Started Selling Live Insects to 7 Figure Income on Amazon w/ Virtual Assistants with Carlos Alvarez

Started Selling Live Insects to 7 Figure Income on Amazon w/ Virtual Assistants with Carlos Alvarez


are you ready to scale and outsource
your business okay let’s go welcome to the outsourcing and scaling show I’m
your host Nathan Hirsch a show where we talk about everything
Amazon shopify ecommerce and digital marketing let’s get started welcome back
to the outsourcing scaling show I am really pumped right yesterday Carlos
Alvarez Carlos how’re you doing today I’m doing amazing as always what’s up
Nate excited to talk to you for those of you that don’t know Carlos is a serial
entrepreneur and he’s a full time Amazon seller of nearly 12 years he’s the
organizer of the largest Amazon seller meetup group called wizards of Amazon
and he’s the only person I know that is more of EA’s than I do so Carlos welcome
to the show that’s gonna thank you man thank you that’s a good intro so yeah I
mean I normally start off with what were you like growing up taking a huge step
back where you a straight-a student were you a rebel did you know you wanted to
be an entrepreneur give us a little backstory there
no nothing glamorous man I walked out I mean literally I walked out of fourth
grade elementary school um I’m in my forties so that was kind of
unheard of back then and I just I went fishing
there was a my house was nearby there was some fishing stuff I just grabbed it
didn’t catch anything I didn’t even know how to put a worm on a hook and I just
sat there trying to fish at a local golf course and I showed up a couple weeks in
fifth grade none in sixth grade somehow back then they just passed you anyway
and no I was really a rebel as a kid just going nowhere fast
I I eventually wind up getting a GED later and I guess nothing against
college but I guess it wasn’t in the cards for me
and everything played out well anyway yeah so how’d you get into Amazon
originally I the story I like to say I get asked that a lot in the meet up so
it’s it’s a little polished right now but I had um I had several jobs I was
working as a delivering subs I was selling cigars I was working in Publix I
said delivering subs right yeah and then I had this what I call an expensive
ex-girlfriend at the time so I I wanted to constantly get
and those jobs that I had while they were working me to the bone they just
didn’t it still wasn’t enough and I couldn’t see the writing on the wall so
I one day I listed something on eBay so this is this is over 12 years ago and I
listed something on eBay and it sold quickly and the whole process of you
know somebody buying something from me that I didn’t know the shipping process
even back then the shipping the the taping the Box everything was
fascinating to me and I got paid they left a review and I was really just
hooked on the process I loved it so she’s been in Amazon for 12 years a lot
of stuff has changed throughout the years what has been the biggest
adjustments that you’ve had to make in your business scaling it’s definitely
been scaling from the time that I sold that one product on eBay I I didn’t know
about employees obviously with the lack of education I didn’t know about things
like cashflow and wages and teens and that I couldn’t do this by myself so I
learned everything the hard way and obviously once I got hooked on the
process and I started selling I maxed out what eBay could do for me at the
time and Amazon was reaching out to us on the platform back then everybody that
was running a lot of auctions which they slam you for if you did it on their
platform but they reached out and they’re like try this FBA thing and I
was just like I’m not gonna pay to send you products I’m not gonna have any
margins but go figure so what happened was when the stuff got to Amazon I was
for the first time I was confronted with I can’t like if I see if all day long i
packaged boxes to ship stuff out I would never have time to communicate with the
customers to look for new read I hit a wall that I couldn’t do it by myself I
didn’t know about Virtual Assistants or anything like that I just knew I
needed help and I wind up tapping friends and family which was the worst
thing in the world but I didn’t know any better
yes well you got you heard about Virtual Assistants for the first time walk us
through that maybe someone that hasn’t hired a virtual system before or they’ve
struggled with it what was your experience um
accidental I I got lucky I started a an insect business actually of all things
in the early days and I wind up exiting for for a few million dollars on that
business and I’m Here I am I went from broke broken single to more
money than I thought I’d ever have and I started blowing it on stuff and then I
thought I was like God’s gift to are chirpin or ship at the time I was eight
feet tall and bulletproof so two of the things I did is I hired two coaches one
of them for a lot of money one of them was for organizational things as I knew
I had an issue with organization and the other one was for virtual assistants at
the time you no longer does it was Chris Ducker and I I think everything that I
paid is now available in a free book um as a matter of fact that book I think
you just recently put something out like a book and it has ten times the
information and valued and what I paid for that stuff back then but when I
forget I think was virtual freedom and there’s your book I’m not remembering
the title but but those those books I I was like wait a minute the whole concept
of virtual CEO it was so empowering and I I was like I gotta try this out and I
don’t remember the name of a site that I went to initially to first look for my
first virtual assistants but it’s grown as my business has grown my virtual
assistants has grown my learning of working with a virtual team has grown
then from my Amazon businesses I have over thirteen Amazon seller accounts
obviously with with Amazon’s blessing on all of them plus I I didn’t want to have
all of my eggs in one basket you know a decade ago I didn’t know if I’d be doing
