429 : Paul Retherford Scanpower – Don’t lose your bread and butter focus when scaling your business


Get ready for some great advice from someone who sees a lot of successful (and some not so successful) Amazon businesses. It is has been a long time since I had Paul on and Scanpower has advanced so far since then. We catch up, catch up on Scanpower and then Paul gives us advice on taking action steps. Especially useful in these uncertain times. He does give me a special offer (message me to save 20%) but in my no pitch series I will leave that here.


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Paul’s previous episode #29


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Cool voice guy (00:00):

Welcome to the e-commerce momentum podcast where we focus on the people, the products, and the process of eCommerce selling today. Here’s your host, Steven Peterson.

Stephen (00:14):

Welcome back to the e-commerce momentum podcast. It’s episode four 29 and Paul Rutherford from scan power. And I’ve had some Paul on before and we talk about that. Um, as part of my, no pitch a series here, I’m doing a no pitch series because you know, we’ve got enough challenges going on. I’ve recorded this awhile ago, but we, it wasn’t really happening, um, this full pandemic thing, but we, we, we had some reference to it. Um, they, they have a great program and it gives me a discount and you get a longer money back guarantee, but you know, you shouldn’t be buying these things unless you’re ready to advance your business. Now I use it because it could do my cost of goods. It can do our inventory. I can see profit and analysis by shipment, by product, by all the things that, um, that you can find from inventory lab.

Stephen (01:00):

I’ve used inventory lab two. I ran in parallel and for me, um, just because I’ve been with skin power forever, it didn’t make sense for me to move. Um, they didn’t offer anything that scan power didn’t. So, you know, if you have a home and stay with it, whatever, you know, but if you’re interested in it, um, just message me and I’ll have that for you. But I’m not, I’m not going to pitch in this one. It’s a really good, interesting, uh, some of the things that he gives us ideas about how to get through challenging times and, and action steps. Take advantage of them. You got some downtime or you’re struggling. Like we are just looking at TV in the news all the time. Pull away from it and work on your business. Work on yourself also. So let’s get into the podcast and Paul Rutherford and we’ll come back to the eCommerce momentum podcast or excited about today’s return.

Stephen (01:47):

Guests. We are both a lot older because we have not spoken. Get ready Paul. September 28th of 2015. Paul Rutherford from scan power. Welcome back, Paul. Hey Steven, thanks for having me. I can’t believe it’s been that long. I can’t believe it blew my mind. I was like, ah, it’s been a been a year or two. I mean literally cause I’ve see, uh, you know, every conference or whatever. And I’m like, Oh, it’s been a year or two. Yeah, we got to get together. Blew my mind. Well, you must have a thousand podcasts. Nah, I’m up to, I’m getting closer to the 500 number. Not, not quite a thousand. I appreciate that. I will get to a thousand last time. Chris green and I talked about that. I said, yeah, I can see episode 1000. I’m like excited about it, you know, and it’s, uh, it gets to be a grind sometimes just because of time. Cause life happens and, and that part. But man, it’s just, you talk to people, I get enthused. It’s like the conference we were at, right. Both of us were down at the unconference. It wasn’t really a conference. Right. Um, but how enthusiastic are the sellers that were there? I mean, think about that. Oh, they’re, they’re just excited to have, you know, this incredible business.

Paul (02:59):

You know, Amazon love them or hate them. They’ve created a marketplace where, you know, millions of people can get involved in starting and running and growing small businesses. And a lot of them, especially those that we met at the unconference have large businesses. So it’s just an exciting time to be working for yourself and kind of going after opportunities that you might not have and you know, your previous professional life or whatnot. And um, even though, you know, the weather didn’t cooperate as much as we liked, it was a little cool down there. It was still just so good. See everyone and everyone’s positive and everyone is there to help. So, um, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a good, it’s a good time to be alive.

Stephen (03:50):

Yeah. You were definitely one of the men of the hour. Um, I never saw you without a crowd. Um, which is pretty cool because I know, I mean, it’s funny as in a pre conference call, we were talking a little bit about this. You, you’re not far from the bottom and not far from the top, right. I mean, you’re like, you know, you could Chris have the company and yet people have access to you. You know, that to me is so rare today, you know, there’s so many layers to get to somebody who can literally make a decision and any, you know, and I find myself, I need help. I mean I’m, I’m at a place I need help, I can message and boom, I actually get a reply. And it’s like, Oh my gosh, uh, unlike my podcast company, which I’ve had trouble with, the massive trouble and the owner’s a friend and it’s just like you fight through their system and it’s, it’s just, it hurts so much. So as a seller, when you can actually get somebody a year and say, you know, these are the challenges I’m up against Paul, you know, and then you sit back and you’re like, huh, let me see if I can figure what, I mean, how many times have all the improvements that you made to scan power? I mean, you’re probably going to say every time come from sellers.

Paul (04:53):

Well that’s, that’s what I was going to say.

Stephen (04:56):

Yeah, Steve. Yeah, thanks.

