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Want to save a ton of time in your business?
…without sacrificing anything?
…or hiring anyone?

Then you’d better master automation (or risk being left behind.)

In today’s drive, I'll give you several tools and example of automation I’ve used successfully in my own business for years.

I didn't email you last week. I'm sorry.

It was a 3-day weekend because of Labor Day so I took a break from laboring.

I did two extremely satisfying things instead that weekend:

1. I caught up on some reading, finishing three books.

My favorite by far was Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop. It's currently my favorite personal development book. The right mindset is critically important to succeeding as an entrepreneur, so I invest in my own mental health regularly and fiercely defend it. You should too.

2. I went goddamn mental on my lawn with an edger.

My lawn had not been edged in at least two years, as we'd been focused on growing any grass at all instead of Creeping Charlie; a diabolical broadleaf weed that can only be killed with Ortho® Weed-B-Gon® Colloidal Silver during a full moon.

Our now full and lush lawn had grown so confident that it had decided to leave the confines of the yard and attempt to colonize the sidewalk, driveway, street, etc. Whacking back entire inches of grass like slashing shag carpeting with a new utility knife is one of the most weirdly satisfying things I've done. Possibly the most fun you can have for $60 (other than renting a Jet Ski from a Cuban man named Angel in Key West. He is the best and I hope he's okay.)

I really know very little about lawn care. It's one of those things that seems obvious and self-explanatory until you actually try to do it. Then it becomes clear that your lawn is a minefield of mistakes waiting to happen. Google, experience, and a crash course from my sister-in-law are the only reason I am at all competent to care for grass.

When you're trying to fix your lawn, the lawn & garden section at Home Depot becomes an exciting opportunity to waste money and kill grass. That's kind of how I feel about the Shopify App Store. It's filled with thousands of shiny toys that all promise to grow your store or make your life as store owner easier. But just like lawn care, it's easy to get carried away. Pretty soon you have a shed full of tools and sprays that you forgot about, and a website that crashes iPhones with impunity.

Which is why it should come as no surprise that one of the more common questions I get is, "Hey Kurt, what apps do you recommend?"

Like any experienced Shopify Expert, I normally give a cryptic non-answer like "I recommend installing nothing until you have a specific pain or problem than can be solved by a single app. Audit your apps regularly to make sure you still need them."

This is not the answer you or anyone is looking to hear. It's not my fault, it's because I have PTSD from logging into client stores and discovering 40+ apps installed resulting in a 20MB page size and more javascript errors than I can diagnose. That's not hyperbole either, it's happened repeatedly.

Until now that's been my stance. Today I'm going to break my app silence. I have a lot of experience with apps and I hear even more about which apps are hot, which have great support, and which are to be avoided. I and several of my friends even own successful apps. So I could make some app recommendations for right now as we all get ready to maximize our revenues on Black Friday and through the holidays.

That's the topic of this week's Sunday Drive: The Best Shopify Apps for 2017.

Hope that helps because...

Black Friday will be here before we know it.

Book a 1-on-1 coaching call with me and I guarantee that we can improve your store together.

☞ Book your call, start improving your store now.

Talk soon,

PS: I updated my vanity site, I even took a new headshot for it. Well, my wife took it in our basement, and I was wearing her makeup because we are professionals. The contact page is a trendy-if-you're-a-twitter-cool-kid 'now' page that's worth checking it.

Have you ever sold something on Craigslist?

It's an experience, that's for sure.

You'll discover that most people are really excited to get stuff right up until they have to put forth any effort at all.

I told you I'm moving offices, right?

We're moving from the historic Pickwick Theatre building in Park Ridge, IL (where I grew up) to this upscale outdoor mall in Skokie, IL..

I'm super excited about it.

And when I'm excited, I make no small moves.

As soon as I signed the new lease, I hired an interior designer to give me a furniture plan and design suggestions.

(An interior designer is way cheaper than you think. We hired ours for $80/hr and dramatically improved our house for about $200. That's why I'm doing the same for the new office.)

That also means it was time to start fresh and ditch the bootstrapped crazy cornucopia of furniture I had.

So my wife put up an ad on Craigslist that read basically, "Free furniture from a startup. As-is. You must disassemble and move yourself."

I loved that idea because when we started our business in 2009, we scavenged a lot of our furniture. I'd much rather pay it forward than send the stuff to a landfill.

Within four hours of posting, we'd gotten rid of 90% of our stuff.

Craiglist is basically a free junk removal service.

Among those people, we're some scary folk. Not intimidating scary. Scary unprepared.

Three people separately arrived to haul away our massive HON desk. (A picture was included online, it was a hot item.)

In all three cases, they took one look at it, and said, "So I have to disassemble it? Do you have any tools?" ಠ_ಠ

As stated in the listing, yes you do, and no I don't.

All three immediately abandoned the idea, took something else random to justify their trip, and promptly left.

I really can't complain. With no effort on my part beyond answering the door, I was unencumbered of all my old office furniture. It was disturbing to see how little thought and effort was going into these folks' decision-making.

By virtue of being on my list, I know you're not like them. You're leveraging free resources like this one. You're thinking ahead, planning, and taking action.

We're not putting our Black Friday plans off to the last minute either. We need to start planning our Black Friday sales now.

The most important channel in your Black Friday success plan is email.

I'm back in the saddle after heading to Ottawa last week to visit the Shopify mothership.

It absolutely may be the single most interesting workplace in the world.

Shopify currently occupies ten floors of this new LEED-certified building in downtown:


Aside from a ton of neat tech and seemingly endless perks, they have really clever decorating.

Each floor has a theme, and each room has its own theme within that.

