What you’ll learn:
We all have our own leadership style, but what is leadership? Jim Estill shares his secrets to successful leadership and nonhostile work environments as a legacy leader in the tech and appliance industries. As an innovation driven CEO, Jim talks about how his passion for 2020 trends, technology, sustainability, and social justice all came together to create a more environmentally conscious mail and shipping system to combat climate change.
About our guest:
Jim Estill is a Canadian technology entrepreneur, philanthropist and CEO of Danby Appliances and ShipperBee. Danby Appliances’ latest product is Parcel Guard– a smart mailbox that stops parcel theft. ShipperBee is revamping outdated parcel shipping, increasing efficiency and saving 73.1% of the greenhouse gas per parcel shipped. Jim is the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 Ontario winner.
Key takeaways from this episode:
- Introduction to Danby Appliances and new innovation ShipperBee—2:16
- Danby Appliances stats (employee size, warehouse size, & distribution channels)—5:44
- Innovation in the product lines and recognizing new growth opportunities—7:13
- Parcel Guard and Danby Fresh: combining tech, innovation, and 2020 trends to create new products and businesses—8:08
- How to stay relevant as a big, older, veteran business—12:23
- Competitive advantage strategies from a legacy business—13:48
- Jim’s business philosophy: fail often, fail fast, fail cheap—15:58
- The philanthropic endeavor to help Syrian Refugees that drove motivation at Danby—17:40
- ShipperBee: a sustainable way to mail and shipping with less impact on the environment—19:27
- The one leadership trait that leads to a healthy company culture—22:13
- How to grow a legacy business as the new CEO—25:42
- Innovation vs acquisition as a growth strategy—27:03
- A product launch strategy for old and new products—28:48
- Leadership tactics to drive results and motivate employees—31:16
- 3 key takeaways to help prioritize tasks, feed your energy, and maximize your time—34:47
- Jim’s habits and book recommendations that made him a better leader—40:00
Announcer: Welcome to the Page 1 Podcast, a weekly podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders on topics ranging from channel strategies, to tariffs, influencer marketing, best in class product launches, and all the details about how to accelerate your eCommerce sales with the big-box retailers, or what we call rCommerce. Now, here’s your host, Luke Peters.
Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page 1 podcast. I’m your host Luke Peters. This is the podcast where I bring you the best and brightest leaders to share consumer product sales and marketing strategies that will help you grow your business. I’m the CEO and founder of NewAir Appliances where I cut my teeth selling products online, and now I started Retail Band, where I hope to help other brands succeed in product launches, influencer marketing, and B2B online sales strategy. Right now I’m offering a free evaluation of your online sales strategy. We can go over things like influencer marketing opportunities, look at your Home Depot or Wayfair online sales and see if those can be optimized. If you’re interested, find me on LinkedIn or email me at email@example.com.
Luke Peters: So, in this episode you’re going to learn from Jim Estill, CEO of Danby Appliances and ShipperBee. Learn how Jim has developed a new product called Parcel Guard from the ground up, and Danby sells amazing appliances, and ShipperBee is revamping outdated parcel shipping. Jim’s a Canadian technology entrepreneur, philanthropist, and is the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year in 2019, Ontario winner.
Luke Peters: Jim grew a technology distribution company from zero to 350 million, then sold to SYNNEX and became CEO of SYNNEX Canada, and grew that from 800 million to two billion in sales. His big focus is on philanthropy and, literally, is the reason why he works. At least I took that from your LinkedIn, Jim. Listen, thanks for joining us, really happy to have you on the show, Jim. Thanks.
Jim Estill: Well, thanks for having me. Looking forward to it.
Luke Peters: Cool. I do want to say. I really look up to what you guys have done at Danby, and we talk about you over here at NewAir all the time, Jim, and so it really is an honor to have you, and completely looking forward to this interview. Can you start by telling us, just to let the audience know what does Danby and ShipperBee do?
Jim Estill: Danby is an appliance manufacturer of refrigerators, freezers, wine coolers, and we do microwaves. We don’t make them, we just put our name on them. So, we’re basically an appliance manufacturer. We also do air conditioners, because they have compressors in them. That’s what we do. ShipperBee is a courier. It’s basically a parcel delivery company that reduces the greenhouse gas per parcel shipped by 73.1%
Luke Peters: Awesome. How do you do that with ShipperBee? A little more background would be great.
Jim Estill: Currently traditional couriers all go hub-and-spoke. So, to ship from New York to New Jersey goes New York, to Memphis, to New Jersey. So, we break the hub-and-spoke and go basically point-to-point. But that, you’re going to say, “Well, how do you do that?” So, we replaced the big hubs with microhubs. Because the name of the company is ShipperBee we call those hives. So, you would have a driver pick up five parcels from the business and drop them at the hive, which would be conveniently located at the interstate in the entrance, at the gas station, and then someone will be going down ten exits, they would just go onto their App and say, “I’m going to the office, or I’m going to visit my sister, and it would say, “Great, pick up 12 parcels from the hive as you’re entering the interstate and drop off 12 as you’re exiting the interstate. So, that leg of the journey is done using what I call the power of while. What can you do while you’re doing something anyways?
