Hey guys, Adam here, and welcome to this lesson. Today, in this interview, I have the privilege of interviewing not only an incredible, successful businesswoman, but one of my very best friends in real life, and her name is Amanda Clarkson. Amanda and her husband, Matt, have been friends of mine for over a decade now. As you’ll see in this interview, there’s real fondness between us, since we’re actually best friends in real life. In fact, they both live about a mile down the road from my place.
Amanda’s a very, very interesting lady. When I met her, she was a personal trainer, and Matt was actually a tradesman (or a chippie, as we call them in Australia), building houses. They came to one of my events a little over ten years ago, and while sitting in the crowd, they got inspired.
They ended up working with me for a short time, before going on to much bigger things in their life. They’re the authors of the bestselling book, “Twelve Steps to eBay Riches”, which is really where they focused most of their time in the last ten years, along with working, and teaching others. They’ve made millions of dollars over the last decade. They’ve become independently wealthy. They’ve also spoken on stages all over the world, with men like Donald Trump, to tens of thousands of people. They have shared the stage with Robert Kiyosaki, and a whole bunch of other people.
In this video, Amanda shares her journey, and also why she got involved with selling on Amazon, which is something we’ve been working on together for the last couple of years. We’ve been comparing notes. I went into it a little bit more heavily than they did, because they were so busy with all their prior business commitments. But, the reason I got Amanda in the interview, is to talk specifically about her expertise in exporting products from China into countries like Australia. Today, she’s shipping into the US by the container load. There are very few people I know that have the depth of experience and the ability to articulate this information as well as Amanda.
Now, Amanda is from a place called Tasmania. For those of you who don’t live in Australia, Tasmania is the part of Australia that’s right down the bottom. It’s a little island off the southern-most tip. We often joke about Tasmania. We tease them because they’re a little different down there. It’s a small island, and it’s a little like Southern America. It’s full of great food and great people, and its fair share of rednecks. So, if there are any jokes in here, they’re all good-natured. We love Tasmanian people as much as we love the rest of our country.
But, really, I’m really honoured to be able to bring you this interview. I think you’re going to find it interesting. It’s half motivation and half very specific training on exporting. The exporting piece is the last, probably the first two-thirds we talk about Amanda’s journey, since it’s not often that we get to talk to somebody at this level of success inside of the program. So, I really want to delve in to a little bit of her mindset, journey, and approach to business generally, because I think everybody watching this can learn from that.
So, enjoy the lesson. It was certainly a pleasure making this one. Bye for now.
Below is the transcript of the video above. We apologize in advance for any typos, spelling errors or poor grammar. It was taken from the spoken word so it won’t be 100% perfect.
TV Interview Introduction:
Damian: Across town, Matt and Amanda Clarkson are also making money while they sleep. Lots of it.
Amanda: Oh, it’s fantastic!
Matt: About two and a half thousand.
Amanda: I love it.
Damian: How much are you guys making?
Amanda: At the moment, seven hundred and fifty thousand plus.
Damian: How many hours a day do you guys spend on this business?
Matt: Probably about an hour a day, and really, that’s just monitoring.
Damian: You can just sit here and watch the money roll in.
Amanda: Watching it, watching it. Yes.
Matt: Right from here.
Damian: This young couple is doing something different, though at the same time, very familiar. It’s eBay, and it’s big time.
Matt: We’ve got two more containers on the way, right now.
Damian: After starting small-scale selling second hand, it’s now a multi-million dollar business, shipping new goods to buyers all around the world.
Damian: You guys are so big you’ve got your own warehouse.
Matt: It started from a spare bedroom, and you can see when you look around, it’s nearly empty. We just can’t keep up with stock that sells so quickly.
Amanda: This is our dream house, Damian.
Damian: Well, not quite.
Amanda: Almost. We’ve got the gazebo; I’ve got the pool, home gym, and we can’t wait to move in. The very first auction that we put up on eBay, I did everything wrong and still made a hundred and thirty-three dollars. And it was proof to me that the average person can do this.
Adam: So, welcome everybody. It’s Adam here, and I’m very, very fortunate to have with us today, one of my best friends in the whole world, and also an overly-successful businesswoman in her own right, Amanda Clarkson. So, Amanda, welcome to the interview.
Amanda: Oh, it’s great to be here. Hey, everyone who’s listening.
Adam: Okay, I’m just going to say this upfront for all our American friends. We do not translate Australian into American. You’ll just have to slow us down. Amanda has a very southern Australian accent. She’s from Tasmania as I think I mentioned in the preamble to this video, so she does have a very, very Australian accent. Get some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy two Australians.
Amanda: Oh, I’ll try to keep it slow. [Laugh].
Adam: So, Amanda, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, and the students/people watching the video. I thought a really great place to start would be to tell us a little bit about your background. Where you are from, and when you first got out of school … when did you start your business? Today, you own a beautiful home a few steps from the beach. You’ve done extremely well. Where did it all begin? What background did you come from?
