This episode of Entrepreneur on Fire with John Lee Dumas is a great one on accelerating your growth through hiring remote hires for your eCommerce business. We have the full transcription for you below so that you can browse at your leisure to get the key points.
Johnny: Fire Nation, in the house Johnny Dumas here. Welcome to episode 1386 of EO Fire. Where we interview todays’ most aspiring entrepreneurs seven days a week. And Fire Nation, the number one reason in my success is I have mastered productivity, discipline and focus and you can too. Visit selfmasteryjournal.com to learn more about my latest projects and how you can you master productivity, discipline and focus in 100 days. Selfmasteryjournal.com. and now it’s time to chat, with today’s featured guest, Nathan Hirsch. Nathan, are you prepared to ignite?
Nathan: John, I am ready to ignite.
J: Yes! Nathan is a serial entrepreneur and hiring expert. His first business, Portlight is an Amazon marketplace seller, baby and home brands. In 2015, he founded FreeUp with the purpose of vising business owners with an easier solution to accelerate growth through remote hires. Nathan, take a minute and fill in some of those the gaps. Give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
N: Definitely! So I went to school in Connecticut, Quinnipiac University. , started my first business while I was there. Ended up moving in Orlando, Florida to become an entrepreneur. There were lots of benefits for doing that. Tax purposes, cost of living purposes. So, it really helped me expand my business. When I was down in Florida, I started my second business, FreeUp. I met my girlfriend, Quyhn. And I actually just moved in to my first condo that I purchased just a month ago. So, that’s where I am in my life.
J: Now, I went to Providence College and I’m pretty passionate about being Alumni there. And I think, if I met a girl named Prov, I would give her the benefit of a doubt because I just love her name. Is that what happened with Quyhn.
N: Yeah. That’s actually funny you say that. I had to get her to meet a lot more of my Quinnipiac friends. Only a few moved down with me to Florida. So, we’re making a few trips up North later in the year. So it should be good.
J: Well, Prov, if you are out there. I am sorry. I am a taken Man. Kate, she’s not named Prov, but she’s pretty special.
N: Quyhn, you’re special as well.
J: Nathan, let’s talk about you and revenue, and dollars coming in the door. What is the way you generate revenue in your business today?
N: Sure. So, Portlight sells products. We operate on a dropship model. So, customers pay upfront. We have manufacturers that we work with that we purchase products after the fact and they ship it to the end consumer. And we handle all the customer care on the back end so they don’t have to.
And my business, FreeeUp, it’s all about billable hours. We charge an hourly rate from $5 to $50 an hour depending on the hire. And all our revenue is either billable hours or some of the side services we offer like suspension appeals, different things like that, that kinda help our clients keep moving forward. But our main way of generating revenue is by billable hours.
J: Nathan, let’s talk moments. In this specific moment that I want to go to is what you consider your best entrepreneurial moment to date. So, take us back to that moment in time and tell that story.
N: Alright. So I got a good one. When I was first starting my business, I had some revenue goals and we were working with one vendor at that time. And we were crushing it. We were exceeding all goals, everything was great. I have been working all year. My friends and I, and few of the owners of the business, some hires, we booked a trip to Myrtle beach. It was for spring break in college. We went there, we drove. It was an amazing road trip, had a fun first two days. We left a few people in charge of the business, everything was doing well.
It was the first time in my life that I was making money without even working. And then, I got a call from one of my guys saying that our vendor who will go unnamed has decided to end their relationship with us effective in a week. And on top of that, later that night, I swear to you, the same day, my bookkeeper cold and said, Nathan, your tax return just got kicked back, someone had stolen your identity and has taken $40,000 from the government under your name. So, within the course of 24 hours, I had my identity, stolen, and I lost which at that time, my only revenue stream through Portlight
J: Wow! That was just a right hook, left jab. That is just something that you don’t want on a back to back basis especially when you’re on vacation, trying to whoop it up with the boys. So, Nathan, I’m sure you had a lot of things that I’m sure you learned from that. Let’s really break this down. Let’s give some lessons to Fire Nation from this story.
