Scaling a business with only one other employee ⎜ Tyler "Sully" Sullivan ⎜ EP 169
Ryan: What's up everyone? Welcome to my corner of the internet. I'm your host, Ryan Cramer, and this is Crossover Commerce, presented by Pingpong Payments, the leading global payments provider, helping sellers keep more of their hard earned money. Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Crossover Commerce, sorry if I scared you there, I got a little excited about today's episode. Welcome to my corner of the internet. As the intro stated, my name is Ryan Cramer and this is Crossover Commerce. This is episode 169 of this beautiful show that I like to bring on the best and brightest people in the Amazon eCommerce industry as a whole kind of helping you get their valuable insights from their space or their expertise, if you will, to kind of level up your knowledge and help you just to grow as an entrepreneur or just as a brand. Or if you just want to get a little bit of a leg up on the competition, this is the podcast for you. 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Takes five clicks to sign up, and once approved you can actually get$ 500 today in your Pingpong account. Go ahead and do that today, go ahead and check out the link below in the comments section or show notes to be able to do that. All right, thanks Pingpong. Let's go ahead and kick off this episode. Again, as people are in different spaces of their business, might know that starting a business online takes a lot of time, money and effort, and also takes manpower or just the shear will and just kind of the focus of what you need to do in order to be successful seller, whether that be a brand or selling a couple products, gone are the days where you can just throw a product online and maybe just set it aside. At least initially, just throw products on and be successful and really understand and be successful in terms of selling products, being compliant and making sure inventories in stock, marketing's at a key point, everything's automated, there is a lot of groundwork you have to put up front. But there is ways to do that in terms of the sweat equity to later on go ahead and just operate as automated as you can be. And one of those people who have figured it out is actually with us today. His name is Tyler Sully Sullivan, we're going to figure out which to call him today, but we're going to call him Sully or Tyler. More formalized right now until we become friends of the show, of Ecom Growers in Bombtech Golf. Bombtech Golf, his brand that he developed over time, and Ecom Growers is more of the agency that he's just developed as well. But Tyler is a founder of those brands and has over 20 million dollars sold online since 2020. Big time revenue coming in through Tyler. He also runs Ecom Growers where he and his team have helped countless Shopify owners add six and seven figures in additional sales to their eCommerce stores by optimizing email systems in campaigns to help find hidden revenue streams online. That being said, I'm going to go ahead and bring him in because it's good to always hear from the person themselves about the topics that we're going to be discussing today. And of course that means we're discussing scaling a business with only, we said one other employee, he actually has two employees, so we're going to be going ahead and inviting on Tyler to Crossover Commerce. Tyler, welcome and thanks for joining us today.
Tyler: Yo, made it. Yeah, I doubled the staff, we're up to two.
Ryan: That's a lot. Look at that's growth, that's 100% growth yearly, what's wrong with you?
Tyler: You know, it wasn't always the way. For me right now after nine years of the company is really lean and I personally as a dad believe in a business that operates without me, but that wasn't the case. If you talked to me in 2012 I was working 20 hours a day seven days a week and I did it with a newborn on the way, and it was a different time. But after having two kids in nine years, I realized I'm not that important or smart. And I've got the right people and agencies in place and now I own two companies. And I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I have I think realized that it's okay to be an owner and not an operator in a lot of sense. And it gives me a lot of freedom, like today my kid wasn't feeling well so I didn't work. This is the only thing I've done today and it's one o'clock. Which is odd to say coming from someone that literally did not stop working or thinking for like seven years or whatever it was. So I think for me, and again it's always personal, it's like my family was the reason I pivoted to working less. And in the reality, sales or profits are the best they've been because I've removed myself as the bottleneck. But it was not always the way, and I'm very fortunate and never expected to be where I'm at, to be candid. I didn't say, " Hey, I'm going to go launch an eight future golf brand and then a seven figure agency," it all just kind of was me following where there was traction and doing something I really love which was golf, that I still love.
Ryan: Well you touched on a lot of different things, and I actually sympathize with a lot of those things, one being why people get into entrepreneurship, obviously to have better lives with their families or they certainly don't just want to work for other people, they want to either create, build, operate on their own and really create a legacy. And it sounds like that family was that tipping point. But you've developed passions specifically in golf, obviously. And again, I've looked into your background, but if someone's listening to this, where did that passion come from? Were you always a golfer, did it since you were young? Where did that niche come from that you wanted to build a brand around it?
Tyler: Yeah, gold has been trending down for like 20 years, so to start a golf brand in 2012 would be insane. It's hot now with post- COVID, but so I grew up playing golf, played in high school, used to be pretty good. Went to college, played rugby, didn't really play much golf. And then one of my buddies, this was 2000, I'm going to screw all the years up, I don't sleep much with two young kids and I haven't in years, so I screw up all the years, but 2011 or'20 my friend was like, " Hey, I'm going to this thing called World Longdrive," which is like a crosstalk.
Ryan: It's a competition, right?
Tyler: Yeah, it's a competition. And I was much bigger and stronger back then, but it's like a home run derby of golf and you see how far you can hit it. And I was like, "I don't even know what that means, but I'll go." So I showed up, I think he gave me a golf club to hit, and he didn't qualify and he was insanely in shape and hockey player and whatever. And I qualified, and I was shocked. And I just fell in love with golf again, which I had grown up playing and I just became obsessed with far I could hit it. And I had all these weird different configurations of golf clubs made, golf drivers, assembled by a local club fitter. And I ended up breaking most of them, not from my muscles and speed but in his inability to assemble a golf club, which was actually fairly simple. And I said, " All right, I'll learn to assemble clubs myself." So I just became a tinkerer, was just curious, everything started from a curiosity and passion for me. So I started assembling clubs, one of my buddies who I'd go hit balls with was like, " can you make me one?" I was like, " Yeah." And then he just paid me some money, I was like, "Oh, okay." And then for no reason at all, I just made a website, and it was the world's worst website. And this was like 2012, so it wasn't easy to pop up a quick ecom site, this was like having to crosstalk
Ryan: Right, you got to code.
