All Green Podcast Episode 16- Michael's 10,000 Hours on Eco Four Twenty
Michael: All right, all right, all right. Thank you so much for listening to the All Green Podcast. My name is Michael Ghazal, I'm the founder and CEO of Eco Four Twenty, and today I am alone in the backcountry of Algonquin Provincial Park. This is a provincial park located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River in Ontario, Canada. It is established in 1893 and it is actually the oldest provincial park in Canada. So it's just a couple hours north of Toronto. That's where I'm from and honestly it's a beautiful, beautiful park that I highly recommend for anybody to go. I've been camping for the last couple of days and I just wanted to record this podcast to actually be able to talk to you guys. The theme of this podcast is going to be advice, Mike's advice and lessons. The truth is I've been working on Eco Four Twenty several years now and I don't think I'm an expert but I can give some lessons and advice. There was a good book that I really loved listening to. To be honest, I did not read it. I listened to the audio podcast but I love it. It is Malcolm Gladwell and it is a book called The Outliers.
One of the major key components of it was the belief that in 10,000 hours of dedicated practice anybody can become an expert and master of craft. I don't think I've completely mastered Eco Four Twenty but truthfully I've definitely put in over 10,000 hours of blood, sweat and tears into the company. And so I think it's really cool that I'm able to do that. I'm so fortunate and I can only do it because of amazing customers and amazing people who support our small business. I never, in a million years, dreamed that I'd be able to run my own company like this and be able to make a living doing something I absolutely love doing every day. It is a dream. One of the things that I wanted to share here is I truly, truly believe that I wanted to do it alone. When I started the company, I really wanted to be a solo entrepreneur, do it by myself. I'm very independent and I like the belief of doing things on my own. But the truth is you can't do that with a small business or any business. You need help whether it's people there for a little bit or people there every single day, you do need help. Whether it's accounting, whether it's marketing help, whether it's sales, whether it's just the customer service. There's so many different aspects of a business that you need help for. So it kind of leads to my first lesson. I have five lessons now.
Ultimately, these are not the be all and end all. I truly don't think I'm an expert. So just random advice and things that I've done through my 10,000 hours at Eco Four Twenty.
Number one, no man is an island. That's the truth. I really thought I would do it by myself, but I was so fortunate enough to meet Andrea, who's my partner in Eco Four Twenty now. Truthfully, I founded the company by myself and then being able to find such an amazing person, I had to bring her on as a partner, I had to bring her on and make sure that she owned part of Eco Four Twenty as well. I truly believe that it was because of her that I saw the amazing work she did. She's going to be listening to this podcast. She's the one who does all the editing. She's the one who really works so hard to be able to do the things that I can't do. She compliments me so well. I feel like no man is an island. You need to be able to find your kind of Andrea person who's going to be able to compliment you and do the things that you're not able to do. For example, me personally, I'm not good at graphic design. I'm not good at the key design aspects to make things look beautiful. And Andrea is so good at that, whether its social media, whether it's our website, like she's truly helped bring our website and our company to a whole other level in terms of graphic design and marketing.
Thank you so much Andrea. It truly means the world to me. I know you're listening and you're going to be editing this. So thank you so much. I couldn't do it without you. You've been my rock. I hope all other wannabe solo entrepreneurs realize that truly they need to find an Andrea in their life. It definitely helps in so many different ways.
Lesson number two, I truly believe is that you should try to wow the customer. Whether it's a small thing or a big thing like we physically love it when customers say "Wow, I had such a great experience." A lot of times for us, it's with customer service. For example, we try to respond really quickly to customers. If there's a customer who has a question, imagine getting an answer in 20 minutes or less. From the owner of the company or from a manager of the company, it's really important to be able to get this kind of great customer service and help them right away. And sometimes I help people within an hour, 11 pm at night. I just get the email and I'm happy to help them. I don't recommend it all the time. But I do that and a lot of times these customers respond "Wow, I had such a great experience." And you know, those become lifelong customers. Another thing we love doing, I package a lot of the orders. You know, Andrea packages a lot of the orders. And one thing we love to do is write handwritten thank you notes. I think it's an undervalued and underrepresented thing in our society with the internet and with email. But people still love handwritten notes. And it's something they don't expect in their e-commerce order. And it's just a great example of how we have been able to wow the customer. I believe there's so many small businesses who, you know, if you're only doing five or ten orders in a day, why aren't you able to hand sign the order and say thank you to a customer? I think that is a lost art. And it's something that we at Eco Four Twenty have strived to do. And it's been a challenge sometimes. We're not able to do it all the time. But when we do, it truly does "wow," the customer in many ways. So I think that's a great lesson that I would recommend and say to everybody is try to wow the customer. It doesn't need to involve money. You don't need to spend a lot of money to wow a customer. You could give an extra gift or something, but it's not necessary. There's many ways that a small business can wow the customer for free.
Lesson number three, I think it's really important in this day and age to celebrate the victories and the wins. You know, you and your team are going to go through so much. And it's really important to celebrate these wins or you're just going to forget about them.
Life moves by so fast and especially with small businesses, it changes every day. It changes every weekend. If you don't celebrate those victories, it becomes a challenge. And I think so many people, especially if they're at a small business and then a year later, they're at another business or something like that. They don't have the opportunity to celebrate those victories. And it's something that I truly believe everybody should do. If you get a big sale, if you get a great customer, why not celebrate? I truly mean it. Sometimes we get an order and we get a big order. I read the email and I jump up and down right in my office there. Could be midnight and I jump up and down. I'm so happy. I do that with a lot of orders, dancing, jumping up and down. It's a celebration. How cool is it that somebody is ordering online and we're able to ship it to them? And just through the power of e-commerce and the internet, we're able to deliver that kind of win to the customer. And so I try to celebrate the victories and the small wins, whether it's, you know, going out for a lunch to say, "Wow, we got such a great sale and we're in this new amazing store," or whether it's just to say thank you for a month well done. I try to celebrate those victories.
