The Power of Social Proof and Data-Driven Decisions with Kate Cannova

In this episode, we talk to Kate Cannova, the Chief Business Officer at Wheelership. We cover how her team successfully navigated the pandemic, the importance of data-driven decisions in their business, and the power of social proof.

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About this episode:

In this episode, we talk to Kate Cannova, the Chief Business Officer at Wheelership. Kate is responsible for making sure WheelerShip achieves their goals of providing affordable and quality solutions to drivers that get them back on the road, fast. 

We talk about the biggest challenges they’ve faced including how they navigated the lockdown and the supply chain issues caused by the pandemic. Kate also shares the importance of data and how it helps her team make the right business decisions.

In this episode, you’ll learn about things like:

  • How WheelerShip navigated the challenges brought on by the pandemic
  • Why data is crucial in decision-making and inventory management
  • How to manage your products on different platforms or channels 
  • Why social proof works and how it can help when you have new customers

So, if you’re interested in learning about data driven decision making, avoiding channel conflict, and the power of social proof when it comes to getting new customers to trust you, then this episode is for you. 

Learn more and Kate and her resources here:

Want to be a guest on our show? Have feedback or ideas for how we can improve? Send your thoughts over to We’ll be keeping an eye on that inbox. 🙂

The Ecommerce Insights Show is brought to you by The Good, a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) consultancy specializing in helping ecommerce businesses accelerate their growth through better research, testing, and design. Learn more about our team, our work, and our services at

Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] James Sowers (The Good): So here’s the question. How can e-commerce leaders make sure that they’re producing a great product, providing a world class customer experience responsibly managing their finances and still reserve time, energy, and resources for marketing their products? My name is James Sas, and you are listening to the e-Commerce Insight Show, the podcast that gives you specific actionable advice for growing your e-commerce business.

[00:00:20] Every Monday you’ll get a conversion rate optimization tactic that you can implement quickly to make your business 1% better every single. Every Thursday we sit down with industry experts to go deep on a specific aspect of running a successful e-commerce business. It’s the perfect blend of learning and application, which means that you maximize the value of every single minute you spend with us.

[00:00:41] We’re just as committed to growing your business as you are. So if you’re looking for a partner to help you crush your revenue goals, you’ve come to the right place, Roll up your sleeves and grab a notepad because it’s time to get to work. All right, welcome to another episode of the E-Commerce Insight Show.

[00:00:55] Today I am joined by Kate Canova. She’s from Wheeler Ship, and we’re gonna talk about what they do over there. Actually, maybe that’s a good place to jump in. Uh, maybe gimme a couple of sentences about, you know, what you do at Wheeler Ship today, who you guys serve, and what your role is there. Yeah, 

[00:01:07] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): sure. So, um, Wheeler Ship is a leading eCommerce retailer and a wholesale distributor of replacement automotive parts and accessories.

[00:01:16] So we don’t sort of deal in like things that spin and flash and you can’t see any of it from space or anything like that. This is more like. This is the wheel on my car. I hit a pothole, I got in an accident. I need to replace it. I want it to look as good as new. So we provide affordable solutions for drivers so that they can get themselves back on the road.

[00:01:37] Oh, nice. 

[00:01:38] James Sowers (The Good): So it’s not the spinners, right? It’s not a a statement piece? No spinners, 

[00:01:41] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): At least not yet. I mean, at this point there’s nothing, there’s no lasers, there’s no spinning. Unfortunately, we don’t have anything that’s like purple, which, you know, is personal favorite of mine. But it’s really sort of the, the idea behind it is to minimize the disruption to the consumer’s life and just be able to get them back in the car, back on the road at a price that they can afford with a really good quality product and a lot of really strong customer service.

[00:02:06] Um, believe it or not, most drivers don’t know a lot about their own vehicle. So I think, you know, this is sort of a, it’s a generic but also sort of specialized marketplace insofar as that. You know, a part has to fit. You know, there’s some requirement for compatibility, right? So all of that’s really important.

[00:02:26] But consumer confidence when purchasing is not necessarily high. So the guidance we provide, the way we communicate to our customers is super important because they need to know and feel really good about what they’re buying, that it’s gonna fit, it’s gonna work, it’s gonna last, it’s gonna look good.

[00:02:42] That’s what we try to do. What’s 

[00:02:43] James Sowers (The Good): your role in, like what do you play at the organization? Like what’s your responsibility there? Sure. 

[00:02:47] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): So my title is Chief Business Officer, which is really just kind of a catchall for any sort of important thing that needs to get done. Got it, got it. I make sure it gets done.

[00:03:00] pretty much. So we’re actually a family owned and operated business, so I would say, you know, from an organizational structure perspective, we might not necessarily be tradit. My husband is the owner of the company. He’s the president and ceo. He founded it almost 12 years ago. And so, you know, I always say like he’s all of the things on the inside of the car that makes everything work.

[00:03:23] So he leads logistics, supply chain, transportation, IT infrastructure, He runs our distribution center, all of that kind of, you know, nuts and bolt stuff. And then I’m all this stuff on the outside of the car, , that makes it look pretty , you know, So I deal with customer experience, marketing, sales, HR, culture initiatives, all that kind of stuff.

[00:03:44] Cuz his background is in automotive industry. And my background is actually in client services market. I was a VP at TBWA for like a decade before joining Joe here at the business, 

[00:03:56] James Sowers (The Good): so. Got it. So it sounds like you make all the promises and he has to honor all them , 

[00:04:02] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): Sort of. Sort of, sort of. I like to think that I also help deliver upon them, but I do, you know, it is kind of my job to think about strategy and growth and expansion and diversification and all of that kind of stuff.

[00:04:16] And yes, he helps operationalize those things. Okay, cool. 

[00:04:20] James Sowers (The Good): So I, I did some internet sleuthing. Sounds like you have a theater background. Unless I got, I got my channels mixed up. So how does somebody who has studied theater land, I mean, maybe marriage is the answer here, and it’s as simple as that, but what was the journey from, you know, performing on stage or helping produce those performances to landing at an automotive, uh, OEM manufacturer?

[00:04:40] So, 

[00:04:41] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): first of all, you’ve outed me here, . 

[00:04:43] James Sowers (The Good): I’m not gonna ask you to sing. Don’t worry about that. That’s not 

[00:04:45] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): coming. So, yeah, please don’t. So first of all, I just wanna be really clear that I have not been a performer for many, many, many years purposefully. So, you know, I came to a realization in my somewhat young adult life that I was never gonna have the required level of talent to be on stage, which is fine.

[00:05:05] I started my own production company. I mean, it’s like a gazillion years ago now. I started producing in 2000. Three. Oh my God, I’m dating myself. And it’s funny because, you know, I, I always spent my life in corporate America. I worked in consulting, I worked for a big advertising agency. You know, I, I sort of, even in my freelance life, I sort of had that same set of clients, you know, pharma companies and e-commerce companies and marketing clients, all of that kind of stuff.

[00:05:33] And in 2019, after, you know, spending a year at, uh, you know, a decade at tbwa, I was like, you know what? I think it’s time for me to just like cut the corporate umbilical cord and go out and live my best creative life and I’m gonna run my production company and everything’s gonna be great. And for three months everything was really great.

