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How Joe Cochran Sold His Car to Buy Inventory…Then Sold His Business For Seven Figures
Joe Cochran had a rough start in life, but eventually came out on top. Through perseverance and a hard struggle, he finally has a success story.
Tune in to hear our chat with Joe and learn about his process, his early struggles, and why he finally decided to sell his company.
- The emotional rollercoaster of being an entrepreneur.
- His early struggles.
- Launching his business with $5000 in credit.
- Sacrifices Joe had to make to keep his business afloat.
- Siphoning vs. reinvesting.
- How he ran his initial campaign.
- Which accounting resources he used on a tight budget.
- His competitive nature and how it drives him.
- Making the decision to sell.
Mark: Joe, we’ve had the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing entrepreneurs over the years and I never get tired of hearing about these success stories, especially for people that have gone through some of the dark periods of life that come out through the end. And often we get to be a part of the process when that reclamation, that coming back from some difficult times in their life comes to a head and comes to that real big victory point of an incredible exit. Joe Cochran is one of these stories.
Joe: Yeah, he had his first child two days after his 17th birthday. I think that changes somebody’s life forever. He didn’t quit. He stayed in high school and he says his girlfriend at the time does his homework, helped him cheat to graduate.
Mark: His girlfriend helped him cheat?
Joe: Doing his homework, yeah, she did his homework. He helped in graduate high school.
Mark: True love, I love it.
Joe: Yeah, he worked full time. He just got out and hustled and went through some dark times after that in terms of business with his father, major debts, substance abuse, and came out the other end of just fighting and launched an Amazon business in 2016 when he had about $40,000 in debt. He thought through it and came out the other side in January of 2020 with a seven-figure exit. And as he said at the beginning the podcast interview, he said he felt like an incredible burden was lifted off his shoulders. So it’s a great story; great success story. A lot of golden nuggets in there throughout the whole interview that I did with him and just one of these inspiring people that you just got to listen to the whole thing.
Joe V.: Hey, folks. Joe Valley, here from Quiet Light Brokerage, and today we’ve got another episode of Incredible Exits. This one is with Joe Cochran. Joe and I’ve been working together for I think I want to say, a couple of years Joe, in the process of planning your eventual exit or as I like to call it, training. You came to me as a referral from our good friend Mike Jackness in EcomCrew and I think you were living in one state when we first chatted and eventually moved to another. And then I think we closed the transaction in January of 2020 is that right?
Joe C.: That’s correct.
Joe V.: All right. Well, welcome to the Quiet Light Podcast. The first question I have for you; normally, by the way, I ask people to introduce themselves and give a little background but I want to actually just know how you felt when you finally closed this transaction. I shouldn’t say finally because you weren’t under LOI by the time we listed it to the time we sold it was 45, 60 days something like that. How did it feel? I don’t want to know about the money and that kind of zeroes and this is a seven-figure exit but how did it feel when you finally had the money hit your account and you knew that this was real and the transaction was closing and assets were transferred?
Joe C.: Yeah. So, I mean, that was kind of a roller coaster, to be honest. I think since I started the business all through the business to selling the business and even shortly after selling the business, emotional roller coaster. I just think as an entrepreneur, it’s probably one of the hardest things to do is manage your own feelings and emotions around your business and what’s going on. I would say the second that I signed the paperwork, it felt like the weight of the world kind of lifted off my shoulders because a big part of my why was always to be able to provide for my family and kind of have a security if you will. That was something that is always very important to my wife and I as far as something that we strive for. It’s just having financial security and things like that so it was definitely that life-changing feeling. But shortly after, other fears and worries crept in. It was short-lived, but it did feel great.
Joe V.: Yeah, life of an entrepreneur, it’s not necessarily just because you sold the business and you’ve got some money in the bank that you don’t stressing about other things. It is what it is. So your big why was to be able to provide for your family; we didn’t talk about this. You haven’t given me permission and cut if we have to but your story is interesting. You ended up becoming a dad while in high school if I recall correctly. Is that right?
Joe C.: Yeah, I got my high school sweetheart pregnant when I was 16 and had my son a couple of days after my 17th birthday.
