Show notes for this episode:
Hey, how's it going? It's Ollie here. So today we're going to talk about the number one business lesson they don't teach you at Harvard Business School. Now, recently I've had a look through the curriculum of a Harvard Business MBA, ‘cause I really wanted to double check that I got this right.
And from what I can see from the information they make public online, I think this is absolutely true. During a Harvard MBA business course, they give you no training, no preparation for what to do when shit gets real in business. And this is exactly what we're gonna talk about today.
So here's the thing. This is my point that I wanted to make today. Knowledge, by itself, knowledge of business, knowledge of the strategies, of the tactics, of the tools - it does nothing.
I talked to a lot of people every week about building Amazon businesses.
In fact, each week I talked to maybe 30 to 40 new individual people, myself personally every week, who were interested in building businesses on Amazon.
And you know what's one thing that a lot of them have in common is they've watched so many videos. They've listened to so many podcast episodes. They've read so many blogs. A lot of them have even invested in courses and paid for information.
They have so much knowledge. They're telling me things about strategies and the different ways you can sell and market products and everything to do with all different areas of the Amazon business. They've got all of this knowledge. Some of them have been studying for years.
And here's one thing I've learned after speaking to literally thousands of people over the past few years about building Amazon businesses – it’s that there's no correlation between the amount of knowledge you have and the amount of money you make in business. There's no correlation. It doesn't add up.
You could study business for 20 years and then go ahead and build a business and it could completely crash and burn. And this happens a lot. A lot of people study business at college. They study business and a master's.. they do a PhD in business.. and they're curious – in their studying business for years, sometimes even decades, they try and build one and it fails.
So knowledge really isn't the answer here if you want to get success. There's gotta be something else. So what is the other thing? What is the missing link that knowledge just can't get you.. that's actually going to make you successful when it comes to building a business?
Well, here’s the thing. At Harvard - if you go to Harvard and you get an MBA, you study theory. Now I had a look earlier on today at the price, the total cost of studying at Harvard for two years to do an MBA, and the estimated total costs, including tuition, accommodation, all other things, amounts to $213,000 to go to Harvard and do an MBA.
Now, arguably, Harvard MBA in business is the best business course on the planet, right? I mean, it's certainly the most expensive that I've seen. It's certainly the most prestigious. So you can't really get better knowledge than that. But what do you do during the Harvard MBA while you study?
You read books, you go to lectures, you do tests, you do assignments, you do projects, you network with people, you talk to the professors, speakers come in and deliver talks. What is all this stuff though? It's all theory, right?
You're basically paying $213,000 for a two-year program to study theory. The one thing you will never get during Harvard MBA is the emotional experience of running a business. And this is what I wanted to talk about today. What happens when shit gets real business? How do you cope with that? How can you prepare yourself to be able to deal with the real things that happen in business?
Well, what are some of these things? Let's go through a few examples and you'll start to get exactly what I mean. Number one, spending money on things up front with no guarantee that those things are going to generate you money.
So for example, let's say you've got to buy stock to sell on Amazon. I could tell you that this niche is the best niche on the planet. I could have done all the research. I could have given you all the stats and everything, but really there's no way I can guarantee if you buy some stock, it's going to sell.
On some level there, you're taking some kind of risk. The second you get out your card and you place an order with a supplier and actually order some stock, now you've transitioned from the theory of looking at products, to the reality of realizing that this stuff might not sell.
And you know, a lot of people can't get over that hurdle. And then they stay in the product research phase, in inverted commas, for years. Product research becomes another way of saying procrastination and messing around because you’re kind of terrified. That's what product research is a euphemism for. So that's one example.
Another one is dealing with people. Dealing with people. The biggest thing you will deal with in your business day to day, the biggest obstacle, the biggest challenge, will be people. Now, when you're studying business, when you're listening to podcasts, when you're watching videos, or when you're at Harvard or whatever, you don't really have to deal with people in order to get your work done. It's just you.
You might have a few group projects, but really to get a good grade, it's just you, it's your knowledge. It's how you attack the test. It's how you revise and learn and study. It's you, you're not depending on many people, you're not leveraging someone to do the exams for you.
