What do you wish you knew BEFORE you started your business? It’s so easy to look back and wish you’d done something differently. That’s why I asked the eCommerce Badassery Facebook Group what they wished they’d done before starting their business.
Whether you’re just getting started or you’re already established, there is sure to be a quick little lesson or aha moment for you in today’s episode!
The other day I asked the eCommerce Badassery FB group: “What do you wish you knew BEFORE you started your business?”
There were so many awesome responses, I thought it would be fun to share them here. So that’s what we’re talking about today, straight from other eCommerce business owners just like you… what they wish they knew before they started their businesses.
The first one will come as no surprise, but I had to mention it…
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1. How important email marketing is
Don’t worry, I won’t harp on this one… but I couldn’t not mention it, right?! Check out a few of my top email-focused episodes for more on email marketing, including episode 3 for a lowdown on email automations, episode 19 for a detailed breakdown of eCommerce benchmarks and episode 43 to get a deeper understanding on how to build your email list.
2. Scalability is one of the key ingredients to growing your company
Hannah Lain, the Marketing Director of Lotus Energy Drinks said:
“You can’t be an expert in every single thing. When developing processes in your business, keep scaling in mind. For instance, if you implement X, is it scalable or will it let you scale?”
You know how I feel about getting support and hiring experts, but I really love her second point about considering scale when implementing new processes and such in your business.
My goal is always to future proof a business or a project as much as possible. We’re not looking for band aids here. You don’t want to create something that you’ll have to redo again and again.
This is so important because it’s sooooo much harder to relearn and reteach something when you and your team have been operating in a specific way for so long. It can also be harder to fix small parts of things vs. revamping them. Now that’s not always true, can be the case often.
Of course, there will be times in your business when you need some bandaids, and that’s okay… but when you’re tackling a big project, it’s best to take the time to think through the future variables and plan for them if possible.
3. Just because you like your product doesn’t mean people will buy it
Ana from Limbo Imports, which sells Artisan Handmade Hammocks, reminds us that just because you like a product doesn’t mean your customers will buy it. You need to test in small quantities to find your bestseller—never assume! Not testing and getting feedback can be really costly when you get stuck with inventory that you can’t move.
I’ve been through this myself when I had my brick and mortar. I overbought, like most of us do. We get emotionally attached to our products, but we have to remember that our customers will likely qualify your new stuff pretty quickly. It’s not personal, it’s business. Let the numbers guide you and be smart about your decisions.
4. Success takes time
Amanda of Eye Candy Balloons reminds us that: “Nothing happens overnight. Actions compound to results, so stay steady and focused. These things take time.”
This is a reminder I think we all need to hear, especially when we catch ourselves comparing to others in the eComm space
5. You never know what’s happening behind the scenes in someone else’s biz
Christina from Christina Kober Designs, a jewelry company, said…
“Looking from outside at someone’s biz does not necessarily mean they aren’t struggling too and doesn’t mean they are successful although they may look like they’re killing it.”
I always say keep your eyes on your paper because you truly don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes of anyone else’s business. And like Christina said, they may have a lot of revenue, but their margins are in the toilet.
6. Hire a good CPA who specializes in your industry
Christina had lots of other smart insights to share, like the importance of hiring a good CPA who specializes in your industry or in small businesses right off the bat. You don’t necessarily need a bookkeeper right away, but a good CPA will save you money down the line. Ana of Limbo Imports agreed, saying she wasted a lot of time trying to learn it herself.
I encourage you to find a CPA who will strategize with you and explain things you don’t understand vs. just throwing you a few reports at the end of the year.
7. It’s okay to change your mind about what you want
Christina also said, “When you reach your ‘goal’ it may not be what you thought it would be and it’s okay to redirect your efforts.”
There were so many wonderful insights and feedback from everyone, but this is definitely one of my favorites. Your business is naturally going to evolve and while focus is important to get to your ultimate goals, it’s also okay to change course and change your mind about what you want.
We have a particular vision when we start something new and sometimes we get there and we realize maybe it’s not exactly what we thought it would be.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this at least once in your past dating life, right? This is the same. We have these grandiose ideas of what a person, our life, our businesses will look like when we get to a certain place… and it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. Never feel like you have to continue on a certain course just because you’ve spent so much time working toward it.
