How to Strive and Thrive in Times Like These

Survive & Thrive

Andy's Tips For Navigating The Amazon Jungle During COVID-19

Survive & Thrive


During this webinar I talk about ways you as a seller should not shrink back, to not pull back, but really to move forward, to pivot if you have to.  Coronavirus has changed the landscape of our industry.  So how will you push through this  challenging time?  I have some awesome tips to keep you positive and ready for the next season of history!

Andy: (01:00)
That’s always right, a business term. Sometimes I get tired of, of terms like that. What does that exactly mean? I will get into that for what it means for you and I as Amazon sellers as owners of inventory based businesses. 

So it’s really fascinating because you and I are in a different situation that we own inventory. And so if you’re in a software business you’re really not as affected. Other than that you might have some of your users canceling their subscriptions, which I’m sure happens. But if you’re in a service business, then you may have well you will have less customers, especially because of the shelter in place things. 

But if you have an inventory based business and you are not able to ship that inventory in you know, like we can on some in some categories now, then you are faced with a challenging time and your face with what are you going to do with your business.

Andy: (02:04)
So if you don’t have the ability, if you don’t have a warehouse or if you don’t keep inventory at home, you’re really limited to even merchant fulfilling that inventory. So if you send all your inventory in Amazon, then that could be a challenging time for you because not only is your inventory being shown like delayed shipping times, it really is Amazon focusing on getting those essential items out. So your sales may have dried up. Again, two interesting terms that we’ve all come to know now is essential and non-essential. And I really feel bad because I have a number of friends that are sellers that sell those quote unquote non-essential items. And in times like this, I, you know, I was starting to think, and I made a post last night. If you’re in that, those categories where you’re selling those non-essential items, you know, you can almost take that personal like, Oh my gosh, do I matter?

Andy: (03:02)
You know, I don’t, I’m not selling essential items, you know, do I matter? And, and in my post I said, you absolutely matter. So if you sell in those categories of non-essential items, that’s what makes the world go round. That’s what makes our economy work. And so, you know, just like everyone else I’m excited that when we flatten this curve right, that those non-essential quote unquote are going to become, are becoming, you know, are going to come back online. 

So I have my son has a friend his mother is a full time waitress in a restaurant here in Hershey. That’s their full time job and the restaurant is now had to close down. So they don’t need waitresses. I think they’re still cooking, but they don’t need our services anymore because she’s non-essential and I can promise you as a patron that goes into her restaurant and know some of the waitresses there who smile and make your day better, I consider that a essential service.

Andy: (04:02)
So that’s the first thing I just want to tell everyone as I get into this webinar is keep driving and keep pushing and just know that your non-essential items are going to come back, right? The economy is going to snap back. 

What is encouraging to me is we can point to the slowdown in this. Whereas with the 2008 to 2010 with the real estate boom, that was dirty pool, right? That really crashed the economy. This is something just like China right now, those of you that are sourcing from China, you know that your suppliers are coming back online. China is kind of getting back to normal. And so that’s what we have to look forward to as we flatten this curve. So with all that said, what I want to get into is how you and I survive and thrive in the Amazon jungle.

Andy: (04:58)
One good thing that has been happening over the last couple of weeks are the amount of memes that have been going around. So people are at home, they have a little more time on their hands. And this is one thing I really respect about the internet is the folks that are a witty are able to have an outlet and it really does help everyone else laugh. And so these times for me, I’m sure just like you have been trying they have been full full with anxiety. 

And so seeing memes like this definitely bring humor to the situation. And I personally, whenever I confront anytime type of situation, and this is something I think I learned from my family growing up, oftentimes in some of the toughest circumstances as a family, this may sound weird, but we will actually laugh because the reverse is if you don’t laugh, sometimes you’ll cry.

Andy: (05:57)
And so we always try to have an outlook of, you know, this is a tough situation, but it is kinda humorous. And so now I don’t say that to be insensitive. If you have friends or relatives who have the virus and who are struggling and fighting for your life, for their life, obviously we are still praying for them. We’re praying for everyone that’s sick in the hospital. We’re praying for all the nurses, right, that are on the front lines. Trying to help, right combat and trying to get the folks that are sick, healthier. 

And so I just hope though in the midst of that, that you can at times step away if you are on the front lines and, and possibly find some humor and all the craziness that’s going on. And with the craziness that’s going on, it’s still kind of mind boggling, right? How toilet paper for whatever reason, was one of the first things that people started to hoard and people started to go after. So this is why I thought this was kind of a funny meme. 

