An Interview With TJ Hyland: Head Of eCommerce Partnerships at Payoneer On How To Scale an Amazon Business

TJ Hyland is Head of eCommerce Partnerships at Payoneer US. He has years of experience working with e-commerce entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes. We invited TJ to share some tips with the Amazon FBA community on how to scale an Amazon business outside of their home country, and what kind of challenges one can encounter when selling internationally.

Listen to the podcast interview below:

Hey, TJ. Welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me.

Can you just give us a bit of context? I mean, when you meet an average Amazon business, let’s say at a conference or anywhere you go to, how do you typically introduce yourself and explain what your business does in plain terms?

Sure. So, as an introduction, I used to say, obviously, my name is Cedar Island. I head up partnerships at Payoneer – responsible for the US region. So for partnerships or what it really means is we are bringing together companies like seller scale in this case to be part of our ecosystem. So, you know, whether it’s part of the selling online, internationally, or selling online in general. businesses that play a key role in, in seller success.

So a VAT company, a shipping company, translation ad management, financial management, all really have a key part in making a seller go from a year up to the top.

But you don’t just work with Amazon business, right?

So you have some different types. Of course, and that’s, that’s something I always talk about Amazon business because you know, it’s kind of a baseline where everyone sells, but from a marketplace perspective, you know, Payoneer, work with hundreds of marketplaces around the world.

So Walmart, Amazon business store, but you know, in Latin America we have ricotta Lee Ray and Groupo EXITO. But then in Europe, there’s Rakuten and see the discount that we’ve all worked with. So yes, Amazon is probably what everyone’s most familiar with, but you know, if you are selling on any real global marketplace, we can absolutely help with our currency solution.

You mentioned that you do help sellers operating on the international level, right? Receiving international cross border payments and revenues. I wonder what are some of the challenges that Payoneer helps these businesses solve and what solutions are you currently offering?

eCommerce entrepreneurs? Sure. So, I find that the biggest challenge that we have even before getting there is that there’s a big education portion to it. Especially for US-based sellers. If you are selling, say in the UK, you absolutely have the ability to put your US dollar bank account into the marketplace and the marketplace will take the pounds and convert them back to dollars handed to you as a seller, it looks easy.

You don’t have to worry about it, but in reality, you’re getting hit with a pretty hefty fee on the currency exchange. The problem that we’re solving is, you know, helping people understand, especially Americans in this case, is that Europeans are much more familiar with multicurrency.

But you know, the whole world will accept dollars, and China pay suppliers they’ll accept dollars or even sometimes prefer dollars. So, you know, what we’re doing is really educating the market on the ability to receive payouts and handling other currencies, which can ultimately help your bottom line.

Additionally, another thing that we’re helping sellers do is when they have to make payments out. So, the number one solution is our VAT portal. When selling in the UK or in the EU it’s mandatory for you to be registered in and then thus to pay VAT. So if you were selling in the UK and in Europe, you’re going to get paid in pounds and euros.

So point here is, you can hold those pounds in euros and then pay directly to HMRC in the UK or any of the tax authorities and throughout the EU directly with your paying balance. Now, why that’s important is because you’re ultimately not converting back to dollars, then having to send an international bank wire and using banks, which have traditionally higher exchange rates, and international bank wires from the U S side typically are, 30 to $40.

Depending on your size, you could be a business making a VAT payment for just a couple hundred dollars over less than a hundred dollars. Then you have to pay a 40 to $50 fee on top of that. So, if you were to use Payoneer in that solution or in that situation, you would be able to take your pounds directly to HMRC or any European via a VAT authority.

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Let’s say you’re a US company and you’re selling in the UK, we have this revenue in pounds and you can store it and use it to pay the local tax authorities and whatnot. But if you’re operating in different countries where you have separate accounts in each country and currency, how is this solved?

Like you said, if a seller was based in the US or any of the main European countries, they, you will have the ability to transfer back into your home country.

Some of the further-reaching countries don’t have the ability to do so. You’d have to use a service like Payoneer but in this case, a US-based seller selling into Europe and he was absolutely a nice to have the soultion that’s not necessary, but it’s, it’s nice to have the ability to create savings for you.

