vanessa, manufacturer, fray, e commerce, people, company, noah, build, website, business, damon, team, manufacturing, ecommerce, magento, understand, aaron, customers, process, work
Vanessa Nornberg, Damon Pistulka, Curt Anderson, Noah Oken-Berg
Damon Pistulka 00:00
We can get her. No Vanessa, if you can turn on your cameras and your microphones, she should be able to come to the stage.
There we go.
Curt Anderson 00:10
There’s no Howdy.
Damon Pistulka 00:14
So Happy Friday.
Damon Pistulka 00:18
Awesome. Awesome. We’re gonna go we’re gonna get going live here on LinkedIn and we will get started. All right, everyone, Welcome once again to another Friday manufacturing ecommerce Success Series. I’m, I’m one of your hosts, Damon Pistulka. Along with me, we’ve got Kurt Anderson up there at the top with us. And he will be introducing our guest today.
But thanks for joining us. If you’re on LinkedIn live, go ahead and let us know where you’re listening from. Let us know if you got questions in the chat. If you’re here with us on Remo, hit the chat. Drop your LinkedIn link in there. If you want us to connect. If you got questions, drop those in curtner watching that and we’ll get that to our guests as well so they can speak to those. But I’m gonna turn it over now to my co host, the man with the most in manufacturing, Kurt Anderson. Take it away man.
Curt Anderson 01:20
Damon, thank you. Thank you everybody. Happy Friday. So Damon Pistulka for the most seasoned growth exit strategy specialists. So thank you guys, everybody for joining us today. Thank you Greg. Kevin, Colby, Vanessa, my dear friend, Vail. So thank you guys, Bobby and Seattle. Eric is with us today.
So guys, I am absolutely thrilled and honored for this program. And I’ve been waiting for this for months. So we’re gonna jump right in. So I today we have the CEO and founder of above the fray My dear buddy Noah Oaken Berg. Noah, welcome. Thank you for joining us today.
Yeah, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having us.
Curt Anderson 01:58
And what’s awesome is Noah has actually brought on one of his clients and Damon, this is a first for us. So we’re going across the pond, our dear friend Vanessa Norberg. Vanessa is the founder and CEO of metal mafia. Now she has a fantastic story. We’re going to dig into that. Vanessa, where are you coming from today?
Vanessa Nornberg 02:17
I’m coming to you from France today. But my business is located in the US in New Jersey.
Curt Anderson 02:23
Awesome. So she’s a she’s a what? So what time? What are you six hours ahead of us right now? You’re 730? Correct.
In our time here,
Curt Anderson 02:32
guys, so I’m gonna dig in. So a couple things, I want to talk to you a little bit about Noah and his firm. And then we’re gonna dig right into this case study that we want to share for you super excited that we have an opportunity to hear directly from a manufacturer teaming up with an e commerce expert. So Noah is an e commerce authority. He is an absolute Rockstar. I know that gets thrown around a lot. I’ve had the honor and privilege of a front row view, working with no on a project that we’re tag teaming together. His team and his staff are just out of this world. They really are about 50 people strong,
I believe, is that correct? No, above the fray. Just about
Curt Anderson 03:06
and you guys just started in 2017. So I mean, you’re barely out of diapers COVID hit and you’re still crushing it. So just what an incredible amazing success story. But let’s turn it over to Vanessa quick. So Vanessa, what an incredible entrepreneur so great story. So I did a little digging. Some people call it stalking. I call it research. She’s been an entrepreneur since she was 11 years old to my understanding and fifth grade your your sewing little chandelier earrings, if I’m not mistaken, is that correct?
I did some some entrepreneurial stuff in my, in my younger days. I did get started early with a chandelier earrings, but those nice 80s plastic necklaces.
Curt Anderson 03:45
That’s awesome. And so and so what a great journey you’re over in France came back to the States. And in 2004, you started metal mafia. So can you tell us a little bit and let me just share one more thing before I forget. So Vanessa is as Ben has landed on the coveted Inc 500 top company list. She’s also a writer. She’s an columnist for ink magazine. So guys feel free drop your LinkedIn profile in the chat box.
I’ve put no us and Vanessa’s LinkedIn profile. I’ve put up Vanessa’s articles from Inc in the chat box, you have to check out these articles. So Vanessa Tucker, let’s go back to 2004. What was that turning point where you’re like, Hey, I’m gonna jump in entrepreneurship. I love these piers, the body jewelry that you sell. Talk a little bit about how you got started.
Well, I mean, I really got started because I was doing something similar for another company. And I had been hired to come back after having left that company to really kind of get the company recharged because there have been some things that happened along the way that made it lose a little bit of momentum. And so I was tasked with running the North American operations.
And I spent about two and a half years rebuilding that company and getting it back to where it had been, at which point I’m the owner of the company decided to fire me. And so I decided to give him some competition. And I did that with my two of the people that I worked with at that company. And we started metal mafia and ended up 16 years later. So 16 and a half years later, right where we are now.