[00:05:51] And then the pandemic shut the entire live experience industry down. So no more Broadway shows to produce, no more events, no more. Used to do like a lot of trade show booths for corporate clients. So, you know, those sort of customer experience, trade show and convention booths, and. Wheeler ship was in a period of transition at that time anyway, and so it just seemed to make sense given my background in consulting and marketing to help Joe work through that transition.

[00:06:23] And you know, at the time I didn’t have anything else to compete with that because my entire other side of my life was completely inoperative, which I guess allowed me to really focus on, you know, the second decade of leadership and helping Joe kind of navigate that transition, really plan for, for what was to come.

[00:06:46] I mean, at that point, you know, the business was 10 years old and it really was just kind of the perfect time to pause, pump the brakes. Here’s one thing you’ll learn. There is no shortage of idiom in the car space. So , we pumped the brakes a little bit and looked and said you. What’s really the best path forward for the company.

[00:07:06] We really should just sort of tear everything down and really evaluate and look forward. It’s our tenure anniversary. We have a major change in leadership. You know, the whole world has flipped on its head like this. There’s no, never waste a crisis, right? There’s no better opportunity to really do some self-reflection and say, Are we doing the best that we can for the business, for the employees, for the customers, and for our communities?

[00:07:30] And so, you know, we took that opportunity to make some personnel changes, to make some strategy changes. We did a total corporate rebrand. We made a lot of investment in IP and IT and infrastructure. We started looking for more space cuz you know, even our physical footprint is growing. So it may not be like the most natural progression, and I would be lying if I said that, You know, I still don’t have that other half of my life, which I do.

[00:07:59] You know, I’ve got a couple of of things opening on Broadway in a matter of mere weeks, so I don’t sleep a lot. But what we do in production, and I mean what we are, are, are, we’re basically CEOs like you’re the CEO or a coo, you know, of a creative venture. But it’s all. Hiring and firing and marketing and crisis management.

[00:08:20] Let me tell you, like , a lot of, a lot of producing is about crisis management, relationship management, investor relations, So all of those sort of hard and soft skill sets are essentially applicable to what we do here at Wheeler Ship. We have both a, a consumer facing side of the business. So I’d say maybe 70% of the business is really retail driven, direct to consumer.

[00:08:44] And that happens either through our native platform or via a marketplace like Amazon or eBay. And then the other 30% of the business, maybe 35 now, is really driven by wholesale customers and that runs the full spectrum. Everything from your mom and pop auto body shop that might be ordering a single part for a customer whose car is up in their shop all the way through to the national retailers who sort of are placing orders all day, every day, all the way up to like the big time guys where we’re pushing, you know, 350 or 400 units out the.

[00:09:16] You know, to a single, a single distributor. So, you know, you really have to be sort of thoughtful about, you know, your channel mix and you know how you communicate differently to these different channels and how you manage all of those relationships. Especially in times like these, where the supply chain 

[00:09:33] James Sowers (The Good): is man, a lot of different angles.

[00:09:35] I want to go there. I mean, the first thing is, I was thinking about this, um, when one door closes, another door opens, right? The popular saying, and it’s like, well, it’s unfortunate that you were kind of chasing your passion or whatever, and the world had other plans for you. I was just thinking about, my son was born November, 2019 and he’s never been to a live show.

[00:09:51] I took my daughter to Disney on Ice cuz she’s old enough to appreciate that. He’s, he’s too, So he might have gotten it a little bit, but like just these little performances and like classes where they go play instruments and ballet and stuff like that. He’s never really been to anything like that because we’ve been in the heat of a, a pandemic and it was all pretty much shut down or it was too risky and we weren’t comfortable.

[00:10:08] So yeah, it affected a lot of lives, you know, and it’s, but it sounds like you landed in a good place. So sometimes what I was gonna say there is like, without that kind of, uh, catalyst to push you into a period of transition, like you could have the wrong people in the room for another few years, right? If this doesn’t happen.

[00:10:23] Or you could have stuck with a strategy that led you down the wrong path, and you could be in a very different place today. But it sounds like despite all of the adversity and the variability, like you landed on your feet, and it sounds like you folks are in a good position right now. But that’s not to say that like we don’t still have challenges, right?

[00:10:37] If I think about the last year or so, e-commerce, there’s a lot going on. You had covid 19 yet. Supply chain issues, you’ve got privacy and Facebook ads aren’t what they used to be. You know, it’s more expensive to run. Those costs of goods are gonna go up with inflation taking hold now. Of course you’ve got international turmoil over there in Europe and that’s affecting a lot of businesses differently.

[00:10:57] So, you know, not to twist the knife or anything here for you, but like how, how has wheel shift navigated all these ups and downs, right? Cause I’m sure you’ve had some wins in there as well. So how do you guys look at changing environments like that, and how does your team react when something goes RY in that supply chain?

[00:11:11] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): First of all, it’s a very good question. I will quickly, quickly say one thing is that our son is only four. So yesterday we went in, we went into a store and he, like, he wanted to buy something, so he went up to the, the cash register and he paid with a $10 bill. And I realized that that was actually a fir like, I was like, this is ca, this is what we call cash.

[00:11:35] Like this is money. This is a $10 bill and this is how you pay for things when you go into a store. Because he really, you know, so I get that. It’s definitely, it’s definitely very weird to be the parent of a young child. In this kind of situation. So it’s hard to 

[00:11:50] James Sowers (The Good): explain that this piece of paper has no value, but this one has lots of value.

[00:11:54] Don’t, don’t tear this one. Don’t write on this one. Don’t do anything bad to this one. Yes. Do 

[00:11:58] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): not draw a dinosaur on this one. Like, don’t do it. Yes. So it’s a really great question, and honestly, I could write a book on everything that the business has had to navigate and overcome over the last couple years.

[00:12:10] And I don’t know, maybe I will , maybe someday, and I would be lying to you if I said that. There weren’t times when, you know, things get really scary, especially like early on when the country really first shut down and millions of cars came off the road and businesses were closed and people were told to stay in your houses.

[00:12:28] You know, we had a couple of weeks there that were just like, we didn’t know. We didn’t know. Sales would just dry up completely. How long were people gonna be off the road? We didn’t know if we would have enough employees who would feel comfortable coming to work every day. We weren’t even sure early on whether or not we were allowed to operate because you know, we operate in different locations and at that time, each state was kind of doing its own thing about who is allowed to be at work, who wasn’t allowed to be at work.

[00:12:57] So there were a lot of questions early on, but you know, I have to say we’re like super grateful and super lucky that we really only had a couple of weeks that were super wonky. But the team here really came together and they decided it was really the employees, especially those who staff our distribution center.

[00:13:19] We really have them to thank for the fact that we were able to push through to a place where we were on more solid footing because they love each other and they’re very loyal to each other. And to my, my boss, Joe , you know, And they decided together that they were gonna figure it out, that they would hold hands, take a deep breath, and they would figure out a way to get to work.

[00:13:40] You know, there were no vaccines. People were afraid to get on public trans. I mean, it was the kind of thing where like Joe was literally like running carpool. Like he would go and pick all the employees up and drive them here so that nobody would have to get on a bus or anything like that. So they decided that they would figure out a way to keep the lights on.