Tyler: Yeah there was coding, I had cartoon characters on it, it was a joke. It was comical, but it was a passion of mine I just started kind of documenting. And then I had these epiphanies, business and life epiphanies that have led me through this path. And I was on my boat, which was not a yacht on Lake Champlain with my wife, and I think we were just hanging out fishing, probably drinking a beer, and I got an email on my Blackberry. And I'm like, " Okay, email, cool." Open it up, and it was an order. It was like, " You received$ 250 from PayPal." I was like, " Is this a scam? Is this real?" And that was my first sale online, and I think it was in Ireland too, something ridiculous, like I don't even know how to ship it there.
Ryan: How much does it cost to ship to Ireland? We have to Google that real quick.
Tyler: I probably lost money on it, yeah, I probably lost money on that deal. But it was the moment where I was on a boat, was just a jarring difference of my other life where I got a sale on a boat. I wasn't technically working in front of a computer or at a job. And I just said, " Let me do more of that, that seems cool." And from there, it was definitely for me a slow, arduous couple years of doing all the wrong stuff and figuring it out slowly. But from that I started selling some more, sold some more clubs. And then I was having some beer, I think beer was a big part of my learning
Ryan: All the great things come when you're drinking a beer, let's just put that out there right now.
Tyler: So I'm an expert at drinking beer, not that I can hang anymore. But no, so I was talking to a buddy from my frat from where I went to college at University of Vermont on the phone. I was just like, " Hey, I want to design my own golf club." And he's like, " You're not that smart." And I go, " You're not wrong," because it took me like five years to graduate. So he's like, " Why don't you call the University of Vermont where we both went to college and see if they'll design a golf club?" And I'm like, " That's cool, let me try it." So I called them up, they're like, " Yeah, we've got a Capstone project where you can apply to work with a group of students every year." And I applied and they picked me as one of the 30 projects and I designed a golf driver with four seniors at UVM. And for some reason, it was just all for fun, I just started documenting it on Facebook and just documented what I was doing with no intentions of making real money, I just loved it. And cashed in my 401K probably because of the beer. And I made like 50 drivers. And when I launched it, I did it with Facebook and just getting people hyped up, just because it was like, " This is what I'm doing, come along for the ride." And I think we sold like 10,000 dollars on pre orders on the golf club that didn't really exist other than the one sample we had made. I'm like, " That's cool, let's do more of that." And it really just kept steamrolling of like traction, follow that. So we just did more on Facebook, and it was just me. And I was literally working, at that point, it was as side hustle, I had a full time job, I was in sales and I was at a secure job. And I was like, " All right, this is my day job, I'll side hustle Bombtech," it was doing like 14, 000 a month, which some people are like, " Holy crap, that's a lot." That's essentially like negative 10,000 because I hadn't crosstalk
Ryan: I was going to say, is that revenue or profits?
Tyler: That's revenue. So as an ecom brand that you manufacture your own product, that's zero cashflow. So you need a lot of capital to make a physical good, especially when you're the manufacturer with the toolings. So I didn't know any of that, I was just selling stuff and enjoying it and had a full time job until my boss pulled me aside on the week before Thanksgiving 2012, I don't know, '13,'12, something like that, and goes, " Today's your last day and your last paycheck's last week." And I said, " Let me go get a drink of water so I don't knock you out." That was exactly what I said to him. So I calmed down, came back into the room and I'm like, " Dude," and he was a new manager, just became my boss. I just was about to hit one year where I was going to be vested in all these benefits, whatever, 401K, I don't know, whatever it was. And I go, " What's my job?" And he goes, " To sell." I go, " What are sales?" " Oh, they're up 200% or 2X or whatever." I go, " How didn't I do my job?" And he goes, " It doesn't matter, you're fired." He just didn't like me, and although I literally doubled the company's sales in one year, which most people would be like, " Holy shit, that's amazing," I was fired. So that made me realized, wow, how fragile and how unreliable is a job. Because you think of those as secure, and to me that was such a gut check. But when I got home early from work my wife's like, " Okay, are you going to make Bombtech full time, or what?" So she supported me in kind of, that was another pivotal moment or epiphany where I was like, and we had a kid coming, so we'd just found out my wife was pregnant too. So that was the high pressure cooker environment that apparently I need to go for it. And that year was probably the hardest year of our marriage, our life, the business, you name it. And we had a newborn, so I wasn't sleeping, she wasn't sleeping, and I was work legitimately every second of the day because I was still shipping the clubs myself, assembling clubs myself. It was insane, I would not recommend that to anyone. But it allowed me to go from casual side hustle to a full time income in one year. And from there, we just threw gasoline on it with Facebook ads and paid traffic. So we went from like, that year I think we did revenue like 500K and then we went to 1. 4 million, no 1.4 to 4. 2 to 6 point something to like 9. That's what we do, 9 to 10 now.
Ryan: And that's not per month, that's per year, correct?
Tyler: Per year, that'd be a nice month though.
Ryan: That'd be a nice month.