Curt Anderson 05:19
Phenomenal in guys was I thought I read 5000 independent retailers that you sell to 23 countries, one of the largest distributors, in the b2b space on body jewelry. So let’s, I’m gonna turn it back over to Noah. So Noah 2017, you start above the fray talk a little bit about how your e commerce journey how you how you lead up to building I’m sorry, launching with Aaron hunt his co partner, how did you start above the fray and talk a little bit about and why manufacturing and e commerce? Sure.
Noah Oken-Berg 05:49
And you know, to be fair, we kind of started with our training, training pants on diapers are already off when we started the company. But, you know, Aaron, Aaron is my my co founder, like you mentioned Aaron height, and we had worked together in a previous agency. And we I think it’s nine years now that we’ve actually worked together. So we’d always talked about doing things, you know, learning the lessons that we had both good and bad from our previous engagements and experiences, and trying to translate that over to doing things our way. Um, as far as manufacturing, specifically, we, we had some background in it.
Both personally, you know, outside of the e commerce world, and also our experience in digital commerce, we’ve worked with a lot of producers and manufacturers b2b, also a distribution channels. And there’s a pretty unique approach that you need to take and a unique set of understandings that you have to have in that world that just you can’t, you can’t, you can’t necessarily get from a textbook, you got to get that dirt under your fingernails. And sometimes actually, literally, so
Curt Anderson 06:55
yeah, roll up the sleeves and get dirty. And the cool thing is Damon, so the project plan with with Noah is, um, so you know, no, you know that the company that we’re working on together, they went through the due diligence process, they were checking out other ecommerce firms at Target manufacturers work in Magento. These were very astute very competitive companies.
And man, no one is team just blew everybody out of the water was just, you know, so impressed. And you guys have just been consistently exceeding expectations, crushing it, we meet weekly, and it’s just I learned so much every week. So Vanessa, let’s turn to you. So you decided to get an e commerce? You, you know, you’re you have this incredible, you really have the perfect product line for e commerce, in my opinion. And it sounds like you had some struggles with some different ecommerce firms in the past. Can you talk a little bit about your life pre above the fray?
Sure, well, so I just start by saying that when my partner Dale Paris, and I started battle mafia, we started it because we wanted to do something different for the industry, we thought that customers were getting sort of a, an unfair shake, if you will, because there were a lot of moving targets for them to understand when they were purchasing from a company like ours.
And so we, you know, over the 16 years that we’ve been building, our company have always tried to build with our customers in mind, whether it was building our product line, or the way that they accessed our customer service, and the way that we would sell to them, and so forth. And so sort of the Achilles heel of our organization was our online digital presence.
And the reason for that was actually because surprisingly enough in what’s usually considered to be a very young thinking industry, we’re in the tattoo and piercing industry, for those of you who don’t know, or who are just joining us now, the people that you know, are in that industry, one would think are younger, and so they know more about web, but actually, people in our industry weren’t very web savvy. They weren’t, you know, using websites, were on dial up kind of thing, want, you know, prefer to call us, etc.
And so we always had, you know, really a customer service, phone based method of getting in touch with our customers, we always had a website, but it just wasn’t really given the attention that it should have been. And so about three years ago, at this point, we decided that we, our customers, were ready to actually join the technologically empowered world, and to get into the digital fray, so to speak. And so we ended up deciding to put our what was then our eirp, behind the scenes, to marry that with our web presence, so that our sales reps were working in the same system where our customers would actually be ordering.
And the reason the main impetus for wanting to do that was so that we could show our inventory in real time, which one thinks shouldn’t be that complicated? No one is a manufacturer and one knows how much stock one has, but in point of fact, was actually a really complicated endeavor that we had no idea was going to turn out to be the nightmare that it was as we undertook it with another company, not ATF not not above the fray. Actually two other companies before we ended up working with above the fray. And so you know, the first rebuild, so to speak of our website was a year in the making.
It was you know, Supposed to be on time, we wrote things into the contract to make sure that it was going to be on time. And in point of fact, at the end of the day, I think that the company that we were working with had bitten off far more than they could chew, and weren’t able to actually deliver what they had promised. And so it was a very frustrating experience for me as the leader of our company, and from my partner, as the person that, you know, really handling the inventory and the other leader of our company to experience this kind of setback, because we, you know, knew what we were asking for, it was a simple request in our minds, and yet it wasn’t happening.
And so we then ended up parting ways with that company, on not such great terms, and hiring another company at a far greater expense than the first thinking that, oh, we must just not have put enough money behind it. Right, you know, we must have been trying to cheap out somehow, because it was our first experience of really trying to, you know, make a website that was bigger and better than what we had before. And so this time, we increased our budget, and you know, I’ll give actual numbers, our first website was probably a $40,000. website.
And so when we thought we were going to have to spend more to get where we needed to get to, we thought, Well, okay, so it’s probably gonna cost us maybe $80,000. Well, it ended up costing us a lot more than that, probably $130,000, at which point, we were supposed to actually cost more, we didn’t end up paying the final bills with the company that we’re working with, because they didn’t end up delivering what they were supposed to deliver. And that’s when I could tell that everything was going sour.
