How to Bootstrap and Build a Lasting Company – Steven Hong – EP51

How to Bootstrap and Build A Lasting Company

The e-commerce world is a very competitive one, which means you need a strong brand strategy to establish a long-lasting business.

In this episode of the Page One Podcast, Luke speaks with Steven Hong, the self-titled Chief Bandito at his company Discount Bandit, an online shopping service that matches up discount shoppers to retailers. Steven is a serial entrepreneur in the e-commerce space and has founded multiple e-commerce companies.

Steven shares the immeasurable value of investing in a strong brand strategy that is more long term as compared to brand performance. Listen in to learn the importance of having an effective company culture in ensuring every employee is encouraged and determined to work.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to use traditional digital marketing by targeting the right customer hence creating a brand presence and a loyal following.
  • The business model of targeting to make nothing on the first transaction.
  • Questions to ask yourself when building a lasting business.
  • The value of a brand strategy that is a more long term than brand performance.
  • How to value your employees by influencing the company culture.

Episode Timeline:

  • [4:08] The impacts of Coronavirus to mid-sized companies and employees.
  • [5:42] The negative effects of Coronavirus against Discount Bandit.
  • [10:40] He explains how they use digital marketing to specifically target the right customer.
  • [14:39] The importance of building a die-hard fan base even when it means losing money during that first transaction.
  • [17:21] How to create value, culture, and be technology-focused to build a longer-lasting business.
  • [22:17] How content marketing helps with long term brand recognition and lots of respect from manufacturers.
  • [25:15] The importance of getting the company culture right.
  • [26:43] How to hold company values to uplift the company culture.

Relevant Links:Website: https://www.discountbandit.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-hong/

Speaker 1: Welcome to The Page 1 Podcast, a podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders on topics ranging from digital marketing, sales channel strategies, influencer marketing, best in class product launches and all the details about how to accelerate sales. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.

Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on The Page 1 Podcast. I’m your host, Luke Peters, CEO of NewAir Appliances and Retail Band digital strategy agency. We’re now in a coronavirus world and I know it’s on everyone’s mind. So I’m going to adapt all of these interviews to ensure that you, the listeners, are getting the most out of this podcast. And before we jump into the podcast, how are your digital sales performing? Do you wish you had someone to create a custom strategic plan to grow your online sales and then show you how to execute it? That’s what we do at Retail Band. If you’re interested, find me on LinkedIn or email me at Luke@RetailBand.com.

Luke Peters: In this episode, you’re going to learn from entrepreneur Steven Hong on out of bootstrap and build a lasting company. Steven is an entrepreneur and business leader with deep expertise in e-commerce, culture building technology. He’s currently the self-titled Chief Bandito at his company, Discount Bandit, an online shopping service that matches up discount shoppers to retailers. Prior to that, Steven founded and exited the number one retailer in air treatment category, Sylvane. And in his early career, Steven worked on digital transformation projects with Fortune 500 companies as vice-president, Merrill Lynch, and a manager at Accenture. Steven is former board member of Entrepreneurs Organization, is an active member of the Young President’s Organization and leadership in Georgia. Welcome to the show, Steven.

Steven Hong: Thanks Luke. I appreciate it. Wow. That’s a great intro. I appreciate the kind words.

Luke Peters: You got it. And just for the audience. So Steven and I have known each other a long time. Back in the day, we competed a little bit and then I kind of changed up NewAir, and then we actually were selling some products through his past company, Sylvane. And I think, where did we meet? I think we met at what’s that entrepreneur show? Internet Retailer, right? In Chicago, I think that’s where we initially met. Either there or-

Steven Hong: Yeah.

Luke Peters: Yeah.

Steven Hong: Yeah, Internet Retailer, now RetailX. I remember meeting you there. It’s always interesting when you’re meeting someone who at the time is a competitor and you’re trying to feel them out. You’re trying to feel them out for is this person a cool dude or are they kind of like obnoxious? And you were a cool dude then, you’re a cool dude now.

Luke Peters: Thanks for that.

