Episode 207 Featuring Alex Bond

Building a Successful Workplace Culture with Ricky Hayes

Building a Successful Workplace Culture with Ricky Hayes

Ricky Hayes is the Founder and CEO of Debutify, an eCommerce theme for Shopify stores. On this episode, we talk about Ricky's inception of Debutify, how to properly scale a brand, what makes a good team, the value of feedback and much more.


What is Debutify and how it started

Ricky Hayes: Yeah, so Debutify is now just over a year old, basically. Really growing quite well. We're a software company that provides a theme for e-commerce businesses around the world.

We also provide a review app, as well as email marketing. We're sort of developing all that. We're a software company that we're aimed to try and help small, medium, enterprise businesses, sort of support and grow their business. 

Alex Bond: That's great. And we'll definitely talk about the review app a little later on. How did the idea for Debutify come about? 

Ricky Hayes: If I'm honest with you, prior to Debutify, I was a YouTuber and I was into e-commerce myself. I did both drop shipping and then transitioned to branded building proper brands, and I was doing YouTube.

And my actual background before I went into my entrepreneur ways was I was in the IT industry. I was in an IT nerd, as they would say. I've always loved technology. I've just, it's been my thing. I've loved technology and the more I sort of got into e-commerce, the more my heart was never a hundred percent into building an e-commerce brand as opposed to building an e-commerce software brand.

And I've always just enjoyed software and the benefits can add to people. So basically that's where it came into it. My passion's always been software automation. And helping people use those tools to help structure and systemize their business. So with the first product out theme that came from the fact that every e-commerce brand needs needs a theme, and one of the hardest things people have is website development and the time and the cost involved.

So making a theme that can sort of help combine all of that and streamline a lot for business owners to save 'em time, headache, and money was sort of where the inspiration really came from. 

Alex Bond: And on a different podcast, you mentioned that you started off in drop shipping.

Now I do personally know that you had an IT background, so I'm interested how kind of drop shipping led to where that kind of came in your journey? 

Ricky Hayes: If I'm honest with you, drop shipping was like the sort of first step for me where it was more, I didn't really understand the entire industry hugely, and drop shipping was a very low risk model to sort of start entering the space and learning the required skills of marketing, of your store, of getting customers, customer service.

And so it was basically sort of a low risk model because I didn't explicably know what type of product or niche I wanted to enter. So drop shipping sort of gave me that flexibility to sort of go out there, learn, fail, and adapt. So that's sort of where I started in drop shipping. 

Building a successful brand with Debutify

Alex Bond: So one of the goals in Debutify is to essentially create high conversion in the theme in the way that its ability to be customizable. 

So what are some of the ways that you and Debutify ensure that e-commerce brands are able to build a high converting store when they use Debutify? 

Ricky Hayes: First and foremost, it's all about sort of understanding what the baseline of what businesses need to help improve the conversions. Things like sticky add to cart is so very important when, especially on mobile for so important.

So when someone's scrolling your product page that they can actually click the add to car button and sort of move further down that funnel. And sort of help supporting it in a sort of more passive way was really, really important. 

We sort of do a lot of research on sort of what a lot of other large established brands are doing and sort of derive inspiration from them and then use that and collect data from our current users on what's working for them and then try and help improve our product to sort of support other customers improving their conversion rates as well.

Alex Bond: I like the idea of the sticky ad to cart cause I don't know how many times I've been on something and you have to press the product, press add to cart. It just feels like there are too many added steps in there. So how can brands leverage some of the tools that Debutify has to offer to their full potential?

Ricky Hayes: The main that we find that work quite well is sort of definitely for starter sort of the sticky add to cart, really sort of helps leverage the fact that most of the time we should always be optimizing the website for mobile. Most consumers now are buying through mobile device and through desktop. You know, it's probably like, I think the statistics is about 95% of users are mobile users.

So really important. That's why we optimize. Yeah, so that's why we really optimize it to make sure it's optimized for mobile. Using, as I said, add-ons like sticky add to cart. The announcement bar are really important ones that we find for brand owners and then also your trust badges really sort of help build that trust and authenticity of your brand.