Jim Estill: Then, an endpoint driver would pick up the parcels at the other end and deliver them to the consumer. So, it is end-to-end, on your doorstep delivery, but part of the journey is traveling in a car that was going to be going there anyways, and we don’t do hub-and-spoke, so you end up with, actually, a faster delivery often, as well. So, we can do even guaranteed four-hour delivery, which is very difficult to do or, actually, it’s impossible to do in an old-fashioned hub-and-spoke.
Luke Peters: Awesome. I looked it up but thanks for explaining that to the audience. I think it’s a great concept and it’ll be fun to watch and see where that goes. Talking about Danby, can you fill me in, tell me how you started Danby. I believe you invested, or even purchased, a company.
Jim Estill: I did. So, I had built my business to a couple billion in sales. I retired and I moved to New York for five years. My dad got sick, so I moved back to Guelph Ontario, just outside of Toronto. I sat on the Board of Danby Appliances. The CEO resigned, and so I said, “Oh, I can go in and run it.” I realized I like operating a business. Then, the family that owned Danby said they wanted me to sell it. I asked how much they wanted me to sell it for and they told me, I said, “Okay, fine, I’ll take it.” So, I bought the business about four years after running it for about a year. That’s how I ended up with Danby.
Luke Peters: How long ago did you buy the business?
Jim Estill: I bought the business about four years ago, and I ran it for a year before that. So, I’ve been in it for five years.
Luke Peters: I was going to ask you, why did you get into this crazy appliance business, especially now with the tariffs? Great. So, we’ll get into that. I mean, that’s good background to get us started, and the audience understand more about Danby. Then, talking about Danby, and feel free to also fill in for ShipperBee if you want to on some of these questions. Can you just give us a little bit more on the scale of the company. So, total employees, warehouse size, or where your HQ is, and maybe how your distribution is set up, and then a breakdown on any unique departments you might have at the company?
Jim Estill: Sure. So, head office for the company is in Guelph Ontario, which is near Toronto. We have a factory in Cobourg Ontario, a factory in Guelph Ontario, factories in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Tolleson, which is just outside Phoenix, Arizona, Saraland, which is near mobile, Alabama, and Findlay, Ohio. In the States we sell about two million appliances a year. We’ve got over a million square feet. So, that’s the company. We’re a sort of a medium-sized appliance company. More than half our sales are in the States. Half our sales are in Canada, roughly. We do business in Mexico. We’ve got an office in the UK, as well.
Luke Peters: Wow. So you do a big proportion in Canada. I know you guys are … The origins are from Canada. The company, I believe, is about 65 years old. Right? Somewhere in that neighborhood.
Jim Estill: That’s right. We started in 1947.
Luke Peters: Great. Then, as far as retailers, you guys are in a lot of the major mass retailers, and I think you do some direct to consumer. What is, maybe, a surprising vertical or category? Is there anything stand out that’s different now, the last year or two, that has surprised you on the growth side?
Jim Estill: We’re kind of weird for an appliance manufacturer. We’re leaders in small large appliances. What do I mean by that? Small white goods. We’re very big in bar fridges, half-size fridges, and not as big in full-size bridges, so I’m not talking about tabletop appliances. When you say small appliances that’s not what I mean, I mean refrigerators and freezers. As far as trends go, everything is going towards Energy Star and higher, better energy. I’d also say that wine coolers are on trend these days. It’s an under penetrated growing market.
Luke Peters: Then, … There’s been a lot of innovation. I know you guys have launched the Parcel Guard, which is kind of a big step. It seems like a step away, or a new launch into a different category, and we can talk about that. Let’s first talk about innovation. You’re doing a lot now at Danby, but in your career you’ve done a lot in innovation going back many years into many different businesses. You’ve sat on the Board of a lot of companies. How do you think about innovation, and where does innovation come from with your companies?
Jim Estill: So, I always look at what are the strengths of the various CEOs. You can be a sales CEO and be good. You can be an accounting CEO and be good. I’m probably an innovation CEO, so I tend to have more ideas than we can actually execute on. So, if you look at some innovations since I arrived, I went out and saw what we were sending off to be recycled, and there were some wine coolers that the compressors were gone on, so I said, “Why don’t we take the compressor off of those and put grow lights in that?” So, we came up with a product called Danby Fresh which allows you to grow Herb’s in your basement, or your kitchen. It’s like a little indoor greenhouse. I figured that’s on trend because everyone’s on a health thing, and E.coli scares, and stuff like that, as well as people like fresh.
Jim Estill: So that’s an innovation. Is that going to change the world? No, it’s a small innovation, but success in business is all about small microcompetitive advantages, and that is one competitive advantage. So, we started doing Danby Fresh using wine coolers that had come back. We told the customers that’s what we’re doing. Then, of course, we sold too many. We didn’t have enough wine coolers coming back, so we actually started producing them as a new product. So, now many more of the ones we sell are brand new production. That’s an example of an innovation.
