$1M/Month – HVAC Tools Retailer Differentiates on Service and Education: Bill Spohn of TruTechTools

INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 40:51)


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Bill Spohn, Co-Owner of TruTechTools shares the story of building the largest niche tools business for HVAC technicians by focusing on providing a great customer service experience and educational resources for the customers.

Episode Summary

Bill Spohn is an entrepreneur who founded TruTechTools, an e-commerce business that sells tools and test instruments for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians. He started the company with a co-founder and bought out his partners, taking over the business as the sole owner. Spohn’s business is well positioned to benefit from the growing demand for energy audits and building performance products. He believes that his focus on HVAC and building performance tools and best practices is the company’s niche. Spohn discusses his experience as a remote manager and his team structure. He mentions that his team is mostly remote and works well together by defining their roles, values, and goals using the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). He emphasizes the importance of hiring people who want and have the capacity to do the job. He touches on the idea that their business may be AI-proof because people will still need mechanics and technicians to maintain equipment, regardless of technological advancements. Spohn talks about the evolution of customer acquisition in the online space and mentions his technical knowledge and customer-focused approach to problem-solving in the retail business. He is also involved in managing his business through weekly scorecards on an EOS system, which allows him to track metrics and respond quickly to any emergencies. Spohn has a vision for the company’s future, which includes expanding internationally with a goal to 3x its current size.

  • 00:00:00 In this section of the interview, Bill Spohn talks about his entrepreneur journey and how he started Truee Tools, an e-commerce business that sells tools and test instruments for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians. He discusses how he was frustrated with the lack of education and bridging of knowledge when using these products, which led to the idea to start the company with his co-founders. Bill bought out his partners and took over the business, and it grew rapidly in early stages due to being one of the first e-commerce businesses to sell similar products in the United States and Canada. The company deals only with brands that have a US office to keep things simple for fulfillment and communication. They carry over a hundred different brands, with about a dozen significant ones that can be found elsewhere.
  • 00:05:00 In this section, Bill Spohn explains his business model and value proposition. He emphasizes the importance of customer service and making customers happy. His company sells products for home and building environment, and offers technical presentations and product recommendations to help customers make informed decisions. Spohn believes his business is well positioned to benefit from the growing demand for energy audits and building performance products, and considers its focus on HVAC and building performance tools and best practices as its niche. After starting out as a distributor of products, Spohn now sells his products directly to consumers through e-commerce, targeting technical consumers who service the equipment in buildings people live or work in.
  • 00:10:00 In this section of the YouTube video on “Bill Spohn,” it is revealed that the idea for starting e-commerce came as a suggestion from a manufacturer. The father and son team started e-commerce as a hobby based on this recommendation, and Spohn mentions that BigCommerce is the platform they currently use to manage their website. They have an in-house team dedicated to maintaining the products listing and regularly updating stock levels on the website. For inventory management, they use a system called Erp Enterprise Resource Planning, which provides real-time inventory levels and helps with accounting and inventory tracking. The company does not sell products on Amazon but allows some of their products to be purchased there through third-party sellers. Spohn mentions that competition in the e-commerce world is high, but they agree with minimum advertised pricing policies to compete on other attributes of service rather than just on price.
  • 00:15:00 In this section, Bill Spohn discusses his experience as a remote manager and his team structure at True Technologies. He explains that his team is mostly remote, and they work well together by defining their roles, values, and goals using the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). Spohn also emphasizes the importance of hiring people who want and have the capacity to do the job. He touches on the idea that their business may be AI-proof because people will still need mechanics and technicians to maintain equipment, regardless of technological advancements. Spohn mentions that his son has been experimenting with AI in their business processes, specifically using it for data analysis and quick summaries of topics. Finally, he touches on his marketing strategies.
  • 00:20:00 In this section of the video, Spohn discusses the evolution of customer acquisition in the online space. Since the company’s founding in 2007, the landscape of digital marketing has significantly changed. Early on, Spohn and his team worked on Google advertising with the help of a third-party expert. However, now the bulk of their focus is on organic traffic from technical content, email marketing, and word-of-mouth (WoM) campaigns. They also partner with influencers to extend their reach to a wider audience. While many people would initially assume that WoM was the most effective marketing channel, Spohn makes the case for the power of technical influencers. These individuals, also known as industry experts or technical and business influencers, tend to have a highly engaged following and can provide valuable insights to potential customers. To manage fulfillment and warehouse operations, the company has a sophisticated system in place to monitor shipments, track inventory, and maintain efficient processes. They also have a 30-day return policy and have established a dedicated team to handle and manage returns.
  • 00:25:00 In this section, Bill Spohn discusses his technical knowledge and customer-focused approach to problem-solving in the retail business. He often helps customers find solutions to problems with the products they have purchased. Shipping is another important aspect of his business. He has several shipping providers including USPS, FedEx, and UPS, and they also offer a guaranteed two-day shipping at a small fee. In 2020, Spohn reduced his free shipping threshold from 99 to 49 as a response to COVID-19, but this resulted in an extreme increase in sales beyond the growth plan for that year. Spohn is heavily involved in managing his business through weekly scorecards on an EOS system, which allows him to track metrics and respond quickly to any emergencies.
  • 00:30:00 In this section of the YouTube video, Bill Spohn discusses his role as a Visionary in the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and his vision for the company’s future. He explains that as a Visionary, his responsibilities include defining the company’s vision, engaging with customers, setting up a correct company culture, and ensuring that the business operates in line with what he believes the culture should be. Spohn notes that the company aims to grow significantly over the next 10 years and expand internationally, with a goal to 3x its current size. He also mentions the role of trainers and the importance of meeting people where they are to help them understand and deliver products. Spohn concludes that he enjoys being an entrepreneur and does not believe the transition from a professional life to entrepreneurship was difficult. He has always had the idea of running his own business from a young age and drew inspiration from the companies he worked for and people he worked with. In discussing his entrepreneurial journey, Spohn acknowledges the role of out-of-body experience and the importance of learning from failures and mistakes.
  • 00:35:00 In this section of a YouTube video, Bill Spohn provides insights about his experience as an entrepreneur. He discusses the importance of paying attention to legal requirements and hiring professionals when needed, mentioning that he made mistakes in the past but has since corrected them. He also recommends Atomic Habits as a book for entrepreneurs to improve themselves, and mentions Innovative AI-based products as exciting. He recommends Calendly and Bitly for productivity, and says that Notion is a great e-commerce and tech tool. Spohn also talks about his inspiration from Brian Chesky of Airbnb, and gives advice to new entrepreneurs to never break the rules and to keep going until they hit the fence.
  • 00:40:00 In this section, Bill Spohn discusses his business advice and encourages people not to be afraid to fail. He believes that learning and growth come from taking risks and making mistakes. He mentions that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning and encourages people to find what works best for them. Bill also promotes his website and products, BTR Tech tools.com and True Tech tools.com, for anyone interested in getting in touch with him or purchasing his products.

