Patrick Sheridan has made it his life’s work to help people find success in today’s digital economy. More people should take advantage of the new innovations and technologies that have been sprouting up every day. Companies who capitalize on the advantages of technology tend to find accelerated success in today’s hypercompetitive marketplace.
As a serial entrepreneur, Patrick Sheridan co-founded Modus Create in 2011. The company works for clients who want to “achieve their digital transformation goals.” For Patrick, he wants to make sure that Modus’ growth roadmap aligns and even predicts the future needs of his clients, so that he may also exceed them. Through his work, he also enables his team members to find a suitable platform for career growth.
According to his Modus Create profile, Patrick Sheridan is also a “visionary, artist, and designer,” who is interested in the “intersection of design, technology, and business.” To realize his interests, Patrick saw that he needed to found a “high-end product consulting firm” that relies on a team to manage open source designs.
At Modus Create, Patrick Sheridan wants his clients come up with new ways to overcome obstacles using up-to-date technology. If you’re a Modus Create client, you’ll know you’re in good hands since you see Patrick’s passion for his work every day he comes into the office.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Patrick Sheridan: Art and technology have been passions of mine since I was a kid. Growing up on early video games, I love the amazing experiences that are created when creativity and technology merge. I started off in college studying engineering and ended up with a fine arts degree. I spent a few years in my early twenties painting murals around Washington DC, worked for a design architect, and ultimately jumped into startups in the mid 90s in design lead roles.
Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Patrick Sheridan: In 2009, I sold the UX firm that I founded to a larger software consulting company and spent a year in New York City helping major publishers launch their first applications for the phone and tablet. I realized that emerging technology had drastically changed consumer behavior and their entire business model was disrupted. My “aha” moment was realizing that this disruption would change how every major Fortune 500 company viewed technology, and it would also disrupt the business models of creative agencies and tech consulting firms.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Patrick Sheridan: One of the things I’m most proud of is that Modus has never missed a payroll. In the early days of Modus, we had an accountant double pay our federal taxes accidentally and it almost wiped out our entire business checking account. Apparently, the IRS credits overpayments to your next tax bill and there was no way to get these much-needed funds back into our account. I met with our local bank manager everyday to show him our client payments and to work with them to ensure we made it through those critical times. In the early days of Modus, the “business side” of state filings and administrative items seemed overwhelming to keep tabs on while we were trying to focus on developing our core offerings themselves.
I’m lucky to have some great mentors and advisors that helped me along the way and really advocate for me. They encouraged me to join a peer mentoring group of fellow entrepreneurs who were able to share real, practical advice for when you’re starting out.
Jerome Knyszewski: Did you ever consider giving up?
Patrick Sheridan: Not really. I am really all in on what we are trying to accomplish here at Modus and that has always been my mentality. I think it’s really hard to accomplish great things with a part-time effort. Sometimes it feels like the past 10 years have been one very long day, but I worked through it. I’ve definitely had my share of times where I wake up in the middle of the night feeling my heart beat through my chest, but I think the key is to have positive ways to handle that stress, because it only compounds the more success you have with the business.
Jerome Knyszewski: Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Patrick Sheridan: I love what I do and I love the platform we are building at Modus. In many ways I feel our company is representative of a global movement reshaping the way people work and how companies need to be designed to succeed in the digital age. There is a certain energy I get from our global team and being able to travel the world helping global brands launch new products. The work itself is engaging and rewarding and that creates the drive.
Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Patrick Sheridan: Resilience is the key. I learned with my first company that businesses can be too boutique to be sustainable. With Modus, I was able to take my lessons learned from my first business, couple them with the lessons learned helping to scale the company that bought my firm and shape them into what I believed is a better version of the model. Of course, we’ve had plenty more lessons learned along the way with Modus Create, but those previous experiences really gave insight to getting it right this time around.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
Patrick Sheridan: When I was first pitching work in New York City to publishers and banks on Wall Street, I was dressed like I would for any typical workday — so, business casual. I had no idea how smart folks dress in New York City and how formal everyone dresses in Wall Street — even web designers were wearing suits, which I found baffling and pretty hilarious. I felt like I fell off of the corn truck and was going to get laughed out of meetings!