N: Absolutely! Biggest lesson and I cannot stress this enough, DIVERSIFY. You cannot be reliant on one thing on your business. You’ll never know when that business is going to get shut down. That’s one of the reasons I opened the second business. It’s even more diversifying.
It’s one of the reasons that when I consult with businesses to hire freelancers, they fall into the same common trap of hiring just one person to do everything. And then, when that one person quits. They just don’t have any idea what to do.
Whereas I recommend, hiring 4 different people and splitting up the task and make it so they are specialized, so that if one quits, you can just replace them and the rest of your business keeps moving forward. And it’s also the same reason I recommend not relying on one vendor to sell all your products. And making sure that you’re continuing to add new products, new vendors and new services so you’re never relying on one specific thing.
J: Okay, Fire Nation, multiple streams of revenue. You’re gonna diversify that area. You just need to be diversified and pretty much everything you do in life. I mean, you want your skillset diversified. You just want to be a diversified entrepreneur because then no matter what come at you, whatever happens with the economy, just anything you are prepared for. You’re flexible. You can adjust. You can peeve it. You can make things happen.
Nathan, that was an “AHA!” moment for you, that you had to become more diversified. And I’m sure you have since taken many steps to become so. But let’s take another step back and tell another story of one of your greatest “AHA” moments to date. You’ve had a lot of those, but take us to one specific time where you turned that idea into success and tell us that story.
N: Definitely. So, I was actually running a multi-million dollar business when I was in college which was pretty crazy. But it was also the first time in my life that I was making money. I was working for myself. It was me and one other part time person and my bookkeeper, all year was like “Listen, you gotta start thinking hiring people.” And in my mind, “Why would I hire someone?” It’s just money I had to pay other people. It could be going into my pocket. I’m a workaholic. I can handle it. I was working 10 hours a day. But I really love what I was doing. I got the entrepreneurial passion.
And I was answering all the emails, filling all the orders, doing everything, which was great. And it was working fine until about October, November, Black Friday kicks in, busy season, and I was like, “Oh my God!” At that time I was rushing for a fraternity, I had a girlfriend at the time, I had finals, I had school, and I was running this multi-million business by myself in the middle of busy season. It was my first busy season ever. And it was insane.
Honestly, I don’t even know how I survived it. I had help from the few people I added on the last minute and getting the person I was working part time to step it up after a lot of talking. He was awesome. He was really the only reason, we survived. And my “AHA” moment was come January 2nd, I sat down with everyone there, and I was like, “Alright, not only are we hiring, but we need to make sure that we’re prepared for every holiday, for busy season, going forward.” I can never lack manpower again, as long as I am running businesses.
J: So, talk to me about this multi-million dollar business you were running while in college. What year was it approximately and what exactly was it.
N: It was 2009 when I started. And we probably did a million dollars around 2010-11. That was Portlight. Back at that time, it was actually called Hirsch Industries. That was my last name. We switched it over to Portlight once I added a few partners.
J: So, how was the revenue and money coming in the door?
N: Sure. So, we’re an Amazon seller. Everything was through Amazon. Customers purchase stuff from Amazon. We dropship them from our manufacturers who we had different relationships with. And then the manufacturers like it because they can focus on what they’re good at which is making the products and shipping them out.
And we can focus on what we’re good at which was Amazon at the time. I’m an Amazon expert. I know how to generate more sales on Amazon and also customer care. I have a great customer care background. And anyone that knows Amazon knows that they’re all about customer care. So, we handle the customer care so the manufacturers don’t have to.
And obviously we like it from a cash flow perspective because we get paid up front. We only buy something if we have only gotten the money for. And we never have to touch anything. The product goes right from the manufacturer to the customer. So it really worked out from both sides.
J: Okay, so, Nathan, what exactly is our gross revenue with your business.
N: It’s five to eight million dollars a year.
J: So, what is the net profit look like from that?