We also find as well, like on your cart page, having sort of the reminders, sort of the little pop-up reminders to sort of help people cause they sort of get, they get a little bit confused or lost on on cart pages a lot. So we really try and work a lot on the cart page. To make it as simple and streamlined as possible.

So we definitely recommend at least for all our customers, the announcement part and the sticky add to car at the bare minimum, and then really focusing on making sure the add-ons look really nice in that, in the preview for mobile version rather than desktop.

We see a lot of people focusing a lot more on their desktop previews, but whenever you're doing the preview, we always recommend to always look at it on a mobile, sorry, mobile preview to make sure whether it's really sort of well optimized for your customers as well. 

And using the product tabs is really important because then it reduces the length of the page as well and makes it more clear and defined. So instead of having one long product description, you can have multiple tabs where let's say it has the product description, the shipping and delivery, and the FAQs for that set product work quite well.

How to scale an eCommerce business

Alex Bond: One of the things that you have been a big proponent of is scaling, you know, at a decently consistent rate. Right? So how do you build a successful team when scaling an e-commerce business? Like what are some of the qualities that you look for in a team?

Ricky Hayes: That's an excellent question. I love that one. So, you know, for me, when scaling your brand, really important that, you know, you focus on culture, focus on the right people. I mean it's one thing to obviously hire someone to work in your business, it's another thing to have someone that really sort of helps elevate your business.

So to me, the way I've always looked at it is I look at people that are not afraid to, to question your decisions. I always like people that question your decisions, you know, as the leader of the business, doesn't mean you know every answer of the business. Right? You know, no one ever knows anything. So whenever I'm looking for people, I'm actually always looking for more their personality than just their core skillset.

I find a lot of people focus very much on someone's skillset more so than their personality. I'm a firm believer that someone with the right personality can learn any skill. It's just a matter of their ambition and intention to do so. So I always look at people that are always happy to, you know, sort of question you.

They're very honest and authentic. People all make mistakes, and myself included, I don't think mistakes are a bad thing. I think mistakes are a great thing. It's a great way to learn and evolve as a person. I think what comes from that is people that are willing to wear mistakes, so to speak or be honest about the fact that they're going to make mistakes and they're not perfect.

I look for people like that all the time because those people really are people you can trust and depend on and work closely with who's gonna help also bring up a lot of the flaws that you may have, they'll fix those gaps. So I'm always looking for people like that, that actually sort of help accommodate the flaws that I have.

Importance of positive and negative feedback

Alex Bond: And, you know, you're touching on something that I find extremely valuable as well is, is my mom always said, never just bring up a problem. You know, it's so much more valuable to bring up a problem and at least like a half baked solution. There's something about bringing up a problem and saying, here's how we could try to fix it.

That I think is extremely valuable in a team and members and leaders, of course. And just, just to kind of follow up internally, you are a big proponent of feedback, both positive and negative as you, kind of just mentioned. 

So why is accepting negative feedback? You kind of touched on why it's so important to you, but maybe as a follow up, why do you think it's a difficult practice for other companies to kind of emphasize and embrace? 

Ricky Hayes: Well, frankly, I think in other, my perspective in other companies, people just don't want to hear the facts, if I'm honest, that they're not perfect, so to speak. I'll probably be even a little bit harsh there, I guess. But I think other people don't want to hear the fact that no one can know everything. Right? 

I've always sort of looked at it like, you know, no one knows everything. No one ever will, and that's just sort of the reality of life. And so, the way I look at it is embracing negative feedback is actually, if you turn it around, it's actually embracing opportunity.

To me, I look at it as it's embracing opportunity. You know, no leader, including myself, is ever perfect. I make many mistakes. You know, embracing the negative feedback that come from those mistakes actually help you evaluate what you can do better next time and how you can be better as a person next time as well.

So that's sort of how I look at, and I think that in my perspective and from my experience in other companies, Other people, the reality is that tackling a negative feedback presents a negative emotion, right? It can be painful, it can hurt, and so understandably, not everyone can handle it all the same.

