How to play the entrepreneurial game

It’s been awhile since I last wrote, so here’s a quick update.

The online store my wife and I started is doing well. We’ve grown to be the largest online-only dress shop in Canada using the tools / techniques I described throughout the course of this blog. Believe me there’s a ton of information here for you to sift through to help get you started on your entrepreneurial journey.

Aside from that – I’ve learned so much in the past year, and below is quick summary on how to play the game.

Put in the work

Sorry kids, there’s no such thing as sitting on a beach on watching the money roll in. You have to put in the work. You have to grind, hustle, struggle, believe, beat yourself up, and then figure out how to succeed. There’s no such thing as ‘passive’ income in this life.

Do whatever the hell you want – even if you change your mind

What I’ve wanted to do with my life has changed about 12 times over the past couple years. I wanted to be a radio star, a sales star, a magazine publisher, a golfer, a restaurant owner, a marketing consultant, an entrepreneurial coach, a video game player and more. I’ve tried it all, and only a few have stuck.

It’s okay to pull the plug if you thought you wanted to do something, then you tried it, and you didn’t get the results you thought. I found by trying to do all the things that pop up in my head, I finally figured out what I really wanted. Right now, I’m playing video games online (check it out here), helping my wife with the biz, golfing and working a 9-5.

If you can work a 9-5 to generate some more income…do it

The money was tight for a couple years after starting a business and trying to get a magazine off the ground. My wife and I did both within the same year, and the finances were tough to watch. However, we persevered and did what we had to do to make a dime. I took up working retail, and finding odd jobs to pay off our living expenses. That’s right – no venture capital here.

Then I finally decided to grab a cushy 9-5 to ensure our finances were stable. It’s a job where I make good enough money (for now) to live comfortably, and I don’t have to take my work home with me. When I leave – I leave. So many people get caught up with work consuming their life. FUCKING STOP IT! Leave work at work. No one will care, trust me.

Play the game

When you have established yourself as a hard worker (or at least you look like you’re working hard) it’s soooo easy to find a job. Use existing contacts, friend, family whoever to get your foot in the door. From there – coast. Do whatever you can to ensure your finances are stable, so you can play / start a business in the evenings and weekends.

I busted my ass for 5 or 6 years to make a name for myself, now I’m trying to coast and focus on the things I really enjoy outside my 9-5.

Get a gimmick

There’s no other way to put it. I slapped on a bow tie, and instantly distanced myself from the competition. Whether it’s hunting for a job or writing this blog. Find something you can do to separate yourself. Unfortunately, being YOU isn’t enough anymore. You need a gimmick. Wear bright red shoes, place a flower in your hair, wear bright shirts…whatever it is find something to make you literally stand out in a crowd.

The above is a quick run through of what I’ve learned in the past couple years. It was a tough grind, but there is a light on the other side. I’ve seen it, I’m living it. If you need some help – feel free to drop me a line at effumarketing@gmail.com.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

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Why Your Online Store Isn’t Making Sales

This is a common question I see on message boards and through the grapevine of entrepreneurs. It also is a cause for concern in the bricks-and-mortar world, but let’s stick with online.

Anyone, anywhere can have a store. No longer do you need vast sums of money for a lease, employees and stock. You can do everything behind a screen. With that – the amount of online stores hawking goods from dresses (EverRose.com – plug, plug) to backpacks to cheeses is endless. The world is flat in this regard. However, just because it’s relatively easy to set up. It doesn’t mean it’s profitable.

no sale, no sale sign

Here’s why you’re not making any sales

1) Your online store is too cumbersome. You’ve read too many blogs about what you should have on your store, and instead of creating a simple process for those who buy – you’ve confused your would be buyer with link after link after link. Your product(s) should be the first thing people see when they visit your store. You should also have some info on shipping and returns, and a page that reflects who you and your business are (if you want to add a personal touch).

2) Your product photography looks like crap. You can’t sell a shitty looking product online, just as you can’t sell a shitty product. Here are some quick DIY photo tips.

3) No one knows you exist. I hope you’ve read this far as this is probably the most important item on the list. You can’t expect sales without people knowing about you. You need to market yourself. Hook up with bloggers or influencers in your line of work. My wife and I hook up with fashion bloggers to promote our product to their masses. We also buy advertising (funny thought), and it works.