[00:13:57] And they did, unfortunately, as, as you know, because of what you do and with your clients, you know, cross functionally, cross sector 2020 for all e-commerce businesses wound up surprisingly kind of going gangbusters. And you know, for better or worse, we were the beneficiary of that, especially since for a very long period of time people were not flying, People did not wanna get on mass transit.

[00:14:25] So, you know, we were seeing a lot of changes to the trends in our sales data. Average order values going up. Some of the seasonality that we see in automotive really sort of flattened out different way to flatten the curve. So instead of that seasonality, you know, people were buying more sets, people were winterizing earlier, people were taking more road trips, people were buying second vehicles when they hadn’t initially planned to.

[00:14:55] Then the new car market kind of got a little crazy and you know, the used car market went on fire because people were having a hard time getting new vehicles. And oftentimes when people buy a used vehicle, the first thing that they wanna do is replace their wheels cuz it has the biggest sort of visual impact on the quality of a car.

[00:15:12] So I’d say from a sales perspective, thankfully we have not really experienced a ton of volatility. I would say to your earlier point, the vast majority of pressure that we feel. And swing that we feel is on the operational side of the business. Unlike many of our competitors or our co-opetition as we like to call them, unlike many of them, we actually manufacture and import our own goods.

[00:15:36] So we basically control our supply chain almost from end to end, just about until we like put it on the FedEx truck or the U or the UPS truck or the postal service truck to, to go out. We do everything prior to that. So things like cardboard prices and the cost of aluminum and the cost of shipping container and the 27% tariffs that were imposed by the former administration that still have not been reversed.

[00:16:03] All of those things obviously add a ton of operational pressure. When it comes to the cost side, obviously there are a lot of ways to navigate those things and demand forecasting, budgetary forecasting, strategic planning, being really thoughtful about, you know, inventory and production. All of those things are great ways to help mitigate and manage all of that.

[00:16:24] But of course there’s always gonna be things that are out of your control. Especially like when it comes to things like, and here’s the interesting of the thing about it, cuz you know, we have monthly staff meetings and you know, we really like to share a lot of stuff with the employees here because, you know, it helps ’em sort of feel ownership into, you know, the business.

[00:16:41] And it helps ’em kind of understand the critical role that they play in our survival. And it’s sort of funny, I was joking with them at a meeting not all that long ago, that , it’s like, here’s today’s lessons on geopolitics. Like this is why your job is impacted by a military coup in Ghana. Like, and then you have to, you know, kind of explain all these things because there’s always going to be something that’s out of your control, right?

[00:17:04] Like massive ship getting stuck in the Suez Canal or a military coup, or now this absolutely unprovoked horrendous aggression by Putin in Ukraine, which hits very close to home for us because our entire dev team is there. You know, we have employees here who are from Ukraine, whose family is still there, you know, But all of these things that are outside of your control, they do have an impact that you have to manage around.

[00:17:32] But it’s not like we have control over foreign trade policy, right? So it’s like, okay, in the absence of being able to just reverse these tariffs, or not have to pay these custom duties, what can we do? And what can I do specifically as the person who’s in charge of our marketing and how we’re allocating resources?

[00:17:50] Like how do I take a step back and really think to myself, okay, so like what levers do I need to be pulling in when and what am I gonna be doing right now that’s mission critical versus what I should be doing six months from now and 12 months from now and 18 months from now, and so on and so forth.

[00:18:09] And those decisions include things. What does my marketing spend look like? What is that? What should the allocation be? You know, which of my marketing tactics are dependent on inventory versus the marketing tactics that are really more about brand equity and exposure? Where do I turn the dial up versus down based on what I know about my supply chain, when my inventory’s coming, what replenishments look like?

[00:18:35] So it’s sort of my job to think about, okay, well, in the absence of being able to control global macroeconomic things, what decisions can I make sometimes down to a skew level, right? To optimize. Our planning. Right? Because it’s not, I mean, we work with many manufacturing partners. We work with many shipping companies and freight forwarders and trucking companies.

[00:18:58] There’s always a lot of moving pieces. So sometimes, you know, you’re looking literally down to the skew level and saying, What is the sales plan for this item for the next six months? And you know, I would say like, again, coming from the marketing background, sure there’s always long range planning.

[00:19:16] There’s always a budget. You know, there’s always a scope of work that you’re working through with your agencies. But I would say prior to the pandemic, I’m not necessarily sure that long range planning was happening to that degree. However, because of all these uncontrollable things, you know what used to be a 30 or 40 day turnaround, you can’t rely on that anymore.

[00:19:41] Right? Because you know, the lead time on the supply chain is, Really fluid and unreliable. So it is important to be looking at your overall spend and allocation and channel strategy like much further down the road, I think, than normal. 

[00:19:56] James Sowers (The Good): Right? It’s almost like a cultural element where you have to hire folks who are adaptive and resilient, right?

[00:20:02] Like that has to be a character trait that you bring to the job because that’s just the world that we live in now. Like we run this leadership program in this business management program called the Entrepreneurial Operating System. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. They call it eos All time do.

[00:20:14] How do I get an invite to that ? It’s a certified program. There are like facilitators that help set it up at your company and stuff, but like part of this is, uh, one three in a five year plan and it’s like, We go through this exercise and like generally I’m a big fan of the program, but I’m like five year plan.

[00:20:28] Like I don’t have a five month plan. I don’t, I barely have a five day plan. Like things are changing so much. It’s like we can put it on paper all we want, but we still have to have the right people in the room that say, Hey, let’s just agree this is the direction we’re heading. But odds are it’s not gonna be a straight line and we’re gonna wander, or somebody’s gonna shove us off path and we’re gonna have to either course correct or change the plan.

[00:20:46] Right. But there’s value in like having a plan. There’s also value in. Accepting the fact that it’s not gonna look exactly how you wrote it down, and you’ll find a way to get there no matter what happens. Right? But you’re in it together. And those are some of the themes that I heard when you were talking about there.

[00:21:00] It’s like you’ve got strong company culture, you’ve got team cohesion together. We’re gonna navigate this. And you know, especially in, uh, I think a lot of people think that e-commerce is just pay for Facebook ads, sell product, give product to customer, customer tells friends, sell more product. Like it’s not that simple, especially when you’re talking about global supply chains.

[00:21:16] You’re talking about multi international, like political and economic, you know, scenes that you gotta navigate. Like it’s all over the place and there’s way more, uh, to this business than a lot of people give credit. So kudos to you and your team for. For making that happen. You know, one of the things that jumped out at me there is like, okay, so you’re talking about having a marketing plan down to the individual skew almost.

[00:21:35] And one of the things that’s always impressed me about OEM parts and stuff like that is like if I go to the mechanic shop down the street, I got a 2015 Subaru legacy. Like they have the hubcap there in the building and I’m like, how do you have that? Like with all the different makes and models on the road right now, how do you either have it on stock or on hand or can get it in two days or something like that?

[00:21:54] That’s always impressed me. So I imagine that as somebody who sells wheels for all different kinds of makes and models and years and finishes like. How do you manage such your big product portfolio and like how do you track inventory? Maybe part of that is you own the, the manufacturing process from end to end almost, or, or you have a really strong hold there.

[00:22:11] But it just blows my mind that you can keep track of all those different skews and know like what’s in stock, what’s outta stock, where we should put, give more attention over here cuz this one’s outta stock, so let’s offer, this is a replacement. Like how do you juggle all that complexity? 

