The Minimalist Amazon Business

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“My business is an internet connection”

Minimalism got to me in a sneaky way.  Some combination of The 4 Hour Blog, the movie Fight Club, and the blog Life Edited.

If you are wondering “What is minimalism?” or even if you think you know, it is worth knowing that our friends at Merriam-Webster don’t have a definition for the philosophy or life principle that minimalism has become, it is still defined as a style of art.

When an idea is undefined, I highly advise you to define it before buying in.  To me, minimalism is having what you need to accomplish your goals in comfort.  No more, no less.

If you really, truly embark on a journey to accomplish a minimalist lifestyle, a minimalist business, or heck, even one minimalist room in your house, you will see how hard this is to get right.  So, what do you think the minimalist Amazon business requires in terms of physical items?

A warehouse full of hard workers to lord over?  Nope.  If you use FBA or another logistics provider, you already know that you don’t need to be a warehouse manager to run this business.

An office with a desk, a printer, a scanner, a (gulp) fax machine, a file cabinet full of papers?  Nope.  I mean, if you have a “bonus” room in your house and you want one of these, no big deal, you can have it, but don’t confuse it with a need.  I know many business owners who work from home, but are scared to leave their home office to travel because they believe a situation will arise that requires something that only exists in that office.

A computer/laptop?  Nope.  These are available in internet cafes, hotels, libraries and more all over the world (learn how to stay cyber safe)

Yes, I gave it away at the start of this blog post –

My business is an internet connection.

On one hand, this is empowering.  Your business can be anywhere that you can find an internet connection.  On the other hand, don’t forget this point.  

The inverse is, you cannot do business where there is no internet connection.  Therefore, if you are like me and tend to take your business with you on a trip, don’t intend to keep up on business from the road and then decide to go off grid once you land in Thailand or Australia or wherever.  Make sure you are staying somewhere you can comfortably connect to the internet.  Hotel reviews are best for this, because customers that can’t get wifi to work get very angry.  My business is an internet connection, enjoy it and don’t forget it!

But back to the fun stuff.  When I travel, I don’t take my laptop.  When I plan to travel, I unload all responsibilities to my team that I can.  I make most of my job to make tough decisions, which I can do via email.  The actual data entry, order placing, logistics, that is all handled by smart, loyal people who have computers in front of them.  If there is something I do feel I almost need on the road, it is my iPhone, because it is what I use to book flights, train tickets, hotels with great internet connections and “business centers”, etc.  I know I could operate without it, but it is where the “in comfort” part of my definition comes in.  If a laptop makes you comfortable on the road, you won’t get a hard time from me, but when a laptop is by far the heaviest thing you travel with you will start to brainstorm a way to leave it behind.

Speaking of things I travel with…

…this is what I took to Europe for 30ish days.

I consider my Amazon business a lifestyle business.  Having, owning and operating a lifestyle business is all about your goals.  Minimalism helps me keep my focus on the things that will help my lifestyle business accomplish those goals comfortably, and avoid the rest.  

Here are some examples of minimalism applied to my business –

The minimum amount of software for my business – I use Trello, a paid repricer, Shopify, a subscription site for photo editing, and that is all.

I use Karen Locker’s service for reconciling lost inventory and fixing suppressed inventory.

I have two business-related chrome extensions, Keepa and DS Amazon Quick View (which I only use to get to ASINs on the search page).  That’s it.

I own a printer, a scanner, a barcode scanner and a label printer, but those stay in my closet, unplugged, and only get used a few times each year.

I like self-imposed constraints to keep me in check.  For example, say I were tempted to buy from a vendor who will only ship to my business address.  I love the product, and it seems like a great opportunity.  Should I do it?  My business isn’t really setup to handle this operation in my 1500 sq ft cabin in Michigan.  I don’t have enough labels, polybags, etc.  Freight companies won’t even deliver to my house, it is on the end of a narrow dirt road.  These things keep me from diving into a deal that would be more stress than it is worth.

The question I should be asking is, what do I need to do this deal for?  I already have a steady income and enough products, so the answer is, you guessed it, more.  More money, more inventory, more SKUs, more sales, etc.  Saying “no” to more money isn’t always easy.  Perhaps sales are down today as you consider this deal.  Perhaps you are afraid of something unknown happening to your successful products.  Regardless, fear and emotion creep in.  That is why I need self-imposed constraints to keep my lifestyle business from turning into some corporate enterprise.  That is how minimalism helps my business.

To wrap this up, here are more things my wife and I do not own –

A lawn mower, nor do we hire someone to mow our lawn.

A second car, my wife and I have shared a car for 11 out of our 12 years of marriage.  Do you want to learn to communicate with your spouse more?  Share one car!  Notice I said “more”, not “better”, that part is up to you!

A vacuum cleaner, all our floors are hardwood.

A dish washer, it takes only a few minutes after each meal to handle dishes for two.

A snow blower, this we pay someone to handle.

A chainsaw, I can handle 99% of fallen trees with an axe.

A coffee maker, ok…that’s a lie, do you think we are savages or something?  🙂

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