4) If you have traffic to your site, and you’re still not making sales – check the options above. If you’ve done all of the above then you probably didn’t research your product upfront. If you haven’t tested to see if your idea works through family friends, then your idea is probably not going to work to others. Just because you think it would be cool to run an online t-shirt store, it doesn’t mean people are going to buy from you. Ask your friends and family first – see if they would buy. My wife and I’s online dress shop did this, and our first few customers were family and friends. From there the word spreads.

The above should point you on the correct path. I could write an endless post on why you aren’t getting sales, but the points above are the most common reason. You can always ask me to take a look too. I’m always free to give open and honest feedback.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Is Customer Service Dead?

You can get your groceries delivered to your door with the click of a button. You can shop hundreds of styles of clothes in less than a minute. You can connect with your friend visiting a town on the other side of the globe in an instant. All of this is possible behind a screen. With that, actual physical interaction with someone is slipping away. With the limited physical touches and conversations going on – has customer service taken a hit? When’s the last time a company went above and beyond for you?

The art of customer service

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”
– Walt Disney

Funny how one of the most valued commodities – if not the most – nowadays is time. You do whatever you can to save nanoseconds. You’d think businesses would see this and increase employees or response times to potential customers. However, it’s increasingly difficult to find someone with enough knowledge to actually answer the questions you need to be answered – whether it’s in-store or online.

In order to make your business stand out – try doing one step more. If you can answer one question – see if you can elaborate and suggest something more. My dad is amazing at this. He’s an upholsterer and every time he’s on a sales call – he always gets asked about the type / colour of the fabric his potential client should use. He answers the question by giving a few options and then BANG! He mentions pillows, and how a contrasting colour will make everything pop. It’s the classic up-sell, but it’s so much more than that. It’s providing value, suggesting something the potential client didn’t even think about, and increasing his profits at the same time.

Customer service quote

What can you do to add that extra touch?

My wife and I’s online shop – EverRose.com is similar. We try to add personal touches everywhere to ensure our fans know we care about them. After all, without them we wouldn’t be in business. My wife writes personal notes to each and every fan who orders. We also take it one step further than most online clothing stores by measuring each piece of clothing. This gives a comprehensive outline on whether or not it’s going to fit you. It’s all about taking it one-step further. It’s a pain in the ass on our end, but the end result is SALES. Plus, our fans love it. How do we know – they tell us in reviews and in personal emails they send us.

This is what makes your business a brand. It makes the person on the other end (customer) feel something for you, and your product / service.

“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking ad.”
– James C. Penney, Founder, J.C. Penney

You want to know how to limit your advertising spend? Make your experience so memorable to a customer they’ll have no choice, but to recommend you to their friends and family. If that’s not enough – encourage them to do so by following up with requests for reviews (my wife and I do this for every sale by sending a personalized email to each fan). Word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising, and nothing creates more word-of-mouth than outstanding customer service.

It’s not that hard

With the majority of corporations pulling back on their customer service channels, and personnel it’s very easy to stand out. Even being present and engaging in conversation with your potential customer can put you over the top. At the very least give the customer what you’d expect to receive from a company. Then try and out do yourself. Make a suggestion above and beyond the question asked of you. Personalize everything. Respond as quickly as you can, and as honestly as you can.

A few of these will go along way in your customers mind, and will ensure success down the road.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Working 9 – 5 while having a business on the side

It’s an elusive balancing act that takes some time to master. You want / have to give 100% to your 9 to 5 employer, and you want to build something on your own on the side. I’m living proof that it’s very much possible, however it takes a serious amount of commitment. It’s a game of give-and-take. Do you watch Netflix or do you buckle down and do some bookkeeping? These are just a few of the questions you’ll ask yourself.

Here are some tips on how you can find time to build your business on the side while continuing to commit yourself to a 9 to 5:

 1) Build something online

It’s going to be extremely difficult to build something on the side that you have to attend to like a 9 to 5. That’s why e-commerce is so amazing. You can work on your site whenever you want – and the income rolls in 24-hours a day with little to no work on your behalf. Yes, there is a HUGE amount you have to put in before hand, but when it’s built – it’s a recurring income generator. If you don’t have an idea of what you can do on the side – here’s a quick guide to finding a product to sell online.