You do mention on your LinkedIn that Payoneer helps sellers by providing working capital to grow their business. Could you elaborate on this service? Who is your typical customer and what kind of funding options are currently available for entrepreneurs?

Sure. So, about a year ago, we launched our working capital product. It’s called a capital advance. It was created and designed out of customer feedback because marketplace sellers were coming to us and talking to their account managers and saying, you know, we are having issues with cash flow, whether it’s because of the payment terms from the marketplace, because they have low margins.

If they’re a reseller, they’re just trying to turn over as much profit as they are as much product as they can. So, they’re trying to just get as much money to buy as much product. They know they’ll be able to sell it, but they just aren’t there right now. For this, we created this working capital product design, specifically for Walmart and Amazon business.

It’s an advanced based on your future receivables. So if you are a seller and for example, on Amazon business, you are receiving a hundred thousand dollars a month. We would advance you up to $100,000, if you are approved, pretty much immediately into your Payoneer account. And then from there on, in terms of repayment, it’s a flexible repayment model.

So we’re going to collect back towards repayment of 35% of each payment that comes out from Amazon business. Now that’s not 35% as a fee, which some people like to think. So I wanted to clarify the fee. The fee actually is 3%. But it’s 35% towards repayment. So each, each disbursement you’re getting in a $10,000, we’re going to take 3,500, $100,000 and leave 6,500 for you.

And the thing is because it’s a flexible repayment model where we’re taking a percentage, it’s not going to completely be a detriment to your business. If your sales drop, because you know, with a traditional loan, you have to pay a fixed amount each month. So, if you run out of inventory or you have a really bad couple of weeks in sales, perhaps like something of the covert situation where you couldn’t get inventory to FBA over that period of time, you know, your sales are going to drop because we’re only taking a percentage of what the payouts are.

We’re only going to take that same, a smaller number of what you actually are. We’re not going to put, set you back or in the red at all. And why that’s good is because of the flexible and the percentage that we’re taking is that there’s no fixed term on it. So, it averages out to be about a hundred day products right now.

It could go longer if needed, you could pay it off sooner if your sales are booming and there’s no penalty either way. If you pay it off sooner, or if it goes later,

I think it’s a great solution for businesses who want to scale, because it’s really hard to scale all the time. Just reinvesting your profits.

At some point, you do need to seek external financing.

And you did mention that you’re looking at sales history. But do you work with a new startup in this space?

The minimum that we would advance is $2,500. You kind of has to reach a point to get there. And, and what we’re looking at just to clarify is not necessarily your sales history, but more of your payout history. After Amazon takes all their fees, what you walk away with.

Basically your bottom line, right. So, you know, it’s not. Exactly designed for sellers that are just looking to get started. You have to have some proven history of being a seller and being successful before we would. What events you. And that just really comes from our risk appetite.

Right. And I mean, uh, we’re talking about fines. Nice. And right now, and there are sophisticated sellers who are listening and they understand why they need that. Right. But there are also a lot of new sellers who are afraid of debt afraid of, uh, seeking financing and they, they worry about not repaying it yet ever.

And I wonder whether you have to do with these common misconceptions about. External financing. And how do you go about explaining these misconceptions to e-commerce entrepreneurs if there are any,

There’s definitely some in terms of eCommerce entrepreneurs, but I would say that we have positioned our product and created it with.

E-commerce and online sellers in mind, that’s really the core of the product. And that’s why I think it’s best suited for this sort of business. You know, if you look at traditional bank loans or, or other alternative lenders, they sometimes have struggled to understand the idea of selling online and the idea of having an Amazon business.

No, excuse me. No, for sure. Uh, profits coming in or, or sometimes I’ve heard that they say that you’re too reliant on Amazon business or on this marketplace to make your sales, which is okay. Not necessarily any different than a, than a traditional retail plays. Like you’re, you’re reliant on foot traffic, but in reality, e-commerce, you’re getting much more traffic, than the foot traffic would on a, on a retail store.

