On the show with me today is Tyler “Sully” Sullivan, founder of BombTechGolf.com. Sully and I talk about the many lessons he’s learned throughout the journey of starting and growing what has now become a highly profitable $6M eCommerce brand.

If you love hearing a great bootstrap startup story, this interview is just what you are looking for!

Full Transcript

Trent: Hey, what’s up everybody, welcome back to another episode of the Bright Ideas Podcast, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the Podcast where we shine the light on what is working in e-Commerce today and on the show with me today is a fellow who you can see on the screen sharing the screen with me by the name of Tyler Sullivan or “Sully” as people call him.

He’s the founder of Bomb Tech Golf, an e-Commerce store with over $15million sold online since 2012 which is one hell of an accomplishment and he believes the best way to run a profitable e-Commerce business is to have real conversations with customers and potential customers at scale; he is hyper focused on customer experience in operating a lean business that doesn’t just drive revenue but drives serious profit and cash flow, two words near and dear to my heart, so Sully welcome to the show.

Tyler: Thank you for having me, glad to be here.

Trent: So, let’s start off with you know– I just read your bio there but I always like to start off the show with the simple question of who are you and what do you do, kind of in your own words?

Tyler: That’s a deep question for me; right now run a e-Combrands Bomb Tech, that’s my main business since 2012, we sell premium Golf Club direct consumer with Facebook and Instagram and since that success with story helping other e-Combrands you know 7-figure brands profit more with emails.

Trent: And let’s talk about the success metric so the audience and you know maybe a Golfer is there and they know who you are but in the hopefully they are not, where are you in terms of revenue in the last year?

Tyler: Yes, so we’ve been switched over models quite a bit for maximum profit and cash flow, we’ve been hovering between $4m-$6m you know what we’re launching, we really live and die by the launch and this year in particular, I’ve pivoted to higher prices more premium products and overall not worried about revenue just worried about cash at bank and that’s kept me sane. But every year you know we try to least $4m, if you’ve got a big product launch, $6m would be a good year for us.

Trent: So, let’s talk about those product launches for a little bit and I’m going to diverge just a little with how we plan to sort of the pre-interview; we’re talking about those a lot later on and I think it’s important that we dive down into that rabbit hole just a little bit. So, I’m pretty sure about product launches, I do them twice a year for a digital product that I sell but I’m not sure that I may be understand how you might run a product launch, I’m very interested in hearing how you do that.

Tyler: So, it’s been an evolving thing, I would say 2 years ago, when we first did the launch, we didn’t really hype it enough, it was just I would be working on a product, you know would get the content made, the videos, the copy and then we were just be like one e-mail, here it is.

And I went, “Okay I did well” because we’ve got a lot of customer base, you know we’ve got a big following, we post on social media and then we run them in ads right so we have this bump and then you would trickle up and we try to make it as evergreen as possible and now we tip it towards I would say it’s a three pronged approach but all of them have the same concept and really that’s just having not pushing the message but having conversations for product launches. So, the easiest way to kind of explain this is what you have on Facebook, Instagram and our biggest challenge was email.

We start to have a conversation with our current customers and potential customers about 2-3weeks before launch even happen; so what we do is instead of saying And before we feel like– it’s even when we got better like say phase two we don’t have emails or launches and we say it’s coming, it’s coming and your current rates were not that great, we’d still sell what I would consider a good amount.

And then last year I said, “Okay, why are we successful?” and really it’s because we’re having real conversations with real customers or potential customers on all these platforms. So I said all right, email is driving most revenue, how do we have real conversations with them; so I just start asking questions like, “Hey, I’m about to launch this product in 3weeks, what do you think?” Like just literally ask them, what do you think? Would you buy it? What do you think of the color? What should the price be? Literarily ask some questions that you would want to know as a business owner anyways. And it sounds so simple but just having that mindset and actual actions to do that change the game for us and by asking questions; and the question don’t have to be salesy, they don’t have to pay leading to a product offering and that’s what we do with the product launch, you just have to be genuine.

And by doing that, we did our best single day which was 102,000 in a day and we end up to like 300k in 3days because we had people warmed up, ready to go; on lunch day they were literally sitting there like on their schedule ready to go on new.

So really and what we did is we replicated those questions on email, Facebook group that we have and then Instagram as well and just got people really hyped up what we’re actually doing today. As well and I’m doing it the same concept and say, “Hey guys, if you want to only make it 400 units, just actually have real conversations and that has changed business completely and it makes the launches so much more profitable and then the evergreen sales, I like to say like a bonus now, we’re not relying on so much paid ads, we’re more and more profitable, we have a higher margin and people are more excited and more engaged. There’s a lot of benefit to making that overall just cut conceptual changer, engagement getting people excited.

Trent:         How big is your customer list?

Tyler: We’ve got at least 62,000 customers at about 140,000 total e-mails, pretty big right?

Trent: All right so let’s back up because you make your own golf club which is you know when I heard that I’m like, “Are you kidding me? I mean there’s Callaway, there’s all these massive brands that are making their own clubs and the story I think is fascinating and I really– I want to dive into that.