Paul (04:59):

First of all, um, and I set this last year at the unconference because, um, Elizabeth Thompson wanted me to meet with a group of people who, um, had similar needs to theirs but weren’t using scam power and had some concerns. And so we sat down in a room and, you know, they ask questions and I, you know, gave honest answers about what we could do, what we couldn’t do. Um, but my introduction was, you know, scam power initially could come up with some of the best and brightest features for sellers because, you know, we, we knew the marketplace almost as well as some of our customers, but that hasn’t been the case for a very long time. It’s no longer possible for me or my staff or, you know, to come up with the best features for our products because we’re not in the trenches in the same way that the sellers are.

Paul (05:59):

And so a lot of those little powwows that you saw me having down in Florida were, you know, groups of sellers who have a feature request or have a better way of, you know, solving the problem. And so, you know, I’m, I spend a lot of time listening to feedback and then trying to massage that into a good feature that works with all their existing features and isn’t going to impact customers who don’t want it and whatnot. But yeah, it’s been a long time since since we had the best ideas about what makes what makes our products great and what features they need.

Stephen (06:37):

To me that’s kinda cool, isn’t it? Like, uh, I heard this from Dan, uh, when were says that to me yesterday. Ah, the student is teaching the master on something silly that we were chatting about. You know, and it’s just so neat. I mean, you’ve gotta feel good is that you guys have helped developed those people or many of those people into the sellers that they are by making it easier, by giving me the capacity right now, I’m an old seller who’d been with you guys a long time. You gave me more capacity. You gave me time. You bought me time, Paul. I couldn’t do it. You were the silent employee. Two didn’t call off. That’s a big deal because, Oh and you didn’t give me grief and you didn’t eat all the food or you didn’t leave your water bottles half filled across my warehouse, which is making me insane right now from these boys. But it’s the truth though, you guys have helped develop our business. That’s got to feel pretty stinking cool.

Paul (07:29):

It does. And you know, like a lot of business relationships, it’s hard. It’s hard to measure it. You know, if you’re, if you’re looking back and you kind of visualize it, it’s, it’s really just a whole bunch of people kind of walking hand in hand that, that sounds kind of kumbaya. But that’s not my intention. It’s, it’s, you know, people learning, people growing together and you know, here we are, you know, 10 years later to talking about 10 years later, six years later, and it’s just, you know, it’s humbling cause you, you know, how much work it took and you know that some, some people fell off the chain along the way. Um, but to see so many of us still around and you know, mostly happy and you know, just profiting from each other, you know, so, and I’m not trying to make it sound too touchy feely, but you know, that’s, I think we’re all grateful that, you know, we, we had a chance to do this at this time and, and it’s worked out well for a lot of people.

Stephen (08:34):

Those of us who used to do the 30 up labels off of just doing them off of Amazon, I’m telling you, I was telling the boys, so we have a whole bunch of new employees and I was telling him, I said, guys, we would print these 30 up labels in my living room and we’d spread them out and we spread out with the merchandise and we were buying onesies, twosies back then, you know, all the silly stuff and trying to read the seven characters and then to match it up. And we would, we would do it by, we would narrow it down, right. The ones aren’t, we’re not sure. Let’s leave it aside. And we just keep narrowing it down. Ah, this has to be that one and we, it would take forever and forever and forever to do it. And we’re so spoiled. I mean spoils relative.

Stephen (09:11):

But we’ve been paying for the service. We, we’ve been so fortunate. I guess that is the right way to say it. We’ve been so fortunate to be able to, you know, to be part of it and have that, that and that ride along with you. So it’s funny, um, um, uh, doing something different in my podcast now, and I told you in the pre-call is I’m endorsing certain, um, certain things, certain, um, certain groups I’m in because I’ve watched over time I pay for, there’s a whole bunch of groups I pay for it and a lot of them they give me for free and I don’t hide that. They give it to me for free. They want me to look at it and ideally they’d let me to promote it, you know, be honest. Right. I get those all the time. Hey, could you promote this?

Stephen (09:45):

Could you promote this? And generally I don’t, or if I don’t or if I do, I’ll let you promote it yourself and I’d be just like, you know, sure. Go right ahead. I don’t want anything. I don’t want your money. Just go right ahead. I’ll let you, and I always tell the listeners if you’re, if it’s a good fit for you, that’s awesome. You do well with it. Whatever. But skin power, you know, I’m endorsing it because I’m a user. It’s funny, we went back and I just pulled to go back and look and you said on this version, so it could be earlier, but at least we’ll just call it this January of 2014 I’ve been paying you guys for that long pole. I have put kids through college. I have paid for car payments. Paul, I have, but you have bought me a beer here and there or Chris has.

Stephen (10:23):

So there is that. Well we appreciate that and I think, you know, we didn’t always know kind of what we were going to look like five or six years down the road. But, um, it’s, it’s these longterm relationships that, that really work. And um, yeah, I mean SBA in 2014, you know, it’s kind of like looking back to your childhood when you come home from school and play outside and it seemed like it was four or five hours of just, you know, uninterrupted. Uh, so on times, I mean that’s, yeah, FBA has changed a lot since then. We were, we’ve been FBA since 2011 cause we still, we have, we have that secret daily payouts that they talk about. So we’ve been there, so imagine all that time in between there and I was doing it the really hard way. And so it was like magic, like unicorns and rainbows and stuff when I found this and I’m like, Oh, they’re printing my labels and this action.