Another tip that I try to tell everybody that I work with is to try to write it down. Sometimes you really do forget about all these great things that you do in life, whether it's in school, whether it's in your personal life, whether it's in work. And you don't get to write it down. So sometimes it moves by so fast. If you write it down, there's a record of it. It's easy to remember. I personally have an excel sheet. It's just dated "January 1st. Michael did this cool thing. January 5th, Michael did this cool accomplishment." And you don't have to do it every day, but just adding to this list. If for example, then you change jobs, you have this list of cool things that you've done. I strongly believe that everybody should keep this kind of list. And then you can go back on it and think, "Man, I don't think I've done anything this year." But then you go back and look at the actual year and you look on it on a weekly or daily basis. And you can see all these amazing things you've done. It really helps remind you, "Wow, I've done so many great things and I've accomplished so many things."
I think kind of going along with that the next point. You need to prioritize your time. You know, you're going to be pulled in so many different directions as a small business owner, as an entrepreneur. I didn't anticipate how many things and how many people I'd need to work with. Whether it's accounting, whether it's marketing, whether it's sales, there's so many different aspects of a business. You need to do it or you need to get somebody to do it, or you need to have help. You need to prioritize your time because there's only so many hours in a day. There's nothing else you can really do to quicken that, everybody has 24 hours - you can work 10 hours, you can work 8 hours but no matter what you only have 24 hours in a day. You need to prioritize your work and your personal life and I think having a good balance of that is really important. It's truthfully been a challenge for me, just over the growth of Eco Four Twenty. I had no idea that we would make this product and have it in hundreds of stores. It has been an absolutely challenge, but a great challenge, don't get me wrong. I've loved it but you need to prioritize your time and as much as I'd love to help everybody, sometimes you need to admit that you might not have the resources to do this new cool marketing project, or I can't expand into another country until we really focus on our local work.
Some questions I ask when I am prioritizing my time is, "Does this bring value to your company?""Does this help make you money?" "Does this drive your company goals forward?" Whether it's money, or whether it's, for example, does it help the environment? Does it help grow your persona within the company? There's so many different aspects that you need to think about. What I like to do is think about the original goals of the company, "Why did I start Eco Four Twenty?" I started Eco Four Twenty because I wanted to make eco-friendly products, I wanted to change the status quo and show people that you can make eco-friendly accessories that are great for the environment and great for people. I just thought that was a great goal before I started years ago and it's something that I still think about to this day when we do new projects and things. So I think it's really important to think about these things as you prioritize.
Number 5 is, I think, one of the most important and undervalued tips. Adapt and change. The truth is, so many people say you should do 5 year plans, you should do a 10 year plan. I remember when I applied for a loan, it was an unnamed government organization that was doing loans. I had a couple meetings with them and they wanted me to do a 5 year and 10 year financial plan. Complete with numbers and sales projections, truthfully I had no idea what was even going to happen in year 2, let alone year 5 and 10. It's important and helpful to do that 10 year goal but to be able to actually do it financially - nobody knew that Covid was going to happen and then it hit and everybody had to change their plans. All these government changes constantly happening, all these e-Commerce giants are changing rules all the time. It's important as a small business to be able to adapt and change. Actually, as a small business, that's one of your advantages. You're not some big corporation who has a million shareholders or a million other people to run things past, it can just be your own thoughts and your own changes. I love working in a small business where, Andrea and I, from a management perspective, if we want to make a change we're able to do it really quickly. For example, we're now using TikTok a lot. I didn't think early on, 3 years ago, if you told me, "Michael, TikTok is a huge marketing platform." I would've laughed at you, and now we had a viral video that had 130,000 views. We've had people tell us that they're literally discovering us and buying our product directly because of TikTok. So it's just something to always consider when you think about these 5 year plans. Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Everybody can have these plans and then life happens, Covid happens, and so many different things will happen in your life and small business. How you adapt and do these changes will really set the pace for the rest of your business and the rest of your life.
Truthfully, it's been at least 10,000 hours so I'm really excited to do another 10,000 with Eco Four Twenty. I can't wait to launch new products, to do new projects, and we have a lot of things in store for Eco Four Twenty. So please stay tuned, I really appreciate all of the listeners and all of the customers of Eco Four Twenty. We truly couldn't do it without all of you, we are just a small business and it really means a lot to have your support. So thank you so much for listening, I hope you liked these tips and advice, but know it's not the be-all and end-all. I think anybody should just go out there and start, don't let anybody stop you with your small business. A lot of people told me, "Don't do Eco Four Twenty." A lot of people didn't really believe in me, and the truth is I didn't listen to them and I did it anyways. There'll be a lot of people who do the same for your business and you and nobody knows it as well as you.
I believe that if you love your company and your idea, you should just do anything you can to support it. Thank you so much for supporting Eco Four Twenty, it truly means a lot to us. We'd love to connect with you on social media, for example Instagram and TikTok (@EcoFourTwenty). Send us a message, we always love talking to our supporters, cause you guys mean the world to us. Thank you so much for listening to the All Green Podcast. This is just a small piece of advice, thank you so much everyone and have a great day.