Building a Team with Sellers Anthony Bui-Tran, Fernando Cruz, and Nick Young (Follow the Data Ep. 28)

Building a Team with Sellers Anthony Bui-Tran, Fernando Cruz, and Nick Young (Follow the Data Ep. 28)

In this episode, Anthony, Nick, and Fernando all share about their experience building teams for their businesses: how they knew they needed to hire, how they prioritized talent according to their business goals, and how they found the right people to grow.

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Our Guests

anthony bui-tran seller tradecraft building a team

Anthony Bui-Tran is an ambitious entrepreneur who built a million-dollar business at the age of 23 through manufacturing and importing consumer goods. Since discovering this opportunity he has been empowering others to design their ideal lifestyles through building location-independent businesses through his Facebook group and YouTube channel, Seller Tradecraft. In the near future Anthony plans to expand his one-on-one coaching to a digital course that will enable him to reach and help more people achieve their goals. In his free time he enjoys traveling, surfing and working out. When reaching out to Anthony you’ll find yourself asking, where are you now?

fernando cruz seller tradecraft building a team

Fernando Cruz is a serial entrepreneur who builds brands on online marketplaces. He has an aptitude for growth and in less than three years he has been able to generate over $10 million in revenue per year, grossing $20 million cumulatively. His expertise in Amazon strategy, product selection and business development has led to the introduction of over 200 products to the market.

nick young seller tradecraft building a team

 

Nick Young is an e-commerce entrepreneur who specializes in developing private label brands on marketplaces with a focus on process, team building and grit, he has scaled his pure play private label business to over eight figures in revenue within three years, grossing $20 million cumulatively. Prior to starting his business Nick worked in tech where he helped grow early-stage companies. Nick and Fernando are also both partners at Seller Tradecraft, an online community and digital education program for both new and experienced sellers. 

 

 

 

Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CASEY GAUSS:
Deciding to invest in your business by building a team is a major decision. How do you know if it’s the right move for you? How much revenue should you have before making your first hire? Who should that first hire be, and how do you grow profit when taking on the cost of employees?

I’m Casey Gauss, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with over 8,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon, and more importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

Cam is in China this week, our normal host. So today filling in for him is our producer, Becca Longenecker. In this episode Anthony, Nick and Fernando will all share about their experience building teams for their businesses, how they knew they needed to hire, how they prioritized talent according to their business goals, and how they found the right people to grow. Let’s get started.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Hey, guys. What’s up? This episode is the first in a series of episodes that we are doing with sellers Anthony Bui-Tran, Fernando Cruz and Nick Young. In this series we’re focusing specifically on what it takes to scale your FBA business. A little introduction for who these guys are. Anthony is an ambitious entrepreneur who built a million-dollar business at the age of 23 through manufacturing and importing consumer goods. Since discovering this opportunity he has been empowering others to design their ideal lifestyles through building location-independent businesses through his Facebook group and YouTube channel, Seller Tradecraft. In the near future Anthony plans to expand his one-on-one coaching to a digital course that will enable him to reach and help more people achieve their goals. In his free time he enjoys traveling, surfing and working out. When reaching out to Anthony you’ll find yourself asking, where are you now?

Fernando Cruz is a serial entrepreneur who builds brands on online marketplaces. He has an aptitude for growth and in less than three years he has been able to generate over $10 million in revenue per year, grossing $20 million cumulatively. His expertise in Amazon strategy, product selection and business development has led to the introduction of over 200 products to the market.

Nick Young is an e-commerce entrepreneur who specializes in developing private label brands on marketplaces with a focus on process, team building and grit, he has scaled his pure play private label business to over eight figures in revenue within three years, grossing $20 million cumulatively. Prior to starting his business Nick worked in tech where he helped grow early-stage companies. Nick and Fernando are also both partners at Seller Tradecraft, an online community and digital education program for both new and experienced sellers.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
My name is Anthony. I basically am a Amazon seller of three years. So is Nick and Fernando. But the three of us basically met through a mastermind group online, a Facebook mastermind group of million-dollar sellers and up. And then most recently I just like temporarily relocated to LA to kind of learn from these guys because they’re at the eight-figure level, and I’m at the seven-figure level. So I thought one of the cool things that we can talk about is like perspective of building a team to a seven-figure level and then like building a team to an eight-figure level, and then what kind of like perspective or mind shift differences that maybe like I have versus like them when it comes to building a team because I think that’s like a very big mental mind shift that I learned from just like being out here and like talking to them a little bit more about like how they’re scaling their team, and how they have like advisors, and how they really have like, you know, like more structured like systems and processes in place versus like my business.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
So then how many people do each of you, like how many hires have you each made?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
I personally have seven part-time, and then –

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, we have, in total, about like 20 people.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Okay, nice.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah. And those are full-time.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Well, I guess I’ll just jump in and ask the first question. So the first thing I was wondering is if you could, Anthony and Nick and Fernando, if you want to start [technical difficulty 0:04:59.0]