Our House Fire Caused Me To Pivot

So about four years ago, this is a picture of my garage, my house caught on fire. I was actually selling on Amazon at this point for about a year. So I’d gone full time. We had moved into this house exactly a year previous to this fire. I was coming back from an Amazon conference. I pulled up about, 11:30 PM, and I saw my wife and my kids with my dog running out of the house and I saw flames and smoke coming up from the roof of my garage. I tried to run in the house. I couldn’t because the smoke was so great. The fire department was called. They showed up about 10 minutes later.

Andy: (07:47)
By that time, the entire roof of my garage was engulfed in flames. The fire department was able to run hoses through my house and thankfully they were able to put the fire out. This is a really a scary time for myself, for my family and as an eCommerce seller, because that garage that you’re looking at right there with those firemen in it, that was where I prep and packed. So all of my inventory, I didn’t have a warehouse at the time. All of my Amazon inventory was in that garage and it all went up in flames. Had the fire department been 10 minutes later, my entire house would have went up in flames. 

So super thankful for the first responders that you see there. The cause of the fire was a faulty pool pump and that’s the picture there on the right. I think lightning may have struck in the area and for whatever reason it went haywire. I am super thankful my wife and kids were able to get out that it wasn’t two or three hours later when we were dead sleeping because we may have the outcome may have a lot worse. But it was a very traumatic time for my family and I, so this is the picture of the garage. This is when it’s being rebuilt. You can see the Amish guys there that came from Lancaster to rebuild it. They actually did a really amazing job on rebuilding it. But it was a really traumatic time. 

And I bring this up because it was a time that I had to pivot in my business. And so, like a lot of you right now especially those of you again, who are selling in those quote unquote non-essential categories this is a time where you are going to have to pivot.

Andy: (09:33)
My family was actually, you know, it’s weird if you’ve ever been through a fire, this was the first fire that I ever experienced and the residence that I lived in. But really for the first month, there’s a little bit of trauma. And you’re kind of worried like is it okay to go to sleep? The house actually smelled like smoke for about four to five months after the fire. And when you go to sleep, you’re a little nervous, a little anxious. 

My kids, which never sleep with my wife and I are in our bedroom, they actually slept with us in our bedroom on the floor for the first month because they were so worried. And so it was a very stressful time and very stressful time for my Amazon business. Very stressful time. And again, I know it’s different. I’m sure that a lot of you that are selling on Amazon may be going through right now and I want to tell you what I did and what really helped me.

Andy: (10:25)
I really leaned in to the Amazon community. Now here’s an interesting thing and I know a lot of people are using the term social distancing. Again with the coronavirus now we’ve, we’ve all begin to learn new new terms, right? And one of them is social distancing, and I don’t necessarily like that term. I really like physical distancing because for me, the majority of my relationships that I have now that I really feel close to are folks that are in the Amazon community and a lot of folks that are in Facebook groups just like this one. 

And so back when I had my fire, it was actually amazing. More folks from the Facebook groups that I’ve been in reached out to me and supported me. Then the folks that I live with locally. And so that’s just a reflection of the times that we live in, right? Our new community, I know for me, my new community is my online friends and I feel a lot closer because I communicate a lot more with many of you than I do with my next door neighbor who unfortunately I don’t really know very well. 

And it’s just because I spend a lot more of my time online and I imagine that you do as well. So for me, in this time of anxiety and stress, after we went through this fire, I really leaned into my community. I leaned into other Amazon sellers who offered their help, offered their assistance and really helped me get back on my feet. So I just want to encourage you to do that. If you know this community of Amazing Freedom, you know, isn’t your primary community, I encourage you to get one and lean into it. Stay close to it.

Andy: (12:13)
Offer best practices, you know, to the folks that you are close to cause I promise you you will get best practices back. So some of the communities that I’m a part of, obviously this one our public amazing freedom community, super close to our private label community, that’s the inner circle as well as the Amazon seller tribe that deals with retail arbitrage and online arbitrage. 

So these are all communities that for me, over the last two or three weeks, I’ve really reached out to gained a tremendous amount of encouragement from and hopefully I’ve been able to give some encouragement back. And so again, if you’re feeling anxious and if you’ve got questions, just know what you don’t want to do is pull back. Cause that’s a tendency you know, that we all have, especially as they’re giving social distancing. 