 2) Evenings and Weekends

This is your bread and butter. When your 9 to 5 stops – you put on your entrepreneur hat. This can be exhausting, so if you’ve had a tough day at your 9 to 5 – you may need to take an evening off. You don’t want your side biz to interfere and hurt your ability to work your day job. However, it can be done. You’ll have to work for it, and maybe miss out on things in your social life, but if you’re devoted to building something, and providing value to your future customers – you’ll succeed.

My wife and I both have 9 to 5 commitments, which we excel at. Then we come home, and get to our online fashion store – Ever Rose. I usually take 30 minutes to an hour in the morning to work through our social media channels – then I put my 9 to 5 hat on. In the evenings, my wife and I will fulfill orders, take product shots, edit photos, and do website maintenance. We also do our own bookkeeping using Wave.

It’s not easy knowing you won’t have a ‘day off’, but I’ve never done something that is so rewarding. Getting glowing customer reviews and having random strangers purchasing items is pretty cool.

Seth Godin, Seth Godin quote

 3) Have a Calendar

This is uber important. You need to keep track of what you’re going to do. The best way to do this is to have your 9 to 5 calendar as well as your side business calendar. I literally put everything into calendars. My wife makes fun of me because I always say, “If it’s not in my calendar, it doesn’t exist.” This helps me use my 9 to 5 brain power for what needs to be done, and helps automate the side biz for when I come home. It’s nearly impossible for me to forget what I need to do when I come home because an alert pops up every 30 minutes.

This also helps you focus on what needs to be done. You will be worn down, you will be tired, but those little alerts will go a long way in helping building your side biz. They’ll keep you on track, and keep your focus on what needs to be done.

4) Don’t worry about perfection

When it comes to your side business – just do it. Don’t worry about it being perfect or you’re never going to sleep. My wife is big on perfection – I’m big on getting things done and off my plate. What you see as perfect, may not be perfect in your customers eyes. Never waste time on being perfect. You never will be. Just get it done to the best of your abilities and move on.

At the same time, if one of your skills isn’t solid – than you may have to outsource. For example – if your English sucks and your trying to write product descriptions – get someone to proof your work. Whether it be a family member or friend – play to your strengths. You can also look at outsourcing work by using UpWork.

Finally, I know the struggle. I live it everyday, but I also know it can be done. You can be a 9 to 5 superstar and crack the whip on yourself everyday to ensure your side business is a success. Even a few hundred bucks on the side can make a HUGE difference. Whether you’re selling a product or service – you can be a 9 to 5er and an entrepreneur.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

It’s Time To Get Real

Remember the CEO from Seattle who decided everyone at his company was going to get paid $70,000? Well, he won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014, and received global accolades. The story was just about everywhere. Unfortunately – it hasn’t worked out so well for him, but of course the negative story hasn’t appeared nearly as much as the positive one. To find out more – click here. Don’t get too jaded by all the success stories you see online. You never know how it is, until you’re in it.

This is where reality has to kick in. It’s extremely tough in the business world. Competition is everywhere, and if you’ve been following my blog for awhile you know I like to get real. And this entry is no different.

get real, it's time to get real

Let’s get real

The biggest challenge I’ve seen / heard from startups – aside from cash – is how to get more of it. I’m astounded at how many people think they can build something, and just let it sit there, and hope 1,000,000 people buy from them. That’s not how it works. Even though you might not know it – you probably have hundreds of competitors doing what you’re doing in the online space.

My wife and I’s business – Ever Rose – is no different. Although we’re playing to a smaller market – there’s still competition from all over the world. Having said that – I’ve recently seen / heard from a few businesses, who started up around the same time my wife and I did, about their struggles. These businesses are in the fashion category, they launched around the same time my wife and I’s online shop did, but they’ve only had 1 or 2 sales. Their sites look great, and professional, and they’re on all of the social media channels you can think of. Sounds like a slam dunk – unfortunately you can have a website, have social media accounts, pump your SEO, but no one will know you exist. If people don’t know you exist – you’ll never have sales no matter how fancy your site looks. And money is what all businesses need to survive.