Joe V.: Wow. And you finished high school, kept working, provided for your newborn family at the age of 17. You were working and going high school at the same time, right?
Joe C.: Yeah. I basically cheated my way through high school at that point because I was working 30 to 40 hours a week going to school as little as possible. My girlfriend at the time was doing my homework for me, helping me through. And it was important to my family that I finished school and it wasn’t as important to me that I do, but just felt like I needed to finish that. That was my junior year when my son was born.
Joe V.: How many years ago was that, Joe?
Joe C.: Well, I was 17 when he was born. I’m 41 now.
Joe V.: Okay.
Joe C.: I don’t try to do math in public.
Joe V.: When I do I usually get around but I would say 23, 24 years-ish.
Joe C.: Yeah.
Joe V.: So you went from…
Joe C.: It’s a bit easier this way, how old is my son? He’s 24.
Joe V.: I was hoping you were going to just go there. Yeah. We’re doing math instead. So you’ve gone from a situation that is the worst fear of parents that you’re becoming a dad a couple of days after your 17th birthday to 23, 24 years later, you’re having a seven-figure exit of your own business. The weight of the world lifted off your shoulders. You’re able to provide for your family, which is very, very important; a great success story. Let’s talk about your path to it. I’m going to shorten it a little bit because we just talked about that and I know that you went to work into sales and eventually with your dad in the hot tub parts business, pool parts business, and eventually exited that. But then you started this brand that you built primarily as an Amazon business. Talk about how you came up with the idea of selling on Amazon and building your brand and what that path was like a little bit.
Joe C.: So when I was working for my dad, we started to get into the Amazon business model in his business probably around 2009, 2010. Somewhere in there we dabbled, didn’t really jump into it seriously until closer to the end of that business cycle. But we had kind of been playing with ideas. We started our own brand at one point in the fireplace and arts niche. And so I had some experience there, but I just wasn’t ever passionate about any of the products my dad and I were selling. I was passionate about business. I was just a student of business. I studied all the time at marketing, sales, e-commerce in general and so when I realized that he was going to sell the business and I was essentially going to be out of work and need to define and figure out an income, I started really focusing on what kind of business would be right for me? If I was going to start my own thing what would be the best model? How can I get into it inexpensive, because I didn’t have much money, matter of fact I have a pile of debt. And it just ticked all the boxes for being I want to work from home, start small and scale and potentially exit in a large exit. So I wanted kind of all those things; I needed all of those things and it just ticked all the boxes for me.
Joe V.: And you’re 41 now, how old were you when you started the business? I’m going to make you do math again.
Joe C.: So I started a business in 2016 so it’s been like four years ago.
Joe V.: Four years ago. Okay, and how much money did you have when you launched the business in terms of cash? I know that you had a pile of debt at the time, but how much money did you pull together to make your first order?
Joe C.: So I had about $5,000 on credit card that was available.
Joe V.: You did it with $5,000, you had a pile of debt and you took $5,000 on a credit card to launch this business and four years later, you got a seven-figure exit. Am I doing this right?
Joe C.: Yeah.
Joe V.: Wow, incredible.
Joe C.: I’ve had about $40,000 in debt personally. We have just started making progress with paying off credit cards and stuff because we started doing Air B&B and kind of renting out bedrooms in a house that we were renting. And so by doing that, we had started to make some progress in paying off our debt and like any good entrepreneur person as soon as I saw the light at the end of the tunnel I decided I’d took on more debt and started our business.
Joe V.: Was it a success out of the gate; did you immediately start selling and say oh boy now I’ve got an inventory problem, I’ve got to buy more and keep up?
Joe C.: Yeah, so I have the; I don’t know what to call it, good luck also good sense that I did develop a product that really spoke to my target market. That was kind of easy for me at the time because I was my target market. And so I simply created the solution that I thought was amazing. When I showed it to my friends and family, they all kind of agreed that it was amazing. And so it was kind of like I knew the product was great and I knew how to create the offer because, again, I was the target market. So I literally was able to craft a story that really hit home with my ideal customer. And so when I launched, it was hockey stick growth. I mean, in the first six months we broke a million dollars in revenue.
