This Accidental Entrepreneur Tells How to Use Process Engineering to Grow Your Business – 253
To be successful, almost every business needs to have an underlying structure. Often the challenge is how to maintain that at the same time that your company is experiencing rapid growth. The best way to do that is through systems that ensure your business infrastructure scales right along with your growing sales.
That’s why today on the AM/PM Podcast, Tim Jordan welcomes Mina Elias, a former engineer as well as an Amazon FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) and advertising expert to discuss how he’s grown his company, MMA Nutrition, to where it is today. As Chief Executive Officer, Mina has employed strategies honed from his years working as a project engineer to develop systems that can help any e-commerce seller better keep pace with today’s exponential e-commerce growth.
Mina feels that by establishing standard operating principles (SOP), and cleverly building in “hurdles” for prospective job applicants, you’ll be in a position to incrementally outsource roles that allow you to stop “working at your own business.” Instead, stepping back (a little bit) will give you a better overview, and open the door to future expansion.
Working smarter, not harder. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
In episode 253 of the AM/PM Podcast, Tim and Mina discuss:
- 02:20 – Mina was an Early Fan of the AM/PM Podcast
- 04:45 – Getting “Everything He Wanted”
- 07:30 – Starting a Supplement Brand
- 10:00 – Success at an MMA Event Made Amazon an Obvious Next Step
- 12:45 – After Getting Fired, It Was Do or Die
- 17:00 – How Did Mina Scale His Amazon Business?
- 19:00 – Prioritization (and SOPs) Open the Door to Expansion
- 22:00 – Can You Outsource Everything?
- 24:30 – Creating “Hurdles” to Find the Right Candidates
- 29:30 – Building Beneficial Systems
- 35:30 – Document It and Move on to the Next Thing
- 37:30 – You NEED Systems to Grow to Your Full Potential
- 41:30 – Mina’s Bookshelf
- 43:00 – How to Contact Mina
Enjoy this episode? Be sure to check out our previous episodes for even more content to propel you to Amazon FBA Seller success! And don’t forget to “Like” our Facebook page and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you listen to our podcast.
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Tim Jordan: One of the hardest parts about starting or operating your own business, at least for me, was getting myself organized, figuring out what I needed to organize, what priorities were, even some of the tools and resources and systems to put in place to get myself organized. In this episode, we have a legit engineer/project manager who has found himself in the world of e-comm and he’s breaking down some of the most high level and immediately executable plans to put systems in place in your business. It’s going to be a good episode, stick around to the end. Here we go.
Tim Jordan: Hi. I’m Tim Jordan and in every corner of the world, entrepreneurship is growing. So, join me as I explore the stories of successes and failures. Listen in as I chat with the risk takers, the adventurous and the entrepreneurial veterans. We all have a dream of living a life, fulfilling our passions, and we want a business that doesn’t make us punch a time clock, but instead runs around the clock in the AM and the PM. So get motivated, get inspired. You’re listening to the AM/PM Podcast.
Tim Jordan: So, as I’ve been able to dive into the entrepreneurial world myself, as well as get to witness a lot of other entrepreneurs and side hustlers and all of us kind of crazy out of the box thinkers. One thing that I’ve noticed that many of us have in common is we’re very, very good strategically and we’re very good visionaries, but being organized is one of the biggest weaknesses that we have. I’ll definitely say that about myself. If I could actually organize myself and create systems and procedures for everything that I think should happen, where I could actually get them done, things would be a lot better for me. Luckily, there are people in this world that are just better at some things than I am, and they’re willing to come on to podcasts like this and share some of that experience, and that describes our guest today. His name is Mina Elias, and he actually, I guess you could say, founded this whole Amazon e-commerce thing by accident coming from an actual professional role as a project manager. So this episode today, we’re going to hear about his story, how it got started in e-commerce and he hit like right before we started recording, he was telling me all these things he wants to share about how he manages projects and how he built his SOPs and how he hired VAs and probably way more than we’ll be able to get to in this episode, but we’ll give it a good shot. So, welcome Mina to the show.
Mina: Thank you, man, for having me. It’s awesome to be on. I’m a big fan of the show I’ve listened to, I think way before, when I first started Amazon, I typed in Amazon podcast and this was one of the biggest ones I listened to.
Tim Jordan: Yeap. It was – I’ve told people for, it was the first one that I was actually ever interviewed on. So sometimes it still feels surreal that now I’m the host of it, but it’s pretty cool stuff. So you were essentially not a construction worker, but you worked for a construction company, right. And kind of give me the history of how you got into that. Like how did you become a professional project manager?
