71 Lbs. CEO Jose Li On Cashflow, Entrepreneurship, and Shipping Costs

7 min read • Jan 29, 2015 • Erik Larson

This week on Lendio Business Fuel, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jose Li of 71 Lbs and talk about shipping costs and his path to entrepreneurship. You can watch the video above or read the transcript below.


ERIK: Hi and welcome to Lendio Business Fuel. Today we have 71 Lbs CEO Jose Li with us and today we’re going to talk about shipping costs and his story as an entrepreneur. Welcome Jose.

JOSE LI: Thank you Erik.

ERIK: Why don’t you ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself.

JOSE LI: Thanks for having me. So I spent 15 years doing shipping logistics and e-commerce. And you know, I’ve worked for Alibaba. I did shipping logistics for Jamba Juice and then I went to the dark side. I went to work for FedEx and run the retail and e-commerce aspect for a number of years. And what I found was that, a lot of small businesses don’t have the resources. They don’t have the time. They don’t have the tools to save money on shipping like the large companies do. And that was the main reason why we created 71 Lbs. What we do is we have created a fast, easy and automatic solution for small businesses to get the refunds back. Every FedEx and UPS shipment comes with the money-back guarantee policy. If any of your shipments are late even by one minute, the customers should get 100% of their money back and most companies are not aware of this. So we have set-and- forget system. We ask customers to sign up on our platform for free and we just audit their shipments and give refunds back to customers. So as you can imagine, our customers are really, really happy that they give unexpected refunds and that’s what we do.

ERIK: Wow, that’s great. So what exactly – What is it that sparked you to go from working at FedEx, obviously, a pretty successful company to somewhere that’s, or just starting your own business? What made you make that jump?

JOSE LI: Well you know, probably a couple of things. My family comes from entrepreneurial roots so I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to start my own business. You know, after spending a lot of time and learning about an industry, learning all about the process is, with FedEx being a great company, I just thought that it was a good time for me personally and professionally to start 71 Lbs. And you know, we just decided to make the job and went for it.

ERIK: That’s great. So tell me a little bit more about your platform. Is it something that like, a small business owner can go sign up in for today or does it kind of take a while to get onboarded? Tell me a little more about that.

JOSE LI: So it’s actually very simple and easy to get activated. Customers go to 71lbs.com. They provide their company name, e-mail address, shipping credentials from FedEx or UPS and literally, they don’t have to do anything else. So our system looks for shipments from their company’s accounts. We audit their shipments. We file claims electronically on their behalf of care and then we notify the customers of their refunds. You know, customer can actually be very hands off. Just read the emails that we provide to them. They have it under inbox and its literally free money that they receive from us.

ERIK: Wow, that’s fantastic. So honestly, that really sounds like a really good business plan. What are the challenges that you’ve seen as you’ve started up this company and how have you overcome them?

JOSE LI: Well, I don’t know how many hours, but yes, a lot of them. You know obviously the start-up phases of our company have been, you know a lot of it is roller coaster rides. A lot of downs; you know a couple of ups, few ups every once in a while. But getting the business off the ground has been, you know one of the major, you know setbacks for this, right. So building software, creating the technology, we wanted to automate this so we can make our system scalable. It was one of the first things that we had in place to make this happen. I thought that we were going to have this done in a few months. It actually took you know realistically, you know more than that and that’s been part of our roller coaster ride. You know as we have continued to grow and our customers are actually very happy with our service, so you know just scaling, growing customers, getting more customers, hiring the right people has been part of our road maps so those have been some of the growing pains that we’ve faced throughout the couple of years.

ERIK: Yeah, that sounds like a lot of your growing pains have also turned into some of your basic successes like having great customer feedback, and finding funding and all of that. Now, how have you, as a CEO, what are the things  most surprising thing to you since you came from working for someone else and now you’re working for yourself. What’s the most surprising thing where you thought “I did not realize this is how it would be?”

JOSE LI: Great question. So let me think about this. You know, I think its the emotional roller coaster of running your own company. You know, there are a lot of problems that happen when you start any business. There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved. You know, one morning you can have, you know you landed a great customer, right? And that afternoon, something happens. That just took you down the roller coaster ride. So I think its managing and being able to manage the expectations of yourself, of your team which is something that you know, I – First time for me that I had to go through so it’s been one of those, aha’s for me and I’m obviously trying to get better at it over time.

ERIK: That’s a great answer, thanks. So what are some of the biggest mistakes you see small business owners make? I mean, you work – obviously probably work with a lot of them in your company. What is that one mistake that you see everybody seems to make?

JOSE LI: You know it’s somewhat related to this. I think its managing cash flow. A lot of companies – a lot of small businesses actually focus on revenue which is great. I mean, you know sales, cures, I won’t say all the problems but cures in majority most of the problems, having sales and having revenue. But actually taking a closer look at your cash flow and making sure that you know, the money that’s – that you’re receiving from sales actually allows you to continue the business and grow the business is one of the things that I have learned how to do overtime. And I think it’s probably one of the things when I talk to a lot of small business owners, one of the things that I think might be room for opportunity and growth.

ERIK: Yeah, great. Now, what is the – Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever received, business-related, what’s the best business advice you’ve ever got?

JOSE LI: Yeah, so a little bit related to what we do even though it’s only on a semantic basis. But to me the most valuable business advice I’ve received was, shipped is better than perfect. I’ve seen too many projects and too many know ideas that myself included and our team included. We just wanted to go the extra few days or extra couple of weeks to make sure that it was at the 99%, you know level, right?

ERIK: Right.

JOSE LI: And a lot of times, we just found that, you know, the 80% is probably good enough. We can launch it. We can put it in front of our customers, maybe to our beta program. And to me, I just think that you know shipped or done is probably a more accurate phrase to exemplify the philosophy that we have here at 71 Lbs. How we run our projects. How we run our business. How we continue to look at new products and services. And you know obviously, that was strange to us but to me that’s one of the things that we’ve considered to do which is you know done is obviously you know much better to do at a shorter time frame than wait for the extra time and think that it’s actually perfect.

ERIK: Right. Or, it’s better to have something out there rather than have nothing at all, you know especially if it’s at 80% to 90%.

JOSE LI: Exactly.

ERIK: Well, thank you so much for coming on here. You can check out more about 71 Lbs at the links below. Thanks again and tune in next week

JOSE LI: Thank you Erik.


If you liked this story you might also like:

A Business Loan to Change Lives
3 Questions Business Owners Have About Small Business Loans
Understand Your Shipping Costs

If you’re interested in finding a loan for your business, get started here with Lendio’s free loan matching service.


Erik Larson

Erik Larson frequently writes for Lendio about SEO, Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Business Loans, and whatever else strikes his fancy. He can be found on Google+ and Twitter.