Amanda: Like most people probably listening to this interview, it started with a burning desire to have a great life. And that came from a very young age. You know, from childhood, really. Back then, I had completely no idea how everything was going to transpire. I’m actually from Tasmania as you mentioned, but, I left at the age of sixteen after having failed every subject at school, except for Religion and Art. Go figure. It just wasn’t right for me. School was a really difficult time, and I just didn’t do very well, so I left school at sixteen. In fact, I moved out of home at the age of sixteen and went on to discover the world by myself. I always had that desire, to make something of myself. From there on, I went on to have thirty-three different jobs, and I hated every single one of them. I did well at them, but always felt trapped, and always was like a bird in a cage. I believed that there was so much more for me, and so, I just kept going from job, to job, to job, to job.
I used to drive a front-end loader in a big gravel yard, and all the big trucks would come in, and I’d fill up the trucks with all the different dirt and sand. I saw it advertised in the newspaper, so I’d be at that job in the morning in a little skirt, top, and jacket. I would whip into my man’s clothes, and actually run two kilometres to the gravel yard to do the job that day. I did almost anything and everything. I’ve had so many jobs. I haven’t got time to go through the whole thirty-three of them.
From there, I went on to start and finish ten different businesses, to date. Some have been miserable failures, and some have been successful, to certain standards. But, I never really found what I truly loved until I discovered the internet. Having said that, I haven’t sent my first email until I was forty years of age.
Amanda: How’s that? [Laugh.] It’s pretty sad, isn’t it?
Adam: You didn’t send your first email. Wow. Now, is it true, I know it’s true, but I’m asking for the audience, that you met your husband Matt, when you were running around selling meat pies and take-away food to builders on work sites?
Amanda: Thanks for bringing that up. Yes, it’s true.
Adam: You were the pie princess?
Amanda: I was the pie princess. As I said, I had ten different businesses. I’ve had a video store, I’ve been in the beauty industry, I’ve sold real estate, and then I began a pie van business. I don’t know what you call them in America, truck, or pie truck business, or whatever. Lunch trucks—I’ve seen them when I visited you a lot, when you were there. And I used to think, “Wow, imagine if I had one of those big trucks, what I could do.” Anyway, I started that business in the hype of meeting good-looking guys, and that was my extraordinary business plan. The great news is that I actually did meet my husband Matt on the pie van, so that business plan came to fruition, although I wouldn’t say that was the best business plan in the world to begin with. From there, I went on to be a personal trainer, which I truly loved, and that’s where we met.
Adam: It is.
Amanda: I’m grateful to say, I was actually, for those of you who probably have no idea, I was Adam’s personal trainer for a few years, and we created this amazing friendship and bond through that experience. In fact, it was through you, Adam, that I actually went to my very first work seminar with one of your companies, way back then. On my journey of discovery on how to get out of that rat wheel, which I thought I was still on, even though I loved being a personal trainer. 6 am to 7 pm, six days a week. That wasn’t freedom. I was just trying to find something, and I saw a line ad in a newspaper, and I rang up, and you were putting a seminar on.
Adam: That’s right.
Amanda: And here I am. The rest is history.
Adam: The rest is history.
Amanda: The internet.
Adam: The unique thing about this interview, for those of you watching, is that I’ve had the privilege of watching Amanda from the day she recruited me as a client into her personal training business. I’ll cover how she did that in a moment.
Amanda: That’s a story we’re going to tell?
Adam: Yeah, she’s quite the salesman. You could not accuse her of being tactful in any way.
Adam: But, I had the privilege of working with Amanda from when she really was just, almost broke, I suppose. I watched her and Matt over the next ten years. I remember when she was thirty-nine. It was when you first started training me, and I was sharing with you that I was hungry to be successful, and you were like, “You think you’re hungry? Darling, I’m thirty-nine years old, and I’m almost broke.”
Adam: I needed to get rich. And I watched you, over the next ten years, build an unbelievable business, become wealthy in the process, make many millions of dollars, build your dream house, and really live an extraordinary life. For those of you who are curious as to how I was recruited, I was doing a seminar, and Amanda was in the audience. I didn’t know, but she saw me on the beach a few days later. She was probably stalking me. [Laugh.]
Amanda: Of course.
Adam: And she came up to me. At that point I was thirty years old, and I didn’t go to the gym. I wasn’t overweight, but you couldn’t accuse me of being in shape. And she came up to me and said, “Look at you. You look like a wet loaf of bread.” And she said, “I’ll fix that up for you if you teach me how to do business.” So we did a barter deal. I think she got me paying for the lessons anyway. [Laugh.]