Stephen (11:21):

And then you added the, the actual warehouse location. And I remember one of my big challenges at one point was before I did inventory placement, it was 14 different warehouses we had going. And back then you didn’t print the location on the label. And so then it was like, you know, this pile is that, you know, I have would, right, I actually had cardboard signs made for each warehouse that I would bring out and move towards each one. And then you guys magically printed the little code on the label and it’s like, Ooh, next level. We went up a level. Like it’s like those little things. I mean it’s funny, but those little things and who does a lot and you know, especially if you do a lot of different skews, it’s a big deal. Those little things make it easier because at my age I forget things and I’m like, okay, that’s going to be my Phoenix.

Stephen (12:03):

We sell a lot of shoes. So Phoenix is my, the worst warehouse I send to cause it’s so expensive. And so I’ll put them over there and then I’ll put, okay, we’re sending these to Indianapolis, right? And then all of a sudden an Allentown tops in. All right, now I’ve got three. And I’m like, Ooh. And then I’m like, wait, was that Phoenix? Was that? And then it’s like three seconds later somebody asked me a question and I’ve lost everything I had memorized. I can go back over the box, peek in there and say, ah, PHX RPH three, um, X three I think it says, but it just tells me it’s a little improvements like that are huge in the grand scheme of things. And I don’t take it for granted those little improvements, which I’m sure was a programming, you know, it’s one little change for you affects other things. Right? You have to think through that. That’s a big challenge. But for us it’s magic. Literally magic.

Paul (12:50):

And they stack up and then, you know, before you know it, the, the rate of items you pack per hour in your warehouse goes, you know, it goes up by a significant percentage and

Speaker 4 (13:03):


Paul (13:04):

I was down visiting with Kim and Perry Coughlin, you know, back in the fall and seeing their warehouse setup and learning a lot about how to run an efficient warehouse. And, you know, we probably spent an hour talking about, you know, really my new little things that, you know, brainstorming, how, how would, how would removing a touch here increase the packing speed or the, the listing speed and, you know, moving this button from one location to another, all of these things, you know, they’re there. So my new and, and really seemingly insignificant, it’s just over time and with enough continuous improvement, you get something that’s really powerful and that saves people, um, you know, incredible amount of time and maybe allows you to run your warehouse with one fewer person or allows you to hire another person and create a second line or you know, scale. So yeah, it’s, it’s funny, I was talking to a potential customer up here in Maine and, um, his business is, um, deals with funeral urns interestingly enough. And

Stephen (14:15):

okay, has there been a central it in conversation

Paul (14:19):

weighed into FBA? And he said, so how, you know, how does your software, how’s it going to make this process easy? And I, and, and I said, well, it’s kind of hard to describe. It’d be easier to show you. But I said, you know what, just just go create your first shipment in seller central and, and get a sense for just how challenging it is. You know, not to put someone in pain but get get a sense for how challenging it is when you’re dealing with multiple and different quantities and you know, printing labels and all that. And then I said, let’s talk afterwards and then we can compare, you know, the difference between listing, you know, or, or packing with scan power and, and doing it through seller central. And I guess, you know, someplace, something like Amazon is, they’re so large and they’re so complicated and even though they have thousands and thousands of them incredibly well trained and competent engineers, you know, they’re, they’re still not addressing every seller’s needs.

Paul (15:25):

And so they can’t, there’s always opportunities for third party software providers like us to just, you know, really nail a specific process. You know, as you’re talking, I was thinking about this, how different is it today then, let’s even say five years ago when we chatted and then even five years before that as your business because your stability, your system, I mean at least to the, to the user, um, you know, way back you guys had challenges and you know, you ran out of servers by whatever the challenges were way back in the day. And I’d like to talk to like, I know what I’m talking about, um, versus today. So it’s interesting to me that you could actually pause and spend time, go into Perry and Kim’s place or go into the unconference and actually working on business development, which is really what that is.

Paul (16:10):

Um, as opposed to that engineering side. And I mean, I guess I know they’re interrelated, but how different is it? I mean, and the other part of the question, maybe you can answer first is why is the platform so stable now, at least apparently to us versus what it used to be apparently to us. You know what I mean? They’re, they’re N they’re two different questions, but they are related in some way. Sure. I think, I think the stability is, is down, you know, in large part to, um, you know, I have a great team and, um, you know, Zach for example, spent with me since, you know, when you started. Oh wow. And he’s old too, Jack. You’re getting old man. He’s actually pretty young. I think. I think he was like 24 when he started with Jesus. I got socks. So, you know, there’s been a lot of consistency in the scan power team.

Paul (17:07):

That’s okay. That’s a big thing. Yeah. And, and also, um, we’ve, you know, we’ve gone through an evolution from wanting to be bright and shiny and offer the most cutting edge data and the most cutting edge information so that people could make profitable buying choices to changing our mindset that yes, we want to continue to innovate. And certainly, you know, we, we’ve tried to do that over the last couple of years, but just to change the focus to quality and try to optimize for being able to put out new features and do new things without breaking existing things. So, so, you know, on the engineering side we’ve really focused on, you know, quality improvement as well as optimizing everything we do so that if we need to add a new feature, if we need to change something, we can do it quickly, but also do it without breaking things.