For example, one floor's theme is retreat.

That floor has, among other things, work teepees:


My favorite floor was Prohibition in which every room was named after a cocktail.

(We did some filming in White Russian because it was naturally very white and bright.)

My favorite room was also on the Prohibition floor. It spoke to me:


Play is emphasized in several rooms. There's even an indoor go kart track. (Seriously.)

Demonstrating both play and an eye toward the future was this VR demo room:


Throughout the offices were many artworks promoting their mission:



I've staked my entire business on Shopify's success so this pilgrimage was important to me.

It's truly an extraordinary place to be. I've never seen anything remotely like it.

They are also gracious hosts, and made me feel valued as a guest and partner.

More news: We're moving!

As soon as I got back to the states, I finalized the lease for our new office space.

Our new space is being built out in Old Orchard mall.

Old Orchard mall

I'm excited to be running our ecommerce consultancy from a posh retail environment.

Just today I sent the architect plans to our interior designer to help make it amazing.

(After all, Shopify has set a high bar.)

With all that's been going, I hadn't give much thought to what to discuss in today's Sunday drive.

Fortunately, a newsletter subscriber asked me a thoughtful question.

Wolfgang asked:

"What is the 80/20 you look at for shops once the fundamentals are in place and the shop is running nicely?
For example, you get to work on a shop that makes low 5 figures per month, where do you usually still find low-hanging fruit in such cases?"

My answer is the topic of today's Sunday drive...

Hope that helps because we don't have much time left to get ready for the holidays.

There are only 95 days left until Black Friday.

Are you prepared? What do you need help with?

My 1-on-1 services can help make this your best holiday season ever:

In this episode, I'll explain the mindset shift that seven figure stores use to win with paid advertising.

Register for the webinar and learn why your Shopify PPC campaigns aren't working and what to do about it:

We're talking themes in today's drive.


Because theme selection can be intensely overwhelming.

(I suspect some people hire me just to have someone else make their theme selection.)

To help you, I reveal my top theme choices on today's drive

As well as the one consistent pattern I've seen among my seven-figure clients when they have to choose for themselves.

The dark truth of customer service:
The bar for excellence is extraordinarily low.

That's great news for anyone who wants to put in a modicum of effort to impress their customers.

In today's video, we talk through simple steps you can take today to earn your customers trust.

It's my wife's birthday today. (She is forever 29.)


She got the greatest birthday gift ever: comeuppance.

She's been warning me lately:

"You need to shave your chest hair before that baby grabs it and yanks."

"Not likely," I scoffed.

Then I was hoisted on my own petard.

This morning, I heard tiny baby Kennedy was awake, and went to go pick her up out of her crib for our daily 5 am baby party.

At which point, she full on death-gripped my chest hair for stability and wouldn't let go.

I squawked, but adults yelling in panic/horror/disgust at the things she does happens to be the most funny when you're five months old.

I don't know if you know this about babies, but they have vice-like grips.

Even better: the baby monitor broadcast this in perfect 2.4ghz digital clarity to my wife's nightstand.

Happy Birthday, Julie.

So now I have to shave my chest hair because I have a baby who thinks it's positively hilarious to hear me yell.

"This morning I yanked on daddy's chest hair. What's new with you?"

In Shopify news...

We built a custom crowdfunding page for KeySmart (around our Crowdfunder app) a couple weeks ago, and it has since raised $270K (in a week!!) primarily through email marketing.


A great product presented to past customers in a way that makes them feel part of something with both social proof and urgency is powerful.

Does KeySmart have some tremendous advantages that most ecommerce businesses don't?

Yes, absolutely.

Most successful businesses have unfair advantages that they readily use to grow.

I am one of your competitive advantages.

There are 400K Shopify stores. You are one of around five thousand store owners who listen to me in one way or another.

So what can we do to help scale your business like KeySmart has?

We can increase two metrics:

  1. Average Order Value
  2. Average Customer Lifetime Value

I'll discuss a fool-proof, easy way to do that in today's drive.

Want to increase conversions from visitors to your home page? In today's drive, I talk through the elements you need to have a high-converting home page.

Yesterday my wife jumped in the Jag and took our oldest boy to see Aladdin for his birthday.

(Side-note: When I drive that car, about once a week, I get a thumbs up, "nice car!", or even the occasional "fuck you, yuppie!" from young guys.
When my wife drives it, she gets approximately 1,000% more attention than I do from those same young guys. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Julie in front of the Cadillac theatre

With two members of the Elster household gone, I got to spend quality time with our six-year-old couch gymnast Tanner and tiny baby barf wizard Kennedy Elster.

After getting some ice cream, we spent the rest of our mom-free time in our living room reading.

That's right, four hours of quiet reading with a six-year-old. It was his idea, too.

How the heck did I manage that?

It certainly wasn't by forcing him. No one responds well to that.

It was by inventing a system that makes good choices easy.

I call it the Marble System.

Every week, our kids get 24 marbles each.

Each marble is worth $0.50 or 30 minutes of screen time.

They can choose to spend their marbles however they want.

For example, they can spend them on watching YouTube videos or playing Mario Kart. Or they could save them up and spend them on plush toys on Amazon.

They can also get bonus marbles. If they choose to read a book, they earn a marble for every 30 minutes of reading.

The end result is that we no longer have arguments about playing too many video games.

They effectively manage their own time and make their own choices because we've given them the tools to easily do so.

Your website is not much different.

It's a framework to help your customers make decisions. Should I buy from you? What should I buy from you?

In today's drive, we'll discuss the elements that your home page needs to have to support those decisions and convert well.