How to Maximize A Business Exit
In this episode of Startup Hustle, Andrew Morgans and Josh Dittrich, president and founder of Branded Seller, talk about the advantages of exiting profitable businesses, building new ones, and how to live your best life.
Covered In This Episode
Preparing for a business exit should be an exciting time for most founders. But, are you ready to make your business exit a slam dunk success? At Startup Hustle, we pride ourselves on keeping it real while also doing our best to help you help your business grow. Learning from fellow entrepreneurs who have already experienced the ups and downs on a particular path is invaluable. Enjoy tidbits of wisdom from guest, Josh Dittrich when it comes to starting, growing, and exiting a $10 million business.
- Entrepreneurial journey and how times have changed over the years (9:00)
- How to stay connected and up-to-date in the industry (14:00)
- The benefits of exiting a business (21:32)
- What’s your legacy? (27:40)
- Value of time with people you care about (35:00)
- Things you should think about before selling (38:00)
I realized, “Hey, I have some skills. I’m gonna focus on those skills, develop, and understand business, and see where it goes.”
And if it wasn’t for our own experiences, we wouldn’t be able to share and help others.
I think intentionality is one step, below that then is prioritization.
Be sure to tune in to this episode to hear the entire rundown on maximizing your business exit.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode.
Andrew Morgans: What’s up, Hustlers? Welcome back. This is Andrew Morgans, founder of Marknology, to cover all things e-commerce Amazon startups. We’re gonna get into all of it. This episode of Startup Hustle is brought to you by Canva. You go to collaborate and create amazing graphic design for free. Whether it’s a presentation to share an idea, a video to launch your business, or a social post to start a conversation—with Canva, you can design anything. Discover the magic of visual communication and how Canva helps you create a lasting impact today, visit http://canva.com. You know the title of our episode is called “How to Maximize A Business Exit.” But I think we’re gonna talk about Amazon; we’re gonna talk a little bit about AirBnBs; we’re gonna talk about balancing partnerships. We were in China a little bit before the show, as usual, and immediately saw we have so many synergies. So, Josh Dittrich, welcome to the show. You were just in Kansas City, I’m upset we didn’t meet each other before. I could have taken you for a coffee, or barbecue, or something. But we’re in the Midwest, I’m sure it’s gonna happen again. So.
Josh Dittrich: Andrew, thanks. Glad to be here. Let’s chat. Love to connect.
Josh Dittrich: Right, another time. I’ll do it another time. Yeah.
Andrew Morgans: Awesome! Well, as always, I like to get to know the founder, the CEO, and the guest. I think it’s the founder’s story that really creates the business that they’re in. And that’s not always the case, but a lot of times it is, and there’s a reason for that.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andrew Morgans: I would love for you to just share. You’re in Minneapolis, like you know, did you start there? Where did you first decide you’re going to be an entrepreneur—a business owner? Was it something you’re born into? Or is there something you found later? Where’s it start?
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, great. Great question. So I grew up in a small town in Iowa, just about an hour from Minnesota. And knew of this magical place in Minneapolis, in the town that I grew up in. It was pretty normal to leave the town, and go to college, and start your life, right? And so, naturally, I wanted to go to the cities and kind of start there. I had a passion at the time for video broadcasting—thinking I was gonna be doing behind-the-scenes video editing. I was very interested in that creative side. [I] quickly realized, you know, long term, being in that space, was going to be not the path I desired. And so, I got connected early on into sales. I was selling in Best Buy stores and found an opportunity to go to a Best Buy corporation. Um.
Andrew Morgans: Ah, okay.
Josh Dittrich: And really there, just learned about business like, “Oh, I’m this video broadcasting guy, that all of a sudden realizes he can build relationships. And make money based on relationships and closing deals. This is great and along this way, Andrew, it’s like this thing in my head, like entrepreneurship. Like I don’t even know what that means. I didn’t care. I grew up with a father that was a business owner. And a grandfather that was a business owner, and so I write this in my book. We can get into that later. But the quick observation was my dad didn’t make enough money, but was always home. So what kind of entrepreneur is that, like, not desirable? And then, I had a grandfather who paid for everything all the time and did very well.
Andrew Morgans: Um.
Josh Dittrich: But was never around, worked too much, right? So what does that even mean to be an entrepreneur? You’re like making a choice or trading things. So, for me, I realized, “Hey, I have some skills. I’m gonna focus on those skills, develop, and understand business and see where it goes.” And then I started getting the itch in my early twenties. There’s gotta be a better way than working for the man forever. I don’t want to retire at 60. This is ridiculous, like I gotta build something. I got to create something. I don’t know what it looks like, but I’m gonna do it, right? So, eBay dabbling, on you know, importing things from China that may or may not have been authentic. You know Jerseys P90 x’s—selling these, you know, wherever I could. Facebook, if I had to, yes exactly, side hustle ideas, right? But I met this guy while I was at Best Buy corporate. He was a customer of mine. He was, ah you know, an Inc 500 fastest growing company.
Andrew Morgans: Were you still at Best Buy at the time? And this is kind of like you’re just like trying these things on the side. Okay.