what I’m doing ten years later so I was using profits to start unrelated
businesses like off Amazon businesses traditional brick-and-mortar dance
studios pet grooming stores just all these different things and I was finding
a place for my virtual assistants in all of them yeah I don’t know I’m super
passionate about virtual assistants so here so here we go I decade later and at
last count it’s I always say 242 but it looks like 239 240 right now virtual
assistants on on my team let’s break it down a little bit and I
mean that’s one of the reasons that when I launched this podcast you were one of
the first people I wanted on you obviously use a lot of virtual
assistants different ways let’s talk about the Amazon business first you have
13 different Amazon accounts how are you using the Virtual Assistants what’s the
structure the tricky part for me was ah those businesses I’m the only common
denominator in them but there are totally different entities there’s
different business partners in almost every case my business partners don’t
even get along with each other in different businesses so one thing I
couldn’t do is I couldn’t train one virtual assistant say let’s just say in
customer service on Amazon and then say perfect you’re responsible for all 13
accounts I needed to do it 13 times I mean there’s some overlap but it all
needed to be separate and then so well customer service was my example but
customer service actually is uh it’s the thing that I is probably the easiest how
do I sit it’s probably one of the first things people think of when they hire a
virtual assistant now personally I think customer service is one of the most
important things in your business Amazon or otherwise so I was most reluctant to
to source that out and it’s something that I really enjoy doing in my business
it’s something that I found that I could turn a negative experience into not only
not only squashing the negative experience but turn this into like
almost an ambassador for my company and my brand so I I actually did that up
until recently even with everything going on I still fielded my own customer
surf excuse me my own customer service so
some of the things that the virtual assistants do in my business well the
easiest way to say it would be anything that is non sales or strategic anything
that is repetitive and I probably log into my Amazon seller accounts once
every month a month and a half that that’s that’s that’s about it I mean I
have a team of people in place now based on my training and then based on just
finding I hate the word expert but just very experienced professional learners
I’ve been able to bring on my team that they’re better than me I mean there’s
times they come across stuff even offering consulting and stuff I come
across issues all the time and it’s like wait a minute how do you do this and
I’ll reach out to one of my VA s and I’m like hey what’s going on or what do you
think and they know so what do you look for when you’re hiring someone Wow
that’s a loaded one they’re like we don’t know how much time do we have
no the IE nowadays I mean the more you hire someone well first of all the
hiring process is a repetitive task so the actual hiring process is something
that I’ve precised and is actually done for me or for the team by someone who I
believe is better than me which is important to say when I had a lot to do
in training that person nowadays when I’m involved in an interview process for
it for a new VA and if that means that that person is going to be working very
close with me so I want to have that interaction with them some of the
old-fashioned things I mean I have some ninja tips and all that but some of the
old-fashioned things still matter to me like we need to have a video chat you’d
be surprised how many people come dressed like like just inappropriately
to to a video chat and that that’s a that’s I mean technically I don’t care
what how they’re dressed when they’re working if we’re not on video but right
kind of like you didn’t have the etiquette to know this it leads me to
believe that there’s a lot of other things that you’re gonna be found
lacking in later lies I’m really good at interviewing certain things I know how
how long certain things take I I create test labs if you will for nearly
everything that I create for an example if I’m hiring someone to do a
Squarespace website I will show and they’ll tell me how they’re you know
God’s gift to Squarespace websites and I I’m like okay so we’ll have we’ll have a
live chat we’ll have one homepage I’ll give them the link to a Dropbox and I
like here all the files here’s the copy here’s the media everything just just go
set it up you have 20 minutes you know or an example like that if they’re going to
doing you know anything that involves like a lot of organization or customer
service I’ll do something like and this is an original to me I actually learned
this somewhere but I’ll once they’re hired I’ll send them a link when they
get the link they fill out a form they get an automatic email the email gives
them instructions the instructions might be call this phone number and if I know
they’re gonna be talking to clients then the phone number is gonna have a
voicemail letting them know tell me in 30 seconds why you’re the best person
for the job they weren’t ready for that and they need to record it they can’t
choke and it really lets me know how they think under pressure a lot of
things and it just gives them a chain of instructions to follow so so I look for
people that can follow directions that actually read all of the the criteria
that I have to get hired for and punctual not lying the base I consider
that the basics I think I think if you master the basics with with with things
you’re pretty well off so on the free up platform we obviously work with a lot of
Amazon sellers e-commerce sellers marketing agencies but we also get
random clients you mentioned pet grooming and dance studios how are you
using virtual systems for those businesses for everything for every door
direct for example Facebook’s are really good ad platform for local businesses