Tyler: I'm doing it wrong though, crosstalk. Our best month I think is 1. 3. but yeah, and now I've run the business, we could definitely probably be bigger, but I'm a conservative small time business guy and I'd rather not risk a ton of capital because we have no debt to go bigger. Someone could definitely take the brand and make it bigger, but that's how I operate because I had so much debt when I started and working capital loans and stress that I didn't want to run a company like that. So a lot of what I've done is for my own personal views on business and on entrepreneurship. But that was kind of like getting fired and the pressure, and that's why when I had my second child, I'll tell you this is one other moment, not to go into the whole story, but I think it close loops it pretty nicely, I said, "I'm going to take six weeks off." And that was like for me to even say that seemed insane because I worked all the time. And I took six weeks off, and what do you think happened to sales?
Ryan: Either maintained or you were still good if you had done it right, that's what I'm assuming.
Tyler: They went up.
Ryan: Okay, even better.
Tyler: I said, " What am I doing really? If I have two kids now or another on the way and sales are going up when I'm not working, I either have set up the right team or I'm just not that smart, I'm screwing stuff up." And I think it was mostly that one. And it made me realize, " Okay, I have an opportunity after seven," I don't know how many years, six years or something, " To maybe inaudible some time back and live my life." And as a dad of two kids, they're sick of me now. And I wouldn't have been able to say that if I didn't have those pivots and life moments. But I think once you have some traction that's probably the hardest part is to, if you can, really do that. Because as an entrepreneur, especially a founder, it's very easy to strangle the business and want to have your hand in every single piece of it. But I personally just wanted to have it operate without me. Now my best sales days, I don't even know what they are because I'm out golfing or with my family. And it makes the business much more potentially transferable, if someone were to buy us. Whereas it's I'm no longer the reason we're successful, I'm not the lever to pull, I'm just the useless guy who founded the company. So it's been a crazy ride. What I do now is I do podcasts like this. It's fun and I've got the email agency, Klaviyo agency and Ecom Growers and that's been exciting because it was actually my first employee at Bombtech that's my partner there, so now he's making like 10X what I could ever pay him. So it's been a wild ride. So from doing all the wrong things 20 hours a day to two companies working four to six hours a week and golfing all the time.
Ryan: That's amazing. Well, I think for the listener out there Tyler, I personally appreciate the realness of this story because I think that's kind of the nature that people want to gloss over is, because there's this nature on Amazon that you can just find a product that's successful, you find the niche, you throw it on there, you have the capital to back you up, you can launch it and be successful and build a brand. You did a lot of this grunt work of not it just fell into your lap, you found a passion that you actually would work on. You kind of did the product manufacturing, you learned along the way. There's a lot of, I'm going to say it a lot of failures it sounded like in there, but then also with that you were able to actually focus and by nature of the pressure of actually focusing on it full time. I think and that's what a business is all the time is you get it to a point where it can operate on itself or be almost automated, that's what I think a lot of people want to do. But again, the second thing that I found really fascinating is you found this center of, " I'm at peace of where we do month over month and it's still really, really good." Like you've probably found a level of income that's fantastic. You know your costs, you're profitable, you know what to rely on every single month. And the growth factor is either relying on one or two other people. And that's it, you're not trying to shoot for arbitrary numbers like eight figures or nine figures or trying to get to maybe an unattainable number. And I think that's where a lot of people just, again, you said capital's important, so making sure you're not in debt, making sure you're profitable. All these things speak to me, and that's what I think is really cool about the brand you built but then following the passions of building another agency and other thing like that. Do you find that, first and foremost, your brand Bombtech Golf, selling just directly to consumer or are you no Amazon? What are the ways now, like where do you stand today? What's the breakdown, if you will?
Tyler: 100% direct. We only sell from the website. So again, for me as an operator, 2018 was a year where I tried everything. And that was the year it almost unraveled a little bit because I tried this tactic, that tactic, tried Amazon resellers, and it just became more work and really didn't have an impact. Like we had a best seller On Amazon, but I decided I'd rather have for me personally a simple cash flow business that we truly take care of customers and we can controL it. So that's why we sell 100% direct, email and SMS in my opinion's the only asset you'll ever own.
Ryan: crosstalk your customer avatar, you mean.
Tyler: Yeah, so if we go on Amazon and someone buys a Bombtech driver on Amazon, I can't market to them via email. And so a lot of the magic of what we do is wowing people post- purchase. So we lose that opportunity to really turn them, not only to, it's a great product but like a brand advocate and really make it something special. So we decided we probably have growth opportunities that I just say no to because I personally want to run it in a controlled way where we own every email and SMS of every customer so we can offer then new products and it's more fun that way too. We can do special things for them and really wow them with customer service, which is probably the biggest thing that no one talks about. Everyone's like, " I got great customer service. Yeah, it's awesome." And it's like, well you pay someone overseas a couple bucks and they send an email. We've got my two guys that are my only two in house employees are customer service guys, and they had full healthcare paid for, a salary, and they're golfers. So when you call them, they will talk about golf because they're golfers. So it's a different experience and their only guiding light is do whatever it takes to wow someone, like do the unexpected. So they do things that if I was running the company I'd probably cringe and be like if I knew what they were doing on a micro level, if they sent out a free club I would probably say, " Oh, that may hit the P& L," but in reality, that small act will word of mouth build brand times 100X of what we could save on that. So we allow to give them that free reign to really wow customers, and that probably is the best thing I've ever done, and that's my moat. The brand is the moat and then how we wow them, because anyone can sell a decent product. We have amazing products, great story, but then we go above and beyond to do things that no one really wants to do and invest in. So that's why my only in house guys are customer service and it's usually the opposite.
