Oscar: I would like to welcome to the studio today Yosef Martin CEO of Merchandise Liquidators welcome.
Joe: Welcome, thank you for having me.
Oscar: Welcome, on behalf of EO South Florida very much like to congratulate you for earning your ranking on the Inc. 2014 Fastest Growing companies in the United States it’s Fantastic.
Joe: Thank you very much.
Oscar: Yosef, tell me a little bit about merchandise liquidators?
Joe: Merchandise liquidators is basically a liquidation company were we buy overstock merchandise most of the drug stores, department stores that you see in the United States and our goal is to bring it back to the secondary market below the wholesale cost.
Oscar: Interesting, what got you involved in liquidation? What made you launch your company?
Joe: I was a full time international student and I ran into the opportunity in 2003, by the end of 2003 I liked the concept. I was trying to open before a wholesale company and I found out that if I’m trying to open a wholesale company or retail company I am very alone in the food chain because anytime you try to bring anything in the price for the wholesale product would be very close to the retail cost in Walmart. I want to distinguish myself and still come up with a good deal and I found out that the only way to do it is to get access inventory out of most of the stores that I’m competing with and that was basically the idea.
I started looking into that space and I can say that by 2004 January 2004 I was already solid with the website running a business.
Oscar: It’s fantastic, what is your long term vision for your company?
Joe: Basically I focus more on short-term goals which are going to be for the next 12 months. The long-term for me is always to dominate the space out of me and the only way for me to acquire this is basically to look at the short-term which is going to be the next 12 months. It’s more like, in the sense where everything is important when it comes down to business so my goals can be a bit different than what you would hear. My goal would be for this year I want to make sure that accounting wise everything is going to go to the next level.
Marketing wise I want to change the strategy and completely move to [web 2.0 00:02:35] … This is basically the way I break it down into small goals with one object that I will dominate the market having a bigger buying capacity than everyone else to make sure that I can bring to the market a better price than anyone else.
Oscar: Interesting. When you launched your business did you have a business plan prepared?
Joe: I actually didn’t. I can say that I didn’t have all the 101 strategies to open your business. I just saw a good concept and I figured if I get something that go for a store for a dollar and I can liquidate the same item for ten cents, all I care about is finding the buyers. My only object … I knew that the deals are good. The only way was how can I make people hear about me? That was the only thing and I had to basically break my back for a year to figure out the concept how to bring people into my website.
Joe: Once they came in that was easy. The deal was there I kept most client up until today.
Oscar: All of your clients are generated from web traffic?
Joe: Primarily, but in time if you go to main chain stores trying to buy their goods they’ll just refer you to me it also work now. People like to keep their suppliers private but there is always throughout the years those people that would still share that information and they will bring in but primarily it is from web traffic.
Oscar: Early on how are you able to establish credibility?
Joe: For me I was a very straight forward with clients. I started the business from my one bedroom apartment. I basically invited where I told them exactly the way it is I never told them that I have something I don’t. I told them, “I have one bedroom and if you want to meet me come and talk” I think that personal connection was making a different. Once I moved into a warehouse every time when I had sales people I would explain to them the importance of inviting people over to check the merchandise that worth a thousand words and if you come over and see the goods by yourself.
Oscar: You told me earlier that you have key partnerships as well in terms of National Retailers that you do business with?
Joe: I deal with most of the stores, most of the chain stores in the United States. I cannot disclose the names because no retailer want to have their name affiliated with the salvage industry but I can tell you that the largest company the largest retailers in the United States are basically selling me their goods anything that was getting out of the shelves by the end of the season or whatever they had left in their storage. Some items will return back when you return your item or the customer returns on the daily basis we’re getting truckloads moving them in. I would just like to say that approximately 80 percent of our goods are going directly or indirectly outside of the country.
Oscar: Interesting. How do you distinguished merchandise liquidators from your competitors?
Joe: When you going to do liquidation space it’s a very broad space and many opportunities, what I’m trying to establish is not a deal of a particular company that got out of business and I would liquidate their inventory that would be the … This is what most people looked at when it comes down to liquidation, someone that got out of business or a company that brought inventory from China. Something was held in custom the retailer rejected the merchandise and then their trying to liquidate that. I’m trying to establish a consistency for my client. My goal is not to look for those one time deals as much as it is to get contract of … Out of a retailer that on a daily basis they would have to remove [UPC 00:06:44]out of their shelves.