Personally, how I handle it is I love to know my flaws. I love to know all my problems and, and always look at how I can incrementally improve myself. I guess the way I've always looked at it is, I might not be able to from negative feedback, be able to entirely fix the problem overnight, but I can at least understand what the problem is and try and work towards improving myself towards, that's how I handle it personally.

Alex Bond: Yeah. It's at least that step towards like reflection, you know and I think a lot of people, a as you're mentioning, come from like a defensive position. We're almost innately feel like we're being attacked when someone's saying, here was something I think we can do better. I think that's really insightful.

Biggest challenges when scaling an eCommerce business

Ricky Hayes: That's an excellent question. To me, I would say two parts collectively from a high level view. 

One is the people in your business. Like I always look at it, that the people are the best and the worst part of your business. And like if you have the best people that you work well with, it's an amazing business. If you have a business of people that aren't enthusiastic or listening or willing to adapt with the business, then it becomes a very stale business.

So I'm very passionate about finding the right people in the business because culture is so important. So that to me is so important cause that helps with scaling. Cause people will find new opportunities, new ways of marketing. And then that leads to the other part, which is sort of the marketing and and profit margins of your business.

You know, the reality is business is a very challenging thing. Revenue does not dictate profit retaining profitability in a very tough economic environment that we're in now with all the economic shifts that the world is going through. Is very challenging. So always trying to in my eyes, be very proactive about your finance and doing projections, and try and really sort of stay on top of it so you're always cash flow friendly.

I'm always trying to do everything I can to make sure that cash flow is first and foremost, because there's always unexpected left and right terms in a business that you can never control. But the one thing you can control is cash flow and making sure you've got extra surplus there to buffer the inevitable mistakes that will that happen in business or the unexpected sort of twists and turns that that come out of nowhere. 

So to me, it's always having right people, a great culture and always managing sort of profit margins as you're sort of growing your business, in my eyes. 

Alex Bond: And I think that makes a lot of sense. You know what I'm hearing you say is anyone who's taken a business class probably knows, and that's the most money that you spend on anything is on labor.

So what a lot of the guests that we've had on the show, I've heard them say and seen them essentially say that the biggest problems they've seen is kind of like people trying to scale too quickly, where they essentially see the money coming in, right? And they say, all right, I need to hire 20 employees.

And then the money dries up. Now they have to fire 20 employees. And kind of the culture that that can then create, it can become like a, a sticky affiliation a little bit. Is that something that has? Yeah, please. 

Ricky Hayes: Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. No, please. I absolutely agree. Look, I'll be honest with you, you know, I'm a very reserved and conservative person by nature, and that partly comes from the fact that I do have a bit of anxiety.

And part of that is the fact that to me, when you see the dollar figures that's a fantastic thing. Everyone wants to grow and scale their business, and I think that's a phenomenally excellent thing to really achieve your aspiration. But one thing I've always learned is reality has a funny way of giving you a slap in the face that it never seems to work that way.

The way I've sort of always approached it is when scaling is the best way. That seems to be the rock solid way that always works is slow and steady wins the race. I know in business a lot of people want to very much grow and grow rapidly. That's every person's aspirations. Realistically. 

But like you said as well, that puts then a lot of strain on as you sort of your bottom line, your cash, your cash flow, and there's nothing worse than then having to let go of these employees that you've employed, indoctrinated, and brought into your business that are adding so much value.

It really, it's horrible and no one. So I prefer the approach of a more methodical approach where I take it very slow and steady to make sure that at the end of the day, the business is always protected, but also that staff have reliable, steady income that can help support them and their families.

Alex Bond: I totally agree, honestly, in this little notes doc, I said the scaling at a consistent rate is important to you. You know, is that as much as I've understood consistency is part of that slow and steady process.

And most successful businesses, you know, a lot of them that are, those big brands have great identity, a lot of brand affinity with customers and clients. It's created over time, not overnight, because that overnight success can be as much of a detriment, as much as it is great for a company. 

