Matt Berclacy About His Entrepreneur Journey, Amazon FBA, and Location Independence
Hey guys, welcome to the eCommerce Paradise podcast. This is Trevor.
Welcome to the podcast. I'm Julianna.
Today we had Matt Berclacy. Do you want to tell us where you're from and what you do?
Thanks for having me. By the way, I appreciate it, guys.
My name's Matt Berclacy. I'm from the East Coast of Washington, D.C. I was born and raised in Northern Virginia. Here I am in Thailand right now.
I had a road, a foundational stable job with the federal government. Safe and secure. My father obviously kind of helped me get that job in.
I've always wanted to explore the entrepreneurial world. That led me to a long journey of starting things.
What kind of things are you starting, and what kind of things are you doing now?
Just a recap, after that government job, I had something stable, but I felt I could build something on the side. I got up very early in the day. I did have a partner that wanted to do something with me. I'm like brainstorming. What can I do? I got something stable, but like, I'm just dying to create something bigger.
I had had a career logistics background before the government job. We picked up and delivered things.
I talked to him, and so we kind of came to an agreement where we'd build a service company, a logistics company. I'd get out at about one o'clock.
My day started at, believe it or not, 5:00 a.m. with the federal government. I'm out by one o'clock, and I would hit the streets with our business card, my flier. And we were a B2B business. I'd get out there, and I'd promote our service. I would try to convince companies to use us.
We had one driver, ready to pick up and delivered us all over the Washington, D.C. area. It started to pick up. We had two clients, then three, then four, then we grew from two drivers to five and then got to bus seven drivers, and we started doing about one hundred jobs a day. It's supplementing my federal government workers.
I got a stable government job, and I've got a business on the side. My partner is able to manage that business while I'm taking care of my job. But it kept spiraling out of control as it was a good vehicle that could kind of eventually take off on its own. We went to ten drivers, and then we start to get lots of referrals.
We went to about 150 to 200 jobs a day, 20 drivers, and about three jobs a day. Thirty drivers, too. We peaked about fifty drivers, about five hundred jobs a day. And we got into the medical. We started delivering blood for hospitals and live organs for surgeries. We became a 24/7 operation.
I was making about five times my government salary, and it was growing. And I with my partner, we just started needing more and more. So by default, I became just a manager. I just wanted to manage that and manage a sales team and expand it.
I made the scary choice to leave my stable, secure government job to go full time entrepreneurial. My dad was not so happy, and some friends thought I was pretty crazy, but I did it because it felt great.
I built something small, and it kept growing and growing. My heart was truly in that. And so anyway, we kept going. We went on to do that for about 12 years. I learned first-hand that a partnership is like a marriage.
We fought a lot. There's a lot of egos. I also learned about the importance of managing your time and your manager. I didn't have any expenses for managing other people. I'm delegating things out. I just did a lot of first-hand learning.
It was messy, but there was some luck involved in a group where I could go full time on my business. I finally left after 12 years. It was time to go. We did get bought out, too, so it was time to do that. And I just started making other investments in real estate and things like that.
I apologize. You asked me what took me up to now, though. That was a service business, and I loved it. It was local, and it was B2B. And then, after selling it, I took time off and did some teaching.
I always wanted to explore other cultures and do something productive. I took a boat myself. I did have an education degree, so I was lucky and got a university teaching position in China. They accepted me, and I was so excited.
That's what I did, and that's how I came over. That is what I'm doing here in Asia right now. It all started with a teaching position. Teaching my background of business and also of public health was great. I'm mentoring young people and talking about my experiences. And I just really had the time of my life teaching. But while I'm there in China, somebody told me about this Amazon thing and products. And ironically, I'm in the south of China where a lot of our products are made. I mean, that's headquarters for Walmart Asia.
And as you know, we mentioned FBA, and that's where the idea of selling something online came to me. It was new to me. I've never done that, but I just couldn't turn away. So I'm there.
In southern China, I started exploring the idea that maybe I could get the only reason I would even touch that business. I heard that Amazon would receive your product and help you fulfill it to store it there. Otherwise, I would never send something to my garage or try to mill things. I had no interest in the product business. That's why I started just getting to move in the direction of I could at least try and try a product, and rather than buy a used product and resell, I would try to private label a product in China and package it, learn it first hand. What I'm doing now is still learning.
