In this episode of Unstoppable Talk, I sat down with Brian Burke from SellYourMac.com. Brian’s company works hard to make sure that their customers can get the Apple products they want at prices they need, with a strong focus on excellent service. Not long after the recording of this show, I introduced a friend of mine to their store, where he was able to get a new MacBook Pro for $1,000 less than he was expecting to have to spend. Check out this episode for a discount code that will get you an additional $10 on your next sale of a used Apple product at SellYourMac.com.
Sam Schutte: In today’s show we have Brian Burke, who is chief Mac man at SellYourMac. I met Brian at ACG Cincinnati and today we’re going talk about innovation in the Apple ecosystem.
Brian Burke: Thanks for having me on Sam. I’m excited to talk to you.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, thanks for coming. So maybe a good place to get started is, tell me a little bit about your background and how did you get into this business?
Brian Burke: I’ve always loved Apple computers, but I had no idea I would find myself in this business. You know when I graduated college I didn’t have a job right out of school, but I was trying to get a job in finance up in New York City. And when I came back home I decided to start an eBay business. And I got a few great deals on some cellphones and was really ramping up my local cellphone purchases. From there I found myself with a couple Apple deals on my plate and really after doing a couple of Apple deals I knew that was my true passion and love. So I kind of pivoted to focus on the Apple world.
Sam Schutte: Okay. And you’re from … You’re in Cincinnati right?
Brian Burke: Born and raised.
Sam Schutte: And where did you go to high school?
Brian Burke: Indian Hill High School. I grew up in Kenwood.
Sam Schutte: Okay. And where’d you go to college?
Brian Burke: Went to Tulane University, which is one of the reasons I didn’t get a job right out of school, is because a hurricane hit my senior year. Katrina busted everyone out so I was up in Boston University for a semester.
Sam Schutte: Oh, wow. So with your business … I guess tell us a little bit about your business now and what you’re doing with it.
Brian Burke: So sellyourmac.com is a way for people to trade in their Apple products for cash. So people go to the website, they get an instant quote of what their device is worth, and we make the process very hassle free. I like to say it’s fast, safe and easy. You can sell your gadget on your own for maybe slightly more money, but if you consider the amount of time, hassle, and potential risk you have selling it yourself, it’s much easier to sell it to a service like ours. You’re guaranteed cash within the first week you send it in. So we try to provide a great value back for our clients and then on the flip side, we turn around, we refurb, clean up, erase the devices and resell them online on our eCommerce sites.
Sam Schutte: Okay. And so what kind of savings or return and stuff are customers getting you think by purchasing through you all or working with you all?
Brian Burke: Typically you’re saving about 30 to 80%. And you’re going to save 30% on a device that literally just came out this year. So if you want to buy a 2018 MacBook Pro, that normally you’d pay $2,500 at Apple. You can get those right now from us for about 1,800. So some pretty incredible savings.
Sam Schutte: And I think you told me earlier that your primary channels that people are buying things are eBay as well as direct sales and then you also sort of have your own retail store within your own walls now. Is that true?
Brian Burke: We do. eBay has been definitely our biggest channel from the start. And we’re going to be getting away from that a little bit in the future. We’re going the launch our own eCommerce site. And then we have a retail store at our location right now. It’s a really great place for customers to come in, get unbelievable service with our intelligent Apple staff and get all the answers they need.
Sam Schutte: And you’re building is there on Kenwood road.
Brian Burke: Yeah, we’re right her on Kenwood road. 11101 Kenwood Road.
Sam Schutte: And was that your original location? Did you start there?
Brian Burke: Well originally it started in my parent’s basement, but I was kicked out in about two months. My mom said she couldn’t see anything anymore, I had took over. Then I went to a two bedroom apartment. I overgrew that in about a year. I had boxes everywhere, I couldn’t even eat on my dining room table. Then I went to a house in Loveland. Ultimately got a cease and desist order for having too many employees. Only have one employee there, I had about five at the time. So we had two weeks to find a new location. Then we went to the Techview Center over in Lincoln Heights. And we were there for about two years until we outgrew that space. And then we landed in Blue Ash and that’s been our location for about the last seven years.
Sam Schutte: So in the last seven years you’ve grown your staff quite a bit there I believe as well. Have you taken over more of that building? Is that true?
Brian Burke: We haven’t taken over more space, but when we first went there we probably only used about a third of it. And now it’s overly, overly full. Just last summer we did a huge expansion project and had to build all new racking, a three story racking so we could put pallets up everywhere. So yeah, we are maxed out currently. In terms of staff, we went from about six people at the previous warehouse to now we have 24.
Sam Schutte: Nice. Nice. And I was going to mention recently you’ve gotten quite a lot of accolades and awards and nominations and stuff. I’ve been seeing a lot on all the social media channels. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
Brian Burke: It’s been all over the place. We have gotten … Very blessed to have gotten so many awards and been growing very quickly. In Cincinnati, we are part of the Cincinnati Business Courier of Fast 55. Number 12 fastest growing company in Cincinnati. And also on the national level, the Inc. 5,000, we were number 2,654th fastest growing private company in the US. A couple of other local awards. Goering Center finalist. We were a John Baird Entrepreneur Vision finalist. So yeah, a lot of awards recently. Personally, I was an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year finalist. Hoping to try again next year to try to be a winner.
Sam Schutte: Nice. Congratulations. So when your customers are coming to sell their products, they come to your website and they fill out information about what they’ve got and they can get a price quote right then and there. How do you kind of figure out what the right number is to pay for a particular product?
Brian Burke: The pricing is definitely one of the hardest things in the business. We’re doing a lot of comparisons online to what the average sale prices are for some of these skus. We’re comparing against some of our competitors to make sure we’re very competitive and paying top dollar. Definitely one of my goals is to ensure that our clients get a great value back for their Macs and other Apple products. So if we’re not beating our competitors on price, we see it as a problem. So I really do want to offer the highest price to everyone we possible can.
Sam Schutte: And I think you work a lot with school districts and such. Are they typically replacing district wide or a school at a time? Or what do you typically kind of find?
