Bali Retreat Recap: What We Learned at This Year’s Drop Ship Lifestyle Retreat
It’s been a busy past few weeks for my team and myself. If you saw my last Drop Ship Weekly video, you know I was feeling a little rough from traveling non-stop the past two weeks.
However, I’m happy to say I’ve been staying motivated working on some exciting projects coming up...
So our fifth annual member’s retreat just happened, but beyond that we also just closed enrollment to Drop Ship Lifestyle. This happens every year as a way to give myself and the team time to update course material.
After a few weeks, we roll out a fresh new version. This is a huge reason why Drop Ship Lifestyle is the top eCommerce course out there.
Along with working on the new version of Drop Ship Lifestyle, we’ve been setting up holiday promotions, which I hope you’re doing in your store as well!! Black Friday will be here before you know it.
I mean, this is always the busiest time of the year for us, but now I’m doing it while dealing with jet lag. But hey, it’s kind of nice to have an extra bit of a challenge to keep you pumped, right? 🙂
Some BIG Things Happened While We Were in Bali
While I was in Bali at our member retreat, a whole bunch of stuff arrived in the mail at my place back in the states. A cool surprise I came home to was an award from ClickFunnels for doing over eight figures with them. (Thank you Russell and the ClickFunnels team!). We use ClickFunnels for some of our Drop Ship Lifestyle stuff as well as lead generation for eCommerce stores.
What I'm more excited about was the other big package that I got in the mail. I won’t share too much in this blog post, but the first 100 copies of my new book arrived. It’s called, “Drop Ship Secrets” and myself and the team have been working on this for the past several months.
Here’s a little preview of what it’ll look like:
We had to extend the deadline a few times, but the book is written and I finally got to hold a final copy in my hands. We got these copies to send them out with different secrets as a preview to some of our members and friends. I’ll talk more about the book in the future, cause that’s not what this blog post is about.
What I really want to share in this post is a recap of biggest lessons we all learned at the 2018 Drop Ship Lifestyle retreat. These retreats bring in industry experts, drop shipping pros, and people just starting with their stores. There’s plenty of learning and networking for all everyone at these retreats, so I’ll sum up the best advice we walked away with.
9 Things We Learned in Bali at this Year’s Retreat
If you’ve never been to one, the way our member retreats work is each day starts with a morning of presentations from the top eCommerce experts. Then, the afternoons are booked with different excursions.
This year our excursions included white water rafting, visiting a monkey forest, and drinking coffee at a local coffee plantation. So many incredible memories were made, but let’s get into the good stuff. Here’s some of the biggest takeaways from each of the talks.
1. How to Takedown Copycats and Win in a Competitive Niche
The first talk of this year’s Drop Ship Lifestyle retreat was from Larry Huang, a good friend of mine and someone who has been with us almost since the beginning. He even attended our very first retreat in Chiang Mai back in 2014!
Now, I reached out to Larry about six months before the retreat to ask if he could speak because I know what industry he's in and I know what products he sell. Let me tell you this, the niche he is in is super competitive, and he’s crushing it.
So I said, “Larry, can you just talk about some of things you're doing to have a successful seven-figure business– in a very competitive industry?” I know a lot of people face the same thing and issues he has had.
That is, they choose a drop shipping niche with a lot of competition and they are struggling to stand out, especially in the beginning.
But what I loved about Larry's talk is he didn't just give proactive tips (which he shared a lot of). He spent a good portion of his time talking about how to be on the defense and what to do when people try to rip you off.
Here's the thing– there’s a lot of shady people out there that think building an eCommerce store is as easy as stealing from someone else.
If you're in a competitive industry and when you start to become one of the top players, a lot of those shady people are going to look at your store to steal from. But that doesn’t mean you should give up and let them win.
And when I say steal from someone else’s store, I’m talking about people that use your images, steal custom descriptions your wrote, or they might even copy and paste the reviews that your customers left on your website.
There’s all kind of other shady things these low lifes do... But Larry knows how to beat them. A lot of what him and his team focuses on is when people do steal, they make sure it gets taken down very quickly.
In his talk, he spent some time talking about Shopify's DMCAs (that's the Digital Millennium Copyright Act). This act is how you can get these websites that steal taken down.
Whether you’re in a competitive niche are not, these tips he shared is advice we can all benefit from:
Being proactive and fast acting is a way to make sure you don't make it easy on anyone that wants to steal from you. Even though I firmly believe those type of people will always fail, it doesn't mean you should even give them a chance.
Again, building a long-term successful business is not as easy as stealing the formula from someone else. They don't realize there's a whole other side to running a business. Don't let anybody steal from you, and actually have a chance to win.
2. It’s What’s on the Back-End That Matters
So the next talk we had at the member retreat in Bali was from Michael Erickson. If you're part of Drop Ship Lifestyle and part of our community, then you're familiar with him. I met Michael on the other side of the world, years ago, and now we’re both in Austin running our companies.
His PPC agency, Search Scientists, is ranked in the top three percent of all Google Ad agencies. So yeah, he’s pretty good at Google ads, and their specialty is eCommerce stores. Google Ads are tricky for many people, so a talk from him is a must at our retreats.