And we needed to have somebody else come in. And that’s when I started reaching out to other companies and to happen to interview NOAA and above the fray, and really found that we kind of I just I liked the way that NOAA spoke about things, I felt that we were on the same page in terms of our commitment to how we do business, not just about, you know, building the website, and about the transactions that we’re going to need to happen.
But the way that we you know, we’re going to treat each other as team members, because that’s really what you’re doing. If you’re thinking about, you know, hiring any kind of web company, you’re ultimately partnering in the deepest sense with this company, because they’re not going to just build it and go away. They’re going to be in your life for like the next foreseeable future. Yes, right, you’re basically getting married.
Because getting rid of them at any point is very complicated, and very costly. And as a manufacturer, you know, I’m always looking at the bottom line, as you know, a company that, as I’m sure you are, who are joining us, you know, you’re looking at the bottom line, and you want to make sure that you’re choosing a partner that you can have as a long term partner.
And so I think that, you know, the first thing that I just want to point out in today’s discussion is how important it is to find somebody who aligns with your values, and who, you know, speaks with you, honestly, and sets expectations that you know, they can either meet or when they can’t, they will admit that they can’t, and, and then help you to figure out what the go forward is going to be so that ultimately you cross the finish line together.
Curt Anderson 12:58
Gosh, man. So guys, so anybody that just chimed in to a shout out to Gail and Jean, Hey, guys, I resigned Jeffrey grant from e commerce management. So if you’re just coming in, we have Vanessa and she’s across the pond. She’s in France today. And she’s with metal mafia. And what I wanted to go back to, you know, so when you say what a great story, this is about building it really bottom line, you know, ecommerce and your business are almost secondary. It’s about building that trust and aligning values in that culture.
Now, when you first met Vanessa, you know, she, you know, this is like, you know, you said like, a marriage is like, you know, you’ve been burned twice, you have a broken heart, and you’re coming into a new relationship, Noah, how did you you know, you know, like, she’s a little wounded, maybe fragile. This is a big massive investment. This is her baby, this is her business. How did you approach it coming into this relationship with Vanessa, to build such a great success story here?
Yeah, sure. I mean, I can say, Vanessa may have been wounded by the past relationships, but fragile is never a word I would use to describe her. That, you know, it’s, it’s commonplace, first of all, and it’s something that when you’re, you know, on our side of the equation, you we come across quite a bit.
And there’s a lot of reasons for it. And, you know, one of the reasons I mean, not to get to sort of, you know, pie in the sky, but the reasons that Aaron and I named the company above the fray was exactly because of that was because, you know, all of these reasons, digital, you know, when you’re creating custom software, and when you’re trying to align to organizations and businesses, with multiple different moving parts, even people with the best of intentions and high, high level of talent can really screw things up badly and create a bad outcome.
And so, you know, that’s one of the challenges from our perspective, to address. And, you know, when Aaron and I said we wanted to start a company, doing things different, I mean, everybody says that, right? That’s kind of a pretty standard thing out we’re gonna do things differently. So you know, in order to really do them differently, it kind of It’s a paradigm shift in your mind of how you’re going to approach it and, and really, really paying attention to the mistakes of your past.
And, you know, that’s one of the things I was taking some notes here, you know, it’s been so you were talking, and Kurt before that, but sometimes there’s, there’s really no way to learn besides the hard way. Unfortunately, you know, I mean, and I found this to be true that when I work with folks that have experienced some of the really negative damaging things that can happen in this type of engagement or relationship, they have, you know, just a better perspective walking in to what we’re doing.
And similarly, from, from, from my shoes, you know, if I hadn’t gone through years and years of seeing how things can blow up in your face, you know, I learned, you know, which wire to cut, like, Don’t cut the red wire, because that’s the one that everything will blow up, you know, sometimes you just have to keep cutting the red wire, you know, until you realize the cut the blue on instead.
So, I mean, I think that’s, I hate to say, you know, that, that like, you know, hey, you’re gonna have to have something blowing up in your face first, for it to go, right. That’s not necessarily the case. But definitely work with people that have have gone through those things before, take your cues from those folks, if you’re a manufacturer go out there and speak to other folks like Vanessa, that have had to pave the way by learning the lessons the hard way, so maybe you don’t have to. So I guess that’s, you know, that’s in a general sense.
You know, and for us, it. The other the other piece of it, which is, you know, beyond the actual, like nuts and bolts of the engagement is something I think both Kurt and Vanessa, you’ve touched on today, but it, it goes, you know, much beyond that, and it really has to do with alignment has to do with expectations, and has to do with trust. And I think that the the soft skills in that, the believing that somebody that you’re working with is believing in the best out of them.
And understanding that there may be things that are not being understood, that are, it’s not even even if it’s, you know, really a contentious point or something that’s you know, just really just become sort of, outside of the realm of sort of alignment, just to understand put yourself in the other person’s shoes and, and not assume the worst not assume that they’re trying to get over on you or manipulate something or, you know, some kind of negative connotation.
And that’s, that’s the thing that keeps me through. And, you know, sometimes you’re wrong, every now and then there are people that are out there to do that, yeah, but I’d rather you know, run the risk, and they’ll that’ll be exposed, and then the good relationships like this one will persevere.
