$0 to $1 million in 3 years with Amazon Private Label Expert Seneca Hampton

Episode 112

Seneca Hampton is an experienced e-commerce seller that has successfully grown and scaled his health and fitness brand into an absolute goliath on Amazon. David met Seneca a few weeks ago – and what was scheduled to be a 30-minute call turned into a 2-hour deep dive on all things digital marketing, developing a team, and strategies to crush it on Amazon.

Listen to Seneca to know how to grow from zero to 1 million dollars in just 3 years!

[00:01 – 10:42] Opening Segment

  • Seneca Hampton talks about his motivations for selling on Amazon
  • Here’s an important lesson that he learned from his previous employer
  • Seneca walks down memory lane to share his first few years as an Amazon seller

[10:43 – 26:40] An Interesting Way to Start an E-Commerce Business

  • How he convinced his loved ones to support him in his e-commerce journey
  • Seneca gives his take about the right time to leave your day job
    • The first time he heard “passive income,” this is what he did
  • Here’s the reason Seneca did not automate his business early on
    • He also deliberately did not put any system in place

[26:41 – 37:14] The “3X Rule” Before Leaving a Day Job

  • Business is problem-solving according to Seneca
    • Here’s why
  • Want some Amazon refunds? Check out Getida
    • Promo code: FTM400
  • What aspiring entrepreneurs should know about the “3X  Rule”

[37:15 – 49:30] 5 Hours A Month Working in a Business

  • Where stress and anxiety come from and how to solve them
  • Seneca introduces the “Hyper Leverage Principle”
  • How it helps him work for 5 hours monthly

[49:31 – 52:47] Closing Segment 

  • Know more about Seneca in the Fire Round!
  • Connect with Seneca!
    • Links below
  • Final words

 

Tweetable Quotes:

“You’re always learning because knowledge is something people can’t take away from you.” – Seneca Hampton

“[Learning is] a must. It’s not an option. No matter what you do…you should be an expert in a subject and you can learn it through doing it.” – Seneca Hampton

Resources mentioned:

Email shampton@gmail.com or seneca@arkadhq.com to connect with Seneca.

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David 0:00
Are you looking to grow your sales on Amazon? Chances are if you’re not selling on Amazon’s international marketplaces, you are leaving some serious money on the table. What keeps a lot of people from selling internationally are all the confusing hoops you have to jump through to get started. That is why we worked with Kevin Sanderson from maximizing e Commerce on our international expansion. Kevin and his team take care of the details and guide you through the process of expanding so that you can grow your sales and reach new customers. If you would like to find out if working with Kevin and his team is right for you head over to www.maximizingecommerce.com/fire FIRE, once again, that is www.maximizingecommerce.com/fire.

Seneca Hampton 0:46
It’s still not a safe spot, at least for me, that’s just how I feel about it. It’s great, you got the freedom, you got more movement, like I’m much better now than I was. But it’s a trade off to your point, right? There’s a definite risk trade off. There’s a stress that comes with it that you can’t quantify. Like it’s, because it weighs on your mental and your mind. And you have to figure out now like stress management or just managing your emotions, the way you react when things go is a whole different skill set. Mentally satiated, and like the stress levels down was I was always learning even now I’ve got a whole list of ebooks and books like I see tons of books behind you guys, both of you. You’re always learning because knowledge is something people can’t take from you. Right. And the more you have when the problems arise, the stress levels don’t rise as high because you have a tool to pull. Oh, I remember this principle from this, I have something to pull from. I never have to touch that thing again. It’s finished. Right. So that work that’s done. It’s finished. Now we get into ordering. Right? And so you place the order with your factory manufacturer, product is being developed and made right, they’re gonna put it on the boat, I have a freight forwarder I connect the factory and the forwarder. And I’m like you guys figured that out. So now I’m no longer in the loop now on when I get an email and I’m CC Hey, we’re ready to ship it. We need to be paid and I’m like, Okay, there’s my work for me. Send a wire, right. And now it’s moving. So I’ve, hopefully this has kind of given some insight I’ve connected those two pieces of those two moving parts, the factory and the forwarder. I’m out of it now at that point, all I got to do is make a payment.

Intro 2:33
Welcome everyone to the firing the man podcast, a show for anyone who wants to be their own boss. If you sit in a cubicle every day and know you are capable of more, then join us. This show will help you build a business and grow your passive income streams in just a few short hours per day. And now your hosts, serial entrepreneurs David Schomer and Ken Wilson.

David 2:58
Welcome everyone to the firing the man podcast. On today’s episode we are joined by Seneca Hampton, an experienced ecommerce seller that has successfully grown and scaled his health and fitness brand into an absolute Goliath on Amazon. I met Seneca a few weeks ago and what was scheduled to be a 30 minute call turned into a two hour deep dive on all things digital marketing, developing a team and strategies to crush it on Amazon. This is an episode you will not want to miss. Welcome to the show, Seneca.

Seneca Hampton 3:28
Hey, it’s good to be here. Thank you guys so much for having me. It was crazy. David, when we met our small call turned into you know, like we’ve known each other for a long time really, really crazy.

David 3:38
Yeah, it was awesome. I remember that evening talking to my wife. Just saying like I met this just really cool guy today named Seneca and we talked for two hours it was awesome. So anyway, yeah, looking forward to rolling that conversation into the podcast. So you know, first things first, let’s let’s talk about your story. And what led you to starting a brand on Amazon.