Jim Estill: Parcel Guard would be a huge innovation. Parcel Guard, that’s changing the way we think of ourselves. I’m sitting in the factory thinking, “Okay, we’re an appliance company. What’s an appliance that we can sell, or what can we do to be innovative?” I started to think, “No, we’re not just an appliance company. We’re a company that sells big-boxes,” because appliances are big, and what’s trends? The trend is everyone’s getting everything delivered on Amazon, and Wayfair, and dotcom, and parcel theft, unfortunately, is the trend. So, how can we stop that? I thought about combining my tech background with making big boxes. So, we came up with a parcel delivery box that when you get a parcel it sends you an email to say you have a five pound parcel arrived at 10:46 today. You can look on the IP camera, see who delivered it. If it’s too big to go in the top then you can give someone a one-time use code to put it in the bottom. You can two-way voice, you can talk to the person on your front porch. So, that’s how that innovation happened.
Luke Peters: In talking about trend, do you have a tool? I mean where are you getting your trend ideas? Is it just reading the news, and running your business, and talking to colleagues, or is there like a special service report, newspaper, or online tool that you put a lot of value in that kind of provides where trends are going?
Jim Estill: So I am an information junkie and I just read everything I can and talk to everybody I can and just try to notice what is on trend. Like we were exhibiting at the CES show and I am sort of trying to pick up what are the trends, right? What’s the trends at the CES show? It’s stuff that we’re not involved in, but it’s good to see that health trackers are on trend, because last year how many health tracker booths were there? I don’t know, maybe three, or four, or five. How many are there this year? Fifty. So I do track trends. I found in business it’s much easier to sell if you’re on trend. So, with parcel theft, for instance, it’s on trend, and parcel delivery is growing by 20% per year. That’s a really growth market. I’d love to say that freezer are going to grow by 20% per year, but they’re not. What’s the trend in freezer? It’s like kind of replacement freezer. It’s a white box that freezes stuff.
Luke Peters: Yeah. Excellent. I mean, that’s great. That’s, good to hear your philosophy on it. kind of going back about five years when you started leading Danby, and then a year after purchased the company, looking back what were the biggest changes that you put into the company? The reason is it would be great to hear just because it’s an older company, probably had a lot of processes in place that it was doing for a long time, and then you’re coming in with fresh ideas. Just curious how you changed things up, or what you added and what you removed?
Jim Estill: Well, I have a tech background so we do tend to add technology to our product. Although appliances don’t seem to be changing much the standards are changing pretty quickly, and the environmental. So, one thing that is one of my personal passions is I believe we have to be good for the environment, so what can we do to be lower power consumption? We’ve spent a lot of time and energy around that. The other thing that people want is styling. That’s particularly true when you’re talking something like a wine cooler. People want …You don’t invite your friends over to show them your fine wine and then put it in a chintzy little box in the back. You want it to look nice, so styling is another … I believe that’s another on trend thing. You don’t need styling in a freezer. I mean, a freezer is kind of like a freezer, as I said. Even refrigerators, people like sexy styling.
Luke Peters: With that, I know you have some thoughts on competitive advantage. You’ve grown from zero to two billion in sales, I mean starting out of the trunk of a car. So, love to hear if you could talk about what competitive advantage means to you, how do you create it in your companies, and maybe a specific example?
Jim Estill: So, competitive advantage is just what’s something that you can do easier, better, cheaper than someone else, or is there a special relationship that you can sell better than someone, or sell at a lower cost than someone else? So, I have generally been successful by small competitive advantages. When I joined the Board of Blackberry they had a huge competitive advantage. There was no such thing as a Smartphone, so their huge competitive advantage was to invent a Smartphone and to become the first Smartphone company in the market.
Jim Estill: As far as examples in my business, we’re not big in tabletop appliances, but I was in the warehouse and I saw at the top of containers on product coming in that there was a one and a half foot gap or one foot gap. I said, “Wait a minute, we just paid to ship that product in. What can we put in that space?” So we went out to a company that makes electric kettles and said, “Can you put Danby on one of your electric kettles, and then we can fill that space with electric kettles.” At the same time, I know everything’s being bought online, and when you buy a normal electric kettle online, it comes in a colored box. They have to put it in their brown box so that the box doesn’t get wrecked. We said, “No, let’s put it in a brown box, so we save a dollar on the cardboard box. You save $1.50 on the shipping. You save 50 cents on the over box. So, at the end of the day you’ve got a $3 cost advantage on an item that’s only worth $30. So, that’s an example of a competitive advantage.
