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Be honest…Are you an entrepreneurial control freak? If you said yes, you are probably spending way too much time on low-value tasks instead of focusing on scaling your Amazon business and achieving your profitability targets. You might be doing all your own customer service, inventory management, and other back-office operations, which frees up very little time to strategically focus on swiftly and effectively scaling your business. But don’t worry. If this is you, you’re not alone.
Which is exactly why serial entrepreneur, Aaron O’Sullivan, of SystemsCultureImpact.com has been helping entrepreneurs build 6 and 7-figure e-commerce businesses since 2013. If you are interested in learning tips on how you can lessen your control, get things off your plate AND get more freedom, income, and fulfillment in your business, do not miss this podcast.
In episode 23 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Success Manager, Bradley Sutton, and Aaron discuss:
- 00:40 – An Introduction To Aaron
- 01:30 – Aaron’s “Chaos To Control To Scale” Approach
- 02:30 – Chaotic Situations That Hold Sellers Back
- 04:50 – An Entrepreneur In Control – What That Looks Like
- 06:50 – Reluctant To Delegate? Hear Some Of Aaron’s Solutions
- 08:25 – A Methodical Approach To Delegating
- 10:20 – Common Challenges To Outsourcing/Delegating
- 12:30 – Best Practices To Effectively Outsourcing/Delegating
- 14:05 – Solutions To Better Time Management
- 17:00 – Tracking Your Tasks For Better Time Management
- 18:55 – How Do You Know You Are In Chaos?
- 22:00 – A “Chaos To Control” Success Story
- 25:35 – The Unexpected Benefits Of Documenting Your Process
- 26:50 – Financial Security Measures & Sub-Accounts Within The Profits Tool
- 29:55 – How To Contact Aaron
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Bradley Sutton: Are you a stereotypical entrepreneur who is a control freak? Today, learn from Aaron O’Sullivan who’s here to give you guys different tips and tricks on how to lessen that control so that you can further scale your business.
Bradley Sutton: How’s it going, everybody? This is Bradley Sutton and welcomes to another great episode of The Serious Sellers Podcast, where we help you guys get information on how to run your Private Label business that’s going to help you rise to the top because that’s what we do here at Helium 10 and with me today is Aaron O’Sullivan. Aaron, I don’t know too much about you. It’s possible some of our audience does not know too much about you, give me a brief intro like, who are you? Who is Aaron?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Hi Bradley, and hi listeners. My name is Aaron O’Sullivan from Systems CultureImpact.com. So, I am a serial entrepreneur who’s been building and helping others build 6 and 7-figure e-commerce businesses since 2013. And, I’m here to help hopefully you guys today around how to get things off your plate and how to onboard VA’s so you can get some more freedom, income, and fulfillment in your business.
Bradley Sutton: Alright. Now one thing I want to ask you right after that now when I first met you on Facebook and we started talking about potential things that you can help our users with. You had said this phrase, or you had written this phrase in our Facebook messages said: “chaos to control to scale”. Have you literally trademarked this catchphrase?
Aaron O’Sullivan: That’s a great, great question. So I’ve been asked a couple of times and that is something that we’re going to be in the pipeline of having trademarks. So it’s kind of an IP from when we are helping clients go from complete madness in their business, complete chaos in terms of they’re doing everything. They don’t know the organization whatsoever. We help them get organized and we help the stuff get off their plate so they can actually get to scale because everybody reaches capacity in their business if they are continuing to do everything, and not offloading, and aggressively offloading tasks to others.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Excellent. Alright, so this is going to be a trademark catchphrase. Kind of like Nike “Just do it.” Chaos to control the scale. Let’s break that down a little bit. I’m sure you have a lot of students out there or clients that you’ve helped. So what are some of the things that you would describe as this chaos? What kind of chaotic situations have you helped people get off, or what are some of the most common things that you see that are really holding sellers back?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Right, okay. So, great question. I appreciate it. In terms of how we help people, just so it’s clear and just so it has the context. When you start your Amazon business, your e-commerce business, you started doing everything and that’s just the nature of it. You are a startup. So that encompasses everything and there comes to a point where that strategy can only get you so far. So, we help high six and seven figure sellers to get things off their plate and get organized so they can keep growing. And typically what chaos kind of looks like is, working around the clock on low-value tasks, which prevents you from getting to profit generation activities. So this could be living in reaction, fighting fires with customer service. It could go far as your product ranking slipping down because you’re not spending any time on making your product listings viable or visible, utilize in Helium 10 to the capacity which you could do. It could be chasing inventory management by following up suppliers and reacting to some issues in that area of the business. Or it could be answering customer service emails are not being handled by a VA, Or just being caught in urgency as opposed to being strategic with your time, energy and effort.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. It kind of reminds me, I just read a book. I guess I’m one of the last people to have read it. So what was it, it’s called the 4-Hour Work Week or something like that. Do you know which one I’m talking about?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Yeah. Tim Ferris.
