You’re a rock star! That’s what people tell you, anyway. You’re single-handedly running the business you started. You do it all: from selling products, to responding to customers, to doing the bookkeeping. Those around you think you’re a superhero, but more and more you just feel like a tired solo act who could really use a great band to back you up.
That used to be us. We’re Dave and Heather, former co-workers who quit our day jobs to jump full-time+ into our own ecommerce business. It worked well at first because, while entrepreneurs do need to wear many hats, there were two of us with different skill-sets and we were able to cover a lot of ground. But after a year of working six and seven day weeks, we realized we couldn’t do it by ourselves anymore. We needed help. Can you relate?
The life of an ecommerce entrepreneur can mean a lot of everything: time, fun, stress, learning cool new stuff, learning boring new stuff. It also requires you to be a jack-of-all-trades—or at least to pretend to be—because you’re ultimately accountable when things go haywire and need to be fixed. You’re pulled all sorts of directions, but not always the best directions for you and your business.
We’re here to tell you that help can come in the form of employing people or contracting for services to ultimately improve your business. We live in a wonderful time where there are loads of people and services at the ready to help with any aspect of your ecommerce business.
So when is it really time to hire help? Asking yourself the following questions will help in making that tough decision.
Am I spending time moving the business forward?
You likely didn’t start your business with the hope that it would grow to a point and then plateau and it would run at the same level until it’s time to retire. No! You had dreams of market domination, or riches, or simply a happier life financed by the business you created.
If you’re spending all your time on the day-to-day stuff like shipping orders, responding to customers, and filling holes in inventory, then your efforts are likely not going towards the longer-term growth of your business. Wouldn’t your efforts be better spent working on creating new products, implementing new sales channels, or improving your marketing efforts?
In the competitive ecommerce space, a business that quickly plateaus can lead to a business that also quickly declines. Without continually working towards improving business opportunities, you could be stuck with a so-so business that eventually becomes a nonexistent business.
Do I like what I’m doing?
If you answered this question with a “no,” then it’s definitely time to reevaluate how you’d rather be spending your precious time and finding tools or people who love doing those other things.
There are good and bad aspects to any job, whether you’re the boss or not. Everyone has different reasons for jumping into entrepreneurship. Business ownership can offer a lot of flexibility. You’ve given yourself the opportunity to create the perfect job for yourself, one that is lucrative and makes you happy.
Why are you unhappy? It could be that the business has taken a direction you didn’t envision or doesn’t excite you. Maybe you’re constantly being pulled into mundane or aggravating work that’s the last thing you want to do, such as dealing with supplier or shipping issues.
There’s no doubt your happiness will lead to greater success for you and your business. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll look forward to each day and your creativity will soar.
Plus, the addition of the right team members can help breathe new life into a business.
Am I the best person to do this?
You’ve created an amazing business, but you spend more and more time squashing website bugs or creating mediocre social media posts. A programmer or social guru you are not. Offload those projects to a contractor or employee who’s skilled and passionate in those areas. You’re doing your business and yourself a disservice by putting out mediocre work. Instead, focus your attention on the stuff you’re really good at doing.
Fiverr is a place to find people to work on anything from digital marketing to programming to logo-making.
When is the important work needed to move the business forward being done?
Your purpose as the business owner includes higher-level strategic and tactical planning and being passionate about expanding the business. If you’re only getting to this type of planning on nights and weekends, then you have a problem. The future of the business should be the focus, not an afterthought or something to work on during spare free moments.
If you’re spending all day putting out fires, packing orders, and taking out the trash because there’s no one else, you’re likely exhausted at the end of the day and the more important parts of the business are being given a lower level of importance.
Am I profitable or do I have access to funding?
New hires can ultimately help make you more money, but there is a learning curve and ramp-up period, depending on the position. You need to determine whether or not the money spent paying that person will, at a minimum, be earned back when you’re freed up to do other things. Any new hire will cost you money you may not make back right away and a solid financial footing is necessary to help take on that new expense.
There are people who take care of the day-to-day operations, and there are people who can help lay the foundation to enable your business to grow further. There is likely room in your organization for both.
Someone fulfilling orders can be immediately directly attributed to revenue. A technical person helping you automate systems and better scale your business may not initially appear to be improving your bottom line but will have a longer-term impact on your company’s overall health.
What you can address without hiring: Economies of scale
So, you’re super busy, which means your business is growing, which is why everyone thinks you’re such a rock star. Is it a business that’s scaleable, i.e. is there room to build in better efficiencies and cost improvements?
Here are a few areas where you can see an immediate impact: without needing to bring on new staff.
When we first started out, we were working each order individually: printing out each order, copying and pasting addresses into the USPS shipping website (and in some cases handwriting labels depending on the shipping method), copying and pasting the tracking number into the online order systems, marking each order as shipped by hand, and copying and pasting all the same information into our sales database.
Phew! Makes us tired just thinking about it. And all that wasted paper! As the business grew and shipping orders became too high volume to handle, we eventually got smart and looked for ways to improve our process. We made tweaks along the way to minimize repetitive tasks, which ultimately led to batch printing of shipping labels and automations in shipping confirmation. Making those changes saved us lots of time.
If your shipping process could use improvement, there are terrific shipping software options available today that don’t require you to be a technical wizard:
- Endicia is a desktop shipping software with postage discounts already built in
- ShipStation is a shipping software that integrates with the major shopping carts and marketplaces
Multichannel listing and inventory management
Selling products on multiple channels is a great idea in theory. More customers get the chance to find your products. Yet, it can take much more time and effort to manage that inventory.
What happens when an item sells on one site, but is still listed elsewhere? If you’re managing more than a handful of SKUs, you could easily go bonkers. There is awesome software out there to help solve all of that, like Sellbrite, a multichannel selling and inventory management cloud software.
Buying in bulk
If you’re like us, when you first started out you ordered product and supplies in the smallest quantities possible because cash was at a premium and you didn’t want to sink a ton of money into something that might not pan out. As your business and confidence in your business grows, look for ways to bring unit costs down by ordering more.
Keep running out of something or needing to reorder within a month’s time? That’s a good indication that you can afford to buy more even if it sits on the shelf for longer than you’re accustomed.
P.S. You really are a rock star. Congratulations on outgrowing your solo act.
Co-authored by David Nielsen.