Adam: But, I got fit, and she learnt some basics on getting started in business. Then, they quickly went far beyond my ability to teach them. I remember being with Matt and Amanda, and Matthew was saying to me, (because Matt was still on the tools at the time, still a chippie, and Amanda was a personal trainer) “Adam, I’m going to make all my money online. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it.” And from that time to today, as we sit here, I don’t know what it is, but you guys have done forty or fifty million dollars online, which is just extraordinary, and I got to sort of have a front row seat to that. It’s been an amazing journey. So, picking up from there, Amanda, you said you discovered the internet, and you wanted to get online. We’ll get to Amazon in a moment. But, you’re very well known in Australia, particularly as the eBay queen. If I got that the wrong way, maybe Matt’s the eBay queen. I am totally kidding. Just don’t tell Matt I said that. [Laugh.] You are known as the eBay king and queen, and you’ve run seminars. You’ve taught many people how to make money through selling physical products on eBay within Australia. So, tell us about how you got started on eBay. Tell me about your timing there. What attracted you to eBay?
Amanda: Yeah, it’s a really interesting story. Please don’t get fascinated by who I am, or where I am today. The real story begins at the beginning, like a lot of people who might be listening to this interview. I’m no different than everyone else. I still had that dream, that burning desire, and when Matt said he wanted to create a lifestyle, and an income on the internet, we truly had no idea what we were doing. As I said, it’s true that I sent my first email when I was forty. I am now fifty. So, you know, if you’re sitting and thinking, “I’ve got no idea how to start an internet business,” that’s where I was back then. You know, we tried a few different things. We went to many internet seminars, and we were visiting every program, and that was the key. We always believed in having mentors, and we invested in so many programs. But, we just couldn’t make it stick with the traditional internet market, where you had to build a website, find traffic, and try to find something to sell. It wasn’t us. Not to say that the vehicle doesn’t work, we just couldn’t make it work. Then, one day, I remember we were sitting in the Q1 terrace—it was one of the tallest buildings on the Gold Coast. You might have heard of it. And Matthew called me into the office (which was just a spare bedroom). He said, “I’ve got this email. It’s about eBay. Why don’t you have a look at it?” By then, by the way, we were almost broke. We were living on pretty much nothing. I read this email about eBay and how to make money on eBay, and I thought to myself, “Wow.” I was starting to get excited, you know, coming alive. It made sense to me. It was a colourful website—I always loved all the colours of eBay, and it was just, inviting. It was simplistic, and I thought, “Yep, I can really learn how to make money on eBay.” So, to cut a long story short, we invested in every program out there. We went to seminars in America. We went to every seminar, got hands-on with every educational tool that we could to learn how to be the best, because I don’t know what anyone’s thinking, but here are my thoughts behind starting a business, online especially: I always look to see who the top performers are. If I can learn something off a top performer or mentor, then I’m all for fast tracking. I was in my forties and I didn’t have any more time to waste. So, we got cracking on that, and we began basically by importing. We imported products from China, having absolutely no idea what we’re doing. We were running on excitement, enthusiasm, and belief. You just have to back yourself.
We were living off a credit card, and it was really interesting. I remember, this is back in 2005 now, we got a letter in the mail from the I&Z bank, and it said, “Mr. and Mrs. Claxon, would you like a credit card for fifty thousand dollars?” Now, here’s a couple who’s almost broke, and I thought, “Yes, I would like a credit card with fifty thousand dollars. Thanks Mr. I&Z.” So, I quickly signed that paper, got a fifty thousand dollar credit card, and spent most of it on education, and our first import from China. Within our first six weeks of selling, we were making fifty thousand dollars a month income with a very hard profit margin. And we just went out there enough, and finally, the dream that Matthew had when he said to Adam, “I want to make money on the internet,” has more than come true. His dream, originally, was to just make two thousand dollars a week from the internet, and not live a life of stress and worry about paying bills that we had piled up by then. If you’re going to start selling on Amazon, or the internet at all, really be clear about what you want to make, because we were making that in the first six weeks.
Amanda: So, that’s the beginning of that journey.
Adam: So, do you want to talk quickly about that first product? You’re not selling anymore, right? That was something you did ages ago. I think I was around your place when you came up with the name. Amanda is a fitness person, as you picked up from the fact that she’s a personal trainer, and how she still looks like she’s thirty when she’s fifty.
Amanda: I’m going to pay you a hundred dollars for saying that.
Adam: But, a few things that I noticed, just before we get into that. Your brand and product. Amanda, she’s mellowed a little bit by now, but she’s a super competitive type of person. She doesn’t mess around. When we used to run on the beach together, she would find somebody on the beach and say, “I’m going to chase that guy down.” Literally, on the beach. She would do this. And I was like, “This girl would do great in business. And if there was somebody in front of her, they weren’t going be in front of her for long.”
So, when it comes to education and emulating and modelling success, you’re one of those people that always, always ask, “Who’s the best? How much does it cost?” And one of your favourite sayings, I have heard you say recently is: “Pay once, cry once.”
Amanda: Isn’t that an awesome saying?