Bradley Sutton: Yes. And so I believe he talked about something like that, how he was spending an extra amount of time himself, replying to customer comments or trying to babysit certain clients. And then when he just took a step back and started delegating, it was like a game changer for his business.
Aaron O’Sullivan: Absolutely.
Bradley Sutton: So that’s the kind of thought process too of what your goal is to help different sellers. So the second part of that is controlled. So that’s a little bit before the scale. So what does that look like? What is a Private Label business or an entrepreneur who is in control? What does that look like?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Right. Okay. So it ties back into the first part which is chaos. So chaos in our world really looks like the sellers of business, business owners doing everything. There’s no organization in terms of procedures, there’s no documentation, there’s no SOP: Standard Operating and Procedures. And what we do is we methodically remove customer service from their plate. We remove inventory management and then we kind of help them structure their company in a way so it’s organized.
Bradley Sutton: Now, what do you mean about remove customer service? Just stop servicing customers. I’m sure, obviously, that’s not what you mean. But are you talking about maybe outsourcing, hiring people or outsourcing, or what did you mean on that part?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Right. Yeah, so it’s super clear. We have a team of staff here in the UK and overseas in the Philippines, and instead of sellers having to go and hire, train and onboard staff, we just have our trained team of proven SOPs and proven procedures. Just remove that from sellers’ plates and run it for them, and that’s how we help people in that regard. And it’s a similar process, the coaching that we’ve done in the past too. So ultimately removing things from people’s plates, getting them organized with structure and procedure documentation so they can actually now get to profit generation activities like launching new products, opening up new marketplaces or building the latest funnels that they’ve not been able to get to in months and sometimes years. Sorry. Does that make sense?
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, absolutely. Now here’s one thing I know, I just try and put myself in the listener’s mindset, and I’m sure you’ve seen this before, but I think naturally many entrepreneurs are maybe controlled freaks or they think that only they can do certain jobs. So what would you say to the people who are reluctant to delegate things like customers? It was maybe they think that I’m the only one who can really reply to the customer. There’s no way I can outsource this or inventory management. That’s too critical, one small mistake could mean a big loss of money. What do you– I’m sure some of your clients have said that too, but what do you say to somebody who is kind of reluctant to give up that control?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Yeah, it’s a very, very good question. I think we’ve all had that on our minds before when we’re trying to outsource something in their business. And, a simple question for me is, it’s not– you don’t have to figure out what to do. It’s not a what question. It’s a who question. Who can I get that can solve this problem in the business for me so I can actually have my time, energy, effort, and focus on things which as you can to grow the business? If you think about any big company, let’s say, Richard Branson, Virgin at Richard Branson. Richard Branson’s company, sorry. If he was still doing all the operational tasks, we probably wouldn’t know what Virgin is today. So, that is a stage in the business where even though you could do something better than somebody else, you actually doing that task, is going to hold the business back from growing. And it’s about having the awareness at each stage of the business growth to say, okay, I now need so much to remove what I’m actually good at. At the beginning you start off with the easy things to offload customer service, all the customer service facing task where you management, no seller feedback, refunds, replacements, reconciliation of the inventory and then you don’t start methodically removing other parts of the business, like the bookkeeping and then inventory management. A lot of that can be outsourced. A lot of its repetitive stuff that you don’t need to do in the day to day. You can be a critical approval point along with these processes, like making a payment, approving shipments and really allowing yourself to be more strategic and really focus on growing your vision of the company. So, with that said, if you’re finding yourself that you’re reluctant to offload tasks, a question to ask is do you want to do it yourself and have it as perfect as it can be? Or do you want it just get done? Because at some point, you’re going to have to relinquish control to some degree for your business to continue growing. Does that make sense?