Luke Peters: That’s a good example. I read, … I think I might have read this on, … or maybe it was on the form that you had sent over pre-interview, but I thought it was really interesting where you had fail fast, fail often, fail cheap. I kind of wrote jokingly that I like the fail cheap part because it’s not always easy to fail cheap. The problem is sometimes as an entrepreneur failures can be expensive, but we’d love to hear you elaborate on this and even, … Because it isn’t actually, a real question is really how can you try to fail cheap? I guess you could maybe limit your investment upfront, or take a lot of chances, or opportunities on things. It sounds like you really are an innovative idea guy, so would love to hear your feedback on this.
Jim Estill: So, it’s fail often, fail fast, fail cheap. Another expression that goes along with that is, having a failure does not make you a failure. You’re a show that people, entrepreneurs, listen to and entrepreneurs succeed because they’re willing to take a risk, and they’re willing to have some failures. You do have to do all three. Fail often, that means try a lot of things; fail fast, so don’t go and keep pounding your head against the wall for five years, and fail cheap. So for me, cheap is within the realm of the affordable. So, if I can afford to try something and it doesn’t work I lose money. I don’t enjoy it, but I have to celebrate that I was willing to try it, because some of the things that we’re willing to try work out.
Jim Estill: So, it’s the fail often, fail fast, fail cheap, and also creating a culture of failure in your company. That sounds weird, but the reason that’s important, and what I mean by that is not zapping people for trying, not zapping people for having a failure. So, create the culture of failure and celebrate it, and do it and shake it off when you have a failure.
Luke Peters: With tariffs and then, of course, you’ve probably facing the same thing with all the DOE changes. There’s a lot of trial and error that goes into some of these things. So that phrase couldn’t be, the timing couldn’t be more perfect than right now, because there’s just so much fluctuation in the market. But I like that one, that’s a good description of that.
Luke Peters: Jim, you led some large companies with a lot of people. Love to hear your thoughts on company culture, how you build company culture. I know you’ve won quite a bit of awards for some humanitarian work, and all kinds of cool things that you’ve done in that area, incorporating different folks into your company. If you could elaborate on that I think the audience could learn a lot.
Jim Estill: Sure. You win awards … They like to give entrepreneurs awards. They like to say, “Oh, the entrepreneur did it.” But, as you know, it’s not the entrepreneur that does all the work. I don’t do any of the work, I just go and accept the awards on behalf of all my people that do all of the work. So, I did … The big philanthropic project I was known for is I brought in 500 Syrian refugees and resettled them in our community. One unintended consequence of that was I ended up with galvanizing the company and creating a high spirit, and culturally that galvanized and brought the company together. What I’ve found is that young people particularly, 20 somethings, I like to think it’s inspirational to make another thousand freezers, but they think it’s more inspirational to save the world, for some reason.
Luke Peters: Right. That’s funny. Yep. How did you bring in the 500 refugees? I’d love to hear more on the backstory on that.
Jim Estill: That was done under a Canadian program. Canada has a program where private individuals can pay for people to resettle, so it was done under private sponsorship program. That was the one thing I did, which got a lot of press. There’s a lot of other things which don’t necessarily get press. I believe that using business for good is the way to totally change the world. That’s why I’m so excited by ShipperBee, because ShipperBee can save 73.1% of the greenhouse gas. As we scale ShipperBee just the company being successful means the world’s successful, and it even provides an income for people on the side so it’s just like win, win, win.
Jim Estill: The people make money for driving distances they were already going to drive anyways and we save greenhouse gas. We take trucks off the road, nothing against trucks on the road, but when parcel is growing by 20% per year, even if we were to get 1% of the growth, and I don’t think we would even get that, it means that you still need 20% more trucks to do what the other parcels, or 19% more trucks to do the other parcels, if you know what I mean.
Luke Peters: How is that company doing? What are you able to say about that? I’d love to hear because I haven’t seen as much in the press. I know I’ve seen a lot about the Parcel Guard, and its just because I’m following more on the appliance side of the business.
Jim Estill: Exactly.
Luke Peters: What can you share more about the growth of ShipperBee?
Jim Estill: So, ShipperBee’s a relatively new company. We’ve only launched recently, we’ve only launched it in a small geographic area in Canada. We have not yet rolled out to the States. Unlike Parcel Guard where we’re largely in full production, and we’re largely available North America-wide, and we’re shipping product every day. So, yes, you have not heard much about ShipperBee, because we’re … I’m not going to say we’re beta, but we’re early stage shipping small quantities of parcels.
Jim Estill: When you introduce a new product my experience is you need to have five star reviews. You need to have all perfect product, or in our case it’s a service. So, you have to have five star reviews, so you run the sales a little slower than you could just so that the service experience is perfect for the shipper and perfect for the drivers. So, the drivers say, “Wow, this is a great company, and the shippers say, “Wow, this is a great company,” and then they go tell all their friends.
Jim Estill: I don’t want to say that that’s not important once you’re a well-developed company, but if Danby, if you were to put a one star review up on one of our products, we’ve got 862 other reviews that aren’t one-star, so you don’t kill a product. But, if you bring out a brand-new product and get one one-star reviewer, three one-star reviews, you can kill your product before you start, and it is a beta product so we do need the test and make sure that the routing algorithm works, and the App works, and all of that kind of stuff.
