At the age of 21, Patrick Barnhill started Specialist ID, an e-commerce business, because he wanted to “sell while you sleep.” In 2015, his company was named the eighth-fastest growing company in Miami and No. 1,686 on the Inc. 5000.
“It started as a website and then we made our way onto eBay,” Patrick told me during an e-commerceFuel meetup. “After a few years, while still bartending and having graduated from college, I launched my first true e-commerce store using Yahoo Stores. A close college friend of mine (Duran Inci) recommended Yahoo Stores, as he had early e-commerce experience working for a successful business here in Miami.”
I was intrigued by his persistence (Specialist ID is now a 11-year-old business) and focus in scaling the company to a multimillion-dollar e-commerce business.
I spoke to him at length about some of the strategies and tactics he implemented, which led to the phenomenal growth of his company. I was amazed at the level of intricate details Patrick shared that I believe can help many e=commerce entrepreneurs today who are looking to grow their businesses.
What was the journey like making it to the first million dollars in revenue?
For the first seven years it was trial and error like crazy. Equipped with that experience, and having read Jim Collins’s book Good to Great, I realized that if I stopped trying to compete on the big complicated ID and access control systems, and became the best in the world at ID Badge Accessories, I would have huge competitive advantage in a niche that was somewhat neglected.
We started putting more time and detail into badge accessories than anyone else in the world, and that quickly started to snowball. It took 10 years of trial and error, mixed with college, bartending, more trial and error, and major setbacks.
What were the pivotal points that changed the game for your business?
Becoming the best in one area was huge. If you can answer the questions related to your product that lets a customer know with absolute certainty that they can order this item online without ever having seen, touched, or smelled one, then you will convert. For us, this was questions like Is it clear on both sides? Does hold multiple cards? How big is it? Will it fit my card? etc.
Product videos helped set us apart and answer any questions that may have still existed after seeing the pictures or reading the descriptions. Also, videos show that you are real people and actually have the product.
To have success on Amazon, eBay, and other marketplaces, you have to just get used to unrealistic customer expectations and unfair reviews, etc. We developed a very liberal and customer friendly customer service policy where we lose money on a few orders (a very small percentage). We don’t try to be right or argue. You absolutely have to maintain solid metrics and ship on time. This requires some solid inventory management and very good customer service.
It’s pretty obvious, but having a team is essential. Learning…