People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Calendly
  • Notion

Book: Atomic Habits by James Clear

What You’ll Learn

Interview with Bill Spohn of TruTechTools

[00:00:08] Introducing TruTechTools and Bill Spohn
[00:01:27] Origins of the Business and Co-Founding Story
[00:03:05] Early Days in E-commerce and Market Presence
[00:04:06] Product Sourcing and Focus on US-Based Brands
[00:05:15] Unique Value Proposition and Customer Service
[00:06:24] Business Model and Focus on Education
[00:08:00] Industry Growth and Creating Better Environments
[00:09:30] Direct-to-Contractor Model and Technical Consumers
[00:10:30] E-commerce Inception and Technical Learning Curve
[00:11:15] E-commerce Operations and Website Management
[00:11:46] Transition to BigCommerce & In-house Team Structure
[00:13:17] Marketplaces & Direct Customer Engagement
[00:13:52] Competition and Minimum Advertised Pricing
[00:15:38] Remote Work Structure & Leadership Approach
[00:18:29] Industry Resilience and AI Influence
[00:19:07] Experimenting with AI in Data Analysis
[00:20:30] Marketing Evolution & Customer Acquisition
[00:23:00] Warehouse Operations & Return Management
[00:11:46] Transitioning to Big Commerce
[00:12:01] Webmaster Team & ERP Integration
[00:13:17] Avoiding Marketplaces like Amazon
[00:14:20] Minimum Advertised Pricing Policies
[00:15:38] Remote Work Structure and EOS System
[00:18:29] AI Proof Nature of the Business
[00:19:00] Initial Steps into AI Technology
[00:25:39] Shipping, Free Shipping Threshold & Uptake
[00:37:56] Notion’s Impact in Tech
[00:38:21] Inspiration from Brian Orr
[00:39:06] Best Business Advice: Keep Going Until You Hit the Fence
[00:39:38] Embracing Failure in Entrepreneurship
[00:40:07] The Uncertainty of Entrepreneurship
[00:40:29] Contacting Bill Spohn or TrueTechTools
[00:40:39] Wrapping Up the Discussion
[00:40:48] Wishing Bill Success in Future Endeavors

Rapid Fire

In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools

  1. Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response: Atomic Habits by James Clear)
  2. An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Artificial Intelligence)
  3. A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend/Productivity Tip. (Response: Calendly)
  4. A startup or business (in ecommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things. (Response: Notion)
  5. A peer entrepreneur or businessperson whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Bryan Orr Co-Founder and President at Kalos Services)
  6. One networking tip or building and sustaining valuable professional relationships.
  7. Best business advice you ever received (Response: Just keep going until you hit the fence.)

Interview Transcript

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey there entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to TrepTalks. This is the show where I interview successful e-commerce entrepreneurs, business executives, and thought leaders and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used. To start and grow their businesses. And today I’m really excited to welcome Bill Spohn to the show.