Joe V.: In the first six months, incredible. For those listening on audio, we decided not to mention the brand or the buyer and things of this nature just for confidentiality purposes. But if you want a hint, go to YouTube and watch the video or go to I think it’s Quiet Light Academy on YouTube or go to the Quiet Light website ant take a look at our podcast. There’s a hint in the background; a big giant silver one way back there somewhere in the video at Joe’s home office there. Let’s talk about the how; okay, you had hockey puck growth, you said in the first six months you did a million dollars in revenue by creating a product that solves your own problem in a niche that you knew very, very well. How did you get to know and learn about Amazon; what resources did you utilize to become that person that knew how to create the right photos or videos or ads and things of that nature?
Joe C.: I basically do what I’ve always done, which is tried to cheat. And at first, I bought several courses, which kind of worked. Yeah, so the first course I really bought was the Amazing Selling Machine. And then for a short time, I decided I was going to create an information product and I started thinking about doing uninvolved course on e-commerce because of course, that’s what I had experience in for the previous 12 years. I came across guys like Andrew Youderian from eComFuel. I came across as Ezra Firestone from Smart Marketer, and somewhere in there, I think in eComFuel I was put in a Mastermind with Mike Jackness and a couple of other guys. And so that was sort of my network and I bought all their products and I just dug in and followed and studied everything I could.
Joe V.: So for those listening a lot of times from the thousands of entrepreneurs I’ve talked to that sell physical products in e-commerce, they’re part of a Mastermind group. And I think it’s critically important that you connect with peers either on the free Facebook groups to start off with and understand that free means free and the quality of information that’s shared there is not going to be as deep as a Mastermind group like eCommerceFuel or Ecom Crew or Smart Marketer or Ezra’s Blue Ribbon Mastermind group but there’s a lot of podcasts that you can listen to as well. Mike, at the time, did he have Ecom Crew podcast, or is that something new since you met him in 2016 and connected with him in ECF, which is eComFuel?
Joe C.: Yeah, so that was new for him. He was starting to work on the project but didn’t have the podcast yet and it was just kind of an idea in the background that they’re working on. Mike was still very involved in his e-commerce business or businesses at the time.
Joe V.: Okay, cash flow; what I see is when you’ve got a hockey puck growth, there’s always a cash flow problem. How did you manage to keep up with the inventory needs, which is a cash flow drain on the business?
Joe C.: Yeah. So my first order I think was $1,500. I placed that order. Well, when I received that order and launched the product, I did a really dumb thing and went on vacation to my parent’s house here in Florida, which I now own and in right now. But so I came here and within the first couple of days of launch, I could see that I was going to run out of inventory very quickly. So I placed my second order for $1,500 now the vacation was five days and that happened on day one when I got here. So like I literally launched the product day two or day three after launch I came here. I stayed here for five days and by the end of that week I had to place a second; a third order. So like I was here on day one when I realized I was going to have to place another order and by day five I realized that wasn’t going to cover it and I’m going to have to place another order and I didn’t have any money. The first call to my wife for that first follow up order was like hey dear I know we just opened this new credit card for this business and we just spent 1,500 bucks but I think it’s going to work. We need to place another order, send me another 1,500 bucks. And she was like yeah do whatever you think.
Joe V.: Awesome.
Joe C.: And I’m behind you, so cool. So then by Friday when it was time to come home and I realized this isn’t going to be enough, I had to make that call again. And I said, hey, you know…
Joe V.: Wait a minute; hold on, for all those people listening in the audience I want to just ask a question that they’re asking. You’re on vacation in Florida without your wife.
Joe C.: Yeah.
Joe V.: Why?
Joe C.: Well, it was just to see my family. My mom and dad were here and we were both working and we’ve had this kind of Air B&B business at the house. We have two dogs and it’s just difficult for us to both leave at the same time. She couldn’t get the time off work. I wasn’t working at the time. Essentially I have my own business so it was just yeah say hi to Mom and Dad, hangout for a few days, go fishing the whole time.
Joe V.: Fair enough.
Joe C.: She wasn’t that into it anyway.
Joe V.: All right so that third order, what did you do?