So, I know from your pre-interview, you grew up in Massachusetts your parents owned a diner and you bought and sold skis in the winter but other than that there wasn’t really anything to indicate that you were going to become an entrepreneur, is that right?

Tyler: I really, I wish I had a cool story but you know I was– there was no don’t know moment I can’t just fall into this.

Trent: All right so then you know you go to school you get a career,  you’re doing your thing and what was the last job that you had before you started your Bomb Tech?

Tyler: Yes, I was in sales for 10 years, I would say that was my one skill set was, I could sell and I had to switch from a pharmaceutical job had layouts every year and is also going to get this really secure job so I got a job in Vermont local company that never had a lot of us feel really good at making over 6-figures and then I had a new Boss coming; he was with me for like 4 months before he came to me and this is I just found out my wife was pregnant and it was a week before Thanksgiving and he calls me into a meeting and goes today’s your last day and your last paycheck’s last week.

And so he ended up firing me and I told them what let me get some water so I don’t knock you out and so I got some water composed myself, ended up getting paid my commissions and this is when Bomb Tech was just a side hustle you know like 14k-15k a month which sounded like a lot but I had no money in the bank and I came home early from work and my wife said, “What are you doing?” because I never home early. And she’s like, “What are you going to do? Are you going to give Bomb Tech a run or what?” So she was super supportive and it’s really a reason we were successful and that was a kick in the butt realization like I got to live my own life and it was probably the hardest year ever to make that transition from cushy job, side hustle to actually figuring out how to run row and profit from your own e-Commerce brand, it’s the best thing that ever happened and I just can’t imagine working for someone else again but it’s what I needed.

Trent: That is almost exactly the story of what preceded my foray into e-Commerce, we had a digital agency, it was going well, I was doing Amazon as a side hustle, our largest client agency had given notice they were going to renew the contract and I had a little girl and I said you know I’m going to go get a job at a big software company and I’m going to coast like you know just chill for a year or two; this little baby girl and I got a new Boss couple months after I got hired, my first phone call I turn to my wife and I go, “We’re screwed,” I knew from that very serious phone call that my days were numbered, 4 months later he fired me, never been fired from anything in my life and I mean I went on in the garage and had a temper tantrum because my ego was so bruised I was a quota, my ego was so bruised that some jackass could fire me while on my quota.

Tyler: And I forgot to mention, I doubled sales for the company here is your minute sessions are some mind blowing thing to do it or do it supposed to do and get fired. So, it’s that vulnerability that’s like once it happens to you, there’s no looking back.

Trent: Yeah and in hindsight just like you Same best thing ever should be I mean since did that temper tantrum in my garage where I was throwing shit around and dropping asked moms like they were going out of style, it lasted like 3minutes and I was done but we just doubled down and took off and my wife has never been better and now I’m sure I make about ten times what my Boss used to make so ha ha ha you jackass.

All right so let’s move on, so you got fired and you realize, Okay I’m going to go for it with my business. But I want to actually back because we still haven’t got to the really cool part on how you came up with this idea that you’re going to build golf clubs, so let’s dive into that one.

Tyler: Yes, so I was attempting this was years before my firing; attempting to compete or a long drive which is like the Home Run debut of Golf and I was pretty strong, was weightlifting and stuff but by body is like, “Hey, you want to go try this long drive like years there’s a play a lot when I was really young and I went qualified like 340 that day and I started training for 360yards which actually wasn’t that good if the guys were driving me about 40yards and I just became obsessed with golf literally obsessed and at one point I had 40 different drivers for my goal golf bag

People thought I was really weird which I was, I would go the local drive range and actually swing driver for hours as far as I could and because I was building these really unique clubs you can’t get out on the market like on the mainstream like 4o heads, 4 long shots, I was sourcing different small company components and a local club was building a centric club for me and they started breaking well and it wasn’t for my pure power which I wish it was.

It was from his inability to actually sample them properly and then I said you know not just because I don’t have the money and I want to keep repeating it, learn how to assemble my own or start making some and then some of my buddies are like, “What kind of driver is that?”. And I was like well I built, you know it’s like I don’t know it’s a long drive club to make me want like okay, so I sold one, that’s cool I made a website, world’s worst website ever made at cartoon characters flexing with golf club breaking and sold nothing off of it and 6 months later, I sold—I can’t forget the moment, this is not my brand yet, I was on this platform which is better than what I was on before; I was on my boat and it’s not a yard, it’s just like my boat on Lake Champlain or Vermont and I hear this thing come in on my phone I’m like, “Okay, I got an email no big deal” it was my first ever sale of something online with you know with e-Commerce and that blew my mind so I was on a boat and just made money so I said, “I need to do more of that”

So from there, I made money, I sold like it was so minimal was like a couple grand in a year and I was having beers with my buddy from college UBM which I’m 10 minutes away from and I go do it absurd and so these clubs but the manufacturers are having like issues and they’re small quantities for have issues, like this so that I don’t this is breaking and I go, “I’ve got to make my own brand” and my buddy we’re a frat brothers together it’s cool it’s like you’re your weight you’re down but how you guys, I go that’s true but my local coach has an Engineering program every year you can apply to call the caps but I’ve been doing it for 7 years now and you get to work with a group of students.