N: A few hundred thousand dollars every year.
J: So, what is the big gap? if you’re generating so much money that is coming in, gross revenue wise, and you’re keeping like 5 to 10% as net revenue. Where is that other 95% going?
N: Yeah, let me explain. So, when we sell products, you can only mark products up so much. So, if you sell a $100 dollar product, we’re only marking it up about 10 to 20%. And then the other 10% that gets taken away would go to stuff like payroll, like Amazon fees, stuff like that.
J: I’m just kinda curious about this because you know it’s a little misleading sometimes when people say, “I’m running this multi-million dollar business and when it comes down to the actual dollars that are coming into the pockets, you know it’s a tiny percentage of that. What’s your thought on that?
N: No, I agree. I mean, I try to be as honest with people as possible. But if people are like, “Are you a millionaire?” I’m not a millionaire. But yeah, revenue is one thing especially when you’re dealing with Amazon; most people’s revenues are way higher than what they are actually making. Even with FreeeUp, I mean it’s not like we’re going to take a $10 freelancer and charge $20 for it, it’s unreasonable. So, my expertise I think is on lower margin products and services. I do pretty well selling them. So, I’m always gonna have that distinction.
J: Got it. So I think it’s pretty important here to be transparent with numbers. And you know Nathan is being transparent here. I’m kinda putting him on the spot. I think he is doing great, sharing what his numbers are. So, we thank you for that, Nathan.
N: No problem.
J: For sharing what your net profit is. What it really comes down it to Fire Nation, that’s what matters. I mean, I’d rather have a business that is generating a hundred thousand dollars of net profit a year is a million dollar of gross revenue than five million dollars of gross revenue doing $50,000 of net profit. So, just decide the kind of business that you want to run but remember, the bottom line is gonna be the bottom line. That bottom line is net profit. Fire out, Nathan, what is your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
N: Patience. I’m a very impatient person. I try to get as much done as possible every day, every week. I assign projects that are sometimes unreasonable. I have a high expectation from them to get them done. And a lot of times they sit me down and they’re like, Nathan, you know what, we need an extra day for quality assurance. And I’ve come around to it over the years. But I’m the kind of person that my to do list gets bigger every day not smaller, even though I am completing stuff. So, I always want to get stuff done as fast as possible.
J: What is your biggest strength?
N: Managing people and taking calculated risks. There are 70 people right now working on FreeUp. On Portlight, there are 20-ish depending on the season. So, just managing people is something I got very good at. I was fortunate enough when I got internships before I started my own business, to have people that are very good at managing people above me. So, I find that I’m very good at managing people and putting people in position to succeed to manage other people.
J: What are you most fired up today?
N: Right now, I’m fired up about FreeUp. It has really taken off. This week, we’re gonna bill a thousand hours for the first time. We’re eight months old. That was my goal since the beginning, so you’re actually meeting me in a very happy day. It’s the end of our payroll.
J: It’s a happy day coz you’re on EO Fire too, right?
N: 100% everyday, all around.
J: Well, congratulations! How can Fire Nation find out more about FreeUp?
N: FreeUp.com with 3 Es. F-R-E-E-E-U-P.com You can also find our Facebook page, twitter as well.
J: Fire Nation, don’t you go anywhere because we are about to crush the lighting round. But let’s have a quick minute first to thank our sponsors. Continuing to move your business forward involves consistent check and balances and I just don’t mean financially. For example, when’s the last time you checked the level of customer support and your ability to communicate with potential clients and business partners. A tool that we’ve been using here EO Fire help us be on top of customer support and business calls is E-voice. With how fast paced everything is today, your ability to respond to request an increase at a timely manner can mean the difference between landing you the next client and having no clients at all. With e-voice you can conveniently route messages to a single inbox and have notifications sent right to your mobile phone, no second phone needed. See how E-voice can help you connect with your customers and partners quickly and easily. Visit evoice.com to add a second line today. Evoice is offering Fire Nation an extended 60 day free trial. Visit evoice.com. Use promo code FIRE. That’s evoice.com, promo code FIRE.
