When you’re an independent etailer, and you see a big box retailer moving into your category, you might think that your biggest fear would be that of the ‘big eating the small’. The “big box” comes in with it’s buying power, pricing advantage and large staff, hungrily looking to gobble the dollars of your customers. And while there is certainly an element of concern in that scenario, there is something else equally as important that you need to watch out for when building your online business – and that is… “The fast eating the slow.”
Paul Greenberg, CEO of DealsDirect talked about this in his keynote speech “Being Small Never Felt So Big” at the 2010 Ecommerce Summit. He said “You used to have to worry about the big eating the small. Nowadays, it’s about the fast eating the slow.”
Speed and agility in your ecommerce business are two success factors that we talk a lot about in my coaching group. You see one of the cards you have in your back pocket as an independent online seller is the ability to move fast and capitalize on changes in market trends, to adapt your product lines, or snap up unique inventory faster than a Walmart inventory buyer can say “purchase order.”
I often hear smaller sellers lamenting the fact that they are small. But if you want to be successful, you need to play to your strengths! And YOUR strengths as an independent online retailer are:
A) You run the show and are empowered to make decisions quickly
B) You (hopefully) run a lean enough business that you can turn direction, even ever so slightly, on a dime
C) You know your niche so well, that you anticipate what they’ll want before they do
However, a lot of online sellers I see are slowwwwd down… by things they shouldn’t be doing.
Things such as:
1. Bookkeeping. No matter how small your business is, the first task you should outsource is bookkeeping. If you don’t know the numbers in your business, how will you know your profits and what changes to make. And no one ever made money while drowning in receipts, paperwork and Quickbooks files.
The fast eat the slow.
2. Photographing, listing, wrapping and shipping your own merchandise. If you’re an occasional seller, or just testing out ecommerce to see if it’s your thing – you do need to learn the business from the ground up. But once you’ve decided to make a real go of this business, the amount of time you spend doing manual labor (photographing, listing, wrapping and shipping) is directly proportionate to the amount of income you can generate.
You are only one person. And there are only 24 hours in each day. How is your time best spent?
Think of it this way – YOU are the CEO of your company. Does the CEO work in the mailroom on a regular basis? Does she/he receive inventory each day?
Jeff Bezos started Amazon.com in the basement of his home here in Seattle – with one box of books. What if Jeff and his girlfriend had kept on shipping their own products? Would there be an Amazon.com as we know it today? No! It would be impossible.
Maybe you don’t want to be as big as Amazon, but if you want to grow your business to a full-time venture, your eyes have to be on the growth of your business, the trends in your market, the next steps to increase sales.
Picking inventory off the shelf and figuring out which box it should go in is not making you money, it’s sucking down your time.
The fast eat the slow.
3. Being disorganized. Inventory, supplier catalogs, stacks of trend publications, unpaid bills, piles of paper on your desk. All these things make you slowwwwww. And while you’re dealing with overflowing operations, your competitor is out their marketing and making their next hot buy.
Now I hear what you’re thinking… “But Lisa! I don’t have the money to hire people to do all this work for me. I’m small, I’m a startup, barely making enough money now.”
And I understand that. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to work 7×24 in the hopes that you’ll “catch up”. But you don’t. You just get farther and farther behind. And it’s a vicious circle.
But there is a way out –
I urge you to be creative. Think outside the box. Who can you bring in – even a few hours a week? To do any of the above jobs?
So you can focus on building the business.
A high school intern. A college intern. Your mom. Hubby. Wife. Sister. Kids. Senior citizen living down the street. Someone from church. A stay-at-home mom from Craigslist. The neighbor kids.
Here’s how to start:
Figure out what your biggest pain point is right now. What is the #1 thing that slowwwwssss you down the most? Then bring in one person to tackle that. Don’t hire them as an employee. Bring them in for a 30 day “project”.
And watch your business transform before your very eyes. Not only will the work get done. You’ll get your first taste of what it feels like to run a company instead of being the company. And it’s your first step towards growth beyond what only you can accomplish in a day.
Before too long… you’ll find that you are the fast eating the slow.
So tell me – what creative ways have you found to outsource day-to-day tasks in your business. Share your ideas below!
You know the story- cobblers kids with no shoes… my teenager sees me working ALL the time and thinks he’d rather be out playing sports than figuring out the nuts & bolts of running an online business.
However, he just turned 16 & is now driving, which will free me from many hours of Mom’s Taxi duty. It also makes him realize a bit of income would be handy for gas & golf.
So I am laying out the case for him to 1) help me with the audio & video side of my operation, which he can also use for his rock band productions and 2) we plan to launch a website for teens, teachers and parents, which he can use both to learn the business (and help me when needed), develop as a value-added service that will also look good on his college resume, and would allow legitimate access to many cool people and reasons to do more fun things with his buddies.
Not a direct route to outsourcing but starting, literally, close to home.
Yes, isn’t it amazing how our kids come to realize when they need money, and that having a skill that pays is a GOOD thing. 🙂
My 13 year old son said to me the other day “Mom, everywhere I go now I need money!” …With this wide-eyed shocked look of realization on his face.
It was one of those mom moments that I’ll never forget! Literally in that moment, his mind went from “How can I get out of doing work to go hang out with my friends” to “What can I do to earn some money?”
And I’m going to leverage his realization in my business! He’s always helped out some… but this summer, he’ll have an actual daily schedule and a job description that will be tailored to his skills.
I think it’s great that your son will be both learning and doing in your business. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids!
Hi Lisa, What a great blog post! Years ago, I said to my husband, “I think I need a wife!” We both laughed, but in truth, some of the things that I have outsourced have to do with common household chores that I just don’t have time to keep up with. Here’s what I outsource: House cleaning, grocery shopping, some simple food prep work (I still like to do my own cooking) laundry, cleaning the pool, mowing the yard (2 acres!) closet and drawers organization from time to time. Spring cleaning – stuff I only do about twice a year. I work at home, so I’m always around to supervise or answer questions. Now, I’m starting to think about some of the administrative things for my businesses…you’ve got my wheels turning. Thanks, Lisa!
I’ve enjoyed our time together these past 90 days and I hope we’ll continue to be in touch even after this class is over. You have been such a big help and source of information and inspiration. Hugs, Jeanne
Great Advise!!! This starts to get to the heart of the fog and confusion I some times feel is standing in the way of reaching my goals. Not to mention perfectionism which certainly does not help. LOL!!