Luke Peters: Makes sense. Kind of sticking with company culture and talking about your leadership team, would just kind of love to hear your wisdom on how … What type of people do you want on your leadership team? How do you choose, or interview, or what skills, characteristics, or attributes do you look for on your key leadership team for either company, or both?
Jim Estill: The most important thing is character. You can’t train character. You can train skills, you can’t train character. It’s very difficult to train basic intelligence. So, if you hire bright people who care, then they can execute. That’s largely what I believe in culture. Above our front door is our tagline which says, “Do the right thing.” I use that as how do you figure out how to do your job? How do you treat your customers? Well, you do the right thing? Do you ship a product that’s not good? No, you do the right thing. How do you treat your coworkers? You do the right thing. It’s way easier than trying to have an employee manual that has ever eventuality and how do you do things? That’s kind of in the culture.
Jim Estill: I am also what I will call exactly the opposite of a micromanager. I believe as you scale a business, the more employees you have, the more important it is for the leader to coach on culture, but let everyone else make the decisions. If I make all the decisions then we get a funnel point and everyone’s waiting for me to decide, and I have to be very careful not to second guess decisions that are made. So, if I come in and someone painted lines on the parking lot and they’re yellow and I would have preferred white, I have to be careful. How important is that battle, because as soon I complain or say, “The lines are the wrong color,” next thing I’m going to be picking the … Everyone’s going to come to me anytime anything gets done.
Jim Estill: Actually, a better example, you come in and the classroom’s painted. I don’t like the color. They say, “Okay, so now we have to get Jim to pick all the paint colors and what not. Now, what’s cultural, if I come in and the classroom’s painted, and the bill comes in at $10,000 and I say, “Whoa, did we get our three quotes on this, and did it really need to be painted?” Because culturally you want a culture of people who care, and people who spend our money wisely. I always tell people to make sure that we add value. Is this adding value? Do our customers want this and are they willing to pay for it? So, otherwise we shouldn’t be spending the money, because why would we spend money on something if the customers don’t think it has any value to them?
Luke Peters: Wise advice. So, do the right thing. I love that quote. And then character, intelligence. The hard thing is it’s hard to interview for character, but I guess that’s where referrals and knowing people’s backgrounds can really help, but definitely agree with that, and I think that’s … You put those two things together and you’re going to get solid people. I love your philosophy, the opposite of a micromanager. I know, especially smaller companies like mine, and other folks listening, it’s tough because there’s so many areas we want to help out in. You gave good examples on why the CEO needs to back off a little bit and let the decisions flow from the team. That was well said.
Luke Peters: Looking at your org chart. Again, you came into the company five years ago. I’m sure there might be some changes, or I’m guessing. Is there like any structural changes? I know you talked about technology earlier and I’d love to … I always like to know how things are put together, and I’m guessing the audience is curious, as well. I’m sure that Danby has a finance, and marketing, and sales, but I’m just curious if anything structurally was changed, or added, that might be unique or different then how it was originally?
Jim Estill: So, I didn’t make any fundamental changes and, as you say, we’ve got sales, and marketing, and finance, and logistics, and all of that kind of stuff. One of the things that I do push, though, is high collaboration, because just because someone’s a marketing person doesn’t mean they don’t have a good idea on how we can do something in logistics, or just because you’re a logistics person doesn’t mean that you can’t coach the sales reps. If you sell these then we can get more on a truck, and by the way these are collecting dust, even though the computer report says they’re collecting dust.
Jim Estill: So, one of my big things is to collaborate and get people to collaborate, and not point fingers. If we’re not doing something it’s okay. We are not doing something, it’s not, “Operations didn’t ship fast enough.” It’s like, “Okay, we didn’t ship fast enough. How are we going to make it so that we can ship faster,” and understanding what our impact is on other areas of the company.
Luke Peters: You’ve talked about, Jim, you talked about some of the different areas that you guys are innovating, and we’ve talked about strategy and kind of the inner workings of Danby. Kind of on the growth strategy, you guys are, I guess, launching, getting into new categories, or going deeper or better into your current categories. Is that the growth strategy, or are you also, do you have an acquisition plan, as well, that Danby is running side by side, of picking up certain brands, or categories, that you guys are interested in? Is there anything you can elaborate on that end?
Jim Estill: So, largely we are expanding around what we do. For instance, we opened our UK office. It didn’t exist five years ago, or three years ago. That is, we’re still selling appliances. It’s going into an incremental market. Things like the herb grower is that it’s a fringe incremental market, so we tend to go into incremental markets. We’re not in the market to buy companies, but I’m not opposed to buying a company if the right fit were to come along. I do believe that many companies buy companies and it doesn’t work out that way. I’ve been involved in many acquisitions. I’ve seen from the sidelines acquisitions that work and don’t. The ones that work tend to be ones that are small enough that the company that’s buying them can digest them well, and tend to be ones that have high synergies, so that you can really goose the sales, because maybe the sales channel is the same, or reduce the cost because you’re using the same trucks to ship product, or something like that.
