Fundamentals over quick wins. Embracing new over creating moats. Listen to Scott's solopreneur journey, and how the fundamentals he stands by has brought him to his success today.
Scott is the Director of Le Bono Collection and distributes Nuzest in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong
Scott: There's no Silver Bullet. I think a lot of SME owners are sitting there saying “but if only I had this client” or “if only I had this app”. It's not true, like, that total ‘Pie in the Sky’ thinking. It's about, it's the Ikigai principal: it's 1% Improvement everyday across everything.
Constance: At Konigle, we're proud to help amazing entrepreneurs run great businesses we've learned that the greatest superpower a business owner can have to run a high performing business is doing things in spite of. i.e., in spite of great difficulties.
Hi, I'm Constance, and welcome to the Doing In Spite Of podcast, where we feature business owners and share their learnings.
I'm here today with Scott Larson from Le Bono who distributes Nuzest in Southeast Asia. he's also working on some very new exciting Ventures that we're going to talk about today. How are you doing today Scott?
Constance: Le Bono Collection, is now the 6th or 7th business that you’ve built from scratch and now you're at this point where it's self-sustaining.
What is the key thing that you think you did differently this time, to reach the point where your business could run by itself, profitably with minimal personal input?"
Scott: Yes, I’ve owned a number of businesses over the years I guess I'm a born entrepreneur. So even through high school and secondary school and University, I always had a sideline business that I was running. And I was always conscious (having read Robert Kiyosaki's book as a young kid), I was very focused on exchanging time for money.
Setting up businesses with a focus on: how can you thread the eye of the needle, to put it in his terms, to make sure that your business is essentially running itself, or can scale. This time around with Le Bono at it hasn't been so easy; this company's been going 13 years, and it's only been really in the last two years we have achieved a scale and a presence that I'm able to fully outsource the entire company, and fortunately it's a business model which is very conducive to outsourcing. So, logistics, anyone in this space will have heard of 3PL: pick, pack and logistics, and then automation of processes.
So I haven’t done anything different, it's just using the same principle for a different company and every company you do is going to use different principles and different tools.
Constance: The incredible thing to me is, you’re now the only dedicated person in your company running Nuzest by Le Bono. You are a one-man show. What are the pros and cons of running a business this way?
Scott: There is a big pro and con of being a one-man business.
You're correct that I don't have any full-time employees for any business,
And that was a change that I made in around 2017-2018. I grew up in a family where my dad always ran a business and we run a family business, he was a print broker. And my observation of his business-and I really love it-, is that everyone in your business becomes part of your extended family. The problem with that is that, it's still a company, and when times are good things are great. But when Market forces impact your business, or you lose a major account which basically derails everything, as an owner the buck stops with you. When you've got a team of 5 or 10 people and you've created this tight-knit family and you've got to let go of Harry, it's devastating emotionally to people that I've got to kick the brother off the team.
At that time I had to let go of some really amazing stuff and because I did that, the whole dynamic in the business was like: “if this person is not able to stay, then no one is going to stay.”
When I started to rebuild my company I went back to running it all by myself: picking packing boxes, so walking down Orchard Road with a trolley. Really humbling stuff. But when I started to rebuild out my company my focus was always: work with part-timers and automatic first outsource second. Hire whoever I have to on a have to only basis. My time should be spent on tasks that are either so urgent they need my attention, or trying to do stuff that builds more automations and can manage more Outsourcing. Or, manage the manager who's managing my outsourcing.
And for a small business I don’t have a team who’s gonna be my redundancy team. So, yes there was a short while for a couple months when I doubled up on work, but very quickly we could see it was working. And, if I could problem solve the problems quicker than spending the time to do the redundancy (work), I’m better off spending the time to problem solve the new system.
Constance: You’re really living the principle of: time is money in a business. Just for us to get an idea, could you step through an example of how you’d go about outsourcing one aspect of your business?
Scott: There is a group of people that you need to outsource work to, who are way better than you at doing that work. So a good example for me is that I really dislike doing a lot of administrative work around accounting specifically. My outsourced accountant actually logs into a cloud-based accounting system; it's very popular it's called Xero. So when an order is made the invoice will be auto-generated, it'll push into Xero, my client who gets an invoice copy. Then my accountant who's much better than me will go ahead and make sure that it's all reconciled. And let me know about margins or over spending: just anything that can come up, as far as normal day-to-day things. Or, looking out on a monthly or quarterly view of your business: “Are you overextending or are you underextending”.