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Okay, yeah. I have an interesting one. So when I started thinking about outsourcing it really stemmed from like The 4-Hour Work Week. So I was reading that book while I was working my corporate job. So I knew in order to scale my business I had to make more time, right? And I knew that I couldn’t physically like free up more time in my schedule in terms of like balancing work, gym and then my social life. So I realized I was like, oh, I can just pay someone and buy their time, right, and leverage that. And then The 4-Hour Work Week was one of those ways that I realized that you could, you know, get work help overseas, and I looked into it a little bit more, and then I realized that, you know, balancing my full-time job with a VA, like I would have them do a lot of Amazon stuff and then some very, very minor work stuff for me, and balancing that out in my personal life. And that was just basically like the first, very first start of getting a hire. And then after that successful experience with my first hire – and he’s been with me ever since – I just really wanted to build out more and more.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, so for Nick and I, I would say this was about like six months in, and it was probably honestly too late because I think we were doing like probably around like 80, 90 grand in revenue at the time, I guess for perspective.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
And it was just you two?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
And it was just us two. And then the first person was like kind of a customer support, kind of administrative person. She’s still with us today. It’s like pretty amazing. And she actually ended up bringing her husband on to the team as well, which was pretty cool, like a few months later. But yeah, I would say that it was probably too late. I think in retrospect it would have been better to make that hire earlier, like thinking about like how you value your time, and let’s say $100 an hour or $200 an hour, and then thinking about how you’re spending like a majority of your time, and whether you can outsource those specific like tasks at a lower rate than what you’re valuing your time at. And so yeah, whether it’s like, you know, sourcing, or customer support or graphic design, like all that kind of stuff, I would have definitely done it earlier now in retrospect.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, yeah. And I think, you know, it’s constantly a struggle. I mean I think every entrepreneur when they’re first starting out, especially for me, I know I struggled with the, you know, trying to be a perfectionist with how everything was done. Naturally when you own a business you never think anyone is going to care as much as you do. So I always felt like I wanted to delegate, and when I did delegate it had to be the way that I wanted to do it. But you know, I think quickly we realized as we scaled that, you know, if you hire the right person they’re going to do a better job than you will because naturally they’re going to be dedicating more time to it, assuming that they’re smart enough. And I think that’s really the process of how we need to learn as entrepreneurs to let go. And it came down to just hiring the right people and not hiring people that could only take delegation, and instead finding people who could actually think on their own, and that was really a crucial shift for us, being able to let go and find the right people to kind of let it go to, if that makes sense.

CASEY GAUSS:
So guys, to give everybody some context, would you guys mind sharing kind of how many people you’ve hired over what period of time, what those hires look like, just giving everybody some context around what’s going on in your guys’ business so they understand where all this advice is coming from?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Okay. Yeah, for me, starting out essentially, to get to the point where I was, or I am now as a seven-figure seller, the first thing I ever outsourced was customer service because in my opinion that was like one of the things that I just didn’t really enjoy doing because I mean it always comes down to the same example, like someone would ask me like what color like the shirt is, or what color an item is, but you know the listing obviously says it’s like black. The picture looks like it’s black, and then like when a customer asks me that, for some reason I personally get a little frustrated with that because I feel like it’s a very obvious answer. But at the end of the day, like you want to hire someone that cares in responding to like customer questions like that more than I guess I would in that situation. And then I realized that I’m wanted to reduce the amount of decisions I was making in my business because those really like kind of wear on, I guess, like my mental energy. So customer service was like the first thing I outsourced.

And then down the line it got to I would outsource like random different project [tasks 0:09:50.0] versus getting a full time VA. So I would get some like listing optimization done, product photography I would outsource that to like certain people and then just compare really, right? Because I started doing it in-house, and then I realized I was like okay, I don’t want to invest in all this equipment when I can just pay someone to do it professionally and they’ll get it done the right way because I was spending too much time researching. I would say okay, this is how I should make like a perfect like lightbox. And I was like how often am I going to use this thing? Maybe like, I don’t know, a couple times a month. Maybe I’d have to edit it. And then it got to the point where I wanted to also focus more on I guess like YouTube and my Facebook group. And so some of the other hires were just like video editors.