but also things like every door direct mail mailers through the United States
Postal Service that’s an extremely effective way to do local marketing
still like targeting a three mile radius creating those Flyers going in and
creating that every door direct mail campaign is a huge one end-of-day books
what I found you know what a lot of people say you’re hiring a VA because
it’s cheaper I don’t get me wrong it’s a business I do like saving money and
being the most efficient with money but what I don’t I don’t look for cheap I
actually filter out cheap and I I found that they’re more effective who I’m
hiring it’s not just the money the money is the icing that I’m saving money is
the icing and they’ll do end of date books they’ll do follow-up messaging
especially by email or SMS customer service for those businesses what else
showering the web for mentions tracking google alerts for you
know any bad publicity for Fernan of the locations checking Groupons and just
everything everything that you would do in a local business I love it on so
let’s shift gears a little bit you’re running these Amazon businesses what
made you start the Wizards of Amazon the Wizards of Amazon okay so a couple
friends of I of mine and I used to meet every week nearly for the last decade
like at a Starbucks and we would toss around you know the different things we
were doing in Amazon to grow all of us have been you know wildly successful
with Amazon and I think after the years it just got tired of hearing the same
war stories and we were like let’s get some fresh blood in here and I’ve used
meetup and virtual assistants with my meetup groups extremely effectively over
the last over the last decade for launching brands and building lists so I
said okay let’s do meetup and one of my friends was supposed to create the me
excuse me create the meetup group and they did not so I just had a VA go on
there for me I built a quick process and um for them
to do it they started they started the group and my first event was at a
Starbucks near my house because I didn’t think anyone was going to show and I
didn’t want to drive a long way I was for people that showed up now our events
have anywhere from 60 to 120 people per event we meet nine times a month the
reason I started it initially there was definitely three main goals in mine as
one as I wanted to create I wanted to get into annual events I wanted to
create a massive annual event for not just Amazon sellers but just online
sellers and I knew to effectively do that I probably should have a really
good base so I imagined you know provide a lot of value in the meetup group keep
it free everybody joins I’m gonna be able to build that base in like a year
or two and then another one was is I offer marketing consulting services for
Google side of things for local businesses and for online sellers so I
imagined this is probably gonna translate into
one of these situations where you’re getting all this information from
someone you’re using it and it works when you get to a point where you want a
little more hand-holding I’m probably the person you’re gonna want to reach
out to and that’s what’s happened you know every month I wind up connecting
with some people one or two of whom were on the same page and we work together so
that there is a profit side of that now that was at once a month getting it to 9
times a month is definitely what my main motivator now is I just love doing it I
realized that when I was doing it it was the first time in my life that I was in
a position where I was teaching if you will and it was intoxicating it’s like
it’s a power trip that’s what it is the end of it you get up there everyone’s
looking at you it’s a little rush and you know that you’re helping them out
I’d say that’s what drives me to do it nine times nine times a month going on
ten now the only way that happens I mean I wish there was a screenshare thing I
can do to actually show you a quick thing or like my content flow just for
the Meetup and my virtual assistants there’s there’s I think half a dozen
virtual assistants that all they do is the back end of that meetup group that’s
awesome so let’s talk about like the seven eight figure sellers that attend
your group that know you you obviously have a lot to give back when it comes to
the bigger sellers what are you consulting bigger sellers on now what do
you see that’s working what should people be aware of if they want to get
take their Amazon business the next level not just because it’s you and free
up and that we’re on this podcast but the main thing I the first thing I tell
anyone that wants to scale especially if they’re a bigger seller is virtual
assistants it’s it’s still super Amazon makes it so easy to hit that
seven-figure mark and we’re talking about gross sales here that you can
squeak into that vicinity going solo or with maybe one VA that you’re totally
overloading and hasn’t flamed out yet and the first thing I suggest is or the
reverse they have eight V A’s they have no like no hair like they’ve lost their
hair behind this and they’re trying they’re like all day long on a chat
communicating with eight virtual assistants with what do I do next I
finish what do I do next and that that that’s a recipe for a disaster too so I
would advise getting building your team correctly having one I don’t know if you
wanna I call it a GBA or just a general virtual assistant but what you call it a
gatekeeper a buffer anything I get someone in place that can make this a an
enjoyable experience and give you some kind of quality of life so I advise them
a lot on that apart from the administrative side I’m a fan when it
comes to Amazon selling of an inch-wide mile-deep approach to sourcing products
basically niche down get into what you’re passionate about or would like to
be passionate about that doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it I have some
friends that are pure mercenary with it and and they’re doing great as well but
I can only speak to what I do and I give advice along those lines I also advise
them a lot on not just having the blinders on with Amazon thinking you
