Entrepreneur
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Where Should You Spend Your Time?

By Brandon Eley

This holiday season, our ecommerce business has seen amazing growth. We have broken every record possible, and have been so busy that we’ve actually cancelled some planned promotions because we simply cannot handle a large surge in orders.

My wife and business partner, who runs our warehouse and packs and ships most of the orders, has asked me for help several times. When I went to the warehouse to help, I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a good use of my time.

Yes, it was frantically busy, and everyone needed to pitch in and help. But on the other hand, my time is very limited, and I felt I could be helping in other ways. So I took a look at the processes and had a few startling revelations.

One was when I asked my wife why we had so many United States Postal Service (USPS) packages still waiting to be shipped. She informed me that they took a long time because they had to be manually entered into the USPS website, copying and pasting information from our order management system to their website one line at a time. It was so time-consuming, she had put it off until the weekend when she was going to spend an entire day shipping several USPS packages.

“There has to be a better way to do this!” I thought, so I started looking at solutions that would integrate with our order management system. I found DAZzle, a product by Endicia, which, once installed on our computer, communicates directly with our order management system and the USPS systems to print labels.

I ordered a thermal label printer and spent an entire day configuring Endicia and DAZzle in our warehouse. The result? USPS orders now take five seconds to process and print a label; they used to take five to ten minutes per order.

The Bigger Picture

I could have easily just helped my wife pack and ship orders. It would have made a big difference in the short term, as we would’ve sent the USPS orders out quicker to customers that were waiting on them. Long term, though, simply helping to process and pack the orders would’ve taken up just as much valuable time as it always had before … too much time.

By stepping back and looking at the problem from the perspective of a business owner, rather than as a worker, I saw an underlying problem with the entire process.

When we’re busy, it’s easy to just buckle down and go to work in our business, doing what we think needs to be done. It’s much harder to step back and stay focused on the bigger picture.

Work On Your Business, Not In It

Most of us started our businesses doing something we love, so going to work in our business is fairly easy (and fun). I love taking phone orders at our ecommerce business and programming new features on our website.

But to move your business to the next level, you have to also work on your business. You have to work on improving the processes, finding new and more efficient ways to do tasks. You have to simply note and document tasks so that you can begin to delegate.

Even if there are no plans to hire employees, you have to take time to work on your business if you want it to grow.

For more information about working on your business, I highly recommend reading The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It will change the way you think about your business.

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  • Rob

    Great Post. I help manage a warehouse that distributes ski boots for a large company. We have the same issue with UPS, so I will have to look into DAZzle. Funny we put those orders aside because Fedex gives us a computer and an integration tool that extracts the orders from our software. I would spend lots of time filling out UPS’s web forms as well. Time for me to step back and look at the process as well. Thanks

    • Jody Calton with Endicia

      Brandon,
      I am a Sales Manager with Endicia and your blog hit my Google Alerts. We certainly appreciate your enthusiasm for our product, and thanks for the business! There’s plenty of other things we can help with, besides just processing packages faster, and a lot of time customers don’t take advantage of all the features because they just never thought to ask. Feel free to give us a call, or ask for my extension on our 800 number, if you ever want to chat.

  • Nick

    Not too insightful. I would hope the majority of business owners would see a need to improve a poor business practice and find a way to improve it. I would file this under the “Well, Duh!” category.

  • http://www.brandoneley.com Brandon Eley

    @Nick Thank you for your thought-provoking and equally insightful comment. I guess we all have our opinion! :)

    • Nick

      I felt bad after reading your reply and decided to read your post again. I was probably too quick to respond with a captain obvious response, I definitely agree with your thoughts on working on your business and not in it. My apologies for the harsh words, I am obviously not a blogger and should be more careful with someone else’s hard work.

      • http://www.brandoneley.com Brandon Eley

        Nick, thanks and no worries.

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