The Next Steps We Are Taking To Grow And Outsource Our Business

We’ve been running our ecommerce store for quite a while now and every single year since the beginning, our business has been growing in the double and triple digits!

Introducing Our New Office!

But one of our problems has been that the amount of help that we’ve hired has not grown in proportion.

For example, while my wife doesn’t really do much of the packing grunt work any more, she still touches anything that even remotely deals with money.

For example, she still prints the invoices. She still prints the shipping labels. She also handles the importing of goods and the financial reporting for the business.

In a nutshell, anything that may contain sensitive information about our finances always goes through my wife.

In addition, she also handles customer service which has been one of the secrets to our success in the wedding industry.

But now since the business has grown, all of this stuff is starting to get a little bit tedious. What was once “not a big deal” is now starting to feel like a chore.

After all, my wife’s time is far too valuable to be doing anything remotely menial. So this past year, we’ve been working on a plan to outsource the business.

Today, I’m going to discuss what we’ve accomplished so far and what lies in our future.

What’s Different About Ecommerce?

First off, outsourcing an ecommerce business is far different than outsourcing a blog or an affiliate site. Since ecommerce stores sell physical products, you usually have to hire physical people as opposed to virtual assistants (This only applies to stores that carry inventory).

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Stock Your Own Items Instead of Drop Shipping

After all, there has to be someone physically in your location in order to pack and ship orders. You also need a place to store your goods if you carry inventory and there’s usually some amount of customer support involved.

Of course, the big plus with an ecommerce store over a blog or an affiliate site is that you will make more money within a shorter time frame. But the increased revenue velocity comes at the cost of your convenience.

We Leased A Larger Office Space

The first step of operation “Outsource The Business” was to lease an office large enough to house more employees. So I’m happy to say that as of last month, we finally got around to renting a decent sized office space in Santa Clara, CA.

This was a big step for us because I’m a pretty paranoid person. Throughout the entire process, there were a ton of negative thoughts going through my head. What if our business suddenly takes a nose dive? Why are we adding additional overhead to a business that’s doing fine on its own? Why don’t we just suck it up and pocket all of the extra money?

I wasn’t alone in my thinking either. Believe it or not, my wife is equally if not more paranoid than I am. In fact, she was happy with the profits that we made during year 1. She didn’t want to grow the business any larger and she was quite satisfied with 100K per year. But the strange thing about starting a business is that it tends to grow on its own and you can’t help it.

It’s kind of like having kids. Even though you want them to stay in their cute and cuddly “my parents are the greatest” stage forever, they eventually have to grow up, drive cars and date boys…*sigh*…but I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.

In any case, by leasing this new office space, we are now ready to hire additional help. In fact, we will be looking for a customer service employee very soon once we get fully settled.

We Need New Backend Systems

Because my wife used to handle all of the sensitive backend stuff, there was never a need for separate staff logins to our website. We only had a single user, and that user had complete administrative access to all parts of the website.

Now that my wife is no longer going to be the sole user of the website, we will need separate staff logins for our employees.

Unfortunately, this is something that I will have to manually code myself(I’m on an older cart). But the good news is that it will be pretty straightforward and should take me only a weekend to implement. Again, one of the big advantages of owning the source code for my shopping cart is that I can make the backend look exactly how I want it to look.

However, if I was on a fully hosted shopping cart, I probably wouldn’t have full fine grained control over what my employees can and can not access on the website. I would essentially be stuck with whatever was already implemented as part of their standard package.

Anyways in the following weeks, I will be coding up a new staff backend that will restrict regular employees from accessing any sensitive information. This way, it will free up my wife from having to do some of the more tedious administrative tasks like printing invoices.

We Need To Implement Remote Access

For the past 3 weeks, my wife has been physically going into the office everyday in order to set things up and organize things around the office. But ideally, she shouldn’t have to go in every day unless she feels like it. The business should be able to be run whether she is present or not. In addition, if she does need to do something, it should be able to be done remotely.

So first off, I’m going to setup VPN access to the network in the office. This way, we can place and grab files from any of the computers over there from home. Incidentally, if setting up a VPN is way over your head, you can probably get by with a service called DropBox, which will allow you to share files remotely without any technical knowledge required.

The second thing I’m going to do is setup up wireless surveillance cameras around the office. I’ve been doing a lot of research in this department and my weapon of choice is the Sharx SCN2700 wireless ip camera.

We have a few of these babies at home that can easily hook up to any standard wireless router and they work great! Basically, these cameras can be setup to detect motion in a very specific area of the frame. If anything so much as moves in that area, it will immediately send photos via email.

These cameras also allow you to monitor the area remotely, act as a remote DVR and even lets you listen in with live audio!

Hiring Employees

Of course once everything is setup properly, we will start looking for new employees. While we are very fortunate to have found good people so far, hiring can be an extremely tedious process. If you are curious what it takes to hire an employee legally, be sure to checkout my Ultimate Small Business Startup Guide

If all goes well, our online store should be autonomous within the next year or so once everything gets settled. Hopefully, the sacrifice in profits will be worth the additional time it will free up for my wife!