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, absolutely. That makes a lot of sense. So what are some other things obviously, which you kind of agreed with, it is a common thing that comes up, people reluctant to give up control, but what other concerns have you seen among your clients or just in general about people who are thinking of starting to outsource? Other than just giving up the control, what are some other concerns that maybe some of our listeners might have that you can alleviate their fears a little bit?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Okay, so a common one is not knowing how to actually offload things from their plate. And typically a lot of people have tried to outsource and hire a VA or offload to somebody else. And, a lot of the times it didn’t go as well as they’d hoped. So it’s a common issue for the people to be quite reluctant to begin the process of freeing themselves up. It’s almost in some cases like that they’re too busy to get unbusy, but the return of freeing yourself up, let’s say 5 hours a week, is going to be absolutely huge over a year. If you think about the opportunity cost of not getting things off your plate. Does that make sense?
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, absolutely. That’s very interesting. So, anything else other people have been concerned about?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Yeah. And, a big thing is finding the right people to actually do the work for them. So that’s a big challenge is they’ve hired somebody and it didn’t go as well as they’d hoped. It can stem from not having a clear picture of actually what they need to offload in the first place. So, one of the biggest problems like I said, in growing any business, e-commerce is no different then you’re going to reach a point where you reached capacity, whether you’re doing everything and running around the clock, you know, live in an urgency, reacting to fires that pop up and it’s going to be really, really critical for you to identify these ongoing tasks so you can continue to offload them and get to the really important things that are going to really move the need on your business, and really help you grow your income and your impact.
Bradley Sutton: Interesting. Now, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m just trying to visualize potential issues or things that people might wonder about. And one thing I’m thinking about just came to me right now. Maybe we finally convinced somebody, yes, you need to offload some of this stuff. You need to start outsourcing, you need to hire some VA’s. But then I would think that some people will be, well, I’m going to have to spoonfeed them with their tasks. I’m going to have to be looking over their shoulder constantly. I need to be looking at their computer, and screen sharing with them nonstop to make sure they’re working. I need to explain every little detail, and that’s just going to take me as much time as it is now doing myself. Have you ever heard that before and then if so, I’m sure you have a way to explain why that might not be the case.
Aaron O’Sullivan: Yeah, totally. It’s a big issue for a lot of sellers or a lot of business owners. They’ve hired somebody in the past and they’ve had to give them a task and then they check it. It was done correctly, and then they give them another task and it ends up a to-do on that to do list instead of being an asset, kind of turning into a liability. Unfortunately in the assignment kind of fizzles out. It’s going to be really, really important to get super clear up front before you even go and begin trying to hire. You have absolute clarity on what you want to offload and, I can talk you guys through a process for that. So you can identify the areas which are important for you to get off your plate, and this is done way before you begin the hiring process. Would that’d be useful?
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, absolutely.