Brian Burke: Sometimes it’s in waves just depending on the school. You know sometimes schools refresh like a quarter of their stuff as a time as there’s aging product and other times it is district wide, huge takeouts. We work across schools, small, medium businesses. We work with some of the competitors, industry that we’re friendly with and we’re their Apple processing arm. And we also work with individuals and families. We started our business working with individuals on our website and kind of grown the small, medium business clients over the last few years.
Sam Schutte: And I think most folks are finding you through all of the online marketing you’re doing in SEO and stuff nowadays.
Brian Burke: SEO’s been huge and we’ve created a lot content to drive people to our website. And also you know we’re doing AdWords and other stuff like that. I’ve been on a lot of podcasts recently trying to get more promotional stuff out there. The awards certainly help. So yeah, the word’s getting out.
Sam Schutte: And so if you’re doing AdWords and you’re advertising on a word like new MacBook or something, there’s got to be a lot of competition for that word I imagine. I mean are you bidding directly against Apple in some cases or how do you manage that dynamic?
Brian Burke: It’s funny you mention that. I was just reading an article about the top price keywords. And if you are a lawyer or insurance, people are paying 40, $50 a click. Typically we’re seeing a few dollars a click. You know they are competitive keywords, but it’s usually people in industry and Apple. And Apple doesn’t really bid on all the keywords. And if you’re searching for something to buy, they’re on there, but usually when someone’s trying to sell they usually don’t pop up on top.
Sam Schutte: Okay. Do you have a lot of other competitors doing exactly what you’re doing across the country? Or are you really sort of regional?
Brian Burke: More than ever now. The competition is fierce. We like to say that we’re one of the best in industry. Our industry rankings show that we’re number one in the world across our competitors on a site called Reseller Ratings, which is kind of the third party industry standards. So yeah, we’re very proud that our team is being able to achieve that.
Sam Schutte: Wow. That’s pretty cool. The industry precisely you would define that as I guess reselling.
Brian Burke: Any kind of buyback companies in the Apple ecosystem.
Sam Schutte: Okay. All right. Because you’ll buy back anything Apple makes I guess. I mean it’s really just laptops, phones-
Brian Burke: About the last 10 years.
Sam Schutte: Okay.
Brian Burke: So yeah, phones, watches, iPads, Macs, Apple TV’s, with a very heavy focus on the Macs themselves.
Sam Schutte: Gotcha. And it seems to me that there’s sort of a sustainability message to that too. Just because even something 10 years ago, folks might just pitch it if they don’t have some outlet to sell it.
Brian Burke: That really pains my heart when someone throws a Mac in the trashcan. Hopefully they can just sell it to us even if it’s not for that much money and we can just repurpose it and make sure it gets a new life in someone else’s home.
Sam Schutte: But do you have stuff that you receive that you’re like okay, this is basically garbage and you recycle it and you have to dispose of it somehow?
Brian Burke: We are very green. We use a zero landfill company. Which means that nothing will ever hit the landfill. So we do actually recycle a couple of pallets of stuff every week. But they’re going to break it down to its smallest components and ensure nothing ever hits the trash.
Sam Schutte: Because I think all these … Any of the modern Macs are 100% … Well the casing are 100% recyclable aluminum and such.
Brian Burke: All aluminum.
Sam Schutte: So let’s talk about Apple and some of your background with that. You mentioned earlier that that was something you knew you wanted to go into. So, why did you want to work with Apple products and what was some of your early experience with them that made that something you’re passionate about?
Brian Burke: I think looking back Apple products have always worked so well that it creates such a happy customer base. And I don’t want to work with other products that create a bad feeling. I want someone when they receive a product from us, they’re very happy to use it. I think if they’re using a PC, ultimately they’re just not going to have great feedback. So getting into a product line that provides a great experience was definitely top of mind for me. And also that it holds a lot of value. You know it’s hard to resell a product if it’s going to lose 50% of its value in the first week. And you’re looking into the PC industry and these products over two years might lose 89% of their value, versus Apple’s going to hold on to a good portion of their value.
Sam Schutte: Yeah and I think Apple products … It’s not necessarily just about the product, but I’ve always found that … Because I use my Apple Laptop every day.
Brian Burke: We’re recording on your Mac right now.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. I think that the operating system is something and sort of a class of that is something a lot of people don’t give enough credit to.
Brian Burke: Software is key.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Anymore, any time I have to use a Windows machine it is-
Brian Burke: It hurts.
Sam Schutte: Not as nice of an experience per se as what I’m used to.
Brian Burke: It’s true. The same chips go in Microsoft products but it’s really the integration of the hardware and software that makes it so usable and then from there it’s the ecosystem that all the products talk so well together. And if you had five different branded PC or Android products, they just don’t work seamlessly compared to Apple. They’re all talking, all in sync 100% of the time.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. And I was having this conversation about Android and iPhone a little while ago with someone and I was like, I can take a note in my notes app on my Mac and then it’s immediately on my phone. I do that all the time.
Brian Burke: Instantly.
Sam Schutte: Constantly I’m doing that. And sure there’s … I could install Evernote or something and so that elsewhere. But why? And the same with … I think there’s just a lot of innovations they’ve done with their own applications and how tightly knit they are from a platform standpoint that you just don’t get elsewhere really.
Brian Burke: I couldn’t agree more.
Sam Schutte: And so, where do you kind of think Apple is headed? I mean they recently … Something that I’ve seen you talking about on social media is the new Apple Card and all this and now they’re getting into banking and credit card and finance and all that sort of stuff a little bit. What do you think’s kind of on the horizon that they’re going to be announcing soon?
Brian Burke: It’s really going to be a big shift away from product focus to a service focus. They have this massive customer base. There’s over a billion iPhone users. There’s over 1.4 billion users across all their products. So they’re going to be able to monetize their user base across other industries. I think the next thing they’re getting into besides the credit card space is really healthcare. And we don’t really know exactly what they’re going to do right now, but obviously they’ve been focusing a lot of attention on the watch. There’s a lot of different studies being done through that right now. They’re collecting a lot of user data. They’re going to be able to help us create healthier lives. And they’re going to be able to give us more instant feedback on what’s going on in our bodies and that might turn into some healthcare facilities or other record keeping and stuff like that that we don’t have right now. So it’s going to be pretty exciting to see what they can do there.