I've been doing it for about two and a half years, but I'm still learning how to source a product better, how to package it, and make it look nice. And then, of course, ship it more efficiently and then finally sell it on the social media platform. So sourcing, shipping, and selling are what I've been doing for a couple of years now, and it's a school in itself.
Amazon is a helpful, hopeful platform. That's where I'm at. I suddenly, by default, in the product business now and still learning first-hand.
Wow. Fascinating story. It all happened, kind of organically. You answered mostly half of my questions.
When you had the business before, where you were handling and doing deliveries for businesses, were you handling logistics at all? Do you think that business kind of help you with the Amazon FBA, like finding products and then shipping them overseas, which can be really scary, and then getting it to Amazon? How do you think that has helped you and your business?
That's a great question. I mean, I'm a natural by default. I'm just a natural promoter. If I find something I like or believe in, I just want to promote it. I would love to just focus on marketing. That business and logistics did help me a little bit. But with Amazon shipping from one country to the next, I don't have any experience of that. That has been one of the biggest hurdles for me.
It's hard to sleep at night when you have your own money that you've wired into another country, but maybe a thousand, 2000, 3000 units of a product. You're taking a lot of risks. Amazon is not taking any risk. I'm taking on a 100% risk.
When you're moving your product, you don't know what will happen - across the ocean or in the air or what will happen with the freight forwarder or the customs. There's so much unknown there. The only thing that keeps me in the game is my desire to get a product in so finally, I can just focus on promoting.
The beauty of this business is, you can create a product that you like. You can give it your personal touch. You can have the branding, the logo. Once you have that, you can put your heart into the marketing aspect. But the logistics, I still don't have that down to a science. It's messy, and it's scary.
For people that don't know and aren't familiar with the process of private labeling a product, like I said, we don't do any private label yet; we just do dropship. So for those that don't know, what's the process of finding a product and then contacting the factory and getting the logo made and getting it onto the product and getting it produced?
Can you go through the process that you went through?
I mean, right now, unless you are going to take the time to fly all the way to China and go to the Canton Fair, a lot of people were using AliBaba, which really is similar like Canton Fair, but it's just all online, and there's a little bit more trust. But for me, finding a maybe a small, lightweight, nonbreakable, non-consumable product that you can compare to what's out there.
Is it going to sell?
There's some research involved or some intuition involved. There is some luck involved. But you definitely want to follow some criteria of nonbreakable and not applied to the body. Things like that. If you're going to source overseas, it helps if you can meet your manufacturer. But if you don't have the time or the reality of flying all the way to another country, whether it be China or Vietnam or Thailand, you can definitely still do it online. Just you got to do your research.
I recommend getting a sample first. I recommend going slow and orderly. If the factory tries to tell you that they have a minimum quantity, try to start slow. If you can get just do a couple of hundred of a test, just tell them you want to go long term with them, but you need a sample first, then you want to do a test order after that. I recommend doing that.
There's so much unknown that you got to start small. Every product is like a startup company. You wouldn't want to do two products at the same time. Three products can be very confusing. I recommend one product to start out slow. Just go ahead and try creating your own private label products. It's very doable.
I hope I'm touching upon what you're asking. But as far as sourcing, I go into something called Canton Fair. It's twice a year. It's awesome. It's like five football fields stacked on top of each other.
You meet every factory that is all over China and there on the internet, too, on Alibaba. You don't have to come to China.
When you find something, you just go all in. From there, use platforms like social sharing. There's so much talent out there that when they pull together, like on fiber, it's fantastic for very inexpensive money. Use your creativity to create a logo and packaging. You don't have to package the first time when you're just starting out. You might even want to skip to the packaging, so it doesn't slow you down. It's going to come on a regular generic box, a polybag, or some like a sample small test order. You can skip the packaging then from there, then phase two when it's a sell-out, then you can move back in to create some packaging and add your branding, your logo. Now you're adding some more quality to your content products. That's the packaging partner, the sourcing.
How much money does someone need to start up a business like this? Because if you're buying inventory upfront and hundreds of units at the minimum could cost, you know, depending on per unit, maybe five bucks each. You're spending, you know, 500 bucks with products that you found to be successful.
Was there a low buying point, or was it a very high buy buying point?