So when you run a real business, people are a thing you need to consider. When you deal with a supplier, that supplier’s a human being. And when you have a staff member, that staff member’s a human being, when you work with an accountant, that accountant’s a human being. And the thing is, human beings can be the most incredible.
They can give you the most incredible experiences in the world. And all of my best experiences ever have been as a result of people. But also they can be the worst thing in the world as well. As humans, we're very irrational, we're emotional. We can be mean, we can be unfair, we can be inconsiderate. You have to be emotionally ready to deal with people.
You can't get that from watching a video. If someone's ripped you off on purpose, you're never going to have an idea of what that feels like if you've just been watching a video. Not that that happens very often, but it's hard to read a book on how to deal with that. You have to just go through it.
Another example would be the feeling of your business getting out of control. Your business might go really well for a while, but then it might start to falter and things might start to.. you might feel like you're running it into the ground.
Your expenses might go through the roof. So it might change, and things might change direction. I don't know - the price of importing might increase, or Amazon's pay-per-click costs might go up, or the storage fees, or your supplier can't work with you anymore.
All of a sudden you feel like you've lost this control. And that can be very hard to learn how to deal with. Because no video is going to tell you how to deal with that. No podcast episodes are gonna help you deal with that. It's something that you have to just experience and learn how to deal with in practice.
Also, with a lot of these things that are so unpredictable, you might have all these fears about what could go wrong in business. And those fears that you have, none of them might go wrong.
You might have those things be fine and then something completely unexpected might happen that throws you off. And that might be the thing that makes you feel like you're losing control. That is obviously hard to prepare for because you don't even know the thing is going to be. And that's just the way life is.
Another example would be staff. This is like an extension of dealing with people. When you have to hire staff, look after them, make sure they're happy, but at the same time, make sure they're doing the work they're being paid to do, which can be challenging. That can be hard.
You either feel like you’re sometimes you're being walked all over. Well, sometimes you can feel like you're being, you know, a dictator and you're micromanaging. So finding that balance is tough and learning how to deal with that when that gets real can be hard as well.
A final example is dealing with the uncertainty. When you have a job, you at least have the false sense of security and certainty that you might be at that position for a long time. As we know, in reality, this doesn't happen. People get laid off all the time. So there's no certainty in the job market. However, at least sometimes you can convince yourself that things are certain, right?
However, in business, there's no such certainty. There's no contract that you have with your business that says you're going to earn X amount every month. There's no benefits you're going to get, there's no opportunities for promotion.
You know, it's all uncertain. You don't know if one of your suppliers is going to cut you off or if the market's going to change, or if the strategies aren't going to work soon, or, you know, these things you just don't know. So dealing with this uncertainty, again, is something you just can't learn from watching a video.
You know, I've just been talking about relatively negative things that you have to emotionally deal with. And I've made it seem like business's just full of horrible stuff. And it wouldn't be fair for me not to mention the positive stuff too. Like, you know, there are going to be times when actually your business goes so unbelievably well that you don't know how to handle that either.
In fact, you know, I've had months where I've literally made six figures in sales and that can actually be like, that's an incredibly intense experience. And while it's so much fun when you have an incredible month like that, it's really cool, and it's really exciting, and it's kind of why I'm in business because I get that rush it's so fun, you have to learn not to get ahead of yourself in those situations.
‘Cause if you have an incredible month and you get a win and it goes really, really well, and you make a ton of money - which really does happen, you need to know not to get too excited and make silly decisions. I've had it where I've had an incredible month and it's just gone unbelievably well. And then I've done things like basing my estimations for the rest of the year on that month.
So I've had a month where I make, I dunno, I had a month where I made 820 grand in sales and I thought, oh my God, this is incredible. Now I have a business that makes 120 grand every single month. And obviously this isn't going to happen. Sometimes months will be great. Sometimes months will be less great.
