In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Tim Jordan, the founder, and CEO of Private Label Legion shares his story of how a fireman grew into an Ecommerce powerhouse. Tim is a leader in the eCommerce community, plus the host of the AM/PM podcast show, shares his life’s journey into eCommerce.
Are you afraid of taking risks in your business? Why is that? If you sit down and think about what you need to do to get your business going or develop your business, you will usually find that it means going out of your comfort zone and being bold. Yoni Mazor from PrimeTalk discusses how you can become bolder on your e-commerce journey in order to achieve remarkable things!
In today’s episode, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Tim Johnson from Private Label Legion and the host of The AM/PM Podcast among other ventures. Private Label Legion is a community where e-comm sellers can connect and create networks and learn how to sell private label on Amazon. They offer group classes, consulting, and many different events. The AM/PM Podcast is a great resource and font of motivation for e-commerce sellers on any platform.
Tim Johnson discusses his incredible journey from fireman to e-commerce consultant in this riveting episode. If you have an e-commerce business, or maybe are thinking about starting an e-commerce business but aren’t feeling bold enough, then this episode is for you!
Visit Private Label Legion for more information.
Learn about GETIDA’s Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.
Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazor 0:05
Welcome, everybody to another episode of PrimeTalk. Today I’m really excited to have a good friend. I’m having Tim Jordan. Tim Jordan is the founder and CEO of Private Label Legion, which is a leading e-commerce community. Plus, he’s the host of The AM/PM Podcast show. Welcome. Welcome to the show.
Tim Jordan 0:22
Thanks. Thanks for having me on. And I’m super excited about all the content that you’re putting out for all these sellers, even though we can’t be there in person for Prosper.
Yoni Mazor 0:31
Yeah. And so, you know, it’s always great to see you in person with the events. Last I saw you physically was in Vegas in the White Label Expo. It was great. And then we’re really looking forward to see what Las Vegas, for the Prosper Show actually, and also SD, but we’re gonna put all that aside for the moment. Today’s episode is really going to deal all about you. It’s going to, you know, we’re going to bounce into the Tim Jordan story. So you’re going to share with us, you know, who are you? Where you from? Where’d you grow up? Where’d you go to school? How’d you begin your professional career? So without further ado, let’s jump right into it. Where are you? You know, you like an onion?
Tim Johnson 1:12
Yeah, you’re gonna have to start peeling man because I don’t even know where to start.
Yoni Mazor 1:15
Where were you born? Let’s start with the hospital if you want, you know?
Tim Johnson 1:17
Seriously? Yeah. So Nashville, Tennessee. Born in Nashville, Tennessee. I didn’t live there. I grew up moving all over the place. So I’ve lived in Colorado, Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama,
Yoni Mazor 1:29
So what’s the trigger for you to move? Are you a military brat?
Tim Johnson 1:31
No, not military, just different jobs from my parents, you know, moving around.
Yoni Mazor 1:35
So what kind of jobs for example? What were they doing?
Tim Johnson 1:39
My dad was actually a preacher for a number of years. Right. He actually owned a business selling car batteries, of all things, for a long time. Then he started, found his calling as a preacher, started preaching a little bit, and that drug us around to different places. And as soon as I was 18, I was gone, went to college, became independent, and never looked back. So…
Yoni Mazor 2:00
Oh, my God, I know you bounced all around. Your father was a preacher, what kind of church for example?
Tim Johnson 2:04
It’s just a non-denominational Christian Church.
Yoni Mazor 2:07
Got it? And you hit 18? Where do you go to school?
Tim Johnson 2:10
So I went to school in a small private school in West Tennessee, called Freed-Hardeman.
Yoni Mazor 2:14
What do you learn? What do you take?