But the great thing is as Amazon sellers, as e-commerce sellers, where we spend a lot of our time in the online space, we can actually spend more time now building relationships with each other. So the physical distancing is real for now. But the social distancing for you and I, it can actually happen to a greater degree.

Andy: (13:27)
So what I want to bring to you too is to let you know that Hey, you and I are in the right place selling on Amazon. Now if we look around right at the economic landscape, we can see the number of layoffs that are going to happen that are happening right now. We can see the number of layoffs. There’s actually a jobs report that is going to go out on Thursday and Dr. Pak, a partner and an expert here in the group, you know, he predicts that the stock market is probably going to go down on Thursday when they release that jobs report. 

But what’s interesting is while everyone is laying folks off, Amazon is actually doing the exact opposite, they’re trying to hire 100,000 more employees because they have been inundated, right? With business because the retail stores, the brick and mortar stores are, are shut up right during this shelter in place and during the state of emergencies. And so everyone now is looking to Amazon to deliver their products. And, and again, that’s encouraging for you and I because we are Amazon and e-commerce sellers. 

And so I’ve said this many times that you know, the best time to start selling on Amazon was 15 years ago and the absolute best time is to start selling on Amazon now. And so I want to encourage you, I’m going to get a little emotional here. Do not pull back now. Now is the time to survive and now is the time to thrive. Amazon is not shrinking. 

And as we come out of this, and as the economy snaps back, Amazon’s not going to shrink. Amazon is only going to grow. So although right now you may be hurting, right? Your sales may be down, they are going to come back because Amazon is going to grow and flourish out of this emergency situation. So you and I are in the right place at the right time. So be encouraged about that.

The Pendulum Will Swing Back

Andy: (15:31)
Understand too that there is precedence for this, the history of the world, the economy, there’s always a pendulum. Over the last 10 years, we’ve probably experienced the most prosperous time in the history of the world. The economy is swung way that way. Now, no one has a crystal ball, so we could not have predicted that, you know, the thing that would knock the economy down for a little bit would be a pandemic that has happened. 

But in history there have been other things. Again, just going back to 2010 right? It was the real estate crisis going back to 2001 it was when the terrorist attacked 9-11 and again, those were things that we could’ve never predicted. And I promise you, I can remember when 9-11 happened. I was going into the hospital. My daughter was born premature. She had to be in the hospital for 30 days before we could bring her home and we are going to visit her every day and one of those days was on 9-11 and we went into the hospital. We’re getting our scrubs on, getting ready to see her. We looked up at the TV and we saw those planes crash into those buildings. It disoriented us. I almost felt like I was going to pass out. Didn’t feel real. 

Almost like it feels right now what you and I are going through, when I look at the news, when I see what’s happening and when I see the massive shutdowns, it doesn’t feel real. It feels like we are in a movie, right? It feels like we’re in an apocalyptic movie, but this is history. Just like you see there on the slide, the pendulum swings, it’ll go like we’ve been the last 10 years, great prosperity. Then something will come along and it’ll swing back. 

But I promise you this, it will swing back to what we have experienced in the last 10 years and especially for you and I as Amazon sellers. So we have an opportunity, but now’s not the time to shrink back. Now is the time to pivot and to think through what are the things that you and I need to do so that we’re ready when it does come back.

Andy: (17:42)
So I’m just going to share with you some things that we’re doing, how we’re using our time. So one of the things is we’re talking a lot to our suppliers. Our primary business model is private label and all of our suppliers know now that what happened in China over the last two to three months is beginning to happen now in the U S so they’re really concerned. So, you know, they want to know, look, how are you doing? You know, how are things in the US every night I get messages on WeChat from my sales reps and from the suppliers that I’m working at. 

And so what I’m doing with them is I’m building, continue to build stronger relationships with them and then getting them to help me understand how they are in the process of coming back online. And thankfully the majority of my suppliers in the factories that I work with, they are 80 to a hundred percent back online. Now. 

That’s very hopeful for you and I because China was hit tremendously hard. We all know this is where it started, right, in Wuhan, but because of the things that they put in place, things that we are putting in place right now, they are coming back online. All of my factories are 80 to 100% back, fully staffed and waiting a little bit on some of the supply chain for the raw materials, but overall they are almost back to normal. So that’s, that’s encouraging.

Andy: (19:09)
Something else we’re doing, we’re sharpening our axes, so we’re looking at our SKUs that we want to optimize. We’re digging into our Amazon account. Again, you and I should probably have a little bit of more time on our hands because we’re not in the car as much. We’re not commuting as much. If you work a full time job, maybe you’re working from home now. 