Paul (18:15):

So it’s, it’s is it, I mean, and this is Steve, not really understanding and it used to work for me, so they would tell me all this stuff and I’d be like, all right guys, I know, I know fluff. Don’t give me the fluff. Give me the real world. Is it because you built a strong structure and the structure is pretty, pretty complete and you’re not, those things don’t really functionally change. It’s just the, the window dressings or the, you know, the flowers into it. And if it is that kind of, I’m trying to get an analogy there. Is that kind of work, is that kind of fair? And then so, so changing the flowers are changing the windows, it’s not a big deal because the structure is basically it’s steel and it’s not going to get changed much. Yeah, I think that’s a pretty good analogy.

Paul (18:55):

We have, you know, we have an emphasis smarter Amazon’s cloud. Hmm. Oh that hasn’t changed since we started. And that’s one of the reasons we were able to kind of grow as we did. That infrastructure has evolved and changed over the years and now it’s pretty, it’s pretty steady. I mean, you know, I could go into some of the technologies we use, but it’s not so important. It’s really just the, the technology stack, the infrastructure, all of that is fairly stable as well as you know, consistent. So right now, you know, we’re not changing. If we do a deployment rollouts and new features, we’re not changing, um, any of the underlying hardware or software stack that we use. The other thing, the other side of that is the processes. And you, you I know are very good and very well versed in how important processes are. And so the, the part of that that’s um, always evolving but is, is again steady and consistent is the processes we use for, you know, making sure that a customer’s issue doesn’t get lost.

Paul (20:07):

Making sure, um, it flows. If it requires a change to the code that flows through from the moment they opened the ticket to the moment we fix it and deploy it and let them know that the change is made. So all of those processes have really been ironed out over the last, you know, five or six years. And I think it leads to greater stability. But having a consistent group of people, you know also is, is hugely important. That’s had to been hard to keep those people. I mean cause you know, people have dreams and you know, want to advance and that kind of thing and you worry about him getting stale. I mean I worry about the people that work with me here. How have you kept them

Stephen (20:48):

interested? Because I think that’s, you know, I’m sure there’s monetary compensation, but how do they stay interested? Because to be honest, some of what you do is pretty boring, Paul. I mean, not the person that don’t, don’t take it personal, but your inner nerd. I mean, and they’re probably nerds. So how do, how do you,

Paul (21:05):

well, I think some of it starts with technology. Um, most, you know, developers or software engineers that I know are interested in staying, you know, not on the bleeding edge but on the leading edge of technology. And there’s a lot of ways that the industry, you know, open source software and cloud software has cloud services have kind of coalesced and gotten really powerful over the last couple of years. And we have always been at the forefront of using, you know, new cloud services, um, not necessarily new software, you know, not, not necessarily new applications, but, um, new technology within a given development stack. Like, you know, we use a lot of, uh, JavaScript. We use a lot of, um, we, we use a relational database. And the way that those are tied together, you know, by big companies from Facebook to Amazon to, you know, Google to Apple, you know, we, we make use of some of those technologies and I think that keeps people interested and giving people interested, giving people an opportunity to do new things and try new things.

Paul (22:29):

Um, you know, we, we can’t afford to say spend 15% of your time, you know, working in a laboratory and doing, you know, side projects, you know, that that’s not, we’re too small to support that. But we do let people experiment. We do let them try new NEC technologies and, and we also have to adopt new technologies just to stay relevant and, and, and that, that means, okay, we, we created our mobile app and using these technologies five years ago and they’re starting to run out of steam or they’re starting to create maintenance and, um, you know, support issues. We have to transition to something newer and better. And so there’s that kind of continuous innovation and upgrading that just happens. If you’re, if you’re involved in, you’re, you’re staying in front of things like you need to.

Stephen (23:21):

Well, I just think it’s important, um, because I’m sure they get distance from the customer. Right. Um, because you know, we’re loners typically, uh, most Amazon sellers are loners and then I’m sure most coders, I’m sure they don’t all live in here in the North, Northeast, and they don’t all live by you. So, you know, I’m sure they are loners too. And so that’s part of it. Um, I was thinking about this and, and I, and this is not a slam another company, but I think this is a fair statement. I, and, and maybe my example is going to be too silly, but I liken you guys to Apple and Microsoft. I remember talking with Chris and I remember it and it wasn’t, he wasn’t critical. He just said, you know, uh, another company I won’t mention my inventory lab, um, was, um, they kind of won because they attracted so many, there’s so much bigger.

Stephen (24:11):

They attracted so many more sellers because they did a lot of bells and whistles and stuff. And you guys were still the functional workhorse behind the scenes. And I think of the, I do think about my days of windows. Like, I mean we, and I was from the newspaper business. So you know, all of us business people all used, uh, you know, PCs and word and Excel and all that kind of jazz back in the day. And all our software ran on that. But our artists, the artists all use Macs and you know, when, when I would have to get over and when I’m, it’s like this is, it’s foreign to me, but in their world it was elaborate, right? They could do crazy cool things. You guys are kind of the same thing. And I remember, and I told you this story, this is God’s honest truth.