And then it was mainly working with my first VA. He was kind of like a jack of all trades, which is what I really like about him, and he’s just – he, I wouldn’t say he knows everything, but he knows how to like Google. And I think that’s probably one of the most important traits, having someone on your team that is like their ability to just learn things on their own. That’s probably more important than – I mean of course like you want to find people that are experienced, but when there’s always going to be new things to learn in business, and I think if, you know, someone on your team just like has ability just to learn on their own or just knows like when to reach out, or knows how to reach out effectively, like one of the things like I always ask my team is if they have a question they’ll ask me. They’ll like say like, should I respond to this customer this way? And they’re like, instead of asking me how do I do this, they’re like I think I should respond like this, and they provide an example. And then I’ll tell them like yes or no, or I’ll give them suggestions of like hey, like I think you could just add some more details here, some more context here, and like training them to just think on their own like that has been like invaluable for my business.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, so for us in the US we probably hired like overall maybe eight people in the US. We’re down to five now here in the US, and then we’ve hired at least 25 overseas I think. But our overall team now covers a little over 20, and I would say that we’ve pretty much like been able to build like a team to manage like every aspect of the business. I think the one that we hold probably a little bit, the most close to our chest is like kind of product selection. But we have someone that’s in charge of like finding the products that we approve of. We have new inventory planning, logistics, support, you know, marketplace management, like wholesale and retail. Pretty much like everything is actually done mostly overseas now.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
What was your first hires for you guys?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Support and admin.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, definitely support and admin. Yeah, for sure.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
And you know what we found is like as we – you know, I think it’s always like when you’re first starting out naturally you’re going to do it based off of like what’s taking up most of your time. But we found like as we’ve grown to scale we really had to gain a lot of thinking towards how we’re breaking out the organization, especially as we approached the eight figure mark, you know, we realized that we had to start breaking out the business into business units, too, so that, you know, we could structure each business unit to have like, you know, it’s own P&L, its own way of tracking the effectiveness of it. And that just started to make more sense as we grew, you know, the different channels we were selling on and also the amount of products that we had. And so I think that has really allowed us to have a lot more efficiency and structure in terms of how we collaborate with one another and, you know, as we’ve grown. And that’s something that I think, you know, we’ve really tried to put a lot more thought into more recently.

CASEY GAUSS:
Awesome. So when you guys made that first hire, Fernando and Nick, what size company were you? What was going through your mind? What were your hesitations, and how did you overcome those?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, I don’t know if we had too much hesitation. So we both had outsourced specific like roles, or like I guess tasks in previous companies, like previous startups that we had worked at. But yeah, they were in charge of like basically – I mean at the time we probably had about like eight products maybe, eight, 10 products. And so we were just building out like a lot of like – a lot of like inquiry in terms of like product questions and like, you know, following up for like reviews and all that kind of stuff. And so I think all like the really like tedious parts, I mean the beautiful thing about Amazon is they take, you know, a huge percentage of the customer support. But anything that did kind of come through, they kind of oversaw all of that I would say.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I would say that what we really, you know, did was, you know, the model was new to us at the time, right, so when we just started. So we really wanted to trail blaze and it just make sure that we understood all parts of the process to begin with. You know, I’m a believer that you do have to delegate what you understand first. And so, you know, I remember answering customer support questions. And you know Fernando was like, look, you shouldn’t be doing this. And I was like yeah, you’re right. You’re totally right; I shouldn’t. And so that’s when we made our first hire. And then as we had this additional resource, you know, we realized okay, well she has extra time. She can go ahead and copy this. She can follow up a customer review. She can do all these things that we realized that were on our list but we just didn’t get time to, you know, handle because we were limited on time since, you know, we wanted to focus our time on growth. But we always found ourselves hampered by supporting the operation, and that’s when we realized okay, we need to, you know, push this off to, you know, that support person. And eventually, you know, we started to structure the tasks as like this is that type of role, this is that type of role, as they just became more frequent.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
How did you guys find your first hires? Where did you look for people?

NICK YOUNG:
I would say online jobs.ph is a great one. You know, there’s a lot of people who are really familiar with remote work. A lot of people actually have Amazon experience. That’s where we first started. And we also, you know, we mentioned that Fernando and I, we both came from companies that deal with outsourcing. I actually came from a company that did outsourcing for a lot of big internet companies. So I had, you know, someone that I worked with there before, and I just got a referral. So she was actually like, you know, the sister-in-law to someone I worked with closely in the Philippines over there. So that, you know, that was, you know, how we first got started. And then she brought in her husband. But eventually as we wanted more, you know, we also created a referral system internally for people that they trusted that they could bring in, and that worked up to a certain point until we needed actually more employees than they could find for us.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, I mean it’s now, I have to say, we just recently brought on like a recruiting HR person. So they’re in charge of building out your own applicant tracking system. And this is a – Anthony’s laughing because this is like a huge hire for me. Like I was really excited about it because I spent like a ton of my time doing interviews for new hires, and, but yeah, I mean she’s been amazing. And I think one of the really interesting things is that like I think a lot of people would just kind of go to Upwork or OnlineJobs because it’s really easy. You make a post, and then, you know, you get a ton of like submissions, and then you kind of choose. But I think one of the big changes we made maybe like eight months ago was actually treating hires overseas, like in terms of recruiting, the exact same way as if they were like a US hire, and so investing the same amount of time, same amount of interviews, like the same type of process in terms of, you know, doing like quick phone screenings, actually like a reaching – doing like kind of outbound or outreach like [unintelligible 0:17:33.9], maybe taking out a job [unintelligible 0:17:36.3] the need to like really investing the time because we’ve made some like incredible, incredible hires overseas. And like now we’re just kind of like raising that bar in terms of like I think in the beginning it was just like oh, we’re going to pay them like$4.00 an hour. It’s like fine. Like, they’re smart enough. But now we’re kind of holding out, like especially for like these like really like crucial roles to our organization, like inventory planning, we wanted to make sure that we had like the best, like the smartest person that we possibly can in this specific role because it’s such a crucial part to our business.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Yeah.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Who was that last hire you had? What was like her background? The one for inventory planning?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Well, it’s a guy.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Or a guy, yeah.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, I mean he came from like the Harvard of the Philippines, was like in charge of inventory planning for like a grocery store with like, I don’t know, a 98% like confidence interval. I mean it was just like way more sophisticated than what we had been doing in the past. Like his spreadsheets right now are so beautiful, like I kind of – I tear up a little bit. It’s really nice.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
That’s awesome. Yeah, so making the right hire sounds like definitely has been part of your success. But I’m also wondering how, especially with teams like overseas, how do you guys motivate your teams and ensure like a standard of quality for your work that your employees are doing?