You know, in any eCommerce business, in any business, your best month isn't always gonna be the same as your worst month. Your income will go up and down. And that was a lesson I had to learn, again, through experience like dealing with the incredible stuff. Like, you get a load of freedom when you're selling on Amazon, you could travel. I've been able to go to like five-star hotels all over the world, travel business class, you can do that.
So sometimes it's about learning how to cope with that as well. ‘Cause the lifestyle can get quite intense when you're doing crazy things, especially if you're not used to it, learning how to cope with that as well.
And obviously this is like a great problem to have, and I'm not complaining, but sometimes it can get a bit much, it can get a bit intense, and learning how to deal with intensely good experiences while still running a business and having to like, you know, stay grounded can be difficult as well.
So this is the point I'm trying to make. This is the point I'm trying to make. These things are just not theory. They're like polar opposite of theory. It's almost like if you were trying to read books about going into battle and fight on the front lines in World War II.
Can you imagine how vastly different it is? Reading a book about it versus actually doing it? Like, this thing you just could not even imagine that you would have to emotionally deal with, actually they're like, you just wouldn't even, it's impossible to relate.
In fact, I would argue that a kid running a lemonade stand selling lemonade on the side of the road has more emotional experience running a business than someone who's come out of Harvard with an MBA. Because they've done it.
They've dealt with customers, they've made profit, or not. They've had people come back to them and tell them they don't like the lemonade or they've bought too much. Maybe they've had to deal with refunds. They've had to do marketing. Making the sign and sticking it on the cardboard box in real life.
They've seen what works better. They know how much sugar to put in and how much ice to buy. And this stuff is real and you can't plan for this stuff. Practice is the only thing that's going to move you forward if you want to learn this stuff.
Let me give you a few examples of a few things I'm doing that are helping me cope with shit getting real in business that you could never get from listening to a podcast or watching a video.
For example, one thing I'm doing right now is I'm purposefully trying to build discipline, purposefully trying to build discipline. So here's the thing, you want to imagine that running a business is going to involve only doing the things we like to do.
For example, if you really like looking for products, then you might do that. And you might just want to do that all day. And you might want to build a business where you can just do the things you enjoy doing. ‘Cause it feels nice, right?
Maybe you might have this idea that you'd want to outsource everything you don't enjoy doing. You want to hire people to do the other stuff. And this might be an amazing dream for you. And it is actually in theory, it's a good idea to do that. To only focus on the stuff that you are really good at and that you enjoy doing, a lot of people call it your zone of genius.
But here's the thing. Sometimes if you really want to grow and you want to hit big goals, you have to do stuff that you don't want to do. Stuff that you don't enjoy doing. It's just the way it is.
So really, the people who the furthest in business aren't the ones who just do what they love doing. They're the ones who can do most of the things that equate to hitting their goals, including all the stuff that they don't love doing, the stuff that they hate doing, but needs to be done anyway.
The people who can do that are the ones that grow the fastest because they have discipline. Then instead of being like a snowflakey human who's just full of emotion and only wants to do certain things and cowers away from other things, you turn from a snowflake into like a machine, like a robot that is built with one purpose.
And that purpose is to build a business, to hit your goals and to move forward. Doesn't matter whether the task is fun or horrendous, it doesn't matter, right? You do it anyway, ‘cause it's what you need to do.
So that's what I'm focusing on at the moment. And you know, I'm doing loads of things like calling people all day. For example, I call people, I speak to tons of people on the phone who are interested in building an Amazon business. Now, I'm a massive introvert and I never imagined I want to be in some kind of sales job where I was on the phone all day, this is not something I want to do forever.
However, now I'm starting to realize that even though being on the phone all day isn't me being in my zone of genius, I'm starting up to build up so much discipline and I'm going through doing things which I find challenging. And it's really helping me grow. You'll grow so much more when you do stuff that is difficult. So that's an example of something you can only learn when you're doing things in practice.
I never would have known that six or seven years ago that doing stuff I didn't want to do was beneficial. And that's not something you can learn on a course or by reading.
