We had the pleasure of interviewing Benjamin Yee, CEO and founder of EMERGE App, a cloud-based inventory management system for small and medium-sized businesses around the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Thanks for having me here, too. It’s a funny thing that you asked me that because how I got here was totally unscripted and improvised. I’ve always been a bit of a restless and wanderlust type since high school. So I started a custom t-shirt printing business.
I was just itching to make money so that I could travel and have fun. Well, it turned out that sales of corporate t-shirts really took off. But I was struggling with my inventory that was stocked with every possible size, colour and material. It became clear that I had to invest in software as spreadsheets didn’t scale with my business.
Nothing in the market at that time suited my small business, so I wrote my own inventory management software. I then saw that other SMBs like me were having issues managing their stock with affordable software. So after a year or so in development, I launched my in-house software as the solution you see today.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
That would have to be the setting up of my software development office in Saigon. Vietnam is an awesome country with lots of young, talented adults that are hungry for success and lifelong learning. As with any new office, there was a lot of activity with new furniture and new faces, all while managing the software development lifecycle.
As you might expect, my days were incredibly long and fuelled by coffee. So I took to bringing a sleeping bag to the office to catch up with sleep. I don’t do it anymore but my staff joke that, as part of an initiation rite, new hires should bring a sleeping bag and spend their first week staying at the company’s office.
So what does your app do?
My app is a web-based application handles orders, purchases and inventory inside a typical small and medium-sized business. Think of it as inventory management software that goes well beyond managing your stock with spreadsheets. It has built-in smarts to automate many things that were once done manually by employees.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I’d like to think that we’ve helped a lot of SMBs around the world achieve personal and business success using our software. We’ve helped a diverse customer pool of jewellers, herbalists, chocolatiers and medical suppliers with their inventory issues so that they can truly focus on their trade and craft.
But the one story that stands out is a seed research company from South America. This is probably the most novel use of our software to date! They’re using our software as a central data repository for the importation and distribution of seeds. They also do a fair bit of work with plant genetics as well. So I’m proud to have a part in helping to advance research in the biotechnology space.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I’m fortunate to fall into the hip category of a digital nomad. My software business means that I can work anywhere in the world with just a laptop and an Internet connection. This pretty much extends to each and every one of my employees too. Only time zones divide us as all communication is done by chat and video calls.
So I mix business and travel readily. With this job I’ve been to places that I would only dream about if I had a corporate desk job. Some cities and towns are so remote that you need days to reach them by various modes of transport, including motorbike, ferries and buses. This way I work hard and play hard at the same time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There’s a mentor and investor that I was grateful to have in the very early days of starting my software company. She found considerable success herself by co-founding a web support platform that was subsequently sold to a larger player. She told me plainly that finding success with your business means looking for your “ah ha” moment.
This isn’t the Norwegian pop group from the 1980s. She meant finding enlightenment or a light-bulb moment that will distinguish you in the market from your competitors. Her “ah ha” moment was putting a simple prompt in the window of her chat support software: “How can we help you today?”. Customers from both sides loved it! This prompt, in one way or another, is now commonly found in all chat support windows.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each. ‘
- Sometimes life hands you a new opportunity on a plate when you least expect it.
I didn’t set out from the start to build a software technology company. This was far from my mind when I was battling workflow issues with my t-shirt printing company. But somehow that problem became an opportunity and I seized it.
- Look far and wide for talent and funding.
Don’t just limit yourself to finding investors and talent in your local market. If you’re spending too much time selling the idea of your company to uncertain investors or unsure employees, then quickly move on and find those that trly get it.
- Don’t hire new talent immediately.
As you know, interviews in person or online can go really well. But it’s another matter when they start working for you and interacting with the rest of their team. For me, it’s not the CV that matters but what can you contribute to the team and the company? I now put new hires through a paid probation period before hiring them officially. It makes it much easier when you have to ask people to leave.
- Always ask customers for a commitment upfront before you build something for them.
The customer is certainly king (or queen) but make sure that you’re not holding the short end of the stick. I built custom features for keen users in the early days. I didn’t ask for any commitment upfront but when it came to demonstrating their custom features and asking for a paid subscription in return, they simply disappeared!
- Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.
I admit that we’ve been flying under the radar for far too long. We have over 1,000 users from 40 countries spread over 5 continents. That’s a pretty far reach for a small software company that most people haven’t heard of. I guess I was so focused on building a better product with each software release that I lost sight of PR and marketing work. So when you have a solid, proven product, don’t be afraid to show it off.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this.