So, I took a 100% gamble, applied, had a group of students and we worked together for a year to design what would become our dual cab driver and I took a huge risk, Cash from my 411K from my Pharma super sales job, had this club made and ….. but it was kind of a big risk move and from there we started our own brand and was able to sell pre-orders without even having a products and it was kind of crazy to think about now.

Trent: Yeah, no kidding like I just would never think of him from the science, the engineering, the technology that goes into a club-head and knowing that you’re competing against Callaway and a million other brands like you’ve got to literally be the only guy on planet Earth that said, “Oh yea, I could do that”

Tyler: Well, I didn’t like to do the thing I didn’t have any angle but I’m starting to grow this big brand; so I was doing it truly because I freaking loved it. No expectation and this was like 2012 where like Shopify wasn’t really easy as now and Amazon wasn’t like if you were in like telling you could get rich online.

So, when I was doing artists like document it was going to Facebook, I was just doing this was cool but then I started selling them, I was like this is really cool, let’s keep you on more of this and it was just that simple and naive of me and I think that’s what the beauty was.

I didn’t have a number of my mind, I just wanted to do it, I was super passionate which I think showed to the audience and I got real engagement and real followers and I loved it because I had no money, no objectives, I just wanted to make a cool driver.

Trent:         So, what does the first one look like?

Tyler: It was– I mean it was not one of the products, it was these massive cavities which break up their flows called the grenade with the bright green chap, it was unique, it was super loud as well since then we’ve changed many things but it stood out, people love it, the best thing and it’s again an accident people would see Green Shapps just where people go public and they go, “Is that a Bomb Tech?” thing so that was one of those things where I just want to make it cool and then it turned into a thing just because I didn’t have an end goal in mind, I just want to make something awesome that I like.

Trent: Nice! All right, let’s talk about some milestones, big leaps big drops, run us through the first couple years you know kind of revenue how fast did it grow and what were some of the things that you we’re doing to make it grow?

Tyler: Yeah I’m a slow learner for sure, so I went from like my first year with our own product I did 100k, today that we do 400k. And that firstly was because of Facebook video, Facebook ad you listen back it’s because you know 100% reach, you know organic reach is higher and I just started posting like this is what I’m doing just documenting the super basics and I had a couple dozen followers.

So, I launched something new or setup and update the people actually would buy which is amazing and then so video was the first thing that allowed me to grow through ads. I made a video in my backyard with my kid was like 3 months or 6 months sleeping in the house, this is where I could hit it hard and get into it and that shock and goes on and that video I listed for 300 bucks like Reitman video came out and I just knew I’m going to just get whatever’s new I’m trying to do it.

It was for 300 bucks, it got 300,000 views, 10,000 comments. It was awesome and so back to my whole thesis of engaging and this before I knew what I was doing; every single comment I looked as an opportunity. Every comment you know if it’s like what you’re saying look like crap, that clip sounds terrible I was just coming back from all that built those relationships you know I mean my thumb were like bleeding because I was typing so much and you know every single comment and I was reading the Aha moments like then videos, get some views and then just comment build and then the next step was Facebook ads and we went from 400K to 1.2m and that would be me running the ads poorly.

And we just used some of the videos we had and just had a good offers and I hired an ads guy that next year, we went from 1.2 to 4.2

Trent:         You hired a Facebook ads guy?

Tyler: I did yes, so it was– I probably burned through because I was like you know what this ad stuff, I’m so naive on it, I didn’t even have a targeting set up, I was doing something so poorly but the concept was resonating so well that I could get away with it and then I hired this guy [inaudible 20:15] don’t work for me anymore which is my mistake. And we just set up like basic targeting, so I didn’t even have that going back then because retargeting was new, we just focused on the content and some new product launches and we had now a small customer base and that’s how we went from 1.2m to 4m.

And then from there, we just kept doing what was working and we had a product launch we’ve been waiting for for years, it was an iron set because everyone had drivers or wedges, I mean iron that blew up next year we did like 6m and that was how we lowered margins, we went a lower [inaudible 20:53] then we pivoted in this last year we went higher margins and did around 4m. So right now, we’re between 4-6 depending on launches but now we’re even on higher profits than ever.

Trent: That’s a good thing because profit’s kind of the name of game right?

Tyler: Well, $6m a year looks good on top line, a lot of stuff we were selling really didn’t help margin or even made sense, so that was a hard moment of ego checking for me like well, I need to do $6m, like what’s the point; so this last year and a half, I’ve really shifted, the whole thing you know like I want cash from a bank, I want higher margins, less inventory all the business year, less inventory, more cash in bank and overall more sane and happy.

Trent: Yeah, I went through a pretty tough second half of 2018 and because I was super focused on gross and I’ll tell you, once you’ve been at this for a little bit and you made a couple bucks the whole at least maybe guys who are like you and me looks sane and happy man; you cannot, I cannot underscore now we have like certain amount of cash threshold that I don’t care what the opportunity is, I’m not going to below that cash threshold because I know from experience now, how quickly in e-Commerce, how quickly things can change and you know suddenly you can go from making 22 a months in profit to losing 20K a month like that. And so, you need to have some reserves to be able to sleep at night when that happens.