Right. Yeah, that's a great question. You don't want to go so low where it's a dollar product. You can pretty much only sell it for five bucks. I've heard out there listening to other people to add something called ten by ten by one. I like that.
If you think you can sell ten a day for ten dollars profit on that one product, ten a day for ten dollars profit is a nice foundational model. This means that if you can source something for four dollars and then retail it for 14, there's ten in between. But even that is not real of the reality of the ten-dollar difference, because you're paying for PPC, which is pay per click on Amazon, plus there's Amazon's fee, plus there's the shipping fee. So you really got to watch your your your numbers there.
The goal is profit, right?
Not just churning, but to answer your question, you can hit a home run, and it could be the same initial investment. That's why the initial research is important. You don't want to over-analyze.
People can get really stuck, and you can just drag and drag, and they never get anything done. It is important to take action and just feel comfortable trying to order. Maybe you can get two, three, four, or five hundred of that initial product and give it a try.
I think you can get started on investment in a product for a few thousand dollars. Just throwing out numbers and just add another 10 to 20 percent of your investment.
Start one product.
Is there like a certain number of where you should probably aim like what you want your price, cost, and then what you want to sell it for? What is a good price to get a cost and then get in a good investment back?
Right. On the retail end, I think you should be able to try to retail it for more than ten dollars. Finance your quick on the sourcing end. You don't want to go too cheap. You want to have a good quality product, a good quality manufacturer.
You want to retail it more than ten dollars. Be aware that you've got to factor in all those other costs if you think that Amazon is a good launching pad or not. You can build your email list, website, platform. But Amazon is a great launching pad for storage, for FBA fulfillment, and also advertising. There are millions and millions of eyes on that website every hour with their credit cards ready. So that's a great way to test a product, build out a brand to become independent, not from Amazon, but in more of a partnership with Amazon. But retail, you won't be able to reteam more than ten dollars minimum. You can source the goal. I think a small, lightweight, not breakable. You can source things in under ten dollars or above ten dollars. Then, of course, sell at a much higher retail rate. You can go low, but you just have to think a minimum of three times your investment. Three Xs is another parameter, three times your initial. If you source that for ten dollars, retail it above 30.
I want to shift gears a little bit and talk more about the lifestyle part of this business. What eCommerce has allowed us to do is give the travel and experience a whole different side of the world. You've done in China already with the education, and now you're here in Thailand. Can we talk about a little bit about your travels and what kind of cool things you've been able to do, and what kind of cool things this lifestyle has afforded you?
The whole reason I started my business outside of my government job is that I said I want freedom. I want to not just trade time for money. I want to be able to have something be working on something that's not dependent upon me - that can grow without me.
That's an incredible feeling and not easy to do. But it's just like it's an obsessive goal that you just have to. So after I sold my business, I invested in real estate. You can rent out something. And that can create anything that can create cash flow.
The goal is to feel relaxed and calm, travel more, and not be under pressure.
I love cultural submersion. That's why I did the teaching at a university in China. I wanted to experience that feeling of being productive and yet submerged in the culture and feeling like you're exploring new lands as well. But then while I'm there, Is met the product business. How can I turn away from that when I'm here?
And wow, you can do kind of almost one-time thing of sourcing and shipping. And then if you have something, it can sell without you. Basically, I can have a product being sold on the Amazon platform at midnight while I'm in bed. I can't turn away from that.
I get pulled in by default into the product business, even though I started out in the service business with it, with the logistics. I am just always hungry to create new streams of income that can work without me, and with the greater hunger to travel more and to just feel more alive and more engaged in culture and meeting new people. I love that.
Business and freedom seemed to go hand in hand. The key is to find the right business model and selling a product.
I'm in Thailand while I can build my business, add some creativity to it, and expand it. And then you'll also have some time to enjoy, and it is a great feeling.
I hear the term digital nomad a lot here. I'd never really heard it, but it makes sense. I like that it's cute. I can see why this is a top 10 expat city in the world. It's very coffee shop friendly here and good Wi-Fi. That's a challenge in China. It's great to be here for that.
I want to continue to create and build and kind of work when I want to and maybe be in a different place geographically. We're not limited to a cubicle or a building, and no, I'm not against that. It's just that I desire to have mobility while working. It seems to be the direction we're going. All these resources of the iPhone and computer, it just seems that society wants us to do that more. You just need to find the vehicle that's a good fit for you.