Adam: It’s a great saying. Pay once for the right people, and you’ll only cry once when you pay the bill. But, if you don’t pay for the right people, you’re going to cry, and cry, and cry, and cry. And that is something I’ve learnt in business many, many times.
As this interview goes on, we talk about quality control and dealing with Chinese. Then you’ll see why when it comes to education, “Pay once, cry once.” When it comes to the quality of the product, pay once, cry once, right?
Amanda: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. My parents mentored me as a runner from the age of six years of age. So, I took that thinking right through my life, because I knew I wasn’t the world’s best runner by any stretch of the imagination, but a couple of people, my sister and brother were very, very good, and I remember my parents saying, “If you want to win a medal, the gold medal, you need the trainer to get you there, because you won’t get there by yourself.” So, I’ve taken that right through my life. I’m a very big believer in the value of education. The right education, with a mentor who has the results that you want. So, going back to the story: We were importing, making money, and that’s what our day looked like. Literally, we were doing two hours a day and making a very, very good income. Life had changed completely. We got up in the morning and go straight to the beach to do our training. I would go running, and Matt would surf. Matt’s a crazy mad surfer. Then we’d come up, have a good breakfast, do our eBay business, and we would literally be done by 11 am. But, just to make sure that I’m upfront here, that was when we were going forward. There are a lot of things to do before you get to that stage. You’re wearing all the hats, trying to get the business running, though, after you get momentum, that’s what the internet business looks like. If you’re on, for us it was eBay, and now Amazon, ten minutes a day at the moment, so-
Adam: Because you’re not shipping.
Adam: You’re not shipping with Amazon. With eBay, you have to ship your own stuff.
Amanda: That’s right.
Adam: With Amazon, you do not. But, just before we jump forward, what were you selling back then, the initial products you were importing from-
Amanda: Sorry, health and fitness products.
Adam: Yeah, health and fitness products. Things like, and they were big, right? Some of them?
Amanda: Xxx and xxx, and things like that in a cluster of products around health and fitness, but, yeah, I was importing containers and containers and containers. We used to have the containers down at the warehouse. In fact, we grew so fast that Matt and I moved warehouses five times in one year. It was a bloody nightmare. I even say to my students now, “Never do that.” You know, outsource, or find a different way. We didn’t know better. We did a few silly things, but, I’m still really grateful. We really grew quite quickly, and interestingly enough, when we were rocking and rolling, I got bored. I know it sounds like I’m not ungrateful, but, after about eight months, I got bored. Getting up every day and having two hours to fill in the day. I started to really miss people, because I’m a people person, as you can probably tell. And I said to Matt, “I really love my business, but what am I going to do all day?”
This is the thing with internet businesses. Sometimes, it’s just sitting around, looking at your husband and the cat, burning a few months away. Don’t tell him I said that. [Laugh.]
Adam: So, you got bored, but you did have some challenges. I want to talk about one of the challenges quickly, because a lot of people look at you today, and they see your book, and see the things that you’ve done, but they don’t really know the hardships that went into the end result. A lot of people, or the media in general, always show us just the last bit of the athlete getting the medal.
Amanda: Oh, yeah.
Adam: They show us the hundred meter race, and the one time they did the eight hundred meter lap of the track, or the one time they did the Tour de France. In reality, they do it around a thousand times during the year.
So, maybe you could share one of those stories with us. I remember when the floods hit Brisbane, which is sort of the middle of the eastern coast of Australia, and exactly where your stuff was. What actually happened there? You had unprecedented levels of flood water come into the city, and you had a warehouse there. Maybe you could share that story, just so people would get an insight as to the kind of shit you have had to deal with.
Amanda: Yeah, I want to share this story, because what you’re hearing here is the upside. Please understand, there have been plenty of downsides, and the message I want to portray today, is that it’s going to take courage. You’re going to have great days and shit days. You just have to get up and pull your socks up. What happened is, in Australia, for those who don’t know; back in 2011 we had immense floods up in the northern part of Australia, Brisbane. You wouldn’t believe it, but the day before we had moved out stock from the Gold Coast, which is the southern end of Brisbane and a good hour and a half away, the floods hit. We had trucked everything up to Brisbane to a fulfilment company. (If you don’t know what that is, it’s a company that simply packs and ships products on your behalf as you sell them.) What happened was that the trucks took the stuff up to Brisbane, and half the truck was unloaded into the fulfilment company when the floods hit. Matt and I had no idea that the fulfilment company was hit by the floods. And we saw all of it on the news. That was a really terrible time for us in Australia. People lost their lives, their homes, and their businesses. In the meantime, we are continuing to sell more of that product on eBay, making a lot of sales, not realizing our stock had been washed away in the floods. Seven days later, after we’ve made a lot of sales, and we got a phone call from a guy in New Zealand who said, “I’m just ringing to let you know that we’ve lost everything in the floods, including all of your stock,” which I wasn’t prepared for. Got into a lot of trouble on eBay. Some people weren’t quite so understanding. A lot of very negative feedback because their products weren’t turning up. Of course, I got all their money back, but that’s just the way it went. I remember we drove to Brisbane. I said, “I have to go and see this.” And we drove up when the flood had subsided a little bit, and I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. In fact, I’ve actually made a video about it. It was devastating. So much had been wiped out. The whole massive, massive fulfilment company had been taken out. There was stuff everywhere. All the products off the shelves, and they literally had hundreds of customers that they held stock for. Everything was under sewerage. The smell alone knocked you out. But, it was a very, very emotional time for me. Very hard to see, because I was five years into that business by then, and to see five years of toil, love, care, nurturing, and owning that space on eBay washed out in one moment … it wasn’t easy.