Tyler: Yeah, I remember the moment when I had like $1.3m inventory paid for, we got a massive textbook coming up and I was like, “Why am I doing this?” It was great to have those numbers but I think that’s the hardest things actually was for me was realizing how important cash flow is versus revenue, you know like cash flow is king.

So, we definitely test products a lot more, we do more pre-orders and really see products and sell before we go massive because I had like one massive failure which I made there but it’s a part of golf, this is going to murder, we had like a thousand  comments on Facebook and then we went to launch, we sold like 400 out of like 2500 and it took me a year and have to move it and I got cocky so I’m– and so you know that’s just the real side of …. You got to make sure your customers actually want.

Trent: You know a healthy ego can make you a lot of money and it can cost you a lot of money too. So, two more rabbit holes I want to go down, so you mention that you’d hired a Facebook guy, do you still hire out Facebook or do you handle them internally now?

Tyler: This is a tough learning lesson, so when I was the first Big Moe, I said, “Okay, this is someone you need to have and 2 years ago or a year and a half he was on with me for 2 years and I didn’t know enough about Facebook to know how well he was doing for us, I let him go January last year and that was for the biggest mistake I made because he had like a crazy return outspent. We didn’t have a product launch in January which was really what you need in January which was off season. I said, I was wise, revenue is down, I don’t think he was focused, so I screwed up and I realized quickly I went through five agencies last year and during that process and I said, “Well, I know nothing about it as I thought I did”

And I ended up burning through these agencies that did not get the results I was getting, ended up running ads on my own, enough so I could then hire someone. That was like I can actually outsource it and really what I recommend for ads for anyone running ads is, this is how I found my current guy instead of just hiring an agency which is we do, we hired, let them run with the pay of a percent of ad spend for the month whatever. Anyone that is a candidate, I pay them for 1hour and I do a 1hr screen share with them and I say, “What would you do in my account? and I want you to do it to make us higher return and spend some more that front whatever it is” and I run with their changes for a week.

And what I found out was I started burning through these experts, so many people pitching out there they’re good at ads and it’s that for the other issues so that market is flooded with people who are not capable. So, I said I’ll pay you for an hour; I’ll set it up, if you outperform my ads, you’re hired. So, I did this point six times and then I finally found a guy that beat my ads and I said, “You know what? You’re hired” by doing that and whatever increment the learning stuff for you every time and hopefully and then I’m also not, I’m not wasting a moment you know with an agency and all the ads spent just to test them out.

So, that was my answer to it, so now I have a new ads guy since January to return an aspect and it is inflated because we know but it’s [inaudible 26:22] that’s good, it’s better than what I was doing so really happy with his performance; it went to get hooked up I will introduce you but that was my method of finding a new ads guy but I now know how to run ads so I can at least hire or fire, you know what I mean?

Trent:         Is he a one man vendor, or does he lead a team?

Tyler: He’s got four guys but he’s definitely still hands on, I have found we had a larger agency before that, I haven’t found an ads agency that has helped because they’re just so big, as a particular so fickle, you know it’s just one of those things where you need so much attention on it. And they weren’t willing and some of those guys you know were because they’re like well you know we have a process unlike well there’s a big outfit, but you know can’t provide answer may be I want to do an hour, so a lot of reasons why.

Trent: I love that and I’m absolutely going to repeat that strategy if it’s okay?

Tyler:         Please do, yeah it would save me a lot of time and money.

Trent: Yeah, no kidding. And then the other rabbit hole I wanted to go down and see if I can remember it now is Facebook and oh and video. So, I am really focused on video this year and so naturally I turned up your YouTube channel because you talked about video, you know and I see that you have hardly any subscribers, so you’re not using YouTube?

Tyler: Really, YouTube like we just did like– I’m not a super data guy, well I don’t really go too deep in analytics prior to my failure but usually I know what stuff moves, believe it or not, it’s where he is if you don’t, for us YouTube for whatever reason has not knock out the clicks, the revenue, it just doesn’t know that you know for us, we got to a point where we’re posting two YouTube videos a day, so I know movement, I said were to go all in and we did that for like a couple months and just saw no traction.

So all of our videos typically now I’m going Facebook Live, Facebook and Instagram live is actually outperforming any kind of you know produced video for us like we will do produced videos actually the office I share is the video guy; he does all my videos but those are produced videos for the product, they’re not like the YouTube blog or sometimes [inaudible 28:57] behind the scenes.

But like today after we get done with this, I’m going Facebook live and those videos are a straight up almost like my old school approach where it’s just me having a conversation; like so easy my audience like, “Hey guys what’s up? think about lots of putter you think we should launch it? like this or it looks like, what question you know like so basic but people would like— it’s pretty exciting when we have our Facebook live and people are just peppering you with questions or saying what’s up and I shout about every single person like you know like Jim like whoever it is, I say “Hey, what’s up?” and that really goes back to my whole premise of having conversations and scale.