Ryan: I was going to say, that's really cool because as a direct to consumer, you have to. The natural customer flow, you're not in front of people when they're searching. Like on Amazon obviously it's a marketplace, that's where people go to either search or do research or things like that. You naturally have to make your brand aware to people by driving external traffic to your business. It's why it's really in the space that a lot of people like to talk about of either agencies or different brand acquisition or growth accelerators or anything like that, it's this whole other segment pillar that you have to really figure out. It's the marketing aspect, the budgetary aspect, and then the pros of it are you earn and own your customer avatar and you can continually build out that repeat business. On a marketplace, that may not be the number one focus or if at all. So I think that's really neat. So your brand building and selling clubs only or what's that breakdown niche? I'm a golfer too, I know it can expand into accessories, it can expand into obviously the equipment, it could be anything from apparel, it can go across a lot of different crosstalk
Tyler: We just make premium golf clubs. That's what we're known for, full sets. Drivers, irons, wedges, putters, you name it. And like the accessories and other things, I kind of have a, I don't know if it's an interesting opinion, but I just believe in only launching a product if it's better and only selling products that I think are truly the best. And that's why we only sell what we have. We could definitely add more SKUs, we could become maybe like other brands in doing many more things in golf, but I just don't look at it that way. I know our clubs are what we're known for and they're truly premium. So we just do what works and what we're good at. So we've definitely said no to a lot of, like we've tried a polo, we've tried different apparel stuff, we tried a golf game, like different things. And it's like end of day, Bombtech Golf makes premium golf clubs, and that's a good thing to be known for. And we don't launch products like every couple months, we launch new products when they're ready and better. So like right now we're on I think year two or three in the current product line and we're waiting until we have something that's truly better. And I think our customers enjoy that, knowing that we're not going to be launching a new driver two months after they just bought this driver because it's the marketing cycle. So there's a lot of things that make us different, but we really our hang to, I'm derailing a little bit, but we're the no pros, no retail equipment company. Everyone else hangs their hats on pros, and that's great that they do that, but for us, we only care about the guys that buy our club, which are the regular guys like myself, like you, that go out, have fun. And we're not on tour and that's okay. So that's our target. I selfishly make clubs for myself that my customers can use, and that's kind of the fun part is at the end of the day, not that I have a lot of say now, but I've made clubs that I'm like, " Hey, this would be just a really cool," like I made this driving hybrid and then a hybrid wood club that I just wanted to make. And if people like it, great. So what I'll do is I'll micro- test where we'll design something that selfishly I wanted and then we'll see what our customers say. And a lot of our success of any capacity is conversational marketing and we do most of it via email. But really, a good example of, and I hate tactics because it doesn't matter if you don't have the overall strategy, but a good example of how I think of customers in D to C ecom is this. So in 2013, I made a video on Facebook and I hit a ball into a net and it sounds like a gun goes off, it's like so loud, or a bomb. And I say, " Does your driver sound like that?" And I boosted it for 300 bucks. And that video got 300,000 views, 10, 000 comments. And at the time I was like, " Wow, that's just insane engagement." So on my Blackberry, I commented until my thumbs were bleeding, like legit, because I wanted to hit every single comment. Not that it would drive our revenue, I didn't even know what it meant I just saw a traction there. And it allowed me one to one to have conversations at scale to build real relationships. And we use that in our email program, and that's where we've seen the most leverage is, social media comments, we don't do that anymore. But we looked at it strategically and said, " Okay, what is the best use of engagement and conversations?" And that for us is email. So we ask a ton of questions that we really want to know answers to, which I'm shocked more brands don't want to do this. I don't know if it's ego or what, but like A, B, do you want this club or that club? Like we'll have them vote. Or if it's a new golf towel design, or whatever, like, " Hey, which one do you like more?" And nine times out of 10, the one I think will win is not the one I picked. So that has taught me a lot of like, " Okay, I built something, founded something great, but that doesn't mean I have the right to dictate what my customers want, I let them dictate." And by losing control of that, it really allows you to do some cool stuff and it allows your email to not only drive crazy revenue, but you have insane engagement. And guess what? You're in the inbox, you're not in the spam folder. So if you're overly designing newsletters with 50 calls to action and never asking questions or caring and having real conversations in email, you're missing the boat. So that's just one thing that at the end of the day, if Facebook ads go to hell, Google ads go to the wayside, can you email your customers and still be sustainable? And I would say for most brands, no, because they still need new traffic, new life, new blood, whereas we have real conversations from customer service, from me, from the brand, that would sustain that. So I think that's a big, it's not a tactic, you got to really want to do that and have the strategy to do it, and that's paid back. So that's like, I don't know, one thing I think is really impactful is having that mind shift.