Joe C.: That third order I was like, hey, the last order is not going to be enough. We’ve got to place another order and we’re going to have to like triple down. We’re going to need to spend like five grand on this next order and we don’t have it. So can you call the credit card company and see if you can get our limit raised? And she did. And she got it raised to like 10,000 and so I was able to place that third order; so really having no money coming back in yet. I mean, we’re starting to make sales. I don’t think I ever got my first payout at this point, though because it’s bi-weekly from Amazon. So I went from 1,500 to 7,000, $8,000 in and now I’m thinking, well, I don’t know how I’m going to place the next order. And so by this point, I had been communicating a lot with my manufacturer. I placed three orders now and they could see that my orders were growing and so I just called them and I said, look I need to place bigger orders but I’m going to need some sort of terms. I can’t operate without terms. You told me that I had to place a few orders before we could talk about that and I will say I planted that seed from day one. So I planned on the product being successful. I didn’t just hold and not do anything. So from the very first interaction with the supplier, I asked for terms and they said no. And I said, okay, that’s fair but what do I have to do to get terms? And they said, well, you need to place a few more orders, we need to be comfortable with each other and I said, perfect, fine, no problem. So it was a natural process at that point. I placed three orders. Yeah, it was a short period but I placed three orders. I showed that I was serious and so I said, look, I’m going to need new terms or I’m going to have to find another supplier and it really was kind of that. I don’t want to be threatening but it was kind of like hey if you’re not going to give me terms, I’m going to go somewhere else. And so they came back and gave me 30-day terms.
Joe V.: So you were able to actually…
Joe C.: Yeah, so it was kind of ridiculous, actually. What they are giving me was 30-day terms and I was able to renegotiate and say, yes, 30 days from the day I received the product.
Joe V.: That solves a big cash flow problem right there.
Joe C.: Huge. Because most places will give you 30-day terms, but it’s from when they shipped the product.
Joe V.: Right.
Joe C.: So I wanted it from when I received it. And I wanted it from when I received the product in full. And I say that because I was doing air shipping so I would receive shipments in bunches. So I might place one big order and I might receive 10 shipments over two weeks before I get the complete order. So I kind of knew that I was working the system a little bit, but they were happy. I was paying on time and so we were able to kind of grow using that structure. But it was only about a month later before we got into another big cash crunch because the size of the orders were growing, the volume was growing, all the money was going back and inventory as you know and it was to a point where 30 days wasn’t enough. I needed to buy more than 30 days’ supply to cover everything and it was like round two of the next challenge as the business grew…
Joe V.: How did you solve that? Was it just living off your wife’s paycheck, doing Air B&B, and scraping dollars together and living a conservative financial life at home? How did you do it?
Joe C.: Yeah so I have reached out to friends and family. I asked for money. Everybody told me no. I start reaching out to other investors, people that I knew that would maybe do hard money loans. All of them that agreed, which was I think, one or two said they’d do it but they wanted 50% of the business which I wasn’t willing to give up any percentage of the business. And so I just kind of scrambled. I think at one point I sold my car and we just continued to scrounge and scrape.
Joe V.: I love that. I love that you sold your car; that you got to do whatever you got to do to feed the business and feed that cash flow problem. That is brilliant. How long was it, Joe, before you were able to take any money out of the business for yourself or did you in that three or four year period?
Joe C.: I did and probably looking back, it was one of the biggest mistakes I made. It was siphoning money from this company versus reinvesting. I think we could have been talking about a much larger exit had I reinvested versus taking the money but the bottom line is I needed the money. And my goal still was the hardest thing. So hindsight in 2020 that’s fine but at the time my goal was financial security and not to get too far into the story but when my dad sold his business and when we had to basically move on from there, we sort of lost everything. We built our dream home. We had all the toys. Of course like good Americans we had overextended ourselves as well and gone into a bunch of debt to have all of that stuff. But when he said he was selling his business, there were no job opportunities in that area that we lived. We lived at a small northern Michigan town, there were no jobs, and I knew we were going to have to move. So we sold the house. We sold everything we had essentially. We packed up what was left into a moving van and we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, without having any clue what was in Raleigh other than my wife had lined up a job with one of those suppliers that we had bought from the last business. So we were sort of starting over, but we had sort of lost everything and to be completely honest it wasn’t the first time I lost everything. It was the second time that I completely lost everything and went into pretty significant debt so it was a big driver for me; it was to get financially free. And to me at that point, I was also following a guy named Dave Ramsey, I was following his debt snowball and so my number one focus was get out of debt. And so I was pulling money out of the business to pay off cars. I didn’t buy myself another car until I could pay cash for one. I didn’t buy a house until I could a big down payment down because we were renting at the time. When we bought a house, we bought a five-bedroom house for me and my wife and we rented out three bedrooms. And so we just kind of continued that path of doing whatever we have to do and it was super uncomfortable living with people really sucks and it’s really tough on a marriage. And running a business is tough but you just keep working and finding your way through it.