And on YouTube, we can post a video we made attempted to make viral video, it would get like 200views, 2likes and I was like– and I actually had a video guy on staff last year was no longer with us because we were going so hard on video and then move the needle.

Trent: So, your Facebook lives, do you pre-announce them to the list, “We’re going to hold lives Friday 3 o’clock” or do you just turn the light on and go?

Tyler: I’ve been mostly going groups to live so that’s been my big-big key secret here for me, it’s like it’s not just Facebook, it’s the group. It’s a group association with a page, got 150,000 fans on our Facebook page which gets no range.

And I was right, that’s was what made me all my money, so it’s crazy to say that but now we have three groups, I’ve got an owners group on my products, we’ve got a general Bomb Tech group a d we’ve got an academy; those groups and the smaller ones like I’m trying to keep them small about design. The other group is probably worth 100X in terms of revenue, what the big Facebook page is because I have– I spend most of my day I don’t work at but when I do I just engage with the other groups and just say, “Hey, guys what’s up, how’s the day going?”

Seems so basic but that interaction, when I have something launched people are ready, they’re excited they know who I am it’s building a personal brand and I still have the reach without making it too big.

Trent:         So you’re going live in your groups?

Tyler: Or go live in the groups or sometimes I go live on the page and share it with a group. Again, I’m not really too technical like how do I do it? It’s just I got to get it in front those guys, the people doesn’t matter from the group or on the page but as long as they’re in the group.

Trent: So regarding YouTube, much like you and take this for whatever it’s worth, so I did over a 100 videos and I got a small amount of traction and then I interviewed a guy on my Podcast by the name of Tim Schmoyre who’s YouTube…. And after the interview, I realized how I was doing YouTube wrong; so I hired Tim for an hour for 450 bucks or whatever it was and in looking and I am I’m not a YouTube expert, I have had an hour of consulting with Tim and I have now hired an editor just in looking at your titles, you’re doing it wrong and that’s why you were doing what I was doing, you were making and you thought would be cool or I was answering questions.

The key is YouTube’s a search engine, so if you’re not targeting phrases that people are searching for, your videos are unlikely to be found when you don’t have much of a channel. Now when you have a big channel then you can start doing all sorts of crazy ass stuff because you’ve got a big channel and they’re just going to click on your videos. And Tim is a big advocate; I’ve interviewed two guys Justin Primal video and his channel is growing even faster than Tim’s.

If you go to Primal video and you look at their titles, every single video title is a keyword phrase that people are searching for and he’s growing like fricking crazy.

Tyler: That’s one of my big frustrations, like– there’s a real way to do it and I have not found out YouTube and really to your point, finding experts in the spaces where I spend a lot of my time. I did talk to Tim once but I didn’t schedule a call, I guess I have to do that now.

Trent: That’s why I do the Podcast to be honest, I get to meet really cool people and the benefits to my business are whether anyone ever listens to my shows, I don’t like a side effect. You don’t have a Podcast, do you?

Tyler: We thought about doing that too again, it was like what moves the needle and it’s all the time effort you know that was going to start one for the e-Commerce consulting business but I don’t want to leak all my secrets, I don’t know so we’ve been on the fence and like I don’t know, I just haven’t done it, no excuse.

Trent: So, the one thing I saw I’m 8 years in and hundreds of episodes and the Podcast has impacted my business more than anything I’ve done and it’s the greatest networking tool on planet Earth.

And from a consumption perspective, what other type of media can people listen to while they’re running, driving, doing whatever and they’ll stay engaged with you for a long time and they’ll come to really feel an affinity for you or the opposite will come to you and stop listening to your show or whatever. Anyway, not probably the greatest right conversation for our interview right now, happy to discuss that off camera afterwards but I’m the most obvious a pretty big fan of Podcast.

Okay, so let’s talk about biggest challenges at any point in the journey and I know we’ve talked about a number of these in the pre-interview, so if you don’t remember any of those notes, I can remind you but what comes to mind?

Tyler: Yeah, I think it puts them a little bit but the biggest challenge for us is the year we did the most revenue and there was two challenges I think; number one was realization of cash flow, we weren’t in a bad position but it just got to a point right didn’t really understand how cash flow really is what you need to run a successful business.

You know if they got to a point where I was like, “ Make more, make more and we had tax bills due and it was just kind of more of like, okay how does that really– what’s the point of all this stuff about not making money, I’m not even standing, just ripped on paper, I guess but that was the big Aha moment terms like inventory is my make or break.

So, I needed not because they take a step back and tried at least predict the best I can so that I’m more sane, got a better method for selling. So, now we so I was the moment when we need to look at those that we were spending a lot of money so now we do pre-orders. Our solution was pre-orders to test the market, so for example we got left and what is which we have a ton of lefties that comment on our page and all that stuff and they like, “Oh you guys should die” like almost not there are number one hater. Which it is what it is, I said no it better making let’s say 2000 less what upsets I’ve been tied up on cash, I said I’ll make 300 but I’m launching an pre-order now you know get them upfront and of 300, I expect them to sell 50 to be honest. We sold 115 so not a success but I already made all my money back and now I’ve got a method to try new stuff without being like pull my hair out at night, not sleeping you know not being in that situation. So, that was part of the biggest thing I would say just realization of like revenue doesn’t matter at all.