What brought you to Chiang Mai, Thailand, specifically? What is it about this particular small city and no small corner of the world that you like so much?
Well, China has been there for two years. Before I went back to the U.S., it's kind of cold right now. And so just so I can be out flat out honest as a fifty dollar flight to Chiang Mai, and I just like, wow, Chiang Mai is a top 10 expat places. I like the mountains and nature. That's kind of why I'm here. And then it's easy to extend the visa.
I'll probably do up to a maximum of 60 days here before I go back to the U.S. and maybe skip some of that cold weather.
Chiangmai is nice.
They're smart because it's very influenced by the expats. Again, that's why it's unusual. The number of coffee shops, the stability of the Wi-Fi, the resources are good. I went to a meetup last night, and there were many expats. They're all speaking the same language just as I do. And some have found, like Spain, Barcelona, Spain, to be their home base. It's warm weather also seems to be expat-friendly. And so, yeah, it's just awesome.
I love that it's great to be here. And I can move the business forward. It helps me with my health and stuff like that.
So you talked about nature and here in Chiang Mai, can you talk about some of the activities that you've done as you were telling us a little bit about the activities that you've done here? Can you tell people what kind of activities they can do while they're here in Chiang Mai?
I did my first experience with a group cooking class. I'd never done anything like that before. I was picked up at my hotel, and I joined a group of people from Morocco and Canada and different parts of the U.S. We all became super close friends by the end. But at the end of the day, we learned how to cook Thai food. Am I saying that, right? Pattaya and different soups and stuff. That's just a great experience just to connect, but even to have something where you're doing things together like you're so much fun.
I think, like you guys, I want to do the elephant thing where there's a no ride. I think that's they're getting more and more of that. That's great. You're able to take care of elephants or see the temples. I love the group tours.
And so, do maybe half a day work. And then half a day, try a break from the computer. Next thing I know, an eight hour day on a laptop. You got to discipline yourself. So that's one thing. I just got to say that I'm always working on myself, my health, and my time not to overwork, not to underwork, stay creative, stay productive, keep fresh new ideas, new angles because the social media platforms keep changing.
I want to stay on top of that and keep developing myself and my time management.
There are lots of juices here. I mean, I'm getting more into the health. You can lose like a couple of pounds a day. Natural juices are always readily available in the U.S., right? You have to go to the grocery store to kind of find them. They're like five times the cost. But here's just so much natural salads and fruits. It's so great.
I'm really grateful for nature, weather, and cultural vibe.
And yeah, we're coming up in twenty seventeen. I wish a good, happy, healthy New Year to you guys too. It's exciting. We're three days away from Christmas. I'm feeling it and feeling.
This is the default Christmas episode.
You've talked a little bit about the lifestyle of doing eCommerce, how you're working a lot, and enjoying your life. What's a day in your life like right now in Chiang Mai, Thailand?
I always want to get up early. I'm always working to get up early. I actually try to do my work first part of the day.
I kind of dress for that, believe it or not, not over us, but I just I won't do flip flops and stuff. I want to feel like I'm sort of going to do work. I get into routines.
I'm doing a lot of internet, communication, and stuff like that. I'll do my work first. It can be an isolating business.
Congratulations, you guys are building things together. That's awesome. Husband and wife team. It's really exciting.
This is one thing about the product business. You can build it solo. You can build yourself. I'm just always working on improving myself.
I wake up early, exercise, and eat right.
I'm working on a book. A book is a virtual product. I think that's more of the future. A tangible product is cool, but I'm telling you, you still have to work.
You can't just kick back on a beach and give everything to your virtual assistant. If somebody says you're making tons of money a month, no, no offense, maybe they are, but maybe they're just sort of churning, have to make a profit. You can churn ten thousand dollars a month. But are you making a profit?
You've got to be careful. My point is that a product business is still more of a headache than a virtual product - creating an informative book, a podcast, and an app. Things like that are just, more and more of the future, creating content. Creating a tangible product is creating content to another extreme. Maybe even adding to existing products or you're sort of reinventing or inventing your own.