Plus, he always gives good talks whenever he comes out. He named this year’s talk, "Avengers Paid Traffic Infinity Wars". He went through all of the infinity stones Thanos was collecting in the recent Avengers movie and related them to eCommerce. Each stone was a different area drop shippers need to succeed in.
He had a whole bunch of front-end tips, but one of the biggest points from his talk is one that I hope really resonates with you. It’s basically what people (competitors included) don’t see when they come to your site and they are the things that will make your store different– in a good way.
Working on the back-end things will make your profit margins higher, double your return on ad spend, and prevent competitors from entering your space.
The beauty of it is when you're doing all these things that he spoke about, when your future competitors try to copy you or get in your niche, they’ll be wondering why they aren’t making profits.
Michael walked us through some examples, and we were wondering how they were making money. And it’s because of the things you can’t see on the front end. That includes:
Our members walked away from his talk with several actionable strategies to double their conversion rates and get a higher return on ad spend. It was a super cool talk and I was honored to have Michael come and share his paid traffic knowledge.
3. Using Automation Will Help You Run a Better Business with Less Mistakes
I kicked off the second day of talks at our retreat in Bali talking all about automations. I won’t get into the fine print of automation here, but it’s a powerful strategy that can really grow your store and help you work less.
In my talked I shared my favorite automation software (Zapier) and how to get started setting up “zaps”. Setting up these zaps, and automation in general, will help you replace using multiple virtual assistants and keep things running 24/7, 365 in the background.
Working with VAs can be a major headache with a lot of churn. Luckily, automation tools will help your business perform better with less room for mistakes. And that translates to making more money with less time spent working on your store.
4. Start Today, and You Could Have a 7-Figure Story to Share at Our Next Retreat
After that, we had Lewis Smith from the UK tell his story, and it’s one that I love. We usually have two types of talks at our retreats, the actionable type full of strategies, and the inspiring stories that motivate our members. Lewis’s talk was the latter.
Lewis attended his first Drop Ship Lifestyle retreat this time last year in Playa del Carmen, and I still remember our conversation at the kickoff party. On the first night, he introduced himself to me and was asking for advice on what he should do with his store to get to where he wanted to be.
Now, 12 months later, he was in Bali sharing how he implemented that advice I gave him and where it took him. He took my advice and grew a seven figure store. This allowed him to leave his very well paying finance job in London to travel around the world with his wife. He’s showing no signs of slowing down and his store is continuing to grow as he travels.
But how did he do find this massive success in under a year? In his talk, Lewis explained how:
So not only did Lewis share his inspirational story, showing how much could happen in a year, but he shared plenty of advice for managing a business while remote. I really appreciate Lewis being out there at the retreat and sharing everything!
5. Motivation Over Everything, That’s How You Win
After Lewis, we had Carla come up and talk. Carla is one of our members from Australia, and I love her story and growth as an active member of our community. When she was first getting started with Drop Ship Lifestyle, she was asking a lot of questions in our private Facebook group. She’d ask questions and share how she felt she was struggling, something many of our members feel at first. But something happened and those posts started to get a little different…
Her posts from went from beginner questions on calling suppliers and building a store to “Hey, I got my first sale!” to “Hey, I did my first $10,000 in sales!” to more recently when she finally broke six figures in sales.
The best part of Carla’s story is she was able to build this business working from home with three small children. Carla put in the hours while her kids were at school, and she built a massive business in Australia.
So during her talk at the retreat in Bali, she shared a whole bunch of tips for working from home and being an active community member, plus her super motivational story.
You know, we've had a bunch of talks over the past five years at our member retreats. I gotta say though, there's never been any that I would consider emotional, but Carla's definitely was.
She spoke bit at the end about being a woman in this industry and business in general. Carla shared some personal stories about being out with family and times where people automatically defaulted to asking just the men around her, “Hey how are things going with your job and/or business?”
These stories of her experiences as a woman gave the room a bit of perspective and served as a good reminder, that yea, there are a lot of women building and running online businesses. And they’re kicking butt doing it!
In fact, women make up a large percent of our community, and many of them are incredibly successful. She gave good examples as food for thought, just to show that it’s not just always about what the male is up to in his career.
After presentations, I usually walk around the room passing off the mic to people for questions. After Carla’s talk I did the same, but this time was different. This time, I saw a bunch of people getting kind of teary eyed because she's been through a lot to get to where she is.
And it just goes to show it is motivation over everything, never giving up over everything, that's how you win.
I definitely appreciated the fact that after her talk, she had a massive group of people around her asking more questions and just thanking her for her talk.
So again, thank you, Carla, I definitely appreciate it, and I know everybody in the room did as well. Oh, and Carla also brought Tim Tam cookies for everybody, so you can never go wrong there!
6. Build a Brand, Become an Authority
On the final day at our members retreat in Bali, I gave the first talk, which was all about building a brand. I shared a new niche I'm getting into, and kind of my plans with it for the next 12 to 18 months. I also shared some of the strategies that I'm doing to build a new brand, not just with drop shipping either.