I think that’s really true, because and I think it’s important to note that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing with the above the fray team, either or, you know, on their, on their behalf with our team, you know, we’ve all had to learn throughout this process.
And, you know, I think that we have, what’s helped us along the way, is the fact that, you know, we have spoken honestly, as I said, and you know, then in earnest with one another, but also that we you know, as Noah said, have tried to see from the other person’s perspective and meet somewhere in the middle and find, you know, where we can get the, the path forward together, because it you know, it’s, it’s costly for a business to, you know, have to change gears and have to bring somebody else on board.
And I think that, you know, it’s important to note too, for anybody who’s thinking about, you know, embarking on doing something with their website, or changing the way that they do business. You know, one of the things that I personally was, you know, having a lot of trouble wrapping my brain around, when we were getting started with ATF was that they were asking to come and do what they call the discovery process of our business, right, which is fine, except for I was footing the bill for it, to come and learn about our company, right.
And so as a manufacturer, or as any business owner, you’re always trying to watch about a mind and make sure that, you know, you’re spending money wisely. And it’s, you know, seems rather exorbitant sometimes when somebody says, well, we’re gonna come watch what you do, and you’ll pay us to come do that. Yeah. And it’s going to cost a lot of money. And we hadn’t done that actually, with the other companies that we’ve worked with, because they hadn’t asked. And so I thought this was a novel concept that no one was asking and that his team was asking to come do.
And, you know, after considering it, I thought, well, you know, we haven’t done it before. And so this might be one of those moments where we need to learn from what we did in the past that didn’t work, and try something that might, and I think that it was a huge factor in you know, first of all, in allowing them to get to know us and, you know, be able to see that we were, you know, honest and that we were,
you know what we were driving at as our end goal, but also giving them insight into our business processes, and in the process, learning ourselves to be more clear about the things that we were asking for, because there have been moments where, you know, we say, Well, you know, we want the website to allow people to check out with X number of items, you know, in their cart, and they say, Oh, great, but we don’t understand that there’s, you know, some sort of other moving part behind that that you know, we can check out with 10 moving items in our cart, but not 249
Yeah, right. Yeah.
Curt Anderson 19:59
That man, there’s a so much unpack right here.
Damon Pistulka 20:03
There’s so much in it’s just because of the fact that, you know, the manufacturing and, and businesses in general are just the stories are numerous of, of trying an effort like you did and just getting, you know, bad results, I’ll just say bad results. And I think it’s both on the the supplier and trying to overreach, what they could do. And then also as no one they did not taking the time to really understand your business.
And because they don’t, because it is it is hard in the beginning to say, listen, it’s gonna cost a lot of money just for us to get up to speed on your business. But when you understand how that helps throughout the process, to really deliver the best solution. In the end, it makes a lot of sense. And now that you’ve gone through that, I’m sure you can attest to that. But man it is. I just can’t tell you how many people you talk to that, say I have almost the same story of I tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed, because someone said, Yeah, I can do that, and really didn’t understand what they were trying to do and what you wanted to accomplish. So
well. And I think that it’s important to note here that, you know, one of the things that sets above the fray apart is the fact that which notice touched on to begin with, is the fact that they actually have experienced themselves in manufacturing. Yeah. Right. Because a lot of the agencies that are out there that can build websites for you, right, and that you might find as a manufacturer and go to an ask them to do something for you. They build websites that are you know, for service products, for example, or sometimes even for products, but with a limited catalog of products, right? It’s not the same as manufacturing.
And it’s it’s, you know, a lot of times it’s you know, more of a beautiful portal that shows you know, what you do versus actually being a vehicle to sell an e commerce vehicle. And so I think that you know, what set Noah’s team apart in the teams that we were interviewing to take over after the debacle was the fact that they had manufacturing experience. And the person that had come to, you know, see us and sit there and learn about our processes, was able to actually have a conversation with us about those processes.
And I think this is particularly important for people to consider, you know, especially manufacturers, as you’re choosing who you work with, right? There are a lot of people out there who are tech enabled, right? A lot of people know how to build Magento sites. That’s wonderful, but they don’t all understand manufacturing processes and or what it’s like to run a product based company.
Yeah. And I think that that knowledge and that knowledge gap really, is a lot of times the biggest pitfall that keeps people from getting to where they need to be in terms of, you know, the end product that they’re asking for, and probably frustrates the web teams in the process as well, because, you know, they don’t understand that they don’t have that knowledge in the beginning, and and can’t get the people the manufacturer to where they need to be. Yeah,
yeah, great. points.
Curt Anderson 22:57
This is just so good. I had big expectations today, you guys would like in my, everybody’s mind is blown right now. Or what is. So Vanessa, you know, what I want to come back to is multiple things. First off, kudos to you Congratulations. And you’re right, you know, not the right word for fragile, but you know, when you when you’ve been burnt at 10s of 1000s. Even, you know, you know, six figures on bad ecommerce relationships, to have the trust, that relentless drive, that’s just a credit to your entrepreneurial spirit, your professionalism and just you know, that will let us drive the build your business up. So kudos to you to
Hadley more credit to my partner for tucking me down on the wire.