Josh Dittrich: Small little e-commerce business at $3,000,000, but they’ve been basically doubling every year since inception. And so, at the time we met up, he was a customer buying water filters for me at Best Buy, and it was fascinating because I realized he was just one of my 6 or 7 water filter customers. I built the business model at Best Buy selling these filters because I was a B2B sales guy, so I could sell anything that Best Buy had to businesses. So, this guy turns out to be an Inc 500 e-commerce business only an hour away from me. About an hour and a half was where his warehouse was. So I said, “Hey, I’m gonna go down there. We’re gonna meet him. He’s a musician, I’m gonna bring my drums.” We’re gonna play and he showed me this 20,000 square foot warehouse, with just a small section with his product in. And he’s like, we’re gonna fill this thing up. I said, “Ah, you mean like, you need my help.” He’s like, “Well yeah, how are we gonna do this?” And so it became a new side hustle with him that I was able to sell water filters from him to all these other guys I was selling water filters to at Best Buy. And so I ran a side hustle business. From 3.5 million, his revenue, to 5.4 million and he said, “Josh, good growth. Let’s go full time. Let’s double down. Let’s go all-in.” And so, the rest was history. I started in May, we went from, you know, 5.4 million to 10.3 million. And that’s where I learned everything about e-commerce, Andrew. I mean, I packed my bags, I drove a hundred miles, one way, to go work for this guy in this warehouse and basically needed to be sales. And I had no knowledge of e-commerce. This was in 2010-2012, years ago. Dabble it on eBay—a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But I said, I’m going to learn PPC, learn Amazon, learn SEO, learn affiliate marketing—all gamuts across traditional e-commerce. And even Amazon then was more about Buy Box management. So in 2010, we weren’t even selling on Amazon. In fact, the next year, I had been pursuing how to get into Amazon Vendor Central because I don’t want to compete for the Buy Box anymore.
Andrew Morgans: When was that? What time was that? 2010?
Andrew Morgans: Um.
Josh Dittrich: I have a great pricing. I have great access to supply. Let’s sell to Vendor Central. So we built a $10,000,000 Vendor Central business. In parallel to that, we were building an Amazon private label brand, so we ended up growing that business from 3 million to 50 [million], which is basically where I learned all things business, right? And that’s really where I grew up cutting my teeth. But along the way, I said I’m building someone else’s business. Thanks for the paycheck. Thanks for the opportunity, I’ve learned and grown, but I can go do this for myself now. And so, I began a new side hustle, which was my brand. So we started a brand in 152, call these central values. We grew that from 0 to 10,000,000 in sales in about 5 years. And then sold it last year for 10 million bucks to Elevate Brands.
Andrew Morgans: Congratulations! I know Elevate Brands and all the guys pretty well, so whether it’s conferences or speaking together. TJ, [I] was connected with him even before he was at Elevate.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, they’re awesome dudes.
Andrew Morgans: Some good guys, and one of the aggregators, that I think is doing it right. [I] would just give them a little shout out, I’m not sponsored by them or anything. But they’ve got a lot of different models from things—like paying in crypto, to things like keeping the owners and the founders on for that earnout. I think that’s a really smart move as the aggregators kind of learn the ropes. To keep those founders on, and so, some of the stuff they’re really doing, they’re really educating. They’re not saying they’re not telling everyone to sell. Yeah, just a good overall thing. Yeah, and also, congrats on the exit. That’s a really big deal. A huge win to build something in what—5 years or . . . I guess.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, it’s a good group. Yes.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, but when we started building that, Andrew, we had no idea it was going to be an asset. That [it] was going to be valuable at the time people weren’t building and growing and selling Amazon businesses. No one’s paying attention, right.
Andrew Morgans: 5 years time . . . 6 years . . .
Andrew Morgans: No one’s paying attention to our world.
Josh Dittrich: So that model started. But through that journey, we acquired another business for 750 grand—a traditional e-commerce business with some B2B and some Amazon. [I] grew that over 2 years and sold it for 2.5 million, and so this is kind of the space. How do you take a brand digitally? Grow it, build value, and then exit it. And so we’re doing that now, and we’re helping other clients do that. And if it wasn’t for our own experiences, we wouldn’t be able to share and help others. And so we’re very grateful for that and pretty awesome deals. But if I think back? Yeah.
Andrew Morgans: No, [I] live in the same world. Really, on the other side, here in Kansas City, [I] have worked for a lot of companies. And I still want to be the best agency in [the] space. I’ll be honest with you, I’m shooting for the very top. Nothing less. Not necessarily in size, not in revenue, not any of that—I just want to be the best, right.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah.
Andrew Morgans: So I want to do the best work. I want to have the best results. I want to have people saying, “Hey, I want to work with those guys. Everything they touch, they win. That’s what I’m going for. I’m having fun doing it. So some of the business [I help] is [preparing] for exit, some of [it] I’m building my own.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew Morgans: To be able to control, kind of all the switches, and have vertically integrated—from fulfillment and warehousing to design to, you know, you talk about plus content, the storytelling. How important is it for brands to get that right? You learn these along the way, like for me, I think, so I’ve been to Amazon space 11 years. You might have me by a couple years. [I] fell into it, I was a startup employee number 3, they were doing car parts. We put all those parts up online. And over a million in sales, car parts weren’t online, like there were no descriptions. They were just like part numbers and prices, and you know, yeah now we’re cleaning it up.
Josh Dittrich: Yep, I grew up in that same era, man, like make it up. Number of pieces, right? Like, yep, now we’re cleaning it up. Yep.
Andrew Morgans: Right? We’re literally cleaning up the work that we did. The work that we started years ago. Making it better now. But it was just getting the product up, and it became that Buy Box. Like people talk about the Buy Box, I’m like I’m playing it. I want to play a different game than you guys. I don’t even want to deal with the Buy Box, so it was just for fun. Just to bring you down memory lane. It was.
