Former ticket scalper job hopped before a bad boss fueled his idea that led to the multi-million dollar Affiliate Summit
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“I had this idea in my head that I had to work nonstop. To a degree, work till you can’t work anymore to get the business off the ground. I used to think I had to be at my desk for 18 hours to increase profitability. Now I’m doing it in only 8 hours per day and it’s doing better than it was.”
#1 path to profits
“Without a doubt I would have outsourced more things early on. Part of the reason we didn’t do it is because we didn’t have the money to do it. We did things manually and so backwards in a lot of ways. We spent about 18 months barely breaking even before we kicked into big profitability.”
“The best advice I ever got was from my dad to never burn bridges. I’ll certainly be inspired by other people’s ideas and adjust and modify it to work for us. I would never outright copy and do somebody wrong like that.”
“Right out of the gate we charged for all of our passes. People told us you can’t do that because Ad Tech and these other companies don’t charge. We charged because otherwise people don’t have any skin in the game. A lot of people told us we’d be bankrupt and out of business in a year. Now all of our competitors charge for their passes.”
Warren Buffett’s moat
“It’s essential to have that edge because you will have companies that will come in there and just try to copy and paste what you were doing. If they don’t have the personal angle or what ever your unique thing is, it’s not going to work out for those competitors.”
Why Listen to Shawn Collins:
In the audio, Shawn shares:
– the 1 essential thing your business must have to avoid being ripped off by competitors
– the 1 thing they did opposite of the rest of their industry that worked like gangbusters
– best advice (from his dad) that leads to creative ideas and inspiration
– the #1 thing he’d do differently if he had to start over
– his biggest mistake that damaged his health and family
Shawn Collins has been an affiliate marketer since 1997. He is a Co-founder of Affiliate Summit, the leading global conference and tradeshow for the affiliate marketing industry, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of FeedFront Magazine.
He has authored the books “Affiliate Manager Boot Camp“, “Extra Money Answer“, “How to Get the Most from Exhibiting at Conferences”, “How to Get the Most Out of Attending a Conference”, and “Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants“. Also, he co-publishes the annual AffStat affiliate marketing benchmark reports.
Shawn blogs daily on affiliate marketing at AffiliateTip.com, and hosts the weekly podcast, 7 Minutes in Affiliate Heaven, on GeekCast.fm. Additionally, Shawn has been quoted in numerous publications, including Entrepreneur Magazine, Internet Retailer, Inc. Magazine, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.
He helped pay his way through college scalping tickets. One of the guys he worked with is Citizen Cope. Back in 1994 they scalped tickets at a Pearl Jam show.
In college Shawn wanted to be a journalist in radio, TV and film. After graduating college he got a job for $5.50 per hour working the front desk at a hotel. He published a magazine for a while but got tired of that. He got in the middle of silicon Alley in New York City before the .com bust.
His biggest success and what he’s become known for is Affiliate Summit. He backed into it because he didn’t have any previous experience putting on events. He helped out with an event called affiliate force which was a cruise from Miami to the Caribbean.
He was giving the owner of that business lots of ideas that the owner didn’t listen to. A woman named Missy Ward was also helping out this owner but he was blowing off her ideas as well. Missy is now Shawn’s business partner. They bonded at the bar over how the owner was ignoring their good ideas.
A few months later Shawn called her up and asked if she’d like to partner with him to start their own conference. Shawn said it didn’t make much sense because they were both pretty poor and didn’t have any experience setting up and hosting a conference.
They started slow because they both have full-time jobs. They’d work on Affiliate Summit during the evenings and on weekends. This coming January 2015 they’ll have over 5,000 people at their conference.
It worked out well. The owner of that cruise cheated companies in the affiliate marketing space. Affiliate Summit ended up putting him out of business so karma balanced things out.
Some Shareables from Shawn in this episode…
#1 path to profits
“Without a doubt I would have outsourced more things early on. Part of the reason we didn’t do it is because we didn’t have the money to do it. We didn’t even know what resources were out there. We struggled a lot and got off to a slow start. We did things manually and so backwards in a lot of ways. We spent about 18 months barely breaking even before we kicked into big profitability.”
