Last Updated on January 15, 2021
These days the internet is full of people giving you advice on how to become successful in this hyper-competitive business world. There are get rich quick schemes, tutorials on how to trade your way to become a millionaire, and endless amounts of content showing you how to become a wildly successful entrepreneur. Yet when you think about it, nobody is there to tell you what you should do if you actually make it there.
So, what happens when you eventually make your millions? What about when your brilliant idea finally takes off, and you’re faced with more success than you ever expected?
That’s the exact situation Jesse Willms found himself in after his first company, eDirect, raked in over $50 million in revenue by the time he was 18 years old. Not a bad feat for a teenager who never finished school.
Since then, Willms emulated his teenage success many times over, becoming a serial entrepreneur in the process and producing hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. With that said, he will be the first person to admit he is far from perfect and has made his fair share of mistakes along the way.
This is precisely why Willm’s story makes such an excellent case study for budding entrepreneurs and business owners alike. Despite the myriad of challenges in his way (both internal and external), he managed to overcome them and replicate his success in a wide variety of industries.
Who is Jesse Willms?
Jesse currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is the owner of several vehicle history websites, which give free vehicle history information to visitors who want to check whether or not the car is reliable or had any recalls. What started off as a concept back in 2015 has gone on to become a hugely successful website, with about four million people using the service each month.
The early years
After his initial success reselling computer software with eDirect, Willms turned his attention to the health and wellness industry. Amazingly, he went on to build twelve different multi-million dollar businesses selling various products, some of which you have almost certainly encountered. Some examples include acai berry, tea, resveratrol, hoodia, anti-aging creams, and teeth whitening sets.
However, Willms soon ran into trouble with the FTC and faced multiple lawsuits with Microsoft over copyright infringements. As you can imagine, these battles aren’t often won, and they eventually took their toll financially on Willms and his companies.
It’s the age-old story of the Icarus paradox. The exact same thing that led Willms and his companies to great heights are also the same forces that ultimately led to their downfall. Thankfully, with the benefit of hindsight and years of wisdom on his side, Willms shares how he would have done things differently, giving his insight on what successful business owners need to be mindful of in today’s world.
Know your affiliates
More than 80% of brands use affiliate programs to promote their products and services, making it no surprise to learn that affiliate marketing is responsible for 16% of global eCommerce sales. However, while these programs are great for boosting sales, sometimes they can backfire and cause more harm than good.
“Some affiliates would often make false claims in their marketing campaigns before bringing users to our site. These claims would often be in the form of fake news sites, or sometimes even claiming the product was endorsed by Dr. Oz or Oprah. Affiliates would also sometimes steal credit cards and then purchase on our site. They greatly hurt our reputation,” says Willms.
Make the payment terms clear for your customers
If you don’t have clear payment terms set out with your customers, you’re going to run into trouble at some point. If a customer gets an unexpected charge on their card or is billed for an amount they didn’t agree to, it can harm your brand and damage trust. Willms can attest to this as he ran into this very problem while running his supplement companies.
“Some customers didn’t understand how the free trials worked and that they would be billed at the end. A free trial can be a great model for customers. We received about 3,000 billing complaints over three years and looking back. I feel very bad for those customers. I should’ve worked harder to make the terms clear to every customer,” says Willms.
Ensure you are properly regulated and cooperate with authorities
No matter what industry you’re in, there will likely be guidelines or regulations you must adhere to. It’s worth taking the time to ensure you are always operating above board. Apply for the appropriate licenses, file your taxes correctly, and make sure you keep the fundamentals of your business rock solid, no matter how much success you have.
“In late 2009, the FTC reached out to discuss our business practices with me. Unfortunately, I was an arrogant 22-year old thought he knew everything, so I didn’t put much thought into cooperating with them.
I have great respect for the work the FTC does to ensure honest advertising, and I wish I would’ve worked with them to review everything we were doing and make adjustments where we needed it.” says Willms.
Always put your customers first
Far too often, people are taught to think about profits above all else. Unfortunately, this mantra is particularly short-sighted and, more often than not, leads to failure.
It’s absolutely critical that you put your customers first. Listen to their feedback. Think about their wants and needs. If you can consistently deliver a great product or service, you will already be setting yourself apart from your competition.
“One of my biggest mistakes was not listening to our customers enough and putting them first. My advice to my younger self would be to take care of the customer first, make a great product, and the profits will follow. Take every complaint seriously and make adjustments when needed, and constantly work to improve your product,” says Willms.
“It’s harder to stay on top than it is to make the climb” – Pat Summitt.
Ironically, it’s often the same qualities and characteristics that get you to the top that end up being the components for your downfall.
Whether you’re an established business owner or an entrepreneur bursting with new ideas, it’s essential to put a plan in place for what you will do if you ever achieve your biggest goals. Put plans in place and try to objectively assess yourself and your business at all times. Don’t let the arrogance of your own success get in the way of taking new steps forward.