PLAN
BUILD
LAUNCH
SCALE
EXIT

It goes without saying that if you do all the hard work in Phases 1 & 2, and then fail to manage all aspects of your business appropriately you will soon find yourself either limiting your potential at best or at worst losing your way and even losing your business.

I have a confession. It’s the part of the business building that I struggle with the most. Micro management and all the “detail” is my weakest point. I need someone else to do all the bits and pieces. I think of the creative ideas and someone else usually implements the detail. Unless it’s the branding and product marketing side of the business because I really enjoy that.

So when it comes to managing your business there are a plethora of tasks and roles required. Even if you loved doing all of them you wouldn’t have enough hours in the day to finish them so sooner or later you are going to need to have someone else do the work.

Now for some of you, letting go is near impossible. It isn’t a concept you understand, so I am kindly going to ask you to step out of the way of yourself and your business. Open up your mind to the possibility of outsourcing and building a team who can do the heavy lifting for you and grow your value.

Here are the core tasks I have set out in Phase 3
  1. Outsourcing and Team Building
  2. Customer Service: Buyer Messages, Seller Performance Management,     Performance Notifications, Seller Central ManagementCustomer Service: Buyer Messages, Seller Performance Management, Performance Notifications, Seller Central Management
  3. Sales Monitoring & Reporting
  4. Amazon PPC Management
  5. Inventory Management
  6. Financial Management Software eg: Xero, MYOB and Quick Books

Let’s briefly go through each one so you get the drift of what needs to be done.

1. OUTSOURCING & TEAM BUILDING

You have most likely heard about outsourcing already and even tried using a virtual assistant or two. You can outsource just about everything from book keeping to writing special code on your website that pops up a window to say hello when a new visitor comes to your home page.

This is the least expensive way to add value to your business and gain leverage from others’ work.

You can obviously go out and find your own assistants and workers. There are quite a few courses out there about outsourcing and there are definitely right and wrong ways to go about it if you decide to manage your own team. I don’t recommend this for too long unless you LOVE doing this in your business but ultimately you need to farm this out.

You can obviously go out and find your own assistants and workers. There are quite a few courses out there about outsourcing and there are definitely right and wrong ways to go about it if you decide to manage your own team. I don’t recommend this for too long unless you LOVE doing this in your business but ultimately you need to farm this out.

I learned quickly how frustrating and difficult outsourcing could be and how persistent you have to be aswell. It’s one thing messing up a project yourself and getting mad about it but it’s a whole new level when you actual pay someone else in the Philippines or India to mess it up even more than you did yourself. Talk about testing your patience! I went the cheap route and failed and then went a more expensive rout with a couple of big well known outsourcing firms and they were the worst of the lost. Poor communication and basically NOT ecommerce focused and certainly had NO IDEA about Amazon so I soon turfed them.

The expense soon adds up and for most of you that would be a nightmare so be warned. Have a system in place and get some mentoring if you want to do this yourself. You may think you will save money this way but I do NOT recommend you have this as your long term option. If you don’t want to use our service that is more than ok with me. Just find a solution that works for you and adds value to your business.

For me however, it was worth the persistence. I trialled over 285 workers from sites like http://ww.upwork.com http://ww.elance.com http://www.onlinejobs.ph and https://www.freelancer.com and several others in a 15 month period. That’s a lot of people who have bad English! I didn’t know what to offer these people soI had to learn the hard way to establish what was fair for both sides. You can get very cheap labour but there’s no point if they do a rubbish job.

So after many disasters and trial and error, I worked out my own system (there’s that word again!) for:

  • Identifying the task
  • Writing the job post
  • Sorting the applicant
  • Auditioning
  • Interviewing and trialling a candidate before hiring them.
TIP: No idea where I heard or read this but “Hire Slow & Fire Fast!” is something I now abide by. It is definitely worth taking your time and having a standard operating procedure for finding good personnel and a process for on-boarding them to your team.

Good first impressions work both ways right? Ever had a bad experience applying to work for a company where they make a mess of the interview process or you have a terrible induction? What did you think about them? Did it leave a bad taste in your mouth?

It speaks volumes about the organisation doesn’t it? Gets you off to a very poor start and sets the tone for a poor experience all round. Internal Branding and Team Culture Development starts from when you post your job and is a very important part of your value building process. Don’t neglect or skimp on this! It will not serve you if you ignore this.

OUTSOURCING OPTIONS :-
  •  If you don’t have a clue about this then go to our Resources page on the website and search for Outsourcing. We’ll be adding more and more information here to help you get your team building under control. Have a go at doing it yourself for a while. You should always have some idea of the task you are doing so you have an understanding of what they need to be doing. Don’t just give a thin project brief and expect a good result. That is simply a waste of time and money. The better you prepare and the more detailed instructions you give the better off you will be. So give it a shot and see how you go.
  • If you want to get moving and start building your team faster than the DIY option go to our outsourcing services page and request a free, no obligation appointment to assess your needs and work out an effective plan.

We are a little different to just any old outsourcing company or freelance site. Our virtual assistants (VA’s) and project managers are specifically trained in the 5 Phases of The Ecommpreneur Business Model so you won’t spend months trying to work it out and endless attempts at finding the right person. We guarantee this. We train your assistant and guide them. We monitor them with you and ensure they are completing the tasks to a high standard and reporting back accurately to the management team and to you on completion.