Ricky Hayes: I'll be honest with you, I don't think I could handle overnight success to be too stressful for me. I actually prefer the sort of long-term approach. It sort of sets well with me more where you're sort of making those incremental improvements and you're able to handle the day-to-day without being overwhelmed. I don't know how people could handle overnight success. It would just overwhelm me too much personally. 

Ricky's advice to aspiring entrepreneurs

Alex Bond: I'm interested in what sort of advice you can offer to other entrepreneurs who are struggling with appropriately scaling their e-commerce business? Is it as simple as try to be consistent to me?

Ricky Hayes: Yeah. Like you sort of hit the nail on the head there. Like the first step is consistency. Like I look at that, to me, I would look at, I wanna look at sort of three months of consistent and steady growth. Like in revenue, you don't wanna sort of scale sort of too heavy in terms of, because it'll put too much stress on the bottom line. I've worked, you know, working with a lot of brand owners, you see that while their revenues increasing, their margins are decreasing, so they're actually getting more stress. 

So one thing always sort of say is focus more on average order value and lifetime value than you do in terms of new customers and that revenue, because the average order value and lifetime value combined means that you don't have to do as much marketing means that you have customers who are more loyal to your business, who are gonna spend more, and it actually increases your margin. 

So first, because the first thing I always see most e-commerce brand owners consistently getting very stressed and anxious about is their bank balance, right?

And so focusing on your existing customers and really trying to amplify their experience, whether it's like a custom thank you card, emails, custom packaging, all of that to increase your product as well. Your average order value in your lifetime value. I see consistently, there's a strong correlation that the businesses that do that not only make more revenue long term in terms of growth, but they're actually a lot less stressed because they have customers they can depend on.

The businesses that are always trying to get new customers through the door as their primary focus are the ones that are the most stressed because they're the ones usually spending a lot more on things like paid marketing channels or marketing mediums like influencer marketing as an example, and they're a lot more stressed because they're trying to always buy new customers when the cost per purchase to get a new customer cause it's so competitive and so buy. 

Whereas those who try and focus more on repeat customers are a lot less stressed because those customers cost next to nothing and they will spend a lot more. So that's sort of I know I'm sort of getting a bit too businessy there. So that's sort of one of the things. 

The other thing I'm very much that help, personally helps me a lot with my day to day is, you know, is the fact that I'm very big on structure. I believe in business especially even with a couple of employees, structure is so important to build from the ground up.

And what I mean by that is processes, procedures, and investing in systems like, you know, we use like click up that sort of helps support a lot of structure. I see most businesses just using, you know, just email or they're just like doing a little live chat with their team or group chat.

While that works, it's not really sustainable because the day-to-day you forget so many things. Using tools that can sort of help mitigate the fact that the day-to-day can be so hectic. I see so many business owners that they're so busy between ordering products, getting them to their warehouse fulfulling them.

Speaking to one just the other day, you know, up until two o'clock in the morning every day and has two kids, and you know, a partner is just absolutely insane. And she even told me she was extremely stressed and understandably so. You know, that's a lot on anyone's plate. So for me it really comes to structure and by focusing more on repeat customers as well for me, as well as average order value.

Invest that money. Don't look at trying to make, one of the big things always say is, I look at not trying to take profit from the business, I obviously support your day-to-day personally, but I'm a big advocate in reinvesting as much as possible into your business where that's hiring staff, investing in systems to help with structure because then you can sort of collectively step back.

The goal in my eyes of any business owner that's trying to grow is not one person can ever do anything. It's physically impossible. So investing in having staff that help support you when great staff that are working within your business can make such a big difference to you being able to step back slow and steady over time and reduce some of that stress on you.

Because so many business owners I see as well, like they have so much on their plate. What happens when they inevitably get sick, unwell, they might be suffering from burnout, then everything's reliant on him or her, and then as a result, the business doesn't function.

So one of the other biggest things I see that people make the mistake of is not investing in. And more try to make potentially less money themselves and put it more towards other people so they can have, in my eyes, a bit more of our work life balance. 