Amanda: On top of that, I didn’t even have insurance. So, I guess where I’m going with this story, is that I made a decision then and there. I was very upset, but I made a decision that I would pull my socks up, and show people that having an internet business is amazing, because if you have the knowledge and the know-how, that is never taken away from you. We started a new eBay business, and in a complete other category. The beauty category. And within our first month of sales, after importing a brand new product, we made sixty-five thousand dollars. So, what I want to say in this long message is that, no matter what happens to you through your Amazon business, or your internet business, you’re going to have tough moments. Real tough moments. You’re going to have to deal with that and realize that the knowledge you earned has not been taken away. You just have to get on with it. Nothing that bad happened to us. We didn’t lose our lives, our home, or our entire business, because we had an internet business. So, that was that story. I had a lot of those times.
Adam: So, Amanda, let’s move towards the focus of the interview. Of all the people I know, there are few, if any, that know more about exporting products from China and taking them into Australia. Now, you’re taking containers into the US because you’ve launched on Amazon around a similar time I did, or not long after. So, we’re going to get to that. I just want to ask: What attracted you after all this success you’ve had on eBay … what attracted you to Amazon as a platform for distribution?
Amanda: Well, you get to a certain point, and you want to grow. As I’ve mentioned before, I was getting bored with the one business. I thought, ”Well, I’m bringing products from China into Australia. Why couldn’t I just take products straight from China to Amazon?” And the thing that really attracted me to Amazon was, why I love Amazon as much as eBay, is that you have even more freedom once you’ve done the work. You’re going to have the time when you go through the process. Eventually, you’ll really learn, and you’ll know what to do. This is a business. You have even more time and freedom with an Amazon business, than with an eBay one, because, as you pointed out Adam, you don’t have to ship your own product. The thing that gets us so excited down here in Australia is that there are 330 million people in America. It’s a much bigger market, and I was just drawn to it. That’s how we got started on Amazon. How long has it been now? A couple of years, maybe?
Adam: Yeah, I’ve been on for three years, so you wouldn’t be far behind.
Amanda: Yeah, two and a half years.
Adam: And I think that the US dollar would be a big attraction for Australians watching this as well.
Adam: Really appealing. I think the story of your inventory, and the drama you had to deal with … I remember a TV show that interviewed you and Matt, showcasing your successes. I’ve walked through your warehouses. It’s all exciting and looks amazing when you’re standing in your own big warehouse. But, it’s not as sexy when you have to pay the bills for all that, you know?
Amanda: You’re absolutely right. Not so sexy when you’ve outgrown the thing in three months, and you’re bored. That’s what I love about Amazon. You can grow as big as you choose, or even if you just want to supplement your income, which is a small business, Amazon has all the logistics covered, and that just gives you so much more freedom. As I said, I don’t know about you Adam, but literally ten minutes a day, I just look at it. My business is not big on Amazon. Not at all. I’ve only got one product. Ten minutes a day, I just look at it, because I like looking at it. There’s nothing to do.
Adam: Yeah, I was sitting with you the other day, and you were asking me about drilling into the numbers to work out your true net profit. We sat down and looked at it. And that one product alone is netting you, in real terms, ninety grand a year. And you’re doing ten minutes a day for it, which is pretty extraordinary for one single product on Amazon. What if you had ten of those? What if you paid some attention to it, and stopped lying on the beach with your poodle? [Laugh.]
Amanda: This is living the dream though, isn’t it?
Adam: Yeah, that’s right. Don’t change anything.
Amanda: Nothing at all.
Adam: So, let’s talk a little bit, Amanda, about exporting from China, because that’s really what I’m building this interview around, and where I want to really get your experience in dealing with the Chinese. Let’s begin with some of your general comments on exporting from China, and then we’ll drill our way in where we feel. Why don’t you start by giving us a little perspective … how many times have you been to China? What was your experience dealing with the Chinese?