Bill is the founder of TruTech Tools Limited. True Tech is one of the largest online stores in the niche market of tools and test instruments for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians. They’re also the major supplier to a smaller market of technicians that do energy audits and assess building performance, including Indoor air quality.

And they primarily serve customers in the U S and Canada. And today I’m going to ask Bill a few questions about his entrepreneurial journey and some of the strategies [00:01:00] and tactics that he has used to start and grow his business. So Bill, thank you so much for your time today and really appreciate you joining me today at Drip Talks.

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Thank you for the invitation, Sushant. My pleasure to be here.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. So, yeah, let’s, let’s start with your story. I think I was doing a little bit of a research and reading about you. And you started this business, um, or co-founded this business with a couple of other partners. And then you kind of bought them out and went on your own.

So can you share a little bit about what were you doing before you got into this, like an e commerce business? Um, and how did you. Um, decide to start this specific, you know, selling these kind of

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: products. So I’d like to say the business was built out of frustration. Um, I worked for two manufacturers for 10 years each, making the kind of products that I sell today through e commerce.

And the frustration came and it was one of the co founders, uh, father and son, uh, [00:02:00] who We’re, we’re similarly frustrated. Like there’s lots of good things you can do with these tools. People just need to bridge the educational aspect. So they came up with the idea to start the company and started engaging me in discussion.

So I call, call myself co founder or they’re like on day two, perhaps not day one, uh, but I did actually help pick the name for the company. So it was pretty early on in the stages. Uh, and then after a while. Uh, I guess our collective advice was really good. The company started to grow tremendously fast in the early stages, uh, and we needed to provide some business structure.

So I took the leap of faith that I’d be able to continue to pay bills, make payroll, uh, and, and sustain off of it. And we’ve never looked back. And actually our, our founding investment was just under 20, 000. Okay. And we really, and we don’t have any other capital injected in the business. Well, was this,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: uh, you know, one of its [00:03:00] kind, kind of a e commerce business when you started, I believe you started in 2007.

Um, was, was the reason that you grew really fast in this was because there were no other e commerce businesses selling similar products.

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: I think it was, it was early on in e commerce. Um, and there were a couple other companies that started maybe even in like in the late nineties, uh, that were doing similar things, similar products, but my, my colleagues, my co founders and I had really strong connections by working for manufacturers, being supportive, uh, being recognized.

So sort of like, uh. You could believe what we said is true and there’s where the true comes from and true tech.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay And can you talk a little bit about your products? I mean Are these mostly from? well known manufacturers within United States and Canada or some of these products or brands are kind of, um, international as [00:04:00] well, or, you know, some of them are your own brands that you’re, um, selling on your

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: website.

Sure. So the, we, we deal only with brands that have a U S office. Um, one of my goals is to, to keep things simple, uh, for us to do fulfillment. So our customers can stay happy. And then we can be very clear about that. As we grow, we may expand beyond that. So every one of the brands is either founded in or has a major office in the United States.

Uh, and it also facilitates, um, having local inventory. Um, you know, on the domestic shores, as well as having somebody to speak with who’s like in our time zones that we can communicate with for any kind of issues in developing the business. So we carry 100 different brands, but I would say that about a dozen of them are significant.

And they can be found, um, almost every one of them [00:05:00] can be found somewhere else to buy. So we’re in competition as a store, but it’s the way in which we deliver that we feel is important. What is, what

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: is that way? Like, what is your, um, unique value proposition to the customer?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Sure. We. I like to say we don’t sell disappointment.

Um, we, we only, we, we, and any people say, what do you manufacture? What do you make? I said, we make people happy. Uh, we are very clear about describing the products. Um, The technical details, the application details and providing connection to supporting information to help you do the application better.

It’s sort of people may be familiar with the Simon Sinek video that goes way back into the late late 90s where he talked about the. The why the how, and then the what, so the why is we want to make sure that our customers, they have a purpose [00:06:00] for doing a task. The how is do they have are using best practices?

And if not, we’ll help you connect you with those. And then the what is we fit you with the right kind of tool to do in the right method. To do what you want to do.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So you’re so you’re basic. I mean, your business model is relatively simple. I mean, you’re basically, um, buying the products wholesale and retailing them.

But your value add is that education product and maybe the customer service aspect of it. That’s where the. The customer finds the most value is, you know, they’re buying from you. They’re getting that education. They’re getting the, all the documentation and so forth. And then, um, in terms of making the customer happy, I’m assuming you have a great customer service.


Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: And we, we spend time training them, getting them trained. Uh, and actually we do, we’re, we’re unique in that, um, we go to trade shows. A lot of times the manufacturers would appear at a trade show. [00:07:00] And not a distributor. We go to trade shows where we’re a distributor and some, and we get a lot of attention because we bring a variety of products, a variety of choice, and then all that underlying detail.

And because our backgrounds are technical, uh, some of the key people in the company, we actually do, um, technical presentations, uh, and get asked to engage. Uh, to communicate with the audience. And again, that’s where we teach that how aspect, we understand the why we help you understand the how, and then, you know, leave it up to them to decide where to buy, but usually we’ve developed, you know, kind of a trust that connects us.