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I mean I think one of the important things is – I mean first off, you know, I think you have to be clear on the KPIs. You have to be clear about what you – what their goals are for their role and how you measure them by. You know we implemented this thing called OKRs, which is something that Google has implemented. So it’s objective key results, and it basically – it’s set from the top down. So you know, you set an objective key results for the company as a whole, and it kind of cascades down across each department. And they have something that kind of goes into that, you know, key result. So you want to make sure everyone is aligned. But I think on top of that, I think, you know, one of the main things that helps people when they’re working on a team is seeing the level of work of the other people they’re working with, right? So you know, we want to make sure that like every person when they come on, that they’re working a team. But also they want – we want to make sure that the team members that they’re working with have, you know, produce high-level and high-quality work. And I think that’s really important because then they’ll realize that they’re accountable to people who really depend on their work. And you know, all their peers are really producing and performing well, and it becomes exciting because everyone is really caring about what they’re producing, and everyone feels like they’re elevated to their highest ability, if that makes sense.
So I think making sure that you have that team environment, making sure that they’re collaborating with one another, is really important. And when you hire the right people they enjoy working with other top-tier people. And I think, you know, that’s something that we don’t necessarily have to be involved in day-to-day. They’re just aware of it because they see the level of work that’s produced.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
One other aspect of like motivation I would say is like really – is like the kind of communication and having them fully integrated. I mean like we hear of like a lot of other sellers will kind of refer to their team as kind of VAs, and like you know they’re kind of like part time. They’re looking for a bunch of different companies. I think our approach is a little bit different, where we bring people on like full-time onto like our staff. They’re included in all of our communication. They have their own email. They have like, you know, kind of welcome training. They have like a buddy. Like I mean they’re – they’re just really well-integrated into our team. Like the same kind of red carpet, if you will, as if they were like here in LA with us. And I think that is like a really big kind of like mindset shift for them is that, you know, we’re paying them every two weeks like we would pay employees here, and like we’re really just investing in them. We’ll pay for monitors and like technical equipment that they need. Like we really want to make sure that they feel included. And then so that as the team grows and it becomes like more and more distributed, that they are always feeling like they’re like really a part of it. And part of the responsibility for our new like HR and recruiting team is to build out like kind of teambuilding and different types of kind of ways of building [unintelligible 0:21:49.4] for a team that’s like scattered all across the world.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
And then just to add onto that, my little tidbit is like me and my team, we use a lot of – we use this Google Chrome extension called Loom, L-o-o-m, and basically it records your screen, and it records you talking at the same time. So like whenever like I’m trying to explain things, or someone on our team is trying to explain things, explains or explained their question, like it’s feels a little bit more personable. Just like seeing someone’s mouse move across the screen, and you see like their face talking as they answer questions. And that’s how like we relate and send a lot of messages back to each other, especially if they’re long. And my team, like we don’t always enjoy – well, I don’t enjoy typing a lot of times, so I enjoy making like these videos. So I’m like okay, like this is how you do this and that, and then they’ll like create out like the SOPs and everything. But when I’m making those videos I try to be a little bit more enthusiastic and happy, and I’ll just like maybe tell them like one tidbit about like me, or like I’ll tell them like hey, you’re doing a good job on this, like just some quick feedback because I think in a very virtual setting you don’t always get that much of like an intimate setting because some of my team members, like most of the time we just like talk through like Slack. And we don’t always like hop on voice calls. Like I’ll go on like maybe – there are some people on my team I haven’t like talked to like on Skype via voice call in maybe like two months or so. Some people are just Slack. So I just try to be more intimate and personal whenever possible, just in like a virtual team environment.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Yep.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. Fernando and Nick, for your people in the US, do you guys have an office, or are they remote as well?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Oh, so we do have an office here in LA. So four of us work here regularly. One person kind of comes in and out, kind of our developer that’s building like all our internal tools. But yeah, for the most part we are here in LA.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. So I imagine you guys have made mistakes in the hiring process. I know we have at Viral Launch.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
No, we have 100%.

CASEY GAUSS:
What are some of those – what are some of those mistakes, if you want to share? And then like what have you learned from that?