Seneca Hampton 4:00
I, man, I was actually working for a company that sold products on Amazon. And I was oblivious. This was I want to say eight years ago. And funny enough, I said to myself who buys stuff on Amazon. Why are you guys selling on Amazon? Right, I probably just dated myself. And they were doing about a million a year. And I was like, oh, you know, that’s pretty cool. Three years later, they were doing 60 million a year. And along that timeline, the light bulb kind of clicked and I’m like okay, I think there’s some opportunity here and one thing led to another and voila.

David 4:38
Awesome awesome that’s, a lot of people talk about firing the man, right, like quitting your job and, and going to work somewhere else. But what a great spot to start your career, you know, learning Amazon on someone else’s dime, and it’s a really good opportunity. So anyway, Ken, I’ll kick it over to you.

Ken 4:56
Yeah, sure. So Seneca, glad to have you on and sounds like a, you know, really interesting story. And like David mentioned, you kind of took your skills you learned on the job and was like, I’m going to kind of branch out and do my own thing. So for the listeners who haven’t started their own business yet, can you kind of take us back to like the early days of when you were kind of figuring it out? Did you have a basement full of inventory? Like, what did that look like?

Seneca Hampton 5:17
Oh, man. So when I started with this, the company I was working for they had a warehouse, they kind of had their whole process streamlined. And the owners were, they were younger than me, actually, it was just really, really interesting. And so efficiency was really important. So I was able to pick up a lot of things that, just the mindset of you have to be efficient with the business. And so I set off to look for a product I think like most people do on Amazon, they’re like, What can I sell? And everybody has their rubric. Right? And mine was like, it has to be small, and you know, not fragile. You guys know that whole checklist, right? I’m dating myself again. So I went looking for a product, and I found one and it connected with me, because I had some personal history in the industry or in that niche. And so I wasn’t doing something that I knew nothing about. I ran into the product. And I went, whoa, hold on, like, I know how this is supposed to work. I mean, everything that I could think of was subpar. And so I set out to improve it. And I didn’t stop. My first inventory order, I had $700 to my name. That’s all I had. And I placed an order for, I think my first order was like 1500 bucks. And so my down payment was like, I don’t know, 30% on that. And I put that down, and I’m like, oh man it’s just gonna be crazy. Where am I going to come up with the rest of this money? And like, as the very first business hurdle, it’s like, alright, well, you just placed an order for two times the money you don’t have. And I know for some people like $1,500, they’re like, oh, you know, that’s not a big deal. I mean, when you’re like, what, how old was I 20, early 20s. And you’re working a job and you’re living paycheck to paycheck. You know, $700 is not like easy to just like, oh, you know, swipe my credit card, like, my max limit on my credit card was like 200 bucks. So I had to figure out how the heck do I come up with this money. And the cool thing was for me, I had seen and I was watching every day, a company sell successfully. And so I’m like, this works. I know it works. This is, it’s not a question, you know, that I had in my mind is this like, what if I fail? What if I’m like, I’m doing it every day, I know that this works. And so I just started, I went to my phone, and I like scrolled through and I started calling people and other hey, can I borrow a few bucks. And I came up with the remaining 700, I put that down, the product was shipped and I got to delivered it to my apartment at the time. And I lived on the third or fourth floor and the UPS guy that delivered it, it was like 60 boxes, and he left them all outside of my door. I didn’t have a dolly and I was like oh my goodness, by the way, the product wasn’t packaged, it was just individually placed, and so I’m like, oh my how am I going to turn this into a sellable like, you know, packaged product. And so I went on TaskRabbit and I hired a guy and I’m like, hey, can you come help me pack these, you know, this product. And I went to, I know a little bit of Photoshop, and so I like jimmy rigged the barcode onto like this weird looking label. And I went on some website to find like, you know, print labels on demand. And I ordered a bunch of labels. I ordered a bunch of poly bags from Uline and I sat in the middle of the floor. Once I moved everything in the house, the entire living room, I didn’t have any furniture. The entire living room was full of these boxes. My roommate at the time was like whoa, what the heck are you doing? And the guy came from TaskRabbit he’s like, what am I doing today? I’m like we’re packing you know, poly bags. And so we sat on the middle of the floor for about four hours and that still wasn’t enough, the guy had to come for three days for me to pack I think it was 1000 units. I knew nothing about you know the barcode and Amazon shipping and the weight of the box and so I’m like okay, I put everything in a box and the box was like 70 pounds. And I stopped and it was like you can’t ship in, but, I didn’t have a scale by the way. So I had to take one full box all the way to like the Postal Annex store and have them weigh it, and it was just it was super clunky. I didn’t know really what I was doing. But I just kind of fudged through it and figured it out. So I know that’s a long winded way of answering your question, but hopefully I did.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so, and that is the product you’re still selling today?

Yeah, that’s actually my number one seller. Now I have 50 skews.

David 9:59
Okay. So Seneca, I just want to point out that most people that we talk to, their first like 2 3 4 products that they launch are horrible. Mine was candlestick holders. Ken, you know, you had a drop shipping business. And so that’s awesome. That’s awesome. And the one like, unique thing about your story is that you were working for somebody that was doing Amazon, and so it’s that non cash compensation, that had to play a role in it. And so I like that story about no furniture, inventory everywhere. And yeah, it’s, fortunately I’d met my wife when I started this, but I would imagine like dating is pretty hard when you have, when your living is a warehouse, right?