Josh Dittrich: Ah, no doubt, no doubt. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Andrew Morgans: Binder express model, right? So brand registry, one was to have a website that you could show it. As an example, to have a brand, you reach some sellers that are six-to-seven-figure sellers, now eight-figure sellers. And they just have these brands, like you know, a nonworking landing page and people are like, why is your [website like that?].
Josh Dittrich: Um, yeah, yeah, it was only a shell. Yeah, the first registry, dude, it totally did the same thing. You know, same thing. [I] built a Shopify cart as if I’m gonna put time into building some kind of product page. I might as well build it into a cart and maybe try to sell the items.
D2C sites look like this. You’re like, well, because if you remember like they haven’t touched it since brand registry.
Andrew Morgans: Exactly that’s what we had. We had a simple checkout or simple clickthrough to Amazon at the time. And then, you know, the trademark process was nine months at the time when they switched it, so it was like . . .
Josh Dittrich: You know.
Josh Dittrich: Yep, dude. Totally, totally.
Andrew Morgans: Oh my god, inlet. If these brands don’t want to talk about trademarks or don’t have one, I don’t want to work with them. Because I don’t want to deal with these Buy Box issues, I just want to be able to sell an amazing product and have SEO work and all that.
Josh Dittrich: You know it all, the same stuff, man. Absolutely, it’s cool when you go back and you can remember those details with some folks. ‘Coz a lot of times, this stuff is glazed over, and it’s good cause we’ve evolved, right? But the game was harder, but it’s still hard, right? So was it harder than it is now? I think it’s still harder now.
Andrew Morgans: Yeah, we didn’t have people telling us it was hard because no one was talking about it. So, in some ways, it was like you’re in your own little basement. You’re in your own little silo—figuring it out but I’ve honestly been drawing the color.
Josh Dittrich: Because.
Josh Dittrich: Figure it out brother. Yeah, yeah.
Andrew Morgans: Correlation, or the connection, to even playing video games as a kid. When [there are] computer PCs at home, and the game consoles were first coming out, those video games were really hard.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew Morgans: Like there was no streaming, right? We would sit around; I would sit around with a couple of guys. We’d play these tragedy games; like you just played it for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours till you figured it out.
Josh Dittrich: You can only figure it out with your brain. And sometimes, you could buy a paperback book and they give you a couple cheats in there, right? And sometimes, you could break through. But yeah, man, you can’t cheat. Yeah.
Andrew Morgans: I remember hating doing that, like there’s a couple times, I think Zelda or something, where I need help with the water temple. But, in general, it was like, you call up a couple of your buddies. You’re gonna have a game night, and you take turns to play and play that level or get through it, right? I think that kind of paved the way a little bit in regards to the mindset around.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, and you figure it out. Yep.
Andrew Morgans: Amazon algorithms, like SEO with e-commerce, we were just gamifying it. You know it felt like that to me.
Josh Dittrich: There was no book. It’s actually a really good analogy because, I mean, that’s really the West, right? The Wild Wild West is really . . . there’s no rules. Now, this age is so into information; and the access and the speed in which we get it, you can have experts that have never sold on Amazon now, right? You can watch Youtube after Youtube after Youtube, but like, does that mean you’ve done it well? Does it matter if you know it or have done it? Well, if you’ve done it and it’s expired, does it still mean it is relevant, right? So it means you have to continue to evolve. Even after we sold our brand, we immediately started another one because we need to stay relevant. We lost on this brand we created basically one year ago, we’ve already lost about 200 grand we’ve invested in PPC bottom line.
Andrew Morgans: Yep.
Josh Dittrich: Normally that would be a pretty quick return on investment. When we first started, you could give away products, get free reviews, and exchange. And next thing you know, you’re selling dozens and hundreds of units per day or whatever. So crazy times man. But yeah, talk to me.
Andrew Morgans: Chap.
Andrew Morgans: It changes. I mean, I love e-commerce. I’m not just a business builder. So, for me, I just love that it’s level the playing field that makes the best man or woman win. Like, you know it really is about just knowing how to do it, so for me I still stay. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay up on everything, so I built a team. That was kind of my method and I didn’t want to be sitting on an island and building by myself; I’m a team player. So I want to be part of a team. Like, look, I’m not going to be the best at graphic design, or storytelling, or SEO sales copywriting, you know.
Josh Dittrich: Dude, I get it.
Josh Dittrich: But there is someone that you can find that is the best. Yeah.
Andrew Morgans: So, it’s like, if we’re going to stay up-to-date on all this stuff continually—to build enough, to build an agency—I’m going to need help because this stuff changes fast. The way that I’ve really stayed connected is one, talking to people like you all day, every day. And you know, just learning about what’s out there. What’s going on Amazon, what’s doing well in D2C, but then I also still keep my hands very involved in the PPC on our team. I feel like PPC is kind of the lifeblood. It’s the data. It’s validating. It’s all of that. So staying up to, like, as far as what I still touch in the team, it’s the PPC side. And we’re brand building from scratch. So it’s super cool to talk to somebody else that just knows. There’s probably a couple hundred of us, maybe, and worldwide, out there talking about it, or doing anything with it. So talk to me about how you’ve exited.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, it’s a rare amount, I think.
Andrew Morgans: And you’re building one now that you’ve invested in. You’re just doing one at a time. Are you working with others? What’s really your passion?