NICK YOUNG:
That’s a great question.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah. So one of the things that we recently added – so like I guess a mistake was not doing this, but we actually recently added like a case study into our process. So we kind of – Nick and I will sit down. We’re like okay, we’re going to hire an inventory like planner. Like okay, what do you think is like the most difficult part? Maybe it’s like the forecasting and managing so many SKUs. So we will come up with a case study, like specifically like using like our own a data, and we’ll just like kind of export it out. And then like here’s an issue where we like kind of ran out of stock, and then just see like how they would like plan it. So we’d send them like a bunch of raw data with like a quick like Word doc just saying like hey, you know, here’s the situation for this SKU, like how would you handle it based on like, you know, here’s your production time, here’s your lead time, like all that kind of stuff. And then we see what they send back in terms of like kind of a report on our analysis. And then in the next interview we actually have them like walk through it. And then so we’ll ask questions that were both on that assignment, and then other, like other questions that were not included there, just to see like their critical thinking and like their understanding of the subject. And I think you could do that pretty much for any role that I’ve seen, that we ‘ve – at least that we’ve hired so far. And I think that’s been like probably one of the best ways that we can just see like where people, like where their understanding is of the subject matter before even going through like a lot of the, of like the personality and culture like parts of the interview.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. So have you guys had to let people go then?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, yeah, definitely.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I mean, you know, we’ve had to let some people go, for sure, and that’s always not fun. I think if someone is, you know, remote it’s definitely, you know, a little easier than doing it in person. We’ve done both. But yeah, I would say, you know, ultimately it comes down to performance, and I think we’re always very clear about performance. I mean, I know Fernando and I, we always make sure to communicate exactly what it is that we’re looking from them and where they’re missing the mark. And then what we do is we actually create a performance plan. So we’ll say look, you have like 30 days. Or you know, let’s say 60 days. These are the things that, you know, we’ve been asking for and we haven’t gotten from you. And I need you to create steps to figure out how you’re going to, you know, fix this problem. And so you know, it gives, you know, employees opportunity to figure it out. And they know that their job is on the line. And I think sometimes, you know it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it gives them exactly the fire that they need under their butt to realize okay, crap, like I have been underperforming. I need to figure it out. And in other instances it just makes it clear, if they don’t fix it, that that’s exactly like why we’re letting them go. So I think, you know, having that clear communication has always been kind of the foundation of how we work with employees so that they fully understand where they stand with us. And we always – you know, well we try our best. I would say, you know, it’s hard to deal with this, but we try to do like quarterly reviews with our team members, and if not quarterly, then we do it semiannually, for sure.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
So can you talk about what the advantage is to having like a team as opposed to kind of like a scattered network of freelancers and how you feel that has like given your business a competitive advantage?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, so I mean I think it really depends on the stage that you’re at. I think in the beginning like a scattered team of freelancers can work. But I think the competitive advantage of having like a dedicated team, at least in my opinion, is that people are going to start taking more ownership. I think naturally if you’re like a freelancer then you’re a little bit less invested in any one company because you’re spreading time with, you know, several companies. And I think for us having these like dedicated people that are like, you know, in charge of logistics or in charge of, you know, product selection, like they work with us closer. They’re like – they’re in all of our communication, and so in terms of like being able to step up and take ownership, that I don’t know if we would get as much with like a freelancer. For instance, we made a hire that was in charge of like all of our systems, and she came in and put together like all of our supply chain from like our purchase orders, to our orders in production, and to like our shipment monitoring and then tied it all the way into finance, all in a software called like Ragic, all from scratch. But like she was able to do it really quickly, like within a month, without me being as involved because we had someone that was in charge of all the purchase orders. We had one person that was in charge of logistics. So she was able to like do one-on-ones with them. They’re all internal. And then to kind of brainstorm, like okay, well how does this need to look? Like where are the sticking points like right now, and then being able to put that all together within 30 days just because we had internal people that like had invested interest in this process being smoother.

NICK YOUNG:
Right. And you know, Anthony mentioned The 4-Hour Work Week. You know, that’s also been super influential for me and Fernando. And I think realistically, like having a team of freelancers, I think it makes it more difficult for your business to exist outside of you. You know, it’s always going to be centralized. You’re always going to be the body that knows the most about your business. And I think, you know, for me and Fernando I can probably – I mean I’m sure Fernando can say this as well, but like there are parts of our business that we don’t know like how it happens, but it does happen, and I think it’s because we have people in charge of making those things happen. You know, we’re focused on the results, and we have the key indicators that tell us if something isn’t working. But ultimately it falls on those people. And so, you know, if we’re training someone and they come into business, having a team allows, you know, there to be multiple experts within the company that people can learn from. And so I can easily just say hey, talk to this person, talk to that person, and they’ll be able to get that body of knowledge without us having to be directly involved. And I think that’s kind of the efficacy of having, you know, something that exists outside of you as the entrepreneur and the business owner. And I think it allows it to kind of organically grow and [breathe 0:30:27.1] outside of you.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Yeah, and then for me, I guess my favorite thing is there is all this stuff – I feel like – I don’t know of this is like a real phrase or not, but I like to always say that I’m a first time entrepreneur. So this is my first time running my own business, like really like handling like everything, making all these hiring decisions. But in terms of like perspective of like running a business, I’ve never done it prior to this point. And after meeting with Nick and Fernando I realized like okay, like to get to where they’re at versus where I’m at, it’s like they had like department heads, and it’s like okay, like I don’t have that in my business. So that’s like, you know, along the way, like as a smaller seller, I’m like okay, like these are things that I’m happy that I know like are on kind of like a roadmap to do. So just like having department heads, having full-time hires, like for the exact reasons that they were talking about. But it wasn’t until I like really met them and started networking with other sellers that were bigger than me that I realized that these were like the moves that you need to make in order to like 10 X your business, really. And that was like one of the biggest like mantras for me, you know, just like their whole hiring process is like really, really in depth compared to like mine. I know for like some of their like hires they’ll go like what do you guys do like 20, 25 interviews? Like when they told me that, when Fernando told me that, I was like what? I was like 20 to 25 interviews? And then so I’ve been with like Nick and Fernando like for the past three months. And like all at the , time like from the outside looking in it’s like they’re always like on – they’re always on like a hiring call like every single day. They’re always trying to hire like this other person, or they’re trying to find like the perfect candidate. And that brings me back to like what they were saying about like building like the A team, right?