Apple invented their product and then outsourced it out to China. Nike has invented its product and outsourced it to Vietnam. Under Armor has created their brand and their material and still outsource to Myanmar. My point is that inventing your own product, reinventing an existing product is exciting. But I think creating an intangible product is an even more enjoyable process.
I don't want to be involved in storage and logistics. Logistics will keep you up at night. Where's your product is? It's over an ocean. It's scary. Your investment is sailing over the sea. And that's back to the starting out small.
I was wondering about China. Is China a friendly place for digital nomads? We were thinking about traveling there. Is it a place they can go and get Wi-Fi very easily?
China is so exciting, and the people are so friendly. They became like my second family to me. I have a girlfriend there, and she's a simultaneous translator. That means if the speaker is speaking to a crowd, they will put on the headphones. If the speaker is speaking English, she'll translate that immediately into Chinese. She's super busy with that platform. But anyway, back to your original question, the culture is super friendly. Wi-Fi is a challenge, in my opinion.
It's hard to stay there long term. It just even with a VPN and things like that. But just to be there to travel, you're still in business to go to two meet factories, many product ideas, and you got it. You get a travel visa. It's a 10-year travel visa. It has so much potential.
When I first told people from Washington that I am going to go to China and teach that they are freaking out. People don't know. They think there are tanks in the street or people old armed guards and it's nothing like that. It's super friendly, like Thailand. They're like always smiling and just very welcoming. If you ask for directions, they'll take you there rather than point a point or laugh at you.
It just really captured my heart. I love being there, but I just extended. I have a teaching contract and I just sort of made things work. But I tell you, the Internet connection is enough or hard. It really is hard.
You'll realize that having some sort of stable Wi-Fi just is super important. But I definitely recommend going there at the very minimum for week, two weeks, three weeks or a month and, you know, be on the productive side, sourcing a product, taking a time to get back to my girlfriend. She helps people with factory tours, and things like that and or people go there for the long term.
If you really wanted to get like a teaching position, China's wide open, they're always hiring and they'll give you a lot of freedom to create your own curriculum. It's a lot opportunity. It's a little scary, though. You got to realize you're in a top opposite time zone and you're really deeply submerged in a culture. It's not for everyone, but from a straight out job standpoint, there are lots of opportunities here in China.
And then after a year, they're easy to get to all these other surrounding countries. That's why I'm here and fly to Thailand. China is a great starting point out of flying to Hong Kong. Beijing is like Washington. It's the government. Shanghai is like our New York. It's the financial districts. I really don't know either those very well, but I know the south of China, which is Guangzhou. That is where the majority of our products in America are made. I mean, everything from the zipper to the button to the bracelet that's all southern China.
You said you're going back to the States after another month or so. What's going to happen after that? Do you have plans to come back out to China again? Is Southeast Asia or like I said, maybe Barcelona, Spain? It sounded cool, and they're locations that you're really interested in going to.
Once you get bit with the international bug, it's hard to go back. I can't wait to see my my my folks and see them. I've made some real estate investments have been a huge amount. I'll check on those and just catch up and sort of reconnect to my country a little bit. I hunger for that. But then after a while, you start to get a hundred a gift, come back out again.
I don't know, maybe Europe. My grandfather came right off the boat from Croatia to New York. I want to experience Croatia in Europe and feel that and taste that. I don't know. I want to get there and then South America as well. I might take a break from Asia because I've kind of done the extreme now it's been on a couple the couple years overall, so I'll probably take a break.
When you do that long flight, you don't want to go back for like a year or something like that. It's really tough. Try to try to prepare so you can stay as long as you can. And once you're here, our dollar super strong and it's easy to hop around, go to these other countries and each country seems different, like every state in America. Every country on the side of the world is different to see. You want to taste them all. And that's why you want to come. I'll probably take a break from Asia for a while and maybe get back out to the other continents like Europe and South America.
I want to settle in the U.S. for a while and just feel home, you know? And again, it's hard. The culture shock, right? It will be like your first international flight again.
I heard that you said you're from your grandfather was from Croatia. I hear Croatia is a good place to go to. And it's also cheap, like Thailand.
I didn't know that, actually. It has always been intimidating. That's what I think. That is why I picked big Asia. I thought it was much cheaper.
Europe is intimate and too expensive. But that's good to know. Now is the time to travel internationally, and now is the time to see all these things popping up with the internet. There are so many different ideas.