Josh Dittrich: Technically, we had three businesses before we sold the two. So we kept one, which was more of a traditional, like promotional, products company. Like you print logos and brands on apparel and giveaways. That evolved to an e-commerce storage fulfillment business with some marketing. And so we’ve sort of merged that into what we know how to do, which is essentially taking brands that are either in the beginning stages or medium stages or even considering the big picture of growing and selling. [We are] aiding them along the way. The model has changed where instead of just servicing clients now for promotional, [we’re managing] all aspects of e-commerce to multichannel fulfillment storage inventory management. After we sold to Elevate, they rehired us back to run all of their operations and so. We just got our first earnout payment, which was really cool because it was almost like a double-dip. Because we got paid for the last year to manage that business and so it’s become a model. We really love [it]. We have a warehouse, 27,000 square feet, we run everything into our building then cross stock there.
Andrew Morgans: To make yourself work.
Andrew Morgans: Wow.
Josh Dittrich: Obviously, then refill it back. Yeah, UK, Canada—all these different marketplaces would be multichannel pick, but we do palettes outright. So our business models evolved from being the customer focusing on the customer as on Amazon to servicing a customer who is the brand owner right. Different mindset, as you know, but here’s the cool part. Those opportunities aren’t just contractual where we’re helping; we’re able to build with them in many cases as we talked earlier. There are so many people we talk to by going out and getting the word out about what we do. You want someone who has your best interest at heart. For how do you know if they have your best interests at heart, right? And there’s a lot of things out there when you think about brokers, when you think about buyers. Like there’s an angle and we’re trying to demystify the process. So two scenarios happened last year when we sold our business: one, we hired a broker and it was okay. It was probably less than desirable, at the end of the day, by the 250 grand we paid, right? The 10% we paid on that deal versus the large $10,000,000 deal. We didn’t use a broker. I ran a full process, reached out to 30 aggregators, and literally ran a process and paid no commission, right? So part of this education in this book is around maximizing your own value. Basically coming down to being the best operator, right? And understanding your business, understanding the numbers in the pie. But the things you can do to influence that, like if you’re gonna sell in the next six to twelve months, every dollar is worth four to five dollars right now, right? So you waste a dollar on investment for things that aren’t going to return; now, you’re literally throwing away. So having that mindset, and thinking about everything I’m doing now, is it going to be returned? Return value, today, in the long term, you have to decide if you’re in a business, right? That’s new product development like ours was. We have this, you have this ramp up period, right? When you start a product, it’s not fully mature until at least you know sometimes three months, sometimes nine months, sometimes a year and a half—depending on the competitiveness of the market. And we knew that there’s going to be a long-term upside. You know all of these things are important. But yeah, so we invest and we buy. We partner. We contract all those things, right? And really just about helping others to leverage our skillset.
Andrew Morgans: Yeah let me talk to the flip side of that. Just like some things I’ve seen from my side, you know, in some ways I have no control over brands. We’re working with that exit. You know, in some cases, I do, I’ve been crushing it with brands and then they exit and then I’m like, oh my god, we were winning together. You know what happened. So for me, it’s learning that process. It’s like, okay what can I learn from them. What went bad—I can tell the ones that are in lean mode trying to prepare to exit and things like that. Before I go into that side, a reminder that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is sponsored by Canva. With Canva, you can design your ideas with ease. Inspired with 500,000 free templates and a rich content library that helps you and your team achieve your goals. Sign up and start designing for free at http://canva.com. You know, as an agency, in this timeframe, I’ve been approached to exit. Like you know that’s happening. Everywhere, just as much as the brands, they need the people that know how to build the brands and the know-how to execute on Amazon at a high level, and then they’re a team. You can’t hire fast enough. So your team becomes very valuable. But in some cases, you know I’ve had agency colleagues. You know other agency owners. You know they’re chasing that exit or they’ve got that exit in front of them and they’re losing clients. Some of those clients are coming to me because they’re like okay, I don’t want to invest here. Don’t invest here and need to get butts and seats to hit these numbers. You know, so that I can get 4 or 5 times on my dollar. So there’s some of that happening, right? There’s brands like that.
Josh Dittrich: A.
Andrew Morgans: To me, it’s when they don’t basically . . . it’s like they want to sell. But if it doesn’t work out, they won’t, right? Or it’s like if they’re a brand that’s like, well we might sell the prices, right? But if not, we’re going to keep doing our thing and it’s those ones that are kind of fifty-fifty or even seventy-thirty or eighty-twenty.
Josh Dittrich: Exactly right.
Josh Dittrich: Well and that’s it. Isn’t that everything being a little opportunistic because of timing . . . It’s impossible to time it. We were in the same boat, Andrews. When we started the process of selling last January, we were like, well let’s see what we can get and we were blown away by the feedback, right? So 30 contacts, 13 twenty-some conversations. 13 highly interested, and 6 offers, right? So the same conversation. We weren’t planning to sell at all. But half in-half out can be good because it allows for flexibility. The best time to sell is when you don’t need to.
Andrew Morgans: I would agree, like with a job with whatever. And I’m more in that boat than anything. I’d probably say I’m like, you know, I’m sixty-forty or seventy-thirty, like give me the right offer. But I haven’t been building my agency for an EBITDA exit. You know I’ve been building my agency to be the bus.
Josh Dittrich: Right? Right? Right.
Andrew Morgans: An agency in this space and [an agency that] competes with anyone. So it’s a different mindset. If, all of a sudden, I switch and I’m distracted by, hey $10,000,000 in my pocket, would be amazing because this work right now sucks. So you stop focusing on what you have to do and you miss both sides. Your agency starts to slip and you’re not going to get the exit because you know you weren’t there.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah.
Andrew Morgans: For me, I’m seeing brands that are losing a little bit of focus there. I’m just saying, once you decide, you know it doesn’t have to be like a new thing. It could be something that . . . you’re like twelve months out, or eighteen months out, and you’re planning for that. But when you lose focus—because it can be very distracting to all of a sudden picture yourself not having to do some of the bullshit that we have to do.