Sam Schutte: And it’s interesting from a services standpoint. If you look at Apple podcasts on iTunes and such. I mean that’s been there a very long time. At one point it was the only podcasting platform and even today still, just about every other podcasting platform basically just recycles and redistributes the iTunes podcast.
Brian Burke: You have to be on iTunes podcast.
Sam Schutte: Podcast listings and they’re all database. But at the same time, playing a podcast via iTunes on your Mac is not how most people are going to consume it. And there’s the podcast app on your phone but there’s a lot of others on there that probably are more popular or at least maybe better. So I kind of wonder if they won’t really drastically try to improve what they’re doing there as well as with the music side of things.
Brian Burke: They are splitting up all their apps. They’re breaking up the iTunes as separate music video podcast apps. I think that’s part of their strategy. And they’ve already done that on the iPhone but the Mac will be the next.
Sam Schutte: And of course they launched all the Apple music subscription stuff which I have found is probably better than … Because I’ve had a lot of those. TIDAL and Spotify and Pandora. All those other ones out there.
Brian Burke: Apple Music’s you’re favorite one now?
Sam Schutte: I don’t have the subscription right now, but I liked … The suggestions they made I think were better. More likely to be music I would like as opposed to sort of random stuff from Pandora.
Brian Burke: I enjoy the suggestions but my biggest use case is probably with my home pods. I can shout anywhere in my house and have it start playing music. So I like that.
Sam Schutte: We have an Amazon Alexa at our house, which we usually have to turn on mute just because our kids talk to it too much.
Brian Burke: They’re always waking up Alexa?
Sam Schutte: Yes. Or just having it play music on 10. They’re like, volume level 10. Blowing us away.
Brian Burke: That’s funny. My two year old can almost get Siri to work for her every time. She’s only done it a couple of times now. But I’m sure, give her a few more months.
Sam Schutte: What was the very first Apple product you ever used?
Brian Burke: My first Mac was a Performa desktop and it was back in probably fourth grade that I had it. And I had a computer teacher, his name was Peter Lyon. He got me really started and super involved in how to use the Mac. So that was pretty cool looking back, that was my first use case of how to do everything on a computer and I just learned rapidly. And in elementary school I was basically teaching the computer class. Our teacher wasn’t that familiar with computers and I was up there, we were working on PC’s at the time, but I was kind of leading the class through things because I had so much experience.
Sam Schutte: That’s cool. Yeah, I remember my very first time I ever did programming was in logo with the little turtle. In logo on an Apple IIC I believe. Maybe it was even Apple II I think. Back in probably first grade. But even through junior high, we were doing stuff in HyperCard and-
Brian Burke: HyperCard was my first programming app.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. And I distinctly remember they had a scanner in our computer lab like in seventh grade. And-
Brian Burke: Took 10 minutes.
Sam Schutte: Yeah and it was black and white and like 72 DPI or something. I did a project on sharks and I scanned a picture of a shark. And was like wow-
Brian Burke: Amazing.
Sam Schutte: On my screen. It was just crazy. But, there were no PC’s even capable of doing that at that point or even in the school really. So I mean definitely at that time … And it sounds like still today I think a lot of schools are predominately Apple based.
Brian Burke: Unfortunately a lot of schools have been moving away. They’re trying to get to a cheaper computer and looking at these Chromebooks.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, that’s true.
Brian Burke: But one of the issues is, they’re basically disposable. There’s not going to be hardly any value when they go to resell them. You know, they might get $5 or $10 a piece as opposed to a Mac that they might be getting $300 a piece.
Sam Schutte: Interesting. Well and I know they … My wife’s a teacher and they talk about … They also have to use OpenOffice I guess.
Brian Burke: Free office, yep.
Sam Schutte: Those Free office things on the Chromebooks or I guess they’re doing-
Brian Burke: Use Google.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. They do a lot of Google Doc type stuff. Google Sheets. Which is fine but those just are not really up to par with either-
Brian Burke: Apple’s office apps are all free now.
Sam Schutte: Well yeah. True. And the Google apps are not up to par with Microsoft Office either. But, again you know Microsoft Office costs … Isn’t free.
Brian Burke: Yeah. $100 a year as a student is quite steep.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. I don’t know how a school would license that exactly, district wide. But I don’t know too many that have.
Brian Burke: They typically don’t. It’s just cost prohibitive.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Interesting. So your retail store that you’ve got in there, I’m curious because that’s a relatively new thing I think you’re doing on your location, where folks can come in and buy and see products there.
Brian Burke: It’s our first official retail store. At our last place we didn’t have retail, but people would come in anyways. So we still had to deliver the same level of service in our lobby. And that was one of the goals when we found the space to make sure we had something set up so that customers could come get that experience.
Sam Schutte: Gotcha. So now you have a little bit more of like a showroom.
Brian Burke: Yeah, it’s an official showroom. We’ve got different product lines up. Every table has its own type of products. There’s laptops, desktops, an iPhone and iPad table. And we have places for customers to get quotes. They have their own little station. They can go in there. And then of course a checkout area and stuff like that.
Sam Schutte: So when you are buying used Apple products off the internet and so and so forth and selling them obviously, I don’t know that you need any special permission or anything from Apple to do that.
Brian Burke: You don’t. Anyone is allowed to sell an Apple product.
Sam Schutte: But if you’re selling new products from Apple I’m assuming you need to be-
Brian Burke: You’ve got to be Apple authorized, which they don’t even give authorizations out anymore. And from what I hear from other people that I know are, the margins are very slim. So it’s not very desirable to get in. It’s more of just people are continuing that business usually alongside being a service provider.
Sam Schutte: So in your showroom you’re selling things that have come in from people.
Brian Burke: They are all used. There’s obviously exceptions. Some people sell us new products that they maybe won in a promo or a raffle or a gift or something like that.
Sam Schutte: Okay. So how have you founded … I think you mentioned in our conversations in the past what it’s like to sort of compete against the Apple store in a way. When you’re talking about the showroom side of things. What do you hear from your customers in terms of why they’re coming in there as opposed to coming into the Apple store?