Stephen (24:52):

Um, we added RA heavy back into our business and so we’ve been using scan power forever. So my data is strong. I can close our books and I have, you know, I’m an accountant by trade so I can get a good cost of goods. I always could. Um, it wasn’t the prettiest thing, but it worked. Right? I doesn’t need to be pretty. And I used my own accounting system and I remember what people were attracted to is because inventory lab has sort of an accounting system. And so we ran parallel though at the request of somebody, somebody like Steve, it’s going to be amazing. You’re going to, you’re going to do this. So I said, okay, try it. So I ran for like three months parallel beating that we would scan into scan power to do our listing, which was the best part of scan power to me is it was hit a button, boom, put in the cost, put in all that jazz and then boom worked and we did it.

Stephen (25:33):

Then we would have to go and put it in inventory lab, which is a pain to do both. Right? We literally physically did both. And at the end I’d look at the reports and I’m like, okay. And then I’d go into scan power and I’d run the reports and I’d be like, huh. It tells me exactly the same thing, maybe in a different format or whatever. And I’m like, okay, what’s the data that I’m going to get? And so it’s funny to me, this is Steve’s observation. You guys caught up to them. And this isn’t a criticism then because if somebody started with inventory lab, they would think it’s the best thing in the world. And yes, I’m biased because Paulin Chris and I are friends, but it’s, I’ve been using it forever so it’s like convenient. And if it ever didn’t work, I just messaged and boom, you guys fixed it. So how, how do you, how do you catch up? Because is that a fair assessment? Is that, am I wrong when I say all that? I, I think it’s a fair assessment and I think that it would be, yeah, it would be bad for us to ignore that the gains that they made or the things that, that would have someone choose them over us. And we definitely had to focus on being better at inventory

Paul (26:44):

management and reporting and other things like that. And obviously, um, keeping costs of goods sold is, is, it’s not only important, it’s just, it’s just the, it’s critical. Yeah. It, it’s, it’s the thing that you must do and it has to be accurate. And so, you know, we started, I guess it would have been, you know, 20, 2014 about the time, um, that you were, you know, not only listing with us but using the mobile app and we started focusing on it and we knew that we needed to be different. We knew that we needed to, um, go beyond what they had done in terms of, you know, in scan power, you’ve always been able to track the cost of an item from any supplier, kind of at an atomic level. So there was never a time when we would aggregate your costs of goods sold other than just showing it in a report where an average made sense, you know, every single quantity of every item you bought, wherever you sourced it, all of that was tracked from the very beginning. And it, you know, it’s under the hood. It’s very complicated to do it that way. It’s gotta be, we made some steaks and we, um, had missteps and, and, and we had people that, you know,

Paul (28:16):

it took us a while to make them happy. But, you know, it just comes down to being extremely focused on, you know, doing the right things, prioritizing what we did and how we did it and, and keeping at it. I mean, you know, it’s, it’s not, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s, there’s, there’s no smoke or mirrors. It’s really just listening to people’s needs and then translating that into something that works for, you know, not only new people coming on our platform, but people who’ve been with us for a long time. And, you know, not to change the subject at all. But I mean, that’s the hardest part, I think about having a business where you really do have, everyone is a returning customer and everyone is a, is a current customer and every month, right, they vote for you when they make a payment to you, you get voted.

Paul (29:08):

Yeah. And so at no time, um Hmm. Can you ignore their needs and, and if you do, you know, they’ll vote, they’ll vote by moving to a different platform. And so the biggest challenge for me has always been, you know, working very hard to try to keep everyone happy who has been, you know, who is an existing scan power customer while attracting new ones and while building out, you know, our different products in ways that worked best. So, um, yeah, I mean we, we’ve always kind of surpassed them on the quality of our data and the, the number of ways that we kind of streamline getting access to [inaudible]

Stephen (29:55):

to data that isn’t easy to get. Well, let me ask you a question. I don’t want to lose that. Stay right there. Is that a lesson that we could take forward like and apply it to our business because you guys paid attention to what was really important, right? The bells and whistles are cute, but that, that underlying thing is that the lesson that you see the best sellers do is that they stay so focused on that what’s really important and not get caught up in the other stuff. For a long period of time when you look back at the successful sellers, cause I wanna I want to bring that to people who are listening, how they can apply that in their business. Is that something you would suggest Paul? Do you get what I mean? I do. And I think,

Paul (30:37):

you know, when I just think about some of the sellers that I know and, and talk to on a daily basis, um, they’re always open to bringing new things to the mix. And they’re, and they’re always open to experiment, but they never lose their focus on the things that are the bread and butter of the business. And they’re always improving those, those parts of the business. So it’s, it’s, it’s what you say in spades, but it’s also being open to changing a process. If, if, you know, we have sellers that are always tweaking the small ways that they do things in order to gain improvements. And half the time they’re, they’re just riffing off of what they’ve heard from other sellers. And so it’s that, you know, it’s that kind of virtuous cycle of talking to people, best practices, continuous improvement. And experimenting with new things.