Seneca Hampton 10:43
My girlfriend at the time, she’s now my wife, she was like, what are you doing? You should just focus on your career at this company. And you should move up. And I was like, ahhh, I’ll do both. But I think there’s something here. And the cool thing, you know, I had the opportunity of working, seeing it firsthand, not having to pay for it. Right. I think it was Robert Kiyosaki who said, If you can get paid to learn, like you’ve won at that point, and so it didn’t come overnight. Like I decided, before I sold, I think I worked, I worked for like, three years, before I actually sold my first product. And so one of the benefits I had was, I was responsible for running numbers. And before I started, like, I had no idea really how to run numbers on products. And so looking at the market, looking at what people were selling, the customer reviews, the pricing, I had that advantage of, I’m looking at these numbers in the correct way. Because I think the company at the time, they had like when I started like 40 skews. And by the time we ended, we had like 1500. And so during that three year process, I was able to kind of run numbers and analyze different products in different markets. And so I had that experience. So when I went to pick my product and run my numbers, I knew all the costs of what I should be considering. And so I think, for sure, luck, fate, whatever you want to call it, I think it played a huge role in being able to launch successfully, because I saw the mistakes they made. And I was like, oh, yeah, I’m never gonna do that. But I saw what they were doing well, and I’m like, okay, I can make that my own. And so, completely different industry. They were in like lighting. And I was like, there’s no way I’m doing electronics. There’s like, no way, I’m gonna screw myself if I do that. So I wanted something drop dead stupid. And I went the opposite direction.

David 12:48
Nice. Nice. So in those early, that early phase, when did you transition from this is a side hustle to this is something I want to pursue, and eventually leave my job to do full time? Can you talk about that time period?

Seneca Hampton 13:05
Yeah, I had that mindset out of the gate. And let me explain why. So you come into this business, and they’re doing a million bucks a year, right? All you’ve known is jobs. And so you, this was my third salary job. And I was in my early 20s. And making a million dollars at the time was like, whoa, you’re, you know, and I’m sure all of us know, a million bucks you’re like, but how much are you really making. So to work for a company, they’re making a million dollars, you’re like, Oh, this is crazy. This is insane. I was like, man, this is insane. And I watched, who is it? What’s his name? What’s his name? If I can’t say his name, let me know. And we’ll walk about. His name, Greg Mercer of Jungle Scout. And he had this thing were jungle sticks. And he’s like, oh, anybody can do it. And when I started for this company, I was doing customer service by the way, I was just doing their customer service. And I was just coming to work because I was like doing branding and website design and all that stuff on the side and like, I want to start my own business. And at that time, I was reading, it wasn’t Rich Dad, Poor Dad, it was Cashflow Quadrant, I was reading cashflow quadrant at the time. And he touches on the solopreneur in that book, I forget which quadrant is. It was the s the solo business owner, something like that. And it was like if you’re working, you don’t have a business like you stopped working, you’re done. And so it clicked. I’m like, dang it. I can’t keep doing this web design, branding and marketing and stuff because like I’m never going to get rich or I’m never going to be free from a job. Air quotes, right? I’m always gonna have to work. And that’s when the light clicked. And I stumbled upon Greg Mercer jungle sticks and he was like anybody could do it’s an automated business. And that year was the first year, I was in my early 20s I heard about passive income. And I was like, this is it, I can create a machine that makes me money and I don’t have to do it. And I took a step back from the customer service I was doing and I looked at the operation, I’m like, wait a minute. Like, where’s the product like it comes in, and it goes out, like, this is insane. And it clicked for me. And so I said, You know what, I’m gonna learn this, and I’m gonna do it. And because I had, I was watching it happen before my eyes, and I saw the success that was happening. We had standup desks and like, these 800, like $800 chairs, and like, it was insane the way that the company was running, it was like, they’re making money. This is crazy. And so I decided, I’m gonna learn it. And I went from like, hey, you know, still my customer service thing to like, do you need help on Amazon? And they’re like, yeah. And so I jumped in to learn the Amazon side of things. And I went home, and I was like, eating everything I could find about Amazon. I was on Facebook groups, I was watching webinars, I was listening to podcasts, like I was engrossed, this was I was like , laser focused. And this is kind of, I think, what really, really helped and made the difference was, there was no doubt in my mind, like, it was not a question of whether or not it would succeed. Or if this doesn’t work, it was this is going to work. I’m watching it work right now. I just have to do my own in my own way. And so out of the gate, I was like, this is it. This is what I’m gonna do. No idea what it would turn into. But I’m like, if they’re doing it, I can do it. And so, yeah, that’s how I kind of started off out of the gate.

Ken 16:42
So Seneca, the company that you were working for, was it wholesale or private label?

Seneca Hampton 16:47
It was private label. And they were selling light bulbs. Like, let that sink in, a light bulb. Like, I’m like, there’s, there’s GE, General, right? There’s GE, there’s Sylvania. There’s what’s the other big brand, there’s Philips, there’s, there are fortune 50 companies that sell lightbulbs, and I’m like, who’s really going to buy your lights, and they were doing a million bucks, and then went on to do 60 million annually. And I’m like, people are buying your light bulbs like, I can do this, this is. And so for me, it was really kind of a putting these in context to look at the market that it was and I was like, this is insane. Like, I can do this, I can totally do this. So like doubt just left my mind at that point. I’m like, if I can sell a light bulb, I can sell anything.

Ken 17:40
Right. So, take us back to like, so you said you’ve been selling on Amazon for eight years?

Seneca Hampton 17:48
So I’ve been in the Amazon space eight years, the brand now is about, I want to say six, but five years old at this point, because it took me a couple of years. I just engrossed myself and learned as much as I could before I started so the brand is about 5 6 years old.