Josh Dittrich: Oh yeah, oh yeah. No, you’re right about that. I think people completely underestimate the time and effort spent. And just to be clear, the three months I spent, to me, was worth 800 grand savings on a brokerage, right? So that’s a good ROI of my time probably but the flip side of that is . . .
Andrew Morgans: Um.
Josh Dittrich: I was only able to do that because I had a solid team whose entire day-to-day business was operating without me. So in your case, it would be a distraction if I have to shift over here and start changing and process documentation. Like all those things were happening in the background, right? Because they needed to do so.
Andrew Morgans: Um, yeah.
Josh Dittrich: You’re absolutely right. And that’s the challenge when you think about whatever you’re doing. You have to be focused to eat today, but you need to make sure that you’re building long-term value. And if you’re doing any sort of investment, just make sure you’re making smart investment moves. Which means if this is going to take x dollars to get it to rank you better, can you do it better? Be aware that those x dollars aren’t worth the return if you’re gonna put that effort in now, and you’re gonna sell in six months. So let’s just rethink that, right?
Andrew Morgans: Thinking a little bit more about the long game. Yeah, now, I would also just say that like, look at almost all these deals. The terms involve some kind of earnout where you know after 2 years of selling it or 5 years of selling. Whatever the case might be. You know you’re going to get payments on that, so handing over a business that’s healthy and running really well is in your best interests.
Josh Dittrich: It is in your best interest. Yep.
Andrew Morgans: You know you’re not running it till it’s dead and there’s no stock. And you’re handing it over with no inventory and you’re trying to like, you know, get every dollar out of it. That’s not really the plan. That’s not the best move. So staying extremely focused on the business, if you can’t step out of it, is paramount to getting the most value. You know, when you’re trying to exit it, leave it in the best way possible.
Josh Dittrich: That’s the cool part, right? If you think about it now, if you’re not, what happens out of nowhere, this idea to sell can come, right? And the market could get hot like it did last year. Which means, if you don’t have the trademark, and if you haven’t had your books in order . . . And if you hadn’t been thinking about investing and advertising the right way, you’ve been thinking about the long-term. And now, all of a sudden, you want to sell, you just have to be careful that it might not be the best time even though it’s a great time in the market. It depends on your business, your energy, your ability right? Talk a lot about this, and for me, man, even the hardest part was, after we sold the business, was clear communication to the team. The transition plan, we lost probably 3 or 4 staff just because we weren’t super clear in communications. And so all of these things, there can be fallout from it. You know and then you have to make sure that brand operates. So the team that just bought you is gonna continue to jump in and they’re gonna run into a bottleneck, so you know all of these things have to behave to be considered.
Andrew Morgans: Let’s talk about your book a little bit. You alluded to it. I haven’t read it in full disclosure, but I would love to read it. Let’s talk about your book. Is it something you just put out? Is it something you put out after the first exit or the second exit? What kind of pushed you to say, hey I want to get some of what I know—what I’ve learned—out there to everybody else who is going through this?
Josh Dittrich: It happened after we closed last year. We were working with Elevate quite closely and they had some PR opportunities. And they obviously were investing in their own PR. So part of it was them hiring a content agency and a PR group to get more articles published and build a brand. And so, I was sucked into some of those opportunities through relationships. I was able to speak at the conference at one of the roundtables about exits to an aggregator. I was able to get into a Forbes article, which is pretty cool. But the key one that really got me interested was actually getting a full feature in Business Insider about the process I ran selling my business and saving 800 grand without hiring a broker. That had so much feedback and just excitement for me that I realized this was a lot bigger than me, right? That there are other other people like me that aren’t me. That I could sell a copy or not, this is something worth talking about. I’m basically giving it away at ¢99, you know I’m not expecting to make money. So I hired a ghostwriter. It’s very professionally done but my hope is to help others and, along the way, I’m hoping that they may need some help from myself, right? And I love to help those that become investment opportunities. How about I invest in you and we’ll work together to grow the value together. Kind of like what you’ve described and some of those partnerships are really a killer model for win-win on both sides. And so we’re trying to do things differently. We’re not just an agency. We are a really really fine tuned machine that operates on the operations side and the marketing side for a very small set of clients, right? We can’t take on dozens of clients. We can only take on 4 to 8 [clients] a year. That’s it. So you know, I think, to your point about the book, I wrote it for that reason: to help others and along the way it really is a lead gen tool.
Andrew Morgans: Yeah.
Josh Dittrich: Whether I have a conversation or we just get connected on LinkedIn, people ultimately drive opportunities. So, for me, that’s the win-win, right? And even opportunities to speak with you. You know and that’s part of the reason I’m on the show talking about the space that we’re in.
Andrew Morgans: I love it. A book is definitely in my future as well. I’m always like, where do I start? There’s so much to say about my personal story alone. And then like the Amazon journey, I’ve worked with probably 300 brands since I started, so there’s a lot of failures in there. You know there’s a lot of wins.
Josh Dittrich: How does that work?
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andrew Morgans: Just a lot of learning to share. You know a lot of stories; my personal brand. I have a hashtag. I’ve had it for probably eight years, I don’t know, maybe longer. Like watch me work.
Josh Dittrich: It’s behind your wall there. That’s close—watch us work as the team. Yeah.
Andrew Morgans: Because as a team, it’s Marknology. It’s like, watch us work. We are like, you know, we’re blue-collar here out of Kansas City. We work really hard. But we’re doing amazing things. It takes time but watch us build. I’m gonna be as transparent as possible. You know we’re nobody from nowhere that have just come together to make an awesome team.