Stephen (31:37):

Well, but so what you just described, how wide scan power has been so stable. So again that, so let’s make it make sense. Is that if your business, I love that. Uh, don’t lose your bread and butter focus. That’s your title of this episode. Cause I love it. It’s so smart because it’s true. If you have a structure, don’t change the structure, adjust small continuous improvements over time. Give you those results, right? But you’re not messing with your, your formal structure. Just keep fine tuning it. And I’m just think that’s such sound advice. And again, you guys have been doing this for 10 years. The business is so different today than it was a year ago for God’s sake, let alone 10 years ago. And that’s why, you know, when I’m endorsing somebody, I’m looking at it that way. I’m like, look, over time, in my six years, six plus years I’ve been with you guys over time, it’s been good.

Stephen (32:25):

99.99, nine 8% of the time, there are a couple of times poll. It stinks, right? And that’s when the East coast internet went down or what I mean stupid. I mean, life happens, right? Uh, but yeah, yeah, yeah. But for 99.9, 900, 908, that’s, that’s better than my bathroom, uh, plumbing situation that they’re always dealing with. You know what I mean? It’s funny you put it in perspective when that second it was, Oh, it’s devastating. Consistency over time and not making big changes. I love it. Love it. Love it. All right, so I want to make sure I get this into best practices. You know, I kind of asked you to come up with three action steps because I think about UC and you talked to some pretty successful sellers for long periods of time, you know, were moderately successful seller. Um, and where we’ll have our best year this year. Um, and we’ve been selling for a long, long time, but we’re peanuts compared when you look at some of the, even just at the unconference, some of those people that were there, um, what, what are you seeing or what are you hearing that others could pay attention to? And maybe they’re just not out there in the public as much as you are. I am.

Paul (33:38):

I think the first thing I would say Steven is in order to really thrive in this business, you have to be comfortable scaling

Speaker 5 (33:49):

and [inaudible].

Paul (33:51):

So you know, we’ve worked with a bunch of sellers in the past couple of years to help them, you know, and we’re only a small piece of it up, but to help them safely scale. And so, um, I would say the first actionable step is to, if you’re doing it by yourself and you’re wanting to increase, you know, your revenue and sell more, think about hiring someone, think about hiring someone to source for you. Think about, think about hiring someone to do the things that you may be good at, but they’re not going to bring as much value as if you went out and did the most important thing for the business.

Stephen (34:38):

So smart and you can, and you can apply that in everyday and your bookkeeping and your TAC. I don’t do my own taxes, can’t do it. I have an accounting degree and I guess I could, I’m not interested. And there are people that that’s what they do. So why not do it? We have a good example and I’m gonna give you a really good example. We have a, we’re doing rework for our client and we are inundated because of what’s going on out there. And we can talk about that in a second. But I put somebody on that one job to do the rework and didn’t get him interrupted in customer services. What we also do, they banged out so much more Paul than we could ever get done because you’d start something, you’d get interrupted, right? That kind of thing. They were so they did days and days and it was like, man, why didn’t I do this? Right from day one, I literally am thinking to myself, cause they were like, Oh we can bring him over to help. No, no. Leave him there. Let him do it. And at the end of the day, and I felt like such an idiot, cause it’s like, I know this stuff, but I don’t practice it sometimes. You know, maybe it’s, I’m out of corporate for so long, I forget it, you know? So that’s really, really sound advice. Hire someone and let them do their job.

Speaker 6 (35:41):


Stephen (35:45):

all right, I’m going to ask you for another one.

Paul (35:50):

I think the second thing I would say, and this is true of every successful seller that I know is give back, you know, either to the selling community or you know, somewhere else in your life and, and, and take that experience and apply it to

Speaker 6 (36:11):


Stephen (36:13):

To apply it to your store, to your selling. It’s the feeling that they get when they give and you can, I always say when I see somebody else, the lights go on in somebody else’s eye eyes. It gives me energy because it’s like, Oh my God, I just helped them solve a problem and I have no idea. Like it was that it, to me it was easy, but to them it was like, but their lights go on and then you get a feeling. Right. And so you’re saying to apply that, how do you, how do you suggest to apply that, that good feeling, that good

Paul (36:43):

motivation? What is it? I think it could be more specific. Um, and I’ll just give you a quick example. Um, we’ve been living in the Portland Maine area for, uh, a few years and, um, I just, you know, I spend a lot of time kind of running scam power and not getting out and, and so I decided to start volunteering with the local score office. And score is an organization that’s kind of created through the small business associate administration and funded a little bit by them, but it’s a completely volunteer nonprofit organization that helps small businesses. And so I knew it was going to be, you know, some training, some time to invest to get involved with local score chapter. But I’d heard good things about them and I knew that I’ve always passionate about small businesses and you know, I know after running one for 10 years that there’s probably some things that I could could, um, help people with.