The marketing

Here’s how my wife and I have achieved close to 40 sales in 4-months (it’s not a huge number, but it’s on a path to becoming profitable):

  • market our site using Facebook, Google AdWords and Bing Ads (typically $10 – $20 a day)
  • Post and share a product from our page once a day on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram
  • Work with influential bloggers (aka those with lots of activity on their accounts – not just followers, but actual people commenting and interacting) in the fashion sphere. We sometimes give bloggers a clothing item in lieu of a post on their account
  • Pay to be showcased on Instagram accounts (Instagram is HUGE for fashion or any other product in the ‘visual’ realm)
  • Promoted our email list on our website through a contest where we gave away free items (more than doubled the amount of people on our mailing list)
  • Give those on our email list exclusive deals on our products (we typically get one sale per e-blast)

We spend quite a bit of money on marketing, whether it be cash or in the form of clothing to bloggers. And guess what – it works. If you don’t have money set aside to market your product – you’re most likely going to die a quick death. Before you jump in to any business – you should have marketing dollars allocated or at least have a plan of how you’re going to get the word out.

The numbers

Typically – my wife and I spend about 10 – 15% of our sales budget (total revenue) on marketing. Depending on how much our product costs, we understand we’re going to have to dump more money into it, because we need to market it. So, if a dress costs us $20, we add a markup of 2.2 (20 x 2.2), and then ensure we have at least 10% more to spend on marketing. It looks small to begin with, but when you’re spending $20,000 on product and you’re expecting to generate at least $30,000 in revenue (sales budget), then your marketing budget should be at least $3000 (10% of 30,000).

Don’t expect to make a profit right away. You won’t be sipping champagne for awhile – if ever. My wife and I have accumulated some debt due to the purchase of the resale product we carry. However, our assets drastically outweigh our debt, so we’re not too worried. We know if we ever need to get out – we can easily sell off our product, and pay back our debt. I’m not saying its easy, but it helps us rest easier at night. Besides, what’s business without debt?

If you’re burning through cash, not marketing your product, and have limited sales – you should probably stop what you’re doing, and adjust. Either you’re in the wrong line of work or you need some outside help. Don’t be afraid to ask. Feel free to connect with me, and we can discuss, and improve what you’re doing. Or continue to do what you’re doing. Your choice.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

95% of what you do is BS

I lost a family member this weekend. It was my first loss of someone who was really close to me, and when most of these ‘big’ things in life occur, it gives you a chance to reflect.

What’s important in your life? Does your job come to mind as the first thing? Or is it family? Is it a friend? Where do your priorities lie? Are you comfortable with that?

You need to prioritize what matters

In business, in life, in leadership, etc… 95% of what you or I do is BS. The other 5% matters. Out of the hundreds (or thousands) of emails, texts, or DM’s you get every day – a small portion matters. You’re gut knows what’s important and what’s not. Follow your instinct. Your human, and 9 times out of 10 your instincts will lead you in the right direction. Corporations will weigh you down in useless paperwork, emails, messages, small talk, and a whole bunch more. I always think of the movie Office Space and the mind-numbing reports the characters have to fill out. They’re pointless.

office space, tps reports

In small business and startups – the only thing that really matters is money. YOU NEED MONEY coming in. If you don’t have it – you’re dead. Everything else is BS. It doesn’t matter if you used the proper Instagram technique to gain followers. What matters is making sales. If you are making sales – how do you get more of it? If you aren’t – why not? If you need answers to these questions, and you can’t think of any – search for them online or get in touch with me as I may be able to help out.

So many of us get caught up, and drive ourselves nuts over pointless things. Things that stray from our priorities. When I first started my career, I was hungry for climbing the ladder, and money. I was very rarely present at home. I didn’t see my friends or my family much. Recently this has changed. I value family so much more, especially after losing a family member.

Your goals, and what’s important in your life and work can change

If you’re not happy with your life – it’s probably because your job is crushing you. If you’re not happy with your job, it’s probably because it doesn’t match up with what you want to get out of life. The biggest thing to remember is you have a choice. You can change your scenarios. You can align your life and business priorities. The transition may suck, but in the end it will be worth it. How do I know – I live it, and I continue to live it. I’ve seen numerous friends and family members on both sides of the coin. Those that love their life, and their work, and those that are miserable with either work or life or both.