Steven Hong: You were always positive in my book. It’s interesting, I’m sure you’ve come across this, too. There are some retailers, or some companies rather, that you compete against, but you have a respect for them because we’re all obviously trying to make a better mousetrap, but they do it with integrity and they’re not trying to be underhanded. I’ve always felt that you did a fantastic job in terms of what you were doing with your companies. And I’ve had other companies that I’ve gone up against who I didn’t have such a positive experience with. Always a pleasure to talk with you.

Luke Peters: Cool. Well, likewise. And for me, this is a big ocean here, so there’s plenty of room and I always just like meeting and learning from people. And one thing that’s good for the audience to know is when you built Sylvane, kind of what stood out is you guys were really focused on that core area, health and air treatment. We’ll get into some questions about that later on, but just so the audience understands you’ve got experienced in so many different areas and a lot of digital marketing experience. So, first let’s start with coronavirus before we get into some of these other questions. I’m sure you have a lot of experiences with Discount Bandit or even other friends that are in business. What are you seeing kind of on the ground?

Steven Hong: Yeah, so coronavirus is just having a devastating impact, obviously, on small and midsize businesses at every scale. I’m a member of the Young President’s Organization, so YPO, and they did a survey of their membership and the these are all pretty decent size businesses. It’s basically 90% of businesses were in some way negatively impacted, 50% of those businesses seriously impacted, high risk. And then a small percentage, about 9%, actually saw an increase in their volume. But the vast majority of people right now are suffering and you’re seeing that with businesses, but also obviously that trickles down to the employees. Employees are being furloughed and laid off, and my heart goes out to all those people.

Luke Peters: Yeah. And it’s so tough. At the same time, companies that are in digital, that are focused online, are the fortunate ones. And for me, probably the same thing with you. By the way, in 2008, we never even felt it. You almost feel like you’re cheating because so many people are in pain, but that crisis really didn’t affect us in online businesses just because the trend in online sales were growing. And here it’s a little different. I think this one is a little deeper. But at the same time, companies that are positioned online seem to be doing well. Are you kind of seeing that with Discount Bandit? Is that working in your favor or are there still some negative impacts there?

Steven Hong: Yeah. So Discount Bandit is interesting because it is an intermediary, right? So it matches up buyers and sellers, it matches up shoppers who are looking for an absolute, fantastic deal on something they’re looking to purchase, and it matches them up with retailers. So it finds a retailer that can provide them that great deal.

Steven Hong: So because of that, we have insight and we have millions of products across tons and tons of different categories. Anything from pet food to automotive, to appliances and home decor. So we see the sales across the categories and across the retailers. And contrary to what’s happening in traditional brick and mortar obviously with already there was a trend obviously on the decline, but with everything shutting down, obviously sales going to zero. All the online that we’ve seen for the most part, a couple of sectors no, but for the most part, we’ve seen a lot of them rise. And then even more so in the past week or two, with these stimulus checks depositing into people’s bank accounts, that’s what we presume is what’s fueling it. We’re seeing even a larger jump in some of that volume.

Steven Hong: And some of the retailers that we work with, they actually are trying to cut back on their volume because some of their operational things are falling apart. If you take an online retailer and all of a sudden, in one day, you double their volume, it’s going to create a lot of operational problems. And so some of the retailers that we work with have actually shut down their operations for a period of time in certain marketplaces and certain services, because they’re not able to maintain that same kind of service level and because the volume surged. So, they are fortunate in that regard where they’re seeing some of the lift from the stimulus that’s being injected into the economy. But as a whole, obviously, it’s a devastating, negative impact.

Luke Peters: Wow, that’s so interesting you say that because we’ve seen a bump as well in the last week. And I didn’t really even think that it was the stimulus checks and maybe you’re right. I kind of said, well, around March 15 to 25, let’s say, it was the world’s going to come to an end. And so that was different. And then afterwards, the stimulus came in and the government pretty much said that they’re going to pretty much bail everything out and the market went up. And so I was assuming it was out, but you might be right. Maybe it is those checks coming in the mail. So yeah, super interesting.

Steven Hong: Yeah. As soon as things locked down, we saw sales. We have so many different retailer sites, so many different things, that we saw sales of like toilet paper and hand sanitizers and webcams and freezers. People were stocking up on food. We saw certain things where you said, “Okay, it makes sense. I understand the shortages on some of these things within stores, or people are really kind of stocking up for the long haul in their homes.” You saw those sectors that kind of made sense.

