Episode 131

Systems for Growing an Amazon Business to #254 on the Inc. 5000 List

Trent Dyrsmid - Bright Ideas Podcast
August 19, 2020
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Is something broken in your business?  Not reaching your growth goals like you’d hoped?  Then you likely have a systems or delegation problem.  

My guest today is Trent Dyrsmid.  Trent is the host of the Bright Ideas Podcast as well as the founder of an Amazon reseller business that just ranked #254 on the Inc. 5000 list. He is also the co-founder of Flowster.app a premier workflow management tool for eCommerce businesses.  He knows a thing or two about systems, delegation, and growth.  He’s now fully delegated himself out of his Amazon reseller business as it continues to scale rapidly.  

How does he do it?  Clear systemization and delegation.  On the show, we talk about one of his favorite quotes from the Honorary Chairman of Toyota -

“We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes – while our competitors get average or worse results from brilliant people managing broken processes”

~ Fujio Cho, Honorary Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation

In this episode we cover:

  • What to systematize first - a 2-pronged test
  • When you have a systems problem vs. a people problem
  • What to delegate vs. what to do yourself
  • Why and when you should delegate something you’re really good at
  • The difference between process management and project management
  • How Flowster helps eCommerce companies with process management
  • Plus more!

Flowster (Special Offer) - Exclusively for Fans of  eCommerce Evolution Podcast

Mentioned in this episode:
“The Effective Executive”
book by Peter Drucker

“Built to Sell” book by  John Warrillow

The Bright Ideas Podcast - Cynthia Del’Aria - Episode 318

Teachable

Neuro

Kent Yoshimura


Trent Dyrsmid -  Founder at Flowster

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Flowster - Cloud Workflow Software for eCommerce Businesses

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Bright Ideas Podcast


Episode Transcript

Brett:

Hello and welcome to another edition of the eCommerce Evolution Podcast. I'm your host, Brett Curry, CEO of OMG Commerce. Today we're talking about a subject that I absolutely love. I think this has the potential to really be freeing for you and to help put you on the fast track for growth. If you know anything about me or my company, you know we're all about accelerating growth for our clients, and this topic today is going to help you do just that. We're talking about systems: systems and delegation for growing your Amazon business. I'm going to be talking to a guy who knows a thing or two about this because his Amazon business just made number 254 on the Inc 5,000 list. That is not a small feat. That is very impressive.

Brett:

My guest today is Mr. Trent Dyrsmid. He is the host of the Bright Ideas Podcast. They're on like their 330th episode or something like that. Just crazy. Very good podcast. I encourage you to check it out. He's also the founder of Flowster, which is the premiere workflow management software tool for eCommerce businesses. With that, Trent, welcome to the show, man. How you doing?

Trent:

Very well, Brett. Thanks for having me on and good to see you again.

Brett:

Yeah, it is good to see you. We connected. We met through a mutual friend: the world famous Steve Chu, who also runs a podcast. We spoke... it seems like another lifetime now, but it was actually at the Seller Summit last year back when the world was open and we could have virtual events... I'm sorry, have in-person events. It seems like lifetime.

Trent:

It does. I miss those days.

Brett:

I do too. They'll be back eventually, so we've got something to look forward to for sure. Really excited to dive into systems and delegation. I think these are areas that some entrepreneurs skip over or they're reluctant or they are the system. All kinds of things we can get into there. Before we do, though, would love to hear your background. How did you get into the Amazon business? Tell us a bit about... as much as you want to tell us about your Amazon business. Kind of give us some context.

Trent:

Sure. In the spring of 2016 my wife and I... Thanks to the podcast, we basically generated enough leads to build a pretty decent digital marketing agency, but we were tired of being in the professional services space and I had been in that space all my life and I really wanted to make a shift into more of a product-focused business. Again, thanks to the podcast, I know a number of people who have successful... or at the time, had... private label businesses and they were honestly harassing me that I was missing the boat.

Brett:

I've had a few friends harassing me with those very same discussions, yeah.

Trent:

Eventually I relented and I said to my wife, "Look, we've got enough process and people in place that you've got the agency in hand. I'm going to duck out and do this Amazon thing on the side." When I started, because that I knew were doing private label, naturally I thought, "Well, I'll do private label." I went into it with the confidence of a seasoned entrepreneur and proceeded to pretty much fall on my face because I made some overly optimistic product selections. I was thinking to myself, "I've got money. I'm going to throw ads behind these things and I'm going to wrap them up and off we go."

Brett:

You're a successful marketer. You're a successful business owner. You'll crush it.