Getting it in, categorized it and bring it back to my vendors, my clients. If you have clothing store and you like a particular line of clothing I will try to consistently bring you on a weekly basis the same clothes versus the out of liquidation companies that would focus on getting you clothing that were coming out of round production or so on this is something that I’m trying to do consistent.
Oscar: Interesting. I like yourself I’m also an entrepreneur for more than 25 years and there’s been more than one time where I’ve woken up 3’o clock in the morning in a cold sweat trying to solve a problem. I’m curious what keeps Yosef up at night time?
Joe: Currently I have a five months old that keeps me awake and I wake up three times not once. I can tell you that it’s true that for me when it comes down to business one of the worst things that can happen is to find out that your site is down or something from that nature. That’s basically would keep you awake especially when primarily your exposure comes out of the internet. I actually think that it’s … This is where I decided after years to make sure that I wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore and I can say that it made a big different.
I decided not to worry about incoming traffic to that extent by creating repeating clients and owning contracts not worrying about … Once you own a contract you bring the merchandise in and you worry about selling it later you have a established already a major clientele even if your site is down because of whatever reason your clientele are still here. You might not get some new ones for the next week, if that happens and I went down for a week but you established already your clientele. You have an incoming business coming consistently people are depending on you and that was the only thing that was important for me because seriously the only thing that was difficult for me was the website.
If anything happen, the server crashed, I couldn’t sleep since 2009 I grew to a point that it was less important.
Oscar: How did you finance the beginning of your business?
Joe: In the beginning I was flipping the goods. I didn’t own the goods.
Joe: I always get it’s in the back of my head that I can only get so far as a broker. I was lucky, I was able to get contracts without being forced to buy the goods upfront as it is those days. Back then in 2004 it was a bit different and now since the [resale staticity 00:09:37] in a market when it comes down to that space they get out of people coming in telling them they will buy it out, you don’t need to deal with brokers and I’m one of those people that changed. I already had … In 2007 I already had a warehouse and I was able to facilitate merchandise in my place but in the beginning it was just flipping.
Oscar: Interesting. You’re one of the fastest growing companies in the country, how have you been able to finance the growth of your business?
Joe: It was just falling into place the way you structure the merchandise. The business was buying the goods that I know I can sell. Some of them I knew I can hold off and sell it a little bit slower but it was important for me to keep it because it would come on a weekly basis and it wouldn’t take too much space, cosmetics. But some other goods I figure out that the only way for me to do it was to move it fast with a very low margin. Very low margin because it’s very bulky. I had to be very careful on what I buy, I did receive a large credit line but I never had to use it.
Oscar: Interesting. What do you think the toughest decision you ever had to make since the launch of your business?
Joe: It’s really moving from one warehouse to another. That’s one of those decisions where you’re moving into a larger space it’s a bit scary. Then you move you grow over and then you move to another space you’re taking another warehouse that’s something makes you stay at night. Location is important and nobody want to move out of a place that you show some growth in but after a while you overcome this place and you need to move to … That would be the toughest decisions.
Oscar: Yosef you’re a very inspirational entrepreneur. Very hardworking, I’m impressed. I’d like to make an investment in your company. I’d like to invest 1 million dollars, but I’m curious how would you deploy those funds?
Joe: First of all when it comes down to money of that nature, I can displace certain goods that can be purchased with aggregated data how long will it take to move it since we have the facility we can go and store it. When it comes down to operating or fulfillment we wouldn’t have to worry about that but it would be towards goods.
Oscar: Interesting. If you had magical powers for just a couple of minutes and you have the ability of going back in time to day one of your business, all the way up until where you are today. You had the power reverse any decision you made what would you change?
Joe: Wow, I think one thing I would change is not trying to do so many other things aside of the liquidation right off the [back 00:12:44]. When I began the business, I did well when it comes down to search engine optimization and I was growing very fast and I was excited. Then I took off and out of businesses little businesses that would generating some income out of the search engine optimization, affiliate programs. After a while since our site wasn’t consistent as liquidation since the liquidation gives you the opportunity to grow for multi-million dollar business very fast I decided to shut it off.
That period of time that it took a while to understand that I need to go and make sure I dominate the market in that industry before I can put my head into another business. That particular time was slowing me down and if I had to make a decision was would have been that particular moves and wasting time and money into the wrong verticals.
Oscar: Interesting. You still have another minute of magical powers, instead of looking back let’s look forward. Let’s go forward 5 years, how do you think the business climate will change and how it will affect your business?