[00:22:22] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): Yeah, so it’s a really good question and I’m not going to give you a very straight answer.

[00:22:27] I’ll tell you 

[00:22:27] James Sowers (The Good): that . Okay, fair enough. You gimme the best 

[00:22:30] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): you can. I can’t exactly tell you how the sausage is made, but what I can tell you is Joe and I both are big data nerds in different ways, but big data nerds, especially from my background through consulting and then in advertising and promotion, like every decision that I make is data driven.

[00:22:55] And Joe is similar in that he’s a big data and numbers nerd as well, but he also has the added layers of having an accounting degree. So he like understands numbers very well and he’s also a coder . So when he gets his mind on like, Oh, well I wish I had something that could do this, or I wish I had something that could tell me that if it doesn’t exist, he just builds.

[00:23:21] So when we look at, you know, demand forecasting or things like that, like every single decision that we make is based on actual data. So one thing that you’ll notice about us is that from a total skew count, we are minuscule compared to many of our competitors. Some of that is because most of those companies are just drop shippers.

[00:23:42] They list a bunch of stuff and then when somebody buys it, they go located somewhere and they have that person ship it to your house. That’s not really the core of our business is, is nothing like that. We are manufacturing product, importing it, and then selling it. So you’re right in that there’s like a massive sort of in operational investment, there’s a lot of overhead involved with deciding even what our SKU should look like.

[00:24:06] The good news is, is that there’s Joe and there’s me, and then we have a team of people who are equally nerdy about data and also equally nerdy about cars. And you know, between the leadership, the ship team, Like all of their combined years of experience. It’s like over a hundred years of experience in automotive parts, which is really significant.

[00:24:29] So we look at, okay, how many cars are on the road? What are those cars? You know, what is the life cycle? How are these products made? Some wheels are constructed this way versus that way. And sometimes the way that things are designed, it primes them for being less stable because, you know, maybe this fancy design and it’s made in a certain way and it looks great, but if you hit the smallest pothole that thing’s done and it can’t be fixed and now you need to buy a replacement.

[00:24:57] Right. So, you know, we’re looking at industry wide trend information. What kinds of cars are on the road? I’m gonna take a step back. First of all, one thing that’s important to know is. car manufacturers are only required to make replacement parts for a certain amount of time after they release a car, and then after that, they’re gonna stop making that investment.

[00:25:20] So, you know, there’s a whole universe of cars out there that need support when it comes to parts replacement. So, you know, it’s sort of developing a funnel the same way you would for any other thing. You’re looking at what’s the total universe of cars that are on the road in the us and then of those which are prone, you know, you look at all the, which are popular of those, you know, which are prone to having issues with this part or that part, you know, and so on and so forth.

[00:25:51] So we look at historical sales data, we look at overall industry trends. We also look at the competitive space, right? So a lot of what we sell. Is exclusive to us, and I can’t talk too much about that whole process, but you know, there is some proprietary stuff that’s done in the manufacturing process that means that we are bringing skews to market first.

[00:26:16] So we’re first to market and we’re exclusive, and that allows us to kind of corner, you know, certain pieces here or there. There’s the spaghetti approach, which is very popular in the automotive space, right? Because you know, it’s highly genericized, it’s highly fragmented, and then there’s sort of a more targeted approach.

[00:26:35] We have just elected not to do the spaghetti approach, sort of a quality versus quantity kind of situation. I think that’s probably all I can share about 

[00:26:45] James Sowers (The Good): that . Fair enough. No, I think that’s a great answer. And you know, I think it’s part of the competitive advantage that you have from the sounds of it, is that like, not everybody has those skills and competencies in house to crunch those numbers, to design a self-service inventory management system or, uh, do that kind of heavy lifting in terms of the popularity of the car and the age of the car and the proclivity to be damaged in a relatively minor like incident.

[00:27:09] You know, all those number, nobody’s doing that legwork, Right? Effectively, nobody, I’m sure somebody else out there is nerding out just like you, right? You, that’s, you, you have peers in that regard. But for the most part, like you said, they’re drop shippers. They want the easy money. They just wanna like buy five of everything and try to sell ’em out, right?

[00:27:23] And it’s, you’re taking a much more, um, like a, a sniper rifle as opposed to a shotgun. And it just feels like a decision point that like, to me it seems like a really large product portfolio, but when you compare it to other, like automotive parts dealers, I’m sure it really isn’t. And um, that’s just me not being as deeply entrenched in the industry as you are.

[00:27:43] The one question I guess that came to mind there is like, you know, you’ve got these products and you’re selling them, you’ve done your research, you feel like you have the right things in the store, you’re selling them direct to consumer, sounds like about 70%. And then some retail or wholesale kind of angle for the other 30%.

[00:27:59] I also think I saw some results on Amazon. So like one of our most popular articles is around channel conflict and often it’s way more profitable to sell direct to consumer than retail or Amazon, cuz everybody wants to take their cut with every step along that process. How do you think about that? Cuz that’s a decision point that a lot of e-commerce leaders need to make is, should we continue to sell direct to consumer and maybe forego all this other business that’s out there because people are actively searching on Amazon for the same thing.

[00:28:24] Or is it better for us in the long run to maybe hike prices a little bit to account for the Amazon cut and get our products listed there as well? Because that’s an active marketplace with a bunch of demand built into it. I 

[00:28:34] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): have a lot of sort of consumer product experience, and I think that, you know, typically cannibalization across channels is a really common challenge for whatever reason in this world here, I don’t wanna speak for other auto companies or whatever, but for us, we’re very thoughtful about what gets put where.

[00:29:00] And to be honest, you know, a lot of the marketplace decisions were made much earlier than my tenure here. When the company first started almost 12 years ago, they did not have a website. The only platform that they had was eBay. So they were exclusively selling on eBay for quite a long time. Until, you know, several years in, they made the investment in their own platform.

[00:29:26] So I definitely think that starting out in the marketplaces, it’s sort of, it’s hard to then wean yourself off of that. And I think early on when I joined the organization in 2019, early on there had been some discussion about, well, do we wanna stay on the marketplaces? You know, is it worth the investment that we’re making?

[00:29:47] Right? Because not only is there time that needs to happen for people to optimize listings and make sure the photos are the way that Amazon wants them, or make sure you know that we’re meeting the SLA when responding to eBay messages and so on. And so, There’s also sort of this burden of being a seller on these platforms that requires you to swallow like a pretty big philosophical pill, , if you don’t wanna make yourself crazy, you know, because you have to accept returns that you would never ordinarily accept.

[00:30:20] You have to give people refunds that you would never in a million years actually refund if you controlled your own business. You get scammed. All the time. All the time. We’ve had people send us back everything from used clothes to vintage Elvis records to a really beautiful set of blue cobalt, blue ceramic planters.

[00:30:44] They were supposed to send us back some Tesla wheels, , but they sent back planters instead, which we now plant with geraniums every summer, and we put in the yard. And when you go to Amazon and say hello, like, you took this money, and then they, you also took the product and then you gave them a refund and then they kept the product and they sent us a bunch of planters and Amazon’s like, Oh, well, like sorry, you know, A to Z, you know, whatever.

