[quote style=”boxed”]I’m a big believer in not trying to reinvent the wheel. A lot of people in business, especially just-starting entrepreneurs, think you have to do something that’s “never been done” to be successful. With seven billion people on this planet, no idea you have is new.[/quote]
Matt Clark is a serial entrepreneur, author, speaker, and health and fitness enthusiast. He is an entrepreneurial thought leader, and founded a multimillion-dollar product distribution business enterprise. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.
What are you working on right now?
I’m launching an online eight-week training program with a three-day live event, teaching people how to build businesses by leveraging the power of Amazon. This eight-week program focuses on why Amazon offers such a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs right now, how to find the right products to sell, how to find suppliers, how to build your own product brand, and how to market your products so they sell well on Amazon. After the eight-week online program that starts March 21st and finishes May 15th, we’re holding a live, members-only three-day workshop event in Austin, Tex., at the end of May.
Where did the idea for your current business come from?
I started selling physical products online about four years ago with my own ecommerce store. Regardless of how much I knew about SEO or online marketing, Amazon was dominating me in Google searches for keywords and products I’d spent hours — and thousands of dollars — trying to rank for. So, I figured, “Why not join them?”
I started on Amazon about three years ago, selling a few products from other suppliers. I ramped up that business, but soon decided I’d make more money and have less competition if I sold my own products, rather than someone else’s. I started selling private label products under my own brand name on Amazon; I saw my business skyrocket, especially once I optimized my product listings and outranked my competitors on Amazon.
In 2012, I was invited to speak at the 9th Underground Online Seminar in Washington, D.C. That ended up putting me in touch with my current business partner, and we created a course teaching people how to sell products on Amazon. After the huge success of that course, we launched a more hands-on version, which is the one I’m working on now.
What does your typical day look like?
In December 2012, my wife and I moved to France from Austin for a temporary relocation (basically an extended vacation). We’ve been here almost three months; we will be heading back to Austin, our hometown, for good on March 20th.
Right now, my day starts at 7 or 8 a.m., when I jump on the computer, check business stats, follow up on emails, and review my to-do list. Then, I work for a few hours and go for a run (or a swim in the chilly Mediterranean) in the middle of the day. After that, we usually head to lunch at a local Irish pub (we’re not huge fans of French food).
I start working again and, unless we have travel plans for the day, usually will keep working (especially now that we’re in the middle of launching our new course) until about 10 p.m. Before I shut down for the day, I always check my list of priorities for the week and plan my priorities for the following day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a big believer in not trying to reinvent the wheel. A lot of people in business, especially just-starting entrepreneurs, think you have to do something that’s “never been done” to be successful. With seven billion people on this planet, no idea you have is new.
I think the best way to come up with winning ideas is to find out what’s already working and make it better. By doing this, you cut down on a lot of the implementation and testing to figure out whether your new idea is going to stick or flop.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst was working at my parents’ accountant’s office. Or, really, just about any job. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a horrible employee. I was the one finding any excuse not to work; I’d read news online or socialize with co-workers. Something about working for someone else just doesn’t motivate me.
On the other hand, when working for my own businesses and for partnerships, I’m the hardest-working 26-year-old you’ll find. Right now, for example, I’m working 17-hour days to make our product launch the best it can be. But it doesn’t feel like work. I love it!
One of the best things in life is finding something you are good at and that you absolutely believe in as part of your identity, and getting to do that every single day.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start again in business, I’d focus on this one principle and use it as a filter to evaluate business opportunities: sell high-margin products. I don’t care how many success stories you hear of billion-dollar businesses operating on razor-thin margins (e.g., Amazon, Wal-Mart, etc.); having high profit margins makes business a lot more fun.
When you have high profit margins, you’re not calculating the profit loss from that customer return or the dollar value of that employee’s extended lunch. You also can scale your business a lot faster because you can test and ramp up marketing more quickly.
I sold others’ products with about a 40 to 50 percent profit margin; I wish I had started out selling my own products with the 400 to 500 percent profit margin I enjoy now.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Plan your week, and plan each day. As an entrepreneur, nobody is telling you what to do. But what you do each and every day contributes directly to your future and the future of your business.