Joe V.: Now I understand why the feeling; and this is why I ask about how it felt when you sold the business when it’s finally done and you said the weight of the world was lifted off your shoulder because you’ve gone into debt, the wrong way two times and you’ve got Air B&B to strangers coming to your house and taking up three bedrooms while trying to run a business and survive a marriage as well. So congratulations on fighting through it all and doing whatever it takes to succeed because that’s the bottom line. You know I’m mentoring a couple of entrepreneurs from a local college now and they’re 21 and 22 years old. And one of the conversations I had recently was that they need to file for a business and incorporate and one said it’s $300 and they don’t actually have the money for that and I’m like suck it up. Look around your run and sell something. You can scrape together $300. You’re not going to ever become an entrepreneur if you can’t do what you did, which is anything you have to do to survive and sell your car and credit card loans and whatever it takes to do it. And you did smart; you had a business that was already taking off so that’s good. I want to talk about two things. I want to talk about the first few days of how you put together a launch and how you learned to do that and launched the business but I also want to talk about your goal. So let’s talk about the launch first. What marketing techniques did you use or put together and what would you recommend to others in order to put that initial campaign together? Did you spend money on advertising, did you just do organic traffic, did you do outside traffic; what did you do?
Joe C.: Yeah. So it wasn’t what I would consider very sophisticated. I was, again, kind of fortunate that the market that I went into was not highly competitive. The listings that I was competing against were very poorly created in Amazon so my listing from day one just crushed everybody. And it was just before this particular market got a lot of competition. As a matter of fact, my product is what launched the competition in this category and now there are thousands of competitors that are highly optimized and it’s very challenging to get in to. But when I first started it was very easy to beat all of the competitors in that space. And so all I really did was run ads. I ran some Facebook ads, but mostly it was just Amazon ads.
Joe V.: Facebook ads to the Amazon store or to a specific keyword or something like that?
Joe C.: Yeah, mostly Facebook ads went to my own website. I did have a Shopify store and I had some Google ads that were going directly to my Amazon page and I had the Amazon ad platform and Amazon ad platform was the big driver. The Google ads did a little bit. Number one, what they really did, though, is they helped the page get a ranking for the keywords that I was targeting.
Joe V.: Get ranked on Amazon or in Google?
Joe C.: In Google. So after we launched that product, it was maybe two months until our Amazon listing was the number one listing for our target keyword.
Joe V.: I got you.
Joe C.: So there were strategies like that that I learned so that was conscious. I didn’t do anything super sophisticated with the launch, though. I didn’t have an audience. I didn’t build an audience beforehand. All things that I think are necessities now with the competition being so much higher than it was then.
Joe V.: Yeah.
Joe C.: But yeah, at the time it was not a super sophisticated launch. Essentially what drove the revenue was the Amazon ads in their network just going direct to my page.
Joe V.: And in a not necessarily highly competitive space at the time; it is now because you created the niche or the better niche as you will. All right, let’s talk about your goal. You and I, I want to say we first chatted in 2018 and you were living not in Raleigh at that time, but you were living on the coast of North Carolina. How important is it in your opinion for an entrepreneur to learn about again, get trained on what it takes to sell your business; that exit path, and to set goals? How important was it for you and how important is it on the priority list of things to do for entrepreneurs, in your opinion?