Trent: Have you ever heard the phrase “Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity and cash flow is King”

Tyler: Well, I haven’t heard the cash flow part but I’ve heard the first part.

Trent: Yeah, because at the end of the day you know like Dell was a great example, they ran at a loss on the P and L for many, many years but because they would pay, they would receive payment from their customer before they would pay their suppliers, they would generate endless amounts of cash and if you’re generating cash as you well know, it doesn’t really matter what the P and L says, it only matters what the bank statement says.

Tyler: Oh yes, that was part of the– I’ve been very fortunate, I have had like a big you know oh shit moment where it’s like, “Oh my God we totally mess something up” which I you know kills the realization that, that may be the one product that really did not go well and then just minutes from that same problem we’re just really being more careful especially if you’re growing, I’m just getting cocky and just like I didn’t sell anything and I think that was a good humbling that wasn’t so impactful; if I win like 10,000 on drivers or something, if you don’t love you know maybe but not so I’ve been very fortunate I don’t have many big big screw ups.

Trent:         It’s not over yet

Tyler:         Yeah exactly.

Trent: So really, early on you told me you were doing all the work yourself you were working 7hours a day and obviously that’s not sustainable and these days, your company has a lot more systematized and I love me a good system, anyone who’s known on me for a while knows I’m a major systems junkie. So, tell me about when you decided that you needed systems, what happened, how did that decision get made and then what actions did you take afterwards?

Tyler: Yeah, I mean this was a pretty easy one for me or just lag out of this slack but as a systems in a game changing like when I had my second kid, I really realize like for my sanity and my wife, I had a fear a way to get out of the business because I felt like I always had to be doing something like When I first started working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week no joke, I did it for 3 years because I was actually assembling the clubs, packing the boxes and shipping the clubs to one source for me and doing … I remember one day I was in a club, on the phone, on live chat all the same time and I was like, “This is crazy”

All day I wake up and there was a kid with the best whiskers and I had a young– I think it’s 4 months old at the time and I had chops us go in my basement and I was like I would be a pity me as an entrepreneur trying to control every aspect of the business and I slowly, somehow, I don’t know how, I just saw it start giving pieces of it away.

So, I stopped assembling clubs myself, we start to accustom clubs, we start doing more, keeping the quality high but actually let the experts assemble some of them and slowly started handing out customer service and ads and do all the stuff we got to a point where, “Okay, I’m working at normal schedule, this is good, this is healthy” we’re still growing and then this is the big Aha moment terms of like getting out of business.

Right before I had my second child, it was 6 weeks before and I said you know what, I’m going to take 6 weeks off and I’m like, “Oh my God, sales are going to tank, you know whatever” I took those 6 weeks off; what do you think happened to sales when I was off for 6 weeks?

Trent:         They went up.

Tyler: They went up, so I was like, “Oh my God this is like I’ve been literally” and I knew this is a problem but I’ve just been doing things to keep me busy versus actually driving revenue, saving money, bettering customers, doing busy work. So right now, I typically work in the business 6 hours a week and most of the time honestly researching, reading and looking for that one or two you know big opportunities actually to move the lever in a big way and that’s probably the hardest part and most frustrating. But it’s only one good idea here to have a big impact right? Whereas before, I do like re-arrange stuff on the website, changing the logo color, making this piece of content, do all the stuff that had no impact.

Right now, you know I’ve got to focus on customer service reps, they do all of their in house, all the e-mails and phone calls, I’ve got an ads guy and then my partner in the agency reads all my e-mails. We’ve got ads, emails and that’s two customer service guys from a certain that’s it or overhead is like one-fifth of what it used to be, big office, I have 6 guys on staff, I was doing all this stuff to feel busy at the indoor hitting that simulator like 50g simulator, thought we needed that and I just leaned everything out and said, “Okay, what life do I want to live?

And that allowed me to have like on a bad day you know bad revenue day, doesn’t hurt and overhead so low you know really good. You know so I do rent like I mean $400 a month office space just to get out of the house to do Podcast or whatever else but our overhead it’s so low and there’s no like fixed cost or variables and by doing that, I just live much out there.

Trent: So, that 6hours/week that you put in where you’re researching and reading looking for that one big idea, that’s why you have a Podcast, you just interview one or two people in a week.

Tyler: Yeah and I love Podcast, I listen to them, you know I don’t have a lot interview internets and if I need that right niche that’s going to have the biggest impact. I’m selling already.

Trent:         And then hire somebody to set it on for you.

Tyler:         That’s my breakdown one way, I don’t know how.

Trent: So, let me do something that we didn’t plan, I’m going to ask you your advice on something, so I’ve been very successful in delegating myself out of my e-Commerce business, I haven’t worked in that business in an active capacity and well you know I was out within a year and it continued to grow. But I did one of the things I did wrong after I had delegated myself out was there was some key numbers I didn’t keep a close enough eye on and that’s why are the sourcing agent that I had replaced myself with, he started to slough off and I didn’t notice because I wasn’t paying close enough attention and that was a big problem.