know the only way to rank is reviews and PPC there’s a lot of other digital
marketing strategies you can it you can deploy to to really have and you should
be deploying to have a lot of success on Amazon and usually what that means is
they’re like wait a minute I know PPC I know how to send an FBA shipment but how
do i how what do you mean Facebook Ads what do you mean a contest and I’m like
look you don’t have to master that like we can hire this and yeah stuff like
that so you have 12 businesses you’re serial entrepreneur 12 Amazon accounts
you’ve got businesses outside of Amazon where do you spend your time as a CEO
can you walk us through the the average day for Carlos sure um well first of all
it’s over 50 businesses only 12 or 13 are on Amazon right the my average day
doing what I do most of what I love which over the last few years has been
creating content I love building process I love having a new business idea and
saying wait a minute this is awesome yes I barely have any time but who are the
people that I can put into place here that will that will make me look like a
rock star and I love I really really love that side of it
so I spend time doing that the last year and a half I’ve spent I’d say a good
amount of time as well learning how to be a dad for the first time so things
and there’s that thank you and I yeah that’s what I do mostly I look at
different business ideas I build processes on them on how to I hate the
word automate but I to automate them as much as possible for lack of a better
word build revenue streams and and allow me to keep doing that so you talked a
lot about building the process and that was your passion about at night I work
with a lot of clients and sometimes those processes are lacking any tips or
advice for building a really good Rockstar process that a virtual
assistant can easily follow yeah you actually said something that used to
take me about 30 minutes to to verbalize I just start rambling when it comes to
this and you did it on a post yeah I can’t quote it so you might be able to
help me out here or maybe one of your VA s did it and you don’t even know it but
we’re talking about SOPs it I had to do with it but it had to do with basically
how much time I think it was like a 30 30 30 rule or something but you put X
amount of time ahead of time before you start actually building the process on
what would you remember it or no you said it much better than I can say it no
I thought you were referring to something else now I’m trying to think
of what it has it had to do with the amount of time you put into yourself
going through all the steps on what needs to be done and kind of like a
crude map and then actually going in and and fine-tuning it and spelling it out
whether it’s in video or audio or text and then actually giving it to someone
to actually work what works for me as far as tools I know a lot of pre month
rule my three month rule is that what you’re talking about it might be so
first month you’re kind of throwing stuff against the wall seeing what
sticks and what doesn’t the second month you have a pretty good idea of what
doesn’t work and you’re focused on what’s working and creating a process
forward and the third month you’re focused on passing it off your plate
with the end that’s it that’s it so that’s what I go for it doesn’t always
come out that clean and sometimes it’s more days on one phase than the other
but that would have taken the whole podcast for me to explain until I saw
that post by you and I’m like that’s it like I’ve quoted the post in my meetup
group and that and that’s really what I do now tools what what those look like
is I try to keep it really simple and internal tools i use i’m i think Trello
is like the best thing since peanut butter so like I love I love Trello so
for the most part I use the free version of Trello but the paid version with the
butler and everything like that is great and the other thing I’ve switched over
the years for a long time I use process I call it process Street but it was
processed st and then now I use teamwork projects and that’s for like the
assigning of all the day-to-day tasks throughout all the businesses but and
hiring you got to go you got you got to go to freak out I appreciate it Karl’s
this has been great where can people find out more about you and what are you
most excited about for the rest of the year the rest of the year okay so
finding out more about me I easiest way to get a hold of me would be the Wizards
of Amazon Facebook group and if you’re on Instagram at Wizards of Amazon I’m
really trying to jack up my Instagram so I’d love the connections over there with
your Instagram handle wizards of Amazon so guys fall out wizards of Amazon on
Instagram definitely and then things I’m most excited about this year’s like I
mentioned I started the meetup group my my biggest goal was to create an event
and I’m finally I finally launched it online seller cruise so it’s at you know
W online seller cruise comm from the 19th to the 25th of January we’re gonna
be in the Caribbean workshops everything like that and then my meetup group as
well you text the word Amazon 2 6 9 9 2 2 it sends you all the links and stuff
like that for that but even if you’re not local in South Florida for that
meetup group we have the recordings available now you actually see Nathan on
one of the recordings when he came down to speak so in a great time and that
made and people had nothing but great things
to say about you so I just want to give you props for an awesome group I
appreciate it and I appreciate you having me on this show I hope in the
future if I can ever add any value and light me back out your amazing free ups
amazing your shows amazing I’m actually trying to model a lot of the stuff I see
you doing on YouTube so like it’s a good stuff I appreciate it guys follow Carlos
and check out his meet-up wizards of Amazon and yeah thanks so much for
coming on have a good rest of the week you’re the man hey everyone thank you so much for
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