Constance: Scott’s success in running his business comes from two things: a clear vision of what he wanted his business to achieve, and good business fundamentals that he’s learnt from industry leaders.
Scott continues to describe these fundamentals.
Scott: Sometimes you need to overextend to grow your business, but how long can you keep doing that for before you really need to make some very hard choices?"
One of the fundamentals I say to people all the time is: in import-export which is what the news is business is, it's a relatively simple business that people make complicated, or it becomes complicated as you go on.
The Simplicity of the business is: let’s say you have a teaspoon. You need to buy it for $1, sell it for $2 and make sure that your overheads and the operational costs are no less- no more than a dollar."
So you can’t be spending more than you’re making. These business fundamentals are true for any business anywhere in the world in my opinion. And then once you have this nailed in, it’s about selling more.
But protecting your margin. I could sell a million dollars tomorrow if I was going to give a million dollars away for no money. But that’s not selling, that's giving it away. So you need to be able to create enough value in the market or grow a brand big enough that people are willing to pay the price that you know you can run on, on an indefinite basis"
There’s a lot of people who give up before they really try. And the same is true for a business. You need to understand the game, you need to do the repetitions of the game until you understand how the game is played.
For me this takes a long time; I'm not the smartest guy in the room. I would have been a surgeon if I was the smartest guy in the room. But um, but I am persistent, and I try to do the fundamentals well. I think a lot of people overlook how important fundamentals are.
Constance: Today’s entrepreneurship world is filled with quick-win hacks and the chase of exponential growth in short periods of time. But Scott is able to cut through the noise and focus on business fundamentals to drive his business. Focused persistence helps you pull through rough times, and hones your skills to overcome rougher times later. It’s a powerful superpower of the business owner.
Now that Nuzest is stable, you’ve jumped on yet another business opportunity: Nordic Labs, which provides diagnostic tests based on DNA, for licensed practitioners. This is quite different from selling consumer goods, so how have you changed your go-to-market strategy?
Scott: So, another thing that I took from that Robert Kiyosaki book that I mentioned before is every good business is a Network. So I've really developed a very strong network with people in the health industry within Singapore over the last 13 years with the Nuzest company. And because of that network I've been able to go out to them with this new partner that I have, which is Nordic labs. To resell to them, I've already developed a lot of trust there and a lot of loyalty with a great brand. And now when I come to them with something new -and has a lot of prowess in the industry- a lot of people know about them already, when I combine my trust in relationship with via build trust in relationship it really works well.
As a mode to Market, Nuzest is not just a plant-based protein company. It's really creating a very high grade or the highest grade of nutrition possible. So because of that, the method to Market with Nuzest originally was just to softly educate people for a number of years only through practitioners. When you are sitting in a seat in front of a doctor or nutritionist, they really have your ear for a whole hour. And so 15 minutes of that can be talking about an amazing product and all the things in it that are good for them, and the reasons why it's good for them. So that is the connection of why I have direct contact with a lot of the nutritionists, naturopaths, and functional medical doctors who also use Nuzest.
Constance: So even when the product was different, you were able to leverage the same network.
Constance: Maybe let’s wind back a bit, because even if something is good, it’s not always easy to convince someone that it is. We can take Nuzest as an example: how did you win over customers with products that're new, unconventional, or hard to explain?
Scott: Within Nuzest there are two primary product lines: Clean Lean Protein and Good Green Vitality. The Clean Lean Protein is much easier to educate the public on, because all I need to say is this is a plant-based source of protein. As opposed to the story that I need to say about Good Green Vitality: this has 75 ingredients it's a complete nutraceutical, so they are all of your vitamins, minerals but there's also tocopherols, phytonutrients, adaptogens… As soon as I start talking like this to a regular person in the public, they’re gone! They don't care!
My entry point is with Clean Lean Protein. And once we've built the trust and we have their attention, we start a slow conversation to educate them about Good Green Vitality: what's in that product, how they can be replacing a multivitamin with this. And that evolves over time to a point where they’ll try a sachet, and then they’ll either like it or not, and they’ll become a customer.
If I had to build an audience again from scratch, the complexity of the product matters a lot. If it's a commodity that I'm bringing in, which is catered more towards a totally different niche market, of course I can't leverage the same people in the same way. So, I really try to stay very focused about who I am speaking to, what may interest them, and how I can deliver value back to that person. So I’m not trying to sell all things to all people at all times. And I think that’s a flaw of a salesperson. I really try not to speak about what is irrelevant people. Because, in sales and developing a company, you need to stay relevant to what people are interested in. Otherwise, if you lose interest, you lose everything.