Customer acquisition and retention

Alex Bond: And I think you touched on something very interesting with that customer retention and the value that that can have is being able to create a base audience essentially.

I was talking with our guest yesterday. I think it was Jessica who is essentially, we were talking about acquisition first retention, and which one is essentially more important. You know, if I sell mattresses or cars, retention's gonna be a little harder than acquisition, you know, because I don't know when the last time you bought a mattresses, but it's probably gotta be every decade or something like that.

Not only is customer retention pretty much out the door. But all of your energy has to go into acquisition. Is that, I don't know. I'm wondering what your thoughts are in terms of like, what if my company is literally unable in its business model to retain customers? 

Ricky Hayes: A hundred percent. Look, obviously, as you said, it is very circumstantial based on the industry that you're in. If you are, we're using the example of the mattress or car industry. The thing I would be doing is upselling the hell out of them. I would be focusing, I'd be completely abolishing retention.

Well, even in like the car industry, which is a bit different, you know, this is where you see businesses as an example, especially in the car industry selling yearly subscription type thing for car maintenance as an example. Or they do like, that's an excellent thing. So by under identifying that, let's say in some industries that you have lower retention, what you try and do, what I would do is I would focus on average order value, and so that average order value would mean what can I do to upsell? 

Okay. It's like with a car where you might have a standard version of a car and then you have a premium version of the car and then you can or additional extras. Again, I'm not a car person, but the . And so what I would very much do if I know that my retention rate's low, I would look at what things can I do during that one sale where they're actually gonna commit that actually to try and increase my average order value.

And that's why you'll see, for instance, in the car and mattress, they'll do upsells of, hey, maybe this mattress, we can add this extra, or we can add a three year warranty. For an extra X amount of money. Okay. 

So that way it sort of gets a bit of that longevity of that customer because they're more loyalty business because it means if there's an issue, they'll come back to you as well, rather than going to another business because they've come to you. And at the same time helps mitigate that issue with the fact that you don't have that retention or that lifetime value as much as other business models may have. 

What is Debutify Reviews

Ricky Hayes: I'll start with the fact that like, you know, at the end of the day that was inspired from the fact that, you know, we have a theme and nearly everyone that has a theme nowadays wants, you know, reviews and it's so important for UGC, user generated content and reviews for authenticity.

Because reviews now is, from what I'm reading, analytically, it's one of the highest converting factors that gets anyone to buy from your business because the reality is that there are so many businesses probably selling the same product or type of product that you are selling. It's the things about the authenticity and the reviews about your business that really, that no one else can take from you. Right? That is so important. 

So we really wanted to make a theme so that people that are using the theme can also use the review app. So then they have the combination of both. And focus very much on transparency and authenticity within that app to sort of really help foster and their own great brand and sort of support their brand there.

So that's sort of where that was really inspired from. Did I miss the second part of that question? Pardon me? 

Alex Bond: No, no. Not at all. I was just wanted to be educated and get our audience educated a little bit about it and I totally understand the value of it. When you look at a company like, I don't know, eBay, Yelp. Amazon reviews are essentially, really, they're selling products. Sure. Yelp is a little different, but that reviews is the foundation of that and the power of word of mouth advertising is something that is a little bit more, I think increasing in value, the more competition there is. I totally agree with that.

Ricky Hayes: I'll be honest with you. Like, sorry to interrupt. Would be like, you know, if I were to, I buy regular things off Amazon myself. I love it. And I'll be honest, I look at probably the reviews. I look at the pictures of the product like that I'm interested in. And then the first thing I look at is the reviews.

Before even look at the product description for me, because I just wanna sort verify in my eyes that this is a product because there's, you know, so many different, similar products or people selling a similar product. The first thing I look for is, okay, is this actual product that this vendor or business is selling?

Do they provide good service? Do they provide good shipping times? You know, all of those things I look for before I even think, okay, well I'm gonna look in the description and see if this product's actually for me. So that's why for me, I think reviews are so important and that's why you'll see nearly every sort of e-commerce business now really focus on that sort of reviews because that's what really gets customers hyped up about that set product.