[00:31:10] But there, there’s a lot of headache. There’s a lot of headache dealing with it, right? So you have to actually make that decision that like, I’m gonna allow this to be part of my business and I’m not gonna let it make, like, keep me up at night. Right? You are completely correct in that, you know, the pricing structure has to be different.

[00:31:26] The profitability model is different. You know, you have to make an assessment, like, do I wanna list every single skew here and on eBay and on Amazon, and so on and so forth. I think one of the keys to our success on the platforms, at least in recent history is I mentioned earlier, you know, we’ve made a big investment in IP.

[00:31:49] We went through a complete corporate rebranding. All of our stuff is now trademarked and all you know, so that allowed us to file for Amazon Brand Registry, and essentially what that does is it removes all of the pirates from being able to sell off your list, you know, off of your listings, the listings that you created.

[00:32:06] That’s the biggest sort of struggle, I think, as a seller. Because that’s what Amazon’s designed to do. Right? And eBay’s kind of the same way, the whole point, or eBay’s a little bit different, but like the whole point of Amazon is like it’s comparison pricing for the shopper. So you put in one thing and they don’t want 50 listings to come up.

[00:32:24] They want one listing to come up, and then everybody who sells it. And then the consumer has the choice of who they wanna shop with, what price do they wanna pay, how long is the shipping, and so on and so forth, which I guess is great for the consumer. It’s not great for the small business person who created the listing, who’s copyrighted photographs that Amazon says they now own the copyright for because you’re selling on their platform, they’re using to sell all of that kind of stuff.

[00:32:51] So by disallowing people from selling off your listings, it really helps strengthen the marketplace offering. And then you just have to be thoughtful about what you’re putting up there. Like there’s stuff that we have in stock that I’m telling you we cannot keep on the shelf. The second we get stock, we’re like sold out almost immediately.

[00:33:11] There’s no need whatsoever for me to put any of that stock on a marketplace, but you have to remember, like people are different kinds of shoppers. Like there are people who want a nice, beautiful, branded, equity based retail experience. They want something that looks flashy. They want something that’s ev easy to navigate.

[00:33:33] They want something that feels like this is a legitimate company with infrastructure. To go back to sort of the skew count and how we decide what to carry, part of the reason why we’re thoughtful about that is because what differentiates us from a lot of people out there is the level of customer service or and care that we provide.

[00:33:49] Right. So when people call us, it’s not just like, what’s my tracking number? Or like, where’s my order? You know, this is a technical, there are technical specifications that are, are required, right? So the people that answer our phones know the answers to those kinds of questions. So basically, like there are different kinds of shoppers, there are people who are eBay shoppers, there are people who are Amazon shoppers.

[00:34:12] It doesn’t matter what they’re looking for, the first thing they’re gonna do is go to that platform or that marketplace and search for the thing. And many people are like that. Like I think, you know, with eBay maybe especially, and I go back and forth, don’t get me wrong. Like you have a, a young kid at home.

[00:34:29] Like when I first had my son, if I had not had Amazon like all night long, I mean, I can’t even tell you the, like, Amazon felt like a lifeline to me because it was like the only thing in the world that was also up at three in the morning where I could get whatever I needed. And then of course, you know you’re in that haz in the next day.

[00:34:47] A fishing pole shows up at your New York City apartment and you’re like, What did I do last night? The same thing. But there are people who are like, I’m an eBay shopper. For me personally, I will never buy anything off eBay ever. It’s not my jam. I find it confusing. I find the platform just to look. I can’t find what I’m looking for.

[00:35:04] I find it counterintuitive. I find it hard to navigate. I don’t trust 90% of the, of the listings that I see, but for some people, like that’s a hundred percent their jam. So when they’re looking for something, they’re going straight to eBay. So it’s really just about how do I wanna diversify? What does my channel mix look like?

[00:35:21] How much effort am I putting in here? What am I willing to lose in order to to participate in terms of money, human capital, sanity, whatever it is. Like what am I willing to lose to participate? And then, Like, what is the skew mix look like? What part of my catalog am I putting where? So we’ve been very lucky in that we haven’t really found an experience where we’re creating unnecessary problems for ourselves in terms of competing with our own 

[00:35:48] James Sowers (The Good): business.

[00:35:50] It’s interesting cause I kind of went through that experience the other day. I, so I saw an Instagram ad for sunglasses, right? And I don’t buy, I have one pair of fancy sun glasses. And I wear them everywhere, but I was wearing ’em on my in-laws boat and now they’re getting rusty at the Hing. I’m like, Great.

[00:36:03] Now I’ve got like, they got wet from being on the boat or whatever, so I’m like, I need a pair of beater sunglasses that I can just wear whatever and not care if they fall in the water, whatever. They’re like 20 bucks. So I found this brand called Knock Around, and it was an Instagram ad, click through a go to their website, and I’m like, All right, these look kind of cool.

[00:36:17] They’re like, 25 bucks shipped to your door. Let me check these out. The first thing I did was like, Let me see what’s going on on Amazon, because to me Amazon means I might have ’em tomorrow, or I’ve kind of been conditioned to know. A lot of brands will take kind of their last five pairs of something and send ’em to Amazon and just try to sell ’em someday.

[00:36:34] Maybe that because they’ve got new ones coming in the door and they wanna put those on the front of the website. So I’m like, maybe I’ll get a good deal on Amazon because it’s the last few pairs, or I can get ’em tomorrow and I’ll just have this problem solved. So I went there and it ended up that like I didn’t like the styles they had available on Amazon cause there were only five.

[00:36:48] So I went and bought one full price. But that’s kinda like the consumer behavior. Things always are interesting to me because like I think of eBay as a place to get a really good deal, but I think of eBay as a place to go for like an auction. And I’m like trying to get in when there’s three minutes left in the auction and steal something for like 25 bucks because nobody else bid on it or whatever.

[00:37:04] So it’s just like this mentality that you’re in, you know, it’s like, I don’t know, I would go to eBay to buy uh, Michael Jordan rookie card cuz I just, I feel like that’s a place where people sell cards and they 

[00:37:13] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): auction ’em off. They sell things that they find in their own addict. So like, you know, if you’re gonna sell on eBay, then you’re also, you gotta like invest in a storefront.

[00:37:20] You need to look like a legitimate business. But a hundred times a day we get an outreach from somebody that’s like, I’d like to offer you X number of dollars for this, this item. And I’m like, that’s not how we work. So you have to sort of, there’s a lot of like consumer education that sort of needs to happen, you know?

[00:37:37] I think the thing is for us is like we are, yes, we’re retail and yes we’re dtc, but it’s a little bit different, right? We don’t sell sunglasses. We don’t sell cashmere sweaters. You know, it’s not like we have one sweater that comes in 15 colors and three neck lines, and you can choose like what best suits you and whatever.

[00:37:56] Like it’s not a perfect one to-one ratio, but it’s essentially a one to one ratio. This is the car that they drive. Here are the things that are compatible with this car. So when people come to us, you know, we’ve already cleared the hurdle of the fact that they’re pretty much not browsing necessarily.

[00:38:11] They might be doing comparison shopping from a pricing perspective, but they’re not necessarily like browsing for something that they may or may not buy. Usually people come to us cuz they need something and it’s usually needed like pretty urgently. So, you know, they’re sort of getting onto the, the highway already in the fast lane in terms of like the consumer purchasing journey.

