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Riches in Niches – Return on Podcast Ep. 22 with Michael Elliott

Riches in Niches - Return on Podcast Ep. 22 with Michael Elliott

The following is a transcript of Episode 22 of Return on Podcast, the show where we help e-commerce sellers improve their ROI in business and in life. For more episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel or listen on Podbean, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.

Tyler Jefcoat:
All right. Welcome to Return on Podcast, where we talk about the experiences, the obsessions, and the habits of the most successful e-commerce entrepreneurs. I’m your host, Tyler Jefcoat, and I wanna welcome you to this episode of ROP. In my entrepreneurial journey, guys, I’ve started two companies. They’re in very different industries, but there’s a crucial shared thread between these two companies that I want to talk about in today’s episode with my friend.

My first company that I started, by the way, was a company that was laser focused on serving Alzheimer’s patients that had specific home healthcare needs. Sold that company in late 2017 and started Seller Accountant, and the unique thing among accounting firms about Seller Accountant is that we only serve e-commerce brands.

And obviously our topic for today is the mantra, “there are riches in niches.” We’re gonna talk about riches in niches. I’m gonna bring in my friend, fellow accountant, fellow nerd, Michael Elliott. Michael, how are you doing buddy?

Michael Elliott:
I’m good. What’s up? How are you, Tyler?

Tyler Jefcoat:
Man, life is full. Life is good.You and I share some strange affinities. We both love being around our families. We both like chess. We both decided to start super weird accounting firms that only serve like 0.00001% of the population. So man, thanks for joining the show today, dude. Can’t wait to talk to you about this stuff.

Michael Elliott:
Yeah. Happy to be here. I mean, it was a strange beginning to our relationship, what chess.com, I think is how it all happened.

Tyler Jefcoat:
It’s so funny. Yeah. It’s like how many people do you see that obviously have a like CPA or accountant handle on their chess.com? By the way Michael’s a pretty good chess player. So that’s a, that was the beginning. We were like wait a minute, we own accounting firms. We should chat.

Michael Elliott:
It’s a whole nother level of nerd. When your username on the chess platform includes the letters CPA.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Yeah, I definitely that’s – ’cause a lot of people might have like their favorite – and there’s a level of nerd for those too. A lot of people might have their favorite Star Wars character or whatever, you know, I’m wearing a Groot shirt. Maybe you have something like that. No, Michael definitely has the CPA tag in his handle, which is again, you learn a lot about a guy, right? So listen, dude, I wanna talk about your entrepreneurial journey for a minute.

And then I wanna dig into this idea for anybody, whether it’s a service or a product based business, what it looks like to develop a niche that allows you to carve out a real place in the marketplace. But let’s start with you. You’re an accountant, you’re a CPA. You’ve probably had an adult job or two in your life.

And then at some point you decided, I know what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna start a business and not just a business, but it’s gonna be an accounting firm that allows me to live in an RV and only serve RV parks and camp parks and that kind of thing. Like what in the world was going on in your life where you decided to start this business?

Michael Elliott:
Yeah, a lot of pain and suffering. But actually my, I really have not had many adult jobs. I pretty much outta college, I worked for one firm for a couple years and then ended up going back to purchase a firm I worked at in college. And so starting about 15 years ago, I’ve been effectively self-employed.

But the pain and suffering started when I took ownership of this small accounting firm in the middle of the country, outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and we served everybody. And when, I mean everybody, I mean literally everybody. I had 700 clients, they were in a hundred plus different industries, and I was just burned out.

And if you know anything about the tax world, the compliance world, you know that January through April 15th is just to bear and that’s all I did. And so I was working 120, 140 hours a week during the, during that season. And I remember sitting there one night, my wife’s like, “Are you having a heart attack? I’m pretty sure you’re having a heart attack.” Because your body can only take so much coffee and so many 15 hour days before, you’re just, you know, you’re just done.

And so I’m sitting there owning this business, making really good money but just suffering. I had a horrible lifestyle, horrible, you know, just, I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. And then the complexities of a tax code with regulations that’s a hundred thousand pages and applying that to one industry is hard, but applying that to a hundred different industries is, frankly, it’s impossible.