Amanda: Yeah, I’ve been to China probably three times. Matthew’s been probably four times. It’s been ten years this month, in fact, that I’ve been importing products from China, and now into America as well. I’ve got a lot of experience, and I can honestly say, while looking all of you in the eye, that it’s still not perfect. It’s never going be perfect. What I do understand is that over the years, because I didn’t have a mentor in this process, we’ve had to work it out ourselves. My god, Matt and I have made so many mistakes. So many blunders. So many obvious things that we just missed. We didn’t know it ten years ago, in 2005. Over time, what I’ve learnt is, to be really particular in my dealings with the Chinese. They are just a little different from westerners in how they do business. I’ve learnt, over time, to be very specific with what I expect to get, and that comes down to making sure you have everything in writing. That’s one of the biggest things, Adam. A lot of people don’t realize that having a paper trail, whether it’s by email, Skype, or however, is so important. You want to deal with the Chinese? Have some paper trail. You have to learn to respect their culture, and in return, they’ll respect your culture.
Adam: Before we drill into that, (and I will drill into that), what kind of impact did it have on you when you got on an airplane, flew to China, went into these factories where the stuff that you import is actually made, and saw it with your own two eyes? Most westerners have never done that. They have never set foot in a country that has a billion people in it. They never saw how that reality translates onto everything—from the traffic, to the standards, to the way people think. How important was going to China, and putting your high heels on the ground? I was going to say boots on the ground.
Amanda: I don’t know what I was thinking. Don’t wear high heels to China, people.
Amanda: Just don’t do it. What was I thinking? I was trying to be professional. Oh, wow, wear flat heels and you can still be professional. With importing from China, I have a belief. I mentor people, just like Adam does, in certain spaces on the internet—including this one. But, I believe that if you’re serious about having a business on the internet, mainly Amazon in this case, then you would want to get to know who you are in business with, this being your Chinese manufacturer. And I can say from experience that you absolutely get treated differently if you bother to take the time to get to know them, learn their culture, learn a couple of words, and step foot on their soil. They really, really love when people give them the time of day, and I remember the last time I went to China. It’s not a posh experience. I certainly respect them, and they were so over the moon.
I would class myself as a very small customer. A lot of the Chinese manufacturers deal with European and American orders, hundreds of thousands of dollars of orders. Mine might be thirty thousand dollars in orders, yet Matt and I still flew in, and they said we were their first visitors in ten years.
Amanda: They couldn’t celebrate enough. They drove us around everywhere, we had some tea, they showed us all the landmarks where their area was, and we celebrated with a big feast that night; with the best wine, and the best food. The service from there really elevates. You have a little bit more, not power, but a bit more leeway with getting things that you want for your product.
Adam: I’m actually about to jump on a plane in the next couple of weeks to go to Beijing and out into the provinces. Also down south, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and nearby areas, to look at factories I deal with and—
Adam: I can anticipate that they have organized the tour guides to pick me up. I’ve got one day in Beijing. They have organized somebody to take me around everywhere, and they have got dinners organized. I’m so excited that I want to take a video of myself in their factory.
Adam: I’m coming to actually see them after all this time.
Adam: And it does have an impact on your business. I always tell the students of my course, Amanda, that it’s those little things that most people wouldn’t do. Most people are lazy, which is an advantage to those who are not. You’re going to be releasing a course soon. I believe four, just specifically on importing, which I would certainly let everybody hear and know about. And I can’t recommend them highly enough, because the experience that you garner from someone like Amanda, who has done this for so long, makes a big difference. But, we’ll get to that in a minute. So, Amanda, tell us a little bit about how you document, specifically, how you document what you want, like, when you order something and you’re about to pay the money, what bits of paper do you have in place? How specific are you in those bits of paper? Maybe you can talk about what a company chop is, for those who don’t know. So, just talk about that, what documents, how specific, and how do you make them binding?
Amanda: That’s a really good question. Again, there’s nothing that’s perfect when you’re dealing with this sort of business, but we try to get it almost perfect. I don’t have too many dramas dealing with China anymore. I’m grateful I have staff there, but going back to square one, where a lot of people would be listening to this interview today, this is where you’ll be at. And with China, when you are, first document you would be talking about is the sample agreement. There’s nothing out there that you can do to just copy because it depends on the product you want to bring in. You need to get your own document up. And, again, Adam, you’re right. Most of the people are just too lazy to sit and think about what they want. They just order from Alibaba or Made in China and think that’s all they have to do. It’s not so, there’s so much more to it than that. Even if I’m ordering, say, a baby cot—when I’m ordering a sample, I’m very particular about my sample document. Now, this is just a word document. You don’t have to do anything fancy-pants. You don’t need a solicitor or a lawyer involved or anything, because it won’t work in China anyway. And in that sample document, whether you’re creating your own brand of cots or you’re just buying off the shelf (as in using their catalogue), you still want to do a breakdown of exactly what that sample would look like when you get it on your doorstep. Right down to the colour, every measurement, type of screws, packaging, and just about everything you could imagine. And the more detailed you are on a sample agreement document, the more they understand that you are serious about your business, and they just get a bit of an understanding of what you’re doing. So, even when you feel you don’t know what you’re doing, and that you’re not an expert, don’t act like it. Act as if you know. And then, what I do with my sample agreement, the company chop is simply a stamp that they use in China, which is an agreement to fulfil what was promised. China is very much about face; their word is everything to them. And that comes with a company chop. You’ll say on the sample agreement with whomever you’re chatting with, “This is the agreement that I would like to put in place, have a sample of my cot made with all these specifications. When you go through, please agree with your company chop and the signature.” So, what that says is that they have agreed, and that’s as good as going to a solicitor. You don’t have to spend any money doing all these papers up. That’s the first part. And only when you get the cot made to your exact specifications would you go ahead with what we call a purchase order. You must be excruciatingly detailed or you will not always get what you hoped for. And people that import without going into this much detail, in my experience of just over ten years now, will always come undone, because you might get the first bunch of stuff amazing, the second lot of stuff pretty good. The third lot, oh my god, this is not what I ordered. What happened? The Chinese can have a way (from my experience) of getting a little too comfortable, if you’re not as professional as you should be.