When I’m hiring people what I’m currently doing is like I’ll look at – you know, I’ll get the applicants from like Upwork or OnlineJobs.ph, and I’ll like kind of choose like the top five, and I’ll narrow it down. Like I’ll interview like those guys, and I’ll just like pick the best out of that. But I feel like I don’t dive down as much as like they do in their business to like find like the exact perfect hire that’s, you know, for like say their supply chains, like you know, someone who’s like managed like grocery stores and like make sure like bananas were always on the shelf, you know? Like for me it’s like okay, like this person is good enough. You know, I didn’t realize that – you know, and now like my perspective has changed to where it’s like I want like the best person, like, you know, like maybe you have to wait a little longer. And I’ve heard multiple people say this, but you know, a bad hire is going to cost more than a good hire.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Right.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
So you know, like invest that money into like – and what they also do is like besides OnlineJobs, you know, sometimes they would use like LinkedIn from what I understand, or like their referral networks. Some of my other friends, you know, like Facebook ads, or they’ll like go find like Facebook groups, like specifically for certain positions. And for me, like I just don’t go that far out of my way to really find the perfect hires. And that’s why like I’m excited that they got an HR person because I know like a day in and day out they’re always like on all these different calls. So like I know like how impactful – like I never really realized how impactful an HR department or team was until like just like hearing about all this. I was like oh man, it makes like such the biggest difference, especially with like you can free up so much time like figuring out like which candidates to like just hop on a call with versus like screening like, you know, 20 people, like and they can really help with that stuff.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I didn’t realize the importance of that until five days ago when she started. Yeah, I mean, you know, Fernando has been saying that we need to do it, and I was like I’m not sure. And then she went on and she did this awesome thing where she implemented like a – what’s it called?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
BirthdayBot?

NICK YOUNG:
No, no. Well, that’s cool, the BirthdayBot, but implemented this tool that basically pulls all of our employees of like their satisfaction and different degrees of, you know, parts of their business like autonomy and ambassadorship or whatever. And then it was really cool to see it. So everyone responded, and they’re all anonymous feedback. And so it was really cool to see that like
everyone was really happy with their jobs, you know, and to see that like everyone, you know, felt like everyone else was talented. I mean, it kind of confirmed like our initial, you know, belief and I guess what we had inferred from our experience that like we were going the right route. But to be able to see that and have a pulse on the company and to realize that like hey, you know, what we’re doing is working really, really was helpful and impactful. So yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
What is the birthday thing?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Oh, it’s like a – so now we get notifications like for everybody’s birthing on the team. So we can do some kind of celebration thing, or if they’re maybe overseas we can do some like, some kind of like gift or, you know, something like to just, to acknowledge like hey, it’s your birthday, you know?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Yeah, a little thanks.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
And it’s all automated, which is really nice because it’s all through Slack.

CASEY GAUSS:
So as you guys start hiring like logistics people, HR, I imagine some of them you aren’t as comfortable in or have less knowledge, so how do you properly – this is something that I’ve been experiencing, so we’ve just started hiring at the director levels. We just hired a Director of Engineering, Director of Marketing, Director of Customer Success, Director of Product, like all these positions that, you know, I don’t have that much experience in. So I don’t know what the ideal candidate looks like. Have you guys run into this, and if so, how do you get over that to then finally making that hiring decision?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Well, I – just from the outside looking in – I asked Fernando this like the other week. And I was like how do you like hire for like – how do you know they’re a good supply-chain person? And he says like when he screens all of them, like he learns from like each interview, you know? So he picked up different tidbits on like what each person, each candidate like has done in like experience, and then also like you look up some stuff on your own, but usually he can kind of like get a lot from the interviews from what I understand.