Aaron O’Sullivan: Okay, awesome. So in terms of what you can do before you go and start hiring is understanding exactly what you really want to offload. So, in terms of getting clarity of where you’ve been spending your time and things that you’ve been working on, it’s going to be absolutely critical for you to have a clear picture of what that looks like. So what we have everybody do in terms of when we’re helping them get things off their plate is we help them through a process where we download all the tasks which they’ve been doing over the last 10 days or 2 weeks. So, they’ve got clarity of all the things that they’ve been doing. You can look at your project management software. You could check your to-do list, you could check Google calendar, depending on how you actually take things off your weekly task, you’re going to have a gold mine of all these activities that you’ve been doing. So what we’d say is throw them onto a Google sheet or a spreadsheet so you can identify all the things you can do and historically, and things that you’ve frankly been putting up within tolerating for some time, is going to be pretty easy for you to build up a list. So that’s the first part. It’s to download. The second thing you want to do is track your time. And this doesn’t sound sexy. But I can guarantee you now this is going to be one of the biggest drivers of your business growth. And a lot of people don’t see it that way, but when you track your time, it identifies all the areas in which you are spending time, which is, it basically creates awareness for you. So you can actually make a shift in removing that from your plate. So we recommend that you tracked your daily tasks for 14 days and every half an hour you record exactly what tasks you are doing. And, at the end of those two weeks, you’re going to have incredible data for you to identify what the areas of your working weeks that you want to offload. So again, this was really humbling the first time I’d done this. I thought I was some sort of highly productive person the first time I did this. And it really revolutionized my business and my personal life too because it did them a pride a little bit because I’ve thought I was super productive. Turns out I wasn’t, but this will absolutely allow you to aggressively offload where you shouldn’t be in your business. So download first and then track your time for two weeks. Now the best way to do this is just a print a Google sheet or a document, like a spreadsheet out on to your desk. So you know with pen and paper, just write it on there because otherwise if there’s an app you’ll forget it and it won’t happen. I can’t stress how important this is, and how much is it going to absolutely transform your business life. If you do this every six months or even more frequently, then your responsibility is to always evolve as the owner of the business and it will keep you working on the highest, most important areas.
Bradley Sutton: So how detailed would someone have to be? Pretty much I would imagine, just anything they do. Even if it’s a task that takes them 5 minutes, that they should just write it down and then that’s going to give them the idea because even actually something that takes 5 minutes a day, that adds up over a year and to hours and hours. Right? So is there a level of detail that you suggest they have when they’re doing this initial kind of audit on what takes the time to do?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Absolutely. So every single thing that you do needs to be captured because that will give you like you said, this 5-minute task, these personal tasks. With Amazon these days, you can automate most of your grocery shopping or your household items is so much time to be getting back when you look at each individual tasks that you do, no matter how small it is, even if you open up Facebook, and you find yourself on Facebook for 40 minutes now that needs to go on as well. So it can create the awareness that you can actually utilize that data to have changed your behavior. So you’re absolutely right, Bradley. Everything that you do in a day, whether it’s cleaning up, cooking food, anything to do with the Amazon or eCommerce business, put it all on the tracker, and just put the times spent, so you can have clarity the end of the week of all of these areas of business and the life that you’ve been spending time.
Bradley Sutton: And usually, I imagine people are surprised once they actually do this. They’re like, I bet a common reaction. It’d be, I can’t believe that I spent this much time doing this. Is that a kind of common thing?
Aaron O’Sullivan: I can’t even describe to you how people, how much this changes people’s lives. It’s like I said, it’s not sexy, but this is literally an absolute game changer. Once you do it, you won’t even believe where you’re spending time. As I said, it dented my pride and it kind of does every time I do it cause I’m like, oh my God, what am I doing? Spending time doing this? And it creates the opportunity if your team to help you out and support you. So you can ultimately provide your business with the greatest impact that you bring to the progress of that company.
Bradley Sutton: Interesting. Interesting. Now let me just take a step back. Going back to this chaos part of it, how do you know if you are in chaos or is there a certain level, or this kind of thing, would we necessarily like, hey, if you only have one product, you’re only making a thousand dollars a month. You have no need to look into outsourcing, or only if you’re a 6-figure seller, or only if you’re a 7-figure seller. What are the criteria when somebody needs the minimum that somebody needs to really take a serious look to see if this is for them?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Okay. So that’s a great question. If you are even just getting started with your business, I recommend running through this process. For me, I know that from previous experience, there’s never an early enough time to begin offloading where frankly, you don’t bring the most value to the business. If you’re working on a $5 or $10 an hour tasks that you could get rid of. You can offload processes in this day and age, just particular parts of it, a part of the business, a small part of the business for a few dollars an hour in some cases. So for me, I know the faster you get into this habit of identifying where you shouldn’t be working in the business, where you’re not adding the most strategic value, the faster your business will grow. And, if you could offload this to VAs, put an hour in some cases you don’t have to hide them, you can just offload its process. If that’s where you’re at in the business, then this is going to really, really help you no matter where you are and you’re going to see the greatest. Now we help people that are high six and seven figure sellers and some cases, one of my clients was doing like almost 30 hours a week on customer service and they had like a seven-figure business. So, that’s an extreme example. But you’ll never too early to begin this process of offloading and getting organized in your business. So does that make sense, Bradley?
