Here are this episode’s highlights:
00:10 – Introduction of Shaun Lathan, a Shopify Expert
02:46 – Talk about Business and How it works
06:25 – Shopify is the Best
09:06 – WooCommerce VS Shopify
12:15 – A Short Discussion of a Typical Client
15:15 – Challenges and Surprises that comes along the way
18:45 – The Importance of Giving an Update to Client
20:09 – Handling Failures and Working around it
22:48 – Off-Work Related Talk
Dave: Hey! Welcome! This is Dave Wooding from the Integratepro Show. And today, I have here Shaun Lathan as a guest. So, Shaun, would you say hello and introduce yourself?
Shaun: Hi Dave! Thanks for having on the podcast.
Dave: My pleasure.
Shaun: I’m looking forward to meeting you.
Dave: Likewise. So, tell me something I don’t know about you already.
Shaun: Okay. Well, I guess.. First of all, I’m based in Northern Australia which is a big island. I’m sure you are all familiar with it. And I’m very passionate about swimming. In fact, swimming is compulsory in my family. We all swim. In fact, we all went into a race altogether once a year. I’m kind of born to swim. So, that’s a bit of fun. And yeah, so that is probably something you don’t know.
Dave: No, I didn’t. Tell me a little more. Are we talking….
Shaun: Yeah. It sort of happened by accident.. The swimming thing. I’m up and always counseling. But My wife is a very ____ of swim at stake in UK years ago. We actually live next door to a tennis court here. And when we first got married we were sort of quite keen on sports. But anything that I do that I could beat her, I should never ____ on tennis again. I could never beat her to swimming so I decided I give a go on swimming. And that is something we do together. You know, we swim a few times a week. ___ outside. You know that’s kind of our “switching off from the technology” which is funny.
Dave: Does that mean you are near the water, the Ocean ?
Shaun: Yeah. Im in a two-minute walk from an Olympic size pool in Goulburn, Australia. Im very fortunate that we got a beach house in the morning to drench yourself down here which is a beautiful spot. We decided to spend a couple of months down there. I decided myself so I have a swim everyday in the ocean. It’s lovely
Dave: Excellent! So, you may know this already. I’ve been to Sydney before Manly, Australia. One thing that I find really interesting is those pools that are right by the ocean that just pick up the ocean water.
Shaun: Oh yeah! They are magic! I would kill to swim in one of those. You know, we have to swim in chlorine, the outdoor pools here. There is something special about the salt water. It really makes you feel alive. You got that fresh feeling when you get out of that fresh chilling water.
Dave: Right. Okay. Cool. So, Shaun, we kind of have a mutual (kind of) understanding but (little bit) business (kind of technology ____). And if I am not mistaken, your website is InfoBytesmedia.com.au. What exactly are you doing?
Shaun: Basically, we are very shopify-centric. We have a very similar service to what in terms of (we rolled about automatic prices ranges). And I know you’ve got a big range of platforms to deal with but we are a lot narrower. We basically help drop off shippers, automate the inventory side of their business. You probably might have a lot of three thousand products. So that’s a big job importing items and categorising them. We’ll just setting them and store them up and get those products synced with those supplies. So that is also a big time saving. So basically, it’s an end to end shipping price. Everything is set up. Everything is required to (what we used to call) term-case solution.
That (kind of) evolve. I didn’t start of doing that. I’ve started probably similar a lot of work to you back in 10 years ago. Still sort of selling peer to peer. (sort of) WordPress type, small business website but working with digital agency om a wholesale basis. So I provide hostile service to digital agencies. That was a good little business model. I had a business partner that was in ___ Seattle and he had a few credit things that we use to term him. And one time we hurd on a bunch of stores. And we would normally, back on the days in Seattle with a few colleagues. In 2008, I stumbled upon across particularly onto shopify and I want to build half a dozen of sites in this shopping network and what not. I was used to presses in building site of WordPress that could take month or two with complicated works. I used to build 10 sites in one week. It was a real game changer for me. And immediately, that was pretty basic, just copy and pasting. But there were a thousand of products but we were just using things and changing logo. But that was ____5:19 for me. I had a lot of clients that had e-commerce stores and all the issues that go with ____ source platforms. I, very quickly, changed direction.