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Patrick Sheridan: Know your audience. Everyone wants to work with partners they feel understand their industry, their corporate culture and their unique challenges. I learned quickly that the New York City, or more specifically — Wall Street, audience was much more formal. This goes beyond just dress code, of course.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Patrick Sheridan: As far as tools go, third party services like Weebly and Square are amazing. Both allow almost immediate, turnkey eCommerce ability for small businesses. Facebook Blueprint is also an amazing (and free) resource for understanding how to segment and target audiences.
Alibaba has also really lowered the barrier for entry in the eCommerce game. Emerging eCommerce brands can use Alibaba to create their brand and find cheap suppliers in other countries, allowing them to create small batches of products to test on their follower base. They can then use Weebly to create inventory systems without having to do any coding, use the free Facebook Blueprint courses to learn how to do segmenting and look-a-like audiences, while testing and building their brand on a platform they likely already know the ins and outs of — Instagram.
Lastly, new and emerging eCommerce brands should not underestimate the power of Reddit. There’s a community for everything on Reddit, from subreddits on how to build your own brand to ones that reach your exact target markets.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Patrick Sheridan: For retailers with large inventories, deep search capabilities are key. Having great images and product descriptions increase the findability of your products. It’s important to remember that context is key — recommendation engines, re-targeting and marketing campaigns can surface relevant items to interested customers with the right context.
And of course, don’t forget the basics like usability and information architecture of the online store — without these in place, any of the benefits from advanced targeting efforts and campaigns will be lost!
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Patrick Sheridan: All business is relationship based. With eCommerce, that extends to customer service, social engagement, and even how you package and ship. Great brands engage with customers and get their feedback on every aspect of the business; they observe and target based on shopper preferences, but more importantly, they listen to the customer and enter into a dialogue. This is where providing a good omnichannel shopping experience is critical — for these strategies to be effective, organizations must ensure that not only does their brand have a presence across all channels, but more importantly, those experiences are also integrated together in a way that enhances the customer experience.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
Patrick Sheridan: The five most important things one should know in order to create a successful eCommerce business are:
- Know your audience and engage with them in constant dialogue. This spans the entire eCommerce lifecycle — starting with conducting good user research when building your brand, breaking into a new market or even launching a new product line. Continue engaging and learning from your customers by analyzing the data coming in and responding to customer feedback.
- Test product ideas quickly in small batches. In today’s eCommerce world and the rise of companies like Alibaba, brands no longer have to spend their money on massive, wholesale sized orders. Take advantage of this and focus on creating and selling small batches of product to do more testing. Doing small batches not only allows you to save more money, it also allows you to engage with your target audience more and develop an air of exclusivity with limited inventory. Supreme is a great example of this — they offer exclusive, small batches of inventory that their audience knows will be a one-of-a-kind product. As a result, its products are highly sought after and the brand has an almost cult-like following.
- Avoid building your own tech wherever possible. There are so many great third-party tools and software available, such as Weebly or Square, that allow eCommerce brands to quickly build their sites and create inventory systems, without requiring coding experience or a team of developers. These third-party solutions are customizable and have all the features and capabilities you need. That way, you can focus the majority of your time and money on user research, building brand recognition, and testing out products with your target audiences.
- Identify and celebrate your brand advocates. Leveraging influencers and experimenting with collaborations on social channels, such as Instagram or TikTok, is a great way to build brand recognition and engage with your target audience. It also provides another layer of data for you to leverage. For example, many sponsored campaigns with influences involve using a specific discount code, which allows you to better understand how your product is performing with their audience and more directly track the conversions coming in. This engagement should go both ways — celebrate your brand advocates and engage with their content to get your brand out there more. A timely and quite frankly, amazing, example of this is the viral Tik Tok with user “420doggface208” — more commonly known as the Ocean Spray skateboarder. Ocean Spray recognized the incredible engagement this video was getting and were able to lean into it even more by buying the user a car. With the viral video everywhere and the positive press Ocean Spray received for their donation, all across the U.S. grocery stores were selling out of Ocean Spray juices and thousands of copycat videos were uploaded daily using their product.
- Understand your key partners in delivering an end to end amazing experience. If you’re breaking into a new market or looking to extend your price points, identify companies that compliment your business and have similar values and develop brand collaborations with them. You should also focus on your interactions with your supplies and buyers — don’t just focus on improving the customer experience, improve their experience too.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Patrick Sheridan: You can find me on LinkedIn.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!