Ken 18:04
Okay. Can you walk us through like the first couple of years? Like, while you were in that figuring it out mode? I mean, it sounds like you had a really good head start from learning from, you know, someone else that was already doing it. But like, everybody, you’re gonna make some mistakes. Can you take us back to those first few years? And how you kind of figured it out and started scaling?

Seneca Hampton 18:22
Yeah. Oh, man. So I’ll try to keep it brief. So I started off with that first order, right? 1500 bucks, and it came, it was insane. I packed everything up. And I wanted to be very familiar and intimate with the entire process, because I was like, it’s like, and I use this analogy, I say, if you’re just driving your car, but you don’t understand how it works. When it breaks, you’re gonna have to pay that cost. You can’t just pop the hood and fix it because you don’t understand it, right? And I feel like in business, things go wrong more than they go, right. Your job is problem solving. And so if you don’t know how your machine works, you kind of have set yourself up to lose. And so I purposely made everything manual at the beginning. And I didn’t put processes in place because I wanted to breathe it. And so I ordered those $1,500 worth of stuff came in, I packed it all I moved it up like five flights of stairs myself. This is crazy. I had a moving company come to help me to try to get it to Amazon like I didn’t understand UPS. It’s crazy, like these two Russian guys come and they’re like, What do you need? And I’m like, I need to get these to Amazon. They’re like we’re a moving company. And so they helped me move it all downstairs and they’re like, alright, so it sat in my parking garage spot downstairs on a pallet for like, until I figured out how to get it in Amazon pretty crazy. And so I finally got it to Amazon. The Amazon side of things I was doing every day, right so that was easy for me. So when I got it in, and this was the insane part, I bought inventory as much as I could afford, it was gone in seven days, 1000 units. And so I’m like, oh, crap, I have to order more. And so I went to place my second order. And so I was like doing my own little math. I’m like, okay, well, if I place an order this size, it’ll last a month. And I placed a $7,000 order, seven grand. Okay? Again, like, I’m getting paid like 35 grand a year, like, seven grand out of your pocket is huge. Like, that’s not little, especially for me, like, I’m like, I don’t know how in the world I’m going to come up with $7,000. I sold through all that product, I got back my 1500 and I think I made like, or in cash flow, right? I had like 22 2400 bucks. And so 30% of seven grand was 2100. Like, all my money would go back into buying the next order. And I was like, Okay, we got to figure out how to come up with five grand. What are you gonna do? Now went back to my phonebook. I’m like, Hey, remember, I borrowed that 50 bucks? Yeah, can I borrow like 500 now? And I started calling everybody I knew. By the way, I don’t have a big Rolodex of people. Like, for me, it was like, they were in their 20s, working nine to fives too and trying to figure it out. And so that was my first step into trying to figure out financing. And so I went to try to get loans and banks were just like, scoffing at me. That’s cute. You just sold a week’s worth of stuff, and you want a loan from us, like wiping tears of laughter from their eyes like, yeah, you need two years of positive cash. Like I learned all that and I’m like, oh, my gosh, well, okay. And I found this nonprofit that, donate, didn’t donate, but they would fund new startups that were trying like in like, the minority communities. And so they were like, hey, we’re trying to give businesses a head start and I went to them, and I gave them like this business plan. And they said, no, but there was this brand new guy there. And he said, you know what, I’ve never seen anybody buy, you know, $1,500 worth of stuff, and sell it in a week, like, I’m going to give you a chance. And honestly, without that guy, the business would not exist as it does today, he gave me a shot. And he gave me a loan for five, the exact amount I needed for five grand, I paid it back within the year. And that was the max that they could do for me as a new business. And so um, I know Robert trailing a bit here. And so I placed my order. I sat and I waited. And the amount of time that it took for that it was actually an ocean freight at this point, like it was ocean, I’d never done ocean freight. I’m like, oh crap, what’s going to happen? And I like called a friend and she knew somebody that worked in ocean freight, he called somebody and I got connected with the forwarder. Didn’t know what a forwarder was figured that out. And the product comes. And it’s a crap ton of product at this point. But I learned from the first time. I had the factory do all the labeling, the factory do all the packaging, do all that stuff. So it came like mastercard, ready to go. And so I, they delivered it to my house again. This time, I moved it all downstairs and I put it in my parking spot. And I was like, I just need labels now. But I needed money to send in the labels because I didn’t have the money.