Bradley Sutton: Absolutely. It’s making sense a lot. I wish that, before I worked at Helium 10 when I was a consultant, sometimes I would make the use of it, but now that I think back, I could have done so much more if I had taken care of this chaos a little bit more. Sometimes, I would just use outsource the things that I didn’t know how to do, such as making graphics or something like that. But instead of that, I should have let go of some of the control, because I am one of those control freaks. A lot of us entrepreneurs are, and I’m like, Hey, I’m the only one who could do this job. But that was pretty prideful and I know that if I actually did that Google doc and task my day, I would probably be shocked at what I would find it, and embarrassed. So it’s kind of a could of, would of, should of. Now that that being said, don’t want to put you on the spot here, but you know, I didn’t tell you I was going to ask you this at all. Actually, I didn’t tell you I was going to ask you anything. I kind of liked you to just let these things flow. But can you think of– you don’t have to mention names, but what would you say is maybe one of the best success stories of somebody who has utilized this chaos to control a scale where you had X business and he was doing X amount of dollars a month, and then he started outsourcing X, Y, and Z, and within a year he had X amount of sales. Is there any kind of, within the next couple of minutes experience that you’d like to share that really kind of put numbers or that really, what’s the word I’m looking for– personify, or that really show the success potential of utilizing this kind of methodology?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Absolutely. I’m more than happy to share. I’ll keep the names anonymous. Inside our coaching mastermind, there was a client and then a fairly large business over in Europe. They had, it was literally a chaotic day where a fairly large team and they were, I think at that point, maybe 30 staff they had. And it turns out that the guys are leading the company had, we’re doing insane hours in there working with. They were definitely in chaos. Now this team which was under-utilized in helping them grow their business. So in this particular situation, we help them with a system that we call the asset optimization system, which is on Amazon. Really, if you simplify Amazon down, it’s about viability and visibility. Right? And this is I know is what you guys really help sellers with. So viability in terms of relevant conversion rate and everything which makes your product viable. And, obvious visibility is a huge part of that which comes after making sure your product converts. So in that instance of our clients that came to us, the cash flow was really being squeezed because they had a lot of SKUs which are under optimized and they had this team which wasn’t being put to use in helping them optimize these assets that they had these listings. So, we helped them create and implement the asset optimization system that their team rolled out, which was, all they did was a document in SAPs, how to optimize all of their listings. And they had their team, they hired a couple of more people to actually implement that. And, from before and after of the implementation of that, their business increased revenue per month by 150,000 euros a month, which is I think is a 1.8 million a year, just because they leverage a team which they already had where they, instead of them trying to actually optimize all these listings, they had like hundreds and hundreds of SKUs. They just built process and the documentation that worked and they checked it and approved it and then they handed it to their team for them to implement and improve over time. So every time they run the process of optimizing a listing, if there’s a new better way to do it, then make a suggestion on the procedure and then have it proved. So over time, it was that particular process was refined and optimized itself.
Bradley Sutton: So that got them a 150,000 more euros a month. Now, how much more did they pay per month to get that? What did they have to invest either in restructuring, or outsourcing, or what was their investment in order to get that $150,000 or 150,000 euros back?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Okay. So, great question. So they had to invest the time to sit down and document the actual process. I’ll say this to everyone. Don’t be afraid to sit down and document any process in your business. Every time you do a pro, every time you take an action on a procedure, just open up a draft, Google doc and just do bullet points to start with. And then over time, that’s going to become every time you do that, it’s going to become a very substantial document that you can– is now ready to give to somebody else. So in terms of investment of what they had, Bradley, it was literally the time it took to write the documentation. They did hire a couple more staff and they did hand it over. So there’s a bit of a training period for this new documentation, and coaching on the process over the subsequent weeks.