So these products

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: are really helping the, um, the, uh, the people or the technicians who are working on like residential homes or, um, you know, business. Properties or, um, and I think, uh, in recent years, given the demand, [00:08:00] especially at, you know, Canada, there’s a huge demand of homes, um, is this industry like you see this industry continue to experience growth, like the demand keeps on growing for these kind of products.

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: I think we’re in a unique position because we sell the. The tools that allow you to, um, to and to create service and maintain the built environment. And that would be heating, cooling, ventilation, filtration, as well as even some of the, the, some of that subset products you talked about for building performance for energy audits.

It’s the shell of the enclosure. Uh, that’s the building envelope that we sell products that allow you to test the integrity and the performance of that. So we really. Our, you know, our goal is I should have it here in front of me. I’m going to pull it out here. Um, but we have, uh, our, our purpose is help technicians create better environments for people.

So we help [00:09:00] technicians create better environments. An environment could be like a refrigerated warehouse because that’s an environment that serves people. Uh, and our niche is supplying. HVAC and building performance tools and best practices together. And so that’s part of our tagline is quality tools, essential support.

Uh, we really, we keep on hitting that mantra often. Um, and your

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: business is completely direct to consumer e commerce, like you don’t have any retail stores.

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Correct. Uh, direct to contractor, that’s our consumer, but I, I, I call like a technical consumer. So literally consumers don’t buy our products. You probably wouldn’t.

Um, but someone who services the equipment in the buildings you live or work in would buy that equipment. So, uh, business to technical consumer. Yes.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: What was it like, I mean, you were kind of working with these manufacturers in the past and, you know, now you’re in the e commerce business, of course, you know, you’re selling specific products, but [00:10:00] when you had started out in 2007, I mean, e commerce was pretty new at that time.

What was the, where did the idea come that, you know, let’s start e commerce because this is, you know, this may be the way of the future. And. Of course, you know, e commerce, I’m assuming there was a bit of a learning curve, like who, who was kind of leading the e commerce business, uh, or the technical aspect of that.

And, and are you still involved in kind of the e commerce day to day aspect

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: of things? Sure. Um, actually it was the father and son team. It was, um, they, they went to a meeting with one of our vendors because my colleague Jim was working with one of our vendors. Uh, and And was in Germany and the, uh, the, the managers there said, you should start an internet company as a hobby.

And he heard that from two people and he came back with that idea buzzing in his head. And so he and his son started to put [00:11:00] together pieces and got me involved and that’s how it all got started. It really came at the suggestion of a manufacturer who perhaps had a vision about e commerce. Awesome.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, what has been your learnings in e commerce like your website?

Um, can you share a little bit about, you know, what kind of platform you’re using? And, um, How have you, I mean, I definitely want to ask you about marketing, but. Purely from an e commerce perspective. Like, uh, is it is everything in house? Are you working with like an external agency to manage your website?

I mean, you have a large number of skews. Um, how do you manage everything? Like, how do you ensure that your, um, stock levels are up to date and things like that? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Sure. So we actually just transitioned to big commerce. Um, just under Yeah. Uh, two months ago, uh, and that was part of our growth, uh, necessitated that from the platform that we [00:12:00] left behind.

Um, we have an in house team. Uh, we have a marketing department and we have, uh, two people that are dedicated webmaster and assistant webmaster dedicated to maintaining. The, uh, the product listing on the website. We also tie to, uh, another, uh, system call it ERP enterprise resource planning, uh, which for people not familiar to me, the basic thing is it’s accounting plus inventory.

So it does all your accounting, all your books, plus it keeps track of your inventory. So we have, uh, everything’s barcode read. into our warehouse barcoded out. So we know sort of instantaneous tracking of our of the assets of the products that we’re selling. And that also ties back into the website. Uh, and again, providing I talked before about clarity for the customer.

We provide real time inventory levels, so we won’t [00:13:00] sell any disappointment like you thought we had 10 trace at a time. And you tried to buy 10 and we only had two, we’ll tell you we have two. And if we’re out of stock, totally, we’ll tell you when we think we’re going to get them back into stock. So again, it’s just being very upfront, um, about delivering that information.

Are you on

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: any marketplaces like Amazon?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: No, we’ve steered away from those. Um, we feel like, um, with our, sort of our real human touch aspect, um, that would be lost. Uh, so there, you can buy some of the products we sell on Amazon. Um, many of them, in fact, but we like to do the The hands on approach, uh, and also, you know, have them in our inventory, ship them directly to the customer, know what’s going on and also be able to provide them with that connection between the why, the how, and the what.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Can you talk a little bit about your competition? I’m, I’m assuming there are many now, even in the e commerce. Well, [00:14:00] um, and for these kind of product where you’re the distributor, I’m assuming the manufacturer places some sort of a minimum or, you know, um, the minimum price instructions where, you know, it’s not, it’s not a competition.