Trent:

Of course, I didn't know anything about Amazon, so I get humbled pretty quickly. I think we were doing like 20 or 30 grand a month in revenue but I was spending so much on ads to generate that revenue that there was no profit left. I was quickly tiring of the experience. And then, podcast strikes again. I interviewed a guy by the name of Dan Meadors on my show who was using the reseller model, which I had no idea that that thing even existed because I hadn't put any time into studying Amazon, which I probably should have before getting into the private label aspect. I was immediately enamored with the reseller model probably because we weren't having success doing what we were doing but also because it's a really low-risk method, and some of the biggest sellers on Amazon like the Net Rushes and the Etails and Big Fly and River Colony Trading and all these companies, these guys are doing 100 million plus a year as resellers. I thought, "Clearly it's scalable."

Brett:

Possible.

Trent:

It's possible. I hung up the mic from the interview and I turned to my wife and I said, "I'm going to switch to that reseller thing right now." I was pretty aggressive about taking action and hiring some virtual assistants and creating processes for the parts of the business that I didn't want to do, and the results came very quickly. Within five months we had exceeded 100,000 dollars a month in revenue. Within the first 12 months we did, I think, about 1.1 million in revenue. As you mentioned at the beginning of this show, that business ranked number 254 on the Inc 5,000 last year.

Trent:

Here's the really cool thing. I delegated myself completely out of day-to-day operations within six months of founding the company.

Brett:

That's amazing.

Trent:

My wife did work there longer than me, but even she now has a role that is basically three to four hours a week. It's run by a team of about nine people and that wouldn't be possible without my obsession with systems.

Brett:

I love it, man, and that's why I want to talk to you about systems, because you clearly know what you're doing and you've built some successful systems. It's interesting. I think a lot of entrepreneurs, we build our businesses, and it's hard. You've outlined that. You had a successful agency and then you started a foray into Amazon and it didn't go all that well in the beginning and you had to pivot and then it went well later. We get kind of attached to our business. It's our baby, so to speak, and there are parts of it we don't want to let go, or sometimes we wrap up our identity in, "I'm the one that does the things. I'm the expert in this area or I need people to need me in this area." That's, I think, some of the things that entrepreneurs think. But really, to have a business that's freeing and have a business that's sellable at some point if you want, making it where it's not fully dependent on your is extremely powerful.

Brett:

Let's talk about systems and your obsession with systems. I'm sure the answer to this question I'm about to ask is, "You should systematize everything," but for someone who's maybe a bit of a control freak, what do you systematize first? And then we'll also talk about delegation in a minute.

Trent:

Let me begin by giving some credit where credit is due. I read Michael Gerber's E-Death many .

Brett:

Such a good book.

Trent:

In the first company that I started. So I started creating systems back then. What I figured out was that there are a set of activities in every business that are critical to operations, that the process is well known in advance... so it's not like building a custom house every time... and you got to do it over and over again to keep the wheels on the bus going around and around. Then there's a subset of whatever those activities are that are pretty linear and don't require extensive industry experience and the judgment that comes from experience. If you can tick both of those boxes, that is the low hanging fruit of the activities that you should systematize, because, one, they're relatively easy to systematize. It's kind of like baking a cake: "Do this, do this, do this, do this," cake will come out.

Brett:

Clear recipes. Clear checklists. Things like that.

Trent:

Yep. Then with those systems in place, Brett, your ability to delegate those critical highly repetitive activities to people typically... for us in the Philippines we call it virtual assistants... becomes really easy. Now you've got all this stuff going on for like five bucks an hour instead of 25, 35, 40 dollars an hour, which is going to be your fully burdened cost of hiring another employee in healthcare and all the entanglements that come with the traditional hiring approach. We have just rinsed and repeated the hell out of that formula.

Brett:

Yeah. It totally makes sense. I think if you don't have a system then really everything almost feels like you're starting from scratch. Even with things that are duplicatable it feels like you're starting from ground zero again, which is certainly not necessary.

Brett:

Let's talk a bit about delegation as well, because the two go hand in hand. You have to systematize first and then delegate. I like that framing you just gave there, but should someone also maybe consider the things they're not good at, or the things they don't enjoy doing, as the places to start delegating first? Or what advice would you give there?

Trent:

The answer could be yes but it depends. I look at what am I the best in the company to do. Those are the things that I'm unlikely to delegate because hopefully those are also the things that have highest ROY. In my Amazon business, for example, in the first six months that I actually worked there I was the best closer. When it came to talking with a brand about forming a partnership, nobody was better than I was and I was not easily going to be able to find someone else to do that. So I delegated everything that happened or needed to happen before that meeting would take place, like identifying the product, identifying the brand, identifying the individual at the brand, finding their contact information, sending them an email, and actually getting them to book into my calendar, that was all handed off thanks to the systems. I was able to spend the bulk of my time talking to prospective clients, or partners as we call them, and then getting them to say yes.