If you get to a certain point in your business and realize you don’t actually love what you created, it’s okay to make changes. The whole point of being an entrepreneur is to design a business and life you love.
8. You’re allowed to let go of business ideas, clients or customers that don’t serve you
The time, energy and effort that problem clients and customers take aren’t worth it.
This insight came from one of the group members who has a product based and a service based business and others agreed.
Honestly, for you, as a product-based business, maybe it’s a customer who is always asking for special favors, or returns outside of your policies. It’s okay to say no. Maybe it’s a wholesale customer that drives you crazy that you’d be better off not selling to anymore.
I know it can feel scary to “lose” those sales, but if you think about all the energy you spend on them, it’s likely you can use that same energy to replace them with a less high maintenance customer.
You might also see this happen if you’ve been a yes person or a people pleaser. You unintentionally teach your customers that they can have anything they want if they just ask.
I saw this happen with a subbox owner who kept allowing customers to exchange items if they didn’t like them. But that’s not what a subbox is. You don’t exchange stuff, you re-gift it or swap it on one of the subbox sites. It’s scary to say no to that customer in fear of losing them as a subscriber. But think of how much work it is to always be accommodating those requests?
With such low margins on subboxes to begin with, you’ve probably made NO money on that customer when all is said and done. So say NO. If you lose them, good riddance! Just go get a new subscriber who is way less trouble.
9. Put your energy into one thing at a time
Another great insight came from Julie of Modesty Marketplace who said she wishes she had solidified her eCommerce site before opening her brick and mortar.
At first I was surprised because often it’s the other way around. But it was because she had started them both at the same time and now she’s struggling to increase the traffic into the store and increase traffic and conversions on the website. It’s been a challenge to accomplish both or even one of them. She’s doing all she can do to move the needle, but it’s not quite working out the way she’d hoped.
My recommendation: To dedicate seasons, or blocks of time, to each of them in the upcoming year. This way she’s still focused on growing both, but only on one or the other at any given time. Whether you break it up by quarter or month doesn’t really matter. The idea is just to go all in on one aspect so she can give it her full attention. You’re much more likely to find success when you put all your energy into THE ONE thing.
10. Plan ahead in every aspect of your business—especially inventory
One respondent also mentioned they wish they knew how important it was to plan ahead, not only in their business decisions, but their inventory too. And that they wish they had outsourced fulfillment sooner.
How you decide to fulfill your orders, whether in-house or through a 3PL, is going to be different for every business. The more complex the process, the more likely you’ll want to keep it in-house so you can better control it. The simpler the process and the fewer the SKUs, the easier it is to outsource. That’s not a hard and fast rule by any means, but if you’re not sure, that’s a good first question to ask yourself.
In terms of planning ahead, yes, this is a MUST-HAVE in every business—product or not.
The inventory planning aspect is one of the biggest hurdles for a lot of eCommerce business owners if they don’t come from a product background. Even the most experienced can struggle with this.
How you plan your inventory is going to depend soooo much on your product, your lead times, your seasonality, etc.
If you don’t already have a system and process in place for managing this, if you constantly sell out of your best items, or you’re sitting on inventory for a long time… those are all signs that you should put more focus on your inventory management. Depending on the volume of your business, you probably want to hire someone that is dedicated to that and ONLY that.
11. Find a good mentor
And honestly, if you sum up EVERYTHING we’ve been through today, that’s really the root of it all. Finding a good mentor doesn’t ALWAYS mean someone you pay. Sometimes it’s listening to a podcast, or being in a free Facebook Group where the leaders actually show up.
It’s learning from someone who has been where you want to go, who understands the industry you’re in, who can see your blind spots and help you clear the cobwebs.
Sometimes it’s paid too. Whether it’s a mastermind, a group program, or a membership like the Lounge by eCommerce Badassery.
It’s getting yourself into a room with people who can help you get to the next level of your business. You cannot do this alone. You don’t have to do this alone. And at the end of the day, business is a lot more fun when you can do it with others.
So friend, tell me… which of these hit home for you most today? DM me on Instagram and let me know, or take a screenshot of you listening to this episode and share your #1 takeaway on your Instagram stories. Don’t forget to tag me @ecommercebadassery so I can see it.