Tim Johnson 2:16
It was pretty small, so I studied business. And actually, after I studied business, I thought I never want to be in business. Because I assumed that business was all about corporate life, you know, and I knew I’d never been a good corporate employee, I’d never sat in a cubicle and work. So I ended up meeting my, she’s now my wife. She was actually my roommate’s sister, which was a little awkward. And I started dating her because he and I were really good friends. And I met his sister and started dating her and ended up following her to Alabama to her hometown. And uh…
Yoni Mazor 2:48
Give a shout-out. What’s the name of the town?
Tim Johnson 2:51
Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama. So they call Alabama, the Silicon Valley of the South. We have more tech jobs per capita than anywhere in the US. And we have more engineers and PhDs per capita than anywhere in the US. So it’s pretty smart. A smart town. But um, yeah, I
Yoni Mazor 3:09
So what year did you graduate? Let’s…now we’re going to touch the timelines. 2007 you graduated college? And you’re what 21-22?
Yeah, like 22, something like that. And
Yoni Mazor 3:23
What was your first station in, I guess, the professional world?
Tim Johnson 3:26
So when I was in college, I was dirt poor. Man. I had no money I had no… nobody…Poor me. I was driving a thousand-dollar car and overcharging my debit card just to put gas in the tank, right? Like, I’ll take this $30 overdraft fee because I got to get to work. And I was a waiter at a restaurant and it’s tree work, you know, on weekends, cutting trees for different companies. And they had this gig in the…so the town that I was living in where the college was pretty small. And their fire department was not large enough to be like a full-time department. They couldn’t hire a bunch of full-time employees. But this was Henderson, Tennessee. This is a college town. So I’m backing up back to college. But they needed some full-time employees, they could have an all-volunteer fire department. So they had a mix. They had a few full-time guys, a bunch of volunteers. And they had these half in between people which I became one of. And what that meant was we got to live at the fire station. So they built an apartment complex on the back of the station. So I got free room and board which is great because I was dirt broke and didn’t want to keep you know, using student loans to get my dorms and we basically, the station they, put us there training and we would get to logger hours there. So the fire department was essentially getting full-time employees although they weren’t paying us they would pay us for every call. We went on so every call, we would get like 25 or 50 bucks or something…
Yoni Mazor 4:51
So, a great combination for them, a great combination for you. You’re getting, I guess, freeboard and getting some pay…they didn’t have to pay the full…
Tim Johnson 4:57
And it was fun as an experience but I never thought about going into public safety. Well, when I left there and I moved down to Huntsville, and I was looking for just a job. I remember I had a job, I was working at, I was doing sales. And every time a fire truck would drive by, I was like looking at the fire truck. Man, I wish I was on that. So, I applied for the fire department in Huntsville. In the year that I applied, there were 2500 applicants, and they only hired 25. I was one of them. And I wasn’t the only person in the class that got hired on my first attempt. There was a guy who ended up being a buddy of mine who’d been trying for 12 years to get in the fire department. And looking back…
Yoni Mazor 5:35
How would you explain that? Is that because of the experience you had back in the college days or?
Tim Johnson 5:40
No, I don’t think so because they didn’t actually like experience. They wanted people to train from scratch. I think that I got a few good recommendations because even though I’d only lived in that town a year, I’ve met some people who were impressed with my work ethic and stuff like that. I think I just nailed the interview. I think I went in and had like one of those aha moments just nailed the interview. And I finally got through and I just wanted it you know, we had a physical test that was brutal. And some people trained for six months to get this physical test, and I didn’t train at all. I showed up. I just wanted it worse than anybody I blew through the test, ended up with a second fastest time out of like, 200 people that took it, without any physical training, and I’m not, you know, a specimen of health. But I walked back out to my car in the parking lot and I fell asleep in the car and someone’s banging on my window two hours later waking me up. They’re like, Dude, are you okay? Did you pass out? I just wanted it worse, you know? So anyway, I got that and
Yoni Mazor 6:32
So sheer willpower right? That’s what they get?