Joe C.: Yeah, so I think the best time to think about when you’re going to sell your business is the day you start planning to launch a business. And the second-best time to do that is right now if you haven’t done that. So the earlier you can start the better. And a lot of people, in the beginning, it’s difficult because you have so many other fears; fears that the business isn’t going to be successful, I’m going to launch it, and I’m going to get traffic and so many other things in your mind that’s taking up space. It’s hard to think about how I am going to sell this business down the road but you don’t have to put a lot of time in the beginning, you just have to know that eventually, that’s where you want to go. And so when you know that and if you know how to structure that business for sale then you’re just going to be starting off on a much better place. So I got the privilege of watching my dad go through a sale and I did get to listen to him complain about all the things that were going on with the sale like oh we had to clean up the books. And that took three months to get the books cleaned before they can even move forward with the due diligence properly. And there were so many aspects that were kind of snags for him to actually get that exit. So I kind of have the benefit of watching what he went through and realized day one, I need a CPA. I need somebody who’s going to watch this money because I know I’m not organized enough to do it. So literally, I launched the business within the first couple of weeks when I saw I was going to be a successful product I hired a CPA. Could I afford to? Not really but I knew I had to do and I know I really couldn’t afford much.
Joe V.: What did the CPA do for you? Because I always say the bookkeeper manages your books on a monthly basis, the CPA files your taxes. In this situation what did the CPA do for you?
Joe C.: Yes, so the CPA did a combination. My wife ended up eventually taking over the books when she was able to leave her job.
Joe V.: Did you use QuickBooks or Xero?
Joe C.: QuickBooks.
Joe V.: Okay.
Joe C.: Yeah, and we kept pretty simple. So it was the CPA was more important of just setting up QuickBooks for me so when they charged the fee it was ridiculously cheap, really. They charged a fee to just set up QuickBooks and then once it was set up, my wife could do the bookkeeping. So they weren’t expensive in the beginning. I still couldn’t afford them but it wasn’t expensive. And so I remember like literally at that time I was like whoa they’re going to charge me 50 bucks a month or something. I don’t know if this is a good idea we can’t afford that. We have to go elsewhere when I say we can’t afford it. That was my mindset, my frame of mind. But I was happy I did it. It helped us get started on the right foot. The QuickBooks was really pretty clean from day one. The business was not complex anyways so it was I think a good move. But the more complex you are the more important that is. And just those small things like planning to be successful is hard when you’re not successful yet. But it certainly, I think in my case, paid off to start that way. So a CPA or a bookkeeper or somebody that can help you if you’re not good with it was important. If you’re great with it, you can do it all yourself. That’s fine. But you’re going to be doing many other things you got to figure out where it makes sense to spend your time.
Joe V.: Yeah, I think it’s really important to do that bookkeeping part because like you say it snags at the end. If you wake up one day and decide, okay I’m ready I want to sell my business but you haven’t done your bookkeeping, guess what? You’re not ready to sell your business. You’ve got to do that bookkeeping and get it done right in order to exit the business.
Joe C.: You might be ready to sell but your business isn’t.
Joe V.: Right. Yeah, so if you’ve got a seven-figure business, even if it’s six figures, if it’s only $100,000, there’s someone out there in the world that has worked very hard to save $100,000 and they are going to buy your business. They’re not simply going to look at your merchant processing account or your seller account and say okay, yeah, here’s the money. You really need to have your financials together; vendor invoices, cost of goods sold, all of this stuff, cost of goods sold on an accrual basis people, really, really important stuff that has to be done in order to exit without those snags. You can always sell, but you’re going to be able to sell for more if you do what you did which is 18, 24 months in advance we started having conversations. And each time the value kept going up that we had conversations. Let’s talk about that for a minute because I always say let’s reverse engineer your path to success. Set a financial goal and a happiness goal; happiness goals and setting financial goals. Thank you, David Wood, for the happiness goal. I think it’s really important. Yours, Joe, was a huge burden off your back that made you happy and you go fishing now and enjoy it without thinking about the debt that you had because you don’t have any. So happiness goal, financial goal, and then reverse engineer a path to that. Sometimes it’s 12 months, sometimes it’s 24. You can’t do that successfully without knowing the value of your business today. You can’t do that without having good financials. So it all is interwoven together. But your financial goal, if I recall, moved. You set that goal and then you moved that goalpost a little higher or further down the road. Can you talk about that path? Because you had I think you said $40,000 in debt when you started this business and then you took more debt out eventually. Did you pay off your debt while the business is growing and that’s the money maybe you shouldn’t have taken out because you followed Dave Ramsey’s program, which I think is brilliant too, by the way, and then what was your mental process for setting that exit financial goal and once the value of the business was there did we list it or did you move that goalpost further down the road? I honestly don’t recall the details.