It doesn’t matter whether you are brand new or more experienced.

Outsourcing effectively can have a significant impact on your business and adding value so the sooner you find a strong solution for this the better. I spent 12 months testing and visiting my outsourcing team for Ecommpreneur and I am very happy to put you in their very competent and caring hands. It won’t be the cheapest hourly rate out there but I can promise you that it will be the least expensive and most effective in the long run. You’ll be up and running faster and if for some reason one of your team members “disappears” we have plenty of others who can fill the gap while we train someone else, so your business doesn’t just stop.

Automation is key and worth the investment.

2. CUSTOMER SERVICE TASKS

You must keep an eye on your account health and activity within your seller central accounts and your markets. You must ensure you keep your seller account metrics within Amazon’s approved standard levels.

Make sure you check your account metrics regularly and have someone making sure that they are kept inside seller central’s acceptable levels. This is extremely important.

Here’s a list of just some of the tasks you may need to consider and keep an eye on:

  • Buyer Messages
  • Adding a Customer Support Phone number
  • Seller Performance Management
  • Performance Notifications
  • Communicating Issues with Seller Central Management
  • Listing Changes
  • TOS Changes
  • Competitor Activity

In amongst all the logistical tasks, you also need to build your relationship with your customers. This is very much easier within your ecommerce store as you have so much more control but within Amazon it’s a lot harder. Build rapport at every opportunity and do not break the Amazon Terms of Service. It simply isn’t worth losing your account over.

I shouldn’t need to tell you this but customer service is really, really important. We’ll be exploring this in a lot more detail in our podcasts and video posts so keep an eye out for ways you can wow your customers with excellent customer service.

SALES MONITORING & REPORTS

Every sales platform will have some way of pulling sales data in some kind of report or other. The most important thing to look for here is whether the products you are selling are profitable or not after all marketing expenses.

This will help you to either scale a product, try to improve a product or remove a product from your store. It is absolutely critical that you know your numbers. This will allow you to make better decisions and present better documents to your investors when you are looking for investment funds or to sell your business for the best price possible.

We don’t pay so much attention to the daily sales unit number although it can be good to know when the busiest periods of the day are. Other than that it can be rather misleading. Try not to get too emotional either way about good or bad days either. How many CEOs do you think Your 1 month and 3 month summaries are best looking for patterns, seasonality, best days of the week.

AMAZON PPC MANAGEMENT

Amazon PPC is pretty random at times. I consistently use it to test and find good keywords and eliminate bad ones. I keep testing my conversions and get them over 20% as a rule and my aCOS is fine up to 150% as I am quite happy “buying” a new customer. If you aren’t happy doing that then aim for anything below 50%. Just play around with this and see how it works. The new PPC platform will hopefully be much improved so all you can do is your best to test and measure your results for now. I have seen some very odd results eg: my sales double when I turned off the PPC ads and increased when I decreased my bids and budget. There’s no explanation. It is what it is. I can help you with ideas to make this work but be prepared to roll your sleeves up and pay close attention.

INVENTORY MANAGEMENT

Managing inventory is pretty simple when you are only selling a few thousand units a months or have a few products. It is however a complete pain in the proverbial backside when you have hundreds and thousands of ASINs and SKUs. Multiple parent child listings with various rates of units being sold. You need some kind of software solution which you either buy off the shelf or have coded for your own personal use. In the early days you should be able to it yourself and then scale up to employing an assistant or have your suppliers monitor the stock levels.

As you begin to scale to a larger webstore on Amazon then you will need to look at a software solution that suits your needs.

Check the Resources Section to see our software solutions and recommendations as we post them. We’ll let you know as we find out new products as we test them.

FINANCIAL REPORTING

My Dad was an Accountant. A very good one in fact. Unfortunately, any DNA that could have been passed on my way didn’t make it into my skill set at all. I failed management accounting at University and I was rubbish at maths. (Math for my American mates!)

The funny thing however is that I actually love working with numbers. I come from an investment background (stop laughing……I am being serious!) and learned to love them. They tell you so much and when you are adding value to your business for your investor they are essential to illustrate your strengths and diagnose your weaknesses so corrective action can be taken. We are now entering the real business playground. The “theatre” where all the action is. It’s all about the numbers so you better know them. You can use packages like Xero, MYOB and Quikbooks to manage all this and help you spit out reports on demand. This will be very important for you at some point. Certainly not something you set up immediately, unless you already have it but know it is on the horizon and an essential part of your business anatomy. This will help you run a much more professional operation and give you specific numbers that provide an on the spot analysis of your business numbers.

Things like:

• Debt : equity ratio
• Current ratio
• Net/gross profit per unit
• Net/gross margin
• Tax rates
• Expectancy ratio,
• Inventory turnover

If you have ever done any stock market trading you will know a few of these and know there are many more that you can pour over when researching a company to invest in. You can go into as much details you feel you need to so work with your accountant to select the ones you need and keep a close eye on them.

We don’t need to be too anal about it but we certainly need to start looking at the numbers and what they tell us, especially as we start to scale and that is exactly what Phase 4 is all about coming up next.