Alex Bond: Sure. I totally get that. So in terms of e-commerce businesses, you kind of talked about why they're so important, but how can they be properly integrated? To actually lead to an increase in revenue for an e-commerce brand? 

Ricky Hayes: Well, basically sort of, it can be like, you know, it's at the end of the day, you know, we have a number of widgets and those widgets can be used in sort of different ways on your website, like as a popup on or as a side option where it sort of shows all the reviews.

Obviously there's the reviews per page basically integrated so that in many areas of your website the reviews are sort of there, not sort of spamming it in their face, but in terms of having it on a minimum on your product page. 

As well as preferably, I find the sidebar where people can see your collective reviews across all your sort of products is really important because people very much like go to your homepage will wanna have a look at that and sort of see, oh yeah, okay, well these, this business is selling all these products and they're getting all these views.

All right, I'll have a look further. So I very much look at those two things work extremely well to help business owners sort of support increased conversions on their business. 

Why is getting reviews difficult for businesses

Alex Bond: You know, when I'm doing research on guests for the show, most every website that I look at has at least probably on each page, at the very least, a pull quote from a client that they worked with of, you know, yeah. Ricky Hayes, CEO of Debutify, of just like a very quick pull quote and other ones that are, as you mentioned, user-generated videos.

Why is getting reviews so difficult for e-commerce businesses? Is it really as simple as the time and effort it takes from a customer or client? Or why is that so difficult? 

Ricky Hayes: I love that question. So what I find statistically, because I'm, I like to be statistical, but there is, if you look at it most of the reviews on any business, you're probably looking at maximum of 10% of the, like, so the reviews you see on, let's say some product, let's say has 10 reviews, you can sort of times it by 10 and you've actually sort of gotten the basis that it's actually been a hundred purchases. 

Statistically even like big companies like Amazon, eBay, all of that. Only 10% of people tops every get reviewed. Now that's just simply because frankly, there's a lot of reasons. One, most people in their day-to-day lives are very busy. Two, they'll probably see the email and just forget about it, delete, you know, sort of type thing. And sort of three, a lot of people as well don't feel comfortable giving reviews, so that's why you only see sort of about collectively over the bigger picture, about 10%.

And that's why it's so hard to sort of get reviews where, because you need to get a lot of consistent orders to then sort of get 10 reviews. Like you need to get a hundred orders to get even sort of 10 reviews. And if you have 30 different products, well there you go. You know, and let's say you get one for each only 10 of your 30 products got one review each.

So it's a very long term and sort of difficult process because you need to have a lot of consistency of volume, of actual sales for those. So then get that approximate 10% of reviews over the long term. 

Alex Bond: No, I think that makes a lot of sense. Anecdotally, I go to a little deli that's like a block away and the guy asked me, I go there at least twice a week and the guy asked me, you know, hey, if you get the chance, leave us a review on Google or something like that.

I was like, absolutely will do. And I totally forgot about it until just now, and I probably went there like a week ago and I wasn't actively like saying yes and gonna get to it later. But you know, again, anecdotally, I just totally got distracted and I don't know what gets in the way. Totally. 

Do you think? I don't know. I was just thinking this in in my head just now, honestly was for me personally, I was thinking, is my money not enough for you? Like in a really weird, selfish way. It's like, so is it my responsibility as a customer to try to generate revenue for you and your business? Isn't that kind of like your job a little bit.

Ricky Hayes: Well, I mean, yeah, like, that's a very valid point. At the end of the day, it's not your business and it's not your responsibility, is it? So, and it's perfectly fine, obviously, to feel that way. 

The way I guess I look at it is, is that I'm all look at it that by getting reviews and authentic reviews, whether it's good or bad, you know, there's always, there's not always gonna be perfect reviews is that you want others to not potentially get burnt because unfortunately, like out there, if you look at the other side, there is a lot of businesses that take advantage of customers and don't provide them, him or her, a good experience. Whether it's long shipping times the product quality isn't good, the customer service isn't good.