Paul (37:47):

And, and so, you know, I’m, I’m in the early stages of this, but the, the things that I’m gaining by giving my time and, and trying to help other small businesses is, you know, there’s a ton of just actionable things that come right off the top, which is, for example, you know, knowing that someone uses different, uh, services and companies locally to solve their own problems, you’re going to get, you know, you’re, you’re going to get their best practices, um, just through your discussions and not that you’re taking them, you’re just, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s expanding your network. It’s expanding, uh, the ways that you think about business because, you know, I’m excited to deal with people aren’t selling online. I’m also excited to help anyone who’s thinking about Amazon or has a product that they’re wanting to put on Amazon. But, um, you know, you’re inevitably going to get out of your comfort zone and then you’re going to hear, you know, again, best practices and ways people’s, you know, their bread and butter and you’re gonna apply it to your own. So today,

Stephen (38:58):

Oh, that’s so smart. So smart. And you’re learning those back to your funeral director guy, right? He’s teaching you things that have nothing to do with scanned power yet

Paul (39:08):

have everything to do with scan power. Right? I mean it’s logical when you say it that way. I mean it completely is. Yeah. I mean it’s, you know, I, I like to think of it like, you know, you’re just creating new new pathways to knowledge that hopefully you know, informs what you’re doing and helps you grow. Not just as, you know, not just for business reasons, but as a person and whatnot. So

Stephen (39:34):

pathways, I love it. I mean, it really is because you never know what’s going to come from that conversation as it has it. Like, I mean, this has had to happen to you when you’re out there talking to people. Have you realized how small the world is and how connected it is and all of a sudden you realize, wait a second, you know, we’re in, we’re into something together in some ways, or we cross in, in, in this way that you never would have thought you were connected to them.

Paul (40:02):

Oh, absolutely. But that’s mind blowing, right? Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, thanks to the internet, we, you know, we now have a chance to see how, how much that’s true and how, how little, uh, there is about us that isn’t common. You know, like you said, there’s so much we have in common and while, you know, anytime the conversation gets to politics or to, you know, strongly held beliefs, you know, we’re not all gonna agree and we’re not all gonna, um, you know, we’re not going to see eye to eye on many things, but at the end of the day, you meet, you meet people and you just realize they love their families. They’re good friends to, to the people that they love. They’re, they’re caring individuals. They have their challenges, they have different backgrounds. And yeah, I mean, I, I love that about this business because, you know, the, the, the range of sellers, the range of people that are involved with e-commerce, it’s, it’s just a cross section, right? It’s just, it’s the cross section of the world that, um, we all know is there, but when it’s right there in front of you and you’re talking with someone and you realize, even though they come from this sucks, you know, completely different background, completely different geography, you know, here’s all the things we have in common. And,

Stephen (41:35):

and did you start from there and then you build from there? I mean, to me that’s the approach. My wife’s really coaching me a lot because I get a little, I’m in one of those angry drivers always, like, why are you turning in front of me? And I literally talked to the windshields. They laugh at me because I’m the, I’m that guy who talks like, why are you turning? Why are you doing this? Right? And she goes, you don’t know what’s going on in her life. I mean, who knows? They could be going through blah, blah, blah. They could have just found out something. And then I’m like, Oh, now I feel like crap. But it’s true. Um, if you do get to that commonplace, you can go so much further. So let’s go to number three, because I think, you know, again, I think you’re in a different position than most because you’re not a seller anymore. Or maybe you still have a little bit of an account that you guys mess with, but generally speaking, that’s not your, your business. This is your business. Um, yet you see so much variety. They must blow your mind, especially like people like us who’ve been with you for a long time. You’ve seen the highs and the lows and the lows and then the highs, you know. Um, can you give us one more that somebody can take that you’ve seen that’s been really helpful to people?

Paul (42:40):

I think I’m going to answer this with something that comes from the present, but I think you can apply it in the future as well. I mean, we’ve got a situation now where we’re, you know, just declared the, you know, covert 19, a pandemic, a global pandemic, and there’s a ton of fear out there about how it’s going to impact, you know, people’s parents, people’s children, um, schools are closing. Um, we’re, we’re told to keep all this social distancing and practice things that we haven’t had to do in a long time. And, and, and people are talking about, Oh, you got gotta flatten the curve of this, of this virus, meaning, you know, on the, on the Y axis running across the middle is the capacity of hospitals in the healthcare system to deal with the number of cases. And then, um, also on the Y axis is the number of cases that are developing and the time it takes for those to, you know, kind of go through the system.

Paul (43:49):

And so all of these, you know, kind of draconian steps were taken right now to not transmit it are all about flattening that initial curve. Like keep it under the, the level of the systems that we have and especially the healthcare system to deal with it. And so you’ve probably seen these graphs or heard of heard that terminology. Um, I think I would use that in more of an economic sense. I would say think about ways that we as you know, Amazon sellers and people in the Amazon ecosystem can flatten the curve, um, because the economic impacts of this virus are going to be, you know, almost as bad as, as the, the health impacts. And so I would say, you know, think about ways that we can buy products and services now from, you know, people that we care about, people that we want to help them know that we can help by doing that and, and don’t panic and don’t hoard and, and don’t, don’t create, you know, an economic spike that is just as extreme or an economic Valley that’s just as extreme as what we’re experienced on the, the contagion side of it.

Paul (45:11):

You know, think, think about how we can be part of the economic solution as well and help others who are going to be impacted by it. And if we flatten that curve, then whatever comes next, whether it’s a recession or a, you know, or just a downturn is, is going to be soften because of that.

