Embrace your failures. Those failures are the foundation of your future. Accept them as part of your journey to success.
Steve Tan is one half of the legendary Tan Brothers. Along with his brother Evan Tan, Steve helped generate millions of dollars for their eCommerce stores through Facebook Ads and other marketing techniques. As 8-figure eCommerce entrepreneurs, they share their knowledge and experiences through their eCommerce Elites Mastermind Facebook group, and by coaching other professionals in their quarterly Mastermind classes. The brothers have also spoken at marketing summits around the world with famed entrepreneurs such as Neil Patel and Ryan Deiss. Thousands of students have benefitted from their expertise!
Luckily for anyone looking to utilize their skills, they have decided to share their wealth of knowledge. They bring incredible value to all of their clients and even offer free access to their Facebook group and eCommerce Elites Mastermind courses. Other people would charge thousands of dollars for anything of that nature. The things that they teach in their Mastermind, no one else teaches in the entire industry. What they like to emphasize the most is building systems and automation, rather than a get rich quick scheme. So for example, in scaling, instead of purely teaching FB ads and trying to scale vertically, they tend to teach their students how to scale horizontally. They also emphasize that scaling does not only include FB ads but lots of other factors like email marketing, upselling, increasing LTV and many other techniques.
As e-commerce entrepreneurs, they want to be known as the people who brought the most value within the entire e-commerce entrepreneur community. The ones who helped most people change their lives through their knowledge. They were born and raised in a tiny little country, Singapore, but wanted to have a huge impact on the world. Steve started e-commerce over 12 years ago and has accumulated a lot of experience. Since then, they have helped create financial freedom through the knowledge they accumulated for so many other and wanted to do so for as many people as possible around the world. They feel e-commerce is a very accessible business model for everyone to start with and can help everyone generate a substantial income, in order to change their lives. Through their knowledge, they teach others their trade and help them start their own successful online businesses.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
When we started eCommerce Elites Mastermind, Evan and I weren’t actually thinking about starting a company per se. Originally, we were working on our own ideas about how to sell through e-commerce platforms and seeing how they worked.
Miraculously, however, in a single day, one of our e-commerce stores brought in a record-setting $360,000 via Facebook ads alone. Using that as a launchpad, we knew we had to start sharing our ad strategies with others by posting our results in a variety of Facebook Groups. We had experience on our side, so it was an easy step from there to share our insight with people to inspire and help them with their businesses. It was mostly a “Here’s what we’ve done and how it’s worked, hope it helps,” idea. Simply put, the response was incredible! Following that, we started receiving personal messages from people that saw our posts, only a few at first but it ramped up quickly. Our inboxes were quickly full and it became hard for us to keep up with the amount of people that were looking for help, guidance and inspiration. It became clear we had to do something different. That’s when we decided to start the eCommerce Elites Mastermind group to help people start or improve their own e-commerce businesses. The rest is history!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
First things first: get a sense of what needs to get done that day. We use Trello to keep track of everything that we need to get done. Evan and I will look at Trello first thing to see if there’s anything urgent we need to handle.
After that, we go to tasks that need our personal attention. Not everything does though. We try to empower the people that work with and for us to make decisions for themselves, because no one person can do it by themselves. We work more on vision and direction and the things that are urgent.
Halfway through the day, we will spend some time together to discuss the goals of the company, to see if we’re going in the right direction. This is the most important part of the day, because it’s when we get to check in with each other and make sure we stay aligned.
At the end of the day we finish up the rest of the tasks that need to be done, then delegate the things that need to be done in the future. Some can happen the next day, and we usually don’t work more than a week out on that.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Some of it is gut feeling and some of it is numbers, but the process is fairly simple.
At the start of the process, we’ll get together and brainstorm some possible good niches to enter. That gives us a good list of where to look. After that, we’ll search for product choices that we can sell. We’re fortunate in that we have some good relationships lined up already with factories and resellers, allowing us to tap those connections instead of starting from scratch each time.
After we’ve figured out some niches and product options, it’s time to test. We do media buying on Facebook to see how the market reacts. There are some in-house metrics we’ve developed to see the interest that we’ll receive from a product in that market, based on the data we get back from Facebook advertising. Once we see a level of results we’re comfortable with, we’ll privately label it, create branding and launch it to the market.
What’s one trend that excites you?
By 2021, e-commerce is expected to be 17.5 percent of the global retail market. That’s significantly up from the 7.4 percent it was in 2015. We’re excited to see how e-commerce is growing. Every year it gets stronger and stronger.
E-commerce is going to become more accessible to everyone, regardless of whether you’re an entrepreneur or a consumer. Barriers to entry are lowering, making prices drop and increasing the opportunity for people who can do it well. If you’re good at e-commerce, even as barriers to entry lower, you’ll still be winning and your market will be bigger. We’re excited about what the future holds, especially as we do more education and mentorship work. Literally everyone can get started now with e-commerce.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
The biggest thing for us, is using the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of your work should get you 80 percent of the results you need that day. Maximizing our daily work output that way makes us more productive as entrepreneurs and it also reduces the stress that can pile up when you’re in this field.
To make that happen, we rely heavily on systems in our business. We automate huge chunks of what we do with our business, from product prospecting, to payments, to advertising. That gives us a smooth, frictionless business model that is low on time, money waste and high on productivity. When your rules are set and your processes are in place, you don’t have to spend time on figuring out how to do things all over again.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid of failure.