Steven Hong: But then with the most recent, this last week, we took a look and it was really broad based. So it was kind of across all product categories. And so we were thinking, okay, well either we did something incredible on our website and all of a sudden customers are converting at double the rate, which is, in our experience, is pretty unlikely. And you would know if you did. So we said, “What else is going on?” So these are things that we kind of drew the conclusion on was stimulus related. And we spoke to a couple of retailers and they felt the same way. Obviously, you’re taking the information that you can see and then you make your best guess as to what connects the dots.

Luke Peters: Yeah. I’ve done some Google trends, just some Google trends research, or we use SEM Rush. So you can do some keyword research on that. And we have seen the trends go up. And freezers, like you said, went way up and then it kind of came back down, but it leveled higher than it was previous. I think like over 50% jump still is where it leveled out. And then other stuff has trended up. And a lot of it from around March 21 to say, 23. So I think that’s when a lot of companies really forced a stay at home and work from home. And then it was still doom and gloom, and your assessment is interesting. Like you said, it was like toilet paper necessities at first, but then just overall life. People are buying more things online. So, yeah. Companies that are in this area are going to benefit.

Luke Peters: I had a bunch of other questions, but now you’ve got me curious. So Discount Bandit, you’re selling huge amount of products it sounds like. And you started this company a couple years ago, right? Three years ago? Is that- Steven Hong: Yes.

Luke Peters: Okay. How are you attracting the customers? That’s always the difficult part. How do you get the customer base to make it work for the retailers? Content marketing couldn’t do it alone. I’m sure you’ve got some secrets, but anything else you want to talk to, to how you drive kind of customer growth on the site?

Steven Hong: Sure. So in my past life, I did a lot of digital marketing. So with Sylvane, they were really good at traditional digital marketing in terms of paid ads on Google and Bing, and obviously retargeting and email marketing. And so a lot of those skills I brought with me to Discount Bandit. And so with Discount Bandit, we’ve been obviously utilizing a lot of those to drive shoppers to the site.

Steven Hong: One of the challenges that we have here at Discount Bandit is that our margins on a given transaction, since we’re just an intermediary, we’re not a retailer, we’re not a branded manufacturer. The margin we’re making on a transaction is very, very small. And so we don’t have the ad budget to outspend a retailer or a manufacturer on a given term. So we can pay enough to basically exist and be there, whether that’s paid dollars in terms of your Google ad spend or whether it’s paid dollars in terms of creating unique content to show up for that given product. We don’t have the budget to really, really compete head to head.

Steven Hong: So we have the budget to just be there someplace, right? But who we’re catering to is the customer who is very frugal and they’re not going to stop at page one of Google. So a large percentage of people, as you know, they’re not going to go to page two, they’re not going to go to page three. They’re not going to go to the shopping tab of Google and click through pages of retailers or sellers to find us. But there are a large minority of people who will. And so that’s our customer. I’ve got a frugal customer that they kind of know what they want and they’re going to go find the best price for it.

Steven Hong: And so we’re out there with the best price a large percent of the time, many times beating Amazon on very popular products. And so customers will come, they’ll seek us out. So we just have to have enough [inaudible 00:12:41] they can find us. So, that’s traditional digital marketing. What’s really interesting in this business is I’m also having to tackle sort of brand marketing. So the Sylvane days, we had built up our brand over a long period of time by just having that great content out there and becoming a knowledge resource for air treatment. With Discount Bandit, we’re really trying to become a destination where our customers come and start shopping with us. When they say, “Hey, I want to buy this. It’s kind of expensive. Let me see if I can find a great price on it.” And they start with us. So we’re trying to create really a brand presence around that and create a loyal following. And so that’s a whole other area of marketing, which I call myself a novice at, but I find fascinating and I’m excited to be learning.

Luke Peters: Yeah. Well, and a couple of other things that are kind of inside of there, for the audience that’s listening, I mean, with Sylvane, you had some inventory carry, right? You guys were carrying inventory. It wasn’t all drop ship. So you had to have a warehouse, I think, and some inventory. Is that part correct?

