- In this episode, we talk about the story of when Ezra Firestone told us to stop dropshipping after we met him at the Smart Marketer conference.
- The point of this podcast is to show people that you should never develop what we call a “guru complex”. Don’t look up to people and think that their word is exactly what you need to do at this current moment.
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MENTIONED PEOPLE and sites in the episode
- Ezra Firestone @ Smart Marketer
- Build Assets Online Free Course
- Influence Book by Robert Cialdini
- Authority Hacker
- Project 24 by Income School
- Empire Flippers
Introduction: You’re listening to the build assets online podcast. Get ready to learn proven strategies on how you can build an online business portfolio from the ground up from two guys who actually do it. Now let’s get to the show.
Joe: Hey everyone, it’s Joe here with my brother Mike from buildassetsonline.com Mike is making hand gestures at the camera right now, but we’re trying a new recording software. And I think that you’re not going to see his face until he talks. So I’m going to wave hello and I’m going to give Mike a chance to say something and wave. Hello.
Mike: What’s going on guys? Hopefully you can see me. Now I’m waving my hands again.
Joe: Cool, cool. So yeah, we’re just testing out this new thing to where we can record podcasts digitally, you know, or like long form YouTube episodes because in the past we’ve always had to do it together and you know, that’s kind of a bottleneck for us and we can’t bring the content as quickly to you guys if we always have to be in the same place at the same time. So hopefully you guys like this format and hopefully it works out well. But today’s episode is going to be something that’s a little bit different and I think many of you guys who are, it’s going to appeal to a wide range of folks. Whether you’re just getting into online business, you know, you’re kind of in it, you’re making, you have a business as generated like a full time business or you’re like really excelling at online business. I think what we’re going to talk about is going to ring true for you and we’re going to basically start with the story of how Ezra Firestone of smartmarketer.com told us, we went to one of his conferences, which we really enjoyed by the way, I think we’re actually both fans of Ezra, but we went to his conference a few years back. We had a chance to talk to him and he told us straight up to our faces, stop drop shipping. So Mike, why don’t you set the stage for what happened exactly.
Mike: Yes. So I believe it was August, 2016 and we had just, I had just gotten back from a two month trip to Vietnam and Thailand and before we left I, you know, we had created our first drop shipping store and you know, as we’ve said before, we got a couple of sales like the first day or you know, first week and you know, so that’s where we were at. We were trying to build from there. But I had left and gone to live in Asia for two months, so our work kind of stagnated. I remember getting sales and I’m actually going to be sending out an email soon describing kind of this situation more from when I was in Asia and you were back home. But long story short, our business was not where we wanted it to be. And at that point we’d gotten an email from Firestone who, you know, we both admire and it was definitely one of the top e-commerce people probably in the world. I know a lot of experts consult with him and he’s actually a legit guy. So we saw he was putting on a conference in San Diego, we thought, okay, you know, this is our chance to learn something, to kind of get an edge and take our stores to the next level. And you know, I come back home, we fly out to San Diego and then we go to this conference. And the whole time, you know, we wanted a chance to speak with him and we wanted to bring up our specific situation and ask for advice. And you know, it was the first day it had ended and then there was a big bar POW going on afterwards. And you know, as we’re shows up, he’s in some expensive suit, he’s running around talking to everyone and we buy or get a chance to go up to him and we tell them our situation and we say, what do we do? And he says, stop drop shipping, pick one product, set up a funnel. So at the time, this was not really what we wanted to hear. And I think we were both pretty disheartened by this. And so, you know, we went home back to our hotel that day and yeah, I mean I would give it some long, hard thought. And you know, when you get advice that’s basically telling you to do the opposite of something you already have momentum doing, it’s kind of hard just to drop everything and just go up in some completely different direction that you don’t have a skillset build up for yet. So needless to say, we did not take advice on that. The next day we actually happened to get a huge sale as we were walking back to the conference, which kind of reaffirmed our belief on the situation. But you know, I think as we go on in this podcast, we’ll talk more about, you know, what it means to take advice from so-called experts on certain subjects and what it means as a person to, you know, really does strive for something that you believe in.