Two things to outsource immediately
“2 things I urge people to outsource immediately are your accounting and legal issues because that’s not something you want to do on-the-fly if you don’t know those areas.”
“I had this idea in my head that I had to work nonstop. To a degree, work till you can’t work anymore to get the business off the ground. At some point I took pride in it. I’d brag about not sleeping and not doing anything but working.
I realized it wasn’t great for my family or personal life. You just burn out. Just don’t give enough time to the things that really matter in life. If I could go back, I would regulate more and spend more time with people, friends and family.
I tremendously scaled-back how much I work over the last few years. I’ve been more productive and increased profitability. I used to think I had to be at my desk for 18 hours to do that. Now I’m doing it in only 8 hours per day and it’s doing better than it was.”
“At the height of my work hours, I was getting no exercise. I was about 40 pounds heavier than I am now. I finally realized I’ve got to start exercising and get out there and work up a sweat instead of just being camped out at my desk all day.”
Favorite part of the entrepreneur’s journey
“The satisfaction that comes out of success because a lot of our competitors are part of huge companies. They have huge staffs and a lot more resources than us but we’ve managed to do battle with them.
We’ve passed by a bunch of them in the marketplace and gotten more market share. We’ve always kept a tiny staff. There is me, my business partner Missy, two full timers and one part-timer. A lot of the companies we go head-to-head with have dozens of people, resources and bank accounts to try to beat us. But we are very nimble and creative which has helped us pass these companies.”
“The weirdest thing is seeing copycats around the world. They literally just stripped our logo and the way we do our agendas. There’s one in Kuala Lumpur, the Arab affiliate Summit and one in China. They wholesale just steal everything we’re doing. Some of them took our whole home page and everything including our sales copy word for word. It’s weird to see that they think it’s okay. We talked to our lawyers and it’s just not worth pursuing because it’s too expensive.”
“One big example is right out of the gate we charged for all of our passes. A lot of the companies we competed with had an exhibit hall pass that was free for everybody. People told us you can’t do that because Ad Tech and these other companies don’t charge for that. We decided early on we wanted to charge for all of them because otherwise people don’t have any skin in the game. It’s very difficult to predict your numbers because you get a lot of no-shows if people aren’t paying for it. A lot of people told us we’d be bankrupt and out of business in a year. Now all of our competitors charge for their passes.”
Affiliate Summit uniqueness
“We’ve always avoided putting our events on in convention centers because I feel like it’s the opposite of community. It’s a big, very sterile place. There were inconvenient locations like the Javits Center in New York City. We always like to do it in a hotel so you have to restrict the numbers. We can’t get much above 5000 people. We have to know exactly what our headcount is going to be because we sell out. We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we were giving away unlimited free passes and then we ended up having a half-empty hall.”
Bad conventional wisdom
“It’s hard to say what percentage of companies are doing this but I see so many startups and entrepreneurs so focused on building to sell. I think that’s detrimental to a lot of businesses because you’re mailing it in. You don’t have the passion and you don’t really love the process. You’re just trying to build this thing up at a sprint and then dump it. To me it’s a passion project. I want to make the best event, best company and help people and make them happy. I don’t want to appeal to VCs and things like that. People get so hyper focused on trying to cash out so quick that they don’t really build something worthwhile.”
“We’ve been approached by a number of companies about acquiring us. We did the dance with them to consider it and see what kind of numbers are out there. That’s one thing I would warn people about in the future because we went around three times with one company and a few others. In each case they backed off after getting all of our numbers and details about what worked and what didn’t.
We saw this play out too many times and got jaded.
They got all of our financials and strategies but then said, ‘Ah, it’s not for us’. Then we watched them go and start using all the things they knew worked for us. They see you are doing 20 things but you give them the Intel of the three things that work the best, they can just go and take those. They’re not usually trademarked so you can’t really prove they had inside information.”
“I’ve been an affiliate since 1997. I have a number of sites that have been around for a decade or more. A lot of those index so well in Google and Bing or wherever else. That’s a minority of my revenue but it’s strictly passive.”
Learn more about Shawn:
http://AffiliateSummit.com and you can e-mail [email protected]
News Media Shawn Collins has been featured in:
– Entrepreneur Magazine
– Internet Retailer
– Inc. Magazine
– the New York Times
– the Wall Street Journal