Trent:

I think that's part of the answer. The other part is, yeah, if there's things that you don't really like doing life's too short, I think, to do things that suck energy from me that I really don't want to do, and eventually being the closer was one of those things. I got to the point where I'd done so many calls and I was doing so many calls I'd come into office and I'd be like, "Oh man. There's like five calls in my calendar today. I really don't want to do these calls," even though I knew we would get paid money for doing them. Eventually I decided I'm going to pass that off too because I have this little sign here on my desk and it says, "If you're the CEO and you're still knee-deep in client execution, you're the biggest bottleneck. You're your own worst enemy." That's a quote from yours truly.

Brett:

Nice. I love that.

Trent:

I thought to myself, "Okay, fine, I could continue to do these calls and I'm going to close more revenue than the next guy I'm going to hire, but at what cost? What other thing could I and should I be focusing on that in the long term would have an even greater return than this thing?" Eventually I made the decision that I was going to delegate that activity to somebody else, which I did, and no, he was not as good as me. He didn't close as many sales as me but I got something off my desk that I didn't want to do any more. Eventually, if you're really looking at scale, you're going to not just replace yourself with one person, you're going to replace yourself with a sales team. The aggregate productivity of that sales team would be vastly superior to what you could do on your own, even if they're only 60% or 50% as good of a closer or presenter slash closer as you are.

Trent:

In that situation, you're still far better off, because I always look at I've sold a business already and I want to sell more. I always look at what makes a business valuable to a buyer, and that means it runs on its own, like my Amazon business now. I can legitimately say to another buyer, "I don't work there. I'm just a shareholder, so you don't need to work there either." Am I going to be able to sell that company for more than the exact same company run by you and you're knee-deep in execution every day?

Brett:

Without a doubt. I love it, and I think it's a beautiful way to put it, that even something you're really good at, like closing, if you build a team and systems eventually the team is going to be better than you in terms of total output even if the closing ratio is slower. And again, if you start to put your identity on... "Hey, I close this many deals and that's what makes me feel valuable," or whatever that internal dialogue is... it prevents you from doing the next thing. It prevents you from growing in the next way, and that has a big cost.

Brett:

I'm in the process of reading a book... highly recommend it... it's called The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. Really old book. It's like 50 years old or something now. It was recommended to me by... Actually, I think I heard Tim Ferris talk about it, but Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and author of Turning the Flywheel... two of my favorite books... he's a huge Peter Drucker and he actually wrote the intro to the new edition of this book. But one of the things he talks about is only work within your strengths. That's kind of the first principle. It's kind of like you did that first. You delegated everything except the closing because that's what you were best at. So the idea is you delegate everything that is not a strength, and then in terms of improving your weaknesses the recommendation is only improve your weaknesses as they pertain to your strengths. If you're bad at keeping books, don't work on that. Get someone who eats and breathes and sleeps bookkeeping. That's going to be a waste of your time to get better at that. But, let's say you wanted to keep doing the closing. If you worked on elements that that made you an even better closer, that would be a good use of your time.

Brett:

Quick example. And this'll be kind of fun. It's a sports example. Talking about Michael Jordan and..

Trent:

I was just thinking of him.

Brett:

Always good a jump shooter. I'm a bit of a fanboy when it comes to Michael Jordan. But always a good shooter. Obviously, could drive the basket. Could slash and drive like nobody's business. But later in his career when he was driving less he developed a fade away. He developed this fade away jump and it really became a completely unguardable fade away: super high percentage. You couldn't block it. But that's something he developed later, so that... I don't know if you'd call it a weakness, but maybe in Michael Jordan's terms it was a weakness for him, but then he made it a strength. That's the kind of weaknesses you need to work on and weaknesses that are still inside of your strength.

Trent:

I agree completely.

Brett:

Other piece of advice: when this goes bad... so when someone tries to systematize or delegate and it goes bad, what are usually the reasons it doesn't work? And any advice on making it work?

Trent:

Sure. They're trying to cut corners on developing their systems. I can think of a few examples, but the first one that comes to mind is that the boss, who's looking to delegate a given activity, thinks, "Well, I'll just record a video. I'll set up my screen share and I'll just zip through and I'll show them how to do it and I'll have a video." They end up with a 10 or 12, 13, minute-long video. Whatever. It's some amount of length. It was easy for them to create versus a more detailed workflow or standard operating procedure: whatever phrase you would like to use to describe it. It's easy for them to create, but it's not easy for the recipient to consume, and there's a number of problems.

