Join us as we recall our journey recording 100 podcast episodes of the Bean Ninjas Podcast
In this episode of the Bean Ninjas Podcast, Meryl and Wayne share the lessons they’ve learned through recording 100 episodes of the podcast. They share their favourite episodes, their best takeaways, and best of all the memories they’ve created.
We’ve had a lot of great episodes and interviews in the podcast, it was such and still is, a wonderful journey to reminisce and go through. We are so excited to be doing a hundred more – with bigger and better goals for you.
In this episode, we discuss:
[01:56] The positive effects of the lockdown.
[03:28] Biggest benefit of having a podcast.
[05:10] Wayne’s experience in being involved in the Bean Ninjas podcast.
[06:38] Meryl’s top favorite podcast episode: Launching in 7 days
[10:30] Bean Ninjas’ Genesis Story: Episode 1, 2, 3 and 4
[11:52] Meryl and Wayne share their next favorite podcast episode series – Working in Public: Episode 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41
[14:46] Meryl’s third favorite episode – Mindfulness and Yoga at Bean Ninjas: Episode 13
[17:10] Wayne’s favorite episodes where Taylor Holiday (Episode 93) and Andrew Youderian (Episode 67) are interviewed.
[23:32] Interviewing Dan Norris in Episode 82 who has been instrumental in the Bean Ninjas journey as Meryl’s last favourite episode.
[28:03] What’s next for the Bean Ninjas Podcast
What we learned from 100 podcast episodes
Announcer Welcome to the Bean Ninjas Podcast, where you get an all-access pass to see what happens behind the closed doors of a fast-growing global bookkeeping and financial reporting business.
Hey Wayne. It’s great to be chatting with you again. How’s life during lockdown?
Things are great, actually. I think in light of everything that’s going on, we found an amazing sense of calm as parent to five children with numerous activities that they tend to take part in during a traditional school year. We really had an opportunity to focus in on what really mattered and a lot of it was just spending time together.
So not being forced into committing to dance activities, and soccer activities, and tee-ball, and interchanging schedules, and kind of fly-by parenting, we’ve really been able to use this time to just really enjoy our family and dig into some of the kids’ interests and activities. So overall, things are going well.
And I don’t want to break from tradition. I found in reflecting over these last hundred episodes that a lot of the introductions included your surf check. So how was the surf this morning?
I didn’t actually surf this morning. But let me tell you, it’s been amazing surf from the Gold Coast for the last three weeks. So I actually have scheduled a surf with a friend directly after this podcast recording. So I’d better make sure we don’t run overtime.
Excellent. Well, I will try my best. I’m not usually one short on words, but I’ll be sure that you are able to get out in time.
And I really felt what you were saying there around life with lockdown, and I know that’s not the purpose of the episode today. But I’ve been having conversations with quite a few people about how have they found things, and the common theme is that people have enjoyed a slower pace of life and not having as many commitments and more time with family.
And just as you said, that sense of calm. So I think that there might be something positive that comes out of the pandemic and the lockdown. I know we’ve seen many businesses impacted, but I think that we might be able to draw some positives as well.
Absolutely. And what’s wild is some of the impact we’ve actually seen go in the opposite direction of what would have been expected. So now in our work in supporting 7-figure eCommerce, we’re seeing a lot of activity where sellers are having some of their best months in the history of their companies.
Yeah, you’re right. And that inspired the research project that we’re doing. And I’ve mentioned that on another or some earlier podcast episodes where we’re diving into what actually has been the impact that there’s a global recession, but we’re actually seeing trends within our customer-base, especially amongst the eCommerce segment who are actually doing really well at the moment.
And is that unique or is that something across the whole eCommerce industry? So we’ll be excited to share those results with you once we’ve got all of the data and done that analysis.
Yeah, absolutely. Excited to see.
So we’re here today to celebrate a hundred episodes of the Bean Ninjas Podcast. And wow, I was never expecting, really, to get here. We’ve started a podcast just to give it a go and see where it went to test it, try it, and here we are recording Episode 100.
So in today’s recording, Wayne and I wanted to share some of our favourite episodes, kind of recap and reflect on those, and also talk about some of our learning’s in running the podcast. I’ll start off.