Steven Hong: Yeah. Kind of the 80/20 rule, actually. The majority of what we would sell on a day to day basis would come out of our inventory. But yeah, we had a large drop ship catalog as well, that had kind of long tail. It just sold less frequently.

Luke Peters: Yeah. So, on this business, you don’t have to carry inventory, so that part’s nice. So your kind of capital structures, your balance sheet doesn’t have that component to it. But also like you said, the margins are tighter. But at the same time, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you can get a better lifetime value because you’re going to get more repeat business with this model. So your customer acquisition costs, you can play that out over a few visits, I guess, if you want to. If you’re able to hold onto the customer long enough, because they’ll come back and buy other things. I guess it’s just a different marketing math equation, right, with discount bandit?

Steven Hong: It is, it is. The category that I had been with prior in air treatment, it does have a repeat purchase rate, but it’s not that magical, “Hey, I got a 50% repeat purchase rate,” where you have these diehard loyal customers. Where I think that the category that Discount Bandit is playing in, can have that high, high repeat purchase percentage. And that’s why building a brand and building that diehard fan base is really important.

Steven Hong: And so you’re right. We can afford to not make money on that first transaction. We can afford to lose money on that first transaction. It’s interesting. I was talking with a retailer just this past week and they’re in the home decor space. Look, we’re obviously out there, we’re very price conscious. We use crawling of all the places on Google to understand where all the retailers are priced. And so we were saying, “Your prices are pretty aggressive on a regular basis.” And so we were talking with them. And their model is interesting. Their model was basically, yeah, we target to make nothing on every first sale.

Luke Peters: Wow.

Steven Hong: And once we get that first sale, we do try to upsell them. So if we can upsell them on some additional things that can come with a particular type of product, then we’ll make some money on that first sale. But even if we don’t, we hope to just bring them in as a long-time customer. So it’s a different model.

Luke Peters: Yeah. Definitely. That is super interesting. Before we get to some other questions, why don’t you give us a little bit of an idea just for the audience so they can understand just kind of the scale of Sylvane and Discount Bandit.

Steven Hong: Yeah. Yeah. So I’ve actually been gone, obviously, from Sylvane for a period of time now, but if I was to estimate roughly where their sales would be now it’s probably 50 million, something along those lines. So it’s a good size internet retail, the number one in its category.

Luke Peters: Yep.

Steven Hong: And then at Discount Bandit, so we’re a gross merchandise value because we’re a service. Obviously, not only are we private, but we’re very, very closely held and in the early phases so we’re keeping a a lot of that information private. However, we are north of that number in terms of overall transaction volume.

Luke Peters: That’s awesome. Congratulations. So hard to do a second business, because when you have that one business and sometimes entrepreneurs take it for granted and they go jump into another one thinking it’s going to be that easy, but it isn’t. And so, good on you for being able to replicate that. It’s really not easy. Actually, why don’t we kind of use that as the next step here and just talk about your thoughts on creating a business that does last.

Steven Hong: Yeah. That’s a great question, Luke. So creating a business that lasts. It’s a question we have to ask ourselves both at the early days of Sylvane and question that I’m continuing to ask myself now with Discount Bandit. I’d say that it really comes down to the three things. I’d say creating value, right? That’s a clear one. Creating value.

Luke Peters: Yep.

Steven Hong: Culture. And I’d say technological, sort of technology competency and focus. So, if you just look at the first one, creating value. I remember you and I have been at this for a while. I remember I was speaking with a retailer back in 2002 maybe, and he ran an online toy store. And I said, “Hey, well, online toys. Are you selling something that’s unique and different? Differentiated?” He said, “No. I mean, you can find my stuff at Walmart.” And I said, “Okay, well, are you faster than them? Are you faster than Amazon’s line of toys? Are you providing better information?” He’s like, “No.” And I said, “Well, how are you making money?”

Luke Peters: That’s funny. Steven Hong: He said, “Well, I am. I’m making money.” And I said, “Well, that’s great.” No joke. I spoke to him about a year later, he was pretty much closing shop and they no longer exist as an entity. Luke Peters: Yeah.