I can’t influence all my clients as not all my clients have all my platforms but certainly my clients are educated with B to B custom. And guide your customers to shopify platform. It sound easier for the clients and it is easier for me. Im sure you are familiar with some of the issues that come along with the ____5:53 world particularly the plug-in model. You build the site, you do the thing right, the top thing, you don’t touch the color, and the things that you might want to pull back, the things that might explode. Im just trying up with some plug-in and the plug-in number 20 is something that went what. That is your fault. I haven’t had to do that for several years now. So that is a beautiful thing.
Dave: Have you obviously used all the other shopping systems if you will? And come up with a conclusion? That sounds shopify is the best.
Shaun: The big thing for us is the support factor. The platforms like Majento which is so popular a few years ago. And you jumped into the backend and without spending a lot of time training the clients. And feels like a hundred, ____6:58 in there. There is about 64 ways of building a product that comes in complex, simple panel and too many to mention. And I think I ended up buying it and hosted a platform and then went broke after several months. It was not a good solution. But there’s been a real trend. You look into the new platforms and I think there are two things that really have changed the game now.
The successful platforms like Shopify or Accounting Wise 7:32 Zero and these new ones, they are very simple. They do one thing really well they don’t try and try to cater to every need of the costumer. But they have API. And that’s the thing you love.
Dave: That’s beautiful.
Shaun: Then it allowed us to do so much. I had to jump into WordPress the other day for a client. I’ve been wondering if wordpress is going to jump on board with these API and they’ve been trying to do it for years and because no one owns it. It’s an open source code. They’ve got a plugin that is kind of beta or something. And someone mentioned the other day that WordPress is 20% websites. But they still don’t have the proper API. For me, one of the criteria I need to work with a platform that has the right prospect. I see Shopify ticks that box. But other platforms like Zapier, I’ve noticed when I logged into that shopify site. It kept on popping up. Set up some integration with woocommerce or whatever it is. So that’s if think the way the things are hitting and the big change and the probability if ______8:55.
Dave: Shaun, what about woocommerce vs. shopify. I’ll be honest. Im kind of ignorant. I did set up a shopify site for my wife and get used of the API. And I totally agree it’s a great thing. But is the woocommerce all the same plain field or are we comparing apples to apples or apples to oranges.
Shaun: Yeah. Look. They’ve got to be following for them, theres one that is called WPCommerce. And they sort of came along and simplify things a lot. So they’ve been into market for a few good years now. I don’t want to look geeky but if you look at the architecture of WordPress, it’s a blogging in general. So if you have a website that has a really thousand of products, behind those things, all the woocommerce is doing is basically creating a custom post type. And everything in meta, what we call a meta field. So we are stuffing, raising a different field. Unless you have a serious caching going on and really have a descent APS or a server. This is the issue. Most of the people save money with WordPress and woocommerce because it is free. And they skip on the hosting and I come along and I’ve got to do integration and vie made to run some __con 10:89 job. That’s got to time it up in 60 seconds because they are on shared web hosting.
Or maybe they’ve got permissions and that is something silly because they do not even have a control panel with some godaddy cheap platform. People think it is cheap. But you know the most valuable resource we’ve got in life is time. And we’ve all got the same amount time in a day and time is money. With wordpress and woocommerce, we are still paying a hosting fee probably paying for some training in setting up word and commerce product.
Whereas Shopify, we get everything. Products with $29 a month. You get 24/7 service. If your WordPress site explodes, you can’t call anyone. You are on your own. Whereas Shopify, you’ve got a friendly Canadian that’s gonna be on the end on the phone. And He’s going to help you out. And that means they call me as much. I don’t really have wasteful issues these days because of the fact that it’s just so robust. And it is very easy to use. They’ve got training. Usually for the session, I’ve been training them up online. Because we are automating the import of the products and they order the process they can just focus on marketing their business which is sort out.
Dave: So if somebody comes to you and you’re going to do business with them, you are going to set up a shopify store and do all the integrations. What would a typical client look like to you, somebody who has thousand of products?