To the bottom in between the competitors,

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: right? Things don’t go into free fall on price. There is minimum advertised pricing policies that have varying levels of detail. And I will tell you one thing. We love them. Because that allows us to compete on other attributes of service rather than just on the price.

And in fact, in some cases, a handful of cases, we’ve actually taken and drafted for our manufacturing partners map policies and given to them and say, please consider doing this because they. They they end up with, you know, a lot of griping and complaining from their various distributors that hey, these people are [00:15:00] violating.

These people are going way down in price. What are you going to do about it? Then they got to manage all that kind of conflict if they just set. A floor, uh, and they share it with everybody and they police it and it often self polices. Um, then they, then everybody can operate with their own best attributes.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Now, I did read somewhere that you, you work remotely or you’re kind of separated from like the rest of the team or something. Um, so how does that work? Can you share a little bit about your team structure? Is, is your team mostly remote? Like are people? Um, required to come to office. How does how does your team work?

And how do you manage as a remote remote manager?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Sure. Um, and I was on another recording recently and no, I’m not artificial intelligence. I’m not AI generated. Um, I’ve actually was one of the manufacturers I worked with. Uh, I started working from home in 1999. [00:16:00] Uh, and work remotely and sort of develop sort of habits and patterns and communication methods and a rhythm that worked really well for me.

And then when I had the opportunity to join True Tech full time, it was already established by that father son team near Akron, Ohio. And it’s like, just for me, I’m going to rip up three or four people and try to move this someplace. No, I’m not going to do that. So we just kept on building and growing there.

Uh, in. Uh, 2014, I brought in one of my loyal employees, Eric, uh, who’s a, who’s a general manager and he’s a co owner too. So he has skin in the game, general manager. He’s the one that’s there every day, maintaining the ship, if you will. Uh, so that, that’s how that works. And, uh, we’ve actually, uh, worked on, um.

In the last just over a year, we’ve worked with a system called EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system, which I would highly recommend. [00:17:00] Uh, it’s based on a book called traction, but there’s all kinds of offshoots from it. Um, and actually the thing that attracted me to it is it’s, it really helps leadership define the team, define the roles, define our values and define a 10 year plan.

Uh, a 10 year vision and then a one year plan and all of it exists on two pieces of paper So it’s really easy and succinct to compare Uh to get people on the same page literally on the same two pages about where the business is going So I think that’s been a real asset and also, um hiring people we can trust So, uh, there, there’s a concept, again, this comes from entrepreneurial operating system called GWC, gets it, wants it, has the capacity to do it.

It comes in other flavors, that same kind of sentiment, other business books, but I really like it. It’s like, you know, when somebody gets it and then when they want it, that position, their role, and they have the capacity to do [00:18:00] it. So, uh, that’s a real, um, you know, eye opener and clarifier when we’re communicating with people and hiring people.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. I mean, I’m thinking about, you know, you mentioned artificial intelligence and got me thinking, I mean, your business, it seems like as AI proof, because artificial intelligence is not going to affect. I mean, people are still going to live in houses. They’re still going to be, you know, these guys.

Need for these kinds of products, like technicians still need to go and work on, on the things

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: mechanical equipment will need to be in. And the thing is, we’re, we’re, I would say, it’s hard to say absolute anything, but we’re somewhat recession proof because either you’re building new construction or you’re maintaining existing equipment and both modes, you’re using the tools we sell.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Definitely. Yeah. Are you using any sort of A. I. Technology or [00:19:00] your team experimenting with some sort of, you know, A. I. Into marketing or the way you’re doing, you know, inventory management or

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: things like that? Um, not so much in the business processes at this point, but we’ve Just, I think the last two months and my son, uh, has been a real spearhead.

He’s young of my son. He’s younger than me. Right. He, uh, has been a spearhead and actually, uh, doing some coaching of our leadership team and using, uh, AI to analyze data, uh, to come up with, uh, sort of like target questions for a meeting, uh, to work on agendas and things like that, and I use it for, for. I use Bard a lot for like quick summaries of topics.

Um, you know, I need, I need to have some, some substance here to, to, to, uh, to boil down my argument too. And I can do that through Bard. I do that a lot. Awesome.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, I want to [00:20:00] talk a little bit about your, um, marketing and also fulfillment, but let’s, let’s talk. A bit about marketing. How do you? I mean, you’ve been around since I would say more than what?

16 years now. Um, how have you seen customer acquisition online? I mean, so much has changed. You know, SEO has changed. Advertising has changed. How do you, um, what does your customer acquisition look like? And how has it changed since

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: 2007? Um, so originally one of the father and son, Jim, uh, he was doing our online advertising with Google advertising.

That was really in the earliest ages stages of that. Um, Jim had to exit the company and we had we found a, um, a third party expert. To run our CPC and they have to this day, they continue to run it to this day. So they help us, uh, with [00:21:00] campaigns and, you know, spend economically to attract people, uh, from the, the Google ad standpoint, and then with our technical content, uh, we get a lot of organic traffic that way.

