Sometimes doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing is the right approach. That is what McKay learned when he started his business, Five Star Commerce.
Five Star Commerce is a marketing and consulting service for brands selling on Amazon and Walmart as third-party sellers. McKay found a niche in his pricing model by offering hourly pricing rather than a flat monthly fee like most agencies. This strategy has helped separate him from the competition and provide extra value to his clients.
McKay learned the skills needed to start this business through the jobs he held before deciding to freelance his services on the side. “I was thinking, ‘Okay, this will open up my schedule, and then I can find a business I can start,'” McKay says. It then became clear there was demand, and with the skillset already in place, the business he needed to start is what he was already doing, just at a larger scale.
Not everyone can just get up one day and decide to start something new. McKay recognized his current life situation allowed him to take the leap and let go of his nine-to-five-job and consistent paycheck and lean into a new path. While living in his sister’s basement with no wife or kids, McKay knew financially he could take the risk.
McKay recognizes that he could have stayed at the job he was at and everything would have been fine. He liked the people and the clients he worked with, but he would have never reached his full potential. “When I was in school, I was always the vice president, right? I was never actually the president,” McKay says. “When I actually did something that was like, ‘Okay this is my thing. I am the guy in charge,’ it unleashed a bit more of my full potential that had never been used, in a lot of ways, as a person, definitely as a business person. You all of a sudden become something greater than you have ever been before.”
Looking back, McKay feels that everything in his life led him to where he is now. Before starting Five Star Commerce, McKay had always wanted to work for a big company and wondered why anyone wanted to start something on their own. That changed for him after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad. One concept from the book, “Some people will work every day for a business they will never own,” really stood out to him. He recalls starting an internship at American Airlines. The first day, he saw all the cubicles going on and on as far as he could see, and he realized right there that everything he had been working toward was not actually what he wanted to do.
McKay believes what allowed him to see such great success so soon was his ability to listen to his customers. “Don’t go out and say, ‘I want to start this type of business or that type of business.’ Listen to the market, and let them tell you what type of business to start,” McKay says. “I didn’t know our hourly model would be our niche; I was just listening to our customers.”
Even when the status quo in the industry was to do the opposite of what he was trying, he recognized a need in the market, and it opened new doors that may not have opened if he did things the standard way. “Everything I was reading was telling us not to do it. And that ended up being an advantage, by just not doing what everyone else was doing. We got customers specifically looking for us because we were doing it differently,” he says.
McKay isn’t shy about recognizing that an increased income is one of the biggest factors in what keeps him going, but he also loves the opportunity to build a team and help his employees grow.
For McKay, one of the biggest downsides to running his own business is when he knows a customer isn’t happy. “When you are an employee, you can just push it off to someone else, but when you are an entrepreneur, you can’t do that,” McKay says. That’s why McKay tries to set realistic expectations upfront with customers and with his team. “The better you can set those expectations, great. But sometimes, they’ve got to learn a little bit on their end, too. Just don’t take it personally.”
When it comes to the most important parts of starting a new business, McKay says integrity is what has allowed him to be successful. Part of being a business owner is being able to recognize when you make a mistake and to learn how to fix it. “At least I know we are always doing the right thing as much as we can, and if there is an issue, I will be there and try to fix it. That’s how I can sleep at night and be energized about what we are doing,” he says.