Trent:

First off, let's say that you are the creator, I'm the underling. You've made this video for me and now you've given me the video and said, "Okay, go do the thing." When I'm watching your 10 minute video, can I remember... As I'm passively watching the video, can I remember every last detail? No, that's impossible, which means that I need to watch it a bunch of times or hit play/pause, play/pause, play/pause. Because there's no checklist present, the probability that I'm going to miss something or skip a step increases because it's playing and then I get a text and I'm texting and whoa, the video's playing. I pause it, but there was a critical piece of information that zipped past on the screen. That's not good. That's one aspect of it.

Trent:

Now scale it up a bit. Let's say you've now created 85 videos for 85 different processes, and those videos contain screenshots... or not screenshots, but screen shares of you using various... the Amazon seller central interface or third party tools or whatever. Well guess what? That stuff changes from time to time.

Brett:

Pretty frequently.

Trent:

Now you have 85 videos that with every passing day are going out of date. You're looking at them and you're loath to go and edit them, because editing is very time consuming.

Brett:

Lot of work.

Trent:

You're loath to re-shoot them because maybe the change you want to make is only like one little screenshot and four or five words but now you've got to either edit or re-shoot the whole thing and you don't have time because you're busy chopping down trees. That's a problem as well. There's another reason why your video-based procedures are not going to be particularly effective.

Trent:

Finally, if you're just creating your instructions in Google Docs or in video, how do you delegate effectively to somebody else with a deadline or somebody else's... because some of my procedures involve the labor of two of three different at various steps throughout the procedure with differing due dates. Thankfully, my Flowster software solves this problem for me, but if I don't have that and I've got a Google Doc or a YouTube video or wherever now I need another piece of software to assign the task to you or to whomever and to give it a deadline because I need an alert. If it goes overdue without you completing it and I don't have an alerting system, I don't know about you but my memory's not good enough, especially when you're doing this at scale. The wheels are going to all fall off the bus and crash.

Trent:

Those are some of the most common problems and then regardless of whether your using software like Flowster or video or whatever, if your documentation lacks sufficient detail that also will cause no end to problems. To use a silly metaphor, if you're baking a chocolate cake and you forget to put in the eggs how well is it going to turn out?

Brett:

Simple ingredients. That's such a good example. We made cupcakes or pancakes. I don't remember which now, but we left out salt. Salt wasn't a major ingredients. It was a pretty small ingredient: a tablespoon or whatever for this whole batch. But made a huge difference in the flavor, so sometimes these little steps can derail the whole thing.

Brett:

Any advice on... I want to talk about Flowster specifically and hear some of the ins and outs of that and how you founded that and everything. Any advice on how do we know if we're being detailed enough? How do we know if something is clear enough? Any insight there to make sure we're creating these really robust, almost foolproof, SOPs?

Trent:

Yeah, a couple of pieces of advice. One is the method of creation. Whenever I'm doing it... Like, right now I'm sitting in front of my iMac with a 27 inch monitor, so it's big enough monitor. And I actually have two monitors, so it's big enough that I can have a left half and a right half, so one browser window here and one browser window there. Typically when I'm creating a process I'll be doing the thing in the left browser and for every step that I do I'll be documenting... in other words, taking screenshots, big red arrows, annotating screenshots, or typing out text or whatever... in the procedure in the right hand side. I'm creating the procedure as I'm doing the thing. That's sort of a best practices, at least from my experience, for creating something.

Trent:

Then I jokingly call the mom test. Okay, so your procedure is done. You could pick your mom or just somebody who's never done the thing before and give them your procedure and see how many questions they ask you and see whether their chocolate cake turns out well or not. If they're asking you a lot of questions you obviously lack detail. If the cake doesn't turn out, your instructions either lack detail or they're flat-out wrong. Those two things work together. If you do that... So QA is an important part of the process, but if you do both of those things well chances are your first version won't be your best version but it'll sure be pretty close to the mark.

Brett:

Yep. I love that: the mom test. If it's easy enough for mom, who probably doesn't want to do something online, then you know that it's easy enough and good enough for any employee or virtual assistant that you'd look to hire. Are there any warning signs or anything to be looking for to make it clear to a business owner that, "Hey, this is an area of your business that you may want to systematize a bit more. This is an area of the business that you may want to systematize better"? Any insights there on where to find those areas and how to find those areas?

