Are you running your E-commerce business like it's the hospital ER?

165ba86e4e9ebd874350625dd69c1d79Many business owners hide behind the spirit of entrepreneurship and do not have a concrete plan to execute from. They may say, “Hey, I’m an entrepreneur and I roll with the punches.”

These are examples of different scenarios:

  • Attend a conference, hear an idea.. and decide immediately to roll out the new concept, right when you get back
  • You read a book and thought, “That worked for them, I’ll try that too.”
  • You heard from a friend that they’re killing it with their new campaign and you decide to simply copy them
  • You saw your competitor launch new products, methods of shipping, new advertising, and you figure, they must know what they’re doing since they are bigger than me, so I’ll try it too.

In themselves, none of the above ideas are bad, in fact, they are all worth looking into. But, most entrepreneur’s actions are without proper research, and further investigation, such as reviewing historical data and comparing the current existing plan to see if any of the new ones conflict with the new idea is non-existent. What is more common is that we add more and more “good” ideas onto our plates and the plates of those who work for us, thus making the business challenging.

There is already enough challenge externally, like what the competition is doing and what the marketplace and the customers are demanding, that you don’t need to turn your world upside down to compete.

These are the issues and problems when you run the business by the seat of your pants strategy:

  • Your operations are in constant chaos – your people are scrambling around to try to fill the latest hairy brain idea, which might of have been good, but has been executed poorly.
  • You’re frustrated and take it out on your people because “they just don’t get it”. You might even ask yourself, “Must I think and do everything around here?” – and the answer is yes, if you don’t have a well thought out plan on how to execute your “new idea”.
  • Customers are confused and may get upset: when your company is in constant chaos mode and it feels like there is an emergency room triage going on the organization, it makes it hard for your customer to feel that their problems/concerns/needs are going to be met or addressed.

All the problems above come down to one word, at the end of the day. “Confidence”, the confidence that the business is being run efficiently

You can ask the following questions:

  • Do you feel confident that if you left for one month, things will going to go smoothly?
  • Do your people feel confident that the system in place can support their resource needs so they can do their jobs?
  • Do the customers feel confident that they can place their orders and know that it will arrive to them on time, and that they don’t have to call in to follow up and ask “Where is my order? Where is my tracking number? Did you ship that additional add-on I requested? Did you revise my order as I requested?”

These are only a few of the issues your business already faces on a day to day basis.

The holiday season will be behind us soon. January is the optimum time to review how your company did in 2013. If any of the above resonated with you and you agree that these are the issues you need to resolve moving forward to help build the confidence level both customers and employees, then please consider the following recommendation.

Create a scorecard system and evaluate your business on 4 categories.

  • From a Financial Perspective: How did we do? Were we profitable? Can we increase our margins? Can we be more productive? What are the goals for 2014, 2015? Where do we want to be in 5 years? Then work backwards on what you feel you can reasonably achieve.
  • From a Customer Perspective: Do you have the products/services they are looking for? What have you done for them lately? What can you do to make it easier to do business with you? Review your process, what areas are causing bottlenecks that may be requiring your customer to jump through hoops? An example of this would be: can you make your returning products to you easier, cheaper, faster?
  • Internal Process Perspective: Similar to reviewing your process for your customers, you should review what processes are taking too long, which ones are just busy body work that add no value to the company or to the customer. Which ones are causing you to become the cog in the wheel? Which ones are causing your managers to be the cog in the wheel?
  • From your Employee Perspective: What areas of their work can be automated? Eliminated? Consolidated? How can do they get more learnings/knowledge from what they’re doing, instead of just becoming a robotic process? What kind of continuing investment can you make so that they can execute on your next 2 year plan, so that your company can meet its goals?

There are a lot to think about here. Planning is not a roll out of your bed thing that you just dole out, not if you want to do it well without losing valuable time, money and people. So I hope you take my advice on this article and really think about what your vision is for your company long term then work backwards to see how to execute.

I subscribe to this saying, so I’ll close with it:

Plan your work, work your plan and your plan will work.

Written by: Shirley Tan


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