Shaun: Absolutely, most of my referrals come from wholesale companies. So they come from big catalogues, maybe 5 thousand products. I don’t have any specific arrangement with them. I kind of fell in to this business by accident. I have a drop shipping site and I did it. And the supply said, “Oh! OK! You do another one.” And it just felt like a snowball from there.
So, 80% of my business comes from the a little bit of single point dependency there. And most of those supplies actually is kind of old school like I said probably half of them have two more businesses from retail shops. So, the prices would be that I would have an existing website and often it is on shopify now. And if it on WordPress I try and convert them to the bright side. I’m going to be careful here because I know you have some WordPress shop. So, I can’t diss it too much.
From there we basically hold their hand for the whole process because as I was listening to a podcast last night one of James’, and he was talking about “Don’t worry about the how, worry about the who” and some people believe in that. So the customers, they just give it to us. We don’t need some to explain the technical stuff. We just get the brief. Say, what do you want? What kind of risk you want? We just hold the hand you whole way through. Set it up for them and then try them.
And I should end up with a finished site. And we’ll do everything and it depends on the level of the expertise. But often,you know, meta domain and pretty much everything that is required to do. Setting up emails, and Google apps. I do provide full service and that’s it. Because we are dealing with drop ships at the end of the day. And they all just want a turn case solution that worked. We’ll not just have to find the API. We will manage the whole process.
And we have a support plan with them. So, there is another reasonable plan people can rely on. We are setting up a product-izer. Depending on what solution I’ve got for the reasonable support plan.
It’s about some of the customers we never hear from. That works hard well fir about 15:25..
Dave: What are some of the big challenges that show up with regards to what you do? Where you on the point where you do typically a lot of the same thing over and over? And you figured out all the nuances is and occasionally you got this big surprises.
Shaun: Look, I tried to and its one of the reasons that I focus on shopify. Any business if you can __ 15:44 that’s a beautiful thing because you become a subject expert but obviously from the shopify side of things, I’m a little ___15:53 in its two sides of equation. There’s a shopify side and supply side. ___ 15:59 supplies have existing cards. So, we have a very good understanding on how they worked. ___ 16:07._______ 16:16 So, thank you for that.
Dave: You’re welcome.
Shaun: So, I guess the only time that we really need probably look in and knocked things out are two issues. One, a different platform that we used to in terms of the supply rate and we also have different solutions that we’ve got. So, that’s probably where we put the effort in. And sometimes, we could even get the information. Because one of the problems, one of the supplies they will have their own API’s. Maybe, deal with the IT guy. But sometimes get in the documentation. And then you get the documentation, maybe it’s wrong. You will just know that, I can tell you shopify some of their documentation. This documentation features you get to know it but it is not the issue. That’s probably the biggest challenge. It always depends on third parties is your biggest challenge.
Shaun: Occasionally, design can get us. We don’t do a lot of design, we usually work on things and we’ve got some designers that we worked with. Beyond time, designs are subjective. We do like API stuff because it works and it doesn’t. We haven’t had any issues for a while. But I did have with one client ages ago. It took like a month just to approve the logo. That stuff.
Dave: That happens. That’s for sure. People get hang up on or life just happens. Some things important to them initially like getting these designs ___ 18:08. Something else in their life happened. We get that all the time, it’s just the same thing. The biggest challenge we often have is getting the requirements from the customers. So, I can feel your pain because I know exactly what you are talking about.
Shaun: It’s a fact to doing business. You’re going to be patient. Most people are really understanding and I think in business you should really be honest. And as long as you communicate the issues you having, most people are really understanding. You really have your __18:44 on.
Dave: Here’s one thing we’ve done. We do no update updates with our customers. In other words, even if we don’t have an update. We say, hey, we are still here, we’re alive. We are working on your project but we have no update. If nothing____19:00. Is that ____that you are out in the open, and we also have our regular schedule, we know that once a week or reach out to customers and at least let them know that we are still alive in this side of the world. And we do have your project going on.
Shaun: That’s a great idea. Actually, I was thinking about that today. I have no update for client. You just prodded me on how I’m going to do that. I just am going to do that after this podcast.
Dave: Part of it because some people really want to stay up to date. So, I don’t have to keep track. Okay, this person wants to know very frequent. This person wants to be updated once there are some changes. So, instead compromise. At least once a week, and then when things happened as they happened. But that way, we’ve covered our basis.