Luke Peters: It makes a lot of sense. Then, … Another thing I wanted to get into was product launches. I’ve seen you doing a good job pitching Parcel Guard, and follow you on LinkedIn, but also you guys have gotten a lot of good press on Parcel Guard, as well. Obviously, there’s got to be some PR and marketing behind that. Interesting to get your take on product launches. They’re so important, especially in this category. Like you talked about, having good reviews right at the beginning, but there’s a lot more than that. So, are you able to talk about your product launch process? Really, two to three things to you that might stand out that you think you guys are doing a good job but maybe other businesses aren’t, or they’re missing out on, or something that is innovative that you guys might be doing.
Jim Estill: Sure. You mentioned that Parcel Guard has had a lot of press. The interesting thing about that, I think the reason it’s had a lot of press is it’s truly unique. It’s kind of new, and it’s on trend. That makes it easy. So, when we bring out a new bar fridge and tell them, “Oh, it’s a two cubic foot, it’s like, “Well, that’s not very newsworthy.” So, we’ve been lucky to be newsworthy by having something that genuinely is new. Many companies that we’re competing with in the news and send out their press releases, they’re only doing tiny increments, if that makes sense.
Jim Estill: As far as new product launches, my experience is you need to launch, and you need to relaunch, and you need to relaunch, and then you need to relaunch. You need to kick, kick, kick because, although you’ve seen Parcel Guard in the press, you need to see it in the press again, and then you need to read it on social media, then you need to hear more about it, and then the sales rep needs to show it to you, and then the sales rep needs to call you and tell you about it. It just doesn’t happen ever as fast …
Jim Estill: I guess, one other good characteristic of a company is companies that have high sense of urgency with. That means … By nature I’m an impatient guy so nothing ever happens fast enough, and you have to kick, and then re-kick, and then re-kick. Especially when you’re in a brand new category, like a Parcel Guard. But when you’re in a established category like microwaves, again, people aren’t just going to buy my microwave because I have a microwave. It’s kind of like a microwave that heats up food. Why would they buy my microwave versus someone else’s? You have to look at your competitive advantage, and your story, and there almost always is a story for the company you’re selling to.
Luke Peters: Hey, one thing I picked up on there, Jim, was you mentioned you’re an inpatient guy. So, I’m the same way, so maybe I can learn something from you here, but how do you then work with your leadership team on that? Sometimes, the other team, maybe like in my case, they’re more thoughtful but they may not be as always as quick as I want to be. Of course, I’m making a lot of mistakes by being too quick. On your end how has that change been at the company where you come in and you want things to happen yesterday, and then you’ve got to convey that, or change the culture with your leadership team?
Jim Estill: One of my tricks is work on lead measures that creates lag measure. What I mean by that is you may not be able to sell 10,000 units. That’s a lag measure, but you can send a thousand emails, you can make a thousand calls, you can filter activities. So, I focus a lot on what are the lead measures that will ultimately result in sales, and praise, and celebrate, those lead measures, even though you might not yet have the sales that you want on that. The more you can figure out what exactly what your lead measures are the more success you’ll have in the medium term.
Jim Estill: Another management trick I use is what I call roll-up weekly reports. So, the salesperson sends a weekly report to the sales manager, and the sales manager sends a weekly report to the Vice President of Sales, the Vice President of Sales sends a weekly report to me. So, I get all of these weekly reports rolling back in, and I ask them to report on specific things. Parcel Guard would be a good example. Your weekly report says, “My goals this week were this, I accomplished this, my goals next week are this, and here’s what I did around Parcel Guard.” Just by knowing every week you to say, “Here’s what I did around Parcel Guard,” means they’re going to do something around Parcel Guard. You don’t want to send in a weekly report that says, “Well, I didn’t tell anybody about it. I didn’t do anything about it.”
Jim Estill: So, asking people is a polite way of also getting people to focus on it. Everyone knows when I talk to them I’m going to ask about new products and about specific things. Now, as a company leader where we have to be careful, I can’t have 20 important things, so I can’t ask about Danby Fresh, and Parcel Guard, and the new wine cooler, and this and that because then you become completely defocused. That’s how I keep the sense of urgency and focus on is by asking people to report on our specific goal.
Luke Peters: It’s brilliant, and I’m doing something very similar, so I like that. I guess you could even put in your lead measures right into the reporting. So, in some cases-
Jim Estill: You totally do.
Luke Peters: That’s perfect. So, making sure the audience got that. So, lead measures versus lagging measures, I’m on the same page. That’s exactly … I’m always, like you said, focus on the leading. If we have a lot of sales, I mean those are done, but how are we going to get new sales? Or, do those sales happen just because the company went and bought a bunch of stock inventory, meaning they haven’t sold the product yet. It means a lot but not, also, because they have to sell it, and then you could be dealing with the return if there isn’t sell through. So, I definitely appreciate the way you look at it looking at leading measures. So, cool. That’s excellent way of pulling things together.