There is one person that I would very much like to meet but he’s no longer with us now. I’ve always admired the late Steve Jobs. His relationship with the company that he founded had a rocky history but what he did in the last few decades of his life really inspired me in my youth.
You might remember the “Think Different” campaign that Apple launched in the late 1990s. It’s no longer used today but it featured notable names from the 20th century. The slogan is just as relevant today: our products empower you to Think Different from the rest.
I’d like to say that’s what we’re trying to do with EMERGE App. We’re empowering SMBs around the world to think differently about how they’re managing their inventory, thus not only saving money and increasing productivity but also making more time in your life for the things that truly matter.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my life experiences so far with you.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/benjamin-yee-a0370b2a/
Derek Hurtado – Building a Vacation Rental Business
Recently, I sat down with Derek Hurtado for an interview. Derek is a social media influencer and owns a vacation rental company. We talked about his business model, how it works, and much more.
- Hey Derek, what is the basic rundown of the Airbnb Business Model?
Derek: Our model tends to differ from the conventional by providing both a higher ROI and better quality tenants. To build out a luxury brand of vacation rentals, location is key! Our first step involves researching popular markets both on a city level and a zip code level. This allows us to use data from our research to best predict profitable properties. Once we have narrowed in on our location, we investigate which available properties will perform to our standards. We create an analysis of our predicted revenue and compare that to the overall expenses. Did I mention we don’t buy our properties? We are looking for 12-month rental properties where we sign a lease and usually pay a month or two upfront to appease the landlord. After that, we begin furnishing, decorating and stocking the unit to be staged for guests! Then we are ready to go live! As guests arrive and cycle through our property, we have cleaning and guest correspondence semi-automated. This removes the need to ever be on the location of properties and reduces our admin duties to only 10 hours a week!
- Where did you discover the business model, and how did you start?
Derek: Vacation rentals have been around for decades! It is only recently that technology has been booming in this industry. This has allowed a big increase in creating monthly cash flow. As we grow our businesses and long term investments.. cash flow becomes ever more necessary. My business partner had millions of dollars in equity on real estate projects, yet that equity doesn’t pay the bills. This business model initially allows a consistent cash flow for those working on long term projects which is our exact case. As we get into bigger markets like resorts and commercial real resale projects, AirBnB allows us to get our bills paid and cash flow to spend each month!
- What is the ideal rental?
Derek: The biggest fear of new Airbnb hosts are the nightmare guests. About 90% of bad guests can be avoided by the ideal rental and its setup. We look specifically for higher-end rentals that allow us to bring in high-income business guests or families. When you are dealing with higher income guests, they tend to be more respectful and tidy. Even offering a printer in the property will attract business guests. Those are the guests we are trying to build long term relationships with.
- You own a social media agency, Pivotal Point. How have you leveraged social media to grow your rental business?
Derek: A great benefit of building your brand online is to create new connections. Although Airbnb is a completely different industry, human networking and connections are important no matter what space. Being able to leverage my brand, I have made deals and setup potential investors for scaling the rental business. Applying branding strategies to the properties will promote community and clarity on who we serve. Which are high-income business owners and their families.
- What is an ideal rental location?
Derek: Recently most people are afraid to jump in with all these regulations and potential laws banning properties. Truth is that there are only a few cities that are strict on their policies. Just search on Airbnb for a location you are interested in and you can see 1000s of results that show up. Any place that has high traffic for travelers is ideal.
- What are your plans with your business?
Derek: We are going to rapidly scale our AirBnB unit numbers to the 100s soon. As well as build out our new management agency that will take care of the property owner’s units that are suffering. We will take on management for a small fee and improve their revenue, sparing them the time!
Learn To Sit Back And Observe, Not Everything Needs A Reaction With Mitch London
What’s your backstory?
I’m Mitch London and I am Wilderness Expert and a Lover of Jesus. I help men gain clarity in their purpose, grow in their leadership and walk in their God given Identity by slaying the giants of self-doubt, limiting belief systems and removing false ideas about their identity.
I excelled in just about every area in life. Had a great marriage, wonderful kids, ascended to the top in just about every career I had……but it was empty. I was chasing a “task” and calling it a purpose. It wasn’t until I focused in on my Identity that things really opened up. My business quadrupled, marriage has never been better. I’m living life in a way that best suits me.