Stephen (45:30):

Hmm. And, and to be honest with you, again, you’re back to that really, um, when did you get your giving back? And again, you get the reward, right? Every time you give, you get, you’re not asking to get, it just magically happens. And so by helping others, you’re going to get helped in the long run. And you know, what’s odd is a recession in our world it might be good because people are pushed to move more towards other methods to buy. And we’re in the growing part of the economy still at this point. And so could be good. And I’m not wishing upon anybody, of course not. But still it’s a reality. Um, how big is it? I mean, we’re almost to the end. I just want to make sure I get this. How big is your to do list now? I mean, now does it, I mean I’m sure you know, way back it was enormous.

Stephen (46:14):

And now your most, I mean [inaudible] let me ask it this way, in a better way, instead of being how many, how, how big is your to do new list Raz rather than to do better list, right? You got stuff that you want to fix and you always want to sharpen the pencil a little bit more, but brand new things. Maybe that’s a, a better distinction that I’m looking for. Well, I’m glad you made that distinction because I tell everyone that there’s, there’s always there, there always has been and there always are at least 400 items on my, Oh my God. Well that’s not healthy. I can’t sleep as it is. If I had to worry about 400 items, I would, I would dwell on them all night long. Just grind as more of a technical thing where, you know, we always have 400 open issues and not all of them, not all of them are going to raise to the level of getting fixed today or, or this week. Um, and, and always, you know, there’s, there’s new things coming in to replace the old ones and, but on, on my, uh, kind of new to do list, there’s probably about five things

Speaker 5 (47:21):


Stephen (47:23):

I try to limit that list to things. I want to

Paul (47:27):

scam power to accomplish this. And

Stephen (47:32):

you know, some of them take, you know, many months to carry out, but I kind of believe in make making to do lists, um, daily of course, but really keeping an eye on the ones that are gonna serve you well in a year. It’s like attainable. I imagine. What I was thinking is that way back in the day you had, you probably did have four or 500 that were real urgent and actionable like you needed to do. And now, I mean, again, that’s a maturity though, right? I mean, maybe the other thing that I would say about skin powers, you guys have been pretty comfortable where you are, um, in your own skin. You know, and I think back to Chris saying, you know, Hey, we’re not the best or whatever. We don’t suit everybody. Um, and the only reason I’m bringing him up is because I’ve talked to him way more on the show than I have you obviously cause it’s been five years. But it’s just one of those things that you guys seem pretty comfortable, like the turtle going along, just plodding along, you know, and just doing the work and put your head down and doing the work for all that time and look at how cool it is that it’s paid off or how cool it is that you fit right in. And maybe that’s another thing to think about. You fit right in at that conference. You weren’t some vendor who you were just a guy sitting on the couch talking to friends. Paul, like real friends.

Speaker 5 (48:50):

Kind of cool.

Stephen (48:52):

Yeah. And I won’t say that that’s, um, something new and in business, but it is something that I’d say it’s different than most. It is different. And, and, and again, it’s a thing that I’m really thankful for that

Speaker 5 (49:07):


Stephen (49:08):

you know, you earned it though. It just doesn’t, I mean, I don’t want to downplay, you’re being humble about it, but you know, you could be one of, you know, you’re not, you couldn’t be. But you know, I gotta be careful how I say this. There are people that could be that way, that in our little cocky and this and that, that humbleness, that, that approachability is special. And I, you know, again, and also that’s why I’m gonna endorse it because in the six years you have not lost it. And the six years, and I always tell people, cause Chris green had kind of a star, especially, you know, back when he was written books and all that kind of jazz people like, Oh, there’s Chris green am I go talk to them. I’m like, they’re like, Oh no. I’m like, if you bring him a beer, he’ll talk to you for hours.

Stephen (49:48):

And it’s funny that approachability, Paul, you can’t lose that because to me, that’s what makes you guys so special and uh, and it’s, it’s paid off for you. So it’s well deserved. I know it’s humbling and you’re humbled. You’re even humbled to say it, but it’s the truth. I mean, not to me. That’s very, very cool. I hope to ever get 10% of that from you guys. Just, that would be so cool for me. Well, I appreciate it, Steven. It’s, you know, it’s like you said, you gotta be comfortable in your skin and, um, you know, we are who we are. I love it. I’m gonna end it there. So, um, I have a special offer from Paul. I’m gonna, I’m gonna take it off and I’m to record it separately, so I’ll all inject it afterwards. Um, and I’m so proud to endorse you guys.

Stephen (50:34):

Um, it’s like, uh, it’s very few that I have. Um, but I’m an, I’m proud of it, you know, to me, again, I looked for consistency over time, the six years, the six plus years, Paul, you’ve earned it. Um, so, you know, the next six I expect a little better. Uh, but it’s really exciting for me and it’s just really cool to see the turtle wins every single time and it’s just so cool. So I wish you nothing but the best. Um, and, um, I really thank you for taking the time and again, thank you from us how here, who’ve been doing this for a long time and you care to help us. And that’s a big deal in my world, so thank you. Well, thank you Steven. Let’s not wait five more years to talk again. We’ll do take care.

Cool voice guy (51:19):

Thanks for listening to the e-commerce momentum podcast. All the links mentioned today can be found at e-commerce momentum.com under this episode number, please remember to subscribe and like us on iTunes.

Stephen (51:32):



About the author, Stephen

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