Well now you’ve just added probably a half hour to an hour of commuting time that you used to do going to your job. So that’s time number one that you can spend, right? Relating with your family which is obviously a really good thing. And then you probably have a little bit more time to work on the details on the nuts and bolts of your Amazon business.

Be Strategic & Plan Your Next Move

Andy: (19:52)
So this is a great time really to dig in and to see where your profit is at. You know, come up with a three month, six month a three year plan for your Amazon business. Take time to think those things through, dig in, see what things are profitable, see what things you may need to let go and then see the SKUs that are profitable and see how you can build those out. We’re researching new leads and product ideas. 

Again, what we want to fight against, right is inaction where we begin to pull back. What we want to do is we want to research and we want to find other product ideas that are out there. And because of this whole thing, if you’ve been in non-essential categories, your eyes now may have been open to potential essential categories, just like a good stock portfolio, right?

Andy: (20:47)
You may want to diversify where you’re selling those quote unquote non-essential and essential items to build up your, your product portfolio so that you are selling in both of those categories. 

I personally have products that sell in the essential categories and they sell all year around. Now here’s the thing about the products I sell in the essential categories. They don’t go crazy at Christmas time, right? I don’t have like huge screenshots during the fourth quarter because my essential products, they sell consistently all year round. And whereas if you’re in a non-essential categories, a lot of folks, it’s in the fourth quarter, particularly the end of November and December where sometimes you can sell as much during those six weeks as you do the entire year. 

So that’s the difference that I see a lot of times between the non essential and the essential. So this may be a time where you want to look at those type of products.

My Recession Proof Holiday Ideas

Andy: (21:47)
Consider the holidays that are coming up. So here’s the great thing. You know, even though we are definitely in a recession, we don’t know where it’s going to go. There are certain things that are recession proof. 

So Mother’s day is coming up, right? Mother’s day bundles sell amazing. So you might want to think about, you know, again, if you’re in these categories, you can’t send things in. Right now Mother’s day, by the time that rolls around, we probably will be able to send those non-essential things. And so that might be a time that might be a great time for you to create your first Mother’s day bundle. 

You have Father’s day coming up, you have back to school season coming up. And I imagine because kids are not going to be gone back to school till August or September, this may be one of the biggest back to school season times that we’ve seen with parents getting supplies.

Andy: (22:43)
So think about some of those things that are recession-proof. Some of those holidays that are recession proof. And how you may be able to work around those type of themes. So think about what new opportunities right may present themselves from these changes. 

I actually just made a post here in the group that in 2000 between 2008, 2010 some of the most successful companies right now, like Uber and a few others were created during these downtimes. So there will be new opportunities as, as e-commerce sellers, you and I are trained to keep an eye out right and look for things. And so we constantly should be doing that, look for those new opportunities. 

So you know, one that’s really blown up over the last two weeks is the homeschool niche. So my wife and I, we’ve actually homeschooled our kids all their lives and homeschool material is expensive. I’ll just tell you that right now. But one niche has really blown up as all of the kids right across the country are now at home and parents are having to teach them, you know, these supplies are really flying off the shelf at Amazon. You know, again, at home games, kids are home or now, so they have to, you know, the parents have to try to keep them busy. 

And again, this might be a great time that you can reach out to USA based suppliers. And so a lot of times those suppliers are hard to reach, but more now they may be more open to you as the economy begins to tighten up. So those phone calls that you weren’t getting back before, you may begin to get those right now.

Audit Your Amazon Portfolio

Andy: (24:28)
So again, just think about your portfolio of products as an Amazon seller. You know, consider the essential versus the non-essential new term that we’ve used. And you know, one thing that we often do is we ask our suppliers, what’s selling well for them right now? So, you know, if you do have suppliers that you work with in the U S you know, you want to reach out to them, ask, you know, what is selling well for them right now? 

You know, another thing you might want to do is you might want to reach out to, if there’s some independently owned retail stores, like I know there’s a natural health food store that’s in my area, it’s owned by a family. They may not have an online presence. They may not sell on Amazon. Now might be a great time if you’re able to reach them and to say, Hey, look, I know that people aren’t walking into your store right now. You’re not moving that inventory from foot traffic. Is there any way I can help you move that inventory on Amazon? 

You have an expertise in Amazon, they have an expertise and selling health foods, and so that might be a great business relationship where you can help each other, help them move inventory as well as you get an opportunity to sell in these categories that can sell right now on Amazon. So think strategically in those ways. 