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Nathan are you prepared for the lightning round?
N: I am ready to go!
J: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
N: I think the mindset that you graduate college and you get a “real” job right away. When I was about to graduate, my parents who were very supportive no matter what I do, but they were like “Are you sure that you really want to pursue this full time?” And people are always like “Hey, why did you even go to college if you’re gonna become an entrepreneur?” So, really that was the one thing I was uncertain of through the initial stages of the journey.
J: I would’ve said, “Uhm, Frat life, mom! Hello?”
J: What’s the best advice, you’ve ever received?
N: That one would come from my mother. She told me this at a very young age. “Work hard, play hard.” I work harder than anyone I know. At least back in my younger days, I played harder than anyone I know too. But just having that balance, you’re doing a lot of great things in your professional life, but you’re also doing good things in your personal life as well.
J: What’s a personal habit that contributed to your success?
N: So one thing I have taken up over the years is just waking up early. I found that waking up early is one of the biggest keys to becoming successful. I actually read an article that says that a long time ago. And that had a pretty good influence in my life because I have been living by it every day. I wake up 6 o’clock almost every morning. Go through my emails. Get ready to go for the day. In that way, I’m good to go before other people would get on, before my clients get on. I got that heads up. I’ve got a lot of international clients as well. So, I don’t always beat them online. But just waking up early and making sure that you’re getting the most out of every day.
J: Nathan, I like to say that I get most stuff done before 9 am than the rest of the world does all day.
N: Yeah, I love it, it’s great.
J: Share internet resource like Evernote with Fire Nation.
N: Yeah, sure. So, I’ve been using this program called Yet Another Mail Merge for a while. It’s actually pretty awesome. I use it for contacting hires, contacting different clients, different sales pitches like that. For those of you who don’t know, there are a lot of different programs like it. I use Yet Another Mail Merge. You can bulk email people, change different things in your email like their names, their business, whatever it is, and it really allows you to send mass amounts of emails while also having that personal touch and you can keep track of who’s opening it and different results like that. So that’s a program I use on a daily basis.
J: If you can recommend one book, what would it be and why?
N: So, I’m a soccer/Ecommerce, that’s my background. So, I recommend the Amazon book, because you can’t really get into Ecommerce without knowing about Amazon. But if you’ve already read that, the Zippo’s book, Delivering Happiness is really good. And you can kind of see the story of Zappos and Amazon, their differences and in buying Zappos out. It’s really cool.
J: Nathan, let’s end today on Fire, brother, will you share a parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you and then we’ll say goodbye.
N: The best way to connect with me is by emailing me at email@example.com; just make sure you include the extra ‘e’. There are 3 Es.
J: And that parting piece of guidance.
N: My quote that I actually gave in my pep talk this week is if you’re not improving something every day, then you’re not performing your role correctly. Don’t be the kind of person that just listens to the orders and just does the same repetitive stuff every day. Something needs to get improved one day to the next day.
J: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. And you’ve been hanging out with NH and JLD today so keep up the heat. Head over to eofire.com just type Nathan in the search bar and a page will pop out showing everything that we talked about today. The book, the resources, all the links and of course go directly to Nathan at freeeup.com or email him directly, firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember there’s 3 Es in the word Freee. Check him out there.
Nathan, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
N: Thanks, John! I appreciate it. Have a good day.
J: Hey, Fire Nation, I hope you enjoyed our chat with Nathan today. I got a little in there with the revenue numbers but he held his own and you know this. The one commonality all successful entrepreneurs have is they know how to set and accomplish goals and we’ve created a free course that will guide you in doing the same. Visit freegoalscourse.co and start your free 8-day goals course today. That’s freegoalscourse.co. I’ll catch you there or I’ll catch you on the flip side.
Click here to listen to the full podcast about accelerating your growth with Nathan Hirsch on eofire.com and feel Nathan’s passion as he talks about:
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