And so I borrowed some money, and I made the UPS labels. And Amazon came, and they picked it up and I’m like, okay, this will last a month, this will be great. The product sold out in a week and a half. It was exciting. But at the same time, it was kind of like what did I just get myself into? Like, this is moving way faster than I thought it would. I wasn’t doing any fake reviews, by the way, I wasn’t doing any of that stuff when I started, like, I barely had money to get this thing going, like I couldn’t afford to do all the whiz bang fun stuff. The product was gone in a week and a half. That time from when I ordered that 7000 to when it got there was hell at work. Like, I was like, I just sold, you know, a weeks worth of product. Why am I sitting here at this desk? I don’t want to work here anymore, right? And so I’m being asked to do stuff and I’m like, I could be doing this for my business and like, having to deal with like, I’ve got my own little engine going, granted, it wasn’t much money, was tough to stick through. And as a side note, let me say I stayed working at my job for I don’t know, another year, another like a year or two like I didn’t just quit like it wasn’t one of the things for me it was like you got to keep feeding the beast to get it to grow. And so I sold through that product and the product sold out and week and a half and I was like okay, what am I gonna do now? And I got my seven grand back. And thank goodness it was a loan that I had to pay. So like I need to find another loan because I need to place an order. The next order I placed, this is going to sound crazy. I placed an order for 30 grand, right? Like, it was a big deal and it was scary. But I had in my mind like this is going to work. I see it every day and I had so much faith in it. That was the only thing that drove me forward was like I see it working every freaking day like this is, I was looking at their Seller Central and it was like 600k I’m like, what the, this is insane. Like, this works, right? So it gave me enough goal confidence to place the order for 30k. So 30k 30%, nine grand, I got back my seven plus a little more. So I had some cash. And I’m like, okay, I need to come up now with, I don’t know, 20 something thousand. And I know I keep pausing at these intervals. But like, I don’t think people realize that, and I’m sure you guys can attest to it, right? Like, it just keeps growing and going when it grows and when it goes, and you’re not pulling money off the table. You’re not doing you know, I’m gonna go buy X, it was like more inventory. All my money was inventory. And so I went to find, like a personal line of credit at some non bank was like, yeah, sure, here’s 10 grand, you’re gonna pay us back 20 over, I’m like, oh my goodness. All right, I can do it. So I bought 30 grand, my product got stuck at the port. I knew nothing about that, and it was the FDA. And so I’m sitting there like, what the heck, why is, it doesn’t go in your body it’s not food. It’s like, that was a whole experience. The FDA held it up at the port $30,000 of product held up the ports, my third order, and I’m freaking out, didn’t know what to do. And this is what I mean, when I say like, and as you guys can attest, business is problem solving. Literally all it is or majority of it, I should say. And so I went to my best friend, his name is Google. And shout out to Google, by the way. So I went to Google and I just started researching FDA holds up your stuff. Why? Apparently you have to have like an FDA certification in order to import the product. So that was important. No idea. I figured that out. It cost four grand, or else they were gonna throw it away. So now I need to come up with four grand and I’m like, oh my gosh, what am I gonna do. So I figured how to come up with four grand, I paid for it, they release it, it comes. I’m like, okay, 30 grand, this should last a month. It lasted for two weeks. I was like, oh my goodness, man, this is stupid. This is insane. That process went on like that for man, like six months of like ordering and running out, ordering, running out, ordering, running out. I don’t think since I’ve started, I don’t think there has been a year that I’ve not run out of stock. And so the first year, we did if we’re just counting 12 month calendars of January to December, first year, it was like 30k. Second year 300k. Third year was 1,000,000. Fourth year was two, next year was four. Like it’s, and then I think this year we did 6.6. We were supposed to do eight, we ran out of stock. And so this year 2022, if we can stay in stock with all the stuff going on at the port and all that we should hit like 12 this year. So let’s see what we can do.

David 27:44
Sorry to interrupt the episode, you may have heard Ken and I talking recently about a new tool that we’re using for Amazon refunds. Now I have used other refund tools like this. However, I can tell you in the first seven days, they scrubbed the back end of my Amazon account going back 18 months, and found $5,000 of refunds. And the nice thing about this is it’s my money, Amazon made a mistake and they are just auditing my account. The other thing I really like about this tool is there is no monthly fee. They only charge a commission if they are successful in getting you your money. Go to www.getida.com GETIDA and enter promo code FTM for firing the man FTM 400. This is an awesome tool. I can’t say enough good things about it. Now back to the episode. I really like this story and I appreciate you applying numbers to this, because this is something that I think most people, if you were to say that guy over there went from zero to a million in three years. Most people would assume you’ve got the big house, you’ve got the escalade, you’re rolling in cash. And I think people that have gone through it, you know I almost feel bad for people. It’s like oh no, you’ve had sleepless nights you have no idea how to pay your bills, your cash flow poor. And you know, some nights, I spent four years in business school and got a master’s degree in accounting, never talked about never talked about growth can just kill cash. And it’s something that if you have an aggressive growth plan, you got to have a game plan for cash. And so, it also, hearing your story makes us feel better. Because we go through that too, right? We’ve rapidly scaled, and just having money for inventory is tough. And so, you know, our podcast is called firing the man. And I, you know, I think a lot of people, myself included, when you start the side hustle, you think, alright, I’m quitting in three months. And you really need to give yourself some runway to leave and to leave comfortably. And so you know, we always talk about like replacing your salary by a factor of three, bingo. So you know, if you make 70 grand and you have 70 grand in net income, if you leave you have nothing left to reinvest in inventory. And so, it’s an entrepreneur’s dilemma, that I think is all too common. You know, you hear about businesses failing, and I wonder the level of discomfort, I can speak personally, the level of discomfort that I’ve had on personal guaranteed debt, very high. Especially when there’s stuff that’s out of your control, hey this stuff got caught in Port, not your fault. But, hey, you got to pay your, you know, your loans back. And so I think when people are thinking about going out on their own, that measuring their appetite for risk is important.