Joe: Yeah. What’s the most interesting actually is that when we got that sale, I remember exactly what you’re talking about. I don’t remember quite how much we made, but I remember thinking about the other people at the conference because there was a lot of other people there who had their own products. They had singular products that they were trying to getting off. They were kind of getting off the ground and you know, they were kind of diving deeper into Ezra’s techniques, you know, the complicated funnels that he makes and the Facebook ads and stuff like that. And I remember, you know, talking to some people and learning about the margin to some of these products. And then we got that sale and they were talking about their sales like, yeah, whatever. And I was all, yeah, that’s pretty good. But then when we got that sale, I was like, wait a second we made, we’re making this much, we’re selling one product. They’re making that much selling their little whatever they’re selling, the little products, you know, all we got to do is scale what we’re doing and we can outpace these other people really quickly. Now to do what Ezra does with like his brands like boom by Cindy Joseph and stuff like that. Like that’s like some stuff on shark tank. And what am I mean by that? The stuff on shark tank, it’s stuff that it will either blow up or are going to fall flat on its face most of the time. It’s not something that you can, you know, grow and scale consistently. So that’s kind of how I think of the way that Ezra does things. It’s a really big, I don’t want to call it like a hail Mary cause it’s obviously like, yeah, very tactical and strategic and stuff like that. But it doesn’t seem to me like it’s something that you, you know, I think you’re either going to win or you’re going to lose.
Mike: I think when it comes down to creating your own product, it does become a high risk, high reward scenario. So you don’t know, there’s so many different levels of selling something online. There’s, I think, you know, low risk would be somebody like arbitrage. You’re selling something that already has demand. It already has a brand. There’s nothing you’re personally putting behind it. So that’s the first level. And then I would say the next level would be having an ecommerce store where you have your personal brand just behind the store, but you’re selling other people’s products and then you move on into like private label, like white labeling something where you’re not really making up anything. You’re just selling something that already exists and putting your name behind it. And then let’s say maybe you make a slight adjustment to that product. Now it’s your own unique product. And then there is even beyond that, like inventing something totally new. So as you go farther down in that scale, you’re kind of creating more risk for yourself because you are basically entering into a market that no one, you know, you don’t have any sort of the data for yet.
Joe: Yeah. I think one of the things that we’re learning now about online marketing and online business in general is that you don’t have to make your own product to like make it absolutely huge, like to really scale into a home run. And the reason for that is basically because doing stuff online gives you an unlimited amount of exposure. Like because of Google and the way search engines work, you don’t have to, you know, reinvent the wheel and make your own product. You can create any commerce store that dominates for a product or a product line that already exists. And then if you can do that over and over and over again, what’s the point of taking on that risk and making your own product? I mean for some people, I mean I think, I guess maybe if you’re more.
Mike: The point is, I think you can go to, you can get more out of it because then you know it, you’re going to have people selling your products. You can. I think there’s definitely a high potential when you have your own product and then you need to be covering all your bases. You need to learn how to do the marketing for it, you know, you need to learn where it fits in economically. Is there a demand for it? So you can’t really just drop ship, something like that because you need to have it bunch made, you need to like start doing inventory. You’re starting from scratch and so with, you know, obviously that’s how billion dollar companies are born, but I think you know, most people when they want to create some passive income or maybe you know, generating a few thousand dollars a month, trying to create your own product is ridiculous because it requires so many different skillsets. Whereas if you start it even with retail arbitrage and you’re just going to the store, you’re buying things and you’re reselling them, there’s minimal skill set you have to learn for that because the products that you’re selling, all you need to do is figure out if you can sell them for more. That is it. Yeah, because the marketing’s already been done by the brand. I mean everything.
