What to Do Next When You Know Your Business Is Here to Stay
Even the most visionary entrepreneurs occasionally struggle to see the big picture. Of course you’re committed to success, but it’s challenging to predict the long-term, business-wide impact of every major decision. If you’re a growing ecommerce retailer, the pressure to succeed is even greater.
An emerging ecommerce retailer is the “teenager” of the online retail world. They’ve made it through infancy and adolescence with minimal bumps and bruises and their growth is constant. Their customers are happy and operations are expanding quickly. While this restless energy can help retailers in this tough stage, it can also easily lead them off course.
Growing businesses regularly face three common challenges that can be alleviated with the right resources. Here’s how any emerging retailer or business can make it past the teen years and sustain their rapid growth.
Work on the business, not just in it
Running an online retail business is non-stop. Shoppers can buy online 24/7. They expect speedy shipping and good customer service. It's difficult keeping up with the daily demands of running a business. You find your daily to-do list getting longer over time, especially if you’re doing it all by yourself.
If an emerging retailer wants to move to the next stage of their growth, they need help. Throughout my experience in the logistics industry, one way that I’ve seen emerging retailers do this is by enlisting a logistics partner to help make strategic decisions to further the growth of their operations. Those who wait too long to enlist a partner can find themselves packing boxes until noon every day or left without a fulfillment partner four weeks before Christmas, threatening both customer happiness and the health of the business.
Beyond ensuring that packages are fulfilled in a timely matter for customers, a logistics partner can advise when it’s time to expand to new warehouses, seek out a national distribution partner for their merchandise or update their inventory. These time intensive decisions often require layers of work that can easily be pushed aside by entrepreneurs working in the business when days are too hectic. By allowing a partner to focus on the strategic next steps, the entrepreneur has time to work on the bigger picture day-to-day operations of the business.
Find a mentor who’s been there.
As helpful as a logistics partner is for making the strategic decisions around shipping, inventory and warehousing, a mentor may be better suited for the other, more creative decisions an entrepreneur may face.
Ideally, you’ll want a mentor who is experienced, has started a business, has seen success, but is past the teenage years of growth. The best mentors have not only experienced growth personally, but may be a vendor or venture capitalist who has taken that knowledge and used it to help other companies grow. Most importantly, they are removed from your business operations and can offer a fresh perspective.
A mentor can advise on employees, new branding, certain products you may wish to carry and a slew of other decisions that you face every day. While you may feel confident that you can make every decision on your own, adding a trusted mentor to the conversation offers best practices learned through experience and a second opinion that has only the necessary facts to judge and none of the extra details that can cloud decision making.
Get away from your business to do better work.
Burnout can affect any working professional, but entrepreneurs who constantly work to keep their businesses afloat are especially vulnerable. Because their operations are growing, a lot of the processes, routines and groundwork have yet to be determined. This means more time is necessary to get even the simplest of tasks done.
Further, emerging retailers typically hire only the bare minimum staff they can afford. Delegation options are slim and entrepreneurs quickly become a jack-of-all-trades. Though this is great from an experience perspective and entrepreneurs often start a business for this very reason, they are not immune to exhaustion.
Take time to put the systems in place that allow you to take a break. Make it easy for yourself to take a long weekend, disconnect and refocus your vision for the business. Going away allows you to see your business from a new perspective and also see how it functions without you.
Even with the best intentions, sometimes emerging business owners get so caught up that they get in their own way. Taking a step back, you can see what your employees do in your absence, what processes they adapt to work for them, and in what ways your presence does move things forward. Upon return, you’ll be re-energized and have the insight necessary to make better, more informed decisions.
Running an emerging retail business is no easy task and one that requires many hours and team players to make it happen. But with the proper assistance of a logistics partner and mentor, emerging retailers can take the time away from the day-to-day to better run the business for growth beyond emergence.
Maria Haggerty is the driving force behind Dotcom Distribution’s third-party logistics team. Since co-founding Dotcom Distribution in 1999, she has played a critical role in developing and defining all aspects of the business, including sales and marketing, operations, finance and IT.