Steven Hong: And so what that tells me is that you may be able to make money for a short period of time, if you’re good at marketing things. Everyone who wants to teach you like a little marketing kind of gimmick. It’s like, okay, no, it’s not the little gimmicks. Yeah. You need to know all your marketing strategies. Know your marketing tactics. You have to be excellent at that. Right? But on top of that, you have to have a good product. If you have a bad product to start with, and you’re not creating value, marketing can get you so far, but it’s not going to keep you going. You got to create some kind of value out there.

Steven Hong: Sylvane, back in the early days, Amazon was not even close, it was probably 1/100th the size of what it is today. But we saw where it was going. And everyone knew where it was going. And so we said, “Okay, well, how are we going to live in this world?” And so we said, “Okay, look, we sell a product that is commoditized. So, how are we competing with Amazon?” We said, “You know what? We are just going to be the expert. We’re going to kill the niche. We’re going to know everything about it. We’re going to consult with our customers when they buy and that’s going to be our differentiator.” And so we started charging that way and creating value around retail of a commodity product. And so I think that, that’s critical to be able to say that.

Steven Hong: For Discount Bandit, we said, “Okay, what’s our value?” And the value proposition at Discount Bandit is really easy. It’s basically we’re going to save the shopper’s money. If you’re a consumer, if you’re saving cash, it’s a pretty clear value proposition. Because we’re an intermediary, we also have to provide a value to the other party, the supplier. So whether that be a manufacturer or a retailer, they can go ahead and price segment the market. There’s so much opportunity out there for them.

Steven Hong: Determining what price you’re going to sell a product at, it’s so hard, right? You have to understand how your stock product backs up against your competition, what kind of value, etc. But you know that if you were to price it a little bit lower, there’s a segment of populous there that are only going to buy at that lower price point on the demand curve. Right? So imagine if you could capture not only your regular price which you decide is optimal, but also capture that lower price point without cannibalizing all your other sales. And so that’s sort of the value proposition that we’re providing there to mostly retailers and a handful of manufacturers.

Luke Peters: Yeah. And I think it’s brilliant. I mean, think about, and you know this well, but Amazon isn’t the cheapest. And one of the reasons they’re not the cheapest because they’re expensive to sell on. So, the retailer or the brand is having to pay a lot of money for advertising and having to pay a bunch of other fees. And I mean, they have to make a profit. So, that’s going to eventually work its way into the price, just like a tariff would work its way into the price. And so if your fees are lower, then they definitely would be able to kind of offer a better price than Amazon. And so yeah, that’s a great description.

Luke Peters: And with Sylvane, I mean, you guys were really great with content. You guys produced beautiful content, but content doesn’t always convert. I mean we get tons of traffic with our content and some of it doesn’t convert. Steven, was there like a formula? Did you guys get even into the nitty gritty of when you researched what to write about that, that those keywords had to have purchase intent instead of just research intent? Or was there anything special that you did on the content marketing, that you felt added more value? Because it eventually did create kind of that value prop there.

Steven Hong: Yeah. When you spend a dollar on Google ad and if you’re measuring the ROI, you know you can calculate what the return is on that dollar spent, right? A dollar spent on content is definitely a lot more of a fuzzy equation to figure out what the return is on that. But that was going to be our differentiator, right? That was our long-term play. And Seth Godin says, “If you’re going to do sort of digital performance marketing, measure everything.” Right? And he says, “If you’re going to do brand marketing, don’t measure.”

Luke Peters: That’s funny. That is funny.

Steven Hong: So I’m not sure I went so far as to no measure, but I would say that it definitely wasn’t as like, look, we’re spending a dollar on content, what’s our return? What’s our return? Because it’s a lot longer. So what it’s proven out, what it proved out at the time is it proved out that it paid off in terms of long-term brand recognition for Sylvane, and then also a lot of respect from the manufacturers. So the manufacturers saw how we were positioned, saw that we were educating consumers and then they really began to partner with Sylvane on a lot of projects, which also proved very lucrative as well. So it proved out long-term, but you’re right. The first year or two, you’re asking yourself, “Okay, well we’re spending a lot of money here. Is there a return?”