Amanda: That is the key to success with importing products.
Adam: Yeah, because there’s no end to the number of ways that you can cheapen a product.
Amanda: Oh, yeah.
Adam: I had no real appreciation of this, until I started importing a little bit more scale. Things can look the same while weighing differently. We had a glass product once, and they had it mixed with something else. I thought, “This glass doesn’t feel right,” and it was because they used this filler in the glass, and it made it feel like plastic when you held it, rather than glass. But, it looked the same, though I didn’t specify in the document that it had to be a certain type of glass. I’ve since had to do that. And it’s just, they just think differently there. It wasn’t specified, so we’re going to do this.
Adam: Whereas in the west, it’s like, we have this concept of what’s integrity and what’s not. It’s just not shared there. It’s just a cultural difference that you need to accept.
Amanda: Absolutely. And what you believe is quality is certainly not their standard of quality. Whenever I had problems with China, I looked within and went, “What haven’t I done—”
Amanda: “—to communicate properly.” And if you’re listening to this, and you wonder how to have a successful business on Amazon, you must understand that this is a major part of it, and your communication skills are going to play a huge part of whether you are successful or not. You can’t afford to not do this part properly, because you’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. You must start off with a small one thousand dollar order, but if your business takes off on Amazon, (if you follow Adam’s course, it will) well, you’re going to start importing ten thousand dollars, twenty thousand dollars. I spend fifty to a hundred thousand dollars. If you don’t have your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed … can you afford to drop a hundred thousand dollars because you weren’t specific? If you’re ordering a product off the shelf, (which I don’t really do; I don’t order products off the shelf.) change things, and Adam’s an expert at that. He talks about the packaging and everything in his program. I even do a breakdown of what’s in it. The biggest mistake, and I hope you’re taking notes here, because what I am giving you is gold, is this: The biggest mistake that you will make as an importer is to try and crunch the Chinese on price, because they will always say yes. In most cases, they don’t want to lose face, but, sometimes, they’ll say yes, while hampering with your product’s quality. If you think you’ve won by getting a cheaper price, they will dilute the quality of the material used, because if you’re dealing with a real manufacturer, they gather the raw material and then manufacture in their plants. There are different places they go to get the raw material, bring it back to their plant, and move on from there.
Amanda: I hope I’m not going into too much detail.
Adam: No, it was perfect. I actually teach people, the students in my program, to ask the question when they submit their quote, “What would I get if I was prepared to pay twenty percent more?” And in my experience, the Chinese are shocked, because no westerner has ever asked them that question. They always ask, “How can I get this for twenty percent less?” So you say, “Look, I’ve got your quote, I appreciate it, but if I was prepared to pay twenty percent extra, what could you change about this product to make it higher quality?”
Amanda: I love that.
Adam: And it’s amazing. It’s really amazing. If you’re buying this pen and they quote you for twenty cents, well, let’s say a dollar, and you offer them a dollar twenty, they can change the plastic into a heavier grade plastic, and they can give you a much better quality of steel, and the whole thing feels different when you hold it in your hand. It costs you twenty cents, but you can sell the pen for three dollars more at the retail end. So you pick up this huge bump in margin because you invested at the frontend. Most people are cheap, and most people are lazy. So they won’t do the work, and they don’t want to invest in Amazon. Jeff Bamer is famous for saying, “Be afraid of one thing, the customer.” That’s it. As sellers, we need to be afraid of the customer more than we need to be afraid of paying too much in China, because I can guarantee you, if you don’t pay enough in China, or you don’t pay much attention in China, you’re going to get slammed when you get to the customers in Amazon. Amazon customers are trained—they are the boss. If the product sucks, they’re going to write in their reviews that the product sucks. They’re going to send it back and tell everyone the product sucks. Sorry. You know, that’s the American consumer. They are the king. Don’t get that mixed up. So, if you’re a servant of the king, and you’re going to be bringing products to the kingdom, and your head is going to be on the line if you bring shit to the king—now think about how you deal with the Chinese. In fact, you have to be very careful about how you specify the order. You’re going to be asking questions about how to get the best possible quality, if the product’s now good, off comes your head. That’s how you should think. Would you agree with that, Amanda?