Uh, we also do some emailing, um, but we also believe word of mouth is really large for us, and then the new word of mouth are called influencers, uh, and we’ve teamed up, we think are probably almost a dozen of the, the top influencers who want to work with us. Actually, we’re starting to turn down people who would like to be an influencer tied to us, and it’s just starting to get a little saturated.

Um, but they do things, um, like have podcasts. Live streams, do blogs, some of them have apps, uh, some of them even have products. They, you know, technicians have built products of their own on their side. And, and we just try to, um, help first and expect less later. Not, not that they’re going to give us [00:22:00] less, but we don’t have a, there’s not a quid pro quo in every instance.

Uh, it’s, uh, really if our, If we go back to our purpose, again, those simple words, help technicians create better environments for people. Sometimes that means giving away stuff, information, things like that. And we, we believe in it. We have, we believe we’re good stewards for our industry. I mean,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I’m assuming like the influencers, whoever the influencer is in this kind of an industry, I would assume it would be a more effective marketing channel because, um, A random person would not go and follow that influencer.

I mean, anybody who’s following an influencer, like, they have to be into this kind of thing. Otherwise, you know, it doesn’t make sense. So, you know, if they’re following an influencer and they have a following, um, I think, yeah, if they talk about… You know, your company, I think definitely makes more sense rather than, you know, just a regular influencer.

[00:23:00] Let’s say I was talking about fashion or

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: something like that. Oh yeah. Yeah. And these are technical influencers for the most part, technical and business influencers that are in our markets. Uh, and then I do a couple of podcasts. So I guess I’m an influencer too, but I’ll also invite some of those influencers on my podcast to talk about what they’re doing.

So again, we have a lot of, um, information flowing back and forth. And, um, I’ll, I’ll just say people told us this. We’re hard to miss in our market. If you’re in a market, we’re pretty hard to miss.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s a great thing. Like if you’re hard to meet, I think that’s, that’s the best thing to do.

Um, can you talk a little bit about your warehousing and fulfillment and do you have, um, in this category, do you have like a high return rate and how do you manage that?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: So we do we bring products probably about 95 percent of our shipments, maybe even [00:24:00] higher come from our warehouse. So we bring products in.

Uh, we scan them as they go in. We put them away in location codes. Uh, and then we receive the orders and we pick and pack those orders and send them back out. Um, so there’s. And we’ve got some really clever people that have helped arrange our warehouse, uh, to make it very efficient. And we keep on modifying it as things change, seasonality, like we’ll put, uh, products that are really popular in the summertime that are big and heavy right near the door.

So they come in, a few feet, they get parked, and then they leave maybe the next day. A couple of feet, they’re out off on a truck. So we minimize the amount of motion that’s required. Um, with returns, um, we have a 30 day return policy and, uh, we actually, we were sort of handling it, uh, just. Ad hoc, whoever got the call took care of it.

Um, but we actually have established a returns manager, [00:25:00] uh, and a returns manager, uh, is, is technically oriented and he tries first to talk to the customer about why do you want to return it? We’re not going to say no, but why sometimes he can help them solve the problem and they’re not without the product.

They’re not. They’re not unhappy, whatever, uh, he can help. I don’t know statistics on it, but he can often help them get back to using the product. Might be something very simple that they missed. So we coached them in using the products. And then if it isn’t working out, if it’s a defect or, um, you know, he just, we get the paperwork going, get it back in.

You know, handle the refund,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: um, so you are shipping in Canada. Also, do you have a warehouse in Canada or you’re basically when you get the order, you just ship it out from the U. S. From the U. S. At this point. Okay. And, um, do you charge a shipping shipping fees? Um, do you offer like a certain day kind of fulfillment promise or something like that?

[00:26:00] Or is it, um, uh, How do you

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: do that? In the United States, we have free shipping when the order is more than 49, and we actually, we started off a few years ago at 99, then we dropped to 79 for competitive reasons, and then during COVID, I felt horrible that people couldn’t go out and shop, so we dropped it to 49.

And we’ve stopped there since COVID, since 2020. Um, and we, um, I forgot the other question there.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Shipping to Canada. Do you have, uh, you said you, you, you should directly from ship

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: from from the U. S. Yeah. Oh, and then the shipping guarantees. We are working with, you know, our providers are typical providers.

U. S. P. S. FedEx and U. P. S. Um, to implement faster shipping. Uh, and we even have created a new level. Of, uh, like a guaranteed two day for a small fee. Um, very small fee. It’s only a portion of the [00:27:00] shipping cost, um, but allows customers to choose that. And we’ve seen a lot of good uptake of that, um, because people then know they’re going to get it.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, I mean, I, I would assume, yeah, I think, I think your shipping policy makes a lot of sense because I think most of the products on your site are probably more than 49. Yeah,

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: there’s a handful below that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah. Yeah. And have you seen, like, did you see any uptake and, or, you know, increase in average order value when you kind of reduce your shipping, uh, free, free shipping threshold from 99 to 49?