But what our product is and some of the misconceptions surrounding it, or kind of how we combat those misconceptions is that this is not alone. And it’s not something that you’re fixed and locked into for a year’s time. And you have that monthly payment that is a burden holding over your head the entire time.

So, this is a merchant cash advance it’s called MCI. And it is a little bit different. It’s more flexible and riskier for us as a business, which is why, if you look at it, You know, the percentage that it might look as a higher percentage than what you would get with a bank, but it is designed and created with seller’s best interest in mind and designed for sellers.

At what point should sellers consider financing? Is it a function of revenue in your opinion or something else? Like a product category.

That’s a really good question. And it’s one that comes up often because there’s many thoughts on it.

It’s if you are somewhat struggling, I need to pivot, perhaps that’s a time for you to say, okay, I’ve been selling these water bottles and you know, the demand just isn’t there anymore. Maybe I pivot to. Towels and this category cause home and home and home goods, or are booming right now, or you are really successful.

Say you’re in the kitchen and you’re selling pots and pans and yada, yada, and you want to advance and diversify. Or create a new product line to compliment your existing solution. So now you want to get into to cutlery and knives and spoons and stuff like that, just to make your brand bigger, because I think it ultimately depends on what your end goal is.

Right? So, if your end goal is to sell. Then you want to create an as marketable or as big of a business as you could to get your best return. But if we can talk about somebody in the, in the first step, but when you’re looking to pivot, that means you’re not right there yet. And you do need help.

So it’s whether you help from someone guiding you or help financially, you know where you’re doing, you’re just not getting the sales. Maybe you have the success, but you’re kind of in a rut now and you can pivot and you can see that greater success down the line. I don’t think there’s one fit answer for that question.

I think it’s very business dependent. I know a lot of businesses should absolutely look at their unit economics that we were talking about before here. If your unit economics are through the roof you know, it might be something to look at. And, if you are on a steady growth plan, you know that you have a well-oiled machine. If you inject, $10,000, $20,000, a hundred thousand dollars into it, you can absolutely reap the benefits a month, two months, three months down the road, and then reinvest that again, To go from say a hundred thousand dollars seller to a million-dollar seller to a multimillion dollar seller.

But let’s talk about the crisis and depends dynamic that we’re in right now, from your point of view, how has the call it crisis a change to say of the Amazon business? And e-commerce in general, and I saw on your LinkedIn that you were giving a talk about this earlier.

So I wonder what your point of view on that is.

Yeah. I mean, in terms of the global situation, it’s not always as great, you know, we’ve seen a lot of parts of the economy and in the world, obviously, you have to shut down. But in reality, the state of online solid selling and the state of e-commerce has has never been.

I saw a statistic that online eCommerce sales in the last eight months. In the last eight weeks from about mid-March to mid, uh, till sorry, March to the end of April, grew about 11%. And to put that into perspective over the previous 10 years, US retail, sorry. US eCommerce sales grew about 11%.

So we are seeing unprecedented growth driven by necessity. Um, do I think it’s going to stay, I think that number was about 27%. Do I think it’s going to stay at 27%? No, I think it will probably level a little bit, but in reality, you know, There’s probably an entire new generation, you know, we always see like the younger generation more into the technology side of things or not mine, but, you know, it’s definitely the, the older generation that.

Maybe had been hesitant to order groceries online or hesitant to order this, that and the other, but, you know, if they couldn’t go to bed bath and beyond and pick up bedsheets, or if they couldn’t go get whatever they need from a, from a normal store that you know, that they would normally go to, they had to turn online.

I think for the better, this will absolutely benefit Amazon business and marketplace sellers. Throughout the world. You know, I think that when the pandemic ends, I, you know, hopefully soon and hopefully they were returned to some sort of normalcy that we will still be in this e-commerce or online.

I think groceries will absolutely return to, uh, sort of in store, because people like that, but also people would know that if they need, I have this other option to order online. Maybe they’re less skeptical as they would have been previously. If there is a benefit of this pedantic, it’s totally e-commerce because I think that the consumer behavior and the consumer Abbots are changing rapidly and just judging for personal experience.