Anyway so now, in my blog podcasts business, I pretty much run this on my own and now I’ve getting to the point where it’s making quite a bit of money and I thought you know I really should hire a full time editor/administrative assistant someone so that all I’m doing is this, just talking on the mic, sit in front of the camera, producing the content and everything else gets off my plate and my intention was well because I hired lots of people, I’m going to have you know write a job description, I’m going to put it on indeed I’m going to go to the local called the marketing department of the local college because they’re going to be graduating soon and saying you know this is what I’ve got.

And hope to hire someone in my own town so they can come and you know I’ve got 2500 square foot office and I’m the only one in it, we own the building and that’s why I have so much space. Anyway, what would you– is there anything in the search for that person because your screen sharing idea was brilliant I really liked it, if you were trying to solve that problem is going to be a key person for me to help me run the content side of my business, what would you do?

Tyler: I don’t know enough about that piece of it, I did hire my video guy, I found someone that was passionate about them, I hired a YouTuber, a local guy just ended resume thing as well and we burn through a lot of people and we had to make I think a 3minutes clip on why they should be hired, they we’re going to make a video of their own and the guy who was the YouTuber absolutely elated everyone else. So, when we started making videos, it was so easy, he was doing it every day from self.

Well, I don’t know how to keep people out there, doing the podcast stuff it would know that but for me, a video is a bigger media or whatever medium, that’s how I had done it, I just had to make whatever it is maybe you could make a short Podcast show but I don’t know.

Trent: I liked it; I like the video idea because it would show their creativity and resourcefulness and in my case, the job’s not just about making videos, it’s about finding guests and running the editorial calendar and making sure that each episode gets shared on social media and customer service like there’s a whole bunch of stuff.

Tyler:         Oh I know.

Trent: I mean that’s what I do with my 40hours/week is I run this and I don’t want to work 40hours a week in this anymore, I want to work like 8hours.

Tyler: That’s not impossible; I think any type of effort where they showed up front like we had one customer service guy, this is not a directly his role but he made his own video without even asking and we hired him on the spot. And they were like, “Wow!” This guy went through the and now we’ve sort of prompted the idea for me to actually ask for in years in the future I’m willing to do that, it’s not about the actual— It’s about the execution and the effort to figure it out like I call it a lot of what I say to current employees now or anyone it’s called FIO which is ‘figure it out’.

And that’s like the biggest skill set to have is like can they hear a point and be resourceful and FIO on their own and if you need to delegate and communicate every single way to do everything, they’re not going to learn and then you’re never really get free, if you know what I mean? That was killing time, I think I made a bad hires when I had held their hand too much and they wanted that all the time and it just wasn’t a good fit.

Trent: Good idea, I like the video idea, all right let’s get close to wrapping up here, currently the most effective and you listed about four of them in the pre-interview, most effective marketing strategies that are bringing home the bacon.

Tyler: e-mails right now it’s still in the number one driver of revenue for us, we’re doing it transporting for 50% of revenue using Clavia, Facebook ads is our traffic source for the most part and Instagram; influences so we don’t really touch so it’s a traffic is Facebook and Instagram right now, email is profit in revenue  and sanity and then our Facebook group, owners group is the newest edition and my one big idea I had this year, so I’ve watched that 2months ago and are tripling pretty significant revenues to that group so segment you now build a group of actual people that own your product is just another– it’s like almost I would say is as valuable of an asset as e-mail, you don’t necessarily own it like you do an e-mail but at least you’ve got to reach if you can engage with people enough that they care.

You can do these things but if you don’t ask questions and engage and  really care and be genuine; you don’t give a shit, none of this stuff matters; you know and that’s what I think, it does I never got into the business to start to like make money, I just want do it because I loved it, I may have a cloudy vision you know I just want to do it so I love it and that money comes from those activities but right now it’s e-mail and the group and then the traction from Facebook.

Trent: Okay, so let’s go to just not too deep of rabbit holes on each one of those e-mail. Are you making money from email because email is the foundation of your product launches or are you doing like a weekly broadcast or do you have all these fancy automated campaigns that your subscribers go through? Don’t let’s not get into 15minutes worth of answers but let’s get some idea.

Tyler: Only about, so we have automation flows for everything when you go, if you browse and don’t buy, if you’re in the cart and don’t buy, if you don’t buy post purchase clothes and then we have campaigns. We’ve got other automations which drive it, I think 15%-20% of revenue and they can’t product launches they’ve got 20%-30% depending on what we’re launching.

The overall strategy with the e-mails that have automations but you can have all the stuff set up but if your copy isn’t good and people are not engaging and opening, it doesn’t matter. So really, that’s been prior their biggest expertise is now we were different clients, see wide array of businesses, what copy, what questions resonate and we learn, it’s almost like if you run multiple ads, that’s what we do with e-mails, even multiple clients across different industries and we see what works.

I would say an e-mail this is like another key one, we ask questions that we use plain, text everyone wants to get freaking fancy let me and this goes back to the point of like trying to feel busy. They wanted to reach you know emails with all this like 5 different launches in one e-mail it’s like keep it simple, keep it short, keep it clean and that’s what people respond to. Our open rates are so high in our quick rate or so I could keep it simple and you can read it versus a newsletter that’s you got to scroll you know what it means, so hope that answers the question.