So by providing reviews to businesses, what you're actually doing is you're helping others to potentially not potentially get burnt so that they're also having a good experience in their buying experience. The way I look at it, it's not just about obviously it does help the business owner to some extent, obviously potentially grow or scale their business, but at the same time, it's also promoting good business practice.

I'm a big advocate in the fact that if a good business has good business practice and supporting their community or their industry really well, I think that getting authentic, genuine reviews, sort of helping promote them actually uplifts the industry as a whole. 

Digital marketing trends in 2023 and beyond

Ricky Hayes: Really, because digital marketing, if we're, cause I'm a very technical person, so if we're to talk specifically sort of paid ads, seeing more and more of a trend away from paid ads. Paid ads is obviously growing.

But in terms of especially small business paid ads for, for acquiring new customers is. Incredibly expensive, and because of how competitive it is, okay, it's still very good, but it's very expensive. What I'm seeing the more trend towards is more organic channels for paid advertising, so organic being things like search engine optimization, SEO.

Influencer marketing, affiliate marketing as an example. Email marketing is a huge one as well for. So basically these are channels where it takes a lot longer to sort of set these channels up and get them sort of quote unquote working to a higher degree, but especially for things like SEO, affiliate, or referral marketing, a lot of people refer to it as sort of a referral friend approach are very much what I'm seeing the trend going towards because it's a lot more affordable and it's a lot more consistent and sustainable for businesses we're seeing now.

Paid ads is too much, I guess, like, you know, if you look at like a graphic's like constantly up and down, there's so much shifts, whereas these other channels might not get as fast as scalability, but they have a lot more longevity and profitability. So, and business owners now cause of the crunch in the fact that all the economic shifts, they're looking for profitability first.

And so these channels is what we're seeing a lot more of, including, you know, as said like YouTube videos as an example. Oh, sorry. I forgot to mention as well, sorry. Social media, organic social media content. Like I see a lot of brands now, a huge part of their revenue comes from social media content, whether it's on Instagram posting, stories, or reels is now the big one, as well as TikTok and also videos on YouTube. 

Basically, it's that idea of giving value back to the community without expecting anything back, and funnily enough, well the world ends up rewarding you by giving the business owner value back anyway. 

Alex Bond: That's great. Involving new technology right into a business can be challenging, as you probably know well yourself, and especially as that technology involves, evolves, how it's implemented needs to evolve as well. How do you make sure that you're using the right technology at the right time. 

Ricky Hayes: Oh, that's a tough one. I like that question. Oh, I'm gonna be very vague here. Very different, obviously, per business, but the way I sort of look at it is, yeah, as you said, sort of evolving with the times is so important. It would really sort of come down to, at the time where you are sort of evaluating where your business is at, like in terms of, firstly, I would always look at it, but, okay, where is my business at?

How much extra cash do I have to go and spend on a new venture? If you don't have much additional cash, I would not be investing heavily in new technologies. While obviously it makes sense, it can put too much strain on you sometimes it's one of those things that the right place at the right time, what I would generally try and recommend.

Sorry, I'm being quite vague, I feel kind of embarrassed about is more always, I guess the simple way this makes a lot more sense down to me is start small, always start very small in terms of don't look at the best software potentially in the market. Usually that might be the most expensive.

Usually now there's a lot of competitors out there that might not do a hundred percent of what this one might do, but it'll do. Most of what you need, and as your business grows, you don't have to stick with that set solution. You can always evolve with. 

So to me, what I look at is always identifying where the markets are going, and then identify where the market's going, and identify where you are sitting in the market in terms of your business revenue, your profits, and then always, I always like to have some money towards R and D, so research and development, and you don't always have to go to the highest level of whatever that technology or solution is.

You can always start very simple and then over the long term, Look at maybe a better solution, right? So that way at the end of the day, you are slowly phasing into these new trends of technology while not putting too much strain on your profit margins is sort of how I look at it, but it's always as you sort of we're getting at as well, really important that you are always trying to adapt with the changing environment that we're in. And always trying new technologies. 

One of the things I personally see quite a lot is people not wanting to try new technologies because of the, the anxiety it might brings or the new, the additional stress. But unfortunately, that is one of the also things in businesses that you have to sort of accept. That's part of businesses. It's that business forces you to evolve at times as well.

Alex Bond: I think that's totally valid. And look, I think there's some technologies that people involve when they don't even really need to, or they're trying to because it's trendy. You know, the obvious proliferation of artificial intelligence tools and skills.

I think people like the idea of AI in trying to use it to some sort of effect when frankly I don't really see the connection to it, to the business model. Sometimes, you know where it's like, we have this new AI thing just so we can promote that we have this new AI thing, even though it doesn't really make sense in the business.

Maybe I'm wrong in that sort of thinking, but I think there is a faddishness to it. 

Ricky Hayes: I would agree. Look, I think to me, AI, I think it's still very, it's a very new technology, sort of how I look at it. I think that AI is definitely gonna be here for the long term, and I can definitely see that long term it will continually improve in term in terms of, I guess, sort of what we're saying right now, it is very much a big sort of fad that everyone's jumping on because it's just sort of the latest trends one could say. But I'm also a big advocate for the sort of old-fashioned ways at times still work very, very, very well. 

And at the end of the day, no machine can ever replace a human. No matter how good the tool will ever be. No machine can ever replace the sort of human mind. So I always look at it with ai, it's about phasing into it. This sort of, my approach into it is just that slowly using it like, you know, we use chat g p t to help us a little bit with potentially like our blogs to an extent, but we always still have a human that does most of it and sort of get a tool like Chapgpt as an example to sort of help sort of see the gaps and stuff. 

But I would always say to people, don't be a hundred percent reliant on AI. I would always say have a dose of skepticism and slowly sort of embrace it. But I'm as you said, like I'm feeling that I've got a lot of businesses are sort of more, oh, AI everything. I can automate everything in the business. Well, no, unfortunately it's not gonna work that way. 

Ricky's goals and responsibilities as a CEO

Alex Bond: What is, in your opinion, the ideal skillset that an e-commerce CEO should possess. And to frame it, you know, a little more personally, what are some of like your goals and and responsibilities as a CEO?

Ricky Hayes: If I were to sum it up in one word, and I guess I'm not I'm saying this because I guess I look at it as it's the same in every type of business, regardless of business model, persistence, determination, I guess would be the words. You have to be very determined, right? 

The number one thing I would always say to people is you have to have unwavering determination or persistence because it's really hard, like, you know, the struggles of the day to day between balancing work life, you know, maybe getting some sleep a bit more actively, things like all of that is very challenging, you know, to me, the hardest thing I find that most people struggle with is, consistently doing the same things.

And at times in business as the business owner, you can't just avoid like all of these important things to your business or about, you know, speaking to your account about, you know, your taxes and all of that. You know, these things are so important. What else I'm trying to, I guess, collectively say is to be in business, and obviously this is for e-commerce brand owners, but I would probably say just in general, the most important thing is to have a lot of persistence. 

And then adding to that, always having a sort of a growth mindset in the fact that you always have to adapt and evolve. Like business will never be the same today as it was yesterday. It always changes, and so you always have to be looking at new opportunities on how you can improve and evolve.

One of the things that's helped me personally to I guess stay relevant and also to succeed is the fact that I'm constantly evaluating myself, okay? Not just evaluating my strengths, but very much actually, I more evaluate my weaknesses that by evaluating my weaknesses, I can work on solutions to mitigate those weaknesses.

So to me, I would say very much sort of that I look at it on a more personality basis than skill basis. Because you know, you have to be very persistent and very determined to sort of make your business succeed. Not just now, not just in a month, not just in three months, not in six months, over the long term, over many years because there's gonna be marriage, many shortfalls, and those shortfalls can be honestly quite depressing.

It can be quite stressful, depressing, and you have to have a very strong mindset to be able to push through those challenging times and still come through the other end. That's the one thing that I would say that is to me the most important thing. 

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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