Chad Rubin builds e-commerce businesses and is a top 250 Amazon Seller. Fresh out of college and Wall Street, he took his family vacuum business online and built his own direct-to-consumer e-commerce business called Crucial Vacuum. He grew it from 0 a $20 million dollar valuation in just 7 years. He co-founded Skubana with DJ Kunovac as an all-in-one e-commerce operational tool.
Skubana is an all-in-one ERP system and operations platform designed for high volume sellers to run and automate their business. Skubana manages all back-end e-commerce operations in one place, including order processing, shipping, inventory management, fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), vendor management and cross-channel analytics. It’s a tool you can use whether you’re selling on one channel or several, to eliminate human error and oversight.
In this interview, we watch over Chad Rubin‘s improvised takes on the journey with Skubana,
Q1) What according to you are the four pillars on which Skubana stands upon?
Empowerment – we built Skubana to empower online sellers. It was born from my own need in the e-commerce industry and is designed to help myself and others in the industry achieve success.
Value of time – Skubana is able to automate so many aspects of your business that it eliminates human error, makes for more efficiency and saves valuable time. Time is the only resource your business has that it can’t get more of, and needs to be treated as irreplaceable. If you spend more time on manual processes just to save some money, it isn’t worth the sacrifice.
Collaboration – we have multiple integration partners who help take our software and expand functionality, relevance, and audience. We appreciate these partners and collaborate with them regularly to improve our product, do guest blog exchanges, swap stories on social media, and more.
Teamwork – it would have been impossible for Skubana to get to where it is today without a talented team behind it, customers who care enough to send feedback, and our valuable stakeholders. It’s truly a success built on teamwork.
Q2) How did you hit upon the idea for your Company?
Skubana was born from my own needs in e-commerce. I took over my family’s vacuum business and brought it online. After learning and operating in the industry long enough, I was able to identify a few pain points I shared with many of my colleagues, which weren’t solved by any of the existing tools out there.
I had been struggling with operations management across different marketplaces; organizing inventory, analytics, reports, labels and shipping tracking, etc. We had to use multiple different products that were patchworked together in order to keep track of everything.
Skubana is able to combine inventory synchronization, order/returns processing, purchasing workflow, and cross-channel analytics all in one convenient tool to keep things streamlined, automated, and simple.
Q3) Who do you consider your biggest Competitor and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
I wasn’t sure how to answer this because I truly believe Skubana is a unique product. So I went Moz and looked up our potential competitors in search. Channel Advisor is one that comes up a lot, and they are a listing tool, not an operations platform.
Our software creates and manages, shipping labels, purchase orders, and analytics, which theirs doesn’t seem to do. We don’t do listings, but we have seamless integrations that do.
Q4) How have sales evolved since you first got into the business? What hasn’t changed?
When I first got into e-commerce, I was working on Wall Street and noticed Internet stocks were almost recession-proof. I thought it would be worth looking into, so I bought vacuum products from my parents’ store and sold them online. Things were fairly simple then, and it was easy to rank because I was one of the early players.
One thing that hasn’t changed since then is the value of diversification. I treated my business like stock–I wouldn’t buy a stock that was too invested in one thing. So I expanded from vacuums to coffee filters, expanded to different marketplaces, and so on.
One thing that has changed drastically is the rulebook for e-commerce SEO, ranking, sales, etc. Amazon is always coming out with new updates, like their new early reviewer program, their ban on incentivized reviews, etc. But even more than that, all the e-commerce power players like Walmart, Amazon, and eBay are getting more sophisticated in their algorithms. That means you really need to pay much more attention to conversions versus just having your product out there.
Q5) How do you balance the emphasis on Activity vs End Goals?
I don’t require my team to be busy every day, but I do require results.
My team and I focus on end goals (data and results), versus busy work and filling our day with tasks. Everything we do needs to have clear KPIs that we can measure our success against. For example, we’re putting more effort into our blogs, but we also pay close attention to our Google Analytics to see where that traffic is going, and whether we’re getting leads.
Q6) Would you rather be respected or feared?
Respected, 100%, which I think is the wiser choice for anyone in business. It’s easy to be feared because as an employer you have to say over whether or not someone takes home a paycheck, which is a huge responsibility.
However, the best employees out there are always going to have a choice when it comes to their career, and why would they choose to work with someone they feared versus someone they respect?
If your team fears you, they’ll get the job done. If they respect you, they’ll get the job done well, because they want to.
Q7) Think of something you’ve done in the past; what would you have done differently?
I would have diversified sooner. I put a lot of time into channels that help me WIN, so I’d focus more on Amazon than a smaller platform, but it’s important to build up safety nets all across the industry. Thanks to a recent Amazon suspension (more on that below), I’ve started the process in earnest.
Q8) How do you approach a decision where people disagree with you?
There’s nothing I can really do when someone vehemently disagrees with me. I’ll usually just let it be and understand that my opinion doesn’t make or break anyone else, and vice versa. Unless they’re outwardly attacking you or coming at you with a bat, it doesn’t matter too much.
Q9) What do you expect to see over the next 5 to 10 years in the Industry?
The Internet of Things is very exciting to me because it shows that our society is shifting more and more towards online operations, interactions, and transactions. With new technologies like virtual reality, which could potentially change the face of online sales, and artificial intelligence, which could improve customer service exponentially, the future of e-commerce is very exciting.
Q10) What according to you are Do’s and don’t of B2B Prospecting?
DO: Always drop value and help your prospects
Those two are the most important do/don’t rule in my B2B prospecting efforts. Be a problem solver first. My business is all about value, empowerment, and helping e-commerce players succeed. It isn’t about pure selling–I won’t try to sell Skubana to someone if I don’t think it’ll be a good fit for their needs (ie. single-channel, smaller retailers, etc.).
Q11) What are your experiences with highs and lows at Skubana?
E-commerce is an ever-changing landscape. I experienced the fickle tides of it recently when I was suspended from Amazon the day after Christmas.
Although we hadn’t done anything wrong, I got an email saying that I could no longer sell on Amazon. I had diversified, but not enough, so this would be a huge blow to my business.
I took some time to think and craft a professional response and reached out to anyone who could help.
The typical time it takes to reinstate an account could surpass a month, but my account was active again within 30 hours.
What I’ve learned time and time again is that it takes hustle, hard work, and determination to come out on top in e-commerce. There’s always going to be someone new, someone, who’s more flashy, or someone who has a better deal. Stick to it and be smart about how you operate.
Q12) Lately, more and more Professionals are leaving their cushy and well-paid jobs to follow their passion. What’s your take on this?
I think it’s great that we live in a time where people are free to do that. In the past, you didn’t get to explore what you enjoyed doing; you had to do whatever you could to eat. If you can take care of your base needs (food, roof, clean water) and want to rough it a little to follow your passion, then go for it. I left a cushy Wall Street job to explore e-commerce during the early days of the Internet boom, and it was a great investment for me.
Lastly, We would be glad to have your valuable suggestion for the new age Entrepreneurs thriving in the industry today.
It’s important to have grit, but don’t fool yourself when it’s time to move on. Make smart choices about where to invest your time and effort. If you’re in the typewriter business, you should be smart enough to look into computers instead of hanging on to typewriters as your sole product–sheer willpower isn’t going to drive sales when innovation is moving the world forward.