Because what I’ve heard from other e commerce owners is like free shipping is kind of a huge driver of, um,

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: order value. Yeah, we’ll actually get remember was during covid. So we did it sort of as a measure to counteract. We did it very quickly. Uh, our sales dropped by 50 percent for about two weeks. Uh, but then it started to rebound.

And I think there was just, you know, people figured out what was going on. A lot of people, [00:28:00] um, Some states had work restrictions, others didn’t. Some of the wholesalers or bricks and mortar wholesalers had real heavy restrictions on entering their stores, you know, closing their warehouses. So we saw an extreme rise in our business that went beyond our growth plan for 2020.

And in 2021, it continued. 2022 started to level off a little bit, um, but it really helped us build our, our sales volume, um, year over year.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Well, the promise of an e commerce business, of course, is, you know, you can have the business running 24 seven. Right. So of course, you know, you have a large team and you know, everybody’s managing it.

And, but there is a definitely a benefit of, you know, to the owner is that you don’t have to be there, you know, or thinking about, I mean, maybe you think about your business all the time, but in what capacity are you involved like in a day to day basis? Like what? Um, what do you, what metrics are you kind [00:29:00] of looking at and what do you think about in terms of your business, um, growth over time?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: So we, we actually through this EOS system, I keep mentioning it cause that’s the way we run our business. We actually have a weekly scorecard and we have, um, there’s five other people and myself on the leadership team and they all have metrics. I don’t have any. Um, they all have metrics that they report on, um, and try to understand what, you know, what’s driving our business and how are those metrics doing according to our plans.

Uh, so I just, I rely upon those weekly meetings, um, to get my updates. Um, and then, you know, anything emergencies happen like power outage, internet outage, I’ll hear about those quickly. Um, but we figure out a way to resolve those, you know, within hours to days.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So would you say that your daily schedule right now is most like you have enough free time to kind of, I mean, you mentioned that [00:30:00] you, you know, today you, you’re coming from like giving a conference lecture or something, right?

You have enough time to be able to do like these kinds of things, like, you know, share knowledge, you’re doing podcasts, you’re doing this podcast. Um, So, I mean, in a way, it seems like you’ve kind of reached the entrepreneur’s dreamland, you know, the promise of entrepreneurship is, you know, you get to use your time the way you want to.

Initially, the entrepreneurs are, of course, working almost 20 hours a day if they have to get the business going, but, you know, this is kind of the dreamland where you have the time.

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Yeah, and I think I’ve really only started to appreciate that, but thank you for recognizing that it does seem to be that way.

Um, you know, some might, I actually have roles in the company and that the role in this EOS system is called visionary. I’m supposed to help define the vision. Uh, and. You know, be looking broadly across the markets, uh, and, you [00:31:00] know, listening to customers, engaging with them, uh, and then managing the culture of the business, setting it up to be correct culture and watching around the business to make sure we’re doing things that are in line with what I believe the culture should be.


Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And, uh, you know, I, I know you mentioned entrepreneurial operating system. Um, what is your vision for the next 10 years? Like, do you, where do you see your business? 10 years down the road. Is it, is it going to be the same business, but maybe more products? Maybe you’re growing internationally. How do you see your business growing or, you know, keeping itself competitive over time in the next 10 years or

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: so?

It, it’s hard to, to be specific, but we, we think we could three X the business from where it is now. It was last year was 25 million. And we think, uh, over the next 10 years we can hit 75 million. Um, and what I, I can see is there’ll be, will be perhaps have [00:32:00] more, uh, regional, uh, representation for our business, but then might come through trainers, um, and maybe not a store for products, but meeting people where they’re at literally to help them understand the how and the why, uh, and then the, the, what will be delivered, that kind of thing.


Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: you enjoy being an entrepreneur? I mean, you, of course, you had your professional life working as an employee, I believe. And, um, was there a transition for you into entrepreneurship? Um, do you, I mean, you know, there’s this old question, you know, are entrepreneurs born or made? I mean, to me, it seems like you are, you know, you, you got into it, um, after having a, you know, um, a large year of professional experience.

Um, how do you see entrepreneurship and what was it [00:33:00] difficult for you to transition into this kind of a role?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: I don’t, I don’t think so. I don’t recall it being difficult, um, because in the early stages it was, I need to make sure everything runs correctly in the small handful of employees that we have, helping them at every instance, just help, help, help set up systems, answer questions, solve problems, provide information.

So it was just that constant, you know, business building of being involved so much in the, the daily, uh, aspects of the business. Um, And I think I always had the idea like from a teenager that I wanted to run my own business. I had no idea what it would be. Um, after I graduated college with an engineering degree, I felt my business will be real, the future would be related to energy and it really is, you know, it’s the way energy is used and consumed inside homes and buildings is what we, we help to prepare for and, [00:34:00] um, but I, I just sort of.