Trent:

Yeah. First of all, to be in business is to be a problem solver. At the end of the day, that's really all we do. Look where your fires are. Look where you're getting the highest number of problems and start there because that is an area where you have got inefficiency, you've got waste. You probably have frustrated people because nobody likes making mistakes, especially if you deal with clients and your clients are angry. Nobody likes receiving angry feedback. In the world of professional services, for example, you've got your salesperson who's out there promising the moon: "We're going to do all these things for you, Mr. Client," and the client's like, "Yeah, that sounds great. Where do I sign the contract?" But then some of those things get forgotten in the deliverability phase and so now you've got an unhappy client.

Trent:

Why not, for example, have a highly detailed procedure for new client onboarding? That's something that's very repeatable. It's super important in establishing the client relationship and setting the stage and meeting expectations and first impressions and all these things that we know are critical to the length of time a client's going to be working with you. That would be an area that I would absolutely look to focus on.

Brett:

Yep. I love that, and that's actually... You know we run an onboarding agency as well and that onboarding time is so critical. It's going to be the first step in the dating relationship or the marriage relationship, whatever you want to call it, and so getting those things right is critical. One of the things we've tried to do is we've tried to look at, "This is an area in the business where there tends to be some speed bumps we're hitting or roadblocks that we're hitting," or something like that. I think the tendency sometimes is to look at those areas of the business and say, "It's just the people. Our people aren't smart enough or they're not working hard enough," but often you have to look at those areas and say, "It's probably because we don't have a clear system. We don't have a clear process. We haven't clearly outlined what should happen."

Brett:

That onboarding, that was actionary. We tackled it a few years ago because we were convinced that we did have smart people, we did have great people, but there were just a few inconsistencies. So mapping that out makes a ton of sense. 100% agree. We're problem solvers. That's what we do. Often if there is a problem it may not be your people, although it could be. It could be just that the system's not clear and it's not defined.

Trent:

There's a great quote from the past honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation. He says, "We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes, while our competitors get average results or worse from brilliant people managing broken processes."

Brett:

It's so good.

Trent:

To me, that sums it... Like, McDonald's obviously has a system for everything, and at no point in your training if you're going to be the burger-flipper person do they say, "Flip the burger when you think it's ready." They say, "Flip the burger when the beeper goes beep." As simple of an analogy as that is, it's widely applicable in many businesses, much more so than you would ever think.

Trent:

There's another book, Built to Sell by John Warrillow, and it's a story about this guy who's running an agency who doesn't think that... Everything's custom. He's building custom houses, metaphorically speaking, all the time. I'm sure you've read the book. His advisor slowly teaches him over time that, "No, that's not actually true. Your custom houses aren't nearly as custom as you think they are. A custom house is merely the culmination of a number of highly repeatable processes all stitched together to the conclusion of a custom house."

Brett:

I love it. A lot of people will look at that McDonald's example and say, "My business relies too much on creativity," or, "My business is too complex. I couldn't do that." And while it may not be as simple as learning how to work the fryer or flip a burger, it can still be systematized and you can still say, "Yes, you do have to apply some creative thought and have to understand the client goals or understand these elements, but you still take the same steps leading up to that." You can still frame it and put a process around it to make sure you get consistent results.

Trent:

Absolutely. In Warrillow's book he gives a specific example, and I'll do my best to remember, but it's around the area of brainstorming. Much like everything in life, there's a process for effective brainstorming. It's not just, "Let's eight of us sit in a room in front of a whiteboard and see what comes up." That's not an effective method of brainstorming, yet brainstorming is a very creative process but you could absolutely have a system. "Okay, here's how we're going to start. Here's what we're going to do to get our brain's juices flowing. Here's what we're going to do to filter out our bad ideas, here's what we're going to do to iterate our good ideas, here's how we're going to bounce those ideas off..." The whole thing can be broken down into a process that can be followed.

Brett:

It's so good. Another thing that came out of the book that I'm reading... It was talking about effective meetings. How do you run an effective meeting? It's not just, "Let's just get everybody together and we'll figure things out." It's, "Here's how we're going to prep. Here's how we're going to form our questions before the meeting ever happens. Here's what we're going to do to really diligently follow up after the meeting." Even having a process to run really good meetings, even if you don't know all the details... Just like you said for the brainstorming session. You have a structure and a process to ensure that you get the most out of it, which is super powerful.

Brett:

This has been fantastic. Let's transition. I want to talk a bit about Flowster. One, I think it'd be interesting to hear how and why you started that. I mean, there's probably going to be some entrepreneurial lessons there. Then tell us what Flowster is and what it does.

Trent:

Sure. I'm actually scrolling right now through... We just finished an exercise to bring the right verbiage to our product as we go to market with it. I'm going to read to you what we just developed.

Brett:

Great. That'd be awesome.