Joe: Business climate is very dynamic especially in liquidation. I can tell you that in certainty that in 5 years from now if you’re going to look at what would have to date actual deals that we have today it would probably be significantly different than what we’re going to see in 5 years. As it comes down to many of the retailers are trying to liquidate the items themselves. My goal for the future is to go in the back end and help retailers in reverse logistic process where it comes down to scanning and deliver data in return of allowing me to go and move more of their goods in consumer to bring it back to the secondary market.
Oscar: Interesting. What one word describes Yosef Martin as an entrepreneur?
Joe: Only one.
Oscar: Only one.
Joe: I would say, I am [hoping 00:14:57] honest.
Oscar: Nice. In your opinion are entrepreneurs born or they made?
Joe: I was made. I wasn’t born. I think I was made.
Oscar: How do you define success?
Joe: It’s a very personal question. When you ask for the success i don’t see it necessarily earning dollars, and not how much you have … What is your net worth? It comes down to self-actualization. If you’re feeling fulfilled with what you’re doing and you feel that you accomplished something that you wanted to accomplish that is a success. It can be translated to capital it can be translated to connections, many things. During a marathon everything is … It’s going to be personal but I think it’s self-actualization.
Oscar: Very interesting. If you have a problem that you’re trying to solve or you’re brainstorming a new idea or you’re looking for guidance of some nature, where do you go to for that today?
Joe: That’s my favorite question. I am a big believer of connections knowing the right people. For a long time I was gathering group of friends strategic or just good friends and I like to consult with them, currently at the businesses that I have I have a board and we sit down and we discuss over there and that was something that I wanted to do for a long time to have my own board. When I have a board it’s important for me that everyone in that board can be strategic.
Oscar: Interesting. I’m sure you’d agree with me that great leaders are always learning. What is the primary source of your knowledge?
Joe: Talking to people either in different space my space, I’m a fan of learning from other people’s success or failures.
Oscar: As a leader, how do you make a mark in your business or in your community?
Joe: Coming down to business you’re making a mark when everyone feels you. You go in aggressively and everybody knows who you are. Growth is important, critical mass is important. It doesn’t have to be regarding liquidation because in the liquidation I will have most of the contract and everybody knows that Yosef Martin has the contract for so on. You make a mark by being very known and so on but in general once you have a particular business that all your competitors feel you, that’s when you make a mark. In your community it’s important to understand that you only going to make a mark by people knowing you most do the positive way.
Because if you’re coming in a negative way people would remember you they’ll forget about you until they hear your name again in the news. Once they trust you to go and educate people and you’re going to help other entrepreneurs in your community they’ll respect you. Then you’ll actually bring yourself a sense of responsibility to grow your own business. It’s going to have to … You’re going to agree with me that once you coach them once you being [damental 00:18:42] for someone else you feel that you cannot fail on your business now.
Joe: You’re going to think outside of the box, you’re going to go back to basic with whatever you just taught your people it’s going to bring it to you back.
Oscar: Sure. Give me an example of something that you’ve done that’s incredibly cool or fun that you’ve done either personally or professionally?
Joe: [Love of 00:19:09] certain fun things I mean just one. One of my favorite part in owning a business is traveling and associating with other people that’s the bottom line. Yes it is as fun as everyone think, they say how great it is that the business owner can travel all the time? You’ll hear people tell you, it’s getting old and I’m tired but no it’s not. I love it, let me travel all day long, I love it. I love associating with people.
Joe: I love travelling all the time so that it is.
Oscar: Excellent. If I say the words trust and respect, what is that mean to you?
Joe: If you trust first of all yourself into achieving a particular goal you’ll be able to trust other people to do the same. Respect something that you have to earn.
Oscar: Final question, let’s pretend for a moment that you wake up tomorrow morning and merchandise liquidators is no more what is the next business that you’re going to launch?
Joe: I have other businesses, so I don’t have to launch another one. I like the E-Commerce business. I love it. Especially subscription I do own one in that space but it’s something that I had a passion for, when we spoke back you asked me what would be the one thing I would do to reverse going forward, if I had to go forward and to start all over again I would definitely go into a subscription based small business that’s depended on E-Commerce and mostly social media. That’s extremely fascinating and I think in Business Insider they actually categorized it as the Business for 2014.
Oscar: Interesting, fantastic. Yosef it is been an absolute pleasure having you in the studio today. Again on behalf of EO South Florida congratulations for your amazing success, we hope to see you again in the future. Thank you so much.
Joe: Thank you very much.
Oscar: Be well.