Watched and took mental notes along the way of things I liked in the companies I worked for, the people I worked with, things I didn’t like, and then tried to use that matrix to make decisions on a daily basis as I was responsible for things. What would I like to see do if I was in that person’s situation?

So I do a lot of out of body experience. Um,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: in every entrepreneur’s journey, there’s always mistakes made, lessons learned, failures. Um, what has been your, you know, one or two big failures or, you know, lessons learned, um, that, that you think you, you could, I mean, that, you know, you could have benefited from it being avoided and, you know, what can other entrepreneurs learn from your mistakes or failures?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Sure. It’s sort of like not understanding your role in the marketplace. Like at one point we [00:35:00] thought we could man, we could manufacture a better product, especially cause two people came to us that had this idea, but they were actually, we found out later they were stealing ideas, but we funded them and it ended up that, uh, they just ran off with the money.

So, uh, just sort of like not understanding our role in the marketplace and then getting, I’ll say, you know, at least mentally greedy, a little bit greedy with the situation, like we, we can do it better. So we, you know, we, that’s helped us, um, you know, that’s one, another one is, is not paying attention to all.

Uh, you know, the specific legal requirements of doing business, uh, we made a couple of mistakes along the way we’ve since corrected those mistakes, but in that case, it’s like, either, you know, can you figure it out on your own or should you hire a professional to help you figure it out? We now decide to hire a professional to, to, uh, bridge the gap in our understanding and make sure [00:36:00] we’re compliant in every aspect.

So those are the 2 big ones.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, now I’m going to move on to our rapid fire segment. In this segment, I’m going to ask you a few quick questions and you have to answer them maybe in a couple of words or a sentence or so. Um, I know you, you already mentioned entrepreneur, um, operating system, but, um, any other book recommendations for entrepreneurs and,

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: and why?

Uh, I would say, um, atomic habits. Okay, cool. And why? Because it can, um, you know, make, make you better. You just, you train yourself to be better. And the idea for that

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: book really is to make small incremental improvements or

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: yeah, right. It’s small, you know, you know, 1 percent improvements over the course of a year is 37, you know, exponential is 37 X or 3.

7 X, something like that.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: An innovative product or idea in the current e commerce, retail or tech landscape that [00:37:00] you feel excited

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: about. AI is really exciting. Um, just the simple uses we’ve made. And I know other people are making other uses. Um, that’s, that’s a very exciting thing for me.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: tip?

Uh, Calendly for controlling your calendar. And then I, I create, uh, easily remembered bitly links for my Calendly. So when someone says, can I show you something? I can quickly type back and then they can come up on my calendar, but also blocking time on my calendar so I don’t get overwhelmed with meetings.

Wow, the bit.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: ly advice is very, seems like a very, very good, I didn’t think of that.

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Because then it just rolls out of your head, you know, your own custom bit. ly link that relates to your calendar. So mine are my initials, a dash, and then the amount of minutes. Awesome.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, another startup or business [00:38:00] in e commerce, retail or tech that you think is currently

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: doing great things.

I think notion is really becoming a great tool in tech. Um, and I believe they’ve got some AI baked in for various things. More people on my team are using it than I am, but I’m seeing them use it and really liking what I’m seeing. uh,

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: a peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: you.

Um, there’s a guy named Brian Orr, O R R, who started something called the HVACR school. Um, he runs a business with 400 employees. He’s like a customer of ours, but he also, he got me into podcasting. He runs a conference. He has an app. Uh, he does, you know, presentations, VLOGs, webinars, you know, all kinds of things, just a content machine.

Um, and I really look up to him and the way he’s organized things and keeps his sanity.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. [00:39:00] Final question, best business advice that you ever received or you would give to other entrepreneurs?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Uh, it was from a supervisor in my first job, uh, where I was complaining to him at a review, how do I know what to do, where to go, where to stop with this?

And he goes, just keep going until you hit the fence. You’ll know when you’ve hit the fence. So just, you know, keep, keep going, just don’t ask a lot of permission, beg for forgiveness afterwards, but don’t break anything along the way.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. That’s, that’s definitely great advice. And I think for entrepreneurs, you know, a lot of people say.

You know, get started and keep on, uh, you know, um, because if you don’t start and you don’t do anything, I think entrepreneurship is such a unique thing where you don’t know, you know, the future and unless you do something, unless you take any [00:40:00] actions, I think, um, there’s no way to learn and, um, so I think, uh, that advice definitely makes a lot of sense.

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Don’t be afraid to fail.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Definitely. Well, Bill, those were all the questions that I had. Thank you so much for sharing your time, for sharing your story, and also some of the business advice and wisdom. Um, uh, so yeah, thank you so much. If anybody wants to get in touch with you or buy your products, what is the best way to do that?

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Um, Bill, B I L L at TrueTechTools. com, T R U T E C H Tools. com, and then the website, of course, is TrueTechTools. com.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Bill, thank you so much again, and wish you all the very best in your, um, in your future business endeavors, for sure.

Bill Spohn of TruTechTools: Appreciate it. Thank you for having me on.

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