I haven’t ordered a groceries online, like ever. I just am the in store guy. And when one’s on, went into lockdown, I just had no other choice. So I discovered this online shopping, it was amazing like online groceries that they delivered to your door, just like straightaway. My dad who wasn’t using Amazon, like he would just against Amazon and right now just ordering everything like every week, a new package.

So yeah, I mean the consumer habits are changing and, I think that we’ll see the growth in the eCommerce market, just because of that. So this older generation, Val is hesitant before and now they’re avid users of, uh, online marketplaces. And I think it’d be talk about it a little bit more.

There’s more education for the consumer revolving or surrounding buying online. Um, so many people didn’t for awhile didn’t even know there was such a thing as a third party seller, and they thought that everything came. From Amazon business and Amazon was being the seller themselves. But as there’s more education, more news stories about third party sellers and how they actually interact with Amazon, like the, the buyer or the consumer understands that you’re actually supporting it in many ways, a small business and an, and an enterprise business, but you’re supporting the small business by purchasing their items through.

Additionally, we can say you don’t have to, to purchase through the marketplace. You can purchase through their own website or a different marketplace. And you know, you have to realize that for the small business, the marketplaces are. Giving as much traction and exposure as they can afford for these small businesses.

And I think from a small business perspective, you know, those businesses that were traditionally brick and mortar, retail locations have seen a. A need to get online, whether they were reluctant to, or just hadn’t had the opportunity to pause their business and do it over the last 12 weeks now they’ve had to do it.

So it’s, it’s definitely something that, you know, from a consumer perspective, from a small business perspective, everyone is turning to retail. Sorry, sorry. E-commerce uh, although retail, it’s not dead. It’s, it’s probably further behind now than it’s ever been. Yeah, and we’re definitely going to be, further to this closer to this multichannel strategy after the pandemic, when the brick and mortar merges with the online experience.

I like that you mentioned that Amazon business is really savored for small businesses, but on the other hand, it’s still. Kind of hard to understand from the consumer perspective that you’re not buying from Amazon as a marketplace, but you’re buying from this particular small business. And I don’t think that Amazon really wants to do that because Amazon just wants to be this ecosystem.

And just use the products that third party sellers are providing it. Right. But speaking of marketplaces, do you think that in this marketplace driven world where you have Walmart Etsy, eBay, Amazon, do you even need considering selling via your own website, for example, like on Shopify or should you go straight ahead to Amazon and these marketplaces?

It’s a really tough question because as a business owner or an inventor or whatever you are. You want to own as much rights and an opportunity as you can. That being said, if you create your own Shopify or your own website, you’re going to pay so much money to drive traffic to your own website that any sales that you make at least initially are going to net out, or, or you might do at a loss because of the advertising costs that you’re getting people to your site.

I forget the number, but you know where most searches used to begin on Google. Now in terms of buying online and majority of the searches do begin actually on Amazon. So, if you look into the opportunity that Amazon business and other marketplaces provide you the exposure as we were talking about before, you know, it it’s, it’s unparalleled, it’s unmatched.

Yes within Amazon business, it’s a competitive market or world, and you might have to bid on different keywords and, you know, to make sure you are the best position for your product, but at the same time, it’s probably less than you’ll have to pay to bid on things on Google or to bid on other forms of advertising to drive people to your actual site.

So what I would say is. The end goal should always be to have your own website where people are going to organically searched for your product or organically find your website through advertising and exposure that you do on your sales on the marketplace. So, if you sell something, that’s, you know, a recurring item, like some sort of home goods item that people might purchase, you know, one time a month or every six months or something like that, you know?

Yes, they found you on Amazon business, but it doesn’t mean they have to go back to Amazon’s buy you again or the marketplace by you get, so once you have that established brand, uh, that’s where I think it makes sense for you to create that Shopify solution. You know, if someone is just going to Amazon and looking for any sort of.

Glass or any sort of cutlery, you know, they’re just going to buy that they don’t necessarily look at the brand, but if you have some sort of differentiator with your brand, that is, you know, creating something different than it makes sense to create somewhere where those sellers can or, or those, sorry, those buyers can go find your product directly, organically as well.