Ryan: You put value more in the repeat business in the customer journey and the experience obviously instead of the acquisition of a new customer. That's what it sounds like to me. And that's crosstalk
Tyler: Yeah, we definitely want new customers, but they're only valuable if they're going to spread word on the brand and they're going to buy again. So we don't want to just sell to someone once, obviously, you want them to have a full set and that may take three or four years. We've got guys since I started that have thousands and thousands of dollars of clubs because we take care of them. And I think that's the interesting thing too is for us the word of mouth on the golf course is game changing. So if we really wow them, they're telling their buddies. They're on the tee like, " Yo, check out this new club I got from Bombtech," and they like let guys hit it. And that makes our job so much easier, and there's momentum with that. But that's also years of doing it and I think at the end of the day where I'm going with this is like as an ecom or D to C brand, if you're not operating with the goal of caring about your customer, you're going to fail. And I think if you don't really want to learn from your customers, you're going to fail. And you want to be curious. My whole reason I did this was from curiosity. So I try to keep that perspective, because it's also fun if I'm like, " Hey, we should launch this club," an I'm dictating. I'd rather have people tell me and have it be a real, almost like we're on the same team. It's more fun and it's building brands with customers versus you building and selling a widget like on Amazon. So we're really a brand, it's a very different play than just making some, I don't know, whatever you sell to make income. I never did this with the goal of making a single dollar, really. So that's my story, so it's just a different way. And I don't think I could start another ecom brand because I spent so much time and effort to do it, I just couldn't replicate that.
Ryan: Well, and that is the I think number one thing that people, they can't tap into at all these different times is, I think that there is an unseen amount of power and effort that comes when you put in something that is, I'm trying to think of the word, to be honest, just this passion that you put into a project. And when you're building a brand, there's this unseen revenue, like it doesn't have an impact on revenue or multiple lines of your spreadsheet or your balance book or anything like that. It's something that's unseen, you can't tangibly touch it, but it's a feeling you get. And that's when you ultimately become, that's what changes Nike from a shoe to a brand, it's the thought or the feeling you get from when you think of brand XYZ, either the product or the name or the image, that's what you get when you think about that. And that's what people have latched onto with Bombtech Golf. So super cool story, I think. Is that something that you want to grow into, not just direct to consumer but almost like wholesale or retail? Or how does that next evolution become that you feel like that there's still an opportunity for growth, not just staying? Like is there a platform that you think crosstalk
Tyler: Yeah, I'm definitely the bottleneck in the business. Because coming from no expectations and getting it to where we've had, I don't know, four months this year over a million dollars, although it's been nine years I expect it but also it blows my mind. Which I don't know, it's kind of hypocritical or counterintuitive. But there's a lot of things I do to not grow the brand based on how conservative I am with debt, cash flow. So other marketplaces, wholesale, Amazon, retail, I just don't have interest in doing that. I like what we have, it drives tons of profit and cash flow. And like I said, we have those conversations direct to consumer. But yeah, you could absolutely take it to all the other channels, it just would add some complexity. And for me, with my life and my family and another company, I've just taken it to where it is, built the brand, made sure I wow the customers and that's all I care about. So a lot of it's personal. I know other guys that have gone and built 100 million dollar companies. And I don't think I'm that guy, and it took me a long time to think. But I don't know, I think at the end of the day I'm more conservative than I thought I would be. But I think if I came from an environment that it's like, " Okay, let's raise a bunch of money, let's scale, let's have a ton of debt and let's just spend it," I just didn't start with that. I started with passion, and it's still my baby and I don't want to take on debt to grow it. And it's been, I wouldn't say organic, but it's just natural to what I want to do. I'd rather stay nine, 10 million dollars and be super profitable versus just growing for growth's sake. Someone could definitely grow it more, that's not me. But it would probably require things I'm just not personally willing to do. You know what I mean?
Ryan: Yeah. And that can be an uncomfortable place to be in, but it can also be a very comfortable place to be in, depending on who you are as an entrepreneur. I think a lot of people tend to want to, they don't like complacency, but they might, I wouldn't even consider you complacent, they want to continue to either evolve or adapt or continue the evolution.
Tyler: The need to constantly improve is one that plagues me to a fault, and I think if I didn't have the 2018 year where I tried every tactic under the sun and actually hurt sales, I wouldn't be where I'm at in terms of my opinion on stuff. So we do test new challenges like TikTok, Connected TV, new products, but we do it in a really measured way. Whereas before, and I bring up that one year just because I got caught up in the overzealous, I don't know what the word is, enthusiasm for me to improve, and I over improved and broke some stuff. So it wasn't like it was drastic, but it was just one of those things where I think fundamentals are key. And we have the fundamentals on lock, so there's like micro- improvements we can make and we're always testing new things. But I think that is the hardest part is being an entrepreneur founder is you always want to make things better. And I get frustrated candidly some days where I've got nothing to improve. So I try to take some of my energy in wanting to make things better at Bombtech, and I kind of, I don't know if this is healthy, but I push those over to the agency, which is a newer, it's 3. 5 years old, it's still small, we've got like 35 clients, so it's not as mature so I put a lot of my focus there because that is a much more dynamic business. And in my opinion, that has a ton of room to grow. We're not doing eight figures there, we're doing like 150K a month. And I like to, as a founder only, like that business I'm a co- founder, so I like to get my hands dirty there because I feel that I can help out my co- founder a lot because he's young, it's his first company and I've done a lot of things wrong that I can help him with. So like having, we have a call later today, and it's exciting to help him out because we're building it, growing it. It's almost like those early days when I was building Bombtech. So it has that feeling where it's like we have a ton of growth, we got a good product and offer, but we got a lot of room to scale. So Bombtech it's like it's predictable scale and we forecast it out for two years. So it's less dynamic. You couldn't be dynamic in a golf manufacturing company today because the lead times are so long, inbound shipping is insane. So we're already stocked for 2022.
Ryan: Really? Wow.