For another example, one thing I've learned is how to remove emotions from tasks. A lot of tasks you'll do in your business will make you feel emotional. That could be something as simple as dealing with an angry customer. Some customers, you know, you get something wrong and they’re firm about what they want and what they're not happy about, but they're reasonable. And dealing with them is actually fine. It's fine.
You know, you get it. You know you messed up. You're not happy to give people refunds, you're not like, yay, I'm going to give you a refund now I can't wait. No, but you accept it.
However, on the other hand, there are customers who are completely unreasonable and very, very difficult to deal with. And that's quite often when emotions can rise, you get triggered, you get upset, you get angry, might even get anxious and worried. And you know, these things happen and your emotions will rise.
If you can remove the emotion from these tasks, it just makes your life so much easier. For example, if you have an irrational customer, rather than getting emotional and triggered and sending a heated reply back to them, why not develop a standard operating procedure to deal with that customer?
So whenever you get another customer like them, instead of getting emotional, you just go through the standard operating procedure and the problem’s dealt with. You didn't get heated and you can just move on with your life. So there are a couple of examples.
So this was my point today. Doing this stuff in practice is the only way you're going to learn how to run a business. I think one of the biggest barriers that stops a lot of people from getting started is feeling like they're ready.
And, as a matter of fact, you could go to the most expensive university on the planet - let's say it's Harvard - you could spend 200 grand on your degree and your MBA, you could have all that “preparation” and it would do nothing to help you become a better business owner.
Well, yeah, you might have some, extra knowledge and you might know a bit of theory and don't get me wrong. It can help for sure. But nothing is going to be as useful as real skin in the game experience. So this is the point I wanted to make.
Don't wait until you're ready. Don't wait until you know enough. Don't wait until you've found the perfect tool. Don't wait until you found the perfect product because none of that stuff exists. The biggest teacher is going to be moving forward, even if you mess up.
In fact, the quicker you can get comfortable with the feeling of messing things up and not being perfect, the better, because it's going to happen at some point. When you’re running a business, you're going to screw up at some point.
If you do it early on, and then you just keep going anyway, you've already learned that lesson. You've learned that yeah, you might have lost a few thousand. Doesn't mean that your whole life has collapsed. You can make a few thousand just as easily.
You know, I had a student who, before he joined my program, he spent 10K on stock, imported the product, took him nine months to get it into the warehouse, big, bulky product. And then he realized after that, it wasn't going to sell.
We were talking on the phone, you know, he was telling me he's done all this. And he told me what the product was, and I was looking at it and I was thinking, oh my God, this is not a niche we should be going for.
And I could see why he had all the problems and I could see why the product wasn't selling, but you know what, through doing that he’s miles ahead of somebody who's trying to be perfect and has got all the knowledge and knows exactly which product you should order and has the perfect product on their database but hasn't got started yet. He's miles ahead.
Even though he's lost 10 grand, he was miles ahead. Why? Because he's had some experience, he's been through the process. He knows what not to do, but he did do some things right as well. And in the end, we actually worked on his listing, worked on his product, worked on his marketing. And he basically got most of the money back because we managed to sell it. And we put a unique twist on some of the copy and some of the stuff we put in the listing worked.
So he had all the experience. He learned from it, his life didn't completely end. And he spent 10K, which he got most of it back on this learning experience, which he now has for life. I would argue that that investment was much wiser than the $200,000 investment in an MBA, because I bet you, he learned a lot more from that experience through actually living it than somebody would two years listening to lectures.
So here's the thing. I want you to get started. I want you to just get started. That's the only way you're going to learn this stuff is to get started. And I'm not saying you should take a huge risk.
I'm not saying you should go ahead and you know, oh well, I need to get into the game. I need to spend 10 grand on stock. No, you could spend 500 pounds on stock. You could spend a thousand pounds on stock. You can spend 50 pounds on stock. Just do something, and take small calculated risks along the way through doing this.
As soon as you do it, you'll learn exactly what I mean. You experience these things. You'll feel these feelings, these emotions, shit will get real and gradually you'll get better and better and better at learning how to deal with it.