Again, what I do want to say is don’t overreact. This isn’t a time right where you want to pull back. You want to be able to calm yourself and I’ll talk about this a little bit too. As you and I have more time on our hands, think about your health. All right. Do not allow yourself to gorge on Reese peanut butter cups. It is tempting. All right. I live in a town of Hershey. I live a mile away from the Reese plant that actually manufacturers Reese peanut butter cups. They are my favorite candy and I’m saying this because I have a friend that made a post and in his posts he had a picture of like 20 Reese peanut butter cup wrappers that he had just eaten and in a timeless stress, right? 

In a time of a situation that we haven’t been in before. It’s really easy for our diet to go down the rabbit hole of unhealthy snacks. So you know, I’m just going to give you a real practical thing as your quarantine, right? As we’re in that shelter in place, don’t do that. Try to get big discipline right and what you eat, try to drink, you know, that hundred ounces of water a day to keep your body healthy because it’s gonna give you mental clarity. 

And then obviously, you know, I know I sound like a doctor right now, but I can’t emphasize this enough, get exercise. So get out and walk, get out and jog. If you can do that, if you can’t jog, walk but do something, do not allow yourself to you know, just again, pull back and be stuck in the house because it’s going to help your mind, which again is going to help the relationships that you have with your, your family, with your friends, whoever you’re quarantine with and it’s going to give you the mental clarity that you need to run your Amazon business.

Andy: (27:39)
Think about history. This too shall pass. All right. I want to encourage you. Okay. If your sales have dropped, they will come back. Okay. You can look at history. This has happened. How long? I’m not sure I am an optimist though. I believe that snapback on this one will be quick just like we’re seeing in China right now where they are coming back online very quickly. I think that’s going to happen here in the US so you want to prepare yourself and have your business ready to do that. 

So again, thanks for being here in this group. I hope this webinar was encouraging to you. I know all the people that you see right there on that picture are super encouraging to me. That’s Garry Ray. That’s Gaye Lisby, that’s Dr. Wesley Pak. And then that’s my partner Nathan Slamans. And all of these people you see right here are in my inner circle and I lean on them on a daily basis. You need to cultivate yourself a inner circle in the eCommerce space, folks that you trust, folks that you can be emotionally vulnerable with. And this is the last piece. 

You always want to surround yourself with folks who are positive, that are gonna lift you up instead of tear you down, that are not going to be Negative Nellies in a situation like we’re going through right now because it’s easy, very easy to fall into that type of mindset.

Develop Grit

Andy: (29:08)
I want to surround myself with folks who are fighters, who are warriors and who have grit. And I hope that you, and I hope you get that same message when you’re here in this group in amazing freedom because those are the folks that I surround myself with. And I’ll say this and this is my last piece. Okay. The main thing that you and I need right now is grit. And I know that’s a buzzword that’s been going around. 

The author who wrote a book called Grit, or her name is Angela Duckworth. It’s a phenomenal book. I highly recommend it. But she researched and did studies and on thousands of kids and what she found was the kids that survived and the kids that thrived, it didn’t have to do with their intelligence. It didn’t have to do with their talent. What it had to do with was their emotional IQ and their grit, their ability to get knocked down and to get back up again. That was the number one factor when she studied all these students who were successful or unsuccessful, it was their emotional intelligence. 

It was the term, what she called grit, which led to the ability to get knocked down, but to get back up again. And so my encouragement to you is, look, if this is a time where you feel like you’re knocked down, right, you gotta get up, keep building your business, keep loving on your family and be the leader who you are. And even if you sell non-essential products, understand this, you are essential. There is no difference between essential seller and non-essential seller. We need both and we need you to get back up and to be on time for our economy when it snaps back.

Andy: (31:07)
So channel, dig down, get into that grit that you have in you. And let’s come through this on the other side. If you need to pivot, we will pivot. But stronger than ever because the Amazon marketplace is not shrinking. It is growing and I want to be ready when it explodes. It’s already exploding, but it’s going to explode to even a greater degree when we come out on the other side. Hope this is encouraging to you. 

Hey, do me a favor. If you like these type of talks, hit hit the light button. Comment with any questions below. 

Thanks again so much for hanging out in this group of Amazing Freedom!

On behalf of my partners, Garry Ray, Gaye Lisby, Dr. Wesley Pak, Nathan Slamans, thank you so much and keep on keeping on. 

Don’t forget to check out our services to help you dominate on Amazon:
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