Now's the time to start an Internet-based business that can give you more freedom to travel to these countries. Also, it's like you're not limited to just Amazon or just even a tangible product for an intangible. And there are different ideas. Amazon is now pushing me to try to sell in Japan. I get these emails a lot for now.
I can't help to think, gosh, maybe I could find something awesome in this country. Go to the street markets. The creativity, the art is amazing. You're not limited to China for sourcing. You're not limited to America for selling on a town, a tangible product side. Now's the time to build out the Internet business.
I don't let either fear of the unknown or even the fear of the money side prevent me from certain travel. Don't let fear stop you.
Yeah, that's awesome. Now you've been doing FBA for a little while. What would be your tips that people can look out for when they're starting an FBA business? What are the pitfalls?
There are a couple of podcasts out there. They're very educational for Amazon, for FBA. Educate yourself for sure, and then also take action with that. Education with reasonable action, conservative action, without overdoing it.
That's my big tip, do not overdo it.
Take reasonable actions and follow some steps. There's some really lot of talented experts out there, and the information is out there. You just have to find it like what you're doing here. You're creating content for people, and we're all sharing information.
Congratulations, you guys. Kudos for creating content like this.
Keep learning. Piece together the learnings you got, then take action. The hardest would be to stay focused on just the sourcing. Take some action to find one product, not 20, and then take the small steps to ship it.
I would recommend maybe if you did such a little quantity, it could get in faster. Hopefully, there won't be any problems at customs. So you wouldn't want to do, source chemical products, animals, and plastics. But no matter how much you tried to make things perfect, they'll still be some trip up.
Push through discouragement, push through fear, and the unknown. Take some small actions for sourcing, shipping, and then the hardest part going to stay focused. But once you have it, stay focused on marketing.
Amazon just doesn't do everything for me. It's not like I'm totally for you. You have to do keyword searches and build out different advertising. Create all these other platforms to complement your online store with Amazon.
The goal would be not to be Amazon dependent.
Have your own online store other than the Amazon store. You want to be focused on building out your social media on that. And then learn to delegate to either have a partner, have an employee, or have a virtual assistant.
It's not easy to do, and that's where self-development comes in. It's easy to lose focus or let fear come to you. Don't let that sideswipe you. Keep in mind that you want it.
You mentioned writing an e-book earlier. What is the e-book about, and what are your goals with it?
I can't help to want to go in the direction of an intangible. My girlfriend gives her translation services online. All her clients come to her from the internet. And recently, she published two books.
She inspires me to want to create a bok and have it listed on Amazon. All the tools are there. You can focus on your passion and make it a reality. Mine is health. Health is so personal. There are so many different ways to write about mental, physical, spiritual, financial, and social health. I want to probably build out like you on a podcast or an e-book platform and monetize that. Take money out of a too.
Create the content, the money will follow. My goal is to create a virtual e-book close to my heart and then continue to build on that.
Thank you so much for being on the podcast.
Again, our goal with the podcasts is to inspire and motivate people to become entrepreneurs. And also for the people that are entrepreneurs out there, to take their businesses to the next level and live a location, independent lifestyle. Get out of the home office. Explore the world. Have a good trip.
It makes us all happy and really invigorates our souls. And it's also connecting with other entrepreneurs out there.
Yes. Thank you for being on the podcast, Matt.
Thank you for having me, guys.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
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eCommerce Paradise was created by Trevor Fenner of Seattle, Washington in 2015 to help you, the entrepreneur, to start and scale your own eCommerce business selling high-ticket products online with the drop shipping fulfillment method so you can make more profit per sale, have a sustainable and evergreen online business, get started with very little upfront investment, and live a location independent lifestyle. Trevor owns multiple 7-figure High-Ticket Drop Shipping eCommerce stores and is a digital nomad, traveling the world while working remotely with the help of his team of over 10 virtual assistants from around the world. Trevor is currently located in Bali, Indonesia. Trevor is also a passionate skateboarder, surfer, scuba diver, photographer, environmentalist, outdoorsman, fitness and tattoo enthusiast.
AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate referral links. I will get a commission from the vendor when you make a purchase after clicking them at no added cost to you. As a result, many of them also provide you with a special discount just for using my link. You can go directly to their support if you have any issues with their software or product.