Lessons Learned from an Entrepreneur

eCommerce marketing specialist Shirley Tan shares Lessons Learned From An EntrepreneurI recently spoke to a friend of mine who had to close his business down. I’m feeling his pain but mustered up the courage to ask him to share his story. I’d promised to keep his identity confidential because the point here is not who he is, but what he’s learned as an entrepreneur.

These are the questions I asked:

Shirley: What inspired you to get into Ecommerce?

Friend: I think, like everyone, you must like what you do. If you do not have a passion, a desire to be in the field you are in, it will be short lived. When you wake up in the morning and you are thinking of what needs to get done when you get into the office, you should be able to smile.

Shirley: What is your proudest moment when you knew that you were on track, or it felt right for you?

Friend: The proudest moment is when sales got to a point that it was hard to keep up with the fulfillment process and the first part-timer was hired to pack orders. It meant the decisions made, and steps taken, were successful and hard work was being rewarded.

Shirley: What aspect of the business kept you up at night?

Friend: At night, I think anyone who owns or runs a business that deals with tangible goods has any number of things on their mind.

  1. Shipments have been delayed from vendors which means back-orders and unhappy customers.
  2. Where can I expand and/or improve to get an edge on my competitors?
  3. Will the search engine market change and, if so, how will it impact the business?

Shirley: Knowing what you know now, what events or decisions might you have done differently?

Friend: It is always easy to look back in hindsight, but you can never stop thinking. You must always stay two steps ahead of your competition. In e-commerce it means you are competing with everyone in your region, country, or in some instance, the world, not just the local merchant up the block from your location. Look for opportunities that you may have missed, product lines that can be expanded upon. No matter how successful you can end up being, you can always be more successful.

Shirley: What was the hardest part in starting or running your business and what was the turning point that helped you move forward? When did you know that it was time to stop and close the business?

Friend: The hardest part is always the beginning and putting together your plan of attack. What is your business plan? Objectives? What will you do that will set you apart from any competitors? Service? Price? Product line? Once you have that in place, it becomes finding your vendors, and not just any vendor, finding dependable vendors with great service and price like you may demand of your company. It’s not always so easy to find. Remember, you are only as good as your vendors are when selling tangible products. Once everything is in place and things start rolling, and the taste of success reaches you, it is easy to keep the momentum moving and keep the sweet smell of victory close by. When I took the business into the e-commerce industry, it started as a trial. I did not know what to expect at that time. I was pleasantly surprised when the phone started ringing off the hook and orders really started to stack up. The path to success was being paved and more help was needed, which was a millstone.

I decided that it was time to close my business when I couldn’t pay bills anymore. When people started creating micro-sites, and I said if I have to create micro-sites for each and every phone that comes to market (which they do) and slam decent links into them costing a couple hundred bucks per site a month, and then monitor 100 + micro sites, that is not something that has longevity and a future without driving one insane. When more and more people started started invading the niche and drop shipping from China and Japan for off the wall prices and sacrificing quality. When I started secret shopping competitors sites to find what they ship, and find it is used goods…needless to say the writing is on the wall that, given so many factors, this is not something that has a stable future anymore. So, even if I can ramp up, and get in the game, and follow what these people are doing, this is not something that can allow one to sleep at night feeling the outlook is good.

Shirley: What is your advice for new entrepreneurs getting into E-commerce?

Friend: Research and plan, plan, plan and even then, the best plans always need to be re-focused and changed. Find a niche that has minimal competition and look for obvious trends. Will this be a product everyone in the future will end up carrying? Is this a product that has a short shelf life and is a fad today, but next year will not be around. Research who your competition would be, or is, and how they handle things. Do they import, manufacture or hand off to a drop shipper?

Check to see what is the barrier of entry into the market; is it easy? If so, you may find you will soon have a lot of competition on your heels. If your product line is one which you manufacture or customize, the competition will likely be minimal so you have a good niche that should be able to do well and sustain the test of time.

Finally, my advice to those is remember, your family and friends are an important part of your life, and it can be easy to get caught up in things and lose track of that with so many other things that need your attention. A balance is always needed in life, and in doing so, your mind will stay creative and new ideas will come to mind even when you are not thinking of work.

By: Shirley Tan

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