Luke Peters: Yeah. Hey, it’s expensive to write good content and have good writers. And the volume is never what we want and it’s tough. So that is a great way to kind of talk about it. If you’re going to do performance marketing, measure it, but if you’re going to do brand marketing don’t. Seth Godin is always a smart guy to listen to.

Steven Hong: Yeah. And for Discount Bandit, it’s a little bit trickier because again, with millions of products, we cannot be the knowledge experts on the products. We actually have a picture of like, we have a little raccoon who is our illustrated mascot. And we have him of on the phone snoring and saying, “Look, we know absolutely nothing about this product.” So it’s kind of funny. It’s the exact opposite of Sylvane’s value proposition was. And so in this particular model, our brand sort of presence is really just around getting customers a fantastic deal and building up that loyalty. But again, it is a brand play, it’s just a slightly different way of approaching it.

Luke Peters: Yeah. You just need them to tell their friends and you’ll grow the audience that way. But that’ll happen after if the deals repeat themselves and then you’ll gain that brand loyalty. Of course, you know all this stuff. You’ll grow that list and then you’ll have scale, and then that’s when the magic happens.

Steven Hong: Yeah.

Luke Peters: So I’m sure you’re working your way towards that. Hey, Steven, so you ran Sylvane and grew it for over 10 years before the exit. And obviously a strong name in the category. What was your biggest thing that you learned out of that?

Steven Hong: The biggest thing I learned from growing Sylvane and then going from there, I’d say that those value drivers I talked about, obviously, which is creating value, culture. Culture is huge. Culture, I think, was one of the underpinnings of its success. So the retention rate that Discount Bandit has, the retention rate that Sylvane had was just fantastic. We’d have employees stay around pretty much forever. And if they left, which sometimes employees do leave. There’s a better offer, the grass is greener. A large, large percentages of them came back and were welcomed back with open arms.

Steven Hong: I think that culture is really one of the few sort of sustainable, competitive advantages that a company can have. And I think that getting that right in terms of not only employee retention, but innovation and the value that you hold in getting people to be dedicated when they’re at the work place, I think that was huge. I can kind of go more into that if you want.

Luke Peters: Yeah. Well, talk about just in tangible terms. What was maybe something that made the culture special or something you implemented, maybe process driven, that always happened that other listeners or CEOs listening could think about implementing in their companies?

Steven Hong: Yeah. You read about culture books, and you say, “Okay, everybody come up with your company values. Come up with these company values.” But these are company values that you really truly have to hold. It’s not just ones that you think sound good. I remember I used to work at Merrill Lynch a long time ago and on the wall when you’d walk in had this big placard that and said, “Respect.” And then I’d go upstairs and I’d be talking with folks and not necessarily felt that level of respect in the hallways.

Luke Peters: Yeah.

Steven Hong: And so what I would say is that really, truly holding those values, what we did is not only did we say, “Hey, look,” when we’re trying to become clearer on those, it’s not only what values do we want. What values do we actually hold? And asking ourselves amongst the management team, amongst the people, “What do you guys think we stand for?” Right. Codifying those, making them really clear. In every single review with employees, valuing them based upon those values. When you have your management team strategy meetings, actually go through. “Here are our company values. Do you guys still think we’re holding to these? And have we violated these, and how have we violated these?” And having an open discussion around that to make sure the company truly is walking the walk.

Steven Hong: And so I would say that’s obviously important. Respect is a big one, obviously, that I’ve always had in every company that I’ve worked with. And it kind of comes down to just don’t be a dick.

Luke Peters: Was that one of your core values that you put on the wall? Steven Hong: Yeah, we didn’t put that on the wall.

Luke Peters: Yeah.

Steven Hong: Culture comes from the top down.

Luke Peters: Yeah.

Steven Hong: And so if you truly in your heart value your employee, then that’s going to come across. Right? And that’s going to influence the culture all throughout. And that’s going to create that respect. People say like, “Oh, well, hey look, you’re a cool company, Discount Bandit. Look, you’ve got a pool table and you’ve got a beer fridge. Wow. You must have a great culture.” And it’s like, no, no, that’s not. What it is, is you really want your employees to be happy. And then maybe you end up buying this stuff because you want them to be happy. But that stuff doesn’t create the culture. What creates the culture is just caring. It’s just really taking them to heart. I think what makes it difficult though, and I’m sure you’ve had to do this too, is I hate firing people.