Failure is something that I was pretty scared of when I was younger. I thought I would win at everything I tried. However, I ran into a wall with a few heavy failures, some of them fairly high-profile.
After that though, I had a change of mind. Instead of being frustrated by failure and letting it drag me down, it was better to take it and use it as a way to learn lessons. Experience is a hard teacher, but one that every entrepreneur knows intimately.
Embrace your failures. Those failures are the foundation of your future. Accept them as part of your journey to success.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
We’ve been hearing for a while now that e-commerce dropshipping is dead. Too many competitors, too much non-differentiated product, not enough niches still open.
I think that’s wrong. We’ve built an eight-figure business using this exact business model, the same one we’ve used for years. It’s evolved over time, sure, but ecommerce dropshipping is far from dead. I don’t see an end to all the success we’ve been experiencing.
People are too quick to bury industries when they get a whiff of competition. If you’re doing the right things, keeping your operations lean, building systems to automate what you can, finding the right niches, and sourcing good products, you can still win just as much as you could a few years ago. Most people just don’t want to put in the work.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Commit to each day with everything you have. Pour everything you have into what you do. Because if you’re doing this just for easy money, you’ll hit a ceiling and you won’t commit to staying ahead of the trends and learning what you need to keep growing.
Every day you have to work hard and learn as much as possible. Spend time preparing yourself for the future and reviewing the past. See what your past mistakes and failures taught you and apply that towards your success down the road.
If you do this, you’ll reach the top of your profession naturally. If you don’t, you might wind up with some short-term success anyway through luck, but it won’t last. Luck doesn’t last. Work does.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I don’t know everything, and I don’t know any entrepreneur who does. One thing I think has helped the business grow dramatically is hunting for really good people though.
Our business is constantly hiring and constantly on the lookout for new talent and potential partners. We always need people who are experienced and competent in other fields to help us spearhead different projects and different departments in our company.
People are your best resource. If you have all the cash in the world, all the connections but no good people working with you, it’s a recipe for failure. Get the right people into your organization, take care of them and they’ll take care of you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had several! Anyone who’s been in the business for a while knows that failure comes with the territory. The biggest one though, is probably an Indiegogo project we did called the KREYOS Meteor. We got into consumer electronics, where none of us had much experience. We were largely a marketing team, with only one good factory connection in China.
Our connection wound up pocketing a good chunk of the money we sent them, never hit deadlines, sent us subpar product, claimed ownership on the inventory and finally hung us out to dry completely. We had contracted for a turn-key solution, where we did the up-front marketing, social media, emails, and UI design. They were supposed to provide the physical product, the programming, the firmware and everything else though.
Instead, we ended up having to get ourselves involved with KREYOS, and even then it wasn’t enough. We wound up with half a product, over a million dollars in sunk costs and many angry customers. That taught me a ton of lessons, first and foremost this one: be careful who you work with.
When I was younger, I was so confident in myself and my abilities, that I expected never to fail. However, after failing several times, I learned to give one hundred percent to everything I did. And always, always, always have a plan B in case things go badly.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Here’s one for free: create a digital agency dedicated to getting offline businesses online.
Most offline business owners don’t know how to do digital marketing at all. If you can help them establish an online presence, then strengthen it via social media, you’ll be able to build a long-term partnership with them. Show off amazing results, get them talking, and build their business. Once you do that, you can build some really positive word of mouth. Once that snowball gets rolling, you’ll be working with a highly sustainable, lucrative business model.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Entrepreneurs and leaders as big as Neil Patel, have talked about this but SMS marketing is shockingly good. Luckily, hardly anyone’s investing the resources into it, which they should. We’ve spent a hundred dollars on SMS marketing and it got us 6 thousand dollars in return recently.
The ROI is insane! If you haven’t done anything with SMS marketing, it’s time to revisit it. It boasts incredibly high engagement and open rates of 82.1%, and people still avoid it because they think it’s more regulated than emails are. Try it and see.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Because of how geographically separated we can be, we actually have two that underpin everything we do daily: Trello and Discord.
Trello is the project organization software that we use for everything. It helps us stay organized, prioritize everything that we do and keep people on task, and aware of everything that’s happening. Every single day you can look at the board and get updated with one quick glance.
Discord is probably better known as a communications platform for gamers, but it’s great for us because it allows seamless communication via both text and voice. It even allows for some file-sharing and we can pin important messages to the channel so no one misses them.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Ben Horowitz’s: The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It’s probably a popular and obvious answer, but it’s my pick for sure. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a must-read for any entrepreneur, both offline and online.
This book came to me at a time in my life when things were particularly rough and it made me realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect, flawless business. I was overly concerned with failure, overly worried about making everything absolutely perfect and found out how to overcome that. Regardless of how well you plan, how much effort you invest and how much money you put into your business, screw ups can and will happen. Because of this book, I learned to embrace my failures and wear them proudly. I believe they helped me realize my current success, and I credit Horowitz for that.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs.”
From The Dream Chaser: If You Don’t Build Your Dream, Someone Will Hire You To Build Theirs by Tony A. Gaskins.
- Take control of your life first. Then act to achieve your goals.
- Be careful who you trust with your business. At the end of the day, YOU are the one most invested.
- Pay your success forward. Remember where you came from and give back to the community.
- Comparing yourself with other people is a dead end. Someone else’s success doesn’t look like yours, so why would you try to compare? Find YOUR success.
- Failure is just part of the journey to success. Your best teacher is failure—let it make you better.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.