Constance: Scott starts with a simpler product and leverages that success and branding to earn trust and buy-in for a more complicated product. Recognizing how your audience gets value from your product, can help you find the right go-to-market.
Let’s fast forward to your current venture with Nordic Labs. How do you now introduce high complexity products such as a diagnostic test, to your customers?
Scott: I'm not medically trained, I'm not a biochemist. So most of the tests within the Nordic Labs portfolio, I don't know a lot about. But the people I’m presenting to know all about it, and in fact they’ve been using tests like this for 10-20 years. All I'm trying to do with Nordic Labs is expose this group of people to a better system and a better way of ordering, to help reach their International clients. They already know how to use the test, how to interpret the test… I don't need to pitch the test, I am pitching the solution. There is a very distinct line for me between what a Salesman is, or what an entrepreneur salesperson is, and what they need to know, and who your client is in what they do know. And I give the total respect to whoever I'm talking to. I always want to acknowledge: it's highly likely they know a hundred times more than me.
Constance: I think that you sell in a very interesting way. What most people do is that they try to be the expert to convince customers of a new, better way to do things. But you're not trying to be the expert at all, you’re giving that respect to your customers as a way of building rapport.
Scott: So that’s a good point that you just said because, if you’re trying to be the smartest person in the room and it becomes a competition, what you’ll find is that you’ll turn off a lot of people simply ‘cuz of ego. By bringing yourself down a level- and I often open a lot of my meetings saying, look: I’m not the guy to call if you need help on the analysis of this. But we have world-renowned physicians and practitioners who can absolutely help you. And I’m more than happy to be the person to get the right answer to you.
If someone knows a little bit or someone knows actually what they talking about, then they can tell very very quickly that you're just talking nonsense"
and that's the worst position because now you've lost trust and credibility. Don't fake it till you make it"
Constance: You don’t fake it till you make it? Isn’t that what lots of people say, that got them success in the first place?
Scott: you don't need to fake it if you're honest with people and just honest about your capability. I really trust in what I'm selling, and I've done a lot of due diligence around it. A lot of people in the space have said amazing things so I have enough validation points to really get behind it, from other experts.
Constance: Right, okay.
Scott: So it doesn't matter that I'm not the expert. What matters is that I'm sufficiently happy that what I'm pushing or what I'm bringing to market for this company is really amazing.
Constance: So if a business owner wants to reach that stage that you’re currently at, which is having that business on autopilot, and able to take on new opportunities, knowing your goals is one thing, but must you do on a day-to-day basis?
Scott: So there's a great book by I think it's Brian Tracy called… I think it's ‘A View from the Top’. He has a great line saying: “Don't work in your business, work on your business". Yes as a solopreneur you’re going to be in your business most of the time, but if you never work on your business you’ll never grow.
you have to just stop focusing once a month on knocking something off on an automated level. Because if you don't, in this day and age, you will not make it because smarter people than you, or other business owners are doing this. And they're putting in a thousand hours of work a day for the same amount of time that you're putting in, because they have the automations running. You can’t keep up. You either are embracing technology or you will die. And it's going to happen quicker and quicker.
So don't be Kodak
Constance: Kodak famously refused to embrace digital for the fear of it cannibalising its analog business, and showed complacency when even other competitors in their analog space started to out-perform them. Scott shows how important it is not to shun away from new industry changes, and how embracing these changes can eventually bring more success for your business. An open mind, and forward-thinking mindset is a powerful superpower for the business owner.
Scott further highlights how today’s small-business landscape has evolved, and how business owners can greatly benefit from it.
Scott: I actually wrote an article while ago and I call it the Great Gatsby effect. And what small business don’t understand for the most part, is that if you started your business 20 years ago or 15 years ago, to pay for the tools that you can now get for free, or for $5 or $20 or $100 a month, you would have paid tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to build those tools.
Right now The Great Gatsby effect is that you can put together using various plug-ins: a system that makes you look like a much larger company. And it's so amazing. I have a process around this. So every 6 months I'll commit one day to my phone, and then every 6 months I'll commit one day to my apps and plugins. And I'll spend a whole day reviewing all of the new apps on my phone, to see: are there any apps that I'm missing out on, that really can speed up my productivity or make my life way better.
I think there's a lot of apps and plugins that small businesses are not taking advantage of. And I really try to stay open to new technology. Whenever someone comes to me with an idea, I really want to try it, because you’ll never know what's going to really be impactful, and what may not be impactful.