Tim Johnson 6:35
Sheer willpower and stubbornness man cuz I wasn’t making any money at sales. And, you know, I was engaged. This time. I wanted to get married, and I needed to make some money. And I knew that at least the fire department, although it wasn’t a ton of money, it was stable. Great benefit, great pension. I got hired on and I was 25-24?
Yoni Mazor 6:57
So what year is this, because you said you mentioned you graduated in 2007. Right?
Tim Johnson 7:00
Yeah, this is like 2008, something like that.
Yoni Mazor 7:03
So a year later, you were kind of doing sales for a year drifting and then about a year later able to settle into
Tim Johnson 7:10
Yeah, the fire department role. And I was going to be able to retire after 25 years with a full state pension-like it was a great gig. Cassandra’s asked me if I want food.
Yoni Mazor 7:22
So you already passed a test with the fire department I think you can have a plate, it’s up to you.
Tim Johnson 7:27
But anyway. So I knew that the fire department gave me some stability, you know, just a good paycheck, but I wouldn’t have to work very often. So I had, I would work a 24-hour shift and then 48 hours I’d have off. So essentially, one day out of three we worked. So it gave us lots of time for side stuff. And I was really ambitious in the fire department initially. I graduated second in my class in the Fire Academy and first in my class in EMT school.
Yoni Mazor 7:51
So they hired you, you had to go through the academy? That was the deal?
Tim Johnson 7:55
It’s like a six-month Academy. It’s ridiculous. And I became a hazmat technician, I got into an Urban Search and Rescue team. So I became a structural collapse specialist, a confined space specialist, high angle rescue specialist, hazmat tech, swift water rescue specialist, imagine like the SWAT team for the fire department, like the highly trained guys. So then I loved it at first for the first couple years, I was just spending all my time trying to take on extra gigs and the extra training and then man, I just kept falling back into the realm of business. Like I just wanted to run a business. So after a couple of years at the fire department, I went and launched my first official business.
Yoni Mazor 8:37
And what year was that?
Tim Johnson 8:38
so that was 2010, I guess.
Yoni Mazor 8:40
Alright, so you’re kind of settling in your position for two good years. 2010 you basically head-on into, you know, being an entrepreneur and opening your first business and what was the business?
Tim Johnson 8:50
So it started off as just a simple landscaping company. Right? So we were doing, you know, plantings and laying sod and all that good stuff. But I had had some practice in those first couple years, the first year I was doing sales, learning how to do very high-end installations for landscaping. So I was doing very, very good ornamental pavers, I was doing structurally, you know, engineered retaining walls, I was doing outdoor kitchens, I was building really high-end Koi ponds, I was doing outdoor fireplaces.
Yoni Mazor 9:22
This is 2010? That is an interesting time because it was kind of the recession, in 2008 where things was wilting down.
Tim Johnson 9:30
There’s a recession everywhere but Huntsville, Alabama, Huntsville, and…
Yoni Mazor 9:33
Silicon Valley, like you, said.
Tim Johnson 9:35
Yup, they had zero declines in property value in the Great Recession. And it’s because all the government jobs, the tech jobs, the military jobs, space, none of that stuff was defunded, essentially. In fact, there were other military technology bases that were closed and moved to where we’re at. So yeah, in the Great Recession, I was building $25,000 outdoor fireplaces on people’s patios.
Yoni Mazor 9:59
So you’re an island of sanity in the world of craziness.
Tim Johnson 10:02
Yeah, got really, really lucky to have been there. So I’m still in my 20s. And I’ve got, at one point, I had like 50 people working for me, employees and full-time contractors, I had all these different vehicles, I had all this equipment. So at the height, I had 24 full-time employees..Oh, the lights just went out.
Yoni Mazor 10:23
That’s alright. Do you have sensors?
Tim Johnson 10:26
Good. Yeah, it’s a
Yoni Mazor 10:29
No worries, take care of that.