I initially started doing the podcast. We were using Audience Ops to help us produce the podcast and had a great experience with them. And being inexperienced with podcasting, it was really helpful having a co-host, Elizabeth. If you go back and listen to some of the early episodes, you will hear her leading the way and guiding me through those early podcast episodes, and I found that really helpful.
And then eventually, we transitioned away from that to producing our own episodes. And then it was me, or it was Wayne, or other team members either talking with each other or interviewing guests.
And for me, the biggest benefit from having a podcast; it wasn’t that we’d record a podcast and then have someone sign up for a Bean Ninjas bookkeeping service the next day, it was more about the relationships that were built with partners and people that were interesting to talk to.
Having someone on a podcast for 30 minutes or an hour and hearing their story is a great chance to get to know them and build a relationship. So for me, that was the biggest benefit.
So I’ll throw it over to you, Wayne. What has been your experience in being involved with the Bean Ninjas Podcast?
Yeah, absolutely. I just want to commend you, too. I think you were very generous in saying we started this podcast. But I was not yet a part of the company when the podcast was launched.
So I just really want to say congratulations to you, Meryl, and I really recognize and I commend you for the accountability and consistency and really just the hard work and effort that you put into making sure that just in under two years, we’re now at a hundred episodes. So again, congratulations.
To answer your question, really, what developed for me is a unique ability for us to use the podcast as a vehicle for us to kind of scratch an itch. So if we had a particular workflow that we wanted to understand or a particular way about marketing or doing business that we didn’t quite have a handle around, we can simply reach out and offer to have join us on the podcast experts that then teach us how to go out about and do the thing we were interested in learning.
So just the opportunity to learn from world-class experts in the world of online business and startups has been one of the best benefits and really the bigger takeaways that I’ve had in working on the podcast alongside you.
Thanks for that. And I think you’ve summed that up beautifully. Well, let’s jump into our favourite episodes. I’ll start off, and the first episode I wanted to mention was actually our first podcast episode about Launching in 7 Days.
And there, we were reflecting on what it was like to start Bean Ninjas. And the way that we followed Dan Norris’ 7 Day Startup methodology in rather than spending a year doing business planning and research, diving into starting in business quickly.
And the reason that this episode is important to me; there’s actually a couple of factors. One is that it shares the story of how we started, and sometimes we can forget that and how hard things were, and the kind of effort and hustle that we needed to have in the early days to get a business off the ground. So I like to reflect on that.
And the other reason is that that philosophy around launching quickly, learning and then iterating is something that we applied not only in starting the business but have continued to apply throughout the growth of Bean Ninjas in many different areas.
One example of that is the way that we launched courses, and Wayne and I recorded some working in public episodes there, but we have that philosophy across; trying Facebook ads or whatever it is that’s launched something quickly, test it and then learn.
And I’ve heard there’s kind of two sides of the same coin, I think. And the coin that I’m referring to would be achieving a goal in a limited amount of time or with limited resources. And I hear two different schools of thought on that.
One is you’re never going to achieve perfection. So as long as you’re moving the needle and accomplishing some goals, not being perfect is ok. And then the other is take the time to get things right the first time and you don’t have to go back and do them over.
And it sounds like initially, for these first seven days, you and your partner were working on more of a, “We don’t need perfection. We don’t need a perfect logo or a perfect website. We just need something to get the launch off the ground.”
Is there anything you regret about that or was that really hard for you to kind of not demand perfection from each step in order to meet your goals in that first seven days?
I think it can be hard to think like that and I think it’s probably around mindset. And it’s actually something that I learned as a young accountant as an auditor, I wanted things to be perfectly right. But just for a big business, even something that’s $10,000 out for a $100M business; it’s not really going to impact anything.
And that was something that I had to learn as a young auditor. Well, yes, it’s not 100% accurate, but it’s not wrong enough, or in accounting language, it’s not material to affect any decision-making. So we need to move on and focus on the big issues.
And I like to apply that same approach in business. In an example of a logo, we could spend, and we actually did go back and rebrand later, and it was a process that took many months to do it properly.
And so, when you’re launching a new business and you’re not even sure whether it’s going to work, you don’t have the time or the money to invest in something like that. So I like to think of it from a risk approach.