Curt Anderson 23:39
I want to share quickly I’ve had first hand experience on that discovery process with Noah and his team. And the funny thing is, this little Donal, if everybody knew there’s this little thing going on, called COVID. And so I’m on the other side of the world. I’m over here in New York. And these guys, project run, join us in Seattle, and Noah’s over in Portland, they go through the discovery process. This is what Noah does, he puts it on, put us on the big screen. I sat here in my basement and I sit down but I sat in my basement and I went through the entire discovery process with my client, thanks to NOAA. And it was just absolutely phenomenal.
I had a front row view of the whole process, I saw a different insight for my client. And so I had I know exactly what you’re describing in our friend Chris Harrington from Gen alpha, she talks about that they do it with their clients. It’s just such a great way to build that trust and know I just have a such a privilege going through that process with your team to just share a little bit about how, why you’re so dedicated, like how that came about or why you feel that so important. Obviously if you’re not, you know, giving you credit, I’m giving you credit. What what sparked you guys to do that in the first place?
Well, a couple things, one, in a previous previous role that I had, the discovery was all on me. And it was all pre contract and pre sale. And it was up to me to write the entire scope of work for, you know, six figure plus contracts. And, you know, I’ll give myself credit where it’s due. But you know, I can I can play that role on TV. That’s about it. You know, and so getting the right people in the room to define things with the other, you know, on both teams is mission critical. And I saw sort of where that lead, and really where it comes out is typically at the end of a project, you don’t notice it during the beginning, yeah.
design and engineering the build, but then you start going into QA internally, and then especially when it gets kicked over to the client, and you’re doing user acceptance testing, and they’re like, Where’s this? Where’s this? We expected this to be part of it, we thought this was going to operate this way. Now, that’s going to happen regardless, because we’re talking about really complex. Yeah, custom software builds with, you know, like I said earlier, hundreds of moving pieces, 1000s, even.
But it’s a process of elimination. And so, you know, I think I did a talk a long time ago out in New York at some event about like that the ounce of preparation, versus a pound of cure, or whatever, you know, but that’s, that’s what it is, it is trying to narrow things down ahead of time, as much as humanly possible. But it’s also the connection, right? It’s, it’s that face to face, it’s that human connection.
And I think that’s something that, you know, beyond just the sort of, you know, user stories and requirements that you’re uncovering, and workflows and business processes during the discovery, you’re connecting with people, and you know, in person, or via video conference, and then when things get, you know, hairy later on down the road, which they’re going to do, I don’t want you know, anybody to think that there’s some magical formula, there’s stress free engagements for this stuff. Yeah.
You know, that’s, that doesn’t, it doesn’t exist. But when those things happen, you have that connection with the people that you sat down with face to face, at the end of the day, you break some bread, maybe raise a glass, and you know, you can fall back on that human connection. And so I think there’s, you know, there’s both sides of that upfront discovery process that are important.
And the other part that I’ll mention too, is it’s, you know, it’s, there are no finish lines and what we’re talking about here, so and that includes discovery, you know, you do the upfront discovery, and that may be a few days or a few weeks or a few months, depending on the size of the project. There’s always ongoing discovery that’s needed, because what you learned a week ago might be different a week from now. The industry is changing, the economy is changing, the technology especially is changing. And the business sort of drivers are changing, too. So it’s not something that you set and forget, it is an ongoing process.
Curt Anderson 27:34
Now, that’s perfect until then. So what I want to talk about is, you know, what I love and so anybody’s coming in again, Vanessa is over in France. And it’s it’s metal mafia, and I dropped both of their LinkedIn profiles in the chat box just now. Also, Vanessa writes for ink, she’s accounting commerce for ink magazine, phenomenal articles. Vanessa, we were talking the other day. And what I absolutely love that you said was that language barrier, you know, and what was nice was like, as you’re describing, as a manufacturer, I know how to make widgets.
And I know what my customers need, from above the fray, or from an e commerce provider. They’re the tech, you know, they’re techies, they can speak e commerce all day long, but they don’t know your exact needs. You know, when and I wanted our dear friend Greg, issue from inbound in Wisconsin. So this ties perfectly in with this question, in regards to what Vanessa just said, what are some of the key processes for what are some of the key process processes providers should be aware of?
What are some of the key processes providers should be aware of that makes that process like is, as you’re building this relationship with with Noah, and you’re trying to communicate with him as a manufacturer? What were you know, like, you know, budget, China say, within your budget, your financial needs, your customer needs, manufacturing processes, work in process? How do you How did you communicate some of those things? But no,
I mean, I think as honestly as possible, first of all, I mean, for example, when we got started, right, we were you know, we there was a timeline put to the project. And I was very transparent to begin with, with the fact that, you know, number one, like, I think that in the metaphor, I’ll start by saying, in the manufacturing world, right, we make we make products, so we make the thing, this thing exists, and we make it over and over again. And it’s, you know, if it’s on our website, where you can purchase it, it looks like x, and when you get it in your box, it also looks like x, right? We don’t send you something different.