NICK YOUNG:
I think that’s always constantly a challenge, for sure. I mean I definitely think it’s something we rub up against for sure, especially for senior hires. Like how do you know if you’ve never done it before? I mean, I think one of the things that, you know, we really try doing a better job of is getting advisors, so people who are really excellent at what they do in a specific role at a company we admire. And so now, you know, we realize like the value it adds is great, and we’ll regularly get dinners with them. And we’ll also include them in part of our hiring process if it’s a major role. So I think, you know, to leverage their expertise is great because they understand what we’re looking for. They know us, and they’re willing to lend their expertise in terms of, you know, whether they think this person is credible or not.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, I mean two other things. I guess one is kind of like a feeling. Like if it’s – yeah, someone that’s really crucial to the business like a director, you know, like you’re paying like a higher salary, all that kind of stuff, I think about after, like after the interview how do I feel? Like I’m not like really excited about this like person joining because I know that they can like quickly, you know, if you have like a good Director of Marketing, like they will pay for themselves and like and more like, you know, within their first like let’s say six months. And so if I have that like feeling this person really knows like their stuff, then like I think that’s one big piece. And then the second piece is we’ll find a friend that’s in like a similar role, so like again like the Director of Marketing, or like a VP of Marketing at another kind of consumer products company and ask them to do the interview. And I think that’s been really helpful. Like I know for us like finance is like something we like understand but we’re not like as technical as someone who is a Director of Finance. So we’ll ask one of our friends that’s in that specific role to do the technical interview for us. And that’s been really, really helpful in terms of asking questions we would have never thought of.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. Can you walk us through what your typical hiring process is, everywhere from where are you putting out these job postings? Okay, someone puts in their resume. What do you do there, all the way up to okay, now it’s day one, day two at the company?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah. So this process has been really interesting especially since we’ve had a recruiting person for all of like 10 days now. But basically so now all the candidates are coming through actually are Airtable where they fill out like a pretty long survey, which is –

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Tell them what Airtable is.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Huh?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Tell them what Airtable is.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Oh, so Airtable is like this really cool platform. It’s kind of like a really powerful Excel that can pull from different like, different areas. But we use it both for like our analytics of our products so we can see like our weekly profitability, but it also has like other kind of templated forms that can – kind of similar to like kind of Google surveys and stuff like that. But it makes it really easy for a candidate to upload their resume, you know, include their Skype, like you know, where they’re located. You can have them like answer specific questions related to their job so that you just see like do they really – are they actually putting time in to fill out this like application for us or not really. And versus like OnlineJobs you can kind of just like click, copy and paste your normal paragraph and then submit and then move on to the next application. But yeah, I mean in terms of like okay, so where we’re gathering the applications is for sure OnlineJobs. We’ll do outbound outreach through LinkedIn. We just started doing kind of like Facebook where it’s kind of like what Anthony was mentioning. If there’s like a specific type of Facebook group for that, you know, particular industry or like type of role.

And then I would say that’s pretty much it. We’ve tested – we tested ZipRecruiter and like a little bit of LinkedIn ads. But like, but those main three, OnlineJobs, outbound outreach and then Facebook groups have been like the best like ROI so far in terms of like time spent. And then so now as a – now that we have the full-time recruiting person, that we’ll have a meeting with her before and to get like all the job recs, like what is the most important parts of the role, like what are the hours they’re going to need to work, like what are the main things that we’re looking for. And then she’ll actually do all the resume screening and the first round of phone screening for all of our candidates. And then those kind of finalist candidates will get passed on to Nick or I, depending on which department it is or to the department head, I guess. And then it will go through that kind of like gauntlet of like talking to the department head, then talking to Nick, and then to me. And then if it’s like a really important role or one that we’re not as comfortable hiring completely on our own, then they’ll also go through a technical round with a friend of ours.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. Do you guys look at references at all?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
We used to. We kind of stopped to be honest.

NICK YOUNG:
I think it depends. You know, I think in the Philippines, like it was overseas. I don’t think it really works well, to be honest, because I think just culture-wise, you know, they tend to be very, you know, non-confrontational, so you know, they’re going to be nice no matter what, you know? I think overseas is hard to really understand that reference thing. But I think if it’s in the US, yeah, I think we’ll definitely call references, especially since there’s more on the line. You know you’re paying them a salary. We’re based in California, so we have to pay a lot of taxes and that kind of stuff. And I think also when you’re screening references in the US, you know, you can have a more in-depth conversation with them and really dig into their experiences. And if it’s anything less than an A+ then that’s kind of a red flag, you know, because naturally they’re going to choose people, you know, who are going to be in their best favor. So we’re looking for any reason why, you know, the person might not be giving them a full-fledged recommendation.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah. Actually one of the things that we do is kind of like a top grading kind of tactic that I recently learned about, which is, again, for US hires we will mention in the first interview that we will be checking references. And like the theory behind it is that if you kind of mention that like at the beginning of the interview, then they call it like truth serum where that candidate is much more likely, since you kind of set that ground-floor, like okay, we’re going to be checking references and validating things that you said, that they are more likely to tell the truth in the interview versus if you didn’t –

BECCA LONGENECKER:
If you could do anything differently, if you could go back and do anything differently would you? And then also, who would you recommend – for like FBA sellers – who would you recommend build a team? I’m thinking like for some of our newer sellers who are listening who might be thinking like this is something for them later. Yeah, what kind of person?