So what is the risk if I don’t do this perfectly? What is the risk to me or to the business? And with something like accounting reports, they need to be right. So you need to put in the time to make sure that they are accurate because it would detract from your business and from your customer experience if you did something that wasn’t right.
Where to something like a logo or a website, approach it the other way, especially in the early days. What is the minimum we can do to get this to market, to test it and get feedback so we can continue to improve it? Rather than let’s spend two months on something and then realize we’ve gone off in completely the wrong direction.
So it’s better to get feedback as early as you can and then keep iterating. But I think that it can be very uncomfortable to get comfortable with sending things out to get feedback, especially from customers when they’re not perfect.
Wayne, I’ll pass it over to you now for one of your favourite episodes.
Yeah. I know we tried to say pick your top three. So what I’m going to do is chip a little bit. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to call this the Bean Ninjas Genesis story. And it’s really Episodes 1 through 4.
So Meryl, as you might know, I’m a fan of Guy Ruz’s How I Built This and I’m a sucker for a good launch story and a recap. So to put it in perspective, these episodes were released in a batch series around mid to late July 2018.
And it was at the same time that you and I were negotiating and going back and forth around bringing me in full-time as both equity partner and within a full-time role in Bean Ninjas along the same route, having my small firm acquired by Bean Ninjas.
So along this time, I was also driving cross-country in our RV with my family. So I was able to really sit back and take in the genesis story and learn a little bit more about what it occurred in the years before I was a big part of the company.
So my wife, Stacy, not knowing much about the firm; I just remember listening with her with pride and us just being so excited about what we were in for and what we were stepping into.
So my chip is my first favourite is those first four. So I’ll hand it back to you to share another one of your top.
I’m actually doing something similar. My next episode is actually a series and that’s the Working in Public series that I recorded with you. And there, we had each picked a project. I was working on launching training; online training, Financial Literacy Training, and you were building an advisory product.
And we decided to really push ourselves and launch an episode every week sharing how we were tracking against our goals, what progress we were making, challenges and learnings. And I really enjoyed doing that.
It was challenging because we didn’t know whether we were going to get success or not, and we were putting ourselves out there in public whether we were going to succeed or whether we were going to fail.
And I found that kind of accountability, not just with you, but the public accountability helped in pushing me to drive forward with that course. And creating an online Financial Literacy Course was actually something that I’ve been planning to do and wanting to do for almost, I’d say, almost a year before that.
And agreeing with you to do the Working in Public series as well as pre-selling the course; those two things combined, making that decision to pre-sell the course so that I actually had to create it with paying students lined up helped me to achieve that goal.
And I come across working in public in a number of different places. Prime Castle is a great example of that. And I believe in that as a methodology to, one, hold yourself accountable but also have people interested in the work that you’re doing.
Others can learn from your challenges and experiences. But I think it makes quite an interesting story just to share what you’re working on, and I know that I find content around that interesting from other people.
Absolutely. And you stole my next one. So I’ll remind folks that these are Episodes 37 through 41 where we did a series Working in Public. And what it really was is behind the scenes candid conversations that Meryl and I were having, recording about what we were working through, what our approach was around creating a new product offer and a new service offering for our customers, what challenges we were facing.
And then also, committing to those things that we were going to do in the upcoming week. Absolutely, the accountability that was placed, but also the pressure a little bit because you want for it to be something that just really goes viral, takes off and creates kind of another great opportunity for us.
And it’s hard work. I mean, as anyone knows, launching a new product, it really takes a bit of research. And we shared throughout these five weeks what our thoughts and strategies were and what our concerns were in going into that.
So again, I will near that episode series as my second pic as well. So back to you, Meryl, for your third.
My next episode is number 13, Mindfulness and Yoga at Bean Ninjas. And this was where we brought three Bean Ninjas team members on to the podcast to share their experiences with either teaching yoga and mindfulness or practising as part of their daily lives.
And I’ve loved this episode because we were showcasing other team members. It wasn’t just; the Bean Ninjas Podcast isn’t just about me or Wayne sharing our story or having expert guests sharing their expertise. Really, we wanted to showcase the whole team.