Joe: I wasn’t necessarily trying to imply with that that one is bad and one is good. I think what I was trying to say was that you don’t have to make your own product to hit a home run, obviously. Yeah. That’s how billion dollar companies are born in some respects. But you can think about retail arbitrage that can also birth $1 billion company as can drop shipping. Let’s go back and like think about the retail arbitrage example. I mean we have the drops shipping example of Wayfair starting as a drop shipping store and birthing billion dollar publicly traded company. So that’s one example. They think about retail arbitrage. I know, well I don’t actually know people, but I have been following a few folks that have started with retail arbitrage and then they kind of turned it into like a whole, like a wholesale, not a whole what is, I can’t think of the word like a liquidation flipping business. You know what I’m saying? Like how T J Maxx, like if you go to like TJ Maxx or like home goods or like all those other retail stores, which are actually doing really well right now, they’re all liquidations. So they’re not doing stuff where they’re sourcing the products directly. They’re getting all the inventory that no one else wants for cheap, kind of repurchasing it, putting it out on their shelves and they have a great business as a result of that. So I think any business model can birth $1 billion business.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, sure. I would agree with that. I still do think like when you have your own brand, there’s a lot more flexibility in what you can do. Like if you have own product, there’s more flexibility. But yeah, I mean that’s totally true. You can birth $1 billion business out of everything and yeah, I do think starting with something that requires less personalization and less skills, I like you to build up to that point. So for example, if you have a drop shipping business, you know, and you’re selling other people’s products and you’re making these good commissions, you’re making these good margins, that is probably the easiest way to start making a couple thousand dollars a month. And then once you have that and you can build up, you know, your skill set and you can understand how online business works, or even just ecommerce or commerce in general, then you can go out and say, okay, I’m going to take a product that’s selling really well for me and I’m going to make my own version of it. I’m going to make a version of it with a change that people, you know, or asking me for. And I think that’s the best way to kind of crawl your way into more high risk, high reward spaces.
Joe: Yeah. Yeah, totally. So, I mean we can kind of branch off into a billion, a billion different directions right now, but I want to take it back to what we’re, you know, the story we were telling about how Ezra told us to just stop drop shipping. Because I think it relates to a lot of what happens. I mean, this is stuff that still happens to us today where, I mean, we buy courses pretty often, not so much lately, but how many courses would you say we buy a year? Just because, I mean, we obviously sell a course, but I mean I think you would agree that it’s an integral part of like learning new stuff online. It’s like you have to buy courses regularly because to sort through like all the people say, Oh, or you just get it for free. But to realistically when it comes to your time, I just want to get straight to the core of what people are teaching. So anyway. Well how many courses would you say we buy a year? If you had to think about it?
Mike: At least five.
Joe: Yeah. And some of those are pretty ended up being, you know, kind of expensive as well. Yeah, 2000. I remember when we bought John’s course and got his coaching from fat stacks blog, which was a, I think for a lot of reasons, was a big turning point in many aspects of our business. Not only because he helped, you know, he kind of pointed us in the right direction with the content sites, but I think he obviously he helped it, you know, he inspired us to make this, you know, to promoted us to get us off the ground. Where was I going with that?
Mike: You were saying we put a lot of money back into education and when, as we’re told us, you know, to do something else, it kind of, you know, it kind of presents a dilemma like, okay, do we need to go and learn a new thing?
Joe: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So when I was, I was going was like, when you oftentimes get this education, you have to kind of take what people are saying and it’s almost impossible to follow someone else’s path 100% of the way. And that’s because they have a different business than you. Like no course is going to be able to fully capture your unique situation and tell you exactly where to go. I think when you’re starting from zero, I think that’s the easiest because it’s like, you know, our curse for example, I think it’s pretty easy to go from zero to a couple thousand dollars a month in profit because you have, there’s no directions you could go in, you just follow a path from A to B. But once you’re at B and you’re making a little bit of money, there’s no course that’s going to fully encapsulate your business and the next steps that you need to take exactly. And you need to look at it, test things and make modifications and go from there.
Mike: And I think that is like a huge mental thing that people have. You know, if you think about how we’re doing this FBA business and our partner in that, he’s always kind of looking for this direct path to his end goal. And we just bought so many courses at this point. Now we know. You know, it’s so unlikely to get that. And it’s almost like jujitsu went away because in jujitsu, you know, you can go in and you can learn from a world champion, you know, black belt and someone who’s a really good teacher, but you’re never going to be exactly like them, no matter how good you get. It’s not to say that you won’t be as good as them, but the game quote unquote, that you develop is uniquely your own. And so it’s kind of a scary thing that I think people need to embrace that. You know, a course can provide the steps for you to go from A to B. But in reality, and it’s just a Guide point and the experience that you personally get along the way is the most valuable thing.
Joe: Yeah. I think what people fail to realize is that like, okay, as we’re told us to stop, drop shipping, we didn’t listen to that, but do we throw out everything that Ezra ever said in his life or do we take what he says and learn from it? I think we absolutely learn from it. We just throw out that one portion, but we can try and adopting little things that work well for us in the areas of our business that it applies to.