NICK YOUNG:
To hire?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Yeah, I think, I mean the first hire, in my opinion, should be like an admin person. Once you get to the point where you know your time could be better spent elsewhere and you are bringing in income, it does make a lot of sense, in my opinion, to get that first hire to do your admin stuff, kind of like what we were saying earlier about like customer service, following up on reviews, things like that. But in terms of like if I had to start over and like really do this whole process again, like what would I do and what I? So if I could start over, yes, I would totally love that cheat code. And based on like what I know now, but basically like the biggest thing would be to find mentors, right? Just find people bigger than you because like for me – I always say this, but there’s things you know. There’s things you know you don’t know, and then the biggest part of this whole pie is the stuff you don’t know you don’t know. And like the last like three months for me have just like been like tapping into the stuff that I don’t know that I don’t know. And like in terms of like, you know, businesses having like advisors, like I knew that was like a thing, but I just didn’t think like people in the Amazon business like started doing that really because the sellers I felt like I was surrounding myself with didn’t think on that level. So it also kind of depends on what your goals are, right? So if you want to get to a certain mark, find sellers that are already at that mark because then he can really just like, you know, just dissect like what they did to get there and like – you know, people don’t mind like giving advice. And it’s cool for, I think, other sellers to like really reflect back on their journey and really understand like hey, these are like some pivotal moves that like got me to this point, or like this is what’s really working in my business, you know?

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Right.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
So that’s what I think, yeah.
NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I think for us like I mean ultimately I’m a firm believer that, you know, you have to go through an experience to really learn from it, and you know, you have to have moments of crisis in order to recover and just be stronger. So I mean I think if I could change things I would definitely like do that. That would be awesome. But I’m really grateful for those experiences. But I would think probably the main thing I would hone in on is know your numbers and really understanding like on a per SKU basis how much money you’re making or losing after ads, after all of the fees because I don’t think a lot of sellers look at that. They’re just looking at the top line revenue, and that’s something that we were focused on for a long time, and I think it – you know, it really put us in crisis point where we just weren’t able to manage our cash flow effectively, and we had to kind of work ourselves out of that hole.

And so I think having clear direct numbers around what, you know, what, you know, what guidelines you’re going to set to say okay, I’m going to keep this product or I’m going to let go of the product, and being really stringent about that. I think people get too married to a product, and we definitely had that. And then ultimately it ends up bringing your business down because you’re not managing your cash flow effectively. You know, those SKUs are taking up a lot of cash for you to keep up. But you’re really not making much money. So learning to let go of those bad products and reinvest into the good ones, and ultimately I think that’s, you know, that’s something that I wish we had done earlier. But you know, I think, again, without going through that experience we wouldn’t have known.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, and I guess to reiterate kind of points that we made earlier, I guess if I were to do things differently I would hold our like overseas team, like in terms of the interviewing process at a higher standard, like you know looking at them like as if they should be like equal or not more talented in this specific area than me or than who I would have hired in the US because I think that has elevated like the average ability of our team, and I think that was like a really big thing. And then also just like learning to delegate like earlier. I think yeah, we kind of held onto like certain tasks, like oh you know, this is too important, or you know, inventory planning, like you know, it’s too – like we can’t be out of stock. We need to like hold onto this. And then like realizing that there was just people out there that are way better that have been doing this for years, and like this is like their dedicated focus versus like us trying to do everything and holding certain aspects of our business to our chest. I think those are probably the two things I would do differently. And then in terms of hires, like yeah, either for sure like the first one for me would either be like a customer support person or admin, or this kind of like jack of all trades that can handle that as one aspect, but can help with like, you know, finding new products and like handling asking for reviews and all that kind of stuff as part of – as like kind of like a right-hand person I would say.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah. I think communication is going to be really key, especially if it’s like a remote person. So someone who is willing to, you know, speaks English really well or speaks your language really well, you know, is very – over-communicates rather than under-communicates. That’s going to be major because you know, you’re going to be sending them all this stuff. They’re going to have to ask questions. They’re also probably going to have to give you updates. You know, when you don’t see them in person there’s a lot of stuff that’s missing. So you know I think that jack of all trades or customer support person needs to be very, very proactive about communicating.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Well, thank you guys so much. That was so educational.

NICK YOUNG:
Thank you guys for having us.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
That’s all for this week. Thanks for joining us on Follow the Data. For more insights and reliable information about how to grow your Amazon business, subscribe to the podcast and check us out on YouTube. We have tutorial videos for all of our tools, as well as webinars that go more in depth with pro tips for how to really get the most out of the tool.

CASEY GAUSS:
If you’re listening to us on iTunes don’t forget to leave a review and rate the show. If you’re an Amazon seller you know how difficult reviews can be, and you know how important and critical they can be to your success. Same is kind of true here on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to this, so we’d love it if you could leave us a comment if you’re listening on SoundCloud, leave a review if you’re listening on iTunes. Overall, we love feedback, and we’d love to know how we can improve the show for future episodes for you. And if you know a fellow seller who is trying to build their FBA business, tell them to check out this series and the rest of the Follow the Data episodes. We want to be a resource for sellers and the information source in the space, so please tell your friends, spread the word and share the data.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Thanks again for listening, and as always if you want to be featured on the show, have an Amazon-related question or an idea for an episode, feel free to leave us a voicemail. Our number is 317-721-6590. Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

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