I mean, at the end of the day, you do want to own all your assets and you do want to own this direct relationship with your customer. But as you said Amazon business, yeah, these marketplaces are really their main asset and their main, value proposition I would say is. Traffic and just marketing and they give you exposure.

So a good strategy for a new seller would be to go on these platforms to gain this initial exposure and visibility, to build sales history, to make money, and then to diversify, to own this direct relationship with your customers.

I totally agree.

I have one last question for you, TJ. It’s our traditional question from Peter TEALS book zero to one. Uh, it’s a question for entrepreneurs, but we ask it anyway even people who don’t business like yourself, it goes like this. What is your contrarian view that goes against commonly accepted notions in the industry? So what truth do very few people agree with you on?

I think from a seller perspective, I think from my experience is that there is a notion that selling internationally is difficult. And I think that it’s not. So I guess my contrarian view is that listing your products from a seller perspective is quite easy to do on international markets.

– TJ Hyland, Payoneer

And why I say that, and I say that because between the marketplaces and between other solutions, it’s never been easier. Yes. If we look at this maybe five, 10 years ago, it might’ve been pretty difficult, but if you are. Based in the US fulfilling your products via FBA in the US you know, shipping them to a warehouse in Kentucky or in Texas or whatever.

What’s the difference between shipping it to Kentucky and shipping it to the UK. From there. You don’t have anything to do with it. Yeah. You can control your, your marketing budget, but if you’re going to control your marketing budget in the US you’re going to control your marketing budget in the UK.

And that’s what the power of marketplaces, especially Amazon business has have done. And I’m a huge fan of FBA. I think it really levels the playing field and really promotes global business. Um, so just to recap, my contrarian view is people think that. Selling internationally is hard and difficult and yeah.

And a lot of hurdles, and yes, there there are steps that you need to do to get things set up. But once everything is set up, it should be able to run and it would be able to run like a well-oiled machine as, as your domestic business or any other business that you have. Yeah. And I mean, with Amazon business, you have all these different marketplaces and you could just pick any and sell there, and it doesn’t really make a difference as you mentioned, selling in the United States or on Europe.

But I think that a lot of sellers might have a fear of these international payments and international revenues, but that’s where you guys come in and Payoneer and you do help a seller manage their cross border trade by the way, do you work with wholesale sellers? Sure. So, so if people were selling in bulk, are you talking about like vendor central if there was on in bulk or, yeah, I mean, in regards to payments, we can really help with anything.

So whether, you know, you’re selling on the marketplace, you need to get paid from the marketplace and a wholesale or a per or per order basis. Additionally, we talked about paying VAT, but if you needed to pay any. Vendors or suppliers, if you needed to pay your supplier in China and you wanted to pay in local currency.

We can help with that.

And you know, one of the really great parts about paying near here is the network, uh, that we’ve created over the last 15 years is because we have over 4 million users on the network. And the best part is, is. Any payment from paying your user to another painter user is completely for free. So if you had funds and you’re paying your account and your supplier in China was a Payoneer user, you could pay directly to them using pioneer funds for free.

You don’t have to worry about exchange or cross border payments or international wire fees or anything like that. So just kind of smooth out the process and you know, one of our slogans or mantras is to go beyond. And, and what that really means to us is to enable sellers and to enable small businesses and medium-sized businesses to go beyond what they thought was possible.

So if they thought that, you know, their business could do X, we want them to do X plus Y plus C. Um, and through that is, is breaking down the barriers of, of international payments breaking down the stigma of, you know, this is complicated and this is something that I’m not really sure about, you know, on our solution using our courtesy accounts, we have people who have just started.

Business, you know, just started selling on Amazon business all the way up to CFOs of really, really, really multimillion-dollar companies. And we’ve made our platform intuitive enough and sort of key turn so that someone who’s just getting started and a CFO would a business and finance degree is able to use the platform and take advantage of it.

Just the same. I think that’s a great note to wrap up our interview.

Thanks a lot. TJ, if people want to connect with you or learn more about you, should we send them?

Absolutely. You can find me on LinkedIn, as you mentioned, which is TJ Hyland, or by email, you can email me directly as

Awesome. Thank you, TJ. All right, thanks so much. You have a good day.

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