Constantly ask yourself what’s important. It’s okay if what’s important changes, and it’s okay if you’re not 100% satisfied with where you are. You’ll get there (maybe not 100% of the way, but close). I put the questions at the top of this post in my calendar regularly, so I know to always check in with what’s important.

Appreciate what you have. Appreciate that you’re able to change and better yourself. Most of all, appreciate that you get the opportunity to do exactly what you want in life. You can do it, and enjoy it. You may not be the richest or smartest person in the world, but you can be comfortable and confident in who you are and who you can become.

What’s important?

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

The World has changed and Big Business hasn’t kept up

Adapt or Die. You may have heard this phrase before. It’s never more apparent than today. As a startup or small business you need to value your ability to adapt. That’s what keeps the ‘big guys’ on their toes. You have the ability to adjust on the fly where as the big businesses don’t. They’re mired in red tape, and meetings on top of meetings, and middle managers who are more concerned about keeping their jobs then about taking a risk to move the company forward.

The world of business is moving so quickly that most can’t keep up. Twenty years ago you went to school, got a decent job, worked your way up, and stayed with that company for many, many years…maybe your whole life. Now, on average you stay at the same job for 4-years. That’s nothing. There are so many options for you and I that it’s very easy to jump ship. Or say screw the corporate world, and start your own business. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it can be done. The tools are out there, and you no longer need a fancy degree from a prestigious college to get to where you want to be.

time to adapt, adapt or die

Here’s where Big Business is failing

  1. Hiring – take a look at job postings, especially those at larger companies. They want certain degrees, knowledge, etc…even for more entry level positions. However, the world has changed where the new wave of job seekers aren’t looking to get a MBA. They’re sticking with the arts or something more liberal. In essence, those large companies who are seeking new employees are effectively limiting their scope to a small percentage of the population. When in fact, they could have hundreds of candidates they don’t even look at who are equally as qualified or willing to learn, but they don’t have that pricey piece of paper.
  2. Benefits – my wife and I always joke that we missed the ‘Golden Era’ of business. Large expense accounts, business class flights, great benefits, etc… Before I left my corporate job within five years, my benefits were slashed by close to 30%. Did profits and revenues go down by 30%? No, but large corporations thought they could do away with benefits. This is the exact opposite of what most new job seekers are expecting. In the age of work life balance, and caring for one another – it’s a huge slap in the face to those looking for a corporate job right out of school.
  3. Transparency – before it used to be put your head down and get your job done. Now, with all this access to information – you can’t hide behind a pleasant email from the CEO (or CEO’s assistant). How many times have you heard of something positive or negative about your company BEFORE anything was said from within the organization. Nowadays you get updates straight to your phone. You didn’t have to wait for the news at night, the newspaper the next day or to go searching for it on the radio – it comes directly to you. New job seekers, and employees expect the truth – whether it’s good or bad. Or at least a version that’s close enough to the truth. BS will KILL YOU.
  4. Technology –  you only have to look in front of you to see how this world has changed. Whether you’re reading this on your computer, tablet or phone, you know exactly what I mean. Everything is changing quickly, and large corporations are mired in hierarchies, red tape, and endless indecisive managers. Something that may take one day in the startup world could take months or even years in larger corporations. Even with technology larger corporations have been slow to adapt. Those who aren’t looking forward – are in big, big trouble.

The above isn’t solely my opinion. I read / hear about these situations regularly. Recently, I spoke with a head hunter, and she was saying how most of the 20 – 30 year-old job seekers are looking for those companies that are willing to adapt. That are willing to change the status quo. Unfortunately for her, most of the larger businesses aren’t quite ready to adapt. Hell, I know of one company in the financial sector who, up until recently, didn’t have any digital / social footprint. Someone who was including tech stocks in their funds, didn’t have any idea how to use these platforms themselves. Thankfully, a bunch of younger fund managers urged the President to dabble in these areas. The blue-hairs are going to die off soon, and change is coming…FAST!

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft