Wanted to share some of the lessons & reflections (so far) on how we crossed over US$31 mil comfortably, scaled over 500% steadily and sustainably last year…
And are on track to do our biggest month this January and grow even bigger this year.
I’m writing this pretty late, so I’ll keep it as concise as possible.
I’ve broken them down into 10 key points that have served us well, up to this point.
Sharing my thoughts here with other business owners who are in need of some clarity in terms of what they need to focus on as they grow their companies.
Note: this post is pretty rough around the edges, no edits, emoji’s or many visuals.
We’ll do a prettier version in the future (:
First, a few quick notes:
In 2020, we crossed over US$31 mil comfortably, scaled over 500% steadily and sustainably last year… and are on track to do our biggest month this January and grow even bigger this year.
– The lessons are not only from last year, they’re accumulated over the years.
– It’s a long list. In the interest of time, and to share them with you quickly, I’m listing them down in summarised bullets, and not necessarily in sequential order.
– Some of the points are quite big, so I’ll elaborate / share more specific examples in future posts if necessary
Let’s kick things off.
#1. Decide & have clarity on whether you want to be a business owner or not.
Some people think they want to be a business owner…
But in reality they’re much more comfortable being a highly paid expert. (No right or wrong, depends on what you want.) Those have very different strategies and approach.
If you want to be a business owner, think like a business owner, instead of an expert. (More on this later.) For the purpose of this I’m assuming that the goal is to be a business owner.
#2. Decide & have clarity on what level of achievements you want to accomplish.
Again, no right or wrong.
But it’ll influence your approach significantly.
Building a 6-figure business is very different from building a 8-figure business, and both are very different from building 9-figure or higher business.
Most people don’t put much thought into those decisions… which is why their strategies, approaches, etc. are usually not as congruent.
So they end up meandering and wasting time.
Even with clarity, you’ll have challenges to solve.
Without clear goals, you’re like a blind man in a foreign maze, stumbling around trying to get to the end goal… but not knowing what is the end goal.
AKa. You’re making things harder for yourself.
When I started 6+ years ago, I planned out the goal to build a big business – not just 6-fig, 7-fig or 8-fig, etc. and that helped us navigate through tons of distractions (hottest, coolest, latest, etc.) that I see lots of people got sucked into.
The big vision helped us make decisions on whether certain things are relevant to us or not.
#3: Be clear about what you're willing to do to achieve those goals.
In what specific timeline?
Again, basic. But most people ignore cos they think it’s too simple, they already know. They often don’t.
What skills, resources, capital, etc. that you will need to reach your goal, within the timeline you set?
Your resources (or lack of) and timeline will make a huge difference in how you approach things as well.
#4: Are you able to manage people & projects?
As a business owner, no matter what, you’ll have to become good in management: Management of people & management of projects.
Every business is a people business. So we must improve on people management and communication.
We invest a lot of time on this area.
Yet, people are the most complex and “unpredictable” asset a business can have. So this should be something for you to consider when building your business / choosing the type of business you want to go into.
#5: Recognize & focus on your highest value skill
My personal approach (partly because I’m an introvert and not the most people person):
I do my best to find leverage on other areas like strategic niches/opportunities, systems, processes, etc. and “rely lesser” on people’s excellence.
Which means that when the people are skilled, their efforts will be amplified a lot more by others levers that we’ve set up in the business.
So we might not have the most skilled experts, but we can get “supersized” results. Skilled experts will only amplify the results further. (More on this later.)
We grossed over US$31 mil with just slightly over 20 core team members. In earlier part of the year we were even a smaller team. More than half are new to this e-commerce business and still inexperienced.
This is a very deliberate approach.
A few areas that you can create leverage on:
– Market niche to go into
– Business model to adopt
– The infrastructure, systems, processes that you’re setting up, etc.
I think lots of people tend to “fall into” the business that they are doing.
Whether from inheritance, or modelling/copying others, or because of the latest fads, or the skills that you may have, etc.
Eg. At one point everyone was an SEO expert, then Google expert, then Facebook expert, then “high ticket offer” expert, then webinar expert, then digital marketing expert, ecom expert… and recently YouTube expert.
Not necessarily wrong, but might not be the most strategic. Eg. Useful to choose the “iterative game” model. (More on this below.)
When I started 6+ years ago, I shared with my team a few niches that we will be going into eventually. What we are doing now is something that I’ve planned for earlier on. It’s a more deliberate, strategic approach.
*Doesn’t mean everything worked out according to plan perfectly. There had been lots of mistakes and adjustments along the way.
If everything had worked out perfectly, we would have 3 highly scalable divisions growing at the same time now.
We learned and move forward.
But at the macro level, we are on the path that we’ve planned, according to the vision that we set out at the start. And we continue to progress on this path.
#6: Choose an evergreen business model
One consideration to think about:
Choose a model that gives you higher chances to play the “iterative game”.
Meaning/implication: Choose something that’s evergreen. Growing in demand. Can have recurring income element, with less effort to fulfil overtime.
Those characteristics provide some level of stability and/or potential growth levers.
Simple example of the application of the iterative thinking: The telecommunication business.
When you subscribe to a telcom provider, usually you’ll be committing to a certain period with them.
This provides stability (they know what the next few months will look like for their business *without* doing anything additional effort) AND makes it much easier for them to grow their business because new subscribers will add to the existing ones.
Pretty obvious benefits. But that’s not all…
That level of stability and leverage to grow recurring customer base also give the telcom company a lot of bandwidth to put their attention to improving infrastructure to provide better product/service.
(Note: Iteration can be implemented in many areas like marketing, etc. not only in the product line. )
Of course most telcos don’t do that and lots of fat cats sit on such amazing opportunities, only to be disrupted by younger hungrier companies that are more aggressive in iterating their approach.
We can see this play out very clearly with the ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle manufacturers vs Tesla.
Even now when Tesla has exploded and Elon Musk has become the richest man in the world, most traditional car brands still don’t get it. Because they’re so comfortable and complacent and can’t see the power of iteration.
The point is:
A business that has evergreen, recurring income element that requires less effort to fulfill over time will provide you with more bandwidth to focus on iterate.
While others might be tied up with constant delivery/fulfilment of the promise, you get to focus on improving.
This, plus the power of compounding, will create a significant difference over time. Most severely underestimate this.
#7: Invest in your team...significantly
Other than just technical skills like running facebook ads, copywriting, etc. we invest a lot of time to train our team to:
– think critically, (clarity of thinking is so important)
– become problem identifiers & problem solvers,
– independent implementors,
– produce relevant results.
We’re still improving in this area. But this has helped our team to improve performance quite significantly.
This definitely takes a lot of time and effort.
Some are not interested / willing to improve.
Sooner or later they won’t fit our culture and we’ll part ways.
But that’s the culture we’ve chosen to build.
They’re definitely pros & cons, but it’s a risk we’re willing to take to groom talent.
#8: Build a friendly culture based off high standards, excellence & continuous improvement.
One of our internal goals is to build a culture that expects high standards, excellence, continuous improvements and supportive & friendly at the same time.
Some companies thrive on “aggressive” culture. Eg. Steve Jobs used to be famous for being a.hole as a boss.
In general I prefer to have a friendly environment where teammates are extended family and can go out together, etc.
We are spending so much time of our lives together, it’s much more enjoyable to spend it with people we like.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean that low standards will be tolerated.
We’ll do our best to help mentor, guide, coach to support and create improvements.
If there are no improvements or interest / willingness to improve, it’ll be obvious from both sides.
#9: Aim to be obsolete as soon as possible from technical parts of the business.
As a business owner, do your best to make yourself obsolete as quickly as possible from the technical aspect of your business…
So that you can focus on other areas of your business.
A business is much more than just marketing and closing the sales, obviously.
Any big sustainable business is a lot more than just marketing, sales, conversions.
When we take a look at the big businesses like Amazon, Tesla, Apple, etc. we can clearly see that they don’t put majority of their efforts in marketing, sales, conversions, etc.
What can we learn from that?
There are other bigger leverage points that we can use to build a good sized business.
To clarify, marketing, sales, conversions, etc. are important. They’re the lifeblood of a business.
You need to get that part fixed asap so you have money flowing in… and then pay attention to other areas that can create leverage for you.