Bradley Sutton: It’s probably safe to say that whatever they invested in hiring those two others and whatever other costs and time costs that were incurred, not even 10% of that hundred and 50,000, would that be an accurate statement?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Yeah, I would say so.
Bradley Sutton: So, is that a lot of potential here. Helium 10. Did you know there’s something that we recently added in, you have to do with VAs? Probably would appreciate this, but we launched something with Helium 10 a while back, our Tool Profits. Have you heard of that function of our tool?
Aaron O’Sullivan: No. Please enlighten me.
Bradley Sutton: Okay, so Profits, basically it is our financial analyzer. It links to all of your orders. So you can see inventory levels, you can see a lot of information about what your top sellers are, what your ROI is, what your profits are, all of that. Now, let me ask you something, once we added that, can you think of what a concern some of our top sellers had? This is a completely vague question, but we added this to our tools and just think about how it relates to what you do. Can you think of a concern that some of our users had who are kind of high level once we offered this right within our tool suite?
Aaron O’Sullivan: So one thing I would say is having the data shown to all of their team members.
Bradley Sutton: Exactly, exactly. So I’m sure that’s an issue that some people have. How do I know what they should have access to and don’t have access to? And of course, I’m sure you would recommend that, hey, if you’re having somebody do customer service who’s a VA and you have maybe you probably wouldn’t want to open up your entire seller central account, like give them admin rights. You would just assign them to what their tasks are. Would that be a correct statement?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Right, so in our world. So I think it’s very powerful to have if you have high-level team members. I think it’s very important to be very transparent with them in terms of exactly what’s going on in the business because that’s how they can give you their full commitment and really have a responsibility in the company and have buy-in. If you’re outsourcing just particular customer service, they’re just minding your Amazon inbox, then it doesn’t. It wouldn’t really make sense if they weren’t part of your team there. A contractor pretty would make sense for them to have absolute visibility. If somebody’s on your team, I think there’s a real power in showing them and absolutely getting the truth on the table, where the business is at. With that, they’ll have buy-in and really feel that part of the company and want to help you in your vision of moving into the future in that business that they’re there to help you create.
Bradley Sutton: I agree. There are situations where it’d be both where you would want them to see everything, but there might be a valid situation where you’re like, there could just be an easy mistake made, and all my data could get out or my settings could get wrong. So I just want you to keep in mind, as people ask you about software suites, let them know that if they use Helium 10, we actually have that functionality of sub-accounts. It’s almost very similar to Seller Central where you can assign for sub-accounts, the kind of visibility like maybe you only want them doing keyword research, well then you would only give them access to Cerebro and Magnet in our Keyword Research tools. But if you want to open it up everything, they could have that login and they could actually see the profits and everything. So you’re going to keep that in mind, Aaron and give us a shout out when you’re able to?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Absolutely. I appreciate that. So that’s super helpful.
Bradley Sutton: Excellent. Now, speaking of shout outs for all those who actually want to contact you for more information, this was very valuable I think, but we probably only scratched the very surface of what doing this it can do for us, or somebody’s business. So, if somebody wants to reach you, how can they reach you or find out more about this process?
Aaron O’Sullivan: Absolutely. So just so super clear, we help e-commerce and Amazon sellers remove customer service, inventory management, and the back office operations from their plates. And, if that’s something that you kind of need help with or would like some more information about, you can actually reach me at systemscultureimpact.com/blueprint. And this will give you a cheat sheet where you can get started with systems is actually showing you how to create a well-oiled product launch machine. So every time you launch a product, you don’t have to do all the individual tasks. It will show you how to get started and if it makes sense for you to reach out again if you want us to actually remove operations from your plate, and then within that document, there is a place for you to find us.
Bradley Sutton: Perfect. Alright, guys. There you have it. I hope you guys enjoyed this episode as much as I did. Aaron, I said we were only going to go maybe 20 minutes and look, we’re already at minute 35 already because this is just so valuable. And, time flies when you’re having fun. So thank you so much for coming on. At least, I learned a lot. We’ll hopefully have you back on the show in the future alright.
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