[00:38:33] So for us, like, you know, we don’t necessarily need to do kind of like a lot of superfluous convincing. The things that we need to be convincing about are, is this product safe? Will it fit on your vehicle or in your vehicle? And if something goes wrong, will there be an actual human being that you can talk to that will help you figure it out?

[00:38:58] You’re 

[00:38:59] James Sowers (The Good): not in the business of demand generation. You’re in the business of demand Capture. Demand is out there. People have a need for it. Like if I go into the dentist, if I crack my tooth and I go to the dentist and they start giving me a cleaning, I’m gonna be upset. I be like, Look, you see the crack? I just fix the crack.

[00:39:11] I need the crack fixed. So that’s kind of the business that you’re in. It’s like, I busted a rim. I need a new rim. Do you have one that’ll fit my. Is it gonna last me more than six months before it breaks again, assuming I don’t hit something. All right, sign me up. You know, what’s it cost? I mean, 

[00:39:25] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): there’s a reason why there’s like this trope out there about the used car salesman, right?

[00:39:31] You know, everybody’s had that experience where you go in for an oil change and you leave with an oil change, an air filter, a timing belt, a new set of windshield wipers and partridge and a pair of tree. Like, we’re kind of like the target of industries, right? You go to Target for like a sced candle and $500 later you’re like, What the hell did I buy?

[00:39:48] It’s the same thing in the auto industry oftentimes. Like there’s this idea out there that Are you ready for it? You ready for it? Go ahead. Go ahead. That you’re gonna get taken for a ride. Nice, nice. Thank you. You know, is it counterfeit? Are you trying to sell me? You know, am I allowed to curse on this podcast?

[00:40:05] I don’t know. Yeah. But like, are you, are you gonna sell me some piece of shit that’s gonna explode in two days? Or like the paint, you know? It looks okay now, but I take it to the car wash once and now all of a sudden all the paints come off. Things like that. So we’re battling sort of that perception. The perception of the fake, the perception of the counterfeit, the perception of like the smarmy used car guy.

[00:40:27] So we’re kind of, that’s like the biggest challenge for us. It’s not so much, you know, is it a matter of preference, You know, is it a matter of taste? Like none of that is really right. You need something and you wanna be sure that the thing that you’re using to fulfill that need is kind of legitimate.

[00:40:46] And to go back to kind of something that you said earlier about, you know, culture and team and all that kind of stuff, there’s been a huge lift and a massive push over the last two years since like mid 2020 on. To really define those things and invest in those things. I mentioned earlier there was a, like a wholesale leadership shift here prior to my really joining the organization full time, and it was totally necessary for the evolution of the business.

[00:41:18] You know, I think in small businesses, especially whether they’re family owned businesses or not, if the leadership team is not aligned, like they need to be aligned in short-term vision and they need to be aligned in long-term vision, and if they don’t see the future of the company in the same way, then there are a lot of hurdles that you’re never gonna be able to cross.

[00:41:40] So, you know, a lot of initiatives swirl the drain. A lot of stagnation happens, you know, with staffing, the culture starts to die, right? Because everything feels stuck. It’s like inertia, right? So having that transition, it like opened kind of the dam and then the water just started flowing and all of a sudden we were able to do things like invest in the team, invest in the people, build that culture, and a lot of sort of that soft stuff like company mission, company vision, company values, the importance of brand equity, the importance of actually having a marketing plan, the importance of customer engagement.

[00:42:27] Customer experience. The prior philosophy was very transactional. You know, the lifetime value of a customer is a single purchase at $175, and I never need to speak to that person again. Okay? But that person who bought that one thing drives a car, car has four wheels. So at the bare minimum, that person is worth at least.

[00:42:53] Four wheels. And then during the average lifetime, a normal driver will drive anywhere from three to five cars. So all of a sudden that four wheels became 20 wheels. And that person has, I don’t know, a spouse, a partner, a kid, you know, a neighbor, a friend, a colleague, whatever it is. So the idea that a single human is worth a single purchase and a single interaction, and then the customer relationship just dies as a marketer, I’m like, Are you kidding me?

[00:43:22] Like you have left so much on the table. And the thing is, in this space with how fragmented is, with how generic it is, with how, and I don’t mean this pejoratively, but with how unsophisticated the consumer bases, right? The vast majority of people, they don’t know anything about the parts in their car, how they’re made, why they’re necessary, how they fit, all of those things.

[00:43:43] So what do you have? What do you have as the company to give confidence to those people? You have to invest in the equity of the brand. They have to be able to know when they see our logo, when they see our website. These are real people who care about their customers, who care about the product. Like that equity becomes the biggest differentiator in your business.

[00:44:09] You know, Joe started this company and I was like in a total, frankly I was in a total panic about it at the time cuz it was like 2008, 2009. You know, I worked in consulting at the time. I’m literally looking out my office window as they’re clearing Lehman Brothers out into the street. I’m like, Jesus, oh I can’t say Jesus.

[00:44:28] I’m like J I’m and Jay, this is not great. You know, so, and here he’s saying, I wanna leave my job and start a company. And I’m like, what kind of company do you wanna start? Cuz like, this feels like not a great time. To leave a second. Yeah. 

[00:44:41] James Sowers (The Good): It’s not real estate. Okay. We don’t want real estate. Yeah. Nothing in real estate around that time.

[00:44:44] And 

[00:44:44] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): he’s like, Well, you know, this is the business that I wanna do. And I said to him, I was like, That sounds like a terrible idea. There’s no way that people are buying this many car wheels. It’s, there’s no way . Now, of course, I’m now eating my words, you know, 15, almost 15 years later. But that was really why he started this business because, you know, in 2008 and 2009, people were losing their jobs.

[00:45:09] They were losing their homes. They were more reliant on their cars than they ever had been before. Well, maybe not ever, but you know, there’s definitely, you know, the reliance on having a vehicle really 

[00:45:21] James Sowers (The Good): increased when Uber was coming around the corner so that the cars became livelihoods for a lot of folks 

[00:45:26] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): when you Absolutely.

[00:45:27] That definitely eventually happened, you know, But at the time, and I, I desperately wish that I could say that things were different now. , but they’re not. But at the time, an unexpected expense of $250 in a family’s monthly budget puts them in a position where they’re deciding between groceries and prescriptions and diapers.

[00:45:50] I mean, what a banana’s position to be in. And if you need that car, because that’s how you get to your shift. Like that’s how you make your paycheck. That’s how you get your elderly parent to the doctor. That’s how you get your kid to school. Not having your car is extremely disruptive and can have real consequences on a family’s life, right?

[00:46:10] So the idea is why shouldn’t we give people an option? Why should they have to go to the dealer and pay five x the cost this insane markup when we could deliver the same exact quality, same specs, same materials, same manufacturers, same everything except for the price so that they can get back to on the road, get back to their lives without completely.

[00:46:35] Like breaking the bank. Right. And you know, here we are, here we are, you know, more than a decade later. And nothing about that situation has really changed, unfortunately, you know, And we’re doing the best that we can. Like, we try so hard to keep the prices as low as we can. And for a long time we absorbed and we absorbed and we absorbed, you know, as costs went up and up and up.

