Entrepreneur Dan Riley has 3 successful businesses: DBD Marketing, Trade Show Joe and his eBay business, iBuyz.
His powerful branding strategies have played a significant part in his success.
I learned to embrace my learning difference as a gift, not a curse. I learned it was all right to learn differently
It used to be that when people thought of branding, they thought of huge companies like Coca-Cola. Today, it's something every business owner needs to work on. But how do you do it?
In this 2-part series, Riley shares his tips. Being dyslectic, Riley starts by telling us how his learning challenge helped him build his businesses.
Learning differently is a benefit
Schepp: Is it true your dyslexia has been a boon to all you've achieved?
Riley: This is totally a true statement. I consider my dyslexia a "learning difference," not a learning disability. I was diagnosed at 11 with dyslexia, and everything was more difficult for me than others. Eventually, I was sent to the DePaul School, which specializes in helping students learn outside the standard ways our country's schools teach.
I learned to embrace my learning difference as a gift, not a curse. I learned it was all right to learn differently.
I learned that many great thinkers were dyslexic, like Einstein, Edison, De Vinci, Woodrow Wilson and Nelson Rockefeller. Finally, I learned "multi-sensory" learning strategies. This involves incorporating as many of the senses (touch, sight, auditory) into the learning process as possible.
The next big thing
Schepp: How did you start selling online?
Riley: I have been an eBay account holder (buyer and seller) since 1999. I was working as a marketing consultant in 1999, providing marketing support to small- to medium-sized businesses. I saw the Internet's emergence and recognized this was the next big thing.
I decided to take the areas I worked in—event marketing, trade show presentation and point-of-sale merchandising—and package that as part of a website, www.tradeshowjoe.com.
…I met with vendors that sold portable trade show display structures, accessories and custom printed graphic solutions. I convinced them that the Internet was real, viable and here to stay. I asked to be set up as a distributor of their products and services. They agreed, and we were off to a new business model!
We inventoried the item, photographed it, researched what it was and how marketable it was, and then sold and shipped it
Recession sparks new venture
Schepp: Tell us about your current product line.
Riley: Tradeshowjoe.com is still a viable business model. We have clients in all 50 states, many with us since the early 2000s. We still market and sell the same basic things: portable display systems, lighting, flooring, carrying cases, custom printed table throws, graphic design and custom printing solutions.
In 2009, the economy was in a recession and my tradeshowjoe.com revenue fell. I needed to diversify to keep my business viable, so I started iBuyz Liquidation. I felt we were already selling online. We already had a commercial office/warehouse location, and we generally knew how e-commerce worked, so why not try to do more?
We launched ibuyz.com and started plugging into selling channels [like eBay, Amazon, Buy.com and Sears.]
I first specialized in freight salvage. I contacted many [trucking companies] and offered to handle, sell, and handle their overgoods liquidation, [or items that had been damaged, dinged, redirected, delayed or were otherwise undeliverable.]
I got access to all kinds of items, almost anything you can imagine. We inventoried the item, photographed it, researched what it was and how marketable it was, and then sold and shipped it. We did this on a consignment basis, splitting my revenues with the trucking firms, without using my capital to buy anything upfront.
This business model evolved, and I now mostly sell items that I've acquired wholesale, in bulk for resale. Lately, I've done best with closeout items in the world of licensed sports, items branded for teams of the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB, for example. We sell these types of products really well in the 4th quarter each year, and also as part of Daily Deal type selling models.
We do our utmost best to make each person who buys from us feel important
The right system
Schepp: Tell us about your eBay store iBuyz. How have you been able to achieve a 99.7% positive feedback rating with nearly 83,000 sales?
Riley: We do this by having the right system in place to operate. We are quite automated for a small business. We know where things are that are being sold, we keep up with the quantities on-hand, everything in our warehouse is barcoded and has SKUs, we expedite our shipping methods by using batch prints and automation, and we are committed to our customers.
We run a pretty tight ship and try to avoid pitfalls that can often get sellers in trouble with their customers in the first place.
We see the big picture, we may not always be right, nor do we truly feel that the customer is always right. However, we do our utmost best to make each person who buys from us feel important, we strive to really convey to them we care, we're reasonable and we're going to take care of you, our customer, wherever possible.
Schepp: Thank you, Dan!