After years in the corporate world and feeling the pull of Entrepreneurship I successfully built a location independent 6 figure marketing agency. Giving me the option to live life with purpose and intentionality. As a Sales and Marketing Innovator, I have over 15 years’ experience in Sales & Marketing as well as 10+ years in a coaching/mentor capacity.
I have taken my love for the outdoors and knowledge of entrepreneurship, business and leadership and combined them to create a platform for men to breakthrough self-doubt, limiting beliefs and to finally face the giants on their path to success and truly excel in life, family and business.
What made you decide to choose this career path?
I have always had a passion for the outdoors and the transformative power of being in the wilderness. I have seen so many men struggling to find their purpose and calling in life but the day to day noise is too overwhelming and deafening to be able to quiet the mind enough to seek direction. Knowing that I can help guide and encourage men to find their calling and purpose in life drives me. It creates a ripple effect in the family and community.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Yes, thinking that “swag” is helping to build your business. And the promotional materials are needed even before you have a business developed. Promoting something that doesn’t really exist yet is just a waste of money…lol Ordering t-shirts and stickers makes you feel like a real business until you realize that’s the only thing your customers have to purchase from you.
What do you think makes your company/personal brand stand out?
The combination of breakthrough and mindset coaching that take place in the wilderness is a unique offering. By not only encouraging men but placing them in a location to make that transformation has been an incredible combination.
What’s a quote that you live by?
“Man is not looking for pleasure. He is looking for meaning. When he can’t find meaning he drugs himself with pleasure.” – Viktor Frankl
Here’s How Companies Can Eliminate Dead Stock with Print on Demand Vs the Traditional Route
It is no secret that many companies have at one point in running business dealt with a dead stock problem. You have goods stored that are no longer being bought. When you have dead stock, the business will most likely suffer a reduced cash flow that might have gone into more meaningful use. Dead stock also uses up precious storage space and other expenses that tag along.
Not all companies, however, have had to deal with a dead stock problem.
Teelaunch, a print on demand fulfillment company is making it possible for its customers to completely do away with dead stock. As such, the company is saving clients up to 30 percent, money they would have previously had to spend on expenses related to bulk production, transportation and storage. The following article discusses the print on demand model and how it can help companies eliminate a dead stock problem.
How To Avoid Dead Stock With Print on Demand.
The most important benefit of print on demand is the elimination of product storage costs, inventory, and raw material. While the inventory of finished goods was considered an asset in the traditional production method, it is not the case with print on demand. The latter has changed the status quo and now inventory is simply referred to as dead investment, waste, or in the fairest description possible, unnecessarily incurring additional costs.
With print on demand, a company is able to create products quickly and put them up for sale in a very short time. You just need to have the design ready, and as a matter of fact, you can use one design for several products. Once you have adopted print on demand there will be nothing like holding an inventory. As such, the business enjoys low investment and even lower risk.
Design, Test, Sell, and Grow
Though critics have attempted to downplay print on demand by claiming that it is not as profitable as the traditional route, the former boasts of some unparalleled advantages.
Firstly, print on demand adds value to finished products due to its increased efficiency.
Secondly, the fact that you are not holding any inventory physically, it will be easier to add or remove products, test new ideas, and pivot business strategies.
Thirdly, testing a design or a product like print on demand companies do allows them to avoid making costly mistakes.
For instance, in the traditional method, a company would produce hundreds or thousands of products on a specific design, only to find out that they made a mistake in the process and now the products cannot go to the market.
With the print on demand model, however, such mistakes are almost unheard of. Once the first product is done, if it is not up to the client’s specifications, edits can be done on the spot thereby avoiding a massive loss or stored products without a buyer.
The print on demand model also allows the business to grow in terms of innovation. The reason behind this is that with customers always coming up with unique ideas for the products they want, the business can only steer in the right direction in terms of keeping up to date with the latest industry trends.
Eliminate The Traditional Guesswork
In the traditional bulk production model, companies had to invest lots of money in inventory management. There was always the need to accurately predict demand for a product, which in most cases ended up creating a dead stock problem for producers.
Companies that still invest in forecasting demand are no better than any other establishment applying pure guesswork in business. Forecasting involves too many variables that make the process all the more unsure and unreliable. Print on demand is a surer and less risky production method. Companies that choose print on demand over the traditional route don’t have to go through the trouble of projecting the future.
The key to avoiding dead stock in any business lies in first identifying the cause of ‘death’, and then monitoring and preventing future dead stock. The only sure way of hitting these two birds with one stone is to change from the traditional route to a print on demand model.
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