And I think that, you know, as manufacturers, we have a mindset that, you know, expects all products to be like that, when in point of fact, a website that’s being created is actually not that product x that you you know, sign on the dotted line and say, Well, at the end of the day, I’d like to have it do this, right, as Noah has explained to me on many occasions, and finally it’s sunk in. It’s actually a living, breathing thing that continues to grow and change. And it’s not necessarily a question of you know, how it’s constructed but also of what you do with it as the manufacturer So what what does that mean?
Well, for example, in my company, my sales reps, they’re taking notes every time they make notes on the on the accounts every time they take orders from our customers? Well, I think that the ATF team was really surprised to find out that, you know, we could take up to like, you know, 175 or 300 notes, even in a day. Right? And this is like data proliferation. Yeah. So it’s it. And this, then, you know, makes your system heavier, more bulky, maybe it doesn’t move correctly, but who would have thought to say to them to begin with, and this is where the whole language question comes in, right? Hey, by the way, we take a lot of notes on our accounts every day, right?
I mean, we take notes, we asked for a notes function, we said that every time we talk to our customers, we take notes, but they had no idea that that implies that every time we talked to a customer really means you know, 150 calls a day, so potentially 150 notes per day, in our system, right? They just knew we were going to write the notes, right. And so this is where that idea of, you know, language and clarity becomes really important from both sides. Right? Would they also have to help you as the person developing your website to understand what the limitations are, of the system that they’re building, or the ways in which it can and cannot be used?
Right. Another interesting thing that, you know, that occurred in the process of, you know, getting this together, language wise, was just, you know, and this, this was predating the ATF team, right, but with one of the other relationships that we had with the people before, you know, they, we told them that we needed QuickBooks integrated in our website, because that’s where we run our financial books, our journals. And so you know, this, you’re basically asking QuickBooks to speak to Magento.
And that means that there’s transfer of data back and forth of, you know, let’s say, every time we take an order, from a customer, that you know, that would that data would be transferred. And then every time that order gets invoiced, and goes out to the customer, that data has to get transferred between the two systems. And then there’s the payment, right. And these are all important parts of financial books for a company to have, right?
And so the company that actually, you know, that we started with, connected in their mind, QuickBooks, but they only connected it halfway, because the only thing that was going into QuickBooks were the was the the sale, right, and not the invoice or the payment. I as a business owner cannot turn in half of my books, yeah, the IRS. Right, I have to have the complete picture to understand what my expenses and what my you know, revenues are. And that just wasn’t part of it. And this is part of, you know, not understanding the business process.
And this is very much about, you know, language, and, you know, having somebody you know, really like number one, having been in the trenches and understood, you know, what it is to run a business versus what it is to, you know, build technology. And I think it goes both ways, right? Because like I said, I didn’t have the understanding that, you know, this website was going to be a living, breathing thing that was going to keep changing, right. Much to my frustration, right? I thought I was purchasing a website that was going to do what I said it should do at the end of the time, and you know, it’s going to work correctly.
And then, you know, maybe it breaks every once in a while, but because something actually happened much like a car that you know, you get a flat tire on, you drove over something in the road. Well, that makes sense. But sometimes the car just doesn’t work in this sense, and why not? Right. And it becomes very frustrating, as you know, the person on the other end.
So I think that, you know, these are just instances where language clarity where, you know, Noah’s team, for example, explained to us on, you know, many occasions, why something that we were asking for, couldn’t be done, or why something that we were asking for was something that they were going to do, but it was like a first like nobody had ever done it before. Right.
And so that meant that it was going to be a trial and error kind of process. And, you know, I commend them for taking on this project. Because, you know, there were a lot of firsts in what we were building. And they, you know, move forward intrepidly and didn’t say No, it can’t be done, but said yes, we’ll figure out how to get it done. But no, on the on the business on our side, that the flip side of that is, we can get it done means you know, there’s going to be some obstacles along the way. Yeah,
Damon Pistulka 34:05
Well, go ahead.
Damon Pistulka 34:08
Sure. And you highlighted just just the details you talked about in QuickBooks, I’m helping someone with a similar integration, in in one of our ecommerce clients, and, and it’s not with Magento. But it’s it’s more standard systems are using but even at that level, when you’re connecting standard systems between suppliers and buyers, and it is amazing how many times that you see technology providers that will say yeah, we connect to QuickBooks, and really it only is one side of the transaction and they don’t even realize why it’s not gonna work that way.
And, and I’m not talking about you know, somebody that just developed this in their in their basement, this these are people that actually have sizable companies that do this and don’t know that this integration really isn’t it’s a half job. And and you know, and that is what There are places like above the fray that can actually interpret that entire process and put the custom things together because you’re not going to find customer or find out of the box solutions that are going to do what you want to do nine times out of 10. Right? Yeah,
Curt Anderson 35:18
that was good stuff. That’s Jeffrey Graham, who’s with us today at e commerce management, we just ran into this with a client in Montana. So I mean, it’s such a common problem, don’t want to turn it back to you. So you ecommerce manufacturing, great niche. And that’s what our program is about. So we’ll talk a little bit. And I know, Damon, I think we’re running. We’re running low on time. But um, no, let’s talk a little bit. So different, you know, with manufacturers, it’s not just manufacturers, some are just plastic injection molding or something unique, like what Vanessa does.