Tyler: Got to be, man. We used to roll like that when it wasn't as crazy, like, " Oh, we'll get some stuff here and we'll see how it goes and we'll sell more and do that." But I put intentions on, " This is what we're going to do this year. This is how we're going to do it. This is what we're going to spend. This is how much product we need. And next year we're going to do this and this is how we're going to do it." So it's a business plan, it's a forecast. But when you do that and you spend time on those things, there's not many levers to pull during the day to day. So that's the big change I think you can get caught up. And when you're early days, like my first six, seven years, you're still learning all those different silos of what to do and how to do it. So you can end up working a lot. And now it's like our plan's set, it is what it is. And I think that's a better, healthier thing for a business, but you're not working pushing buttons and pulling levers all day. So there's not a lot of tangible work, which sounds odd, in that because we've got the right people. And I believe like, I don't know where I'm going with this, but in a siloed approach for Ecom at least, we've got an SEO expert, an agency, email is my agency, and then I've got a paid traffic guy, a CRO guy and a 3PL. So it's like I have these experts, but they only do one thing, and I pay them for that. And it's agency based because I like that because they see across 20 or 30 clients of what's working. So in my opinion, it's better than having one person in house trying to do all these different things that doesn't have many clients that they can see what works. And that's been my paid guy I've been with for like 3.5 years and he runs our Facebook and Google. And he does a great job, he makes all our creative. So that's just how I like to run it, and it allows me to not have to, I was going to say something else, but manage them, because they're an agency. So it allows me to be hands off. And the in house guys are both remote, we have no office. We used to have an office with like six guys, an indoor hitting simulator, and this is kind of funny on a different tangent, and I'll never forget like I would be in the office all the time and then I'd take a day off to go golfing or go skiing and some of the guys would get upset that I wasn't there. And it made me realize that being in an office as a founder with employees actually may not be a healthy thing if you want to not be in the office all the time. So for me, that was another big pivot where I went remote two years before COVID because I didn't want them to hate me or be like, " Why aren't you in the office?" Because I don't have to be. So that was another thing, where it's like, so I have an office, I'm in my office, but it's just me. It's just a place to go.
Ryan: Well yeah, and Tyler, there's a lot of things when you said drill down and there's not as many levers as you want to obviously pull. And I think the takeaway from there is if I'm a listener, I'm just writing down all these notes from you. Be passionate about the things you do, have a control in the things you don't have time to learn for. Or if you're a team of one or two or three people, there are agencies, there are people who have that scope and that thing that can take that off your plate. And you've decided to now focus on products but then also customer service. And I think that in itself really does make a brand of, hey money can go at scaling these different things. And I don't want to say that they're not important, I love using this term, they're called minimum wage activities, of something that is not going to build your business and grow, such as fulfilling orders and making sure they're out the door. That is just not time efficient for you, and that could be something that you can get back to either play golf or spend it with your kids or crosstalk
Tyler: That's been my biggest argument with a lot of these ecom brands, and we work with a lot of them at the agency. I'm not intimately in that business, but on LinkedIn I have to hold myself back because there's a lot of pride and ego into having a warehouse and shipping stuff yourself, and it blows my mind. Because I would bet, and this is for me, we moved 3PLs four times, so it wasn't an easy path, but going from shipping clubs from Vermont, which is the number one worst place to ship clubs from, I would have had to move. So I would argue that any ecom brand that's shipping the products themselves, are probably not in the right location anyways to be efficient from a shipping standpoint. We found that Wisconsin was the best location to be. So what we did was I did a shipping audit. I said, " Okay, over the last three years, this is where we shipped the most. Florida, Texas, California, New York," whatever the split was. And we said, " Where would one location be to be the most ideal for shipping if we had a single location?" And we just figured out exactly where it was and then we just found a 3PL there. Versus, I think it's a control and doing something tangible where you're seeing the product, touching it, feeling it, shipping it, that can as an early entrepreneur, sub five years in it or two years or whatever, 10 years, where it just feels like you're doing work. And that's a really hard thing to let go. So for us, all of our stuff's barcoded, goes to the warehouse, I never see it, never touch it. Whereas before when I first started, I literally assembled the clubs myself and shipped them and took pride in how many clubs I remember I could carry from my Subaru Legacy. I remember being excited because I had to do two or three trips one day. So it's hard for me to say this stuff, only because I've been there. And if you're physically the one shipping the clubs, and one point you got to say, " Why?" And really for me, it's like that is the fun part of the growth. And that was probably the funnest years were those years, and now it's a real business, I'm just the operator/ owner. But yeah, it's just one of those arguments I get in a lot with newer ecom owners of like, " You're in New York and you ship 90% to California, why are you shipping from New York?" " No one else can do it like I can." Really? No one else can ship a product as good as you? You are the best, when there's millions of 3PLs, like no. Not only that, the shipping rates, location and shipping prices saved us like 300, 000 a year out of the gate anyways. So it's a whole different discussion, but a lot of it comes down to, I think, ego and control. And again, it's hard to let those go because you're the one that started it if you're the founder of a company. So I get it, and I can sympathize.
Ryan: Yeah. What's the one thing that still keeps you up after doing this all these years, what's the one thing that keeps you up and scares you in the business that you're running, whether it's the brand or the agency?