Shaun: And I think that’s really a good strategy. Because I think when people hear nothing, they think the worst.
Dave: Why not?
Shaun: I’m an optimist at heart. But there is an expression, no news is good news. And I think the opposite is true when it comes to customers.
Dave: So, I was just going to ask you a little bit about getting into the techie stuff. How do you handle failures? Like you are already ____ 20:13 to supplier’s API goes down. Did you handle that gracefully? Do you have your system checked again for another update? How do you do that?
Shaun: We, do. So, we do simple log-in essentially. A little bit of old school stuff going on. I try to catch shoots me an email. It’s really time stuff. And then we also, we just got traditional log-in for everything we do to basically text file on the server and so we can anytime go and check what’s happening. That essentially if there’s any ______ 21:03. Orders we could____ 21:08 a little bit old school. We put orders would get drop to certain folder and its prices correctly moved to another folder. And some of these things a little bit old school, a few difference and checks and balances. We can catch a few something. If that happens, we could go back and it is kind an old school way moving one folder to another we can actually drop it in another folder. And push it through again.
Dave: I was gonna mention, there is an app, at least on the iphone. I think that it is a pushover.net, probably a website. It basically catches whatever you send to it.
Shaun: Okay, great!
Dave: So, you can send data to it. Your friends can make a sale or your customer makes a sale. And when they have this app they can be notified or if the service goes down they can have it notified it. It’s annoying. I usually set it up whenever the web server goes down I need to ping the host team to bring it back up. You can use it a web hook to catch whenever information you want.
Shaun: I definitely check that. I think the other thing is, we are always ___ 22:25. We haven’t touch ____. We haven’t called on that yet. Yes, indeed.
Dave: Shaun, stepping away from work a little bit. Besides swimming, I’m guessing there is a family there too. What else do you do? What keeps you busy?
Shaun: I guess it’s probably a midlife crises. I joined a rock band a few years ago.
Shaun: We played a gig last weekend which is a little bit of fun. Getting back to the family. Local primary school, I attended an elementary school in America. Young kids basically went to local primary school. We always go camping and stuff. And around a campfire, we played various musical instruments. So, we formed a band. Our first gig a few years ago, we played under tens basketball. And the party there was huge. So, we progressed it ___ 23:43 clubs. We are doing the odds in a local and pub gigs. That’s a bit of fun, a good relay actually. In fact, that’s how I left. I used to be in a corporate world. I worked for Telco’s and stuff like that. I got off a job that builds a music website for client. And that’s when I had my resignation. That was something I was ____24:08 about. That’s a music sharing site back in 2006. Luckier, I was looking at your website. That’s a great line and I’ve used it a couple of times that I probably owe you a loyalty award there. You’ve been in IT since the last century.
Dave: I love that! I was going to mention that.
Shaun: Yeah, both are at that camp actually. That’s a great line! The young kids these days, they think this internet is going to be forever but it’s pretty new, isn’t it? It is still in its infancy.
Dave: Yes, I agree. It is just amazing how much things got so much easier. Especially like regards to web development like Zappier is a great example.
Shaun: I’ve seen that everywhere. I used to turn in the internet. Like a string __ 25:10. Sometimes, when I see the kids on facebook. I wish that annoying noise would come. It’s too easy now to spend time online. Yes, it’s everywhere. It’s a good fun. But if your family was got a family of five and all great, good kids, so healthy. We lived in a beautiful power__25:37. And like yourself, I went on with my own __25:41 because of the lifestyle. Do the school run with the kids and all that sort of stuff. Walk the dog during the day. It’s a great life.
Dave: It’s great talking to you Shaun. I appreciate you taking the time. Like I said, part of the reason of having this phone call is just to get to know you a little bit better. And also introduce you to people so that they know that you have expertise in shopify. And your site is infobytesmedia.com. That is bytesmedia.com
Shaun: That’s right! Correct!
Dave: All the techies know what the bytes mean. But that’s the name of your site. Appreciate it very much having the conversation today. Thank you, Shaun.
Shaun: Thank you very much for having me. It’s a joy. Thanks guys!
Dave: You bet.
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