Seneca Hampton 31:18
Yeah, if I can jump in and speak to that, that 3x principle, like, I don’t have a finance background, right. And so for me, I had to pick it all up and learn it all as I was going, and I tried to have a little foresight as much as I could, with what I knew, one of the things I picked up was that 3x rule. So I didn’t quit until I, like the business was making three times, actually it was making four times my salary. And as I started doing better at my job, what do you think they did? They gave me more money and more responsibility, right. And so at that job, I think I was making like 90k, the business at that point was doing four times what I was making in, you know, cash flow, or profit, or however you want to, you know, ebida or whatever you want to call it. And so I was like, okay, I’m safe to leave now. If I could go back in time, I would stay. I would stay. And here’s why. I left that job and I was like, okay, I’m done. I finished it. I’m exiting the rat race. I had so much anxiety, having no job. And I think it was just like phantom anxiety. Like, I didn’t have a job, but I had a business and it’s like, well, you’re making 400, you know, but during that time, and even still, now, Amazon will shut you down in a heartbeat, right? And so I didn’t feel secure. And I had seen so many accounts, I’m sitting in Facebook groups, people getting suspended left and right, and I’m like, oh, my goodness, I’m not doing anything wrong. But like, I don’t feel safe, it doesn’t feel good. Now 2022 like, it’s gotten so much better now, like Amazon shutting down your account, you will know far in advance if you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing. So there’s way more safety now. I would wake up some nights, my listings would be down, cash wouldn’t be coming in. It’d be like four in the morning. And I’m like, your heart is like, oh, crap, I need to get the listing back up, I need to get the listing back up. I know you guys could probably attest to that. Right? You wake up to an email from India. Nobody gave me a heads up. Nobody let me know. Way different now. But I left and I had so much anxiety, so much so, I got another job. I got another job after I quit. I got another job about two months later. I got another job and I was like, I don’t feel safe. And it’s like you’re making you’re making a substantial amount of money at this point. I’m like, I still don’t feel safe. Like, that 3x rule stayed in my head. And, you know, it’s really interesting, I think, the more you make, the more your life expenses scale. It’s a magic formula. I don’t know how it works. And it has to do with self discipline, right? And there was the next piece. It’s not just about the business and the growth of all of it. It’s how are you going to discipline yourself to make sure you stay in a space that’s financially responsible, in this new world of you’re making, you know, hand over fist more than you made at your job, there’s still a responsibility you have to have and so much more self control, because the dollar in isn’t the dollar in your pocket. And so I got another job. And I had been doing so much marketing with Amazon and my own stuff. I got another job and this one was paying me like 120. If I could go back in time, I would have stayed at this job for as long as I could and used his cash to pay for my inventory growth. I would, if I could go back in time I would jump in a time machine right now, and that’s one thing that I would change I would stay there I would not move and I’d work my fingers to the bone for that job because it was actually paying for the growth of inventory, hindsight, 2020, right to avoid the, to your point, the personal debt, right? The guarantees on debt, like I think, just for the business, I think we’re at like, I’m trying to calculate it now. We’re at, yeah, about 800 900, like 1000 like on me as an individual. And so it’s like, oh, you know, you’re doing millions. It’s still not a safe spot. And it at least for me, that’s just how I feel about it. It’s great. You’ve got the freedom, you’ve got more movement, like, I’m much better now than I was. But it’s a trade off to your point, right? There’s a definite risk trade off. There’s a stress that comes with it that you can’t quantify. Like, it’s because it weighs on your, your mental and your mind. And you have to figure out now like stress management, or just managing your emotions, the way you react, when things go is a whole different skill set that you don’t really need to have at a job, you just kind of come in something goes wrong, that’s your boss’s problem. It’s not yours. When you’re the boss, right? It’s like, that’s, and you got family, and you got kids. And it’s like, I need to learn how to manage how I feel and still be able to meet my obligations with the things that I have going on it. So it’s a completely different ballgame. So sorry, to be long winded about it all, but it’s pretty intense.

Ken 36:23
Yeah, you know, it’s funny, you say that Seneca, David and I were talking this morning about the same challenge where, you know, as our business is growing, you know, we have, you know, large amounts of debt, in our name and the business name, and as well as large amounts of inventory, you know, hundreds of 1000s millions of dollars in inventory, you know, and so, at the, you know, snap your finger, like you said, you know, any problem can come up. And so, it is uh, you know, I think as an amazon seller, as an entrepreneur, you know, there’s a risk profile that you have to have to operate in that space. You know, for the listeners, what are some things that’s helped you kind of deal with that in the mental space of that?

Seneca Hampton 37:07
For me, it’s been a lot of personal development, I’ve had to, I’ve had to make education, like a priority. I feel as if, and this is just for me, I feel as if, you know, we go to school, we get our degree and we get out, we get a job, and we stop learning. And learning was, this is something I have to do to get this degree, to get this job, to be able to make some income. But I applied education while I was actually working, I was like, I want to be the best marketer there ever was. I don’t know if there are any, I don’t want to date myself further, but like, when I was growing up, there’s Pokemon, right? Ash Ketchum was gonna be the greatest Pokemon, you know, Master, I was like, I’m gonna be the greatest marketer ever. And so, I took learning, when I went home, that’s what I was doing. Right? Like homework, I was, I was studying marketing, I was studying, you know, influence. I was studying reading books. And so when I left my job, the only thing that could keep me mentally satiated, and like the stress levels down, was I was always learning even now, I’ve got a whole list of ebooks and books, like I see tons of books behind you guys, both of you, you’re always learning because knowledge is something people can’t take from, right. And the more you have, when the problems arise, the stress levels don’t rise as high because you have a tool to pull. Oh, I remember this principle from this, I have something to pull from. And I feel like that’s really helped me so so much, just to deal with it. It’s like even right now, I’ve got some stuff going on with the customs. And I’m educating myself extensively on how customs works on like, all of it. So that way, I’m not out of my element. And I think stress and the anxiety comes from like, not knowing. So the more information you have, you know, I feel like you can manage your levels of stress a little bit better. So, hopefully that isn’t a long winded answer. I apologize, guys for being so long winded.