Brian Burke: Biggest differentiator is probably the level of service we deliver. It’s instantaneous service. Versus going to the Apple store you’re usually waiting in a queue to talk to someone. A lot of times you’re in a mall, you’ve got to find parking and the hassles with that. Our location, you pull right up, you walk in, someone’s there to great you within seconds. So, that immediate services is great. And also we really work to solve the customer’s problems. I think a lot of times at Apple … This isn’t a knock on them, but they’re trying to push more of the newer products if you have an older product with a problem. Typically after five years, they say they’re vintage or obsolete and they won’t even work on them or supply parts for them. Versus, we will go back and help someone. Even with an older product that we don’t even sell anymore, we can go and order parts online to fix it if they truly want that. So it’s really like giving them the option. We can say, we can fix this Mac for $200 and put a new screen on it, or we can sell you another Mac that’s even newer for $500. Just ensuring we can meet the customer needs. That’s typically our goal. Make sure they have the options that they can either replace or buy another one at a steep discount.
Sam Schutte: Gotcha. I think the Apple store can be a little bit of a mixed bag sometimes because depending on how used you are to the way they work, you could just stand there like, what am I supposed to do?
Brian Burke: It’s overwhelming sometimes. There’s 300 people in the store.
Sam Schutte: There’s 300. And I’ve been to those all over the world. I was in one in Barcelona. I like to just drop in and check them out. How are they different? And they’re all kind of the same right? For the most part, but they have slight differences. But for some folks, particularly older folks I think, it’s, what is happening right here? This is like some of this weird-
Brian Burke: It’s intense.
Sam Schutte: Flash mob going in here.
Brian Burke: I love Apple stores. Every time I go to a new city I’m always checking it out. And I go to New York City all the time, the Fifth Avenue store. The one in Grand Central. You know if I’m in San Fran I’m going to Union Square. It’s a gorgeous place to hang out and meet people and talk about all things Apple. So it’s nothing against them at all. It just can be overwhelming and busy and you can be waiting a long time to get service.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Exactly. So you mentioned something about how you can order parts and stuff, so I guess do you do a lot of repair services for folks there? What kind of level of reconditioning and work and repair on parts that come in to you do you have to do? How difficult is that I guess?
Brian Burke: Well we buy, sell and service. So if someone comes in with a broken product we usually give them two options. You know a lot of times it’s usually a busted screen. So we can say hey, we can order this part online for $200, here’s our fee to get it all fixed up for you, or we can just give you a great value on your broken Mac and then help you get into new one at a discount. And a lot of times we try to upgrade them to the newer product from only the standpoint that it’s best for the customer. If you’re using a Mac that’s six or seven years old let’s say and we can get you into a newer Mac for not much more than the cost to replace the screen, you’re going to be better off for the long run, so we’re going to recommend that.
Sam Schutte: And do you do repairs such as the standard, replace the iPhone battery and that sort of stuff?
Brian Burke: The iPhone battery maybe is one of the top requested things, but Apple has launched a program that does it at such a steep discount that you can’t compete at that level. And also on the iPhone screens … I tell everyone to go to the Apple store and don’t go anywhere else because there’s nowhere else you can get an OEM screen. Until yesterday, they literally announced there’s going to be a new repair program for independent repair shops. But the OEM screens are insanely expensive. Avoid all these random third party repair shops. They’re going to replace with a screen that’s likely not going to last a year. It might have a pink or a random hue to the screen. You might not notice right away. But ultimately it’s not going to be as high quality as it was originally.
Sam Schutte: Well in fact I think I saw just recently that they’ve added a new feature that some people are upset about that if you have these sort of non-approved screens it’ll pop up and say, just so you know, you’re running with a incompatible screen.
Brian Burke: This device is pretty smart. They know what’s going on. They don’t want random parts in there, because ultimately it’s not going to deliver a great customer experience. If they’re replacing with a non OEM battery that maybe only lasts 60, 70% as long as the original, the customer is going to be unhappy with Apple even though they got replaced at a third party shop. They’re all about their brand. They’re protecting it every way they possibly can.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Interesting. And how do you think you’re sort of innovating that buyer, supplier model and enabling sort of an easier sales process for your customers of all these products that are coming in? What are some of the things you’ve had to invent to do that?
Brian Burke: One of the best things I can point to is our latest website update. And now you can get an instant quote just using your serial number. So if you go to the website, you copy the serial number from about this Mac or you copy it straight off your iPhone about, paste it in there. It’s going to fill out all of the product details for you. So you don’t need to know anything about the specific processor, hard drive, RAM that might be in the computer. Which frankly, most people don’t know off the top of their heads. So you don’t have to go searching for that anywhere else. It’ll give you the price right away after you just click the condition and the functional specs on there. So you get an instant quote without much hassle. And at the same time, you can turn around and you can buy a used Mac right from our site as well.
Sam Schutte: Gotcha. What about you mentioned that you had to put in some new racks and such in your building there. I think you were also looking at, sort of technology to help manage all of that internally as well. What new stuff have you sort of gotten pushed into because of growth and whatnot that you had to invest in?
Brian Burke: It’s been a long time planning but our new inventory supply chain system, it does a lot of automation between processes, helps drive different workflow so you don’t have to necessarily know exactly where to send the item on next. So it’s a lot of communication, both internally and externally. On the external side, letting customers know kind of every step of the way. That was one of the things that we heard back from customers that we did an awesome level of communication. So I wanted to increase it to a whole nother level. So for instance, as soon as you get a quote, you’re going to have a shipping label in your email. When you drop it off at FedEx we’re going to tell you that it’s been received at FedEx. When it ships you’re going to get another notification, it’s landed at our place. As soon as we wipe it, we’re sending you an email saying your device is safe, it’s been wiped. So kind of every step of the way we want to make sure we’re communicating properly. And then on the sales side, we’ve done some more automation and we can … One click post to eBay for instance. So everything we can do to kind of speed up our processes is something that we’ve been working on.
Sam Schutte: Gotcha. And what about just all the picking and packing and shipping when things are going out, is that all part of that software system too?
Brian Burke: It is. It’s funny, we went all custom so we have used FedEx and USPS APIs. It’s going to print out a packing list showing exactly what shelf all these items on. Makes it easier for our team to find the items and then it’s one click to print the labels and tells you what box to put them in, all those sorts of steps.