Joe C.: Yeah. So starting the business, the goal was man this would be cool if I could pay a car payment or something like that and we got to that part pretty quickly. And then, of course, again, you move the goalposts constantly, right? So, man, it’d be cool if we could make a house payment. And then it became, man, it’d be cool if we could pay these cars off and pay off our credit cards and boy it’d be really cool if we could pay off our mortgage and over that first two-year span, we accomplished that. And so when I started talking to you, I don’t think we can quite pay off our mortgage yet but we were debt-free otherwise. We were just working on our mortgage and that is the money that I was pulling out of the business. And so when I started talking to you and started talking about exit, it was actually during the time that we had had a big hiccup in the business, a big stumbling point and I was frustrated and I just wanted to be done and I didn’t know how I was going to do it. But after speaking with Mike first, he recommended I speak with you. And so that was kind of our first introduction and you stomped on my heart. You said you’re not ready. Your business is in a very bad position right now.
Joe V.: It must have been trending down at the time.
Joe C.: It was trending way down. This was essentially right when the mass competition came on board. I went from having no competitors to one or two to hundreds. And I’ve come to find out a big part of the reason for that is that Amazing Selling Machine used my product as an example in their course.
Joe V.: Oh wow.
Joe C.: And I reached out to them and said, hey, what the hell, guys? You know I’m one of your students, right? And they were like, oh, we didn’t have any idea you were a student of ours, sorry, we won’t do that in future releases but what’s done is done, you know. And so they’re like the biggest Amazon selling training course out there.
Joe V.: Yeah.
Joe C.: Literally overnight we just had hundreds of people copy our product and hit Amazon. And the business started to tank as far as our revenues it really started to go down. I was burned out at this point. I was frustrated. And I was hopeful for whatever reason, I was going to be able to still sell for some big number. And you were like no, it’s not going to happen. If you sell right now, you’re going to give it to somebody.
Joe V.: Yeah.
Joe C.: What you told me was you’d be better running it into the ground then you’re just not going to get what you want for yourself.
Joe V.: That’s right. Take as much money out as you can and let it inaudible[00:38:34.4] Yeah, those are hard conversations when I’m telling you that, being relentlessly honest as we say at Quiet Light and not tell you what you want to hear.
Joe C.: But you know what if someone was my, I guess, drive that was what I needed to hear because I realized again if I wanted to hit my goals of having that financial security, I couldn’t just give up. And so that turned me around. That turned me from being down and being depressed to being pissed off and realizing you know what, you’ve gotten this far, you can beat these guys that are just starting and you’ve got two years off. Figure it out, quit worrying about what everybody else is doing, and figure out how you can win. And so, I mean, it was literally I think we hung up the phone and that shift in my mindset happened and I just went right to work on how am I going to fix this, how am I going to beat these guys? I’m very competitive. I played hockey my whole life growing up. I’m just super competitive. So when that shift happened from kind of loser to, hey figure it out; yeah, we were able to turn it around. And so it took about six months to get back to that number one position and back to where the revenue was decent. That took about another six months before we were where I felt we should be in terms of the revenue. And to your credit, you reached out every quarter or so to check in on me and that was always super helpful because it just reminded me of the goal. And so sometimes it’s just so easy to get caught up in everything that’s going on in your business that it was great to feel like I had some people in my core. Mike was another one that I could reach out to at any time and he would jump on a call and talk me off a ledge or give me some input. So having those resources to be able to reach out to when things aren’t going well is just; I don’t know how else to put it, it’s just super valuable. Yeah, so it took about a full year to really; it took six months to basically turn things around, it took another six months to gain back what we had lost in sales and get back to where it felt like we could potentially exit. Then we had another call and you said okay, good, now you need to run it for another year. Because I was like oh great, we’re back, now we can sell it and you’re like hey man, you need a trailing 12 months at this level if you really want to sell it. So you crushed my heart again.