Luke Peters: Yep. It’s never fun.

Steven Hong: It’s my achilles heel.

Luke Peters: Yeah.

Steven Hong: Never fun. The Least favorite thing in entrepreneurship is laying people off, terminating people, because I really do care for these people. But that doesn’t mean that they’re the right fit for the company. And it doesn’t mean that their happiness is going to be at this place. Right? So, that’s the other side of that coin. I think if you’ve got a great culture, I think your potential is going to be up. It’s going to encourage dedication from the team.

Steven Hong: At Merrill Lynch, no joke, the head of the department would go on vacation to someplace for like three weeks and the entire department would shut down. Everybody would go on two hour lunches, play ping-pong.

Luke Peters: They didn’t care. Yeah.

Steven Hong: Because they didn’t care. Exactly. And so having that culture is huge. Innovation, obviously culture can foster that or kill it. In the space that you and I have operated in the past and that we operate in today, things are changing like every single day. And so you’ve got to be on top of that. You’ve got to be innovating. If you look at the ice box makers of yesterday, none of them became refrigerator makers. The floppy disk makers of yesterday, none of them became hard drive manufacturers. Or automotives today, everybody’s playing catch up with Tesla. You got to be constantly innovating.

Steven Hong: Yeah, you’re focused on technology as a company, as a strategic initiative, but also culture-wise, you’ve got to encourage failure. People are going to make mistakes. I’ve had really awful mistakes where someone says, “Look, we just lost whatever thousands of dollars.” And it’s like, “Okay, well, how did that happen? Okay. Well, what can we learn from that?” And it’s, “Okay, well look, let’s move on.” Because if you just beat people up over those losses, then the next time they’re not going to take that risk. They’re not going to put themselves out there. They’re going to just play safe. And playing safe is not going to get you anywhere, right?

Luke Peters: When you’re growing a company, you need the people making the, you can’t make every decision. So, you have to have your team and they have to have confidence to make those decisions. And I think your point on culture was a key one. I mean it’s interesting because I just interviewed author, Shannon Susko, you got to check out this book though, Steven. You’d like it. It’s called 3Hag Way, H-A-G. So, 3Hag Way. And she’s got a pretty cool story on how she built companies. And she gave a similar answer to you.

Luke Peters: I said, “What’s the most important thing that you teach people?” And she said, “Well, it all starts with culture.” So I think it’s a really cool way of how you laid out kind of the things that you did. And I totally agree. It’s more about showing up every day than buying these things. Having events is fun, going to events is fun, but that’s not enough. And I think you kind of laid out some good, tangible things that people could kind of hold onto there. So I want to thank you again for joining me on this episode of The Page 1 Podcast. Before I let you go, how can listeners get ahold of you? How can they contact you? What if they want to learn more about Discount Bandit?

Steven Hong: Yeah, so definitely if you’re in the market to buy something as a shopper, go to the DiscountBandit.com, place an order there. You’ll find that we have just fantastic deals. If we have a little badge that says, “Steal,” on a product, that means we basically crawled the internet, we believe we got literally the best price that’s out there. If you’re a supplier or retailer, a manufacturer that are looking to basically price segment the market to generate additional revenues, you just go there. Teach out to us, contact us, join our network page. Fill out your details there, and someone from our sales folks will give you a call and have a discussion.

Luke Peters: Awesome. Well, thanks again. It was good catching up with you, Steven. And I hope you enjoyed being here. I really enjoyed having you. And I also want to just thank everybody listening to this episode of The Page 1 Podcast, sponsored by Retail Band. Hope you enjoyed the interview today. Really appreciate everyone’s reviews on iTunes, and hope you join us for the next interview.

Steven Hong: Thanks, Luke. Appreciate it.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to The Page 1 Podcast with Luke Peters. If you enjoyed this episode, please help us out by leaving us a rating on iTunes. Want to double your online sales? Check out www.RetailBand.com. And don’t forget to join us next week with our next amazing guest.

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Episode References:

Contact Steven Hong:LinkedIn

Contact Luke: luke@retailband.comLinkedIn 

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