Sam Schutte: How many shipments a day do you think are coming out of there?
Brian Burke: We are doing about 200 packages a day right now.
Sam Schutte: Nice.
Brian Burke: So we’re pretty busy.
Sam Schutte: That’s cool. What’ve really been the key drivers for that growth that you’ve experienced? Just exposure and marketing and advertising? What do you think has really been driving?
Brian Burke: I mean the SEO’s kind of always been the backbone, but we have focused more on the content and more of the strategy behind the SEO lately. The AdWords is something we’ve only done the last two years, so that certainly helped out a lot. And also been doing more outreach to try to find larger bulk customers as we call them. So going to more industry events and conferences and I’m getting more active on LinkedIn. I’m just trying to post on there every day and just kind of building a following of people that are interested in our services.
Sam Schutte: Do you think there’s any kind of market trend or growth just in the popularity of the products, or maybe the pricing of new Apple products or something that is pushing any of that for you?
Brian Burke: I would say the ecosystem in the industry is definitely growing overall. But the fact that there’s so many players that are popping up all the time and we’re still able to keep growing has been a great testament to our team. More people are having five year old Apple products coming off of service, so that’s definitely helping drive it. And looking forward, maybe there are less products. You know five, 10 years out and they’re going to be less serviceable. So there might even be more upgrades from the standpoint that they’re unrepairable.
Sam Schutte: So when is something unrepairable typically?
Brian Burke: The latest Mac’s are almost unrepairable. Everything is soldered to logic board. If you have a small issue, a lot of times you’re going to have to replace the unit.
Sam Schutte: And with those customers you’re directly reaching out to, what kind of relationship do you try to foster with them? Do they have your cellphone number, you’re at their beck and call? You know the very close knit supplier relationship? For those again, for those sort of direct or larger accounts. Or is it more of like a just in time on demand fulfillment thing where you’re just boom, getting an order and that’s it?
Brian Burke: I would say all our larger customers have our contact information and they can reach out to us anytime. I think personally I’m very accessible to our largest clients. They have my cellphone number and email and I try to answer in seconds. Another guy at my office, Nick, he handles a lot of our bulk clientele and they have all of his information and reach out to him directly all the time. So we’re kind of right there as soon as they need us. And there could be a large time between cycles, but as soon as they need us, we’re going to be right there to send them packing materials, get them a bulk quote, kind of anything they might need.
Sam Schutte: And do you kind of consult with them to help them figure out what it is they need and such as well?
Brian Burke: If they ask us, we’re happy to, but a lot of times they don’t come ask us those questions. We see a lot of customers that just keep buying new from the standpoint that it might just work out better for their internal workforce, that they just need newer Macs let’s say, and I can’t provide an unlimited supply of six months old Macs. So yeah, but we’re still all getting those back every time.
Sam Schutte: Is there a point at which you … I guess how long do you hang on to products before you say, okay this is now beyond the sort of sellable lifetime?
Brian Burke: Well you’re using a 2013 MacBook Air, so I think we should upgrade that in the near future. It all comes down to use case though.
Sam Schutte: Sure.
Brian Burke: Let’s say you’re a student and you just need to be typing and using the internet, using a five or six year old Mac is pretty fine. But if you’re doing video production or marketing materials and you’re using Adobe Photoshop and different movie production software, you have to have a newer Mac or you’re just going to be bogged down and it’s going to be running slow. So I always ask customers the first thing is, how are you going to use this? That’s on the Mac side. I think on the iPhone side, I always like to have the absolute latest because you’re going to be using that so many hours per day … Now that the screen time tell you. And most people are using their iPhone three, four hours a day let’s say. You got to have the latest device for that. You’re losing seconds constantly. And also from taking photographs. If you have kids you want to save these things forever. You better be using the best camera.
Sam Schutte: Sure. That makes sense. What are some of the areas and what are some of the new things you think you’re going to get into and where you’re kind of going next I guess with your business? You always want to be adding and innovating, creating new things and inventing new processes and services.
Brian Burke: Our goal is to be the number one choice when people are thinking about buying or selling their Apple products. And in order to do that, we have to provide the most cash value, and also make it the fastest. So continuously innovating around the speed to get a quote. Right now as a consumer, you get an instant quote but as a business customer, we don’t have that set up yet. So that’s going to be the next step for us. And really kind of speeding up the process as fast as we can. Can we pay you before you even send it? Different ideas like that that we can really push the envelope on. And then from there personally I see myself working with a lot more larger customers. Trying to do more of the consulting side with these larger businesses to ensure they have the right Apple products to meet their needs. And that we can refresh them at a rate that’s going to help their business keep growing.
Sam Schutte: Do you find for those types of customers when you talk about refreshing, are there subscription models and stuff for hardware that you think are viable out there, where you can say, hey, here’s a contract and every six months you get a new machine and so and so forth?
Brian Burke: There are some business models out there that do that. On the consumer level there isn’t yet. You can go straight to the Apple Store to do a two year lease as a business. And I think more and more that’s going to be happening. People are used to paying their cellphone bills on a monthly basis. So if they can just pay $50, have a Mac and have it upgrade every year, they’d probably be thrilled.
Sam Schutte: Sure. Absolutely. What do you think is one of the more rewarding projects or outreach and stuff you’ve done recently that you’ve gotten a lot out of personally?
Brian Burke: Yeah for me, always trying to give back as we grow has been key. And just in the last couple of years I’ve been donating a lot of laptops to underprivileged students. And there’s a couple different organizations locally I’ve been working with. Adopt A Class. I’m on the Board there. I’ve donated a bunch of iMacs to some of their classrooms. Another one is The Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. I’ve been donating new … Sorry not a new, but a newish laptop to all the different outstanding students that have won that award as they go on to college. It’s just amazing to see how happy they are that they’ve received a device that can really further their education. They can’t afford these on their own and they know that they need it for school. And they don’t have any other way to get it. So they might be using a 10 year old PC if they didn’t have this new Mac at their hands. And that just gives me a lot of happiness to know that we’re able to give back and help these people in their careers.
Sam Schutte: It’s awesome. Without a doubt, having some kind of computer, it’s just required anymore. I mean even junior high and on it seems like.