Mike: And I think, you know, people naturally have like this guru complex where it’s the easiest thing to do would just be to follow exactly what someone says, you know, but you can’t do that. Again you kind of just need to be able to take what works for you and just leave the rest behind.
Joe: Yeah. Yeah. The guru complex thing I think is a real thing. And I hope that when we make these videos, I really hope that people don’t, like, I don’t want to sound like full of hubris saying this, like that’s not what I’m getting at, but I don’t want people to start like viewing us in that light because, and I think this applies to a lot of areas in life. Like a lot of good teachers will tell you like, don’t focus on me. Like don’t try and be like me. Like just take what I’m teaching you and apply it and adapt it to yourself.
Mike: Exactly. And I do think, you know, in our course we could essentially just like say, okay, go out and get this supplier, do this, do this, and list out these exact steps. And maybe at the time that we list them they would work. But if everyone did the same exact thing, then it would stop working very quickly. And that’s why giving out like niche lists and people even give out supplier directory is like that is at one point in time be exactly what could work. But it will all dry up. Yeah. It is just basic supply and demand. If everyone starts going into one thing, you know the market’s going to react to that. If 30 people started contacting this one supplier, then they’re not even worth selling anymore. So that’s why in our course, it’s not really about a step-by-step like do this, contact this person, contact this person. We try and give you the skillsets to where you can mitigate your risks through creating an ecommerce store, how to find like low competition things and then you can go from there. And how, you know basically how to run AdWords effectively.
Joe: Yeah. Yeah. And I don’t know what I want to say to that, but yeah, I think you’re, I think you’re right. So this might turn out to be a pretty short episode, but I mean, is there any other directions you want to go in? Like based on what we’ve been talking about that people should know?
Mike: Yeah, I think, you know, a lot of times when it comes down to gurus telling you what to do, there is some sort of psychological thing that goes on and people really fall victim to it. Everyone should read the book Influence by Robert Cialdini. And it basically goes like, until all this stuff as to why we as humans have like these really irrational responses to certain things and how it gets kind of exploded to us through marketing and through different things like that. And you know, we inevitably do it. It’s not to say that these things are good or bad, it’s just that you need to be equipped in order to, you know, use them effectively and to be able to understand when it’s happening to you. So, you know, I think there’s nothing wrong with the way that these things are. It’s just again, as someone who’s going into online business, I think you need to develop like a level of self-confidence to where you can listen to yourself and you’re not kind of stuck looking for someone else to listen to. Yeah. The only way, I mean I think the best way to get competence is to kind of have success and so that is why, I mean high ticket drop shipping I think is the quickest way to success because yeah, if you’re making $1,000 on a sale then you can propel yourself forward, you know, under your own merits.
Joe: Yeah. Yeah. I think what you have to do the best way to kind of figure out your next steps, you know, say for example you are doing high ticket drop shipping and you know you’re making, you know you got from that point A to point B to where your stores are making profit and you know you’re happy with it but you want to take it to the next level. I think what you need to do is figure out what, based on your business, like what you need next. Like in our particular case, what we need now is search engine optimization and we need that because you know there’s only the way to scale our business now is because once you have the suppliers, once you identify that they’re good suppliers, you want to sell more of their stuff and you want to dominate the market, you want to mitigate new people coming in, bidding on your Google ads, like you don’t want to compete with them on Google ads. And by dominating the search results, you basically have the ability to outspend them because you take up more real estate because you take up the ad, because you take up the organic search result, you can outspend people all day and kick them off of your ads and take over the market and it gives you the, that’s this next step in our business, which we’re doing, which gives you the leverage to dominate. So it might be different for your business. And I think we’re at that point now, but where we were maybe a year ago was where we needed more stores. We needed more suppliers because we needed to build up that cash flow in order to give us the flexibility to fail at SEO. Because without that cash flow, it would be so much more difficult to test things and make mistakes.