Tim Johnson 10:30
Let me text her…lights, lights, please. So I had 24 full-time employees. And at the same time, I had about 25 full-time contractors. So I would have liked a mason crew. And I’d have an irrigation crew, you know, five or 10 guys in these crews that work full time for me, but they were contractors. So
Yoni Mazor 10:52
So how many clients are you serving every month?
Tim Johnson 10:54
Depends, man we had, we were doing grass cutting, you know, where we had contracts with businesses and schools, you know, ongoing low margin stuff. And at the same time, we were doing $100,000 landscape installations. So every month was a different number of employees. But the problem was, I wasn’t making any money. Because I was great at sales. I was great at design. But I had no idea how to manage cash flow, I had no idea how to stay profitable, I had no idea how to be a tough boss, you know, so if I brought in an employee, and they just sucked, man, I had a hard time firing, I had a hard time keeping people you know, like keeping their nose to the grindstone so to speak, I let too much stuff get in the way. And I found that the business model was a little bit flawed where I’m at because the labor market here is so poor, there are so many great paying jobs, that hiring someone to cut grass, if you’re not paying them $20 an hour, there’s some meth head that’s going to wreck your truck and blow up your engine, and they don’t take care of your equipment. They don’t care about the clients. And you know, I had somebody wreck, it was a brand new $12,000 commercial lawnmower. Wrecked it, and I showed up to the school that they were cutting, and he’d flipped this thing over driving on too steep of a hill. And he was I’m sure high on meth and he was drunk. And it was like 9 am.
Yoni Mazor 12:10
Yeah, sounds like the same reason where you’re in business was the kind of the same reason or you were having challenges in business. It was Boomtown, salaries were high, lots of opportunities, therefore, to get, I guess, decent talent to do the core tasks, nearly impossible unless you pay a premium. But that makes it an impossible way to make a good profit.
Tim Johnson 12:28
Yeah, and I was young, and I was just making dumb mistakes. You know, I thought I had that, you know, sales volume was great. So I thought I was doing awesome, but I just wasn’t managing it well, and I didn’t delegate stuff that I should have. My finances, which I should have, I wasn’t hiring qualified managers, I was trying to do it all. And remember, it was still a part-time job. Because every third day, I’m at the fire station. So…
Yoni Mazor 12:51
That’s pretty crazy, to be honest, to be balancing these two jobs because being a firefighter on its own is probably, has its own demands and its own skills that you got to maintain and mindset. But, you know, employing 20 plus employees at the peak, and then, you know, 20 plus contractors, and having all these headaches, it’s life was busy.
Tim Johnson 13:10
Yeah, it was… it’s kind of what I do is I always overcommit, I get into too much stuff, and then just try to figure out how to swim and not think it’s like the story of my life it seems like.
Yoni Mazor 13:20
Let’s see. Take us to the next station.
Tim Johnson 13:22
So I finally realized that business was not something I wanted to keep doing. I was going insane. So I had a bunch of loans out for trucks and equipment, and I sold everything I had and got just enough money to pay back all my loans.
Yoni Mazor 13:38
Nice. And which year was that? You started in 2010. And how long did you continue with…? So, you have a whole five years? Wow. That’s pretty heavy.
Tim Johnson 13:47
So I shut down the company I had, I bought some commercial property. It was like the only asset that I kept from that business. And I had a buddy who wanted to expand his business, which was a procurement business for the US government. And I said, Hey, man, I’ll sell you a piece of my land, I’ll help build your building and you know, your warehouse and all that stuff. So it was a side project I wasn’t doing anything else at the time. And my propensity for sales I kept asking what they were doing and got their business model.
Yoni Mazor 14:14
So what was the connection though, with that person? You wanna give a shout-out?
Tim Johnson 14:16
It was just an old family friend of my wife’s, right? So, someone, I didn’t even know but, you know, I was getting ready to sell this property. And my wife said, Hey, I know someone who might want it so I didn’t sell them all of it. I kept some of the property and my old building but sold them a basic corner of my property for him to build his own warehouse and offices on and I got involved, just hanging out with them and learning what they’re doing, and then started working for them part-time.