I read every self-improvement and time management book on the planet, from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” to Tony Robbins’ “Rapid Planning Method,” and it took a while to figure out a system that really made sense. Here it is: Pick ONE goal. I’ve tried setting long-term goals and breaking them down, and I’ve tried setting goals for every area of my personal and business life — and everything in between.
The problem with all of this is that, like Will Smith says, “There is no reason to have a Plan B because it distracts from Plan A.” I believe ONE goal at a time is the best way to plan your life.
I pick one goal that I want. Then, if I know I’m getting close to achieving it, I get ready with the following goal that builds on that one. Once you have your one goal, list all the projects that contribute to that goal’s achievement.
Once you have those down, you’re ready to plan each week on purpose. Each Sunday, I create a list of action items for the week that contribute to the progress of those projects. Before each day starts, I take a chunk of action items and add them to that day’s to-do list. I cross each item off for that day and repeat the process the next day.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I was talking with friends about this the other day, and will probably never do it myself because I have too many other things going on, but for long-tail (less competitive) keywords, it’s extremely easy to get YouTube videos ranked by just publishing a press release linking to the video using an online service, such as WebWire.com.
I know, from looking for offices in Austin, that commercial real estate owners are horrible at online marketing, but they need a continual influx of leads. Start creating YouTube videos targeted at commercial real estate locations in your local city, create a few press releases linking to those videos, and then sell the leads from those videos to the people with office space in the area.
For example, in Austin, a major road with prime office space is Loop 360. I’d create a two-minute video talking about the location titled “Loop 360 Office Space” and add a link with a sign-up form in the description. I’d call some local office buildings and ask, “Do you need more renters?” I’d offer to sell them those leads or work out a performance-based compensation. If they said no because they don’t understand marketing, I’d go to one of their competitors and let that first person know I was doing so. The fear of loss is a very strong motivator.
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
Asana: This is a great to-do list tool that I use to record items for all of my major projects. It’s easy to use, visually appealing, and has an iPhone/iPad app.
Evernote: I love Evernote for taking notes online (forget multiple Word documents!); it has an iPhone/iPad app that I use for taking/reading notes/ideas while in the gym or out and about.
Dropbox: I used to literally carry around an external hard drive for fear of losing all my files after dropping an entire protein shake on my laptop in college. I use Dropbox to store all my files (including tons of training/marketing videos) for about $19.99 a month.
What is the one book that you recommend our community read and why?
I’d recommend “How to Be a Billionaire.” The title sounds like a product from a ‘90s infomercial, but it’s an awesome book. It breaks down the business models and wealth-building principles of billionaires from the past 100 years.
What’s on your playlist?
Right now, it’s just Tony Robbins’ “Get the Edge” program I listen to while I’m running.
If you weren’t working on your current business, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t working on any business, I’d be in the military, trying my hand at joining a Special Forces unit. There were three years in which I debated holding off on business and giving the military a try. I started doing triathlons and running marathons to get myself ready.
In the end, though I’m sure I could have made it through hard work and determination, I decided that entrepreneurship was really my calling. I’ve been reading business books since I was 15 years old, and I’ve found that simply sticking with something over a long period of time is the real “secret” to success — and it’s the secret to finding something you love.
I think people tend to forget, or not realize, that one reason you “love” something is that you’re good at it — better than your peers. That doesn’t happen by constantly changing your mind or trying new things. It comes from digging in and not giving up until you make it.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Twitter, and especially following people on it, is a waste of time. Instead, try creating something of your own.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laugh out loud every day. Life’s too short to not laugh often. Though we’re all busting our butts to get this new product training course off the ground, there are moments each day when we’re cracking up.
Who is your hero?
My dad — he’s the kind of guy who isn’t affected by what other people think, is the first person to help an old lady put on her coat, and never quits anything. I strive to be more like him.
What’s contributed the most to your business success?
As a mentor once told me, “Partnerships make the good times better and the bad times less bad.” Being able to leverage another successful person’s resources has contributed to the greatest leaps in my businesses’ successes. We all spend so much time trying to build our own skills and resources, but when you combine everything you’ve done with someone else, you stop growing incrementally and start growing exponentially.
What are the top three business principles entrepreneurs should focus on to build financially successful businesses?
1. High profit margins
2. Recurring revenues
3. Business partnerships and joint ventures
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.