Mike: Yeah, I mean think about all the research and development that goes into so many big companies. It’s so much of that because you know, once you have that sort of unique breakthrough, and it goes back to what we were saying before, like if you can find something unique, then you stand to gain so much more than if everyone is just doing the same exact thing. But that costs money, you know, kind of blazing the trail is the hardest thing that you can do. But it has the most payoff and, but yeah, in the beginning, you know, you need to find something that works and then just copy and paste it as much as possible. And for us, you know, we’re kind of reaching a point where we’ve copied and pasted like as much as we can handle and you know, we’ve sold stores and you know, we’ve done this and done that and it’s like we need to find a way to fortify ourselves and fortify what we’ve found that works. So you know, as someone who gets into drop shipping, you will find a really good supplier that not many people have, but they sell well and they make you a lot of money and you need to go and essentially protect yourself. And so teaching in terms of Google ads is great because you can dominate for a particular brand, but you know, unless you can get like exclusivity or kind of convinced them to stop taking on dealers, then you know, you could be putting yourself at risk. So you always want to be learning more as to what you can do to gain a competitive edge.
Joe: Yeah. And I think there’s a few other things that we can mention to people that I think will, if they’re into their business and they’re doing high ticket drop shipping, I think that’ll, besides for SEO and you know, online stuff, I think there’s a few people might overlook the in-person things that you can do to sort of dominate a niche. So I mean having regular meetings with your suppliers, meeting them in person if possible, going to trade shows. Just real like relationship building that you have a good relationship with them. So when you need something or when someone else is trying to come in and take your market share, you could be like, look, we’ve been working together this long, blah blah blah blah blah. I think don’t overlook that stuff.
Mike: But in the beginning like yeah, what you just said is great once you’re off the ground. But in the beginning it’s like, it’s totally different. If someone said, hey, you know, I haven’t made my first dollar yet, I’m not going to tell them to go to a trade show.
Joe: No, no, absolutely. Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
Mike: And so that’s the thing with like, you know, with getting advice from certain people because they’re only instructing you from where they’re at. Yeah, exactly. You need to get to a certain level before certain information even applies or is worth your time.
Joe: Yeah. What’s interesting is I think that as her told us to stop drop shipping because he was into drop shipping and he actually went into a specific example at the conference and I know he talks about this publicly to where he used to drop ship like Halloween costumes or something. Like some like some wigs and you know, think about that. Like if he used to drop ship wigs, that’s not scalable. Not only is it a low ticket item, you got to sell tons of wigs. People most likely buy wigs like only on Halloween. That’s probably when like the majority of the stuff comes out, like the stuff sells. So if that’s his experience with drop shipping, of course he’s not going to portray it that way. But say for example, we asked the CEO of Wayfair, like should we continue this? And he just wanted to give us an honest answer, he would probably give us a totally different answer than Ezra.
Mike: Totally. Yeah. Yeah. It does essentially come down to people’s experience and we told them we were selling like expensive stuff and we even gave them, I think an example of like one thing that we were selling. Yeah. Again, you know, unless you’re deep in it, it’s hard to even understand. And I also remember at that conference someone had talked about essentially how back in the day drop shipping would be, you know, you put up a bunch of product listings and then you just optimize it through SEO and that what was it? And then, you know, yeah, an algorithm update happened and basically everyone’s stores tanked. Right? Yeah, yeah. But now we’re really in a different age to where ecommerce is just getting so big that there’s so many ways to get traffic to your store. There’s so many ways to, you know, make money with drop shipping, even through like Facebook ads, supposedly through different social media platforms. There’s Pinterest ads now. So again, like I think there’s so many ways to fortify yourself and make e-commerce work, but if you’re not making high margins, then you’re just setting yourself up to fail.
Joe: Yeah, yeah. It’s all about the margins, you know, especially when you’re first starting out. I mean, I think it’s always all about the margins, but so yeah. So anything else? I can’t really think of much.
Mike: I think that’s really it. I mean, yeah, just to recap, you know, everything that you hear you need to take with a grain of salt and when you decide to commit to a particular path, you need to just go down that path until you’ve really given it your best effort. But it needs to be something that is sustainable. Meaning, you know, if you’re just buying different courses and losing money on Facebook ads, you’re just headed in a negative spiral and eventually it won’t be financially possible to keep moving forward. But if you can start a business and even make a little bit of money at first, then it’s easy to just replicate what works, replicate what works, figure out where you may be lacking. And just plug holes that way until you know, $10 a month becomes $100 and a thousand becomes 10,000.