No, I really like that answer. Especially, I think there’s two types of people, right, people that bury their head in the sand, or people that go out and find the answer. And, you know, and this is probably a crude thing to say, but the people that don’t go out and find the answer, in 2022 are lazy, because you have the internet, and every answer that you want is out there. And so you know, back in the early 1900s, if you wanted to know how to be a blacksmith and there wasn’t a blacksmith in town, well guess what, you’re not gonna learn how to be a blacksmith. But in the modern day, you know, the number of tools that are out there, and free resources or low cost resources. I really like that. And so I think when I was expecting an answer of like meditation, like stress management tool and, but you know, you’re spot on with education and that discomfort that comes from not knowing so. But, let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about team building. So, how far in were you to the process to where you hired your first employee?

I have zero employee.

David 40:07
You have zero employees? Okay.

Seneca Hampton 40:15
I have two contractors that I use, one helps me with ads. And the other helps me with sending in inventory. Everything else, I got the benefit of working with, they were two really smart guys. And they were so about systems, that it was like, whoever could build the most efficient system was the coolest guy at the company. And so that was part of their culture. And it really got me into like being efficient with things. And so I tell people, I’m like, yeah, I’ve got 50 skews. We’re doing whatever we’re doing, and I have no employees. And they’re like, wait, what, how? How do you do that. And it’s a principle that I call hyper leverage, right. And so what I’ve basically done is I’ve taken the sections that make up the business, and I’ve just basically put them on the back of gulyas that have to do those things anyway, and tie them all together. And so all the work gets done at a level where that company can’t afford not to do the work, because they’re already doing it for so many people. So should I fall through the cracks, right, it’s highly unlikely that I should, so I’ve just tied all these systems together to where they are performing their individual task or duty on a large scale for so many people that like it’s, it’s like clockwork to them. And so it takes a lot of that responsibility off of me. And where I can focus is making the money, the rain making skill, which for me is sales and marketing. And so, I have a contractor that does the graphics, I do all my research myself on the products, I enjoy it because I feel like, just like real estate, right? If you don’t make your money when you sell you make your money when you buy and the same thing with the product. You don’t make your money when you sell it. You make your money when you buy it. The price you bought you bought it at, is the market even worth it? Are you solving the problem customers have? Are you really, that’s where your money is made. And so I spend my time there on like, how do I improve this? And then after I improve it, how do I communicate the improvement to customers in a way that gets their greedy glands going. And so once I do that, I lay it out and I’ve got a team of contractors that handle all that stuff. And so I’ll send it to the graphic guy, he’ll kick out some graphics. I have another friend who is very similar to me when it comes to marketing. I’ll send him over those things so that I get a third eye on it. And he’ll give me his feedback. And I’m like, alright, appreciate it. And I’ll take it, give it back to the graphic designer, he’ll refine it and I’m like that looks good to me. Upload it. I got a copywriting contractor who knows the great Gary Halbert, and like all those copywriters that wrote to sell, and I’ll have him write out copy, I studied the skill on how to copyright so I can proof it when I see it. And so I’ve kind of got it set up with these different contractors that I can just kick them, what I need to kick them, they know how to do it. That’s their profession. That’s what they do. They do it really well. And then the shipping side, there’s companies that do that. And you just tie them all together. And like, I send in inventory by sending an email. And so I just have a girl now and I say hey, can you watch inventory levels. And she’s been doing it for a while. So she knows what the levels are, she knows what the inventory is at the three PL. She’ll create labels and send it to them and CC me. And I’m like, oh, she’s sending inventory. So I work probably five hours a month on this business now at this point.

Ken 43:35
That’s pretty, it’s pretty amazing. It sounds like you’ve built up, yeah, just a series of like automation and process. And you know, you’ve expanded your team by utilizing contractors and agencies. So I like that model. It’s, um, it’s pretty clean. As we’re coming up on time, I want to make sure we cover everything. And there was, David, did you have anything else you wanted to cover?

David 43:59
Yeah, one last thing. So can you, I really, and because Ken and I are probably spending 60 hours a week on our businesses. And so that five hours a month is, my ears really perk up. Can you give an example of like, a very high functioning system?