Brian Burke: If you don’t have access to a computer, you’re definitely not going to be learning or growing as fast as you could personally.
Sam Schutte: I mean everything my kids use is all through Google Classroom and such. I mean I guess if you don’t have a home PC or something that can’t handle it or whatever, a really old one, I don’t know what you do. I mean you’re kind of stuck really. And of course a lot of kids go off to college now and they either get one when they arrive … It’s part of tuition. At least I know at my Alma mater. It’s almost a necessary tool.
Brian Burke: It’s a requirement at this point.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. I don’t know if having an iPhone is a requirement for every kid, as much as they might want one.
Brian Burke: My daughter loves her iPhone and it keeps her content when we’re out to a nice dinner.
Sam Schutte: Right. Obviously some of your core values are, like you said, supporting your local community. And I think you’re in another service organization town as well that you’re a member of as well right?
Brian Burke: Well the biggest nonprofit I support is Adopt A Class. And it’s a business mentoring experience that we go in and we adopt a classroom. We go in and show them another way of business that they’re not familiar with. Unfortunately a lot of these kids still think that they can make it as an NBA or a football star and that’s not the case. And we don’t want them on the streets later in life so showing them how business works, how you can get involved and learn towards these different industries and it kind of opens their eyes to what the potential is out there. And it’s a lot of fun.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, and kids really take to entrepreneurship I find a lot of times if they understand just how to do it a little bit and aren’t afraid to try.
Brian Burke: They haven’t visited a business before. So one of the things we do is we do field trips to our businesses and they are just amazed at what goes on here.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. And I think the thing is too is it’s something that it’s possible for all of them to do.
Brian Burke: It absolutely is. You’ve got to believe in yourself though.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. You don’t need to have some special way in to start a business. You just give it a shot.
Brian Burke: If you look at some of the top people in the world and where they came from, Gary V. for instance, someone like that and you can build an empire around yourself no matter where you start.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. So obviously one of your core things that’s important to you is giving back in that time. When you look at the employees in your company and sort of how you treat them and how you work with them, what are some of your other sort of core values that you as a business owner, that are in your DNA you think?
Brian Burke: We have four core values we talk about and the acronym is SHIP. The S stands for speed. And we want to work fast, but accurately and make sure we get out clients paid quickly. The H stands for honest. We’re always honest with our customers. If you send us a Mac that’s newer than you said, we’re actually going to pay you more. If you have a bigger hard drive than you quoted, we’re going to upgrade your price. So doing everything we can there. The I stands for ideas. We always want people to be sharing ideas and not be afraid to be wrong. Just put it out there and don’t be afraid that it might sound stupid. And the P is passion. And it’s passion for Apple products and people. And if you’re not passionate about Apple, you’re probably just not going to be a great fit at out company. We want people that love Apple products so they can tell the customer more about Apple and how the products can benefit their lives.
Sam Schutte: What’s your favorite Steve Jobs story?
Brian Burke: Whoa, Steve Jobs story.
Sam Schutte: Anecdote.
Brian Burke: My quote that I always point to is Steve Jobs saying, “Don’t let others drown out your inner voice.” And that really to me means be able to showcase your passion no matter what people say. And people told me that I would fail at this eBay business back when I got started, and I had to keep pushing forward through many hard times to prove to myself that I could make this happen. And there was times I could have faltered and failed. So just making sure that you know what you’re capable of inside and can keep moving ahead.
Sam Schutte: Interesting. And I think the SHIP acronym and values is awesome too. It really helps sometimes to solidify things when you have that written down and out there.
Brian Burke: It’s on our walls.
Sam Schutte: Without a doubt. You mentioned eBay and like we talked about earlier I think that’s sort of a big part of your outbound sales and such.
Brian Burke: That’s how we got started.
Sam Schutte: I guess you had to sort of master that platform and how that works and just how to gain visibility on eBay and all that. You know, how to write the titles of the items that are out there. I mean there’s all that sort of competition in that marketplace. What have you sort of learned along the way as an eBay seller that is specific to eBay no matter what you’re selling there I guess that you’ve really been able to leverage?
Brian Burke: Like you said I have learned a lot along the way and I started young. And I was doing arbitrage sales with Audi car parts back in high school. So I kind of cut my chops that way. And then doing cell phone sales while I was in college. I was selling all my friends cell phones and electronic gadgets. In terms of best practices, I mean the title like you mentioned is key. People are searching for keywords, if they can’t find it, they’re never going to buy your item. Doing the proper cataloging. eBay has a catalog system that you’re inputting basically the model or order number to help find out exactly what that product is and make it more searchable. High quality photos is very key. eBay’s algorithm, if you have low quality photos, there’s a bunch of junk in the background, they’re not going to serve it up on top of the list.
Brian Burke: There’s other things you can do to promote on there. You can do sponsored listings to drive sales. So kind of a number of things to move up in the ranking.
Sam Schutte: And when you’re listing things on eBay … I’m not an expert in all eBay stuff, but I know that certain products, and I would assume probably most laptops, if you just say what type it is it will pre-populate a lot of the information that it knows about that model.
Brian Burke: Exactly. Yeah, if you type that model number in it’s going to help you catalog it and put everything in there and it’ll kind of form the title on its own. We don’t do any kind of pre-made titles. We have our own algorithm to fill it all out and it’s really just putting the exact keywords in and the specs that the customer needs to know. For instance, your machine would say, “Apple, 13″ MacBook Air”.
Sam Schutte: And then do you have sort of a branded page like when they look at the more details of those items they see the SellYourMac branded page underneath the listing I guess?
Brian Burke: Absolutely. But a lot of customers are on mobile now and they don’t even go to the branded page. They’re just going to see the title and just buy off the item details. But if you go to see more details there’s a branded page. It has all the specs laid out for every single component in the computer. It’s going to have the grading. It’s going to say A grade. Maybe it has a light scratch, it’ll tell you where it is. It’ll tell you it’s 100% functional and fully tested. Kind of all that information.
Sam Schutte: eBay as a marketplace and has a place to be selling your products, obviously there’s a lot of sort of competitors they have out there. I mean you look at people selling things on Facebook, people selling things on Craigslist, on Amazon in particular. And at least just in my own personal experience, sometimes I’ll list them in all four places, a book or something I’m selling.
Brian Burke: See which one sells first.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. So is that something that you think … Have you looked at that? I’ve worked with some Amazon sellers before and that’s a whole other world of course and different rules and everything else going on. Craigslist of course is a little more like free for all to some degree.
Brian Burke: The Craigslisters try to bargain too much. I did that back in the day when I was working out of my house, and I feel like every time I’d post an ad for a $500 laptop they’d want it for $350 after I talked to them for an hour. That was tough. Facebook marketplace could be a viable option for us. Usually it’s just individual sales and sometimes they don’t trust companies on there from what I’ve gathered. Amazon is interesting because you used to be able to sell on Amazon and unfortunately it wasn’t a large part of our business because Apple actually cut out every individual seller unless they were authorized. So they wanted to really control that marketplace when they did a partnership with Amazon to sell new. So there’s certain levels that you’re allowed to sell. You have to be Apple authorized and do over $10 million in sales on there to be allowed at this point.
Sam Schutte: Yes, they sort of exerted their control over Amazon.
Brian Burke: They did. So yeah, we’re sticking with eBay. We’re launching our own eCommerce site and I think the eCommerce site’s going to be the best for us. We’ll be able to really control the customer experience and deliver the best value to our customer.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, so tell me about that eCommerce site. I guess what kind of features is it going to have and then how are you going to sort of direct folks there? Right now when you’re doing your links and stuff out there and your AdWords and whatnot I guess they’re going to your page right now anyway, they’re not going to your eBay store I’d assume.
Brian Burke: Correct. Yeah, we get a ton of traffic at sellyourmac.com. So ultimately we’re going to have the eCommerce site living right on there. But our eCommerce brand is going to be renewedmacs.com. So that’ll be its own landing page. But I think just the traffic we get on SellYourMac alone will drive a lot of people to the eCommerce site. So we’ll be able to offer that experience right when they land on our site that they can either buy or sell or both.
Sam Schutte: Okay. What are you building the eCommerce site in in terms of just platform?
Brian Burke: Shopify platform.
Sam Schutte: Okay.
Brian Burke: We got some really cool features that I can’t talk about quite yet.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, cool. Do you know when that’s going to launch though?
Brian Burke: In the next few months for sure. We’re kind from right in the midst of it at the moment. Long time coming for sure.
Sam Schutte: Okay. Great.
Sam Schutte: I think you mentioned a while back when you first kind of started that there were some hard times dealing with eBay. How did you sort of persevere through that and get to the other side?
Brian Burke: The times with eBay weren’t tough. It was really some scams we had on some large purchases. The biggest one that I’ve had to deal with was about a quarter million dollar scam that we’d wired a ton of money overseas for a huge iPhone deal and that was kind of the deposit, and ultimately it never came and that seller said that he was scammed. And I didn’t even know I was being middle manned at the time. The individual that I had paid, his company had checked out, he was a real person in the community. He did give back and stuff as well. So everything looked rosy kind of until it wasn’t. And it took me six years to ultimately pay off that debt. So it lived with me for a while. And what I’ve learned is don’t wire money overseas. So now all these bulk deals these people try to sell us, I will only pay with PayPal or credit card because I know I can’t get scammed. If they ask for a wire and that’s the only option, I just refuse.
Sam Schutte: Hmm, interesting. And certainly that could have killed some companies.
Brian Burke: It basically did kill us. I was in a terrible place and mind at the time and really had to fight back mentally with the support system in my family and stuff like that to kind of get things back in order.
Sam Schutte: Awesome. And is your family all here locally as well still I guess?
Brian Burke: That’s one thing that’s keeping me in Cincinnati. Besides the company I do have both my parents here and my brother is in Orlando so I get to see him a few times a year.
Sam Schutte: A new product that Apple launched recently that I wanted to touch on was the Apple Card. What do you think about that? I think you just recently got one as well.
Brian Burke: I have. You first apply in the wallet app and you can start using it digitally instantaneously after they approve you. And it’s a great experience because you can use Apple Pay and there and get 2% back at any merchant. And it’s super secure because they’re never going to pass on any card info. The physical card, you have to apply for that to get in the mail. Just got mine the other day. I actually posted online today that I opened it up and there’s no number on it. Which I’d never seen a credit card with no number. So no one can swap your number when they’re watching you online. So that was kind of cool. I think the biggest use case is really just a tight knit ecosystem for it. It’s going to work seamlessly with all your Apple products and you’re going to know exactly where you’re shopping. And they’re going to break it down in terms of category. The digital card changes color depending on what you’re buying. That’s kind of interesting.
Brian Burke: And something that we’ve talked about is there’s no late fee. So yeah, you miss your payment, you don’t have to pay $30, $40 late fee. And they have super low APR. It doesn’t go up when you miss a payment and stuff like that. So it’s kind of industry leading in terms of not charging their customers a lot of interest.
Sam Schutte: I think for students and folks that sometimes might just timing wise not make a payment or forget or get busy, whatever. Because that’s of course where they get you, particularly in college and whatnot. When I was in college I racked up quite a lot of credit card debt and just said I’ll pay this once I have a job. But having that is a pretty nice feature that I’ve certainly never seen any other credit card. But it seems like just in general they’re trying to disrupt people’s use of credit.
Brian Burke: I think so. I mean Apple Pay is growing exponentially. Each year it’s 300 or 400% usage increase. So yeah, it’s a great way to pay, super secure. I think that’s going to be kind of industry leading in the future.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. And that’s just another example of something that only really works if you have that Apple platform, all the pieces to it in place. You go to a website, you say oh, I can pay with Apple Pay, and it will ask your phone for the fingerprint. And I guess on some of the newer Mac laptops they’ve got the fingerprint reader on there as well.
Brian Burke: Correct. Yeah.
Sam Schutte: I’m sure there’s competing technologies out there for that. I’m sure Google has other stuff and whatever. But I hate entering my credit card number and so I’m to the point where if someone-
Brian Burke: So much rather use my finger.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. If someone says, “Oh, enter your credit card,” forget it. I’m not going to buy. And that’s funny right, because at one point in the industry, 10, 15 years ago, it was all about let’s make life easier for people because they’ll never have to mail in a check to the catalog company. They can use your credit card. So easy. That’s not easy enough. Just using my credit card is too hard.
Brian Burke: Better be one tap these days or it’s not fast enough.
Sam Schutte: And the same with all the Apple Pay, you have the watch and whatnot at Panera or wherever you’re at.
Brian Burke: Yeah, you can leave your phone at home and just use your watch.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. And I’ve seen more and more companies will have their membership card details and whatnot on your watch as well. Like Starbucks and others, whatever. So it’s not just credit cards.
Brian Burke: Sure. All the rewards stuff is much more convenient now and a lot of it stores in the wallet app.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. So it’s funny, as people get … It’s not that they’re getting lazier lazier, I mean maybe I have, but just that you get used-
Brian Burke: Let’s be honest, they probably are.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. You get used to that convenience. Again, getting out your credit card and typing in, especially now that there’s that number on the back and oh, try and remember that. It’s just too much hassle.
Brian Burke: We are in a convenient society these days. I mean you want to order from your phone and have it delivered an hour later.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, exactly. You mentioned that you did a video just recently of your kind of Apple Card reveal. And I’ve noticed in recent months you’ve been doing a lot more videos and of course a lot more podcasting so how’s that strategy sort of working, I guess first for video, and what are your thoughts around that and what are you hoping to leverage there?
Brian Burke: I think the videos get a decent amount of views and people enjoy watching videos over reading content these days. So trying to do more video. I think it takes a lot more planning. Trying to do a live unboxing for instance is a little more planning than just making a vlog post or something like that. So yeah, I got to prep accordingly. Not a lot of time in the day to do it. And try to get maybe a video up every couple weeks. And in general we’re just doing more posting to get the word out. Trying to be more branded. I’m trying to be more the chief Mac man. So getting the word out about sellyourmac.com is very important to me.
Sam Schutte: So is that a new title you’ve given yourself or has that always been your title?
Brian Burke: It’s definitely new. I wanted to have something kind of fun and specific to my industry. And I can’t remember exactly who I saw do something similar to that. Maybe it was a chief tax strategist or something like that. And I was like oh, I should be the chief Mac man. And I just kind of ran with it and it stuck.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, it’s funny, a local brewery here, somewhere I saw that they had something like a director of brewing cleanliness or something silly that they made up for that. That was a fun title.
Brian Burke: Got to keep your beer lines clean.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, sure. And I guess, do you think that for a business such as yours, how important is that sort of personal brand and them understanding, oh, that’s Brian? I think that can be very powerful for a lot of service oriented companies so you’re not just, in my field, ABC Consulting. That means nothing.
Brian Burke: Yeah, being personal is key. I mean being able to see the team behind the product or service, I think, is really helpful. That they know there’s real people interacting. If it’s a faceless company, I don’t think it’s going to be a great brand in the future. Not that I’m trying to only brand myself, but I am trying to help spread the word and love of SellYourMac to ultimately help people get a new Apple device. I want them to have the best Apple experience.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Is that something that’s out of your comfort zone you think to sort of promote yourself in that way?
Brian Burke: It is right in my sweet spot. I have no problem being in front of a camera. I’ve always, I think, been very outgoing. I’ll strike up a conversation with every single person I run into. Not everyone can do that, but yeah, it doesn’t bother me. I didn’t have to change my personality to get up there.
Sam Schutte: Great. And you’ve been doing a lot of podcasting recently as well. I guess a lot of the same reasons. And been appearing on some pretty good shows out there that have quite a lot of listeners.
Brian Burke: Yeah. It’s been helpful sharing my startup story and getting the word out and hopefully I can help some other fellow entrepreneurs break through some of the hard times they might be in. Just hearing that someone else has gone through something similar certainly can help. And just sharing that journey with people that are young. People don’t realize that start small, start young. It’s a long time to ultimately be successful in your industry. We’ve been doing this now at SellYourMac for 10 years. But I was doing eBay exclusively for five years before that. So it’s really been a 15 year journey that we’re on just to get to where we’re at now. So yeah, these awards did not pop up years back. So definitely a grind and making people know that it’s that kind of pig headed determination and discipline to get you there.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, patience is so important. My favorite Steve Jobs quote is … I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said he thinks some of the best companies in the world fail because people just are impatient. They don’t have the perseverance to just wait and so they expect massive success three years in, four years in, five years in and they give up and they get frustrated. And I think that the quote or something was around … Because he was talking about companies they watch and think maybe we should buy them, and then they disappear and they’re like, oh, well we would have bought them if they had just waited a little longer.
Brian Burke: Timing’s everything.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. So that was definitely well said that you got the persevere. So for folks out there listening, what are the top three reasons and the main benefits that they should reach out to you? Talk a little bit about what they’re using with their Macs.
Brian Burke: Probably the best reason to use our service is to avoid the risks and hassles of selling by yourself. I hate hearing that my friends got scammed trying to sell their own iPhone on eBay because it got bought from someone out of the country or they sent a fake PayPal payment, stuff like that. I’d rather just guarantee them a price and help them out. The best thing about our company is our level of customer service. I can point back to our customer service scores, but ultimately the only thing you need to know is we’re going to be with you every step of the way and we’re there to help and we’re going to be honest. And not every company is going to be honest or give you that personal level of touch. So we’re going to make sure that we communicate effectively throughout, give you the best price we possibly can and deliver the best experience.
Sam Schutte: That’s great. And if folks want to find you, your website is sellyourmac.com?
Brian Burke: Go to sellyourmac.com and I’ll even drop a promo code in here. If you use the promo unstoppable, I’ll give you a $10 bonus any time you’re selling your item for the next year.
Sam Schutte: Great. And your phone number if they would like to call instead?
Brian Burke: You can call us at 844-SellMac. S-E-L-L M-A-C.
Sam Schutte: Great. Well Brian, really appreciate having you on the show. I’ve watched your company for the last few years. We both sort of started around the same time and you’ve just had such great success. It’s real inspiring. And just everything you do in the community is awesome.
Brian Burke: Well thanks for having me on to share my story about SellYourMac. I love talking about the business. I’m super passionate about it so great to be with you here today.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Thank you.