Trent: Yeah, I’m thinking because I do I actually do, I used to use just plain text for everything you know and I used to send multiple emails per week and now I just use one e-mail newsletter broken down into sections that summarizes the content that I produced during that week in discussions that happened in my Facebook group and I have to look it up, my open rates are usually around 38% and my click rates are 5%-6% something like that.

Tyler: I mean for us it’s like every e-mail has one action, that’s how we break down, we want it one thing where that’s why we reply, it’s a big trick really, is one trick but we want people to reply so to go from the promotions stand. Most of our conversations are going on in the inbox, hey we have to reply almost every email if yes for whom you want early access, “PS, tell me what you’re earning” like just simple stuff that you seem so basic but then you’re having one of the conversation, conversations that scale on going and so we have these like conversation we’ve been having with these golfers for years that just keep going.

Talking to them like almost like a buddy only group you know you know and that. Change that’s only game change so when they get an email blast or whatever, they’re already engaged, it’s way different than what I see most people do is push; whatever you want to get out of it. It’s not about you or me; it’s about what they want.

Trent: That’s a very, very good as I say in sales you’ve got two of these in one month or two in for people who are not watching the video, you’ve got 2 years in one month and you should use them in that proportion. In terms of list building on your sites, I didn’t check that out so I don’t know how you’re capturing right now so maybe just quickly talk about that?

Tyler: We tested this a ton for e-Commerce, simple pop up with a small coupon …..

Trent:         And the coupon how much they get off?

Tyler: It depends on the brand, 10%-15% you don’t have here but typically it’s going to drive action you want to give them a pop with fancy and you’re like, “Well, let me do a giveaway” let me do you like all this stuff it’s like well what action do you want to grab? You want to get them interested, you want them to buy, give them an incentive. If you have to give a discount, you don’t have to go 50%, just has to be something tangible.

Trent: And the people that do that, they’re not going to want to hear automated campaigns and working their way down funnels?

Tyler:         Exactly, that’s just one of many.

Trent: And on Facebook and Instagram, what type of ads are working the best for you right now? Are using image ads, video ads ….. ads?

Trent: Still video has been a killer for us, it’s just for us the most to gain strength and that we have one of the guys and myself, we’re just commenting all day because there’s so many opportunities that are on those comment sections, so whatever we can post that has an action we want but that also drives engagement, you know whether it’s a hater or not like this one trick.

So, in our ads we want videos that cause the most reactions and our best videos always are …. We have guys that absolutely love us everything and guys that hate us. Those videos killing the but no one’s in the middle that get no reaction drive no revenue but on the one that–  I think that was a horrid thing for me to look at it was like I’m trying to make this perfect brand you know it’s like baby and then people are hating on me, and it’s crazy those ads that have the haters because they’re porous and it makes people engaged and you got to have– I got a very you know I’ve got a point of view and the style that I haven’t, that’s okay.

Trent: Yeah and I think that’s critically important if you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one when you need to because of it. All right before we wrap, I want to make sure people know where to go and get your stuff if there are a golfer and they’re listening so that’s bombtechgolf.com right? And if there’s anyone listening that wants to hire you for e-mail consulting for e-Commerce, what is the single best easiest way for them to reach you?

Tyler:         They can just email at sully@ecommgrowers.com

Trent: I’ll make sure I put that in my show notes and finally if you were interviewing yourself, is there a question that I haven’t asked that we should ask before we wrap up today’s interview?

Tyler:         I think you nailed it all, you killed it.

Trent:         I’ve had a bit of practice. All right thanks Sully.

Questions Asked During the Interview

  1. Who are you and what do you do?
  2. What are your company’s success metrics that show the audience how big you are?
  3. Where did you grow up?  Is there a story from your childhood that shows a seed of the entrepreneur you’ve become?
  4. What were you doing just before?
  5. Where did the idea come from?
  6. What’s the first step you took to launch your business?
  7. What did the first version look like? How many products did you have? Where were they offered for sale?
  8. What were your Big Milestones — Big Leaps and Big Drops?
  9. What was the biggest challenge, and what was a big lesson you learned from this?
  10. What was the lowest point in your business? How did that affect you personally?
  11. What question did I not ask you that is important to address?

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Today’s Guest

Tyler Sullivan is the founder of BombTech Golf, an eCommerce store with over $15 million sold online since 2012.  He believes the best way to run a profitable ecommerce business is to have real conversations with customers and potential customers at scale. He is hyper focused on customer experience and operating a lean business that doesn’t just drive revenue but drives serious profit and cash flow.
While bootstrapping BombTech, he faced the challenge of not having more cash to invest in ads, yet needing to grow his revenue. That is why he doubled down and mastered email marketing.At BombTech, over 40% of revenue comes from email marketing. Most eCommerce store owners Tyler talks to don’t know how much they are making from email, and if they do know it’s typically between 10-20%. This is why, in addition to BombTech, Tyler also runs eCom Growers – a Gold Certified Klaviyo Agency.

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