Constance: Do you think that it’s that fear, that you might break something. Or that you might waste all your time not able to get somewhere, with that new widget or plugin, that stops business owners from trying new things?
Scott: There's no Silver Bullet I think a lot of SME owners are sitting there saying “but if only I had this client” or “if only I had this app. It's not true, like, that total Pie in the Sky thinking. It’s the Ikigai principle: it's 1% Improvement everyday across everything. So it might be 1% on one app today that gets you a little closer.
So for me with Konigle, one of the features of the app because it's extremely comprehensive, but the thing that I found really helpful is the consolidation of all my competitors in real-time pricing movements to one place. Often I’m asked to report back what a competitor is doing in this space. Instead of having to repeat a process, this is one automation which is right there for me: I log into the app and have that information on my fingertips"
Constance: We’ll be back with Scott, after a word from Konigle
Konigle is a business management software which provides workflows to help you manage your inventory, sales orders and customers, seamlessly. Konigle is built with a focus on improving your profits. We recognize that well designed workflows across multiple business functions are what enable small businesses to scale. Visit konigle.com/diso to get a free demo on how it works.
We were discussing about how, many small businesses reach a choke point where scaling your business becomes really difficult. I mean, there’s many reasons to this, but how do you see technology playing a part in bringing their business to the next level?
Scott: As a business owner there will be a size of your company where it becomes very very clear that a complete change needs to be done. Because, if it can be all-encompassing within 1 architectured system, it is always going to work better than a blanket which has been stuck together with a hundred other bits and blanket"
One of the guys I listen to is Jason Kalkanis. And what they talk about a lot is, businesses reach pivot points of certain amount of employees or certain size, where the systems that could be put together, for that size of a company, or the management required, won't work for the next size. I'm not sure what these particular sizes are, but let's say it's a thousand person company going from 1 to 1,000 people, everything changes. Going from 1 to 1000 staff, which is a great big company already, if you haven't changed everything by a thousand people, you're not going to 10000. Because your systems are going to break.
When you outsource something, I assume the people who you’re outsourcing to have made those investments on your behalf, and they are running the industry-leading systems. So, by Outsourcing, you’re maybe paying fractionally more, but that decision exponentially pays for itself. You get more team for less money you get a bit of system for less money
Constance: Here on the podcast, we believe that doing in spite of is that superpower that business owners harness to achieve incredible things. What enables you to do things in spite of, and how has it impacted your entrepreneurial Journey so far?
Scott: The one thing that I really believe strongly in, and is and has worked for me; whether it was correct or incorrect, was something I read in ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu. Basically in one of the principles in that book, he outlined that in order to get your best out of all of your military might is that: when you land on the beach of your enemy, you need to burn the boats and the bridges that got you there.
And what that really saying is that, if there is no other way out than to make it work, funny enough a lot of the time you'll find the solution. And that has worked for me again and again that when I'm in a seemingly impossible situation, focus on the one thing that will turn around and the one thing that will turn around might be more sales as the answer. Or the one thing that will turn around will be Chase your money in. But there will be one thing, and you put everything you have behind that one thing.
If you’re half in and half out of an idea, then you won’t have the ability to commit completely. So burn the bridges, burn the boats, and just keep charging. But don't charge blindfolded. You need to make sure that you're very precise about where you’re charging to, what is the strategy and what is the plan. And it will normally be one thing you need to fix in order to turn it all around.
And you will know how to fix it in the future, so the next time that problem happens, you're not going to be worried about it because you know exactly what to do.
Constance: Before I let you go Scott, what would you say is a non-negotiable value for you in your business, be it Nuzest or otherwise?
Scott: My non-negotiable moves toward the person who I'm doing business with, like my stakeholder, and trying to really add value to the stakeholder. That might be a customer; I need to really make their experience to the best of my ability, the best I can. And ideally you want to be giving way more value out than you're receiving, and for your own personal life you want to be feeling very valued in your life, because value is attached to gratefulness and gratefulness is attached to happiness.
Constance: Thank you so much Scott for coming onto the podcast today. There were some really really awesome things you were able to share, I'm very grateful for your time. I'll see you around later yeah?
Scott: Thank you so much Constance for your time today, that was a really cool chat. And I look forward to listening to all your podcasts.
Constance: Scott’s working on new amazing stuff all the time, so if you’d like to reach out to him, we’ve linked his socials on this episode’s page on doinginspiteof.com.
If you’ve got questions for us on this episode, you can reach out to us on our twitter or Instagram @doinginspiteof. We look forward to hearing from you.