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Allen Brouwer, co-founder of Best Self Co, and his partner Cathryn won the Shopify Build a Business Award and the Build a Bigger Business Award. I caught up with him for an interview on how he has been able to build such an incredible business and brand with Best Self Co. and have fun doing it!
Many of you can relate to operating multiple businesses at the same time and not really being confused about which needs to be the clear winner to devote your time to. Allen reached a similar point: he was running an Amazon business that was generating some decent money but that he and his partner no longer cared about whatsoever. He says that, sometimes, you just need to trust your gut, and you really just know when it is time to move on to something with more potential in the long run. You need to be fully in alignment with what you are working on or else your productivity, happiness, and success are all at stake.
A big question I hear a lot from Amazon, dropshipping, and affiliate marketers is about knowing what niche to pick to actually focus on building a brand. Allen’s Amazon business was completely unrelated to what he works with now. You don’t need to stick with whatever niche you are working in right now. If you are passionate about it and in alignment with it…huge bonus! The skills you develop from working on whatever you are working on now are never time wasted if you make a big pivot in the end to a new industry
It can be tough to build a brand in a saturated market (as MOST markets seem to be these days). A great start to shining through the noise is to be passionate about the products you are selling and to actually use them…Allen uses his Self Journal Product every single day! This kind of passion and authenticity will drive you through challenges to creating something that resonates with the market.
Another massive key is building strong relationships with customers, a really solid customer experience, and really taking care of your community (Allen’s is 40,000 active daily customers!). They regularly weave their own stories and struggles into their messages and content for the group so that the audience knows that these are real people who care passionately about the product and their customers.
In creating a really solid customer experience, Allen advises you to first take a look at all the touchpoints that the customer has with your brand, from content marketing to being an engaged member of your community. A massive point in this journey to pay attention to is alleviating any buyer’s remorse, which happens between the time they buy and the time they receive the product. Since this can be 5-10 days depending on your operations and locations, it’s incredibly important to be communicating regularly with customers to ensure that they are more excited than they are anxious.
Having a really solid post-purchase email campaign in place that introduces you and your business and why you care about it, more about the product to build excitement, stories of other customers, and even a community where they can start to engage with additional benefits and members who love what you do right away is a great strategy. Lastly, when your customers receive the product, the unboxing experience can be the icing on the cake to ride the wave of excitement and satisfaction. Custom packaging or even custom tape can do the trick to add a lot of value in the eyes of your customer.
Many entrepreneurs find themselves at the tipping point of bringing on more team members, VAs, or scaling up their operation so that they can start to focus more on the things that matter for their business. If you are locked into nitty gritty tasks every single day, you’ve basically got a high-paying full-time job and not a business. You need to create something where you can take a day off and the business can function without you.
One of the first things to get off your plate are things that you are not good at, and things that you hate doing. You want to start by creating a Google doc and writing down all of the tasks that you are doing on a daily basis and document this for a couple of weeks. At this point, you’ll start to identify groups of related tasks that can look like a specific role that you can hire for and allow someone to focus on as a part-time employee, VA, or contractor.
He then mentions something I have heard before: don’t hire aspiring entrepreneurs or close friends/family members. Close friends and family members are only a good fit if they are actually a good fit for the task and not because you are trying to help them out. Aspiring entrepreneurs are very likely to leave you once they’ve used your business as a springboard to learn all the skills to launch their own company. Both can be very costly uses of resources.
Because it is resource intensive, you want to create very solid processes around hiring to make sure that your time is not being wasted going in circles and chasing people. Allen and the team are always hiring and always accepting resumes. They create awesome posts about them and their company and a simple application process with Google forms that store information on candidates. They find that by building a list of candidates that are a great fit, they can avoid situations in which someone decides to quit and they need to very quickly find a replacement.
Aside from immediate qualifying tests like asking them to reply with a particular subject line, you can also ask them to do very role-specific tasks as a test of their abilities. Then, you can rate the candidates on a scale of 1-5 based on the criteria you decide are most important, and set up calls and interviews with your top 3 candidates. Allen also recommends reading the book Who by GH Smith.
Building, scaling, and selling a successful eCommerce business takes the ability to see the big picture, understand how all the various components fit together, and then find the right people and partners for those components. If you aren’t up to the task of being a CEO and leading a team, it is important that you find someone who can step into that role and drive the company forward.
How to find a co-founder and partner that you can team up with is a common question I hear. Allen recommends testing the waters before you jump in with both feet. Finding small projects or JVs that you can collaborate on are amazing ways to get started working with someone. Allen is a big believer that you need to find great people to work with to support and add to your vision. If you find these amazing partners, you can get to the end goal a lot more quickly and easily, and you aren’t forced to grind by yourself all of the time.
Allen is a thought leader in the personal development space, and Best Self Co caters a lot to entrepreneurs and helps them add more hours to their day. Allen recommends first and foremost that you set 3-month goals for yourself so that it is long enough in the future to get a lot done, but close enough that you can’t procrastinate. Next, you should consider theming your days (Monday marketing, Tuesday logistics, etc.) so that you can focus entirely on moving those important levers in those areas.
Lastly, you should definitely get a Self Journal. Scheduling your days properly and setting daily goals is incredibly important for productivity, and you can then identify down-time in your day that you can get more done in, or actually use that time to do some things that you love doing that recharge you and help you live a more fulfilling life.