And so I honestly, I remember distinctly, I was out at a client, this woodworking company, very nice sized company, and they did wood flooring and things like that. And I remember coming back from one of my woodworking clients, and I remember sitting there in my office after getting back, and this is mid-March, and I said, I feel like a fraud because I’m trying to apply something so, it’s such, such a huge tax code and I’m trying to consult in this industry and I’m like, I feel like a fraud because frankly I’m not the expert in this industry.

And I remember sitting there going, I know that somebody else out there can do a better job than I can on this because I can’t possibly know all a hundred industries. And that really started me on a journey of trying to discover what it might look like for me to specialize in one particular industry. And I’ll be honest. It was a long journey.
We started the process out, and I’m friends with a lot of other CPAs and accountants who have done other niche businesses so I’ve seen it work successfully, and so I had some models that I was following after. But I decided I was like, okay, let me pick out a couple of industries and start pursuing it. So the first one that I picked out an up and coming industry. So this is back in 2017, 2018.

And I was like, alright, I’m gonna go all in on e-commerce. Ironically, right? Tyler’s so e-commerce because I was like, hey, obviously it’s an upcoming, it’s a great growing industry. There’s money in here for consultants. We need it. So I started getting into it and I realized the complexities, and you didn’t pay me to say this, but I realized just how complex that industry really was from an accounting perspective, from inventory management systems and costing and all of these things that, to be honest with you, are ways that an accountant could make money.

It was a good business to go into, but I just decided I wasn’t excited about it, and for whatever reason, I was like, hey, not only do I want to go into something specialized, but I wanna be excited by it.

So I’m not a very smart guy. And so I ditch that idea. I go to idea number two. And idea number two is alright, I’m gonna look through my existing client base, my 700 clients, and I’m gonna see, do I have a concentration? Meaning have I naturally been growing in a certain area? So I did the math and I realized, I was like, hey, I’ve got a lot of attorneys that I work for.

So it took me a grand total of about, I don’t know, three days of trying to start working with attorneys to realize I hate these people. Like I cannot work with these people. And so I mean, there’s a lot of money in that industry. Attorneys do a lot of great work, but I literally could not stand the attorneys I was working – like I just didn’t – I had a couple I liked, but the majority of them, I was like, I really don’t wanna work with these people.

So I was like, all right, perfect. We’re at square one. So my wife, who was my business partner, she kind of ran our ops and admin side of things. So she and I sat down and we’re like, all right, we have got to figure out, if we’re gonna do this niche thing, we just have to do this. And so this is early 2018. We’re sitting now looking and we go through our client list, and one client stands out to us, and it’s a little, it’s a little KOA that’s that was somewhat close to us in Northeast Ohio.

And it was the only campground, I’d never worked with another campground in my previous 10 years. But I was working with this one and my wife and I both picked it out as our favorite client. And so after thinking about it, we’re like well, that’s interesting. Why is this one our favorite client?

What ended up happening, and what we discovered later on is, the reason we both picked it as our favorite client is we just really enjoyed being there. It was one of our few clients where we used the service. I wasn’t using the service of my attorneys, I wasn’t using the service of some of my doctors. I wasn’t using the service of some of my retailers or alpaca farms or whatever it was.

I wasn’t using those services, but I was using the service of this campground, and I loved it. And then to take it a step further, my wife and I both grew up camping. Like our families were camping and like our idea of a good time at you know, in 2018, our idea of a good vacation was to pack up our kids and take ’em out and do some tent camping. For us that was interesting to us.

And so we said this is really interesting. We have no concentration here, no idea how to get started, but we really enjoy this. Let’s do some research and try to figure that out. Now I can walk you through that kind of the research process but I can stop, I can stop here for a moment if you’d like before we go on.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Yeah no, but I think you, I think again, applying to any industry, first of all, I applaud you for really – that’s hard. I think for those of you guys listening to this, it’s not easy saying no to 699 paychecks to choose the one that you like, and, you know, there’s a process that obviously Michael, you and your wife went through to do that. But I think for any business pick a, pick anything. I mean, was, again, I was in the home healthcare business. We tend to serve everyone also.