Eg. Finance, cash flow, etc. Without this part being set up properly, we won’t be able to scale as aggressively as we did.
There are a number of levers that you use to create leverage in a business and amplify results.
Most of the time it’ll come down to you pushing for it. If you’re always caught up doing the technical delivery, it’s going to be hard for you to think about other areas of your business.
This is why working with the right people/team is very important.
#10: Be the most accountable person in the room.
You don’t have to be the smartest in your business.
But you have to be the most accountable.
Hopefully, everything doesn’t have to start with you when you have great people to help you suggest and initiate improvements.
But the buck and everything else definitely stop with you.
When there are wins, the whole team benefits and celebrates.
When there are mistakes, at the end, we the business owner is ultimately responsible.
This mindset helps us to a) learn from mistakes, even when they’re very painful, b) focus on what we need to do to fix the situation.
It’s very easy and much more convenient to blame others, circumstances, enternal forces, etc.
But if we don’t deliberately own the mistake, define what we learn from it, and what actions to fix it, we are destined to repeat it again.
This is an ongoing process. And we continue to improve in this area. Not where we want to be yet.
We try to keep track on what we did right and what we did wrong. So we can repeat and improve on the right things. And fix the mistakes.
I use this basic framework:
1. We define what happened.
2. The cause – conditions that created the mistake, so we learn from it.
3. What are the things being done now to fix it.
4. What preventive measures need to be put in place to prevent it from happening again?
5. What kind of triggers/sensors need to be put in place so we get early warning something is off in the future?
This is connected to several points above, over time, our team will start to learn to do this themselves so they minimise issues and can identify issues earlier.
It’s a long piece, and it’s pretty late now. So I’m posting this first.
Still lots of points to share that I have not written in proper sentences yet. 😅😅😅
They’ll have to be in Part 2.
As mentioned above, this is the “down and dirty” version, not polished yet.
No expansion on some details or examples yet.
No proper formatting / emojis, etc.
Just on the principles, concepts and thinking processes that have helped us so far.
Let me know whether you still find them useful, whether you’re interested in more examples / applications and/or Part 2 in the comment.
CEO Manevuer Marketing
Update: Jan Results, 2021
[PS. Screenshot is just sales rev. Not profit.]
We ended up missing our target for Jan, by quite a bit.
Goal was 7x what we did in Jan in 2020 (we hit 6x).
Partly due to circumstances out of our control.
But mostly due to things that we could’ve done better ourselves.
Obviously still lots of gaps to fill.
Lots of work to build stronger, more robust infrastructure for continuous, sustainable scaling.
It’s work in progress…
We learn from it and adjust to improve along the way.
We did cross a new mini milestone along the way.
What took us a whole year to achieve just 1+ year ago, we’re now able to achieve in a month.
And this ecom business is just 3 years old… barely an infant.
We’re putting in the work to build momentum steadily. Pushing for the next level of growth and milestones ahead.
So we’re looking for talents who want to:
👉 grow fast & leapfrog forward,
👉 have great opportunities for progression,
👉 focus on what they’re good in, instead of trying to do everything themselves,
👉 challenge themselves and hone their skills to achieve high level of mastery,
👉 be part of building bigger businesses,
👉 work with a group of highly dynamic teammates, in a supportive culture, etc.
As you might already know…
What project you work on, the people you work with, the kind of opportunities to learn and grow from matters.
⚡️ A lot! ⚡️
They can determine the kind of results you’ll get in the years to come.
I’ve got team members who joined me as apprentices to learn, some starting lower than $1k/mth at the start…
And now, in just a few short years, they’re leading projects and teams, getting what senior executives with decades of experience are getting, leapfrogged their peers comfortably… and still have lots of room to grow.
⭐To be clear, that kind of growth is dependent on the individual – whether they put in the effort, perform at high levels, produce superior results, etc.⭐
But those fast-growth opportunities are readily available, for those who are hungry for them.
If you’re interested, check out our open positions in the first comment.
There will be more positions that we will be posting soon: Project/Operation Manager, Finance Exec, Google/Youtube Specialist, SEO Specialist and several others. If you’re interested do reach out.
And if you know friends or talents who might be a good fit, do let them know.