Josh Dittrich: Isn’t that cool? That’s the best part and that’s kind of where I was too, man. I’m this nobody—none of this was given to me—but I had to figure it out, right? And so if I can do it, why can’t you? And it’s not just being lucky. It’s not. It’s hard work. It’s being smart with how you spend your time. Being smart with how you spend your money. It’s very obvious what is in your pocket, and your time, and your heart. Yeah, I’ll be honest, man, on the flip side, I poured way too much into becoming successful. I would say it’s probably worth it in the long run. But I sacrifice things in my marriage and with my kids that I can’t get back. That’s what’s driven this entire thing and it’s never been, “I want to make $10,000,000 and sit on the beach.” God made me a certain way. If I just go and throw away my gifts, talents, and money in the ground, and bury it like this, then it’s but a parable of the talents, right? So I’ve been given these talents to be entrusted to do something with, and that’s the mindset I have. And it’s hard because you have people that need you.
Andrew Morgans: It’s like the talents.
Josh Dittrich: You know, from a commercial relationship or you know partnership or a business or whatever it is, and then you have kids and your wife. And you have obligations and you’re a coach and it’s tough. So that’s the mindset that I’ve learned after I sold, and that’s unfortunate. But it’s true because after I sold it was like, you know, in some ways, most of the business was working for me and now I woke up thinking I can do anything today. I’m not working on a deal to sell. I’m not working on a deal to close. What do I want to do with my wife for the longest time? She’d seen me hustling on the phone doing all this stuff. And then I’d be taking a nap for 2 hours on the couch. She’s like what are you doing? You seem like a lost puppy and that’s true. If we think about this life, in the limited time we have to spend here, we die. It’s not about how much money is left in the bank, right? Like what did we do with what we’ve been given and that leaves the legacy, right? So yeah.
Andrew Morgans: Legacy. I’m calling this a legacy chapter that was well said. I hope we get a clip of that. That was very well said, Josh.
Josh Dittrich: Bam bam.
Andrew Morgans: No, you’re exactly, right? And you know, I get opportunities to hang out with Carlos and Steve Simons. And like some of these OGs in the e-commerce space that had so many wins and successes and are still winning. You know, in a lot of ways. And just the most humble guys. like I’m trying to learn. You know what? Some of them, it’s taken them years to learn. Years of success and they just talk and they pour into me about different things and I think that’s the key.
Josh Dittrich: Guys need that. We do.
Andrew Morgans: Yeah, I don’t want to have to be 55 to have to know the value of time and relationship and what really matters. So for me, I think even when you’re thinking about maximizing your exit, you just have to really know what you’re about. If you’re trying to sell something, you just have to know what that is or you’ll be lost. That’s something that I’ve thought about even with exiting my agency. But what I loved that you said is like we’ve had to call ourselves agencies. But I’m not really sure. That’s what we are. You know we’re business consultants in just an area of business that has yet to be. Completely respected, right? And we’re running everything, from supply chain to creative to buying to product procurement to relationships in retail or whatever the case might be to teach. You know we’re doing everything in the Amazon ecosystem. And there’s just not really a lot of other business models that compete, or that can compare apples to apples there. You have to know a little bit of everything to win in e-commerce, which makes it fun for anyone. We’re doing so many things. But what you said was just so big. And I think that that’s what you know has drawn me to a lot of people like you or to this industry. The ones that have excelled are building and helping others and giving back. I’ve learned something that anyone can have . . . with enough work ethic and focus, you have been able to change lives, not just of the brands. We’ve helped build but like employees, a team, in my own life. Things that I wouldn’t have learned without the business. There’s a part of me that’s like, wow, I like who Andrew is becoming. I like me more than I used to like myself.
Josh Dittrich: It’s amazing.
Andrew Morgans: Where am I going to be if that business is gone? These are the things that have caused me to level up to be a better brother, to be a better friend, to be a better son, to be a better leader. All of those things. This business has kind of helped me forge that by fire. What happens when that’s gone?
Josh Dittrich: Oh, no doubt.
Andrew Morgans: Maybe you can speak to that a little bit.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, and that’s part of it, like it was never for me. I separate emotion from logic a lot, right? So for me, it was like a means to an end, like I need to provide for my family and one way I know how to do that is in a business model that provides unlimited upside. Based on how hard I work, based on my brain, and based on the team and my leadership, right? It wasn’t just me. I put people in place around me and I learned on other people’s dime along the way. That’s why I wasn’t an employee, and that’s why I worked hard for them because I made those mistakes on their dime and then I realized.
Andrew Morgans: Yep.
Josh Dittrich: I’m gonna make mistakes no matter what. But let’s just be careful now. Let’s quantify our risk, but it was never about my legacy. It was more like a stepping stone knowing that. So recognizing I’m a builder of things. That’s why I’m becoming the person I want to be now. That I was looking at maybe when I was 26-27, starting to have the itch. I’m the person I wanted to be and I don’t know if it’s still the right person. I want to be right because it can change, right? But it’s really about that rhythm and the system and in life and enjoying life like finding a place.
Andrew Morgans: I love that.
Andrew Morgans: We can change.
Josh Dittrich: This life is so precious and every day, we have bills to pay. That’s why business exists on one hand, to cover those things. To allow my family to live. But the impact of seeing your employees be able to buy their first house or upgrade their car. It’s amazing. And these are just things, these are just worldly things. But if you think about life, that quality of life rises. It allows you to enjoy life. You don’t need money to make a good life. You can be broke. But if you’re with family and loved. You can be just fine, but it’s about what you do with that.