I gave a bunch of different monetization methods that I'll be using, and I also kind of told everybody who I think it's a good model for, and who it's not.
What do you do if you want to be a brand? Not just with making your own physical products, but if you want be the top authority in your space. The path that I think is the one of least resistance to get there is by building a solid brand.
I then showed people how they can copy it with their brands as well. If you want to get started building your brand, get a copy of our free Strategy Deck. It will walk you through everything you need to build to have a brand. Plus, it’s a great resource if you’re using virtual assistants!
7. The Goal Should Always be About Building a Highly Valuable Business
After that, we had Justin Cooke, from the Empire Flippers who gave a great talk on how to get a higher valuation for your business. If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of Empire Flippers and Justin is a good friend of mine.
If anybody's looking to buy a site or sell a site, go to Empire Flippers and check out their marketplace. There is just tons of good opportunity there– both on the buying and selling side.
In Justin’s talk at our Bali retreat, he outlined for our members what they can start doing now to ensure they get the most money if and when they decide to sell. What I really liked about his talk is he shared specific examples of stores that have sold over the past 12 months at Empire Flippers.
He showed some of the niches that they were in, some of the differences between the ones that got 30x multiples, and the ones that got closer to 20x. It was great real world examples of things you could do to make your drop shipping store more valuable.
Now, yes, this is important stuff if you want to sell your drop shipping store, because of course you're going to get more money when you do, but it's also important if you're just going to run it yourself.
Think about it, you should always want to run a business that's more valuable, right?
Then he gave a bunch of tips for things to do along the way, to make those numbers more attractive, again, to a potential buyer in the future. A really incredible talk from an incredible company.
Some things that have an impact on your store’s valuation include:
8. What are You Gonna Do with All That Cash?
Last, but certainly not least, the last talk of our retreat in Bali came from Johnny Jen. You might know him from his podcast, "Travel Like A Boss", or from his website. He's been a buddy of mine since I moved out to Chiang Mai,Thailand years ago. Plus, he was one of the first members of Drop Ship Lifestyle.
What’s really cool about Johnny's story and the reason I asked him to speak, is because, out of everybody that at least talks publicly about their results, their numbers, he's the one that also talks about what he does with that money.
A lot of people start making five, ten, 20 grand a month, and their first thought is, I need the bigger house, I need the fancy cars, I need all this high end stuff. What's been cool about Johnny's journey and how he documents it is he's always been good about saving and investing.
Though he travels the world nonstop, he is frugal, very frugal. It's not like he's not doing anything and having a boring life. He's very good about making smart investments with his money, not just into different markets, but into different real estate funds.
He's been able to grow a big return on his drop shipping profits, just by being smart with his money.
So I thought that was a lesson that would be important for everybody attending our retreat. A lot of people don't know what to do when they start making all this cash, right? You start making money, you think you should spend it, or you just don't know any better, so you spend it as fast as you make it.
I wanted Johnny just to talk about his journey, and kind of where he's put money, and how he's been able to turn it into more, and not blow it all, right? The crowd was smart, and everyone paid close attention to his advice!
9. Build a Team, Build a Stronger Business
So those were the morning talks which were followed by afternoons full of networking, and lots of fun late nights as well.
Beyond all the talks, one of the biggest things that I would consider a lesson learned while in Bali, was just connecting with people in the Drop Ship Lifestyle community.
Basically, everybody that I spoke to that's running a big business right now– I'm talking, let's just call it over $70,000 dollars a month in sales with the Drop Ship Lifestyle model– kept bringing up the same subject, and that was team building.
So my advice is to start by having at least one full time virtual assistant, many people have more than one, but at least one person that basically becomes your business manager. Not just someone you find randomly and expect to come in and build everything for you on the cheap, but someone that you bring in for the long haul.
You want someone you work with day in and day out that can start taking over the day to day things. Maybe they get a small, small, small upside of the business every month in sales as a way to keep them motivated.
Getting a business manager of this sort, allows you to focus on what actually matters: the big picture stuff and the things that'll really move the needle as you scale up and up and up.
So basically, for everybody reading this, if you're running your store right now, honestly, even if you're only getting started making your first few sales my advice is this: bring someone on your team sooner rather than later.
This is something I don't think a lot about, because we've had a team in place for a decade now. Looking back though, I definitely realize that for everybody that's starting from nothing and coming up fast, having at least one person in place to help with that is a big part of the journey.
Where Will We go Next? And Will You be There with Us?
For everybody that was at the retreat, thank you for coming. I had an amazing time, I hope you did too! Definitely seemed like it because it was just non-stop fun, networking, and I think super motivational, which is always good.
And of course, thank you to all the speakers that were there, thank you to everybody that celebrated, that was just a part of this community. My team and I are really look forward to doing it all again next year.
By the way, we've already been planning next year's retreat... I think we're gonna do Europe, I think it's going to be Prague, but I will keep you posted on that as well. You know, we've done the states, we've done Hawaii, we've done Mexico, we've done Thailand, we've done Bali, but never Europe and I think it’s time.
Let me know what you think about that in the comments, or let me know if you have any other suggestions!