Yoni Mazor 14:41
So it’s safe to say that a seed from your old business we landscaping, yeah, give a little bit of agenesis, you know, some of the residues of your business, give it the genesis to your next chapter.
Tim Johnson 14:52
That’s true, because if I didn’t have that property, and if, then I never would have got to know those guys. So we did some crazy stuff within six months, we set up a business in Kenya, Africa, started doing business there. I was working just basically as a contractor for him selling jobs to the government. And if you’ve seen the movie, War Dogs, it’s about it’s the
Yoni Mazor 15:17
These guys in Florida selling weapons?
Tim Johnson 15:18
Yeah. So the…what they do is they would bid on weapons sales to the government now, I was not selling weapons, I wasn’t selling anything to the military. But all those bases had contractors, and they had US State Department contracts. It was things like the power generation systems and dump trucks and heavy equipment, you know, to level up ground or Quest protein bars, like anything, you could imagine that all these contractors and diplomats needed, right. But it’s the same thing. We were using federal government systems, bidding on it. And I learned how to procure. So I started,
Yoni Mazor 15:49
Hold on, so who was the end client? Who was the end client?
Tim Johnson 15:52
The US State Department. No, that’s a different business.
Yoni Mazor 15:57
So I’m confused, put me…lay the tracks for me.
Tim Johnson 15:59
Alright, so the company that my buddy owned, we were supplying stuff to the US government. State Department. Well, mostly in Afghanistan and Iraq, or wherever they’re deployed, their stuff overseas. At the same time, we set up another business, selling the similar type of items we had access to into Kenya. We were shipping anything from bulldozers and dump trucks, to security systems, to all this stuff that we could procure through our supply chains that even government agencies and really large industrial buildings and stuff needed.
Yoni Mazor 16:34
Can I ask you a small question, what was the thread that got you into Kenya, out of all the places in the world? I would assume Nairobi?
Tim Johnson 16:40
It was through Mombasa. We were shipping everything through Mombasa. But the business was based in Nairobi.
Yoni Mazor 16:48
But how did you get there?
Tim Johnson 16:50
It was…we were talking to a guy who said, Hey, we’re trying to source this stuff, and we can’t get it.
Yoni Mazor 16:56
And what? Did it come through email? Just random email?.
Tim Johnson 16:59
Yeah, just basically right.
Yoni Mazor 17:00
Cause you know, there’s the Nigerian sting where they got this contract.
Tim Johnson 17:05
These were actually some guys from…they were Indian guys that live in Kenya. So they’re not from Kenya.
Yoni Mazor 17:12
So Indian from India or Native American Indians?
Tim Johnson 17:14
Yeah. So India, India. But I researched them. They did a lot of business. I flew over there. I went and met with their clients. And we set up a business, we started importing stuff into Kenya, which was crazy using the same solution. Yeah. And that went great until the Kenyan banking system collapsed. If you’re going to google it like 2011-2012, one day, all the banks will just shut down in Kenya.
Yoni Mazor 17:39
Hold on. When did you start this business? Because I thought you were in landscaping?
Tim Johnson 17:42
That was still 2010-2011.
Yoni Mazor 17:44
So hold on, you started this procurement track what year? 2010/11?
Tim Johnson 17:49
Yeah, basically, as soon as I stopped the landscaping thing.
Yoni Mazor 17:52
So hold on, I thought the landscaping, I thought it ended in 2015?
Tim Johnson 17:56
Oh, you’re right 2015. I’ve got my five years mixed up. So 2015 Yes.
Yoni Mazor 18:00
So 2015. You shut down the landscape business but you already lay the tracks for the procurement. Right? You’re doing Yeah, for the American government deployed overseas, and also in Kenya got it. Okay, now things are making sense. So what were the challenges or what was the next step for you?
Tim Johnson 18:18