Josh Dittrich: So anyway, that’s my soapbox, but it’s hard. Now, I’m like, okay I’m not gonna just give up e-commerce. That’s how I’m wired. I know that so I’m gonna stay in it. But I’m only gonna do that a few hours a week now, and now I’m building. We’re building a hard money lending business. It’s pretty cool where we’re funding 100% of the property purchase and 100% of the rehab at pretty competitive rates and they become real estate guys. I’ve been investing in real estate and properties and doing other things that I like, right? So that’s the piece—am I doing it for me now? No, but it checks all the boxes—I’m providing income. I’m creating value for my family, long term, that generates that generational wealth type of stuff. I’m thinking about it now and doing those things. But sometimes, it’s at the compromise, like 6-8 hours a day, where did my time go?
Andrew Morgans: Yeah, I think, I manage my time pretty well. It’s definitely something I’ve had to learn. A lot of people around me that aren’t in business now, I can tell how they respond to me. When I’m just caring about 15 minutes of time, you know, or 30 minutes of time, in those increments, you know, but I do.
Josh Dittrich: It’s about priorities.
Andrew Morgans: But I have a rule for me that works, at least whenever my time doesn’t have a value. When I’m with certain people that are in my inner circle. So when I’m in my inner circle, there’s no value to time.
Josh Dittrich: I love that.
Andrew Morgans: But outside of my best friend, outside of my girl, outside of my parents, I’m managing my time very carefully. So it’s a switch that happens for me. Everyone else is going through that filter. But like if they’re inside my inner circle. That’s invaluable to me.
Yeah, that’s a great point. It’s a great point.
Andrew Morgans: I love that, and you know, I’m doing the same thing in regards to building a business and legacy. You know, my family, we come from the bottom. So I felt like I was given the talents, the opportunity. I found something, and okay this is an opportunity. But then you know e-commerce, built that, and then went into real estate. That’s how I’ve just known it, probably the oldest business model. You know, to own real estate and be able to help friends in Kansas City build the home of their dreams. Buy the house, and when we’re finishing it up, we’re doing it with their tastes in mind. Those kinds of fixtures and things like that. But it’s a custom home. You know, in his 3-bedroom house with his daughter, that you know he’s a single dad and just like how proud he is of it.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, okay.
Andrew Morgans: You know it’s a priceless thing and it’s a shelter. It’s all those things in one, so I can see why you’ve gone into the real estate side. When you’re ready to have that talk about Kansas City, let me know because we’ve been doing some crazy things here. You know? But this has been awesome. As we round out, I think we should give 3 tips from you on any kind of business, whether it’s e-commerce. We can make it e-commerce. But whether it’s an Airbnb business property management business, I think that there’s a lot of similarities. What are 3 things you think someone should be focused on that’s not ready right now but maybe, in like twelve months they’re prepping, they want to prepare to maximize their business exit?
Josh Dittrich: Well, read the book for ¢99. The book is called Aggregator Navigator. Find it on Amazon, start with that, and it is a combination of my story and and literally specifics about the process I ran.
Andrew Morgans: And leave a review.
Josh Dittrich: Things I’m thinking about after I sold things that I would never have thought of if I should have been thinking prior to selling . . . some of the stuff we’ve already talked about here, right? It’s a mindset thing. Let me think. I think in the world of e-commerce, there are a lot of fires and so we always have to be put into fires. There’s always things that happen, right? Like your account’s off. What do you think is the number one thing to do today? It’s how I get it turned back on, right? So we all have that but I think in the big picture. Let’s take away our needs. Let’s take away the basics. There’s an old Chinese proverb: if everything is important, nothing’s important. And so what is important is in the context of where are you going this year. Where are you going this quarter? Where are you going this week? And casting that vision to be clear on where you’re at. If you have a brand, and you know you plan to sell, you have to start thinking about let’s put a date on that. Let’s put a goal on that and if it doesn’t happen, that’s okay. We can keep going. So I think that’s number 2. Really starting to think about if you are planning to sell. Work through the mechanics of mental preparedness, but also getting into the zone of how you think about your business—the steps along the way, right? The processes you have to document, the people that you may need to fire to free up. Increase your cash flows. Ways you’re spending money and other business expenses that could be stripped down. You know, whatever that is, so that’s 2 and then 3.
Andrew Morgans: I want to add something to that because I think it’s fire. I spoke on this online [at] Seller Cruise with Carlos Alvarez. I was at Prosper (Show) too. I’m surprised we haven’t linked up. But it is my first time speaking at Prosper, so it’s really cool. Okay, this is the one I was asked about. My first one is a big one for me.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, yeah.
Josh Dittrich: I missed this last year. It was okay.
Andrew Morgans: But I spoke on the online Seller Cruise and I spoke on intentionality in your online business. And I think that’s what you’re really saying here with point number 2. It’s like, be intentional at the three-month mark, the six-month mark, the [one]-year mark where you’re trying to go. What’s your focus? Is it branding? Is it the conversion rate? Is it a new product? Development is leaning out? Is it growth? Find every single area on Amazon, from supply chain to the creative. All of it has an ability to be intentional in that area. And if you don’t know that area, you have strengths and you have weaknesses. There’s talent out there now, it used to have to be us back in the day to just figure out all the areas.
Josh Dittrich: Right? Right.
Josh Dittrich: Figuring it out.
Andrew Morgans: There’s like very qualified people. If you just want to focus on what you’re great at, there’s people you can call in that, at least, can give you that roadmap. That six-month roadmap on what you should be working on for the next six months. What you should be working on for the next twelve months.