Trent:

"Flowster helps brand owners to maximize revenue from direct consumer eCommerce channels by providing a content-rich process management app that allows users to accomplish eCommerce activities in half the time or at half the cost because consumer brands should focus energy on creating and developing, improving... I'm sorry, developing and improving unique products, not inventing repeatable business processes."

Trent:

Dumbed down, Flowster is a tool that you can use without writing any code to create processes for whatever it is that you need to do so that you can easily delegate those processes to your team. And we've taken it one step further by focusing... because much like Trello, our app could be used by anybody in any industry. The differentiator is that nobody wants to create a process from scratch. It's too much work. They'd much rather come and find pre-made processes. Maybe they're going to hit the edit button and think, "I want to make a little tweak here or a little tweak there."

Trent:

A lot of our job is to create pre-made processes for our customers to take that burden off of their plate, so we have processes... Because of the success of my own Amazon reseller business, we have a lot of processes around just selling on Amazon. That's why I mentioned to you our target market is brands that want to sell on Amazon via their own seller central account, entrepreneurs that want an Amazon reseller business, or even Amazon agencies like yours that are looking to scale up their management of their client seller central accounts. We have all sorts of content available for that. That's really what Flowster is all about.

Brett:

That's fantastic. Is it one of those tools that you built for your own use first, or at the request of some other people? How did it come to be?

Trent:

That's the coolest part of the whole story, I think. I remember that I mentioned I interviewed this guy named Dan, and we did a million in change in our first year. Well, Dan sells a training course for people on this and I don't. After a year, he got wind of what we had accomplished and he said, "Damn, dude, how the hell did you get such an amazing result?" And I said, "I created all these processes. I hired a whole bunch of virtual assistants. Where the average person who takes your course maybe is able to put in... because they're still a full time employee... eight or 10 hours a week into product research and outreach and doing all the prospecting activities, I'm doing 80 to 100 hours a week but it's not all my own labor because I'm using... Even I'm no more talented than them, I'm doing eight to 10 times the volume that they're doing." And he's like, "Oh my gosh, that's brilliant. Do you want to come and speak at our conference about that?" I said, "Sure."

Trent:

So I get onstage in front of 600 or so people and because of my podcast and my YouTube channel they knew who I was but I didn't have any products for sale, and I said that. I said, "Hey guys, I'm going to explain to you how I achieved this result, but I'm not pitching anything. I don't have anything for sale." Flowster didn't back then. So I said, "Take good notes." At the end of the talk, which was a pretty detailed talk, to be honest with you... probably too detailed, but anyway... a lot of them came up to the mics or they emailed me or they tweeted at me or they whatever. They messaged me some way, shape, or form and said, "I want what you have and I don't want to have to build it from scratch. Could we buy a copy of your processes?" Long story short, we sold... They sold like crazy. In the first week we sold 400,000 dollars worth of processes, which was...

Brett:

Dude, that is crazy. That's a lot.

Trent:

At 2,500 bucks a pop. It was vastly in excess of what I thought we would sell best case scenario. Our content at that time... because remember, it wasn't created as a product, it was just created for us... lived in somebody else's software application. Once I sold 400,000 dollars worth of this stuff in a week I kind of thought, "That's going to happen again." Now I wanted to own the software.

Brett:

Sure. Now you're not getting any recurring revenue from that but the owner of the other software is and...

Trent:

Why am I building his business when I could be building my own? And I knew that recurring revenue also has a much higher exit multiple, so the value of what I was building was going to be exponentially higher if I owned the software.

Trent:

Fortunately, not being a software developer, one of my very good friends is and he had already built and sold his software company and he had decent amount of success doing it. I said to him, "Hey buddy, this is what just happened. I did 400 grand in the first week." He said, "I'm in." He became the co-founder and CTO. We wrote code for over a year, and I was the guinea pig of course. In the beginning it was buggy as hell and then over time there was less and less bugs.

Brett:

Pretty software business is not for the faint of heart. Several friends have built SAS platforms or software and it is a massive undertaking. It's very appealing and there's quite an allure there because you can get a 7X multiple in some cases or 20X, whatever, but it's not easy, that's for sure.

Trent:

I would go so far as to say if you're not a technical person and you don't have a technical co-founder your odds of success are really low.

Brett:

100% agree.

Trent:

Because he's been a master at getting a large amount of development done overseas for a very small amount of money, which is why we've been able to bootstrap to the point where it is. By October of 2018 it was ready and so we launched it. Since then it's been attracting users at a pretty good clip. We have around 5,000 people that are using the platform, or have signed up to use it at one point in time or another. Now we're at a point where we're really ready to pour gas on the fire and stoke it up. The goal is to get to 1,000 page users by... because we have about 500 or so page users now... the end of the year by taking some of my existing content and then putting it into subscription content and putting it into the platform and doing some things that are a bit different from a pricing perspective than we've done in the past.