Tyler: I don't have many things at this point, which is odd to say. I think inventory sometimes used to stress me out when we were dealing with, because last year we sold out, in the last two years we sold out a lot, so I kind of got ahead of that and ordered two years in advance, which did tie up some cash. No, I don't think I have anything really that irks me or stressed me out really. I just get sometimes frustrated with the growth at the agency, because with an ecom brand it's very much a function of how well you spend money and you can scale. I can send an email at Bombtech and do six figures in a day. Whereas the agency, we're working with B2B ecom brands, so it's harder to find those brands and earn their businesses. So we've scaled well, it's up to like 40 clients I think at our peak. But it's not like I can just go out and spend X and get 50 clients. So that has been a different challenge that we're hiring a sales guy, we're building on a biz dev program right now. So that's the stuff that is kind of cool because it's new. I know there's tons of room for opportunity because our offer's dialed in, our processes are dialed in, all that stuff comes from my background at Bombtech so I can help my partner. But it's some of those things where I know we can get the 150 clients, it's just can we get there already? Not to say the agency isn't doing well. We're a platinum partner, which is like your top, I don't know, 10 in revenue driven for all Klaviyo agencies, so we're doing great. But it's like one of those where I can't just spend X on Facebook and get all these clients. And if we even do, like right now we do have an influx of clients that want to sign but we need more employees. So it's a very different people business that is kind of new to me. So it's kind of fun, hopefully I don't screw that one up too much. But it's almost four years now, so it's almost like with golf. And any business is pressure over time. And inaudible over time makes you grow. And so with the Ecom Growers agency, I think it's just we're a newer brand. I think we just need more pressure over time and we'll get to 150 clients and be more established. But it's kind of crazy to have two incomes, and I think from a business model the agency is really exciting because it's all cash flow, there's no inventory. You do have the people aspect.
Ryan: It's a service and it's a lot different, yeah exactly.
Tyler: It's very different, but it's very different, a 200K or 150K month with no inventory is all cash. It's a very different business, so that's also exciting to me because who knows what the future is for me, but that business model is at least something new that is kind of exciting. And we want to grow and we're just trying to find the best people. So it's like that's our product is the people almost, and it's hard to find good people. So that's been our challenge is we have great systems, we're really good at operations, but can we just become the best with the best people? That's what we're trying to build.
Ryan: Well, and that makes sense too. And it sounds like too, each business, to separate them out, if I were to ask you what's the motivation for either in this regards? Is it money or is it mission? And I love asking that question, I did it on LinkedIn I did a couple different things. And it's really fascinating to see the breakdown of where you are in your career as an entrepreneur or not, are you currently motivated by money or you're motivated by mission? And it sounds like one is, I would say, if I had to guess, and this is just hearing from my end, the money aspect is more on the agency side, the mission part is more on the brand side. Which is almost entirely, it almost initially seems backwards to me, but you built the brand first, therefore now it's become a mission component of create really darn good products. And then on the agency side, " I'm going to do something where there's opportunity. I know they're scalable, I have comfortability in knowing that we can make that grow," and a little bit more money focused instead of, " Hey, this thing's going to be super solid over here in my brand." Would that be fair?
Tyler: That's an interesting perspective. I think there's just more levers to pull and button pushing and things to set up to make the business scalable at the agency. So it's not necessarily money motivated, it's just opportunity motivated where I feel like there's just more room to grow. And I think Bombtech is a natural passion vision, but Ecom Growers started with my first employee at Bombtech. So it's like he was my side by side number two for like for our five years. So it's like he has the vision and we're working on doing that. Because I will say that's one interesting part. Because Bombtech Golf is very simple to put why we exist. We're premium clubs for regular guys. No pros, no retail. Whereas the agency is like we help other ecom brands, which is great, but we don't have necessarily a brand per se. And we just had this conversation, which is funny, I don't think we could draw a line in the sand saying this is why we exist, we have a service that drives crazy revenue for different ecom brands, but what's the real reason we exist? And we're too deep in the weeds to grow it to really get to that point yet. But at the end of the day, it is frustrating as an ecom brand who's hired and fired so many agencies, and that's really why we started that because I had gone through so many agencies that suck, that straight up just are not good. And take a step back, when Bombtech started blowing up, people started messaging me to help them and I said no. And then Chris was like, " Hey man. I've been with you for like four or five years, can I help them?" And he was running all my email. I said, " Listen if you can get them great results, go ahead." So he closed three deals. I said, " Let me know how that goes in 30 days." He came back in 30 days and said, " Hey, I dealt with their email revenue." I go, " Okay, what do you want to do?" And he goes, " I want to do more of this and grow." And I said, " Well, let's partner up." So we partnered up and I was essentially just his coach. He's in the fulfillment and the doing and then I have really hard conversations with him. But we have unique perspective because he was side by side with me for so long in an ecom brand, so we really get what ecom brands are trying to do. And that's our advantage, it's an agency born of ecom. Whereas most agencies have no idea what the day to day in an ecom brand as the founder's like, and that's why we started it. So it wasn't like I went out and said, " Hey, I'm going to start another business and make a ton of money." It's like people were pinging me like, " Yo, help me." And my employee Chris, who's now my partner, he stepped up and was like, " Dude, I'll help them." And he had a tangible, very clear singular thing we can do and that's why we only do email. Email and SMS, but messages. So it was one of those things that was another moment of traction more than a revenue op. It was just like, " okay, people are needing help, they want our help. Let me see what we can do. I'm not the one to fulfill it." And I told them straight up I will not work behind the computer doing anything. And he's like, " I don't want you for that. You're useless at that." Because that's how we worked at my business too. So that's been a really cool evolution. I think what motivates me, to close loop that business, close circle, is seeing him grow because he's so young still, and to own a business that is rewarding and also compensating him more than I could ever pay him as an employee. So it's like it's more of a win win because it's not just me. I'm not an entrepreneur on solo island grinding away. I've got a partner and I've got a different type of experience than he has, so it's a good synergy. Who knows for the next couple years what we'll do. But right now, at the end of the day, I'm just trying to do what is fun. Like really.
