When I started selling on eBay, I would have loved to sit down with somebody and have that person teach me everything. I wanted the whole package, all the systems. I wanted to know what to say and I wanted to know what to do. I found some good books, some interesting reading material spread around the Web, and some great tutorials provided by eBay itself. There was nothing, however, that said to me, "here's a proven model for success."
You can walk into any McDonald's anywhere, and it will look and feel just about the same as any other McDonald's. All the Big Macs taste the same, all the Chicken McNuggets taste the same, it all looks and smells the same, and each and every store has a consistent stream of hungry consumers walking in and out every day. It is the ultimate example of the franchise concept. It's a proven business model. When you open a McDonald's franchise, you step onto a moving platform, a ready-to-go business system that tells you, step-by-step, how it works. If you follow it, you will be successful.
This book is peppered with insider strategies and tips that are based on my real experiences on eBay. It's not necessary to go through the long and steep learning curve that I've gone through. Of course, we'll all make some mistakes along the way, but the more we can shortcut those mistakes, the more assured we are of success. I learned the hard way, but I was also lucky enough to come to eBay from a successful career in business. I've had experience helping both seasoned businesspeople and total newbies to the business world. Likewise, I've helped people with no Internet experience whatsoever both expand their current brick-and-mortar business to the eBay platform and start entirely new businesses. Here's what I've learned from all of this advising:
How I Got Here in the First Place
The first real job I ever had was selling kitchen knives for a direct-sales company during my senior year at Tulane in New Orleans. It was an in-home sales job, which meant I had to start out selling to my family and friends. My family is in New York, and my friends weren't ready to buy kitchen knives yet, so I had to figure out another way to get started. I began selling to my professors, and they eventually led me to their friends, acquaintances, and family, and so on, for several degrees of separation. They were good knives and they had a lifetime warranty, so you could put them in the dishwasher and dig holes in the backyard with them if you wanted. With the lifetime warranty, all you had to do was send in your old ones and the company would replace them, at any time, for as long as you live. Before the year was over, I could count nearly the entire New Orleans Saints squad on my roster. I had become the number-one sales rep in a company of thirty thousand.
Over that summer, I decided to skip my law school plans and join the company full-time as a manager. Ten years and thousands of paring knives later, during the height of the tech boom in the summer of 1999, I left direct sales and moved to San Diego to work for an Internet start-up. If you're at all familiar with the history of the Internet, and the fate of most online businesses, then you probably already know the eventual outcome of the path that I was now embarking on.
I worked for almost two years, day and night, for almost no pay. Luckily for me, I did receive a healthy share of stock options. I was caught up in the stock market Internet craze and I actually had begun counting down the days until the IPO and the future valuation of my stock options. I was rich -- in my head. I was making plans about where to live, what cars to buy, and which vacations I would take first. I could remember staying up late with friends fantasizing about what it would be like to have millions and millions of dollars.
The company into which I had put so much dedication, hard work, and effort finally filed for its longawaited IPO in March 2000. The company had waited and waited and waited until the time was finally right to go public. The road show was over. The funds were raised. The investment banking company gave us the goahead with a strong approval rating. And then -- can you fill in the rest? The market crashed. The Internet bubble burst, and the IPO never happened. The company filed for bankruptcy, was sold for pennies on the dollar, and my stock options, hundreds of thousands of them, burned gloriously in my ersatz fireplace.
I was at a crossroads in my life, faced with an uncomfortable situation and a difficult decision to make. Where do I go from here? How do I pick up the pieces and start over? I had lived the last two years basically on my savings, since my income at the start-up was significantly less than the market value for the position I held. This was my own choice, of course, with the remainder of my compensation being in instantly worthless stock options. At the age of thirty-three, I found myself out of work, $80,000 in debt, and down about $300,000 as a result of the crash of the stock market, not counting the millions the stock would have been worth. Although my situation was all but unique, there was no doubt that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time ...
The foregoing is excerpted from How to Buy, Sell, and Profit on eBay by Adam Ginsberg. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022