Trent:

I kind of stumbled into being the founder of a software company. I always wanted to be, don't get me wrong, but I didn't know what the idea was going to be, much less how the hell I was ever going to get the thing built. Now, of course, I've got all sorts of grand plans for the future and partnerships and white label programs and all this great stuff that we're running micro-tests on. I'm pretty sure if you ask me five years from now it's going to have been one hell of an incredible ride that ended up with a pretty big pay day, I would suspect.

Brett:

Absolutely. Aside from what you mentioned before... and I want to get into the details of the software, so I want to do a little verbal walkthrough here. But before we do that, any other advice you'd give to someone? Because I bet there are some people listening toying with the idea of building software for this or that or whatever, so aside from either you needing some serious technical chops or having a co-founder with some serious technical expertise, what else would you recommend for those that are thinking about starting a software business? Either words of warning or sage advice from someone who's now been in it for a while.

Trent:

Yeah, a couple things. One, don't underestimate how difficult the technical aspect of software is. Do your best to find a technical co-founder, and that's not easy to do. I had a 10 year relationship. This guy was my roommate at one point in time, so the whole "Are we aligned on values? Do we get along? Do we deal with adversity?" All that stuff was known in advance. What do you do if you don't have that? Oddly enough, I actually interviewed someone on my show not too long ago: her name is Cynthia Del'Aria and you can find her at brightideas.co and you just type her name into the search box. She actually has a company... I'll see if I can find the episode number... that helps entrepreneurs like me who don't have a technical co-founder who want to launch their own software business. She is episode 318. Brightideas.co episode 318.

Trent:

The episode is Cynthia Delaria on How To Start A Technology Company the Smart Way. I think that people would get a great deal of value out of listening to that interview and potentially working with Cynthia.

Brett:

Great. Love it. Fantastic. Let's kind of do a walkthrough. What separates Flowster from other project management tools out there, like a TeamworkEM or an Asana or Base Camp or something like that? How did you build it differently? What would be some of the things that you'd point out to someone who's new to the software?

Trent:

The tools that you just described are excellent project management tools, but they weren't built for process management, and there's a difference. Process management is we know what the process is, it's going to happen over and over again, whereas project management is going to be pretty unique each time. By focusing on that one differentiator, we're scratching a different itch and we're solving a different problem.

Trent:

For example, in our vernacular we have what we call a workflow template and a workflow. A workflow template is, for example, producing a podcast episode or doing keyword research or optimizing a listing on Amazon. All of those, there's a workflow template for that process. We'll use Amazon product listing as an example because it's relevant to most of the businesses that we're in.

Trent:

Let's say that, Brett, you have a new client and they've got 50 listings in their catalog and you're responsible for optimizing 10 of those listings in the first three weeks, just to pick some random example. You would have 10 workflows running, one for each listing. Let's say that midway through whenever, you, as the smart leader that you are, figure out, "There's a way to improve our process for optimizing listings. We're going to add this step." You go into the master workflow, because you have the rights to do because you're the administrator or whatever, and you add a step. The software is then going to say to you, "We see that there are active workflows that are out there in some level of completion and you've just added a step to the master copy. Would you like me to also add this step to all of those active workflows?" You're going to probably click yes.

Trent:

That one thing is wildly valuable because now, midstream, without holding a meeting or a Zoom or a training session, everybody on your team knows that step 12 got added and they know what the step is and they can't complete their workflow without completing step 12. You are able to take this improvement in your process and immediately push it out to everyone in your organization for every active client with a couple clicks of the mouse. That's awesome.

Brett:

Yeah, for sure. That's huge.

Trent:

That's one of the features of Flowster that I love the most. The other thing that is the differentiator is our chosen target market and our workflow marketplace. Obviously by focusing on eCommerce we are trying to create a body of content around everything that eCommerce businesses have to do, and because we got a lot of content around Amazon obviously we're starting there, but once we've got all that done then we're going to have a lot of content around Facebook ads. We're going to have a lot of content around Shopify. We're going to have a lot of content around whatever that has to do with eCommerce.

Trent:

For people that come to use the platform, they're not going to find that level of pre-made content anywhere else on the internet. We are it. We are going to be the single largest source of high-quality workflows for all of the aspects of eCommerce, so as opposed to, say, going and signing up for Asuna or Base Camp or whatever and having no content and having to create it all from scratch, which would suck...

Brett:

Those are just strictly platforms. There's not get any templates or recipes or workflows to take and tweak and make your own.

