlock-opena-kickstarter-campaigns/

 

 

 

 

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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.

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