And it was an interesting experience. None of the team members had been on the podcast before, so we’ve provided some coaching and practice before that episode. And I really enjoyed seeing everyone step up and embrace a new experience like that.
We also had great feedback on that episode. It was a little bit different to some of the other content that we’d created. It wasn’t necessarily accounting-focused, but the topic of mindfulness seemed to resonate and be something that many people were interested in.
So how exactly does yoga benefit your work-life specifically?
I think that yoga really helps with my concentration. When I’m doing yoga, all I’m thinking about is breathing and actually being in the poses. So I really use that time to try do not let my mind wander to really work on my breath. And I find that when I do lose my focus and I do allow my mind to wander, my breath is affected and I find myself actually holding my breath.
And that doesn’t just apply to when I lose my focus when I’m doing yoga. I actually find that it happens throughout the day many times when I’m just not concentrating on what I’m doing. So I find that in yoga, when you’re trying to balance and you’re working on your breath, you’re just like fully, you’re fully in the mode of doing yoga and fully concentrating.
And not only do I feel physically recharged after I do yoga, I find that a complete break from technology and a break from the temptation of checking your emails and checking your phone is refreshing. And then I can sit back down after I’ve had a complete break from everything and I just have a clear mind to begin work again.
And I do actually have; I couldn’t stop at three episodes, Wayne. So once I pass back to you, I actually have one more to mention.
Absolutely. So I’ll say Meryl, you have your people, Dan Norris and Brian Casel, and I’m starting to find my own people. And two of my favourites have been Taylor Holiday and Andrew Youderian.
So Episode 93, I had a chance to talk to Taylor about Mission, Magic Money and the one formula you must understand for eCommerce growth. We talked about his company is held under Dream Labs and a core principle and methodology around understanding and impacting growth of eCommerce businesses.
We have this accounting principle, and it’s because we’re on a financial podcast, I don’t mind getting into this. Normally, on marketing podcasts, people’s eyes are glazed over, but I think your audience will appreciate it.
So we call it the four quarters accounting principle of eComm, okay? So the idea is if you were to break apart your P&L into four different categories, the first category being CAC (cost of acquisition). In other words, how much are you spending on media dollars as part of your P&L?
And then the second quarter would be what we call cost of delivery; so that goes back to that variable cost idea – everything that you spend on shipping, fulfilment, your merchandising fees or your transaction fees, your payment processor fees; everything that goes into the cost of delivery.
And then the third quarter is your OPEX, and then the fourth quarter is profit. And if you broke your P&L into all four of those categories and you’ve looked at them all through the lens of greater or less than 25%, you could begin to find where there’s area of opportunity for improving your profit.
So that is not to say that every business should be at 25% across all three categories; of course not. But we think that that is an indicator that begins to allow you to hone in on the problem.
So let’s say if, on the CAC side, you were sitting at 40% CAC, well, now we’ve got to begin to look at why and how we reduce that because the business is not going to be able to survive at that cost of acquisition.
And it was interesting to learn of a simple formula that really defines income or sales within an eCommerce business. So I’ll let you go back to that episode to identify and discover what that formula is.
The last is Episode 67. It’s kind of one of our earlier ventures into eCommerce. We spoke with Andrew Youderian who’s created a community of 7-figure eCommerce businesses and discussed really the tools and process in building strong online communities.
We at Bean Ninjas have since developed our own Bean Ninjas community and I’m seeing a large trend in our industry to firms, not only building communities as a way to communicate across their customers but also as a way to showcase and provide education relevant to the service that they’re providing.
We also talked a bit about the State of the Merchant Report, which, really, to me is a bit of what; it has excited me about the work we’re doing in thought leadership and in building a whitepaper around people’s experiences in this recession.
So what it really talked about are common struggles that eCommerce merchants are facing and I just loved the way that it was framed in the product that Andrew puts out year after year in this merchant report.
So, Meryl, back to you for your chip fourth top-three pick.
Yeah. So I go out every year, we put together; it’s a huge survey, it’s like 50 questions. And so, to bribe people to get through it, we give away a plane ticket anywhere in the US or anywhere in the world rather.
So this year, we had over 400 respondents with an average revenue of just under $3 million for store owners. And so, we’ve gathered data on trends for growth revenues, channel sales, paid traffic, all sorts of macro-level trends, Amazon trends, popular software, conversion rates; whatever. You name it, there’s a good chance it’s in there.
