Today I’m writing my last blog post for awhile as the Managing Partner of Cascadia Seller Solutions. There are so many opportunities in this world and one of them was too good to pass up. When I reflect back on the past eighteen months, I am filled with so much gratitude for every client who put their trust in me and my company, for my business partners who joined me when I realized I couldn’t do it all on my own, and who are going to carry on wonderfully without me in this role – and so much gratitude to my partner Keith Greer, love of my life and fellow former Amazonian. We have built up a company that has supported well over one hundred Amazon sellers, and allows our associates and consultants the work/life balance they need.
One of the things I’ve loved about Cascadia is how individual everyone is, and I personally celebrate that diversity of thought and opinion and personality. And for the most part, we’re all pretty nerdy – hence the Hitchhiker’s reference. In the vein of being nerdy – the most important thing you as an Amazon seller can do is choose the right towel (guru/coach/guide). A “towel” is the most massively useful thing an Amazon seller can have – and the right one can help you solve some of the toughest problems you face on Amazon.
When I first started working with clients, I was amazed at how many people are in this space, offering advice to new amazon sellers. So many websites claim to teach you how to become an entrepreneur, leave your day job behind, we’re the best, we know the most, etc etc – some are offering carrots (get rich quick!) some are wagging sticks (better watch out!) but there are a lot of companies out there offering help to the Amazon seller.
So how do you choose the right towel??
The first style of consultant is one who claims they have expertise based on their work experience. There are a lot of former Amazonians out there! Given that you don’t have access to their performance reviews, how do you know if they were any good at their job?
Some basic ways to evaluate a former Amazonian:
- How long were they there? This is usually publicly available on Linked In. The review process was extensively written about in the New York Times in 2015, but basically it happens every April, based on performance from at least October 1 of the year prior. So if someone is hired November of 2015, their first rated review isn’t until April of 2017, and they could skate by without ruffling feathers and not being that great. But if you see anyone who’s been at Amazon for more than four years, they had to make it through at least two review cycles, and that speaks well for their abilities
- How many roles did they have? It’s typical to move to a new role every 12-24 months. Sometimes you’re moved by your manager if you’re in the same department, but moving between departments actually requires an internal interview. So moving from Transaction Risk to Product Compliance as I did required an internal interview, and approval from a hiring loop, just like an external candidate. Anyone with Amazon experience that had multiple jobs lasting at least 2 years in each is probably reliable.
The second style of consultant is one who offers their expertise as a seller – someone who knows and understands the platform because they lived it. Most of these seller consultants will not disclose their business name for fear of negative attention, and many of them in the “guru” business make more money on affiliates than they do on their actual services. So how do you evaluate these gurus?
- Are they following TOS? On their websites, I like to check for certain key indicators that show me whether they care about following Amazon’s terms or if they’re cutthroat practitioners. One of my favorites is the use of Super URLs, or anything they label a “gray area” or “Amazon doesn’t like this.” Be careful of gurus who guide you this way, because it’s really not fun when you’re caught and they aren’t.
- Are they posers? I have to laugh at some people who promise get rich quick schemes, claim they made some ridiculous amount selling Alibaba merchandise on Amazon, or show pictures of themselves in private jets. These people are posers, and don’t care about you at all. If you’re serious about your business and building it for the long term, find people whose public persona reflects your level of seriousness.
- Who is endorsing them? When I first started out, I didn’t know who all of the “big people” were in the Amazon space. Now I know the Amazing Seller, My Silent Team, etc, the big groups run by the experts in Internet Marketing who may not actually know what they’re doing, but are really really good at marketing whatever it is they do know. Humans tend to gravitate towards people who have “social proof” or people who are endorsed or supported by other people. But the very largest groups and the ones showing up in Facebook groups are often there because their leaders are excellent marketers, not because they’re good at whatever they’re telling you to do.
At Cascadia Seller Solutions, we don’t receive any affiliate fees from anyone or any service we recommend, and that’s the way we always want it to be. We want to be able to provide you completely honest and unbiased feedback, from people who are dedicated to making your business more successful than ours.
We are not good at internet marketing – I had to google what a marketing funnel was when I first heard the term. What we are, is really good at what we do. We understand Amazon from the inside out, and we work in a dedicated seller account, testing out new products and ways of selling so that we can be the best of both worlds – former Amazonians and experienced sellers.
I am very proud of everything that Cascadia stands for – I tried very hard to model the company based on Amazon leadership principles, but without the awful Jack Welch-ian dystopic review approach. Everyone is provided support and encouragement, and your life dictates your schedule, not the other way around. And most of all, I love the clients who chose us, who have believed in us, and who we support in every way we can.
So long… and thanks for all the fish. Choose your towel wisely!