Nobody goes into business in the beginning knowing how to deal with all this stuff. You need like a couple years before you know how to do it. The first few years of really learning how to make it happen and how to deal with it and how to be okay with it and prosper in spite of it.
In fact, my tolerance to uncertainty now is just so unbelievably high. I don't know what's going to happen next week, next month, but I've built up a resistance to it. And when you can do that and when you can adapt, it genuinely, genuinely changes your future. Because then anything that could potentially happen, if you can adapt, you can turn it into a win, right?
In fact, we're going through one of the biggest economic downturns ever, probably in the next two years. Right? And you'll see, there'll be some entrepreneurs who just completely fail and their businesses crash and burn and things go very bad, very wrong. And it won't all be their fault.
Things happen to people that are completely out of their control, but there'll also be entrepreneurs who it looks like they should have failed and lost everything, but they managed to adapt and somehow the better off.
You need to learn how to be adaptable like those people. And again, the only way to get that skill is through experience. You can't read a book on how to be adaptable. It just doesn't work because you could know what to do in your head. But if you don't believe you could do it and you can't deal with the process of doing it, then it's not going to happen. And you'll just crumble.
So practicing is just the key. So if you do take anything away from this episode, other than this, then it will be a win. And that is, I want you to just do something right now. Just do something right now. One action. It could be anything. It could just be going to sellercentral.amazon.co.uk and setting up an account - professional account and paying whatever it is, 30 pounds a month.
Just go and do that. You can do that right now while you're listening to this podcast on your phone, if you want, and you can get moving and you can get started. And through that process of even just setting up the account, you'll learn stuff, you'll learn that things aren't always gonna go your way. You will learn that Amazon might ask you for a document that takes a couple of days to arrive and it's annoying.
You’ll learn this stuff. You will learn way more for doing that. Seeing what the backend of the website looks like, looking at where the balance will come, when you get your first sale. And in all these things, you'll learn more from that because you're doing it rather than reading about someone else doing it.
And also people talk about getting to six figures, right? This is what people talk about or getting to the point where you've replaced the income from your job. Like I say, I talked to tons of people every week about building Amazon businesses. And they always say, I want to replace the income from my job. I don't know, three grand a month, four grand a month, five grand a month, whatever it is, I want to replace that so I can quit my job. And that's a good goal.
It's not unrealistic or anything. It’s doable. And I've helped tons of people do that. But you shouldn't be thinking about that right now because it's quite distant. It's quite a distant goal. It could be many months before that happens. So I want you to just focus all your energy into getting one sale. It's all you need to do. Focus all your energy into getting one sale.
Because if you can do that, if you can get one sale, number one, it's real. And it's actually going to happen. Five grand a month to you might not feel real. That might feel a bit pie in the sky, even though it's not like it, you might not really believe it just now it might feel like a pipe dream, but one sale actually, that's doable. And that's doable within a couple of weeks. If you have the strategy, if you know what to do, if you test a product rapidly, you could get a sale within a couple of weeks. So switch your focus to that goal.
And if you can do that, once you've experienced that little bit of money going into your bank account, even if it's just 12 pounds, it will start the journey which will begin to change everything for you. The contrast between reading about people making millions versus you making 12 pounds is unbelievable, it's night and day.
You'll get more excited about 12 pounds than you will about reading someone making a hundred million, because it's the real cold, hard cash that goes into your bank. It’s the emotional experience of seeing that happen through something you chose, something you sold, you can't beat that. And that will start the momentum for you to just take more action and get more results and make a mistake and learn from it and adapt. And that's what will actually get you to hitting your real goals as well.
So I hope this episode inspired you. I really just wanted to talk about the distinction between theory and when shit gets real in business and how to manage it. And yeah, the main thing is getting started and just going through the process, that's it.
I don't have any other advice for you. There's no way you can prepare yourself. You just have to throw yourself in. And like many other people you'll see that. Even if stuff goes wrong, you'll be able to correct it. You live. And if you just keep moving forward, then you'll be stronger because of it.
Alright, thanks so much for listening to today's episode, I'll catch you next week.