And so, we release it every year in a big write up and that’s how we get all the data. And we’ve been doing it for about three years now.
Awesome. What were some of the most notable surprises you’ve seen over the three years?
This year, looking at some of the trends, I’ll hit some of the big ones. One is that the drop-shipping model is just getting killed. Half of drop shippers disappeared from last year to this year. So they decreased by over 50% and the number of manufacturing companies went up by a third.
A lot of that was that channel mix or that business model mix was shifting from drop shipping to manufacturing for a lot of the reasons I mentioned to just having your own product, or your own supply chain or something unique and defensible is increasingly important. That was a big one.
If you look at the trends with Amazon; Amazon over the last couple of years has really been growing quickly in terms of the percentage of sales that merchants attribute to Amazon; how much of the sales they generate on Amazon versus their own stores, the number of merchants selling on Amazon, just in general.
And even the growth of Amazon stores has been compared to people that aren’t selling on Amazon. And this last year, in 2019, we saw what I call like a plateauing of Amazon. And not that Amazon isn’t still a huge force; it’s a massive force. It’s the kind of the driving force, I would say, that’s shaping eCommerce.
But the number of stores, at least in this demographic that are running to Amazon, that are adopting Amazon, has really plateaued. The group sales, sales that came from Amazon, really more or less plateaued. It was flat year over year. The number of merchants who were selling on Amazon didn’t shrink but more or less barely inched forward; less than a percent increase there.
And if you look at actually the growth of stores for the first year ever, stores that sold on Amazon grew at a slower rate than those that didn’t. And so, interesting trend. We’ve seen a lot more talk this year about Amazon being the ultimate frenemy and some of the challenges involved there.
And still a major player, a lot of people sell on the platform, but I think the number of people who are really flocking to the platform has plateaued.
So, Meryl, back to you for your chip fourth top-three pick.
I had to pick another one, and it’s funny, you were just talking about finding your people. And you mentioned, for me, Dan Norris and Brian Casel. And, of course, Episode 82 was actually an interview with Dan, and it’s been instrumental in the full or basically the whole Bean Ninjas journey from us following that 7-Day Startup methodology from his book in the beginning.
And for those of you that don’t know, there’s actually a bit of backstory before that. Dan and I were working in a co-working space, and I was running their consulting; accounting consulting business.
And he said I should do WP Curve for accounting, which was WP Curve was the productized service that he was running; a fixed monthly fee subscription business, and challenging me to apply that business model to the accounting industry.
So that was the backstory. And then, had since gone on to sell WP Curve to GoDaddy and is now running a brewery.
And I was really curious about the differences he had found in running the productized service business model with WP Curve to running a brewery, which is quite different. There’s physical premises, they’re manufacturing, they’ve got a lot of staff on-site, they’re distributing physical goods around Australia.
And that was really interesting to hear his insights around what it was like running those two different businesses, managing teams; so he’s managing a team that is in-person compared to previously, he had a remote team; marketing and sales is quite different.
And I found that episode really insightful. And it was great to get Dan on the podcast as someone who’s been part of the Bean Ninjas journey from the beginning.
Your first business, I think, always should be something where you’re going to get immediate feedback from the customer on whether or not they want to pay for what you’re doing; I think for a first business. Like, I think service is a no-brainer.
Would you recommend a brewery for a first business? Or do you need some experience first?
No, I don’t think I’d recommend a brewery for any business. I think service is a great way to get into business. You know, I’d quit my job and I hadn’t built websites before, and the day I started, I put up a website saying, “I know how to build websites, who wants one?” And from day one, I was selling something and someone was paying for it, and I was learning and that was perfect.
After that point, it becomes about like what are your ambitions. I sort of think back to when I had WP Curve; towards the end, it was a really good business. We were paying ourselves really nicely; we don’t have to do a whole lot of work. I almost look back at that and think, like I was earning way more money then. It was nice.
But I’ve always wanted to build something bigger. I don’t really know why; I don’t really know what purpose. It’s not; I don’t think it’s really about selling and making all the money because I don’t particularly think there’s anything out there that I want to spend money on that I don’t really already have, to be honest.
