The reality of running a business is a far cry from the dream (in a good way). If you’re going to make it work, be prepared to rethink your approach, whether it’s your business partners, personal skill set or what you choose to outsource. To save you a bit of time, I’ve pulled together my top tips so that others can benefit from what I’ve picked up along the way.
E-commerce has opened up massive opportunities for retailers, but IT can also quickly become one of your business’ most draining costs. Consider building up your own skills portfolio by learning how to build and maintain the IT elements of your small business. As our business grew, we invested in a more professional website but even then I made sure the website designer showed me how to maintain and update the back-end myself
Accounting is another cost of day-to-day business upkeep that can quickly spiral out of control. I made the choice to bring our bookkeeping in-house. We still need to pay for an accountant once a year at tax-return time but we’ve removed the substantial cost of hiring a bookkeeper year-round.
More often than not, new business owners will sign up to services offered by big industry players because they don’t know the alternatives. Don’t get too comfortable with your first choice. Do your research and keep your ear to the ground for emerging technology solutions that create more value for your business.
Logistics is a huge part of running a successful e-commerce business and it’s important you find the right delivery method for your business. Delivery is your customer’s first tangible touchpoint with your product. When I first started, I was spending hours queueing at the post office each week, until a friend recommended Sendle, a courier service for the e-commerce boom. Sendle picks up parcels from my house and delivers direct to my customers’ door. It is cheaper and far more time efficient.
With so many different payment platforms, it’s good business practice to shop around every now and again to make sure you’re getting the best rates. I switched our online credit card payments to Pin Payments as they were offering lower rates and a single, simple account that combines both payment gateway and merchant account with no setup or monthly fees.
When I first started H&G Designs, I was determined to handmake my orders to keep that “personal” touch. As the business grew it became increasingly unrealistic for me to keep up with the order volume by hand. This forced me to explore manufacturing options first locally, then offshore. Looking back, this was an essential step for me to take when scaling the business.
Another element business owners will eventually need to outsource is advertising and media presence. For a reasonable monthly fee, I signed up to Press Loft, a service designed to help businesses in my industry showcase products to journalists, bloggers and influencers. My products are frequently featured in blogs, newspaper articles and glossy mags — organic advertising that has no further cost than my monthly subscription.
Every small-business owner embarks on a unique journey but the ability to learn and adapt will always be essential. Invest in developing your own skills, build up your awareness of the market and know when you need to hand off tasks. This will ensure your business is running as efficiently as possible while you focus on creating value for your customers.
Hailey McGinty, Owner, H&G Designs