Joe V.: I am sorry about that.
Joe C.: But the reality was; no, it’s fine because things were good. And so I was up and I was just like oh yeah okay, fine. I can run it for another year. Maybe I can even grow it a little bit. So that’s what we really focused on and pushed through. And so you started that question really with what kind of got you there and what made the decision to actually sell? And that was literally hitting like the 10 month part period where for 10 months nothing went well. That’s literally what made me realize we need to list this in because you told me, hey, you need a trailing 12 months of solid numbers and then you’re good. At 10 months I was like, holy crap we’re two months away from that. There’s nothing in the forefront that makes me believe that we won’t hit that. Let’s call Joe. So I reached out to you and boy, what an interesting time to make that decision, right? Because look what happened just a few months later.
Joe V.: Yeah, we closed; we’re recording today on April 13th, 2020 folks and we ended up listing the business in mid-November, headed under LOI within two or three weeks, chose to close in January for tax purposes. Good for you, Joe, because you had moved to Florida, partial tax year down there, no taxes on state level and then, a grace period of another 15 months before you had to pay your taxes for the sale. Yeah, and then COVID hit. So I think in your niche sales probably went up though but still, the world is incredibly unstable and maybe better of peace of mind that you sold versus holding on. There are a lot of folks that waited and now have to wait even longer to see relatives come back. It’s a tough situation all around.
Joe C.: And you know it doesn’t matter that your business does well in these times because if you can’t get inventory or you can’t get inventory on Amazon, you’re still not making sales so there are so many challenges. And the other challenge is that I lived with; lived and breathed every day, day and night I mean, so that decision to sell was based on a lot of things. But yeah, it was definitely the right time and it worked out well for me and it gave me the freedom to now look back and say okay, what did I do, what made that successful, how can I repeat that in my next business, and how can I do it even better maybe? For me better means a better lifestyle. I don’t want to do it again and work the way that I worked and worry the way that I worried before. And surprisingly when you have some money in the bank, a lot of those worries do go away. A lot of things do get easier and so now the big thing is make sure you don’t make a big, stupid mistake because you’ve got money to spend and go about it like a clean start up again and remember what it takes to do that and then start from that.
Joe V.: Great advice all around, I love your story, Joe. What is your next adventure, any clues or hints that you can give us? Because if anybody out there is in the audience that might have an interest in it or can contribute to it in any way maybe they’ll reach out.
Joe C.: Yeah. So what I kind of took away from my last business is that being passionate about the products for me is important. Some people are just passionate about business and so they don’t have to really be passionate about the product so much. In my last business, I was passionate about the business, but I was also passionate about the product. And even more importantly, and this is just through self-reflection that I kind of realized recently I was passionate about my customer and I was passionate about that customer getting success. And so for me, it was realizing that it’s not just the business, it’s not just the product, and it’s not just the customer. It was kind of a combination of those three things that I think helped push me through the hard times. Because there were so many more ups and downs that we didn’t even get into that if you’re not passionate about something within that, you’re going to struggle. And for me, if I wasn’t passionate about all three of those things, I might have faltered. So as you said I’m a fisherman and I’m looking in that market and seeing where I can contribute my value. And so I just registered a new trademark last week and we’re starting on working on those offers and seeing where we can beat the competition.
Joe V.: Excellent. Well, I look forward to having you back on the podcast and telling that story of your next exit although you’ve just started; you’ve just begun. Thanks for sharing your story, Joe. It’s amazing going from being a dad at the age of 17, 17 in two days, if you will, to a seven-figure exit 24 years later, supporting your family and getting a big burden off your back and living debt-free. Congratulations. It’s been a privilege working with you and an honor to know you. I look forward to getting out of Florida and maybe go fishing with you someday personally.
Joe C.: Absolutely. Well, I appreciate all your help as well and I look forward to being back.
Joe V.: All right man, talk to you soon.