[00:46:57] And unfortunately, eventually you get to a point where you just can’t absorb it anymore. And then you start to see prices going up, up, which we’ve seen across every sector. And now we’re in a real inflation situation, which, you know, is an actual economic thing. And I think it’s, it’s unfortunate, , it’s unfortunate in a lot of ways, but you know, we’re not Tyson Foods.

[00:47:20] We’re not seeing our profits go up 40% while the price of chicken goes up 60%. You know? So our margins are just as tight as they ever were because we’re trying to stay true to who we. You know, we’re trying to stick to that mission, to stick to that vision, to live by those core values, which everybody here, like that manifests itself like on the daily, That’s how we hire, it’s how we operate, it’s how we show up in the world.

[00:47:50] You know, when we’re out there on, on Facebook, even though, like I’m telling you, we are the worst at social media. Like we produce a lot of content, but we’re not good at like the followers and the engagement and you know, I only have so much time and I’m like, okay, I liked two things today, but like when you see us on, on Facebook or on Instagram, like that’s exactly who we are.

[00:48:09] That’s exactly who we are. And for better or worse, we like social media for sure. But for us, it’ss, and I don’t wanna like jinx it, but it’s so incidental to our business, like from an ads perspective, from a revenue generation perspective, we do not rely on social channels at all. What we do in terms of social media, how we leverage those platforms is really to lend credibility to the overall brand, to legitimize the company across platforms.

[00:48:39] Because for the most part, and you guys know this cuz you know you’re our agency, but you know, the vast majority, not the vast majority, but a significant proportion of our traffic comes in from a direct, you know, Google ad for a specific skew that drives right to a pdp. So when that happens, somebody’s like, Well, I’ve never heard of this company before.

[00:48:59] Like, the website looks pretty good, looks pretty pretty, but you know, how do I know if these people are legit? Right? So what do you do? You go to Facebook, you go to Instagram. Is there somebody who’s actively posting content? Like, does this look like, you know, people are actually here, they go to the internet.

[00:49:15] We’re very blessed to. Customers who really love us, like, you know, we have a ton of trust pilot reviews, they’re, you know, mostly five star reviews. Same thing with Google. Like we have very strong ratings. So that’s how we leverage social more so than like a facility for actually generating sales. Do we get some sales?

[00:49:33] Sure. Is it our core sort of business? No. Do we feel devastated by the new kind of iPhone security Apple? Like No, not really. You know, cause we’re not really hanging our hat on that kind of thing anyway. You know, I think before I joined the organization officially, they had not made a Facebook post in seven years.

[00:49:52] Wow. 

[00:49:53] James Sowers (The Good): That’s scary. I mean, it doesn’t have to be Facebook, but like to have an abandoned property of any kind for that long, little scary. So I think like what I’m hearing there is like, we’re 

[00:50:03] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): investing with your agency. We’re investing in Facebook remarketing. I am shocked. You know what, I’m putting this on y’all.

[00:50:11] I’m putting this on you guys, we’re investing in Facebook remarketing and we’re doing this, we’re doing that. And nobody bothered to say, You guys, you’re spending money doing these things. You’re optimizing this, you’re driving to that, you’re spending money on these ads. But like you realize you haven’t put any content up here in like seven years.

[00:50:27] Like this looks so janky, like somebody should do something about this. You know what I mean? So it’s pretty funny. . 

[00:50:34] James Sowers (The Good): So listen, the one, the question I was gonna ask is like, hey, if you could go back to Kate the day that she walked into Wheeler ship, right? Like you got emotions reeling, the theater thing isn’t working out cuz the world just snatched that away from you or whatever.

[00:50:45] Like, but you’ve got this exciting new thing, you’re walking into a company that has a lot of energy around it, maybe some problems, right? That’s okay. I was gonna say, hey, what did, if you could leave a note on that version of Kate’s desk a few years ago or whatever and just give a piece of advice or whatever, what would that note say?

[00:51:00] But I think you kind of just answered that, right? Like what I heard was. Focus on your own audience. Take a stance, have a mission and core values that you can always draw from and adhere to, and then stick to that and try to embody that in all the different things you’re doing. Whether that’s marketing, operations, customer support, product development, whatever.

[00:51:17] I don’t wanna take words outta mouth, but I mean, you kind of just, That’s what I’ve would’ve loved to hear as a response to that anyway, which is basically like have an identity, right? Like have a mission, have a personality, a brand personality, have something you stand for, have a cause that you believe.

[00:51:31] And just try to like lace that into everything that you’re doing on a day to day basis. And that’ll take care of itself because your customers will love you. You’ll produce products that actually solve their problems because you listen to them and what they were asking for, you got it to them at the right time, with the right message, with the right price.

[00:51:46] And if they fall in love with you, they’re gonna tell their friends and their friends come back to you. And then you’re not as reliant on Facebook or organic search or you know, any other traffic acquisition channel. So I don’t wanna see what you’re thunder. Maybe you have another piece of advice for yourself a couple of years ago, but what you just said for the last like five minutes or so sounded really good to me.

[00:52:04] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): I mean, sure. All of that sounds great. I mean, I definitely think that like perseverance and tenacity and stick to itness are like super important. I mean, I think two years ago, especially given the fact that this has been everything but a normal set of circumstances for the two years, like maybe what I would’ve said to myself is like, you will get through it.

[00:52:26] Like you just have to keep. Going forward. But I think really like my biggest piece of, like my biggest, I don’t know if it’s a piece of advice or like, you know how I would sort of characterize it is that like everything, all day, every day has to be about how you’re showing up for other people. Whether it’s like me as a human being coming into this office, whether it’s us as a team and how we engage with one another every day at work, whether it’s the business and how it engages with the consumer or with our long-term distributor clients, how we manage those relationships.

[00:53:08] The core thing you always have to come back to is, right now, in this moment, am I showing up the way that I wanna show up? Like, can I look back at whatever I’m doing in this moment and say like, I’m a hundred percent okay with how all of that went, whether the outcome was what I wanted it to, or. Can I feel good about how I showed up in that moment?

[00:53:31] Did I lead with empathy? Did I listen actively? Did I give someone else the opportunity to feel lifted up? Right? Like we, Joe and I really believe in servant leadership, right? Like that’s the philosophy. That’s the approach that we take, and we try to push that through in terms of how, you know, the company interacts with the public.

[00:53:52] And that has to also account for, you know, the relationships that you have with your agencies and your partners. Because, you know, at the end of the day, everybody’s goals are supposed to be the same. So when I come to you guys and I say, Listen, I think we’re doing really well in these three areas, but I have a real concern that we’re falling down somewhere over here.

[00:54:14] And I’m trying to work it out, but I don’t know if I totally see it. Like, I need you guys to take one step up, one step back and tell me what I’m not seeing. Right. That’s why you have a partner. That’s why you have an agency. That’s why you have, you know, this or that, the other thing, because even if you think you know what you don’t know, like the, you have to be surrounded by other people who are smart and who, you know, are experts in their own field.