Mina: So it’s crazy, right? Because my degree is in chemical engineering and my Master is Industrial Engineering. So, I started out in that field, chemical engineering. I worked for a massive surgical devices company. But it was very, very like when you worked for a company that big, they gave me a room and they said, this is that, you work on this machine and this project and that’s that. So you kind of are very, very small and doing the same thing kind of over and over again. I then out of desperation moved to a different job and that job was not chemical engineering. It was mechanical engineering, but it was more of a project engineering position, which is when I got a taste of project management. And I liked that a lot because every day was different. There were a lot of issues coming up. I’m a huge problem solver, all entrepreneurs, obviously problem solvers. So I love the fact that everyday I would come in and just do something different. And it was like, oh, well, what’s going on here? Like, let’s tackle this. That company closed its stores. So, I was not in a great mindset at the time. I was a little bit of a victim. I had a victim mentality. And so I haven’t really applied to a bunch of jobs. No one, I didn’t get any offers except for that one job. And it was a project manager in construction, but the funny thing is, after I interviewed on the spot, she said, okay, how much do you want to get paid? What do you want? What are your requests?
Mina: And when I said, yes, she said, okay, oh, I’m offering a position right now. So kind of was almost like a “sign” that this was like, I was on the right path. That’s how I ended up in construction. It was kind of like the only option that I had at the time. I can’t really stay unemployed for long, like one week, two week before getting another job because obviously bills and everything and student loans. So, I kind of settled for that job, but again, they said, yeah, we’ll give you everything you want. So I said, okay man, this is perfect. And that’s how I got into the project management position for construction. I started out not knowing anything about construction and I worked my way up to managing 12 million in projects. So, very quick progression. I was kind of like one of their top performing project engineers. I would close on payments and everything real fast, I managed projects super tight and that kind of became a strength, staying on top of everyone. I was managing my projects and I was assisting other project managers and managing their projects. So, I really quickly developed very strong organizational skills.
Tim Jordan: And I know that different professions have different stereotypes and stereotype of engineers as you guys are like super anal retentive, right? I know there’s exceptions to the rules, but I, you know, I have a lot of engineers around me and they are some of the most just ridiculously stringent organized, anal people I’ve ever met, which is great because we need those people. I don’t want a lack of organization, lack of attention to detail with my doctors, my lawyers, my accountants, or the engineers, like that it has to happen, but I didn’t know you’re an engineer until you just said that. And that makes a lot of sense. And kind of in my mind adds a lot of credibility to this idea of being a systems engineer/project manager/someone that can set up systems for a business. So you’re working instruction, you’re operating these projects, what next?
Mina: So, at that point, I grew in the company and the boss, the owner of the company, (it was a smaller company) she’s like, Hey, would you see yourself in my position in the next 10 years? And obviously like, anyone else would say, I said, yeah, for sure. But driving home, I was like, man, I hate this life. I really hate it. I was in Connecticut. I would come into work. It’s dark. I would leave work. It’s dark, it’s a forty-five minute commute. Each way. I was waking up at 4:30 in the morning and going to bed at 9:30. I felt like my soul was deteriorating. My life was just like flying by, like it’s just completely wasted on – just a wasted life. And I said, there’s no way I can keep doing this. And I flew out to Egypt for vacation, it was my yearly vacation. And I was obviously in those times when you’re not thinking about anything. You’re just in the moment with your parents and eating and stuff, that’s really one of the ideas that started coming out and I knew, I was just like, I’m like, I’m ready for something. I don’t know what it is, but I know that I’ve been an engineer. And then from this engineer to that engineer, it’s just the same, more of the same. I don’t see myself. Like this is a dead end for me. And, uh, there was a conversation with my dad where I was looking at supplements and he asked me, he’s like, why don’t you start a supplement brand? And I thought it was too expensive.
Mina: And then he said, okay, how expensive, how much? And that really sparked, okay, let’s go dive deep, figure out how much it actually costs. And when I realized you can make supplements for five bucks and sell them for 25, 30, obviously, I didn’t know that there was all the costs involved in e-commerce and marketing, whatever. I was like, that’s a no brainer, right? You can flip it pretty much. Um, and that’s what sparked me getting into the supplement. I created a supplement brand. I was like, this is a supplement that I know I can use. I tested it on myself and some of my teammates. They all said it was amazing. And I said, all right, I’m going to start a supplement brand. I had no idea how to sell supplements. I knew how to make supplements. I wish I could tell you I’m the best at making supplements. Because it’s kind of my passion. I’ve been addicted to supplements since I was a kid, but I had no idea how to be an entrepreneur. I had no idea how to sell. I was embarrassed to ask people for money for my product. When I put it up at the gym, the first day I put up like 10 and people were like, Hey man, how much is this? And I was just very shy to say, like 15 bucks, like it was difficult for me. Because in a professional sense, asking for money is easy, I have the schedule values. I say, Hey man, we completed a a hundred feet of pipe. Each pipe was worth the 60 bucks at six, whatever, six grand, like, please give it to me.
Mina: It was that simple when I was in construction. But when you go into it’s like me and you and I’m like, you’re like, Hey man, can I buy one? And I’m like, yeah, it’s $15. It just feels so weird. I feel like I should just give it to you for free. And so, I kind of had to learn the hard way to become a better sales person. And that’s kind of where my entrepreneur journey started. I started selling door to door, gym to gym, store to store. And it was horrible. I wasn’t, I mean, people were taking one or two. Some of them were like, ah, I don’t know. And how could you blame them if you put my product next to the products that are a hundred million dollar businesses. It looked horrible. But I’m like, why am I even doing this? I buy everything on Amazon. And the final thing was when I was at an event, my first event, it was an MMA event and I had a booth. And this was like two weeks after starting the business. I was at an event. I had like 40 products and 25 people bought and they’re like, where can I buy this? And in my mind, the answers were like, tell them to send you an email stupid, that’s stupid. Stop saying that. Tell them to go to a store. Dude, they’re two hours away from Connecticut. Stop saying that. I was like, okay, it’s going to be on Amazon. Later, like soon. And I just pretty much lied. And I was like, all right, I got to get it on Amazon then, because all of the other answers were so stupid that I was embarrassed of myself. Like I didn’t even have a checkout button on my website at the time.
Tim Jordan: So this is still a side hustle for you. You’re working construction. You know this isn’t what you want to do forever. Your dad motivates you to get off your butt and start something. So, because you were a chemical engineer and you have a passion for this stuff, you had the ability to make a good product, but you didn’t know how to sell it. So you’re going door to door, gym to gym, setting up tables, and you basically over committed to Amazon and realized I have to figure out how to sell this on Amazon. So, this is like two weeks into your official launch. Are you still working as a construction project manager at the time?
Mina: Yeah. Full time. I’m working on my business early in the morning when I’m in the bathroom. Right after work, between work and gym, right after the gym, weekends, or like, I wake up early in the morning, I was waking about 4:30. So on the weekends, I wake up at six, six to 12, already six hours of working and then, maybe go for a bike, go to training, whatever, come back, work some more. So I was just any open second in the day, it was kind of like, this was the light where it’s like that little glimmering light. And you’re like let me just run in that direction because maybe that’s my way out of this horrible, depressing life that I was living. And honestly, like, let’s look at it objectively. I was living a beautiful life. I was an engineer getting paid a lot of money. But I just, I was very unhappy. And so just a lot of people say money doesn’t buy happiness and stuff like that. It’s like, yeah, I can see it from that point is like, I had a good job and I was spending money. I had a – not a house where I was living in a house and everything. I had a car, but I was very unhappy with my life because I wasn’t doing anything that was fueling me or that I was passionate about. So, that’s kind of like why I put every waking moment into the businesses, because it was at least a hope that I could get out of this life.
Tim Jordan: And you, at some point, decided to resign from your position as a project manager?
Mina: I was fired.
Tim Jordan: You were fired. All right. Tell me about that.
Mina: So six months into starting the business I got fired. I don’t know. They didn’t give me a reason. I mean, I was spending time at work. I’m a person that gives it 110% all day, every day. And so I went from giving 110% to just whatever is the bare minimum to get my job done. I was doing that. I wasn’t asking questions. I wasn’t saying here’s an initiative, like, let’s do this. This will help. I was just like, yep, sure. Yeah, it’s done. It’s done well. I was kind of over it and I think after six months in there, they realized like this person doesn’t care anymore. I don’t know. They never gave me an answer, but I was fired. It was April 31st, six of 2019. Six months into starting the business. And at that point, I was like making $4,000 a month in profits and driving home, I was like, this is it. It’s do or die now. Like, I’m either going to be all in on this business, which I’ve seen like some money come out of it. And honestly, if you think about it, like after taxes and everything, if I said that I didn’t make any money and kept the 4,000 versus like my salary after taxes, I was pretty much making the same, if not a little bit more. So I was like, I’m making the same amount of money that wasn’t my job. So why not just call it a day and go all in on this. So I decided to go all in. I said, what’s the worst that could happen?” The whole thing collapses. And I ended up at another engineering job. So, there’s nothing that’s going to happen. But obviously, my bills in Connecticut versus my income from the business, it was just too close. And I said, I got to cut down my expenses. So I packed everything up. Got rid of all of my stuff, put my necessities in a car. Parked my car at church and I flew down to Egypt for four months to kind of cut down my expenses while I worked on the business. And then when I was there in Egypt, I didn’t have to pay any bills. I think my total monthly expenses were like 500 bucks. Uh, you know, I still had to pay for car insurance and the phone bill, things like that, but really cut down on my expenses. And I was reinvesting everything into a business. I was putting 10 to 12 hours a day working on the business, but it was easier, right. Because I had my grandma there and she was taking care of a lot of the stuff that I would take care of. The family was there, so it was good, and I was able to put a lot of time and money into the business.
Tim Jordan: So you got fired, you decided, Hey, I’m all in. This thing I’ve been building for six months. Let’s continue that. You decided to cut some expenses, take a little vacay, went to Egypt for four months, really just bury down full-time into this thing. Got it figured out, came back to the states, got launched on Amazon. I assume. I think I’m skipping forward.
Mina: I launched on Amazon when I was still at my nine to five, so 20 days after that over-commitment at the conference is when I was live on Amazon or at the event is when I was live on Amazon.
Tim Jordan: I want to start getting to some of this actionable content, but I think your story’s pretty crazy. And there’s a lot of people that probably are a little jealous that they haven’t gotten fired. And I say that because there’s so many people, I think that are in the situation where they could break free and they could start doing something themselves, but that’s scary. So maybe you were kind of kicked in the tail and forced into a situation that maybe you wouldn’t have earlier, which is good. It motivated you to, like you said, kind of sink or swim. I understand that you come from a background of process engineering and organization, all this good stuff, because your mind is probably wired much differently than myself and a lot of our listeners. Let’s talk about some of those things that allowed you to continue building this company because getting started on Amazon’s great, starting to build your off Amazon traffic, all the things that you had to do, you’re still a one man show, living in Egypt, selling, that’s kind of hard to do. What were some of the things that you had to start putting into place? Or maybe we can start, like, what was the realization that you had like, Hey, I have to start building systems where I’m never going to be able to scale this.
Mina: Yeah. So very quickly I went from maybe let’s say spending 15, 20 hours a week on the business to full time, right. And it just seemed like it was very easy to fill that time. Like there was always something to get done. There’s always another task and another task. And next thing I know I was working again full time, but I was doing a lot of these things that I said, there’s definitely, you don’t need me to do this. Like this is not high value stuff. This is a lot of repetitive mundane tasks that anyone could do. And just so happened that I was following a few people, someone mentioned the E-Myth revisited and is like, something like, if you don’t read this book, then you’re never going to scale. You’re going to be a slave of your business. So, I read the book and at that point it’s like, it totally clicked. I was working in my business, not on my business. I was an employee inside my business, working for myself. And I was capped, I was like, all right, I’m already putting 40, 50 hours a week. I can put 50, 60, but at some point I’m going to get capped on the amount of time that I put in and the amount of tasks and everything’s on me. And that’s when I realized, okay, I need to really – and everything was kind of just like in my head, right. I’m just doing things from my head. What I think is right. I was like, it’s really time to now buckle down and systemize everything and document everything that I’m doing and maybe get some help in.
Mina: So, the first step for me was I spent two weeks writing down every single task that I’ve done. For two weeks, I audited my daily hour by hour, every minute, I did this, I posted on Facebook. I made an Instagram post. I write a caption, document it. At the end of two weeks, I had a big list and I prioritized it like highest priority to lowest priority. And I created a Google sheet table of contents in the first tab. And then every single tab was in an SOP about a very specific, this is a very small digestible task, uh, what to do for that thing. So, if it’s creating an Instagram post, I break it down into okay, finding the content, scheduling the content with my designer, reviewing the content, posting it on later. So it gets published on Instagram, whatever, everything was broken down into very small pieces. And then I just went ahead and I did a step-by-step instruction and a video recording. And I said, if you copy exactly what’s in that video, then a hundred percent you’re basically duplicating me and set that up. It was a big sheet. I think once I had like about a hundred SOPs. I was like, all right, it’s time to give this stuff to someone else, right. Because if there’s videos and everything on it, why doesn’t someone else do it? Someone who’s time is a lot less valuable than my time, aka a VA. And so created a job posting, went online, posted, started interviewing and testing candidates and hired my first candidate.
Tim Jordan: So, let me pause you for a second. And I do want to get back into hiring the candidates. I know you’ve got some cool stuff you do there, but if you’re looking at your business and deciding, Hey, I have to systematize these things, how did you decide what was worth systematizing and not because some things you’re always going to have to do it yourself, but even when you’re outsourcing stuff, you have to prioritize, like, what are the things I have to systemize first? And it sounds like you’re doing some regular social media, some off Amazon stuff, some strictly Amazon stuff. How did you even start to put together a list of what you wanted to systemize first?
Mina: Once I had the list of all the actions I was taking, the tasks that I was doing, I prioritize it by what’s the highest value task, what is the thing that I can not hand off, or if I hand off and it gets done wrong, it’s going to damage my business to the lowest task, which is like, what’s something that if done wrong doesn’t make a difference. I think someone said it really, really well. And he’s like, if you take a fresh college graduate, how many hours or days, or weeks of training will it take for this person to become an expert at that task? And so let’s say, okay, social media posts, how many days is it going to take for a college graduate to become an expert? Let’s say two weeks. Two weeks of them doing it every single day, they will become an expert. Okay. How about Amazon PPC? For example, how about finance, creating P and L’s, maybe that’s going to take like six months. So basically if you take that as the gauge, how long is it going to take to train someone to do it perfectly? Or how much can this thing damage your business? If it’s done incorrectly and then prioritize that way, start the law and go all the way up to the high and I’m not going to lie. Like, there’s a lot of things that I at the top held on to and I said, okay, I’m never going to outsource Amazon PPC. It’s too important. I’m never going to outsource supply chain and that kind of stuff, it’s too important, but obviously, we always think it’s something still important until you hire someone who’s just as good or better than you. And then you realize that someone can do everything better than you.
Tim Jordan: And that’s something that I have had to figure out myself is that, one, there’s a lot of things I suck at, but also it doesn’t mean that you can just absolutely outsource everything. If you need social media, it’s not like you can just gland hire a social media VA, and everything is rosy. Like, you still have to educate them. You have to give the strategy. Like, I have an amazing graphic designer on my team, but like, I still have to sit down and say, this is the vision, make it happen, right? So you do have to be involved. You can’t outsource all of the decision-making to the creative, but you can outsource the actual operations of it, which is the thing that’s the biggest time suck, right. And you said it too, realizing, Hey, there’s better people than me. I am terrible at bookkeeping. I understand accounting. I went through college and learned all this stuff on paper, I could pass the test, but I suck at it. I’m not organized enough. Why would I try to do that myself? And a lot of people think that outsourcing stuff in their business is just an added expense. Well, I can’t afford it. Well, I tell people you can’t afford not to, because if I’m worth a certain amount per hour, and it’s going to take me seven hours a month to reconcile my books, or I could hire a bookkeeper for a hundred dollars a month to reconcile it for me, like, I can’t afford not to do that. Right. Because I’m saving myself seven or eight hours a month for a hundred bucks. I’m not worth minimum wage. I hope, so you have to be able to do that.
Tim Jordan: So, I understand the concept of basically documenting what you’re doing. And there’s a lot of cool tools. I know people use loom, people use zoom, people use all sorts of ways to document their recipes. We can’t get too much into that, but the next step is you have to find someone that can actually execute these operations for you. How do you go about doing that? We know in the VA space, there’s Upwork, there’s fiber, a lot of junk on there. A few good ones. People talk about online jobs.ph and talk about all these outsourcing agencies, but essentially you have no idea if these people are going to be good, if you want to trust them with the operations of your business, because your success or failure is going to depend on them. So how do you start finding someone that you can bring onto your team?
Mina: Okay. So, first starts with the job posting. I’m going to talk about job sites in a second, but with the job posting, it obviously is going to describe the business, the tasks, all of that kind of stuff. But on top of that, it’s also going to have a little bit of a hurdle in there. So when I say hurdle, you can just let anyone apply for the job. It has to be someone who’s going to read the job posting, understand it, and maybe jump through a few hoops. So a couple of things that I do is I ask them to write, to first of all, find the owner of performance, Nut butter, which is my friend’s company and say, I want to work for you. And then the name of the owner of performance, Nut butter. So right away in the subject line, if I don’t see that, I want to work for you, Travis Marziani then I just completely ignore the application. And that’s been able to kind of like it cut down my applications from 150 to actually 50 who got that right. The second thing is obviously, because their VAs, I really care about how detail oriented they are. And as well as like how good their English is. So I’ll pick a very off topic and I’ll say, I want you to write exactly 300 words on this topic. If you’re over or under the 300 words, your application is going to get disqualified. So again, it’s kind of stupid, right? But it’s a hurdle because you have to write something meaningful and then you have to keep editing it until it’s at 300 words. And if you jumped through those two hoops, first of all, understand that you speak English, you’re good at English. You’re following the details and instructions correctly that passes you onto the next step. Now the next step is I’m like, okay, everything is good. You guys look good. Here’s a test. And the test is about six questions. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s mainly stuff related to their jobs and duties or whatever. But it’s enough for me to see their mental aptitude, how analytically they think. Are they just robots following orders, or you tell someone, Hey please sort this by first name, last name. And then you have let’s say something like 1201 Campbell. This is something that I include. And so many people they’ll just break it up into 1201 and then Campbell. And I’m like, did you – it never occurred to you that 1201 Campbell’s is not a name, it’s an address.
Mina: And then maybe say a remark, like this is not a name. And so, that’s what I’m looking for in people. People who are not just like, whatever, like following it. It’s just like, okay, let me actually like, think about this before doing it. And they screen record the entire thing. So as I watched the screen recordings, and now I have like a couple of layers, I have a recruiter that watches screen recording, and then an employee. And then me, if it goes to that point, but I watched the screen recording and I’m like, okay, this person, like, she didn’t understand how to choose the best hashtag for Instagram, but she looked it up on Google and then she read three articles. And then the article said you want one, you know, high search volume, one medium, whatever. And I’m like, that’s good enough. Like, this is a resourceful person who didn’t know what to do, and then follow the steps. So after going through these, after watching their videos, I also do a personality test. Because I think personality test fits are very, very important. If you’re someone that’s, I’m going to follow very detailed, like you’re not going to do a lot of critical thinking. It’s a lot of the busy work. I’m looking for someone who’s more like an advocate, personality type, but I’m looking for a commander or a protagonist when I’m looking for someone who’s going to take over a project. Someone who’s going to take ownership, someone who’s not afraid to tell me no, you’re wrong. Like one of my guys, who manages all the PPC and stuff, a lot of times I tell him to do this. And he says, nah, I don’t think that’s right. And obviously, I’m busy and I’m doing many different things. And a lot of times he’s right, because he’s in the work day in and day out. And for me, I’m like, I look at something brief and I’m like, we should do this. And he’s like, no, actually I don’t think we should do that. And that’s kind of like the type of personality for that job role that you need. And so, it’s a combination of all of those. And then the finalists get an interview, and interview is interview and I feel out what they’re looking for, what their goals are, what they’re trying to get out of this position and so on and so forth.
Tim Jordan: You’ve got your SOPs documented. You’ve got – and I feel like this list that I’m going through right now, or some of the things that we as sometimes disorganized entrepreneurs need to be focusing on the most. You’ve got your recipes, you’ve got your documentation and correct me if I’m wrong, but you don’t even actually have to fully document this. Like you can hire people to do that. Like I can do a loom video walking people through, and I can tell my VAs, Hey, turn this into a document with to-do lists and check-offs and all that stuff.
Mina: That’s exactly what I do right now, but I didn’t have an employee back then.
Tim Jordan: So we have SOPs. We have ways in which to find employees that we can hire. The third component that I find most critical is a project management system, right. And I use it for communications. I use it for accountability, use it for organization of assets and media and documentation. What type of project management systems or platforms or services do you see as being the most beneficial for your typical e-com seller and what do you recommend?
Mina: Okay. So, I think that the most beneficial thing is always going to depend on where you are. I don’t like to over-complicate things. So for me, like my to-do list, I know there’s so many apps and all this crazy stuff is still on a Google sheet. And so what I did, what I started was I used Trello, and then later on, I used Trello in combination with lucid chart. And I’ll explain. So, on Trello, it’s very simple, it’s a board and you can have these little lists. So one is going to be to-do, in progress, ready for review, completed. And very simply, every time I have a task that I need this employee to do, I’ll send them the task and it’s their job to ask me what the priority of the task is and what the due date of the task is. And they’ll create a card with all the relevant information in that to-do list. And then every day as they work on something, they’ll move it into the, in progress. So I can visually see, okay, they’re in progress on that task. I see where it is or they haven’t started it. Hey, John, why haven’t you started this task? I assigned it a week ago. And maybe it’s something like they misunderstood the priority or the due date of it. And then ready for review is a list of all the things that are ready for me to review. And so that’s kind of on my to-do list, review everything, make sure everything is good eventually, you can completely let go of that and say, okay, I trust your work. And then, obviously when it’s completed, it’s completed. And then on top of that, there is a daily checklist. So, the daily checklist is a card that has a checklist in it. And it’s a list of every single thing that I want this employee to either work on or check every day. So, check to make sure that there’s nothing stuck in the backlog, answer all the customer support messages, scheduled to post on Instagram. And so it’s dated daily checklist and today’s date. And then every day they open it and this way it’s a checklist. So, as soon as they get anything done, they check it off. Even if you don’t have to do anything with that task, maybe it’s like checking to make sure there’s no customer messages they check because there’s no customer messages that were good. There’s no replies that need to happen.
Mina: That’s fine. But it’s a way for them to not miss any tasks. Once they’re done, they move that daily checklist to completed. And they duplicate the daily checklist with a new date. And this way, if there’s any missed task or anything like that, I can always check and see. Then to take that a step further, and kind of make it a little bit more advanced. I use lucid chart for visual flow charts. And now with the lucid chart, I’ll break down any process in my business into a flow chart. So let’s say the supply chain process. From the second that I think of a product all the way to its final production, that’s the process, the reordering process from the inventory check all the down to the PO, to the shipping plan, whatever until it’s checked into Amazon. And you check that all the units have checked in. That’s a process, same with whatever, anything. And so, once you have a visual process in lucid chart, every task or every box, I guess inside it, you can add SOP. So you can say, okay, first of all, check inventory, and then that can have an SOP within it. And so I kind of layer it like that, where every piece of my business is a workflow and inside those workflows, there’s SOPs. And so anyone can kind of go in and I’ll be like, Hey man, like I’m sick, right? I’m really sick. Please go look at the flowchart for reordering, watch all the videos, understand all that SOPs and like go do it. And that’s kind of like the goal with that. And eventually the goal is it’s very easy for us to visualize everything that’s happening in the business, it’s very repeatable.
Mina: And I can see where the chinks in the chain are. I can see, okay, this is our system right here is where it’s taking too long or issues are happening. And this is why I can – let’s fix this issue. Let’s do better tracking in this area and things like that. So that’s kind of what I would do, and this can take you from zero to 99%. And then if you’re looking for that 1% better, you can use something like click up or notion, which will host a lot of stuff in there. But for me, I’m a very simple guy, right? All I need is somewhere to document my SOPs, Google sheets, videos where you can record the videos. You can either get the loom professional, or I use OBS screen recorder, and everything is hosted on my Google drive on G suite. I have Trello for project management and task management. And you can have an entire project where all of the tasks are empty and it’s like, okay, we’re launching a new product. You need to do this and this and this and this. And they’re like every single task, like the label, the listing images, enhanced, whatever, it’s all in the list. And you just move it in progress. And then when it gets done, you move it ready for review. And as you move the tasks, your goal is to completely move all of the tasks from, to do, to completed. And then for employee management, it’s like, they know what their tasks are because I tell them a task and I can visually see that it’s on their board. I can see what they’re working on every day, they have a checklist, so they never miss a beat. They like anything that they need to check on. It’s always there. And they can also use the Trello board to kind of store documents. If you want to save your passwords, if you want to save like useful Excel sheets or resources or whatever, it can all have its own list of like resources. And it’s as simple as that.
Tim Jordan: I’m sure, as you just said, that it’s as simple as that. Some people are rolling their eyes that doesn’t sound very simple, but let me reassure everybody. The project management and organization system is not that difficult and you’re already doing the difficult part. We’re just figuring out the actual tasks are going to be, you’re all already doing it. So, all we’re saying is instead of just doing this over and over and over and over and over and repeating these same tasks, day after day or week after week, spend a little bit of time and just document what you’re doing that well, you only have to do once. And that gives you an opportunity to outsource, let somebody else do it. And it also gives you, this is really important to me, clarification on expectations, right? Because if you have an SOP, if someone doesn’t do something, you can ask yourself, did they screw up? Or did I screw up? Because until I started doing SOPs, a lot of times I realized, man, I’m the one screwing up because maybe I didn’t tell them clearly. And SOPs hold me accountable too. Because if I go to an employee and say, man, why didn’t you do this right? They’re like, look, Tim, this is the SOP you gave me. I did it perfectly. Right? So, it’s just like this level of accountability that will allow you to evaluate. There’s a system at work. It’s a process worked by this employee, are they effective at what they’re doing? Or am I effective at what I’m doing? Like, am I the one that’s always causing the breakdown and the problem here? So again, I just want to reaffirm to everybody that what we’re talking about is not rocket science. It’s not super difficult. It’s not complicated. It’s just a little bit complex. Meaning you have to get a couple of other systems in place, platforms, tools, whatever it is, but this can be done. And Mina, would you agree with me when I say, and I do believe a statement, but tell me if you agree with me, if you don’t start thinking, and I’m speaking when I say, if you I’m talking to the listeners, the entrepreneurs, the people that maybe are just getting a business started, or even the ones that are scaling rapidly, if you don’t have systems and policies and procedures in place, you will not grow to your full potential. Would you say that’s accurate?
Mina: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You won’t grow. If you grow, like let’s say you’re an amazing person and you hire amazing people around you and there’s no SOP. And like, I’ve seen people like that. It will be so stressful and so hectic. And it’s chaotic. And for me, I’m like, I’m an engineer. Like I’m a person. If you like, come and see my house, like, everything is organized, like by size. And it’s like, I can’t, and just having that organization, having those procedures documented, it just makes your life easier. It allows you to remove yourself from the business, which is I mean, I should always be working on the next big thing. Like, okay, I got this down. What’s next? Okay. Facebook ads, let’s figure this out. Let’s get it down. Okay. What’s next? And so on, you’re the founder, you’re the visionary or the leader. You should be leading your team, not inside your business. Like you wouldn’t be packing boxes and putting them in envelopes and shipping it out to customers. So if you’re not doing that, then it’s the same with anything else in your business. You always should, I mean, for me, at least I’m always looking for what’s the next thing I can work on. And I can never just hand off anything and hope for the best, because if that employee leaves I’m screwed, because then the next employee is going to come in and now I have to spend 10 hours, 12 hours with that employee, explain to them how things are done versus, Hey, can you watch these 10 videos? Like three times until like, you’ve memorized them. Okay, you’re good.
Mina: Let’s try doing it once together. We do it once together. You got it. You did exactly what’s in the videos. Everything is good. And I’ve tried hiring an employee without SOPs and I failed miserably. And I thought it was the employee’s fault. But it wasn’t, it was my fault because I was kind of saying, do this and do that. And then he was interpreting it. However he wanted to interpret it because, you know, things get lost in interpretation. And he was giving me what he thought was his interpretation of what I wanted, but because there were no expectations, there was no documentation of anything, kind of didn’t work out. And one thing I want to add too, is it’s a never ending process. So once you get it down and you delegate everything that you’re doing right now, or let’s say 95% of everything you’re doing right now to someone in another three months, do the same practice of documenting everything that you’re doing again and say, there’s honestly not been one thing that I have not been able to delegate because like, I know who I am. I, a hundred percent know that there’s people as good as me or, and better in anything out there. Like I’m good at a lot of things, but I’m not the best in the world at things like P and Ls. I’m not the best in the world at something, not enough where I can give someone 40 hours a week to work on that thing. So at the end of the day, I’m a hundred percent sure the founders of Nike and Pepsi and those massive companies that there’s nothing that they, when they did in year one or two or three or four or five that they’re still doing now, like they found really good people, better people to take it over. And even if you hire someone really good, I think SOP is, yeah, like it’s a certain point. It’s not like, Hey, just, you bring someone, you give them $120,000 a year salary. And you’re like, follow this SOPs, obviously not right. You’re bringing someone super high value to add that talent, but it’s like, here’s a benchmark, right. Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s our regular business systems. And then that person can be like, okay, I get, I see now what our foundation is, what our benchmark is. Let’s take it to the next level. Let’s figure out all the issues. And so, even if you’re hiring super, super talented for that position, you still need a baseline of, this is a benchmark. This is what we’re doing right now. And it will allow you to onboard employees like 10 times faster.
Tim Jordan: Amazing. It’s all good advice. And for those of you listening, this is advice coming from an accidental entrepreneur, right? Someone that had to figure this out only in the past couple of years. This is all pretty recent. I know we need to go ahead and wrap up because we’re running out of time, but Mina, I’m going to ask you the same question to ask everybody at the end of the episodes lately. As you were trying to figure out how to go from being a corporate engineer to a business owner, you had to learn a lot. And I suspect that you went out and found some really good books. You’ve talked about. E-Myth revisited. Maybe that’s the one, but if you had to go to your bookshelf right now and pull one book off that you suggest everybody else read that had such a profound impact that you couldn’t live without it, what would that book be?
Mina: Yeah. So other than that, I would say Good to Great by Jim Collins. I think that one is incredible. And it really covers so much important stuff. And when I’m talking about business, like stuff that’s practically applicable to businesses, like not mindset or not motivation stuff, it’s other than the E-Myth revisited, it would be that one. Good to Great.
Tim Jordan: Awesome, Good to Great. And E-Myth revisited, you’ve shouted it out a few times. Thank you, Mina, for being on. Thank you for coming on the podcast, sharing this information, congrats on getting fired and getting forced into all this crazy stuff. I know that you and I have been Facebook friends and seeing each other around for a couple of years now, and because of COVID never got to meet, and we’re about to change that, right?
Mina: Yes. This Saturday.
Tim Jordan: Yup. This Saturday, we’re recording these folks. I know most of you figured out there’s a little delay here. This Saturday I’m headed out to California, the west coast, right before the Prosper show, which would be good. Get to meet and catch up with a lot of folks that I haven’t seen in a long time. And maybe even in this case, like Mina’s never met in person at all. So it’s going to be super exciting. Look forward to meeting you. Thanks for being on again, Mina. And if someone were to track you down and see more of what you’ve got going on in life, how could they find you?
Mina: Facebook is the best way, Mina Elias, and then Instagram @Egyptian_prescription_elias. Send me messages and I’m more than happy to help and answer.
Tim Jordan: Awesome. Well thank you for being on. Thank you all for listening. Hope you found some value in this episode. If you did make sure to leave us a review on whatever platform you’re listening on, if you’re watching this on YouTube, drop us a thumbs up, make sure to subscribe to the channel, go to ampmpodcast.com for transcribed versions of all of our podcasts that you can read at your leisure, as well as close to 250, or the little over 250 other episodes. Really good stuff. So, thank you again for being on. Thank you listeners for being here. We’ll see you guys in the next episode.