Amanda: Couldn’t have said it better myself. You know, it’s a great analogy. Americans, they’re different than us down here in Australia. They expect, and they get the very best, and this is a very important component of what Adam is talking about—getting the product. Being involved with, I own different courses that don’t teach these ethics, and I’m going to say right up front, I very, very, very strongly disagree. You cannot just go and pick products off the shelf. You’re not going to have a long-term, sustainable, profitable, and reliable income doing that method. I know that from my own personal experience.
Adam: Yeah, I lived in the US for four years, and I grew up as a businessman by doing that, because the American consumer is part of the greater American consumer market, which is the most appealing market on the planet. Americans all have credit cards, they all have money, and they all love spending it. It’s a wealthy country. So, as a result of that, everybody who’s trying to make it big is going to the American consumer marketplace, and you’re competing against that. So, if you go there, half-trying, trying to cheap out with the Chinese supplies, not caring, trying to expedite things because your needs are ahead of the consumer’s needs, for example, “I need this cheaper,” or, “I need to get my business going immediately,” you’ll just fail. You rush everything, and you’re cheap. The consumers in America don’t care about your needs. They only care about theirs. There’s no way to hack this. You have to be careful. And the Chinese are so crucial in this chain, because they’re the only folks that would supply at the price you need to be able to sell and retain a margin. And make no mistake, Amanda, I’d like your comments on this: Getting a product that has a sustainable margin is not easy on Amazon. That’s something that really takes work, and comes down to thought, quality, and time.
Amanda: I absolutely agree. If you can create something outstanding, and this is where Adam aces, you’ll probably have a very good profit margin. The mistake I’ve seen people make is they think that the price that they’re paying per item in China is the price they’re going sell it for. That’s not the case. You have all the different charges and costs on top of that, that by the time it even gets there, you’re half-broke. I think, in your course, you speak a lot about that, and you actually give your equation there, Adam, of what you believe is the right price point to aim for. Try and put yourself into the low end. Don’t rush. Move more towards a quality product, and you’ll have less competition, less stress, and less worry. And then you can spend a lot more of your time on the packaging, as Adam is going to talk about very much at length in his course. And then you have profit, enough profit, and enough room, if you want do paid advertising on Amazon, which we all do.
Adam: Yeah. So, there can be differentiation through packaging, and it can be differentiation through the product that you sell, as well. Any other things that you would like to add for people watching this? Some people are probably nervous about exporting from China. What are your thoughts or notes to people that are just starting out? What would you say to them about their first order, and the risk involved? I always tell people the risk is, you bought some products from China at Chinese prices, and if all goes badly, you sell it out at the Chinese prices plus freight. You should be able to still clear it. What are your thoughts?
Amanda: Exactly. That’s what I do. You know, after all of my many years of doing this, you’re going to say I love talking about it; it’s a subject I could talk about until I’m blue in the face. I love importing. Very, very passionate about it, and I’m still doing it to this day, so if it was that scary, I wouldn’t be doing it. I still choose the wrong products. In fact, I’m just wiping out three products on Amazon right now, because I did what I shouldn’t have done. I went to the wrong product. I followed a program that didn’t quite suit my needs, and then competition was so crazy, and now I’m just selling it out at cost price. That’s the worst thing that can happen. I say to people, “Oh my god, if you can’t sell it, take it down to the market or something. Put it out on your front lawn. Don’t let it get overwhelming.” It’s so simple. If you’re sitting there and you go, “I really want to have a business on Amazon like Adam, Amanda, and these other successful students,” then the biggest thing to fear is fear itself. You know, you have to have a goal. And if you’re intelligent enough, and I have no doubt that you are, because you’re listening to this, invest in the education. Follow the mentors, and just do it properly. I would say, take a little bit more time. Like Adam said, don’t rush it. Give yourself the gift of time to do it properly, and you will have an incredible experience. This is a real business that you’re going to get real results with. Take your time, do it properly, and follow the proven steps, so that you don’t make the mistakes that people like me have made. I think Adam has made a few mistakes himself, but that’s what we do. We’re just here to share our story.
Adam: I actually got a product I couldn’t clear out because I didn’t have the advice that you just shared here. I ended up throwing out a container load of the stuff. But, if you listen to the advice given, even the advice just given in this interview, you’ve greatly reduced your risk. So, that’s it. Amanda, I’m going to have to wind up, because I’m running out of storage space here, but I really want to—
Amanda: Told you I could talk. [Laugh].
Adam: You did. It’s really been an amazing interview, and I want to thank you so much for coming and joining us today.
Amanda: It’s been my absolute pleasure. And guys—jump in and just enjoy the journey. It’s a pretty incredible one. Thanks for sharing this time with myself.
Adam: Thank you Amanda. Talk to you later.