And I think our one accidental stroke of genius was just that we realized if we could do really good work for the narrowest sliver of our market, we were gonna be excellent enough to get to choose the other clients if we wanted to, but we’re gonna choose the ones that we can actually be the best in the world at.

And you’re talking about feeling like, feeling like a phony when you’re, when people look to you as an expert, you’re trying to coach someone and you really don’t know what you’re talking about, that’s a pretty awful feeling if you give a shit, if you care about the people you’re working with. And so I would just, I empathize with your journey so much, because it’s exactly where I felt when we were starting Seller Accountant. It’s like, I actually wanna have a – I mean, it’s really two things, to be honest with you.

One is I wanna have a snowball’s chance in hell of being the best in the world at doing this thing. So I’m gonna have to pick very few things. I’m gonna have to focus. And then the second thing is honestly, I was also working 15 hours a day and was a, I’m not saying you were a terrible husband, dad. I was a terrible husband, dad, and wasn’t around ’cause of my first company, and I wanna do better, and I wanna be married. You know, I wanna enjoy my kids when they’re young.

And so I can be a little bit strategically lazy if I get great at understanding one customer versus having to be good at understanding a thousand different customers. So let me pivot the question a little bit here and let you wrap on this side of it.

So I mean, I think, I just wanna hear your thoughts on this. Like juggling an ambitious mindset with wanting to be present with your family, what has your business taught you about your thoughts on that area?

Michael Elliott:
Yeah, I mean, probably inherent in what I said, but maybe not as explicit as it could have been is the fact that like when I was working those 15 hour days and you’re sitting in bed at night and your wife’s asking you if you’re having a heart attack, inherent in that is I was not, I was barely around for my family. And I honestly didn’t know if I was gonna physically, like I, there were times where you work so hard that you’re like, I don’t know if I’m physically gonna make this or if this is gonna change me physically for the future.

And, you know, as a dad of young kids and I’ve got an amazing wife, I was like, hey, I have to make a change because of my family. And so that played a significant role. Now, there are ways to balance it, right? I’m not saying you can’t have a successful business and a successful family life. But for me at that moment, running the old business I had, I was definitely choosing kind of business over family.

And so when we set out to create Camp and Park Accounting, so that’s the name of our firm, when we set out to create it, we created it as a lifestyle business. So we created it with a goal and a direction that we were gonna go in order to maximize return on our time so that we could allocate more of our time to things that we enjoyed.

And the business that we developed was developed in such a way so that it, it involved our family and it allowed us to do things as a family that we weren’t able to do in our other business while still providing a living for it. So it’s a tough juggling act and one that, you know, frankly, You’re never gonna be perfect at it. I think anybody who says they’re perfect at it is probably lying.

But I believe that having a niche business has allowed me to better have, to have a better family life because I’m not having to devote as much of my time to try to managing so many different industries and so many different types of projects. I just have more time, and my time is more valuable. Yeah, that’s how I would answer that question.

Tyler Jefcoat:
And this is actually how I think our discussion here, ’cause I mean, some people that would normally listen to my podcast would be like, why are these two accountant boys talking about starting practices? But I think the way this dovetails in is because of the like power of the internet, frankly, right? This thing, the internet that when you and I were kids, Michael, like really wasn’t a thing yet.

We have the ability now to build remote teams and to drive deep down the long tail, right? Like we don’t have to – I was reading a book about this the other day, where like in the nineties, if you guys remember those days, in the nineties, you went to Blockbuster and Blockbuster had the top 5% of titles in every category of movie.

Now you can go to Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu or whatever, if you’re like me, you pay for all of ’em. You don’t feel great about it, but you do. And like you can see any number of a million titles that would never have fit in a Blockbuster because the internet allows us to go way down the long tail towards you know, the ability to have ubiquitous access to content.

So if you think about the same thing in a business, because I can sell a niche product on Amazon or through a Shopify site, I now don’t have to have the infrastructure of a $20 million company to offer my customers what they want. I can drive really deep down a narrow niche, and I can choose, thankfully, to be great at fewer things which allows – and this is what you and I are both testing, Michael, is this hypothesis. I bet that it’s possible to make a great living and still be present as a father or a parent or a spouse. And I don’t know that my grandfather would’ve thought that’s possible. I mean, if you think about a couple generations ago, like it may have been a dichotomy that generation wouldn’t thought was even possible, but I think the internet gives us the power to do that, and that niche could be in a services business or in a product based business.

Yeah, what other thoughts do you have about that?

Michael Elliott:
Yeah, I would say so there’s a book. I mean, I’m sure you’re referencing the book, I think that’s actually called The Long Tail that was somewhat influential, in my previous reading laid some of the groundwork for my belief in niches. But I think being in a niche business, regardless of whether you’re on the e-commerce, like in the retail side or you’re on a service based business, being a niche business allows you the opportunity to be, as you mentioned at the start, the best in the world at this. And when you’re the best at the world at this, I feel that it makes your time more valuable, meaning as a service provider, my billable rate, so to speak, goes up the more narrow my niches, because I am more and more of an expert.

And so what that allows me to do is that allows me to leverage my time better and have to spend less of my time, meaning if I have, if I know what the income is I have to earn, just doing the math, if my time is more valuable, therefore I have to spend less time in my business, which gives me more time to pursue the other things in my life to balance my life like my family.

I always joke, I’ve been pitching niches to every accountant who will possibly listen to me. Whenever I’m consulting another accountant on niches, I constantly tell them like, hey, throw a niche out there that you think is reasonable. And they get real nervous because they’re like, oh man, I have 700 clients, and I’m gonna go from 700 down to 30. And they get real nervous about that. And almost always, I tell them that their niche is too broad because I think that being in a niche is actually one thing.

And so for our business, for example, so we’re in the campground and RV park space. And your audience may or may not be interested in this, but there’s about 10,000 campgrounds or RV parks in the United States. We only serve in the US ’cause we’re on the compliance side. So there’s about 10,000 campgrounds or RV parks.

And so you might say, wow, Michael your potential client base went from. You know, 30 million small businesses to 10,000, but I would tell you in that, out of that 10,000, only a very narrow chunk of those 10,000 would I actually bring on as a client. My niche is incredibly small, privately owned campgrounds and RV parks doing between half a million and $2 million in revenue.

That takes my 10,000 down to maybe somewhere around 500 to a thousand. And you might say, wow, that’s really narrow, but I know exactly what the needs of a campground or RV park owner from $500,000 to $2 million is. I know exactly what their questions are. So we do midyear planning with our clients. And so we do that starting July 1st and, you know, runs to the end of August. And I have a lot of conversations with campground owners, and I’ll just tell you, all of those conversations are the exact same. Like they don’t, they almost don’t differ at all. In fact, sometimes it gets boring for me because it’s just the same conversation over and over again.

But here’s the thing: it’s not boring to them. Because I’m able to tell them exactly what they need to know, because I’m not distracted by all of the other things. And so when I think about this, and if I was to roll this forward to an e-commerce, someone who’s selling a product, I think the same thing goes. In my opinion, you’re really better off finding that exact thing that you can sell, that you can manufacture, that you can market better than anyone else in the world, add value in that product.

Because I guarantee you, with the internet today, no matter how narrow that niche is, there’s a market for that. And then in the e-commerce side, you can scale that a lot easier than a services firm. Like I’m somewhat capped at one niche, right? Personally. But in the e-commerce side, I think you, you have the ability to add different business lines and expand your niche out and have other additional niches. But I, I believe it just gives you so much flexibility if you can say that you’re the best in the world at whatever it is that you’re doing. It gives you so much flexibility personally and professionally.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Completely agree. Because the, even thinking about like an Amazon seller, maybe a million dollar Amazon seller out there, everyone in the world has access to the same data coming out of Amazon, but if I’m an absolute expert in understanding what she looks like, my client, the 38 year old, whatever, it’s a recent mom. I don’t know, whatever the actual customer looks like – maybe it’s me, by the way. it may be that I’m building products that like, solve problems that I have. I’m gonna have an unfair competitive advantage when it comes to the hardest parts of running an e-commerce business.

One of them is forecasting. I’m gonna have a little bit more intuitive sense about how much I gotta buy from my Chinese suppliers. I can deploy my cash a little bit more effectively, and I can therefore be more profitable or more higher ROI on that cash transaction. And then the second thing is I’m gonna be a little bit more intuitively dialed in. ‘Cause again, everybody I mean, and it’s not just the Chinese by the way, but there are a lot of like kind of hacker groups out there that come in to try to take over listings and sell stuff a little bit cheaper.

What they can do is they can pull up a tool like Helium 10 and just grab the data out of Amazon. What they can’t do is intuitively understand what your customer is feeling right now. And I think the implications for our industry, Michael, are really how crucial it is to slow down. And by the way, you mentioned the book The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, I’m a huge fan of that book.

Also go read it. If you haven’t guys we’ll put it in the show notes as a link. Another book that we’ve mentioned on this show a few times before is Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller and this idea of if I started with my hero, which is the person that I’m selling to, that I’m trying to serve, and did whatever it took, if I gotta fly where this person lives and take them to lunch, if I’ve gotta go get a vote, whatever it looks like to actually understand, not just anecdotally, not even just with a random survey, but somehow have a robust understanding of what they need, and then I just obsess over delighting that person. If Michael’s my customer, I’m gonna spend all of my energy delighting Michael. What does it like to make his life better?

I’m gonna be able to carve out that niche and I’m gonna be able to score. There’s only two, I believe there’s only two, eh, maybe three unfair competitive advantages. Maybe the third is capital. If I’ve got unlimited cash, I can buy my way into most markets, but the, I don’t have unlimited cash options are execution, which is why I’m a big fan of Traction, EOS for anybody trying to scale a business, and then having an intimate understanding of my customer being the one that we’re talking about today. And so if you’re looking for a way to outcompete, get great at knowing your customer is the point.

Yeah. Any other question before we keep moving on here?

Michael Elliott:
Yeah. So I would say, you know, if you’re considering pursuing a niche, you know, a lot of times the concern I have from people is they say, hey, I’m not an expert. So almost always, when I tell, when I pitch to my other accountant friends or other business owners, and I say, you gotta niche, they look at me and they say I’m not an expert in that.

And honestly, I think that’s everybody though, right? I’m not sure that you’re ever gonna be an expert in anything on day one. And there is a certain element of fake it till you make it. I mean, I can distinctly remember – remember, I had one campground as a client, one. And when you have one client, my ability to understand the industry is almost zero because I don’t know whether they’re, if what they’re experiencing is a personal problem or it’s an industry trend. I’ve got no clue.

And so I distinctly remember sitting there, again feeling those same feelings of hey, I feel like a fraud. But as you mentioned, Tyler, you just really have to, if this is what you’re gonna go into, you really have to double down and find out exactly what the problems are that are being faced by the people you wanna serve.

And so what we did, campground industry’s a little bit more old school than e-commerce, we went to trade shows. And I know y’all have trade shows in the e-commerce space too, but I literally went to trade shows, and I stuck a booth out, and goodness only knows what those conversations sound like, but I was actually there to not sell but to listen and just to hear what the issues and what the concerns of the clients were, what the other vendors were selling.
I wanted to hear what the room sounded like, the buzz in the room. I wanted to hear the trends, the keywords, what are those things that keep coming up? And I’ll tell you that information was invaluable. I can still remember, we have some marketing materials that I had from when we first went out there, and I told my wife, I was like, this stuff’s a joke.

Like I was like, we were trying to offer these services. I’m like, we didn’t have a dang clue what we were doing. But it didn’t matter because as we just continued to get a higher level of understanding of our customer, of the industry, we were better able to know what we could offer them to serve.

And it’s the same thing in e-commerce. Like, if you really sit there and try to understand what your consumer is really after, you’re gonna be able to grow and scale your business really effectively you know, over time. So I couldn’t be, I couldn’t, I honestly, the idea of being in a niche, like I could not speak higher of it. It is definitely the way to go in any business.

Tyler Jefcoat:
And our, by the way, our process was the same. So just, I don’t know if that’s a repeatable thing that we can do necessarily in e-commerce, but for the healthcare business, we got 30 target customers together for an over the top focus group weekend. They named the company. They’re the ones that built the essence of the brand, and it was exactly what you described. It was asking them questions about what are their pain points, what are their anxieties, their concerns.

And then for this company, because that had worked so well, I didn’t know any better. That was the first time I started a company, and it really was, it was my original business partner’s kind of idea. I was like, oh, that’s a great idea, buddy. But it worked, and so I did it again when I started this company, and literally that was my only goal for month one. I sold the other company. It’s funny. I took my wife and two daughters camping. That was my two day retirement.

Showed up into an office with a laptop and a cell phone and was like, all right, I’m starting another business here on the next Tuesday. And that was my entire goal for month one was to call as many potential customers and just listen and ask ’em questions. I printed fake business cards just to go to two trade shows and be like, hey, at some point I might be an accountant in this space. What’s bugging you? And I think people do resonate with that authenticity.

And again, for e-commerce, there are tools, like there are tools like whatever, PickFu and stuff like that, where you can actually do A/B testing, which which images actually are liked by your customers better, or something I’ve mentioned on this show before, you can have your virtual assistant go into Amazon and scrape all the content off the listings and build you a word cloud of what words people use when they love your product and what words they use when they give you the one star review.

And I just think it’s important to not forget that part of the business. And I love it, man. I really hope that everyone will build a niche, ’cause it is fun to actually get through that awkward adolescence of not knowing the niche and then emerging and realizing, wow, there may be like 10 people in the world that understand this kind of finance like I do in e-commerce.

And the kind of the same for you, Michael. In fact, with Camp and Park, it actually might be like you and like, I don’t know who else, so I can’t think of anyone else. So by the way, if anyone owns a campground there that’s between half a million and two million a year, Michael is your guy. He’s got you covered.

Michael Elliott:
Yeah, no, I was gonna add that the other benefit of, the flip side of knowing your customer that I would add as a benefit is actually knowing who’s not your customer. I think this is regardless of the, what business you’re in, but it is a really good feeling to be able to say like, hey I, I joke, and I always tell people, like I ain’t for you. And it’s really easy for me. I can now tell 99% of people, like I can’t work for you. And that is a really good feeling because I don’t have to try to please everybody.

And when you’re, if you’re an e-commerce shop that’s selling too many products, and you’re trying to please too many people and pulling your hair out because you’re trying to please too many people, you might find that a niche helps you relieve some of that stress and pressure because you’ll realize that you don’t want those customers. There’s a very specific subset of people that you wanna serve, and to me, that’s also just a huge benefit.

Tyler Jefcoat:
And you mentioned this earlier, Michael, but just, you just made a comment that just brought this – I was talking to a CFO client this week in the e-com space, and this comes up a lot when it comes to, oh, should I expand to the EU or UK for selling my products? Or should I go from just being a marketplace seller on Amazon to maybe opening up my own Shopify site?

And I think one of the most important things that you do as a CEO is to deploy your resources as efficiently as possible. And so my mantra, the drum that I’m beating as a voice in the industry is exactly what you just said, Michael, which is, if you have crushed your current niche, Amazon US, I’ve got it. I’ve maxed out, and I have the resources to either hire or buy my way into Europe or UK or wherever else I might be going from a marketplace standpoint, then the answer is an unequivocal yes. Yeah. I’ve got to go somewhere else and expand.

But if I’m gonna be exiting in the next two years and I haven’t maxed out my current product or my current marketplace, the only thing that expanding my product line does, unless I’m careful, is it distracts me from focusing on what I’m good at, and I never get great at anything. I become you know, halfassed at a whole bunch of different things that I’m doing. And so I think that’s the cautionary side of this is be careful when you’re hesitant to cull your catalog or your sales channels because you love ’em. These are your babies.

Be careful when that hesitancy hits you. Make sure you push through that because I think focusing on what you’re great at is the best chance to deploy those resources well and make a living doing this. All right, dude, let’s talk about something fun for a minute. You like sports, you’re a chess nerd. Anything you wanna say about those things or anything that just brings you joy in your life that isn’t accounting?

Michael Elliott:
Yeah. You know, I love sports, and I’m an uber competitive guy, but as I’ve been getting a little bit older, you know, that competitiveness seems to lead to more and more injuries. So I play sports less now than I used to. But, you know, I, and chess has always been a hobby. I started playing chess tournaments when I was much younger. I was a way better chess player when I was like 10 years old. But I was playing a lot of chess tournaments at 10. And so that hobby comes and goes as I, it had just peaks and valleys.

It tends to be during my busy season, I jump on chess because it’s an easy kind of way to kill my brain off at night. Right now it’s actually, it’s baseball cards is the sports route that I’ve been going. There’s a very interesting market, and as a, as an accountant and a math guy and just a marketplace guy, I love, I’m back into trading cards as a lot of people that are in their mid thirties are. So that’s the current hobby, been spending more money than I should and more time than my wife likes, but, I’ve been getting into sports cards. So that’s been the fun recently for me.

Tyler Jefcoat:
I love it, it’s like, like uh, sorry, honey. But yeah, no, I totally get that. So in 1993, Michael, I was like 10 or whatever, and we collected every collectable Major League baseball card my dad and my brother and I that year. And then the like base, the darn baseball strike happens like that next spring. And we completely lost momentum, but so many of my friends now are just like you, are getting back into, are you trying to buy like, whatever LeBron James or Frank Thomas cards and then go on eBay and make money, or are you trying to arbitrage these or what’s the strategy?

Michael Elliott:
Yeah. So at right now it’s a hobby. I’m calling it a hobby. My wife is more comfortable with that verbiage of hobby and not like investment. And as a entrepreneur, you probably know what I’m talking about here.

Like you gotta do it one step at a time. So right now it’s a hobby. Just like you, you know, I was collecting sports – I was born in ’87, so I was collecting sports cards in that early nineties, early to mid 90s. And you know, when I got back into the hobby, I’m sitting here going, oh man, I wish I would’ve kept all of my cards.

To be honest with you, if you had every one of those cards from ’93, you would have a grand total of $3.25 worth of cards. Like they’re completely worthless. But here’s the thing. All of my cards, I think my mother pitched them, but they’re all completely, they were all completely worthless anyway, but here’s what’s not worthless is the memories attached to those cards.

The other day, I’ve been buying a bunch of like retro packs of baseball cards, which are completely worthless. They’re completely, I’ve been buying ’em. And my, the other day I was like, I opened a pack of cards, and my wife hears me yelling. I think my kids are with me. My wife hears me yelling. And I’m like, you won’t believe this. I just got this amazing card. And she’s, oh my gosh, you’re gonna be able to upgrade house. This is amazing. She’s thinking I found like a, you know, like some Babe Ruth, or whatever. And she’s what’s it worth? And I was like, it’s like a buck 25 on eBay.

I was like, she was like, why do you care? And I was like, because I remember this card. So what the phase I’m in right now is I’m in the, hey, collecting the guy I used to collect, which is for me, was a Cal Ripkin, Jr., a short stop for the Baltimore Orioles. And so it’s collecting all of his cards, which are complete junk. They’re completely worthless, but they mean a lot to me. So we’re in that collecting phase.

I have a buddy of mine though who, he’s a wheeler dealer entrepreneur, like I am as well. And so he and I are scheming on how you build out a fund that you could get investors to invest in a fund that like bets on like big rookies and stuff in the industry. I doubt we’re ever gonna do anything with it, but it’s fun to talk about. So that’s what we’re looking at right now.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Oh, funny. So the thing that’s, I also find something nerdy to get into, and I have to be careful with Emily to be like, hey babe, this is probably just a phase, and it is just a hobby. This is not another business thing I have to start. The one I’m in the middle of right now because I have some buddies that have gotten me into this is just playing like a little bit of, just a little light, Texas hold ’em, a little poker across the table with some friends, and it’s so funny.

It’s so ridiculous, ’cause yeah, you know, if I’m gonna go grab beers with guys on a Thursday night and I’m gonna buy an appetizer, I’m gonna spend 35, 40 bucks. So going and having a $40 buy-in and generally losing my money is easy for me to justify, easier for me than for Emily, by the way. And I finally won. I’d lost three times in a row was terrible.

And I finally won this past week, and it’s because I’m also like, you know, I’m hypercompetitive, and when I do things that I used to do, I tend to get hurt. Getting to be hypercompetitive and not end up in the emergency room requires me to do something like playing chess or poker or whatever, you know.

Michael Elliott:
Are you playing over the table or are you playing online?

Tyler Jefcoat:
Yeah. I mean I got a little online thing, but mostly it’s just over the table. It’s just, we go grab a, you know, go grab some barbecue and hang out, a few of us every few weeks or so. It’s fun.

Michael Elliott:
I’ll tell you. So I love the idea of, I’ve always enjoyed a little bit of Texas hold ’em here and there. But I’ll tell you a real quick story. So I had a buddy back in rural Northeast Ohio growing up, and he eventually, this is probably about 15, almost 20 years ago when it was just, online poker was just coming online. And my buddy’s, I was like, what are you doing for work now?

And he is a little coy about it, but eventually he comes and shows me. He was playing online poker. But not only was he playing online poker, he was playing, he played 32 tables at a time. So he had rigged like a PS two controller up, and he was literally sitting there playing 32 tables at a time.

And I was like, how many hands have you played? And the number was in the millions, like straight up in the millions. And I was like, that’s it, I’m never playing online poker. I’m like, people like you are just gonna be taking my money. I’m like, this is –

Tyler Jefcoat:
So online, it’s a, there’s an app that allows you to, it’s like whatever for two bucks, a million chips and it’s not real money, it’s just chips. But I had a guy, a friend of mine in college named Brendan, shout out Brendan Jones. That was his thing, dude. I’m like this guy was one that like 1600 on the SAT, like super smart guy. And I walked into his apartment once and he was doing that where he was making a living.

He was putting himself through college, basically using his smarts and playing multiple games and just winning $5 hands here and there. And I mean making you know, five, 10 grand a month on a good month. I mean, really doing well as a college student, where I was like selling grass seed, making five bucks an hour or whatever.

I mean, it was different, but alright, dude, let’s pivot to the last section of our show. So we end the show each week, Michael, with this, we call it the ROP. We wanna guarantee people a return on the podcast. And so my question is, is there any professional or personal habit, hack, practice that you’ve really thought, man, if people take nothing else away, but to do this once a week or do this each morning, it’ll get ’em farther, faster towards their goals. Anything like that pop into your head?

Michael Elliott:
Yeah, I would say one of the things that I did from pretty early on in my career is try to find the areas where I’m weakest and really go all in on those areas. And so for me, public speaking was something that I was really bad at and scared to death, still am to this day. But that was just one specific area where I was like, hey, I’m scared to do this. So I would just put myself into as many positions as possible to have to do that. And I also realize, so that’s one thing I would suggest to folks is just put yourself, make yourself do things that you’re not comfortable. I think it only leads to upside.

The other thing is really I always would put myself in the position of anything that I wanted to learn, I would learn it with the ability to teach other people. And so that actually goes back into the public speaking side. So I would pick topics that like I really wasn’t qualified to talk on, but I wanted to learn about it. And when you’re having to teach someone else how to do something or explain it to just something else, you really get to be pretty confident in it.

And so I would say that’s a second kind of hack, and if you’re able to do those kind of two things consistently, worst case scenario, you’re gonna improve personally at least slightly. So I, those are two things that I’ve done in my career that I think are helpful.

Tyler Jefcoat:
It’s beautiful. Beautiful. I love it, Michael. That’s a good word. Hope you guys will take that away. And we’ll kinda land the plane with that, guys. So Michael Elliott, CPA, you can find him online. But CampAndParkAccounting.com. We’ll make sure the website is in the show notes. I mean, listen guys, somebody out there knows an owner of a KOA or one of these other campground. Send him Michael’s way. He’d love to – actually, he’s got a waiting list, but he’d love to potentially help them if he can. Michael, any final words for the group before we close shop for the day here?

Michael Elliott:
Just the riches are in the niches.

Tyler Jefcoat:
I think that’s where we gotta leave it. Have a great day, guys. This has been Return on Podcast. Again, I say this every week, but Michael and I don’t take your time lightly. We don’t take it for granted. Thank you for listening. If this has served you, please share with your friends, and until we see you next week, hope you kill it. Take care.

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