Luke Peters: Jim, you’ve written a couple books so that was cool. I was looking into that yesterday and found that out. Specifically, I know time management is so important, and it looks like you wrote a book on that called, Time Leadership: Using the Secrets of Leadership for Time Management. I’ve read a lot of time management books. Some of them are just … Everybody has a different style. Some of them are a little bit too rigorous, so those didn’t work for me. Some of the ones with like just big compass ideas, like directional ideas worked really good for me. I think I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years on time management. I’d love to hear what your two to three key takeaways are for say the brand owners listening to this podcast, and where company owners might be making mistakes, and your thoughts on that.
Jim Estill: So, the reason I called the book Time Leadership is leadership is about direction, where management is about the execution, or the speed. So, if I want to go from Cleveland to Chicago the first thing I better do is head the right direction. I don’t want to go at a hundred miles an hour. So, time management, there’s really two dimensions to it. We all have the same amount of time. It’s all about priorities. So, that’s what I’m talking about leadership, knowing what your priorities are. The second part of it, and I’ve seen this more insight more as I’ve gotten older, it’s about energy. So, I find when I’m wasting time it’s usually because I’m low energy. So, I spent a lot of time on my health and trying to get myself more energy, because it’s more about energy than it is about time, to tell you the truth.
Luke Peters: Wow. Any tips, or suggestions, on where you found more energy?
Jim Estill: Well, for me, a lot of it has to do with physical health, so basically it’s exercise and eating right. That’s an obvious one. Another one is focusing on things that inspire me, so when I’m inspired I almost don’t need sleep. Where when I am doing things that I’m not necessarily inspired by I do tend to lose energy. So, knowing more about what I love to do I can spend more time in that, and knowing stuff that I don’t particularly love doing … Interestingly enough, you would say, “Oh, those are bad jobs.” No, there’s actually a lot of people who work for me who love doing what I would consider to be a pull-my-hair-out job, and I don’t particularly enjoy it. Simple example, I don’t particularly love accounting, but if I went over and gave one of my accounting guys, “Oh, do this very complicated spreadsheet,” they’re going to think, “Wow, Jim gave me this awesome project. I just love it. I could spend two hours doing this spreadsheet,” and where I would have lost all my energy doing that.
Luke Peters: I like that because it’s a different way to look at it, but I completely agree, and especially for entrepreneurs who are just running themselves too hard. We get stuck in those ruts where it can actually be unhealthy, and we’re not sleeping enough or getting our head out of the business. I guess also, on the other end of it are there any tools, or ways, that you organize your week, or your day, to stay on point?
Jim Estill: Oh sure. I actually set the alarm on my phone for every meeting, every conference call, and I leave myself enough time. So, if I have a meeting at 2:00, and I’m not in the location, I’ll set it for 5 to 2:00 or 10 to 2:00, or whatever I have to do. That’s an easy, easy. So, as a result I never have to be late, and if I’m actually meeting with you, you tend to respect my alarm. So, if my alarm goes off, I say, “Listen, I’ve got to get to my next meeting.” That’s a simple way to keep on track.
Jim Estill: The other thing I like to do, the night before I always look at my day the next day to see what do I have on when? That kind of gets my mind thinking about it. One of the to do list tricks, which was not my … One in my Time Management book was not my ideas. It was other ideas I gleaned from other places, is on my to do list you put down the to do, what you have to do, and the first thing necessary to move you forward on that to do. What I find is when I do that I often do the first step, or even the first two or three steps, because I’ve thought about what do I need to move forward on that next step.
Luke Peters: That’s key, especially for younger people, because I think what happens is then they can get stuck thinking too much. And then if you just, you keep that pencil moving and, like you said, “Okay, what’s the next step?” I think it’s like magic. Just like you said, it can help really help move it forward. Another question I wanted to ask, Jim, is you’ve had so many successes and worked with a lot of companies and, as we’ve talked about, sat on a bunch of Boards, but what has been maybe one big failure, like a really tough one, something that you’ve learned from and that has actually improved yourself or your business?
Jim Estill: Well, I mean I’ve had a number of failures. I will say, I’m on my second marriage. I lost my first marriage. That was a big failure, and that’s because I did not put on my goal list essentially to stay married. So, I strongly recommend … I did a talk last night to an organization. They asked me to speak about wealth and entrepreneurship. In one of the slides I said is, “Love your spouse and treat them well, because otherwise you lose half your wealth.” That’s the way the world works. Spouses don’t fit as easily around the other goals. I can’t say, “Oh, I’m going to tick this box and make another 50 calls and that’ll make her happy.” That’s an example, and that’s a highly personal example. I even tell people, “Ask me a business problem, I’m good at business problems. Personal problems, a little tougher.”
