Once your business is up and running smoothly, it is surprising how easy it is to become complacent and allow your business to stagnate. Especially if you are already in the green and making a decent amount of profit, human nature inclines us to sit back, relax and just watch the money roll in.
On the flip side, your business can also stagnate even though you are working your butt off. One of the easiest traps to fall into when your business is extremely young is to work yourself to death just maintaining the business that you have no time to expand.
My wife and I fell into both of these traps in the course of running our online wedding linens business. Early on with our small business, my wife and I spent so much time trying to keep up with order fulfillment that we didn’t have any time left over to do marketing and business development.
Part of the problem was that our order delivery and fulfillment process was completely inefficient. For example, it took us probably 20-30 minutes to process each order when it should have taken us less than 5 minutes. Even still, we put off improving things because we were too tired at the end of the day to even think about it.
Later when our small business started booming, we took some time off from it all and just coasted for a good period of time. In both cases, our business quickly became stagnant. With no new developments, we allowed our competitors to catch up and storm ahead. Money was still rolling in, but the competitive landscape was evolving and we weren’t making an active effort to keep up.
So how do you prevent your business from stagnating? Now that things have stagnated for us on a few occasions, we’ve instituted a few new guidelines to help prevent stagnation from occuring again. Here’s what we do.
We Now Keep Up With Our Competitors On A Regular Basis
I remember after taking it easy for a good 3 months, I had the sudden urge to visit some of our competitors’ websites on a whim. Much to my dismay, many of our lesser competitors had completely revamped their websites and did a very thorough job. After a complete redesign, many of their websites now looked pretty damn good.
Other competitors started carrying the same or similar products as we did and some slashed prices on existing products making them extremely attractive on a cost basis. In short, I was absolutely stunned at how much things had changed in just a mere 3 months.
Seeing our competitors storming ahead really lit a fire under my ass. In fact, you may have noticed that posts on this blog have been a bit sparse these past few weeks. It’s because I’ve been extremely busy redesigning our online store website to make it look even better.
After 2 straight weekends of hard work, I’m finally done and have hopefully leveled the playing field. You may view the fruits of my labor at www.bumblebeelinens.com. Nothing stops stagnation better than seeing the competition pass you.
We Now Create Time To Focus On The Long Term
Way back when we spent all of our time fulfilling orders, we could have been using that time more efficiently by thinking of ways to streamline our business. Instead of using our brainpower on worthwhile activities such as coming up with new products or processes, we wasted our efforts on ironing and taping boxes.
Why did we do this? In the beginning, we did everything ourselves to save money. But what did we really save? Absolutely nothing. We realized later that anyone can pack orders and ship packages but we are the only ones that can expand our business.
Don’t get too involved with day to day operations that you lose sight of the big picture. Someone in your business has to be constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve. With our business today, my wife and I take turns running operations while making sure to create time to brainstorm new business ideas. We also hire help when needed to perform some of the more menial tasks.
We Avoid Stretching Ourselves Too Thin
There was a time not too long ago that our online business literally did not change at all for several months. We offered the same products. The website looked identical and we didn’t make any effort to do anything. Coincidentally, this period of time coincided with when I launched this blog.
The business was already running smoothly at that point so I said what the heck? May as well start a blog. But I vastly underestimated the amount of work involved. In the beginning, I was trying to post a quality article every single weekday and nearly drove myself insane. I was so tired and creatively spent that I didn’t even want to think about our online business at all.
Everyone has a different philosophy but I believe in focusing all of your efforts on one thing before moving on to another. There are some people out there that can do 10 things at once but unfortunately, I’m not one of them. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. In retrospect, I started this blog too early in the life of our online wedding linens business, but I’ve finally been able to settle down into a workable routine.
We Take Advantage Of Technology
There are constantly new software programs and technologies that can greatly enhance your business. If you are opening an online store, there are always new improvements in shopping cart technology. In fact, one of my readers the other day pointed me to Magento which is a relatively new open source shopping cart packed with a ton of features.
The main advantage of new technology is that it will save you time. Time that can be better spent thinking about new ways to expand your business and new ways to serve your customers.
What are some ways that I use technology? Thanks to Google, I can now keep tabs on my competitors through the use of Google Alerts. I can analyze which products and webpages are doing well and I can detect hotspots in our customer flow fairly easily with Google Analytics.
Thanks to services like compete.com, quanticast.com etc… I can also get a general idea of how much traffic my competition is getting as well. As for our website, we plan on adding the Live Chat feature to our store sometime in the near future which should ease up the support burden. It’s unbelievable how much software is out there for free if you are willing to spend some time learning how to use it.
Things change too quickly for you to just sit there and relax. In order to succeed, you need to be constantly on your toes and be aware of what your competitors are up to.
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