[00:54:40] And the thing is, like, I was on the agency side for so long, and so I think that makes me very sensitive to how I show up for my agencies as a client, right? Because I, I’ve been on the receiving end of it. You know, when things go well, it’s the client’s win. When things go bad, it’s the agency’s fault. And I’ve lived through that

[00:55:02] So that’s not ever how I wanna interact with my people. So, like, my perspective is that if you’re gonna engage a partner who’s an expert in an area that you’re not, the best thing that you can do is listen to them. It doesn’t mean that you take it hook, line and sinker. . So it’s like when I show up for those meetings, I wanna show up prepared.

[00:55:19] Do I have questions? Have I thought about what it is that you guys brought to the table the last time that we talked? And am I gonna take every recommendation, you know, at face value and say, Sure, no. Am I gonna say, Yeah, I totally agree. These are some quick, easy wins. We don’t need to talk about it. We don’t need to test it.

[00:55:36] Let’s just run with it. We probably should have done it ages ago. Yeah. And I’m also gonna say, You know what guys? I just don’t know if I buy this one or, it’s not a priority for me right now. But it’s never the kind of situation where I’m like, Where is this? Why is this? You didn’t this, I didn’t get that.

[00:55:54] Like that’s just not the environment. It’s just not the environment that A, I wanna participate any in anymore. And B, after 20 years in corporate America, it’s an environment that I refuse to create within these four walls. And then also with every partner that we work with, I just won’t do it. So that’s what I would say all goes back to how you wanna show up.

[00:56:18] James Sowers (The Good): And I find that typically that’s the folks that maybe aren’t as invested in the areas of their job that they should be, right. And they’ve got all this extra time to shoot poke holes in what their agency partners or whatever kind of partners they have are doing, whether it’s wholesale or something like that.

[00:56:31] It’s like, well there’s probably, probably something higher value you could be doing than, uh, trying to figure out like what’s wrong on this side of the business. But I don’t know. It’s a case by case basis. Right. But I think, I think your point. Incredibly valid, which is like, be mindful of how you show up in whatever you’re doing.

[00:56:44] And whether that’s a meeting with an agency partner, a wholesale partner, an internal team member, the leadership team, even to the degree that like, when I hang up with you today, I’m gonna go, my kids are gonna be home from daycare. I’m gonna be like, look dad mode. Right? Like, I’m not a marketing director, I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m not anything right now, but dad and husband and I’m gonna put that mask on or that hat, or whatever you wanna call it, and, uh, just go be present intentional about what they need from me for the next few hours.

[00:57:08] Right? And so I love that advice, uh, especially for giving it to yourself, right. A few years ago when you started back at this journey, I think 

[00:57:15] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): like when you own a small company, you don’t necessarily get the privilege of like taking off the business owner hat and putting on the mommy hat. Like, at least now, right now.

[00:57:25] But what I would say is that like I definitely, my perspective has evolved leaving corporate America leaving. You know, a company that had like 700,000 employees worldwide and you know, with billion dollar scopes of work and all that kind of stuff. And coming here to be with Joe in this family business because when you look around, I know everything about every single person who works here.

[00:57:50] You know, I know their spouses, I know their kids, I know all that kind of stuff, right? So when you look around at those people, it’s just a different perspective because every single decision that Joe and I make, or that our leadership team makes, has a very real consequence and impact on every face that we see every day.

[00:58:11] So that’s a tremendous amount of pressure, right? And like if you want your agency partners or your vendor partners, or your suppliers or your accountant or your legal team or whoever it. Like if you want them to care as much about what happens to the people in this building as you do, then there’s a certain way that you have to come to the table as a partner.

[00:58:35] There’s a certain respect that needs to happen, and that goes up to and including what you’re talking about, which is there’s a time when your clock shuts off and you need to go and put on that dad. And I have to say, Okay, so I’m gonna write James this email, but I’m gonna choose send later so that it sends tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM his time.

[00:58:56] Not my time . Right? Cause you’re three hours earlier than me. . Right. 

[00:59:01] James Sowers (The Good): You know what I mean? Well, I’m not actually, I’m actually in Cleveland, so Yeah. So I’m, I’m on the East coast. Yeah. You know we have 

[00:59:07] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): an office in Akron. You should go hang out with other people. 

[00:59:10] James Sowers (The Good): Yeah. I think it was just getting set up the last time you and I talked.

[00:59:12] It was a while ago. It was a few months ago. 

[00:59:14] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): Yes. Now it’s chugging and it’s very blue . It’s very blue . 

[00:59:20] James Sowers (The Good): Cool. Well, listen, I wanna respect your time as well. I know you’ve got a lot going on, producing Broadway shows and running a business and raising a family. So I don’t wanna take up too much of your day, but before I let you 

[00:59:31] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): go, is this the time for Shameless plug?

[00:59:34] Can we do a shameless plug? Okay. Shameless plug. Yes. 

[00:59:37] James Sowers (The Good): Yes. I’m 

[00:59:40] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): We’re here for you. Whatever you need. But also guys, Theater and art is important. Broadway is open. . Come to New York, come to the theater. Come see Funny girl. We’re we’re opening in just a few weeks. Come visit the Museum of Broadway this summer.

[00:59:57] We’re opening at the end of the summer. Support your local artists, . It’s all important. All those good things. Buy local. Buy family. Buy small business. Be good humans. Wear a mask, wash your hands, , 

[01:00:11] James Sowers (The Good): all that stuff and go follow Kate Canova. Okay. Go follow Kate Canova. Give her some followers. 

[01:00:15] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): Yeah, you know what, I actually have a website now so you can visit my website, but really follow Wheeler.

[01:00:20] You know, I try really hard to make our Instagram cute, so like please follow us . Um, so that may be some of the other that my mother will like, like the posts . 

[01:00:32] James Sowers (The Good): Awesome Kate. Well thank you so much for your time today and dropping all those knowledge bombs on us. Uh, we will be sure to plug all of those shows and the museum and your Instagram and all your personal accounts in the show notes so that your audience is just gonna blow up.

[01:00:46] I do appreciate your time today and you sharing the Wheeler ship story with us. Of 

[01:00:49] Kate Cannova (Wheelership): course. Happy to do it. Thank you so much for having me. What a treat. 

[01:00:54] James Sowers (The Good): Hey everybody, this is James again, and before you go, I just wanted to invite you to join one of the coolest things I get to work on as director of marketing here at the.

[01:01:00] It’s called the E-Commerce Insiders List, and it’s a private version of this podcast feed that gets you access to tons of additional bonus content, like extra interviews, q and a Sessions, website, teardowns, and anything else we can dream of. It doesn’t cost you anything but your email address, and we promise to always respect your inbox.

[01:01:16] This is just our way of forming stronger relationships with our listeners and making sure that we produce content that is actually valuable to you and to your business. If you’re interested, you can join the rest of the e-Commerce insiders by going to the and dropping your email into the form at the top of the page.

[01:01:32] We’ll follow up with directions for how to access the private feed, and you’ll be off and running. Like I said, this is one of my favorite things that I get the opportunity to work on because it lets me interact directly with e-commerce founders and leaders just like you. If you’re interested, I’d love to see your name pop up in my notifications.

[01:01:47] Until then, keep an eye out for the next episode of the E-Commerce Insight Show and we’ll talk to you soon.

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About the Author

Caroline Appert

Caroline Appert is the Director of Marketing at The Good. She has proven success in crafting marketing strategies and executing revenue-boosting campaigns for companies in a diverse set of industries.