So there’s all different walks of life, different industries, how do you how do you and your team approach that manufacturer? And maybe it’s something that like, you know, maybe it’s body jewelry, or another subject that you’ve never encountered? What type of diligence do you come into, as you start that discovery process? Even before you close a deal as you’re doing your, your, your own discovery process?
Yeah, sure. You know, and there is a little bit of difference when you’re making chocolate or making body jewelry, or, you know, making, you know, cranes and
bending metal can feel right.
Yeah. So and we work with all those types of folks. And but there are, I mean, the first thing is obviously commonalities. But then, you know, nuance and and really, that’s so it’s, you know, it’s a couple things, obviously, it’s what we’ve already talked about doing the right. Discovery up front. I mean, really, you know, when you mentioned, you know, clinic close a deal for us, our perspective is, you know, we’re, if we’re going to invest our time in a relationship before our contracts been signed, we’re already engaged. You know, we’re investing time from our company, our people, they’re investing time from theirs to engage with us.
So you know, I mean, to me, a deal is already closed at that point, the, you know, signing a contract, and actually exchanging money is sort of like just a milestone along the way. But it begins before, you know, really after the initial call, or the initial meeting, where you’ve already at least said we’re aligned enough to continue this and to devote more of our team’s resources. And then it’s a matter of getting the right people in the room.
You know, you know, I’ve I love, you know, back to your question previously, why did Aaron and I go on to focus more on manufacturing, we’re in the digital world, or in the technology world, sometimes your head so much in the clouds, you like to have your feet on the earth, and I love to work with folks that are building things and producing things and getting them out there that, you know, provide some tangible in the real world.
And, and so, but that doesn’t mean that I know, every single last industry and vertical and nuance for that, so we, you know, we build a team of people that have done that, and that have been working with those types of organizations or companies or things that have that can translate over it, you know, when Vanessa, you mentioned doing things for the first time, in my you know, one of the things I strongly believe in, is find somebody else who’s done it for the first time, and figure out how they screwed it up.
You know, and so that’s, you know, that’s, that’s sort of my, my approach to anything is that maybe we haven’t done and sometimes there are just things I mean, Vanessa has some incredibly unique things that that, you know, we’ve built together and the way that they’re approaching their, their business processes and workflows, but, you know, that’s, that’s more the exception than the rule. Normally, things have been done before. So get either if you can’t get the people on your team that have done it before, and if you have a great team, and you build it with folks that have done a lot of stuff in the areas you like, you usually can.
But if you can’t then go out there to you know, I go out to my network, and I connect with people that I’ve built trusted relationships with that have done it, and I have them come in either as you know, consultants specifically on that, that, that that task, or that engagement, or just simply just a few tidbits, like here, there’s only like two things you need to know not to do, and these are them and that’s fine that can make like hundreds of 1000s of dollars of difference in an engagement. So you know, I mean,
and really kudos to Noah for doing that, actually, because there have been instances where he’s, you know, consulted with people outside of his team because we were, you know, in a place where we couldn’t move forward and we’re trying to figure out the best way to do so. And you know, that takes a real leader to decide to do that.
A lot of people’s egos kind of prevent them I guess what it is but but people you know, they were all you know, I can do it all or my team can do it all but that’s that’s hogwash. We all know that’s not true. That’s not the real world.
Curt Anderson 39:38
And your team No, I mean, like between Danica and Allie Christopher I mean, you know, Aaron the entire team you guys every time I meet somebody new I’m it’s just mind blowing of the talent that you attract. And I think it just really contributes to like your leadership ability and just, I really admire what you’ve done. So guys, I want I want to want to close with something I wanted to share about Vanessa, if you don’t mind.
I’m gonna To read something off your website. So if you go to our website, its ethics matters in life and in business metal mafia trades on that principle in the era of cutthroat and carelessness, we choose commitment and accountability, no excuses, no slack, no margin for error. Metal mafia is a result of three people’s dedicated dedication to doing it right. Every time in a world where things are done wrong just become the norm. So I just wanted to just share that real quick.
It just, I think that’s just an you just, you showed that in the past half hour, just You’re just an amazing entrepreneur, what an incredible company that you’ve built up. No, I just, I can’t express my thanks. It’s just been an honor and privilege working with you for the past six months, and the project we’re working on, I can’t thank you enough for bringing Vanessa all the way over from France today. So and any parting thoughts or you know, you just you shared such incredible insight, anything that you want to close us out with.
And mean, I would just say, you know, I’m all for practical tips and things like that, because, you know, that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. So takeaways, for manufacturers who are watching this today are, you know, in my mind, you should all you should remember, first and foremost that this is going to be a lifelong endeavor. Right? That it’s not going to be you know, a site that gets done, and then you part ways you’re going to have maintenance on it, you’re going to have you know, things that you want to do enhancements to it, things that break, I mean, you know, there’s it’s just really an ongoing relationship.