Trent:

Correct. Just like when you go sign up for Trello. It's empty. It's a great tool, but it's empty. Trello, fortunately, only needs micro bits of content. Workflows on the other hand is not micro content. It's a lot of content to create a good workflow. We're super focused for the next couple of years on building out, maintaining, and keeping current that body of content. Someone might ask, "How do you do that? That's a lot of content." We do it by partnerships: by aligning ourselves with experts in each one of those areas and then forming deals with those people so that they are responsible for keeping their six or eight or 10 or whatever workflows that they created up to date on an ongoing basis.

Brett:

Great. You mentioned in the beginning you talked about the shortcut process of just creating one massive video that outlines everything. Clearly that's not useful, but sometimes small videos are or certainly screenshots are, so then your platform, I'm sure, manages screenshots and images but does your platform also handle video? Or do you guys not recommending using video?

Trent:

You can absolutely use it. As a matter of fact, one of the markets... You can embed a video anywhere in the process that you would like. You can embed as many videos as you would like. One of the markets that we're micro-testing is it has occurred to me that, by accident, we've also built something of a learning management system because if you think about Teachable, for example, Teachable allows you to put together a curriculum that is based upon videos. You can have accompanying documents. You can have accompanying bodies of text. But there's no workflow capability at all, and yet when you're learning something there are activities that need to be performed on an ongoing basis. One of our micro-tests... this is may fail or this may work, we're not really sure yet... is reaching out to course creators and saying, "Why wouldn't you compliment your course offering with the workflows that are associated with it and either give it away as a value add or treat it as an upsell and generate a second stream of revenue for yourself?" That may end up being a big thing for us as well.

Brett:

That's super smart. I love it. If someone is listening to this... we've just got a couple minutes left here... and they say, "I got to check this out. One, I want to see, maybe, what SOPs and workflows Trent and team have already built out, would also like to maybe get a free trial of the software," how do we do that? And what does trying out the software look like?

Trent:

I'm going to put up a page specific for your audience. They're going to get to it at flowster.app/omg.

Brett:

That'd be great, man. Easy to remember. Slash OMG. I like it.

Trent:

All they need to do is go there and I'll have offer and way to log in and anything special that we want to create for them there. I always come up with something special for folks, usually some discounts or some free content or something that will give them more value than if they just went to flowster.app to sign up.

Brett:

Great. So flowster.app/omg. I'll link to that in the show notes as well, but that's pretty easy to remember so go check it out. As we wrap out, Trent, I'm a big fan of the Bright Ideas Podcast. For those that aren't familiar with it, I know you talked about an episode or two already but you want to give a quick overview of what that podcast is and what your goals are with it and who it's for?

Trent:

Sure. It's an eCommerce podcast. My goal is to tell the stories of how brands have made themselves successful on Amazon, on their own DDC website, and by whatever means. For example, earlier today I interviewed a company called Neuro. They were on Shark Tank. They have Joe Rogan as a fan. They've been on the cover of Entrepreneur. How did all that happen? We did an interview where Kent Yoshirmira, the co-founder, shared with us how they initially started with a huge PR outreach and so forth and then how they got on Shark Tank and how they did all these things. Really like to deliver as many actionable tactics, or golden nuggets as I like to call them, in each episode.

Trent:

Who listens to us is other brands, of course, because brands like to hear what brands are doing to grow, so brands. Also, because of the fact that I'm well known in the world of Amazon resellers, I think I have a pretty decent chunk of my audience that is an Amazon reseller because I talk a lot about process with each and every guest, so there's lessons for them there. Then I also have a portion of my audience, which I'll call the aspiring entrepreneur, and they're listening because they aspire to start a brand or they aspire to become an Amazon reseller and they're looking for actionable tactics to get their business off the ground.

Brett:

Fantastic. I love it. Trent, this has been fantastic. Really appreciate you taking the time. Highly recommend everybody go check out Flowster if for no other reason than to look at some of the workflows and SOPs. You'll learn a lot some you've got some SOPs there for free, it looks like. Check that out. Also, check out the Bright Ideas Podcast. It's a fantastic one. If you like this podcast, if this is a good fit for you, then Trent's podcast is going to be a good fit as well. Trent, awesome work, buddy. Appreciate you coming on. We'll have to do it again sometime.

Trent:

Thank you very much for having me on, Brett. Really appreciate it.

Brett:

Awesome. Thanks again. Hey, as always, thank you for tuning in. We would love to hear from you. We'd love to hear feedback. What are some other topics you'd like us to dive into? We would love that review on iTunes. It helps other people discover the show. With that, until next time. Thank you for listening. All right, man. That is a wrap. Really good.

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