Ryan: That's amazing. No, that sounds like fun. And yeah, and I know we're already at the top of the hour, Tyler. Kind of to kind of round out this since you've done both, you've done the service provider helping other people. Again missions are different, each has a different cause and effect and you have the brand. If someone were to approach you and say, " Hey, I just need, what did you learn from starting this business when you did? And then also, what advice would you give me, for those people who want to jump in to do something, whether it's service or brand building, what advice do you bestow upon them? crosstalk
Tyler: I'm asked this a ton, it's always the hardest question. I get pinged all the time like, " Hey, what do you think of this?" I think it's up to the individual. And it's like if you don't like it and you're naturally already doing it, you're screwed. So I would never chase a trend. It's like my best example of this, I made a video when I used to make videos, which I don't do anymore because I did them because I thought I had to do them and it turned into work and I was like, " I'm not doing this." But I made a video talking about women's leggings. And it's like I know nothing about women's leggins other than my wife looks good in them. But I know nothing about them.
Ryan: Smart answer.
Tyler: Yeah, once in a while I'm smart. But so I know nothing about them, so why would I start a business? Because it's hot and trending? You're already not going to have the right messaging, you're not going to know what the audience wants, you're not going to know what they're looking for. So it's like that business is going to feel like work every day that you work on it, whereas golf, I'm already doing it. It never felt like work because it was my passion. So that's the biggest thing is like you're starting a company to make money. I just don't come from that, so I feel like that's like a P mindset and I just don't have that. So it's like if you're going to be working and grinding and starting it, do something you enjoy, that's all. Because you're going to be doing it a lot.
Ryan: I love that. It's great advice. I think advice can be short and sweet, it's not out to reinvent the wheel, it's do what you're passionate about, make sure you want to get up every day and you still enjoy doing what you do, whether it be a podcast or a running brand or service, or going into healthcare, or whatever it is. I know people who are just happy in their lives. That's the one currency you don't get back is time. And you got to spend it in whatever you want to do, whether it's spending time with family or spending it in the experiences, wherever that might be. But that's really cool, I'm really excited for you and the company. If people are curious to learn more about the agency, Bombtech growth and grab someone awesome gear, because I know I'm interested, I need to check out more into the website and what not, how do they get in touch with you? What's the best way to engage with you or the brand or anyone there?
Tyler: Yeah, if you golf it's just bombtechgolf. com. And then if you're an ecom brands, we work with brands doing over a million dollars a year. We run Klaviyo and email and SMS at ecomgrowers. com. I have been fairly active on LinkedIn @ tylersullysullivan. I don't know why I'm active on LinkedIn, I've just been enjoying it.
Ryan: Me too.
Tyler: I struggle with that because I'm like, I'm using this, because I don't use any other social platform really, and I'm like, " I'm using it but it's not driving revenue, should I delete this app?" So I go through spurts of deleting apps and not having anything. And honestly, those are the best days is when I have nothing on my phone that can distract me and I'm just in the moment. And I'm leaning more and more towards that, even though social media has built both my companies. So I struggle with that.
Ryan: That's why you pay other people to do that though, Tyler
Tyler: That's right. Yeah, I did hire an agency to do my content and again, it was an ego thing, that was like the last thing I could hand off was social media. And I was like, " I'm so bad at it, I'm almost 40, why am I still doing that?" And they started making content and it was like 100 times better. So LinkedIn, maybe, it depends on the week. Yeah, that's about it.
Ryan: No, that's amazing. Well yeah, obviously we've linked out to the websites in the comments section and we'll obviously in the show notes as well. So hey, thanks so much man for hopping on. I love it when the only thing people want to do is just hop on a podcast like today. That sounds like a dream to me. So I've learned so much and I think our listeners have learned a lot too. But hey, now friend of the show, thanks for hopping on and whenever you want to go down another rabbit hole like we did today, give me a shout out and we'll get you back on here, for sure.
Tyler: Appreciate it Ryan. Thanks for having me, man.
Ryan: Awesome. Thanks Tyler. Again, everyone else, thanks to you again for everyone who hopped on episode 169 of Crossover Commerce, again, takeaway is easy enough. I would say put passion before profits. I mean, they both work hand in hand, right? A lot of people like to argue and say what comes first, passion or profit? I think you can live in a world with both of what makes you happy where you want to have that vision and if it's scaling really quickly and trying to grow a five figure business and you feel comfortable with that and you can live off that, that's amazing. If you want to be the next Nike or Bombtech Golf even, you can do that too. But it can take time, it can take different avenues. There's no clear footprint to do that, and that's what's exciting about the world we live in, is entrepreneurship, eCommerce just in general. The way you can get your products in people's hands, the passionate fans that you can work with, there's so many different segments and they're all fascinating. And you can be profitable and scale and build whatever you want. The opportunities are endless. So that's what I took away. Again, thank you so much Tyler and Ecom Growers as well as Bombtech Golf. Go ahead and check them out, again the links are in the show notes and the comments section below. Go ahead and check them out, by yourself some gear or check them out if you're looking for a different agency that might be able to help with email marketing. I'm certainly going to look at it and see what they have to offer, for sure. I'm Ryan Cramer, this is Crossover Commerce. Thanks everyone who hopped on episode 169. We'll catch you guys next time. Take care.
Ryan Cramer of Crossover Commerce talks with Tyler "Sully" Sullivan of BombTech Golf and EcomGrowers one-on-one about scaling a business with only one other employee.
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