Joe: Yeah, yeah. Dude. That’s why we were so adamant about the high ticket e-commerce model is because you need to get paid first. And I’m going to talk a little bit about, I’m not going to mention any names. And so when we first got into SEO, the first course we ever bought was the authority hacker course. And you know, we tried to making an affiliate site. I mean we still have that site and then we have a few more, but I’m in a master or like a Skype group with a few friends that I met from there. I think four or so people, five people. And one of them who actually had some previous experience with SEO, I will probably have him on the show actually. Eventually. I know he’s starting up his own thing, so we’ll hopefully do an interview with him soon. He had a huge exit and he did awesome now, but that was the exception to the rule. The other guys that are in the group, you know, they started off kind of from nothing. Like, you know, they weren’t making any money off their sites. They didn’t really have much previous experience. And you know, now they’re kind of making, you know, some of them are making close to a livable income. Some of them are still not where they want to be yet. And it’s because they took a business model that takes so long to get paid. And what I didn’t mention is that we bought authority hacker in early 2017 so that was almost three years ago at this point. And it shouldn’t take you three years to get off the ground in online business, like you want to be profitable within the first few months. You want to have positive cash flow within the first few months. And these guys are, you know, they’re consistent, they’re sticking with it, which is great. But I think for most people, that’s a crazy proposition to say, Hey, maybe you’ll make an income. You can quit your job off of in three years.
Mike: Well, there’s a course that does make that basic exact proposition where in 24 months you may have an income that matches your job.
Joe: I think we’re talking about Project 24 by Income School who, you know, I’ve learned a lot from those guys and we bought their course as well. We didn’t buy their products, well we did. We bought their previous course before it was Project 24.
Joe: But just for some context if you, you know, those are, I think, I don’t want to about their strategies just because it’s not really relevant to this conversation. But I do think that in terms of honesty and transparency, income school is really, really up there in terms of online marketing. They’re very honest and they’re very transparent. They reveal all their sites and whatever, you know, huge respect to them for doing that. But I still think 24 months is a losing proposition for most people, I think for me.
Mike: Yeah. I mean if you told me, you know, you’ve got to write all this content and you know, two years from now you may be somewhere where you can quit your job. I’m saying screw that, I’m looking somewhere else.
Joe: Yeah, I mean, think about in our free course, the online asset playbook. Yeah. We give drop shipping as the first business model that you should do to start building up your cash flow. But after that we gave you Kindle Publishing as your next business model to do. Kindle publishing, you’re not getting paid as quickly as drop shipping, but you’re getting paid quickly. It’s not, you’re not waiting 24 months. Yeah. You know, maybe how long would you say before you start making real money from Kindle publishing nowadays?
Mike: I mean, once we started redoing things, I think it was May, it was like mother’s day. So it was like May 11th or something 2018 I guess that we started doing like longer books and started doing things more white hat and like within a few months, like it was making its money back. So yeah, I mean again, again 24 months is like if you buy a website on empire flippers that already has profitability, then yeah, things are sold at like 24 X or 36 X monthly profit. Right. But with that you’re buying the certainty of something that’s already making profit. Like this is like a complete gamble to wear it. And not a complete gamble, but there’s no guarantees. Yeah, we’re just good to just put your effort into something for two years. Maybe there will be some something good that comes out of it.
Joe: And there’s no pivoting either. That’s the other thing. Oh, pivoting, yes, there’s no pivoting. You got to be consistent and you’ve got to keep going for two years, and then you’ll see some,
Mike: I’d say the amount of people that followed through with that, it must be extremely low.
Joe: Yeah. And I’m sure there are some big success stories as I mean, I know there are some big success stories as well, but I think that, yeah, we’re talking to the exception and, and not that we’re kind of like that shark tank thing where if you do it and you do it right, you know, you’re going to and with a little bit of luck, you’re going to make it big. But if not, you know, you’re going to not succeed.
Mike: Yeah. I mean, what, what percentage of startups fail? 90%? More?
Joe: I don’t know, but yeah, I mean, I think we’ve, yeah, cool. So we’ll wrap it up there guys. Don’t forget to always get the free course if you haven’t already in the description, the online asset playbook where we talk more in depth about this cash flow and profit, you know, how we profit first, Reinvest later. So yeah, Hope you guys have a great day and hope you enjoyed the episode.