Luke Peters: Well, listen, I appreciate the honesty there because that’s a very relevant one, though, and definitely something that’s important in culture, and good advice there. Kind of along with that, what is something, maybe it’s a habit, morning habit, a ritual, or a practice that you’ve learned, or done, that has made you a better person, either at work or home?
Jim Estill: So, ShipperBee is based on the power of while. What can you do while you’re doing something else? That’s in my book on time management. I talk about what can you do while you’re doing things? So, one thing that I do that’s very simple, I listen to audio books, and podcasts, when I’m in my car. Everyone thinks, “Wow, Jim’s read every single book.” I will tell you that the ones that I’ve read half of them I listened to. Even though I don’t have a long commute I do end up driving places, and whatnot. I sometimes listen to them while I exercise, as well. So, it’s using that power of while.
Jim Estill: Another thing I’m known for is walking meetings. So, when I meet with people we go for a walk so, I’m getting a little bit of exercise. What can I do while I’m meeting with someone? I get a little bit of exercise. Interestingly enough, it actually makes it more memorable. So, I’ve had a walking meeting with someone and all of a sudden 10 years later, I haven’t talked to them and they say, “Oh, I still remember that meeting,” because if I had a meeting in my boardroom it’s like kind of like every other boring boardroom you ever saw. It’s leveling, too, so if I’m meeting with an employee, it’s kind of scary to meet across the desk from a mean CEO like me. It’s not when you go for a walk, you’re shoulder-to-shoulder outside, so I love it.
Luke Peters: You know what, that’s … you’re actually … I’m actually writing that down because I need to get back into that, and I’ve done it a little bit, and I heard that Steve Jobs did that a lot. He was always running all over the place, but I love it. I think it’s such a … It’s a great idea, and it’s, fun, and you get the two for one, and I’m all about the two for one. Like you said, it can be less intimidating, as well. Those are usually kind of like … Just curious, you walking outside around the building, or is that through the warehouse, or just curious on where those walks happen at Danby?
Jim Estill: I actually have a trail, which I have to get in my car and drive, but it’s only two minutes. You drive two or three minutes to the trail, and I walk, basically, through this little woods and down to a river, and I’ve got a few different walks. Some of them are like … One of them is 20 minutes, one of them is 30 minutes. So, it depends on whether I need to talk to you for 20 minutes or 30 minutes. Another thing I like about a walking meeting is it actually does bring a meeting to a close because we just walk down to the river and back, and that was our half hour. We get in the car and come back. Where if you’re in my office, or in a boardroom, it’s too easy to say, “Oh well, we’ll just keep on chatting here.” You would be surprised at how much you can get done in 20 minutes. I, basically, don’t like one hour meetings. I like 20 minute meetings.
Luke Peters: I’m with you. We try to schedule … We definitely don’t go over an hour. We try to schedule a bunch of half hour, but I like that strategy. I’ll have to do like a walk around the building or a walk over to … We’re kind of near a bunch of restaurants, so it does work really good for lunch, but I wish we had some trails over here. That is pretty cool that you have that. Then you talked about listening to books and podcasts, so would love to hear one of your favorite book recommendations for listeners.
Jim Estill: I mean, an old time classic that I like is The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. I’m a marketing guy. Another one I like is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is another classic for sure. There’s so many that I almost can hardly even think of them all. If you know what I mean?
Luke Peters: Yeah, got you.
Jim Estill: I like Malcolm Gladwell, his-
Luke Peters: Fellow Canadian.
Jim Estill: His books are all good.
Luke Peters: Yeah, he’s a good writer.
Jim Estill: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Luke Peters: Yeah, he’s super interesting and really good reader, by the way, so you probably listen to his audio books. He’s got a great voice and a good style, so he makes the books fun.
Jim Estill: That’s right. Sapiens is a pretty good one, as well.
Luke Peters: Okay, good. I haven’t read that one. I’ll write that down. Listen, I really enjoyed the time with you here today on the Page 1 Podcast, and appreciate all your thoughts and wisdom here. How can listeners find you, learn more about you or your companies?
Jim Estill: Well, the company is Danby Appliances. It’s just www.danby.com. I have a blog at www.JimEstill.com, although I don’t blog very much. I’m very Google-able. Jim Estill is actually unique name, so anybody can do that. ShipperBee is just shipperbee.com.
Luke Peters: That’s Estill with two Ls at the end. Just want to thank you for joining me on the Page 1 Podcast, and the audience as well. Quick reminder that I’m offering a free evaluation of your online sales strategy. We can look into your influencer marketing, Amazon, HD, Wayfair, all the digital sales, help you guys from a strategic standpoint, help you understand keyword, and search options, and advertising options on those various channels. Just find me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn and happy to help you from there. I want to thank you all again for listening, and appreciate everybody who listens, all of your comments, suggestions, and reviews. See you on the next episode.
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Episode References: www.danby.com + www.shipperbee.com + Time Leadership: Using the Secrets of Leadership for Time Management + The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing + Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Contact Jim Estill: www.JimEstill.com