But I always wanted to build something bigger and valuable, and I’m prepared to take the risk to do that. But not everyone wants to do that. So I think if you do want to do that, you’ve got to build something that can potentially be a big company.
Software is good if you can do it but it’s just a nightmare. I’ve never been able to do it; it’s just so difficult. Manufacturing is just so hard; I don’t know. It’s just tough. But I’ve always sort of more like not thought about the business model that much. At least these days, I more thought about what’s getting traction.
Like, I really didn’t think of Black Hops as, “This is a good business model.” It was just like, “Well, this is worth exploring, so I’ll be part of it.” But yeah, I think service is good if you can somehow productize them; it’s good.
But there’s compromises with that, too, like if you want to focus on only recurring revenue, you’re leaving a lot of revenue on the table, you’d be adding in some consistency. It makes some things a lot easier, but it makes, probably, profit’s a bit lower.
And it changes a lot about what you do. It means you have to say no to a lot of stuff. I think you need to be more focused on sales because selling something recurring is quite difficult. And if you don’t want to do that, that might not suit you. So I think it’s more on what suits you and what you want to do.
I would say be careful of doing a business by yourself always, even if it’s your first one. Probably, especially if it’s your first one.
So we’re recording Episode 100 today, Wayne. What’s next for the Bean Ninjas Podcast?
Yeah, I think we talked a bit about our approach in really what we want in terms of positioning the podcast. And for us, it’s really been a way for us to share the unique strengths, experiences and skillsets of our network and really those people that we have an opportunity to connect with.
I think the best way in going forward for us to do this is to position the podcast in more of a Netflix-style series where we begin to group like-interest or industry-focuses, pain points or solutions together and present them as a series.
So in a similar way that a podcast like Business Wars, we’ll track over 6 episodes a particular story. We’ll look to take an industry vertical such as eCommerce and share a series of perhaps 6 episodes to talk about the particular pain points or opportunities for growth or learning’s that someone should understand when trying to maximize their experience in those industries.
Great. And as Wayne said, the Netflix-style series is something that we’ve got in the works and something that we’re going to test. You’ll still hear about typical episodes after Episode 100. But coming up, and we’ll share more around the date of this, but later this year, you can expect to see some of this series-style of podcasts as well.
So that’s it for me today. I guess it’s time for me to duck out for the surf. What’s on for you, Wayne, for the rest of the day?
Well, a proper celebration, one we had without perhaps cracking a beer. So it may be time for me to celebrate our Episode 100. That is my late afternoon and totally appropriate being that I’m working from home to celebrate.
So cheers, Meryl. Congratulations again and thank you so much for having me be a part of this journey and helping celebrate today, Episode 100.
Thanks, Wayne. It’s been awesome having this chat with you, but also, just working together as business partners. And here’s to the next 100 episodes.
Absolutely. Take care, Meryl.
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References and Links Mentioned:
- Know Your Numbers Course
- Bean Ninjas Profit First Program
- Bean Ninjas Recession Survey
- 1. The 7 Day Launch
- 2. The Journey to $100k
- 3. The Breakup – Weathering the Departure of a Founding Team Member
- 4. 3 Years of Bean Ninjas – A Reflection
- 37. Product Development Process Week 1: The Behind the Scenes of 2 Product Launches
- 38. Product Development Process Week 2: The Behind the Scenes of 2 Product Launches
- 39. Product Development Process Week 3: The Behind the Scenes of 2 Product Launches
- 40. Product Development Process Week 4: Deep Work and Practicing Patience
- 41. Product Development Process Part 5: Feedback in Learning
- 67. How to Build a 7-figure E-commerce Business With Andrew Youderian
- 93. Mission, Magic, Money, and the one formula you must understand for eCommerce Growth with Taylor Holiday of CommonThreadCo
- Audience Ops Done-For-You Content Service
- Brian Cassell – Bootstrapped Web podcast
- Guy Raz – How I Built This
- Bean Ninjas Community
- State of the Merchant report 2019
- WP Curve
- Productized Services and Why You Should Bootstrap with Brian Casel
- Business Wars
- Dan Norris – 7 Day Startup
- Flash/back transition sound from Freesound.org