Seneca Hampton 44:13
Yeah, so let’s break down the process of an Amazon listing and the products involved with that, right, listing issues, all that fun stuff. So I’m going to try and break it down, and if there’s a question you have in the process, let me know. So you have to find a product, right? You’ve got to find a niche or a issue or whatever the case is, right? So there’s research that goes into that. I would spend my time there. So if I already have a product, like I already have a brand, I know what niche that I’m already in. And so what I do, go to Amazon, and then you see customers also bought. The easiest way to figure out what the next product is you should sell and then you find that keyword pause. Like most products on Amazon, there’s like five keywords that make up 80% of the sales for the keyword like there’s no need to, you know, the black headphones with skoal on this, like the long tail thing is like, you’re wasting your time. And so you look at a title or you just like we all speak English for the most part. And we know what we’re looking for. I’m looking for studio speakers or a microphone, right, or shore microphone or whatever it is. Type it in, you see the things that come up, you run the numbers, I check the reviews, and I see what people are saying. Whether the reviews are fake or not, doesn’t detract from the value of the review. I’ve dealt with people sending me hundreds of fake reviews, and I know for a fact, dive into that later, I’ve seen competitors with tons of fake positive reviews, it doesn’t matter because they’re saying what customers want to hear anyway. And so I look at it and I go, oh, here’s the problem, I literally write out the keywords that I see in all the negative reviews, falls off, breaks easy. And you start to see a pattern through all the negative reviews, I do the same for the positive. People are like I love this because it’s durable, I love it. And you start to see the same words. And then I just go to the factory, right or, let’s say, a brand new product I put out, you go to Alibaba or global sourcing wherever you try to find. So pause, I’m doing this part, right? I put it out, hey, I’m looking for let’s call it a web camera I wanna make a web camera. And I literally say I want to make 10,000 of them, whatever. They get back to me, and I literally write an email that I copy and paste to all of them. And it literally says, here’s what it should do, here’s what it should not do. Send me your sample. And I don’t just want a sample, I want a sample of who you’ve made this stuff for with their logo on it. I don’t really care what they charge me to send it because I get to see everybody’s work, right. Some of them tell me, oh, we sell on Amazon, or we sell on Walmart. I just go to the site and I order it. And I get to see it. Compare all of them, and I go, this one’s the closest here are the issues I need fixed. And then I go back and forth with that one person or two or three, right? Sourcing and creating the product is a one time thing. It’s super leverageable, right? Because once you do it one time, that’s it, it’s done. You don’t have to do it over and over. And so now we’re going back and forth. They’re sending samples. And until they solve every single issue that I want solved on that list, I do not buy it. Once it’s solved, I’ll pay for it, right? We negotiate. I know you guys know the Chinese love to negotiate. They are really good and they love it. And they will drag you on for six weeks. And it takes that patience to do that. So you just play the game, six weeks until they give you what you want. Right? Okay, got what you want, you place the order. Now, this is where I’ve already done the research. I know what people are complaining about, I know what people want, right? I go to my copywriter and I go, hey, all of these things you need to say. Go. Copywriter bangs it out. Those same things, I go to the graphic designer and I say hey, these things need to make them pictures. Go. And they bang it out. Right? It comes back, I review it, I send it over my buddy who takes a look at it, it comes back. We go back and forth a little bit. And so it’s good. I’ve uploaded the listing, the listings great. I never have to touch that thing again. It’s finished. Right. So that work that’s done, it’s finished. Now we get into ordering. Right. And so, you place the order with your factory manufacturer, product is being developed and made right, they’re going to put it on the boat, I have a freight forwarder, I connect the factory and the forwarder. I’m like you guys figure that out. So now I’m no longer in the loop now on when I get an email and I’m CC’d, hey, we’re ready to ship it, we need to be paid. And I’m like, okay, there’s my work for me. Boop, send a wire, right. And now it’s moving. So I’ve, hopefully this has kind of given some insight. I’ve connected those two pieces of those two moving parts, the factory and the forwarder, I’m out of it now at that point. All I got to do is make a payment.

David 49:00
I like it. I really like it. And that is a good example of carving yourself out and yeah, I like that and I’m just thinking about ways that we can apply that in our business. So anyway, Ken I’ll kick it over to you for the fire round, if that sounds good?

Ken 49:15
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, and David you were right you know, Seneca this is a great conversation I feel like we could talk for hours about you know, talking shop so but we definitely want to be respectful of your time. So we wrap up every show with it’s called a fire round. Are you ready?

Seneca Hampton 49:33
Yeah, sure. Fire.

Ken 49:35
What is your favorite book?

Seneca Hampton 49:36
Rich Dad Poor Dad.

David 49:38
Nice.

Ken 49:39
What are your hobbies?

Seneca Hampton 49:41
I just got into making music. Actually having a lot of fun with it.

Ken 49:43
That’s pretty cool. What is one thing that you do not miss about working for the man?

Seneca Hampton 49:49
Having somebody dictate what time I got to be somewhere and what I gotta be doing and when I got to do it.

Ken 49:54
Nice. The freedom

Seneca Hampton 49:56
Yes.

Ken 49:56
What do you think sets apart successful ecommerce entrepreneurs from those who give up, fail or never get started?

Seneca Hampton 50:02
Education. And I don’t mean formal, I mean, just making learning something that’s, it’s a must. It’s not an option. It’s not a, no matter what you do ecom, whatever, you should be an expert in the subject. And you can learn it through doing it but, like that’s just what you set out to do. So you can’t half, excuse my French, but you can’t half ass it. You gotta dive in all the way.

David 50:29
I like it. I like it. Well, where can folks get ahold of you?

Seneca Hampton 50:33
If they’d like to get a hold of me, you guys shoot me an email I answer questions as best as I can. I know I’ve got five hours on this business but I’ve got a separate one that keeps, it’s got employees and there’s where your time goes. And so, just shoot me an email Seneca@arkadhq.com seneca@arkadhq.com.

David 50:57
Very nice. Well, thanks for joining us on the firing the man podcast and looking forward to staying in touch.

Seneca Hampton 51:02
Yes, sir. Appreciate you guys for having me. Thank you so much. And to all the people out there, go ahead and crush it man. You guys got this.

David 51:08
Awesome. I love it, thanks. Thank you everyone for tuning in to today’s firing the man podcast. If you liked this episode, head on over to www.firingtheman.com and check out our resource library for exclusive firing the man discounts on popular e commerce subscription services. That is www.firingtheman.com\resource. You can also find a comprehensive library of over 50 books that Ken and I have read in the last few years that have made a meaningful impact on our business. For that, head on over to www.firingtheman.com/library. Lastly, check us out on social media at firing the man, and on YouTube at firing the man for exclusive content. This is David Shomer

Ken 51:50
and Ken Wilson. We’re out.

David 52:07
Before you go, fun fact for all you Amazon sellers out there, when you start selling in international marketplaces, all of your reviews come with you. At the beginning of this year, Ken and I sat down and talked of ways that we could double our businesses in size and landed on international expansion as our number one initiative this year. We partnered up with Kevin Sanderson from maximizing ecommerce and he has made the process an absolute breeze walking us step by step through the process. If you want to grow your revenue and reach new customers head on over to www.maximizingecommerce.com/fire and connect with Kevin Sanderson today. Now back to the show.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai