EP 51 - Taz Ahsan - Balancing a Successful Amazon Business and a Day Job
|Awesomers Origin - We'll talk to an Awesomer about where they came from, the triumphs and tribulations they have faced and how they are doing today. An Awesomer Origin story is the chance to hear the backstory about the journey our guest took on their road to become awesomer. These stories are incredibly varied and the takeaway is that awesomers come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, creeds, colors and every other variation possible. On your awesomer road you will face adversity. That’s just part of life. The question as always is how YOU choose to deal with it.|
|Taz Ahsan is the host of the popular Amazon seller podcast The Amazon Entrepreneur and is also a Private Label Seller.|
He started his Amazon journey in January 2017 using the Retail Arbitrage business model for a few months and then went into Wholesaling for a short period.
It was then in August 2017 when Taz started his Private Label journey in earnest and decided to create the Amazon Entrepreneur podcast. In his podcast, Taz not only shares his journey with others so that they can learn from his mistakes but also interviews some of the most influential sellers/services in the space and the multi-million dollar mistakes they made.
In his own private label business, Taz has focussed on building brands and is targeting a 7 figure exit within 24 months of selling his first private label product in September 2017!
Outside of Amazon, Taz is a health and fitness nut and is an avid bio-hacker always looking at ways to improve productivity, health, and life!
His favorite quote comes from Muhammed Ali and it goes: “If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it then I can achieve it”
Taz Ahsan - Balancing a Successful Amazon Business and a Day Job
Successful entrepreneurs view challenges as opportunities. This is what sets them apart from the rest.
On today’s episode, Steve talks to Taz Ahsan of tazahsan.com. Taz is currently a program manager for a big tech company and a self-made Amazon success story. He also runs a podcast series, the Amazon Entrepreneur podcast, that aims to help entrepreneurs turn those dark times to milestones. Here are more interesting highlights of today’s episode:
How Taz does a massive balancing act working his job, managing his Amazon business and running a podcast series.
Why we should help our self first to make a bigger impact.
The advantages of getting a mentor.
His daily morning routine and how it helps him with his busy schedule.
All ears here as we learn today how to be like Taz, a true Awesomer who turns challenges into defining moments.
Welcome to the Awesomers.com podcast. If you love to learn and if you're motivated to expand your mind and heck if you desire to break through those traditional paradigms and find your own version of success, you are in the right place. Awesomers around the world are on a journey to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. We believe in paying it forward and we fundamentally try to live up to the great Zig Ziglar quote where he said, "You can have everything in your life you want if you help enough other people get what they want." It doesn't matter where you came from. It only matters where you're going. My name is Steve Simonson and I hope that you will join me on this Awesomer journey.
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Steve: You are listening to episode number 51 of the Awesomers.com podcast. And as our tradition has become, all you have to do is go to Awesomers.com/51 to find the relevant show notes and details, including any links and things that we talked about like our special guest on the podcast.
01:36 (Steve introduces today’s guest, Taz Ahsan, a top Amazon seller.)
Steve: Today, my special guest is Taz Ahsan and he's just getting really as a successful Amazon seller and he's been doing it in a year or two now. And he tells us about his story and his journey. What I love is the fact that he's sharing live his journey where he's still working a full-time job but he's already putting together a business. He's putting himself out there, I should say, trying to learn and trying to get better, finding mentors, networking and all those things that really show a commitment to being a success. Now, Taz started out as a young person out with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Despite his success in selling on Amazon, it didn't start there, his motivation wasn't money. He just wants to achieve and he enjoys the thrill of success. When he was a kid, even as young as eight or nine years old, he was already negotiating with his parents. In high school, he burned CDs that he would sell. He didn't grow up in a wealthy family so he had to take action to get the things that he wanted or needed and that drove him into being a successful entrepreneur. Taz is always about learning what you need to know and when you need to know about it and that I really respect. That is kind of one of my axioms: Do what needs to be done when it needs doing. Which, by the way, I lifted from a great mentor of mine, the great Terry. Taz loves his family, he wants to give them an extraordinary quality of life. He has big dreams for himself and for others around him. And all of this was something that was built from the very beginnings of his childhood. He sees a bright future. He sees extraordinary opportunity and that really is a life of abundance. And it really is something that I like to see as an Awesomer is seeing the possibilities instead of the obstacles, right? The norm is we loved to come up with a problem for every solution that you have and Taz is a guy who finds a problem and create solution. And he knows how to hustle, he understands mental and physical well-being. He's just a great guy. You're going to love this episode. He is really something special. Now, I do want to apologize this one I recorded a little bit funky. I was not doing the right button so it may not be the perfect quality. But the team and the engineers behind the scenes who are doing all the editing and audio engineering and so forth, they're so amazing you may not even notice. But I just want to Mea Culpa on that one that it's on me because I recorded this one in a different quality level. So we're trying to get better, everybody. We're trying to get better. Apologies. Thank you.
Steve: Alright. Welcome back, everybody. Awesomers.com coming back to you live. Today we've got our special guest, Taz Ahsan. Taz, how are you buddy?
Taz: I'm doing fan-Taz-tic. How are you doing today, Steve?
Steve: Very well, indeed. And, of course, Taz is an Awesomer and we're going to get into his story here a little bit. But as always we appreciate everybody out there listening and spreading the word. It doesn't doesn't hurt to subscribe and tell a friend, why not ? It's easy anybody can do it, believe me. That's like Trump, "Believe me, Taz." Anybody can do it.
Taz: You just lost ten thousand listeners.
Steve: So Taz, tell me... that's the opposite of getting subscribers. When you think about where you are right now, Taz... Tell us kind of where you live and what you do in general terms? Kind of the professional view of the world.
04:59 (Taz talks about what he does and why he does it.)
Taz: Alright. I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For those who don't know Cambridge, it's Boston, really. And I moved here two and a half years ago from the UK. I made a plan, I wanted to come and live and work in the US. I executed that plan, I feel like I'm living a dream out here in America. Honestly, feel like I'm living the American dream. So, when I came out here I had to have, still have, a job in technology. I'm a program manager for a big tech company. Then, I also started my Amazon FBA private label journey. Well, my full Amazon journey back in 2017 and I also started a podcast. So I have the Amazon Entrepreneur podcast where I share my journey in the hopes that I inspire people who are listening to step out on their own and become much more than themselves and get themselves out that 9:00 to 5:00. They may or may not like.
Steve: Well, I tell you not only it is instructive but it is inspirational as you hoped it would be. And I do listen to that because I enjoy the fact that the juxtaposition of you dealing with the job still, right, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs who are trying to make this transition from working a job into a full-time business, they need that kind of sharing of experience.
Steve: You find that same experience… in other words they're struggling with the same things you are - time and all the things that go along with that?
Taz: Yes. It's usually time and my situation is kind of unique because I'm not in any kind of real rush to leave my company. My company is super flexible with me, I can go and do certain things in the office and work remotely and manage my business at the same time. So it's a little bit different from most people who are really trying to force themselves out to 9:00 to 5:00. It's good and a bad thing. So I can take more risk with the business by having a decent salary coming in but at the same time I don't have a massive fire under me. It says, "hey, I'm not going to be able to live here if I don't make this business work." And there's a small other piece there with the fact that they're also getting me a green card so I can stay in the country. So there are many positives for me at the moment to have the full-time job. But it is a massive balancing act with time, having an actual real life at the same time as working your job, running the business, and then running a podcast putting two episodes out a week. It's definitely intense and it's not the life for everyone to live but I love it. Yes, it's definitely...there's a lot to that and I do like the fact that everybody has kind of their own path, right? And really, what you have is a great job, right? You're not being oppressed, right? It's not like, "Oh, the boss, everyday I'm just being beaten down." So you enjoy what you're doing, which is great.
Steve: And you've got as you said, a little bit more risk capital even though you have to pay bills. This gives you the opportunity, instead, of having to rely on, make-or-break, the business decisions every day. You've got a little cushion out there to rely on. Is that true?
Taz: Exactly. That's exactly how I viewed it. Actually, back when I first launched in October, I had that first product going, have an IP claim, and it sold out. Then, I had a supplier who ran off with $16,000, I didn't launch anything else. I had no income from the business and I had over $4,000 of repayments to make. Without having my full-time salary, I would have had some real challenges. But I took that risk knowing I had enough cash and enough of my salary to cover me during those dark times.
Steve: We may come back to that because I want to dive a little deeper on that story about the supplier. Maybe, see if we can help troubleshoot that for you. So, before we do that though, we're going to take a break and when we come back we're going to talk about kind of the origin story. We heard a little bit about Taz coming from the UK but we don't know what city he was born in, we don't know about his parents, we don't know anything yet. We're going to dive into that right after the break. Be right back.
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09:45 (Taz talks about his formula for success, which includes learning from mistakes.)
Steve: Okay now that we've got some bills paid, we're coming back. We got Taz Ahsan with us today. And he's definitely an Awesomer who does all kinds of great stuff including his podcast, which I recommend that you all go subscribe to immediately. It's very fun and I think it's also quite authentic. Taz is that your kind of...maybe that's just your personality but it just comes across. It's just like this happened and it was great or this happened it wasn't awesome but this is how it is.
Taz: I really appreciate that you think I come across that way because that's my intention. And one of the reasons I started the podcast was because there are many podcasts out there. Some I love, some I don't. And the ones I didn't, didn't feel authentic to me. And they don't really feel like they told the whole story. So, I'm really transparent about my business. I'm transparent about what's going well, what isn't, and where I made mistakes. I think it's really important to talk about the mistakes. Because if you give someone instructions on how to go like 1 to 10, this is how you become successful, what about all the dots in between? We mess up and if you don't know what those things are to look out for, and just take those steps, then, you're not successful, it's like "Well, what happened? I follow all the steps but..." What I try to do is show where I am successful, where I've made mistakes, and the whole picture. It's not about pride for me, I'm not trying to say, "Hey, I'm the best at everything." I'm learning. I'm new to this. I feel like I'm new to this and I'm always going to be like I'm growing. I want everyone to know that it can start from zero. I had no real business experience. I went in and I had faith in my own ability, and I studied. I worked, I learned, and I learned from the mistakes. I hope that's something that will be taken by someone else who's maybe thinking about jumping in but scared, "Oh, I don't really know how to do it." I had no idea myself. I just listen to podcasts, literally. That's all I did. I listen to podcasts, study there, did a bit of research, read articles, and thought, "Okay, well, I can do this and I'm going to go do this."
Steve: You definitely have a learner mentality. As one of my favorite things is the strengths-based leadership training or assessment test that people could take. You can buy the book Strengths-based Leadership, there's an assessment at the back and I would put dollars to donuts that you learn all these and your top five strengths. That's for sure. It's a very good strength... I share that, by the way, because we always have to be careful as learners. Sometimes the dark side of that strength is we learn for the sake of learning instead of executing. That's my battle, not yours. Tell me this, so, you came from the UK a couple years ago to Boston. I noticed that was not a Boston accent. I was right on top of that. Where were you born?
Taz: I was born in London, 31 years ago. I loved London, it's a great city. But when I got to university and I finished school, I had this urge to move to the US. I thought to myself, "Hey, should I go into an MBA...or how do I get to the US?" That was my thought. I did some research and I saw the potential of doing an MBA or Master's but I wasn't really convinced. I didn't want to get into another hundred thousand dollars worth of debt. I kind of left the idea but then it came back to me when I was at the office. You could hire this coach for free at my old job. I did, why not? I want to learn. The lady made me think about what and where I wanted to be in five years. And that was a novel concept to me. I had never actually tried to think about where I wanted to be in five years. In my mind, I was always thinking, "Oh, well, I want to make more money. I want to learn more. Be better but I never put a plan together. I thought to myself, "Hey, where do I want to be in five years?" and that's what spurned the thought of coming to America. My thing was, in five years, I want to be in a big tech company in this specific role in the US and I did. I was able to do that in two and a half years.
Steve: That's great. Yes, I have always been an overachiever, that's for sure. How about your parents? What kind of background...what kind of work, professionally, did they engage in?
Taz: My parents were both... my dad's a social worker, my mom was a childminder. A nanny, I guess, I think they call that in the US...
Steve: The childminder, everybody. Hashtag, look it up on Google. I don't know what it is.
Taz: That's what my parents said. They moved over...Actually, my dad came over first from Bangladesh, it is where he's from. Then, my mom came over after that with my sister. It was an interesting situation because my mom said she wasn't going to come over until my dad had a house. Then, he basically worked for 18 months without meeting his daughter and he hustled. My dad was a real hustler. He studied starting at night and watching day and call it done. Got his degree for Social Work and made it happen. So, he's an inspiration to me. He really is.
Steve: Yes, that's amazing. And how do they like your entrepreneurial journey, by the way?
Taz: Sorry, say that again? I missed that.
Steve: Assuming that they may still be with us, I don't know their current status, but...
Taz: They are...Thankfully.
Steve: Okay, good. What do they think about your entrepreneurial journey? Sometimes, parents, especially a stable-social-worker-government kind of person, maybe like, "Hey, this seems a little risky, boy."
Taz: Well, my mom is very risk-averse. My dad has had multiple unsuccessful ventures in business and became risk-averse after those ventures. They were definitely concerned but to be honest with you, they know I still have a full-time job. They're less concerned about the rest of it. I don't really go into the details. I don't really say, "Hey, yes, I have a job by $85,000 at the moment, dad." It's not the conversation that we have. They do ask me how it goes and I'm honest when it's going well when it's not. I think they appreciate that but they don't really know the ins and outs of the business. I think they'd probably be a little bit more concerned if they realized what was at stake.
Steve: It's clear that they don't listen to the podcast because with those updates every week.
Taz: I don't think so but they may have left a review but they haven't listened to it.
Steve: Oh, okay, good. As long as we get the important stuff. How about your siblings? Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Taz: I have one older sister, Ananis.
Steve: Is your sister entrepreneurial?
Taz: Not one tiny bit.
Steve: I got a couple of those myself. Actually, I have five sisters and there are a couple of entrepreneurs in there and a couple non-entrepreneurs. If my definitions, , we break the paradigms, we're not satisfied with the status quo, we want to do stuff. We're not afraid of making mistakes, we're even failing, honestly. Actually, we're afraid of it but we still do it, anyway. We're not impervious to fear. But normies, we love them. They're great. Friends, family, whatever. But often they tell us, "Don't do that. This is scary." "I'm scared for you and I'm going to protect you from whatever it is..." and so it's hard for normies to, sometimes, get on board. Again, it's not a put-down, it's just a difference in mindset between people. Have you found any, it's not that you have to endorse my nomenclature, but did you find differences between people who kind of are in the entrepreneurial world versus without it?
Taz: For sure and I definitely get on with the entrepreneurial type more. But the thing is, I think anyone can get there. I want to say, I wasn't always entrepreneurial but now when I think back to when I was a kid, I was selling my lunch for better food and money, to make a bit of cash. And I had to add a few services when I was growing up. And I used to a little CD-burning business. Actually, maybe I was a little bit entrepreneurial. But I think, maybe, I did it without the fear when I was young but when I got older it wasn't a thing. I never thought to myself that when I got out of university and have a job, I didn't really think, "Man, I don't want to be working for...I had to start my own thing. How am I going to do that?" I was just working and it took me until, I think, after...
18:11 (Taz shares what inspired him to become an entrepreneur.)
So, I'm a huge Tony Robbins fan...and I did my first event four years ago, and it was from that point that my mindset already starts to shift. I started to hang around with a few more successful people. Most of the really successful people that I'd met, had their own thing. Then, it was back in 2016...mid 2016, when I thought to myself that I really had to start my own thing, now. I have an amazing life, I can do pretty much anything. I travel all the time. But if I really want to make an impact in this world, I need a huge amount of cash. So, I'll let you into a little secret... What do I want to do in my life? My life goal is to be able to dedicate my life to philanthropy. I think education and food is a basic need that every child should have. It touches me, it's very close to me. In order to do that, I need a lot of wealth. I don't just want to, not that there's anything wrong with this, but I don't just want to go to Africa and paint in school. I've done that. I volunteered in South America. It's an amazing feeling. But I believe that if I have enough ability, I'll be more than enough to do more and leave a bigger mark. So, that's what kind of put me on this entrepreneurial journey. It's me wanting to give my parents the best life possible. I retired my dad last year, I was able to do that off of my own salary, which is great. But I want more, I want to give him his dream life, they haven't got that many years left. I want to do that and I want to change the world. So, that's what drives me, that's what allows me to save.
19:15 (Taz shares what drives him in overcoming tough times.)
Taz: Today, I got to record another podcast and I will probably be around at 11:30. I may not be able to have the time to go do that with everything else that I have to do but I'm going to do it because I think about why I'm doing it. I think that point is really important to touch on. Because when things aren't going well and times are tough in the business...you've gotten a negative review, you're suspended, whatever it is, you have to think about your Why. Don't get emotional about what went wrong. Think about why you're doing it and then think about the solution for getting out of it.
Steve: Yes. Boy, those are true words. A very good advice for everybody out there. In the show notes, we will add the process for how to find your Why. It's a free thing, you can download it. Knowing your Why, sussing that out. Everybody has a sense...Clearly, Taz knows his why much better than the average person. A lot of people go, "Yes, I need more money or I need more security. I need more of this or that, but they haven't really broken it down to the two things...That you want to help kids get well...what was it again, Taz?
Taz: Education and food.
Steve: I'm on board with you but Education, forget about it. No, I'm just kidding. I think that really is an important lesson. Because, again, often people get things mixed up. As the kids say, "they get 'em twisted." Does that sound right?
Taz: I used to say that about 10 years ago, yes.
20:25 (Steve explains how Taz is making a bigger impact by putting himself first.)
Steve: Oh, how dare you? As usual, I'm hip and with it for the time but people get confused that they think giving everything first is how you can make an impact on the world. But that is, actually, reverse. You have to kind of get yourself in order, you have to have yourself prepared, and have the resources. Then, make it something sustainable that can give back over the long term. So, I salute the way you're doing it.
Taz: Absolutely. And honestly, I went through that exact process as well and it was one of my friends who made me realize that. So, I thought to myself, "I really have to contribute more. I have so much in my life, I'm so grateful but how can I do more? I should be going to a soup kitchen every week or doing something. Spending hours helping people..." And my friend said to me, "Look, you want to grow your business. You want to do this, you want to do that, all these things...and you want to go and help all these people. So, where do you think you can have the most impact?" I was at odds with it and I was upset with myself that I wasn't doing more and then he made me feel at home with, "Hey, you're building something and later down the line when this thing is built, you're going to have a much more of a bigger impact. When that time comes, when you can go and do these bigger things, you would if you just kept on feeding somebody...a soup kitchen." Please don't get me twisted. I think that's a great thing, and I do those things. I'll just go and give out food down in Boston. It's just something I'll do now and again. But I don't dedicate ten hours of my week doing that because I'm trying to build something big. And then, when I get that thing and I'm able to contribute a massive scale, that's what I want because I want to make a huge impact.
Steve: Well, this is, again, something for Awesomers to take note of, right? We all have these important things in our lives, whether it's philanthropy or anything else, but let's use philanthropy in this example. It's great to get out there in the soup kitchen or to paint the village or whatever it is...all of that has value and really it's mostly emotional value to you. The reality is...
Taz: It's selfish.
Steve: Yes, completely. It's amazing. But the reality is, high performers, this is not the old argument between the $10 an hour impact and the $10,000 an hour impact. Taz can build a business that could be sustainable and do things at a much higher level over a long time in that same amount of time if you spent 10 hours a week at the soup kitchen. Great to be done but there are other guys who are going to be able to help with that on a more frequent basis and Taz is going to be able to build something bigger. And this goes for everybody... I really think wherever your passions are, put your most valuable time into the biggest impact methodology. So, let me ask you this, Taz, what about University? Where did you go and how did you like it?
Taz: I went to the City University of London. Before that, I was trying to become a professional tennis player, that didn't work out. I went to school and went to university, started off doing Actuarial science, which is you're-the-guy-to-do-all-the-insurance stuff. So, I was good at Math. This is my mindset before school, before going to university was, how can I make the most money? That was it.
Steve: And you're not alone, right? That's ninety percent of people going to college thinks, like how do I make the bank?
Taz: That's it. I feel like I've come a long way to just needed and wanted to make more money, that was my mindset. I went and did actuarial science. I absolutely hated it because it was just Math and I was good at Math. I could have done it but I really hated it. After about three months, I gave up on the course and partied as hard as I possibly could for the rest of the time. Knowing that I was going to switch and I wasn't getting anything out of that year, so, I was like, "let me just party really hard ." The next year, I started business computing systems, and that was my degree. I went on forward with it. I did some programming in that, as well. After the first year of that, you could work and study at the same time. I went on a special scheme where you'd work four days a week and you come to university one day a week. But you have to go and find your own place and you have to convince the company to take you on for just four days because usually they take on what we call "sandwich placement people" who worked the whole time. So, they worked full-time for one year then they go back. But the advantage of this is that you get three years industrial experience before you go and graduate, and your set. You don't think about getting a job or looking for a job, you are already set. You had the experience, you're way ahead of everyone else who's trying to get experience. So, how do I like school? Actually, after about the first year, I didn't enjoy it. Let's start making money. I started working in a real job. And I was trying to compare what I was doing at school to what I was I doing in my job, and none of it was relating to any of it. There were a couple of things but I need to learn everything on the job, for the job that I was doing. My grades began to decline and I cared less about university and more about how I can perform better at my my job.
25:14 (Steve relates to how Taz started out from university to entrepreneurship.)
Steve: Yes, I think that's a relatable experience. Let's say that, for sure. I dropped out of college after the first semester, I just simply was too poor. I didn't have that job opportunity. I was working at night as a janitor. It wasn't just a glamorous work at all, I know. Let's just say there was not a big future in janitorial for me. That was my last proper job, by the way.
Taz: You were seventeen. I think I remember you telling me this.
Steve: Yes, I think eighteen. Actually, yes, I was still 18 when I started my first business. So, that's senior high school to one semester at college, and then starting a business. It was a fun time. So, as we think about how you got from that university while you were in that job, would you say that was your proper first job?
Taz: Yes. I had retail jobs before that and I was working in malls selling sunglasses. Actually, in fact, I was still working, I used to sell sunglasses for six years. And whilst I was still working and studying, I was still at that job. So, I was working on the weekends at that job, working during the week at my other job, and then going to school one day a week.
Steve: Wow! Boy, that's a lot of work. While you can still juggle so many things at one time, what defining moment in your professional life or your business life, however you want to look at it, was there some pivot point where you said, "I'm doing this..." or "I'm changing this..." or "I'm adding that..." or "Subtracting that..." Anything you want to share with us?
27:10 (Taz shares the defining moments that set him on his path.)
Taz: Yes. I'm going to give you two if that's okay. So, the first one was, I told you that I was trying to become a professional tennis player. I was doing that for about seven years. It was my belief from about 14 years of age that I was going to pick on the best tennis player in the world. So, that was my only thought in life. That's all I cared about. I didn't care about school. Again, my grades started to slip. I didn't want to go to school and I was lying about going to school, instead, I was going to take tennis. It was all I could think about. But then, at the age of 18, everything blew up. I couldn't play anymore. My coach couldn't coach me anymore. Everything ended and that was it. I was at the lowest point of my life because, for me, that was everything I had in my life. I didn't really have a social life. I don't really have many friends because I just went to the courts, that was it. That was my life. Then, you get these adverts that are advertising for charities. You see these kids who are malnourished in Africa, I was depressed, I was in my bed and not leaving my room for two weeks. I see this ad, and usually, I just flicked the channel because I don't want to see that because I do connect with it emotionally. I don't want to feel that way. I don't want to see those people in pain, it hurts. So, I don't want to look at. But this time, for some reason, I watched the whole ad and had never done before in my life. At that point, I watched the advert all the way through and I thought to myself, "What the F am I doing? What am I doing?" I have a family. I have a house. I can eat food. I'm alive. Why am I sitting here doing nothing with my life? So, that moment was a turning point for me. I actually got out of my bed, I did my resume, and I went to the mall. I handed out my CV, my resume, at the mall. I got a job within a week. I started working. I hired a tutor to redo one of my Math exams. I went to the university after that. So, that was a huge turning point for me, that is what spawned gratitude in me all the time. Every time someone had a problem, it was very funny, I'd say think of the kids in Africa. And I was serious, I was like how can you be upset about something when there are kids out there dying because they can't eat? And you're upset about breaking up with your boyfriend? I totally...I'm saying we have emotions but I couldn't see past that, and then from that point on, I couldn't understand depression, at least for a while. Because it was all about, "Hey, we have so much. Whenever something goes bad, I always think and go back to how much I have and...
Steve: I just love the fact that... we all get those tendencies where the dark momentum kind of gathers us up a little bit but gratitude is the fastest way out, right? It really is. You just go, "Gosh! Look at what I have..."
Taz: You can't feel anything else and at the same time...
Steve: It is so much better. Yes, really a good experience. That was one, now, there was another one?
Taz: That was the first one, that was the earliest one I had. The second one was just when I went to my first Tony Robbins event. I'd never had a... I didn't even know what this thing was. I kind of knew who he was because I've heard his TED talk. And I used to put on his TED talk to motivate myself to do things, this 20 minute TED talk. I was like, okay. I never have taken it past that like going to an event or anything like that.
Then, I had some friends at my corporate job who were talking about it and convinced me to go to an event. I'm really thankful that I did because after the first few moments of people dancing on chairs, and I mean not knowing what the hell I got myself into, it was amazing. It was my second life-changing experience. And that was when I really... the trajectory of my life changed. And why I was doing things already changed. I changed why I wanted to do things, why I wanted to make money, and who was I doing things for, and who I was living for. And it turned or pivoted from, "Hey, I want to make money and be successful" to "I want to provide value and change the world." So, that was huge. And anyone who's thinking about Tony Robbins? Go.
Steve: That is an awesomer story for sure. The fact that Tony Robbins was the catalyst, they got that done, is a very common story these days. He's impacted a lot of people and you're kind of going to continue to impact other people as a result of that impact, which is exactly his purpose in life.
Taz: Amazing ripple effect.
Steve: Yes, it really is something else. Alright, we talked about a couple of these defining moments, is there a lesson that you've learned in your journey so far? Whether it's in professional life or the business life, what can you share with us? Maybe a lesson that is kind of noteworthy.
Taz: I think the biggest thing I learned... this is my lesson of 2017. Two...whenever you ask me one thing, I want to always give you two. So, I'm going to give you two again, alright? You can edit out the one you don't want.
Steve: Perfect! Alright, I like that option.
Taz: So, number one was chasing to many rabbits. The guy who chases two rabbits catches none. When in 2017, I really thought I could do everything. I tried to... I thought I could run a successful business without ever having run a real business in my life. I thought I could launch seven products in about four months in Q4. I really overestimated what I could do. Whilst also, everything I'm doing now was doing the same thing. I had a girlfriend at the time and I was consulting the Helium Ten. So, all of those things, at the same time, take up a lot of time. And you can't really do any of those things at a fantastic level. So, that was my first mistake. That was a big lesson, too. Just scale back and slow down on some things. Sometimes it slows... I remember a phrase, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. I think that's how it goes. That was my first lesson. Because I'm very ambitious and I pushed myself very hard, and I wasn't getting a lot of sleep, and I thought I could do it all but I didn't also anticipate all the issues that were going to come up. And how could I didn't know what I was doing. It was the first time I was getting to these things. I had everything worked perfectly - all the podcasts are listened to and it would have been great. But it didn't work out that way. And if you listen to my podcast you'll hear about all the mistakes.
Steve: I definitely would, especially for folks who are just starting out in the e-commerce business, and going well. I understand the basic formula. I got a couple shekels to rub together, I'm going to just do this ten and I skip to the end, right? Because we all just want to skip to the end. But the lesson you learn in your first product goes far beyond the marketing of it. In fact, who cares if that product never sells? It's all the little lessons in between that you need to know. And you can't speed up experience. There's, actually, it was the guy who started the Amazon AWS, and he said something like, there's no compression for experience. Because in AWS and all these cloud things... it's all about compression. They got to compress audio, video, and everything but you can't compress experience, it's done over time. You're not alone and there's a lot of people out there like you who goes on, "I'm not going to do one product, I'm going to do ten or five or whatever it is. And what would you tell them at this stage?
34:15 (Taz gives advice on Amazon start-ups.)
Taz: Don't do one. I had good people telling me, "Hey, are you sure you want to do all those?" Look at all these bright ideas. It's going to make it or not, they will all fit. And I have almost extra capital, I don't know what to do with it" because they didn't understand cash flow. So, of course, I still have products in China that I can't ship over because I don't have enough cash to ship them over. And I just didn't heed the warnings. I thought to myself, "hey, you know what? I'm different. I'm better than them. I work harder. I'll do all these things and make it work. I worked harder but I couldn't make everyone else also work harder. I couldn't stop the environmental checks and factories and having factories shut themselves down, and have people disappear with the money. There are things that I couldn't control.
Steve: I know you haven't gotten to your second example here yet, but just as a timely advice: One, go easy when you're starting out. Don't try to do it all at once. Two, these unexpected lightning bolts - environmentalists are a very good example because throughout the middle of 2017, all through now the middle of 2018, these environmental checks are continuing to happen. And in some cases, they're escalating now as we are heading into the latter part of 2018. And it's having a direct impact on many factories. Even if your factory is in good shape, sometimes the upstream factories that feed the supply chain, raw materials types of things, they're worse impacted. So, the costs are ultimately going up. The timings going to get slower, and there's going to be lightning bolts coming your way. So, be careful.
Taz: Absolutely. Also, the other thing I've have experienced recently is more customs checks in China. So it's another thing to watch out for.
Steve: Yes. Again, there's going to be some of this tit-for-tat trade war stuff, right? Every time the US tries to do something, whether it's more intensive examinations, then, China's going to try to do the same stuff. And it will be a little bit of that politics, it can impact. What was your other lesson so far that you've learned, Taz?
36:17 (Taz shares why it is important to have a mentor early on.)
Taz: Number two was not having a mentor. I had a mentor from when I started thinking about private label. Let's call it March - April, 2017. A mentor would have stopped me from doing all the rubbish I was doing. Stop me from trying to launch seven products, and said, choose the one and assess...He or she would have assessed whether that product was a good idea, done all the research for me because I didn't understand, it takes a long time to really understand product research, to understand the market, and to understand whether something really is a good idea or not. It takes a very honest take. It takes a long time, you can't speed up that process. You have to learn it. You have to keep looking at thousands of products to learn how to assess the market. I didn't understand any of that. I made some good choices, made some terrible choices, and I'm paying for them now. But had I had a mentor who could just cut through the crap and just say, "Do this. One, two, three four..." because if any of those steps didn't work, he'll be like, Okay. Well, here do 3.2..." And I will move up to 3.8 and then I'll take the fault. I didn't know what those sub numbers were. I didn't understand it. So, I'd go from four to six back to three and I didn't know what's going on. Had I had a mentor to slash through that, it would have changed everything. I, actually, got my first mentor in December and it changed everything. Just deep dive into my business and said, "Okay, fix all these things..." and that was definitely something that helped me get to 50k a month very quickly after that.
Steve: Those are beautiful golden nuggets for everybody out there. The old saying is you don't know what you don't know. Everybody's like, "Yes, yes. Fine, that's a funny little saying but you know what? I'm better, smarter, and faster or whatever..." but you still don't know what you don't know. This is not unique to you, Taz, or anybody who's
listening, this is everybody. You just simply have to kind of walk before you run, and that's as trite as these little things may sound like, there's a reason why they came up with them. I could tell you, in my experience, when you first start learning, you need to be slow and steady.
Taz: Absolutely. I think that's a big lesson to learn, especially, when you're someone who has this entrepreneurial mindset, and you just want to run...I don't know any entrepreneur that wants to go slow.
Steve: It's in our DNA to be impatient. That's just reality.
Steve: However, patience can be learned. So, everybody, there's hope out there. I learned the skill of patience, and at the end of the day, you're going to be patient when you screw it up, and then, realize you set yourself back twice as long as it would have
been otherwise. I've learned those lessons many times, myself. So, how bout...was there any time when you were you like, "I just want to give up. This is more than I expected. I don't like what I'm doing." Have you crossed that road at this stage?
Taz: There was a point when I was kind of close to it. My very first product, it was out for two weeks, I got a fake IP claim against it. So, I had to pay a lawyer to go and figure that out. And my product came back in and I sold out the product. I thought,
"Wow. This is great." But when I saw that it was going to sell out, everything went way quicker than I thought it would. So, in the meantime, I was getting my next batch manufactured. And then, ultimately, I paid $16,000 with this next batch. I doubled the order size because like, "Wow! I need to get this back in before December close out" and then, boom, my supply disappeared. That was it. I had no contact with them for eight weeks. I don't know what happened. Something has gone on and I just thought, "Okay, well, I guess I got screwed." And I only had one contact factory, couldn't contact anyone else. Nobody contacted me. At that point, I was thinking to myself, now I have zero money coming, and I started this business thinking... the real truth was, I thought I was going to pull in around $300,000 in Q4. I thought I was going to do half a million in my first year. I ended up doing $150 in my first year. And most of that was retail arbitrage and some wholesale. And so, it hit me for a moment but I didn't have a point where I really thought I was going to quit, that didn't ever occur to me because I was down, and I was really angry, but I knew I could figure it out. I've never got to a point where I've lost faith and thought, I can't make this work. Because I also have a great network of people who mentor me and who help me with things, and I can just pick up the phone and call. So, I don't think there's ever... unless I do make something really bad or wrong. I don't feel like I'm going to get into getting to a point where I have to stop or I just have to throw the towel in because I'm very persistent, as well. And I learned a ton of lessons, I made a ton of mistakes in 2017, and at this point now, I hope I don't ever get one of those crazy lows. I mean things can go wrong, and for sure they will. I anticipate being suspended, I anticipate having hijackers, as long as you know those
things are part and parcel of running this business, and you anticipate them happening at some point, and just be prepared for them and know that you can fight your way through.
Steve: Yes. There will be unexpected surprises, mostly negative surprises that happen and that's just...we're in the business of solving problems, everybody. If problems didn't exist, they wouldn't need us. Anybody could do it if it was easy, as they say. So, I will talk to you after the show and see, maybe, I can have the team at Symo Global, to see if we can find that factory of yours. So, you never got the money back?
Taz: So, the story continues... off to eight weeks, they contacted me and they told me a story about the guy had to go and talk to the Chinese government about something. Something was going wrong, the factory was shut down. I ended up getting $7,000 of it back and then I've got most of the rest of it. So, I had all these accessories manufactured, and they'd manufacture the accessories but it didn't manufacture the actual product. So they said, "well, we have all the accessories." I was, "what am I going to do with the accessories?" I'm not staying the part anymore. I was fighting them on it, but then, they just said, "okay, we're not going to keep these accessories." I've sent some of the accessories to another factory to try and reproduce the product. They still have some accessories. So, I recovered part of it. There's still some more to go, I have to figure out that piece.
Steve: It is not super common to have guys just disappear but it is not uncommon to have factories... I would say, slow communicators right there. Trying to really hold factories accountable and keeping regular check-ins with them, in our inspection process, not only we inspect the product when it's done but we often inspect raw materials as production is going on. So, we ensure...it's like, "hey, in two weeks you're supposed to be sewing this or printing that or milling that..." and so, you need to have these raw materials here, where is it? And again, that doesn't work for everybody and it doesn't work smaller orders. But over time, you learn how to deal with this sophisticated supply chain and hold those guys accountable. Fundamentally, there's always good guys and bad guys anywhere. It doesn't matter where in the world they are. I'm glad that you didn't die and get stiffed on that entirely though, that's good.
Taz: Yes, we figured that part out.
Steve: How about the best day? Have you had the best day, so far, in your entrepreneurial life where you're like, man this is a pretty good day.
Taz: Yes, definitely. I had a really great day when I kind of hit this... I got very close to hitting the $50k mark. So, I had my biggest day and it was all random, I didn't do anything special. I didn't even know how it happened but then I hit three and a half K in a day and it wasn't a special day, it was just a normal day. I suppose it was a Tuesday or something, and that just about pushed me over the edge of hitting the $50k mark milestone. And it was a long time coming, I felt. I felt like I pushed myself really hard to be making crazy amounts in a very short amount of time. Comparing myself to everybody who done it before and I stopped after I had my 2017, I stopped. I just said, look I'm just going to do the best of what I have. My resources, my tools, and the people around me, and what I can do. So, hitting that point felt great. I felt amazing.
Steve: That lesson alone of, "Hey, stop the compare-leads-to-despair kind of concept. I call it sometimes the Facebook culture. Everybody's like, this guy is traveling, this guy's doing this, and look at these records of sales, and whatever. But nobody ever posts "sales suck today", "everything in the warehouse fell over and was damaged", nobody posts that. We forget. So, it's really important to take yourself out of comparison, just go, "I'm going to do the best that I can do with my team, resources, knowledge, whatever it is."
Taz: Yes and I posted it when I hit that $50k. I was like, "Hey, guys. I hit it." But just to be clear, I'm pouring about eight percent, margin-wise, I spent on PPC, and getting everything in, and faring out all my images. I spent a lot of money building everything around it. So, my first month was probably about 8%. And now, as I've gone through that, I'm close to 20-25-30 depending on how much I'm spending on ads, what I'm putting on coupons, and everything. I like to be transparent about it because people like, "I did a million...did a 100k this month..." and no one often talks about "hey, well, here are my real numbers and here's what I made, and here's my take-home."
Steve: Yes. Gross sales are easy to talk about and easy to compare because you don't have to get into what's baked into your gross margin, net margin, contributing margin. But it is misleading often to go well is there actually any money in that? We have guys selling a million a month and losing two hundred grand a month. What value is that? It's always about building equity for Awesomers worldwide. Before we jump to a break and talk about the future I want to just see if you have a favorite tool or a favorite day-to-day app or something that helps you kind of either operate your
business or just carry on with your daily routine?
46:53 (Taz shares what processes help him with his daily routine.)
Taz: Well, that's a good one. Are we talking about Amazon, specifically? Or just in general?
Steve: Anything that you think helps your life.
Taz: Okay. It's not really a tool but it's a process I go through. So, what really helps me is time-blocking and scheduling my days. It really changed how productive I was when instead of going through the day just taking on the tasks that appear, the day before or at least in the mornings, I like to get an early start. I start my days at usually around 5:00 a.m. I take my time to meditate, go through my routine, and part of my routine is...okay, here are the things I need to do. And where are my most important things, I'm going to prioritize those. I've time block them. I put in times whenever I'm going to do those things. It's scheduled. So, when something is scheduled, you are way more likely to do it. Because you know why you put it in there, you know why it's important. If you don't have something scheduled, you have some free time, you're most likely will never to go through your list and say, "Okay, here's my list of 20 things ..." Now, let me spend 10-15 minutes figuring out which is the most important, then, I'm going to do that one. You're going to pick something, you pick the top of the list or what you're most likely going to do, is take the easiest thing. Okay, the easiest one. Another piece of this process that really helped me is I asked myself the question every morning what am I procrastinating on most? And I always know. At least for me, I'm always procrastinating on something because it's something that doesn't make me feel good. Maybe it's responding to a negative review or dealing with a customer. It's not fun to do that. But you know it's important. I know what I'm procrastinating on. So, what I do is I write that thing down I'm procrastinating on, and this is why I like doing things early in the morning because I have a couple of hours. I have a 9:00 - 5:00, I beat the time to just attack that. Whether it's me being able to get it done immediately but at least start it, that is what really picks on that productivity. Because those things that you're procrastinating on are like itching, they're biting the back your neck, and you know they're there but you just keep ignoring them. Then, when you actually do them, sometimes I'm not kidding you, it'll take me three minutes to do that thing I've been procrastinating on. When you do it, you're thinking to yourself, why didn't I do that? But then, you're also thinking, damn that feels good. Feels good to get that monkey off my back. And it's such a tiny thing.
Steve: It is amazing. I love time blocking. I love doing what you hate most first. That is such a good advice because we do tend to put off often easy things than the unpleasant things. If you just get the worst news out of the way the very first thing, the rest of the day is great. There are no problems. And you don't have that overhead, that shadow chasing you around going, "Hey, don't worry this thing you didn't want to do is still here, it's lurking behind you the whole time." Then, even another little gold nugget he threw in there is the morning routine, that's something a lot of people find good stock in. I think Tony Robbins a big morning routine guy, yes? So, we're going to take a break and we'll be right back and talk about the future. Taz is going to tell us the way it is. Be right back.
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Steve: Okay, everybody. Now that we paid some bills, we're going to take a look into Taz Ahsan's crystal ball. He knows the future and he's going to tell us what it looks like. So, I'm going to ask you to ask whether you want to talk about what you look like in five years, what your business look like in five years? Or just the world at large. Give us some sort of a speculation because I love to play these back later and see who's right and who's wrong.
Taz: Okay. Well, in five years I'll definitely be pretty about 180 pounds sub 10% body fat...Business-wise, I definitely want to have exited at least one business in five years. So, that's one of my goals. I have it. So, surprise, I have a five-year plan for my goals of what I want to achieve. I have revenue goals and I have an exit goal for the current brand I'm building. I love to form partnerships. So, partnerships will be huge for me. I anticipate me not having my full-time job in five years. I feel like I'm going to go for probably a couple more years. Then, exit and leave that there. I really want to be running a few businesses and helping a lot. I want to help other people grow their businesses and help them get out of whatever rat race they're in. That's probably the biggest thing. Number one is exiting and having a whole lump sum of cash and be able to do the next thing with it. One of my big goals is I'm going to build a lot of passive income in different vehicles like real estate, the stock market, and I want to have that available to me. Right now, I'll be honest, all my eggs are in my Amazon basket, and for me it's okay, I know what I'm building. But I do have a view to expand that. I have very good friends who are big in real estate and they really understand how to figure that piece out. So, I'm like, "Okay, well, great. When I have some cash, there you go. It's going to do that for me.
Steve: I love it. That's great. Well, I think diversification is an important thing just because there are things that happen and there are interests that change. So, it is good but it doesn't hurt to double down on what's working today. I enjoy those predictions and for those listening at home, we will put in the show notes Empowery has a couple resources that help people exit their companies and these are vetted resources. These are resources that have negotiated rates and they're really folks that we think are going to give you an entrepreneur-centric exit versus just getting a deal done. That's one thing, I would say, my vision and my goal is to help entrepreneurs build more equity in their business. Therefore, that exit is bigger and it relies on systems and putting things in place and achieving a certain scale. But that exit and that equity can always be impacted by doing a good deal at the end of the day. So, look for that in the show notes, everybody. We will make sure we get that loose end tied up. Before we close up, Taz, tell us how do we find your podcast?
Taz: Hoping to put a link in the show notes but if you go to iTunes and you just look up the Amazon entrepreneur, it will probably come up and you'll see it's really the whole thing, the Amazon entrepreneur, which has a son, and you will find my little podcasts out there trying to provide value. And I do have a website, it's tazahsan.com and you can go in there and find the podcast, and maybe, some cool info. We'll see.
Steve: Yes. No doubt. Very good info. Also, not just a good guy but you know he's helping people see the journey from basically somebody who's just beginning. Even though he's now... you're close to a year or so, maybe a little more than a year into this, Taz?
Taz: Well, it depends on where we start the journey. So, my original journey started in January, doing retail arbitrage and the wholesale thing. So, I did that for two and a half months, moved into wholesale. I sold my first private label product in October of 2017.
Steve: So, regardless of the timeline, it's still relatively fresh but for the people who are just starting out or thinking of starting out, that's a lifetime. A year and a half, believe me. He's a lot younger than right now. Believe me, for 31, he's... it's not looking good. He's really aging quickly because it's so good. Yes, of course, he's amazing and easy on the eyes but the journey is something that he articulates well, he shares it in, I think an open and candid way, and a way that I find to be inviting and reassuring in so many ways. Because when I hear the stories, I think back and go, I made that mistake, times 10. Oh, I did that. Yes, that feels familiar. I'd never had the chance to listen to other people, tell me their their mistakes. I had some mentors and some help along the way but nothing as easy as a podcast. So, I salute, again, what you're doing. Thank you for that.
Taz: I really appreciate that and I am trying to, hopefully, connect with people who are new to it. You don't have the experience, who don't really have a massive business background, who think, I don't have to start a business, I don't have to run a business. Neither did I and I'm still figuring it out. It's okay. You don't have to be an expert or reads a tons of book, get an MBA in entrepreneurship to be an entrepreneur. You just have to go out there and take action.
Steve: So, that leads us to our kind of words of wisdom. Do you have any final...just pieces of the puzzle you want to fill in for the guys out there listening and
Taz: And gals...don't forget the girls. I think my final words are really about keeping the faith and always pushing forward. You know there's lots of things you can do. You can have really crazy, productive days, and then have off days. And I think some of the things I've learned over a period of time is just being consistent. Being consistent is so powerful. Just make sure you're doing something, a little thing, whatever. You don't have to time block every single hour of your day, every day. It's a mistake I made. I burned myself out regularly because I would time like everything. I don't give myself any time for anything else. And now, I'm trying to... there's never really that much balance as an entrepreneur but you have to find some of it. I call it counterbalancing. Sometimes, you go really hard and...but then you cover and I recover by...I travel, I go see people, I see my friends, I spend time with them and I relax. I have a bit of downtime and then I can bring it back. So, try not to burn yourself out and give yourself some time back, especially, if you're working really hard. Because everything's going to come, the money's going to come, but you have to look after yourself and make sure you're living the life of your self pace because ultimately this is your life, you have one. So, live it liberally well; take your time, and be consistent. Consistency is very powerful.
Steve: I think that's really excellent advice. I want to just kind of help people reinforce the fact that not only consistency is the name of the game but if you're not going to enjoy the journey, what's the point? If we are going to just torture ourselves for the next 40 years until it's time to go off to the Shady Acres, that's just not an ideal life. So, why not create a life that's worth living and enjoy the journey for goodness sake? Really important stuff. Well, Taz, listen it's been a real pleasure having you. Thank you for joining us here on Awesomers.
It's been amazing. It's been an honor. Thank you so much, Steve. It's always great talking to you. It's my pleasure. We'll be right back, everybody. Right after this.
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Steve: Taz has such fun and interesting stories. Once again, I just really enjoy the fact that he has taken it upon himself to share his live journey as he's going through it. It's like a play-by-play. It's almost, I don't want to say this in a negative way, but it's almost like a soap opera. It's like what's going to happen with Taz this week? Are things going to go up or things going to go down? And that's really an interesting paradigm to be able to look through somebody's live experience. And see somebody who's saying, I'm in the corporate world and I like what I do, I have a great job, and I have a certain amount of freedom, which I'm lucky to have. But I want more and I want to understand. I want to achieve. And for, especially, those out there who are maybe wanterpreneurs at this stage, you're thinking about starting a business, you're thinking about doing something. Taz is a great guy, go watch his journey and figure out how he hustles to get the job done. Really informative and interesting. Again, somebody I deeply respected and admired. So, this has been episode number 51 of the Awesomers.com podcast series. And just pop on over to Awesomers.com/51 and you can find all the relevant show notes and details and transcripts, etc.
Well we've done it again everybody. We have another episode of the Awesomers podcast ready for the world. Thank you for joining us and we hope that you've enjoyed our program today. Now is a good time to take a moment to subscribe, like and share this podcast. Heck you can even leave a review if you wanted. Awesomers around you will appreciate your help. It's only with your participation and sharing that we'll be able to achieve our goals. Our success is literally in your hands. Thank you again for joining us. We are at your service. Find out more about me, Steve Simonson, our guest, team and all the other Awesomers involved at Awesomers.com. Thank you again.