Josh Dittrich: I think intentionality is one step, below that then is prioritization. So that proverb of everything is important. Nothing’s important if listings, conversion rate, paid traffic, cogs and shipping all are important. Then nothing really is important, and we do what we do every day; we chase the tail. Right? But if something is very important, you can build out your year plan, which is high level. The more tactical stuff becomes a priority in real-time. Those are the things you do this week, this month, but those things build upon potentially. I want to drive sales. Maybe that’s the simple goal, I want to increase sales. Well, you have 2 buckets to that. How do I drive more sales efficiently and how do I reduce expenses, right? So that’s the mindset you might go into. For me, that’s looking at all the expenses, running your books every month, and adding your ad backs to it. So you’re not surprised when you go, I want to sell; you’ve been tracking it. You’ve been watching it grow. You’re seeing the trends, right? This is more of a personal thing, but I still feel like it’s continuing to follow the thing you’re most passionate about and the best at, right?
Andrew Morgans: I love it.
Josh Dittrich: So for me, I’m most passionate about connecting and finding ways to build things together, right? It’s about figuring out who you really are. So if I’m doing what I’m passionate about and good at, it’s not work. It’s a never-work-in-a-day, in-your-life, type of comment.
Andrew Morgans: You know you’re only people.
Josh Dittrich: Cliché as that is, I wake up in the morning and I get to go build the things that I wanted to build, right? When I build those things, I’m energized by doing it because I’m good at it. And I’m like, this is natural and so I had to figure that out on Amazon. And mine was product development and figuring out and getting started, but I wasn’t a grinder. I needed a grinder. So our business really went boom when I said I need to stop dabbling in new product development. I need to make that a real gear in my machine, so we hired my brother, which is even great because we had a side hustle going that grew like crazy. And then I said, hey, let’s go full time. Let’s double down. So I could work on the business instead of “in it.” So, that’s the third one, working on instead of in, which is hiring the right people and doing the things you’re really the best at. But also allowing, like you mentioned, the best designers to do the design work. Don’t leave it to you. I mean you can do it because you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll figure it out. But hire the best people knowing that you’re not the best but you can afford it, right? Because you’ve built your business with margin that way and margin in your brain. Also allows for margin in your pockets. That’s the big thing like filling your mind up with crap every day of all these things. Like you need to be able to think and simmer on big ideas and that takes time so there we go.
Andrew Morgans: Was this in the book? Okay, good cause I was like, that sounds like some fire. I’m trying to get in there for ¢99. It’s a no brainer. It’s called the Aggregator Navigator. Okay.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, man, Aggregator Navigator: The Ultimate Playbook to Maximizing the Sale Of Your Amazon Brand.
Andrew Morgans: I love it, and you guys, he’s giving it away for ¢99. The way to give back is to leave that review, so more people see it. I know that’s the Amazon game. But if you love it, write a review.
Andrew Morgans: Amazon’s not combing my podcast yet. So we’re good to go? This has been absolutely awesome, Josh. We’ve actually got some clients up in the Minneapolis area. So if we ever come up there, or you’re coming down to Kansas City, we’re gonna have to link up.
Josh Dittrich: Oh, dude, for sure.
Andrew Morgans: Maybe do some more content together. Like when we can just speak the same language, you gotta understand how refreshing it is for me. Just getting to talk about this game without all of the preface to everything you know.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah man, absolutely. Let me go back and explain that one thing that we used to have to do back in the day.
Andrew Morgans: Yeah, it’s so cool and just problem solving. You know what you can really do with high-level people. That’s why all these masterminds are so awesome. And why everyone is, you know, there. There are these clubs and there are these with exclusivity to some of them. But really, when you get [together] with like-minded people and you build together, it’s a whole lot of fun.
Josh Dittrich: Amazing, right.
Josh Dittrich: Here’s what it means. I can’t really see it. You might be able to see it, but on the radio you can’t. It’s a tattoo, Proverbs 27:17 [and] I got a big shield with 2 blades going across. “As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another.” And that is biblical; talking about what we’re doing right now. You and I, together, can build each other up and we can become tougher and stronger. And that’s also meaningful in personal relationships, like being vulnerable and being real. So anyway, that’s my soapbox. Good stuff, man.
Andrew Morgans: No, I love it. It’s not a soapbox at all. It’s absolute fire coming from the Scripture, but it applies to old scripture. It is relevant today, right? It’s just I have Scripture all over my body, things with a lot of messages about fear. You know, and overcoming them and smothering them and the Scriptures is full of them. You know it’s full of promises and it’s been going on a lot in our world. Whether you’re religious or not.
Josh Dittrich: Yeah, man, fear is a liar. Yep, 100%. Well, we just added another thing to talk about, man. This has been a blast. But yeah, come see our facility, and in Minnesota, and you know, love the talk. I’m sure there’s partnership opportunities with your clients as well.
Andrew Morgans: A hundred percent we’ll link up out of this. Thanks, everybody, for listening. And once again, a big thank you to today’s episode sponsor, Canva. With Canva, you can work together from wherever. You’re on the same page as you team with seamless real-time collaboration while you design. Today, explore and start designing for free at http://canva.com. Josh, it has been a pleasure. Hustlers, we’ll see you next time.
Josh Dittrich: Thanks, man.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Canva. Create attention-grabbing designs with 500,000 free templates available for you and your team. Not only that, with Canva’s real-time functionalities, team collaboration is possible anytime, anywhere. So discover the creative magic that Canva can do today.