So choose carefully, who you’re going to be working with, and, you know, pay attention to the details of the people that you’re talking to. Right. I mean, minoa, when we first started talking, he was actually at an airport trying to make his way to a gate and holding a conversation with me at the same time about why he was going to be the right person to choose for my company. And this this isn’t, this isn’t easy to do. Right. But he did it. And he did it? Well.
And, you know, along the way, there have been moments where, you know, we’ve sent some, you know, emails back and forth that, you know, we’re not the kindest, right, because we were frustrated about what was happening, I, you know, have been the author of some, and I think there have been some of his that have had a little bit of a tone that was raised slightly, but still, you know, within the the wheels of what’s okay.
And ultimately, you know, I think that this the thing that you can look at, like details like this, like, you know, the fact that he always responded to me when I was upset or feeling like, you know, we weren’t going to get to where we needed to go, and he didn’t ignore the things that I was experiencing, or that my company was experiencing. And that I think is, you know, a telltale of, you know, the beginning of a good relationship, right.
And I think I’d like to hope at least that we’ve done the same thing that we’ve you know, delivered on what we committed to in the contract with them by always making sure to have our, you know, things in on time, and also by thinking outside of the box and trying to help with the troubleshooting, when things happened, because, you know, I just feel like more heads in the room are better than less. And so, you know, we’ve we’ve tried to do that. So I think that that’s important. I think also, just remembering that along with that additional sort of, you know, ongoing relationship that you’re going to have, there’s always going to be more budget needed than what you have.
And I don’t mean that, you know, you should think oh, well, that gives, you know, carte blanche to like anybody that you’re working with to come back and say, well, you’re gonna have I’m gonna have to charge you more for that. No, that’s that’s not it. Right.
But to understand that, because it’s an ongoing, organic kind of living thing that there are, there’s always going to be needs that it has that you know, are very different from the way that we think about things as manufacturers where we know what the price is for something to bring it in, like you know this it’s more of a moving target. And I think that’s really important because having that mindset to start with will give you I think, a lot more peace of mind and a better way to communicate with the team that you choose whoever they may be.
Curt Anderson 43:37
Absolutely love what you just shared. You know, what’s what’s the cliche politeness is the death of progress. So I think that’s great that you have that admiration, respect for each other, that you can have those difficult, tough conversations. No, my friend, you know, I have a big bromance, you know that. So anything that you want to close us out on for our program?
Yeah, I think only one thing that I had noted this at the beginning, and you know, both Kurt you, you identified from Vanessa’s website from metal mafia, calm and, and Vanessa, you’ve mentioned as far as your sort of ethos, and driving factors, but, you know, you got to have an alignment and vision and mission for your organizations and your companies. And I think that’s one thing that, you know, when things did get, you know, more difficult and we were working through different challenges, the fact that both Vanessa and I sort of have this you know, and eyes on the prize, you know, it’s bigger than just making $1 approach to this thing.
You know, money money, don’t get me wrong, money is beautiful, and we all need to do that to keep the roof over our head and to you know, pay the electricity and the Internet to have webinars like this. But you know, it’s it’s a beautiful side effect of doing a good job. And and not everybody believes that and that’s fine. You know, if if that’s your your number one driver, then find somebody that’s your number one driver, but really find The folks to work with that really align well with your core values.
And I think that that ties you through a lot of things because you know, when when things do get hot and heavy and you know maybe there’s just confusion and the alignments not there you’ll revert back to that Vanessa’s revert will revert back to it I’ll revert back to it and that’s what brings us back together is because we revert back to this sort of common sort of set you know, centrifugal force place and and that’s you know, those are those are again, you know, maybe that’s not the most like the tangible tip that that Vanessa’s providing but you know, I’ll get I’ll get sort of esoteric pie in the sky for y’all that Yeah,
Curt Anderson 45:41
that was perfect and I want to close with this this is off above the phrase website like most good things in life above the fray was born from years of experience earned the hard way. It started with a simple idea that there should be there should never be compromised when it comes to drama free engagement. Straight e comm No Chaser So guys, what an honor. What a privilege. You guys are what this was just a blessing. Great program. Thank you for taking time. I know you guys are super busy.
This was such an honor for you guys to join Damon and myself. Guys. I want to wish everybody a great weekend. I want to remind you so we’re rolling out a we have an e commerce program that we’re doing at Temple University. This Tuesday, Ira Bowman, Mr. LinkedIn Mr. To what do you have Ira 300,000 followers. He’s going live at Temple this Tuesday. So catch that program. We have a great guest next Friday. guys keep crushing it on e commerce we are manufacturing e commerce success. wish you the best Damon let’s close it out, brother. All right, Kurt. Thanks
Damon Pistulka 46:43
so much. Thanks so much to Vanessa. No. Awesome. Distant you’re you’re still story and what you guys have done is so cool. It makes me I’m gonna go we’re getting on metal mafia and digging through the site. Take a look. But yeah,
awesome, man. Any virtual applause?
Damon Pistulka 46:59
Curt Anderson 47:00
You guys crushed it. Thanks
Damon Pistulka 47:01
so much. So thank you for listening to us on LinkedIn live and the other places we’re listening. We’re going to drop off there. We’re going to go back to our email so people can go to tables and chat. All right, here we go.
Curt Anderson 47:13