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27 thoughts on “The Next Steps We Are Taking To Grow And Outsource Our Business”

  1. You probably go into this in your ebook but why don’t you use an all-in-one solution like BigCommerce or Shopify for your online store ? It seems like it would be a good option and you wouldn’t have to worry about slow, older shopping cart, etc.

    1. I’ve actually written extensively about this in the past. I do it for control. I don’t want to be at the mercy of a fully hosted shop to raise prices or potentially put me out of business.

      This way, I have full control over everything and I can implement fully custom things with my website.

  2. Thanks, Steve, I will research the topic on your blog. I’ve been doing internet marketing for a while and my dream (!) is to one day own an online store but I am stuck on finding the right niche. You’ve found a great one and I do enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the great work!

  3. Wow, that is awesome (and kind of scary I imagine)! I wonder about that sometimes, even thought I’m just starting out. I think about how I might create processes that others could do, and there’s a lot of little details that need to be worked out. Very exciting for you guys!!

    1. Hey Mariana,
      It’s actually not as scary as you might think. It’s just that we are greedy:) Once you get to this point, I can help guide you to what you need to do as well.

  4. That’s great news. You were the inspiration for my wife and I to start our E-commerce 2 years ago. We are quickly running out of room and are looking to go to the next level. We haven’t had any luck with Ad words and do not advertise much but need to market better in order to move forward. All of our profits have gone back into growing inventory. Any advice on marketing?

    1. Hey Jim,
      The best advice I can give is to constantly churn out content for your store. And over time, you will start ranking for your keywords.

  5. Best of Luck to you in the future! And, thank you for sharing so much and giving so much of your time.

  6. This has been on my mind a lot lately. Right now I’m a one man (woman!) operation. And it’s getting to the point where the packing and shipping is taking a lot of my time. I’ll have to thing about if the time is right to look to hire someone. Thanks for the post. Excellent timing!

    1. Hey Nicole,
      If packing and shipping is your problem, then you can easily hire someone part time to help you out. I’m sure that there are better uses for your time:)

  7. Kay says:

    Congrats! It’s a big milestone.

    I am curious as to how you manage caring for your children while she works. Do you have a nanny? I am working on my own startup and I find that caring for children tends to interfere with the “flow”.

    My kids are in school ( the youngest in preschool) and often I find their schedule interfering with my most productive times.

    Thanks,
    Kay

    1. Hey Kay,
      Right now, both kids are in full time preschool from 9am-5:30pm so child care is not an issue.

      1. Kay says:

        Steve,

        That’s pretty much what I need to do with my 2 year old. Hard to justify spending all that money when I quit my six figure corporate on to pursue my own thing. But you gotta invest to make it work, right? I also have 2 older kids who I assist with homework in the evening. It’s definitely a challenge trying to figure things out and run a family at the same time. I wish more entrepreneurs would write about the challenges of blending business with raising a family.

        Thanks for sharing your journey with the rest of us.

        Kay

  8. Congratulations to you and your wife Steve! I hope the traffic driving down to Santa Clara isn’t too bad for you guys as it is brutal for me :(

  9. OMG, congratulations!!! I cannot imagine the details that go into having a storefront. Having an ecommerce store is overwhelming enough and took me by surprise at first.
    I joke with the little ones in my family that they will be the ones to turn Bella into a store front while I grow into “retirement age” and start to relax more. I’m excited for you all.

    1. Thanks Bella! Really appreciate the sentiment.

  10. Hi Steve,
    Congrats Steve on this big step forward for your business!
    Sometimes you just have to take a step like this, even though it’s risky, in order to take your business to a whole new level.
    Regards
    Naomi

    1. Hey Naomi,
      Yeah, the decision makes perfect sense if we want to continue to grow. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Congratulations on the growth, Steve – and office space in Anywhere, CA is expensive. That alone is a big investment and has to be supported by your success: so great big congrats on that! Always inspiring to read success stories.

    1. Hey James,
      Yeah, it’s crazy how much office space is in our area. If we just looked 30 minutes east of where we live, we could have saved over 50% but the commute wouldn’t have been worth it.

  12. Dee says:

    Hi Steve,

    I was hoping you would post something on how you are managing your business growth. I had shipping help in the past, that added a little too much stress in constant checking up on & still being called upon. So I returned to doing packing & shipping & customer service again. Although it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time, I can’t describe how tedious and stressful it has become. Just like you referred to your business as a child ( it never goes away, you have to keep checking on it, and feed it when it cries.) I have decided to use a fulfillment center to handle the orders and basic customer service such as order taking and checking on order status also replacement/return of merchandise.)

    When I had help, I did make more money because I had more time to pay attention and tweak marketing etc.

    Keep us posted, sounds like you have everything planned meticulously.

    Dee

    1. Hey Dee
      Yeah, a fulfillment center is a great idea. The reason we can’t use one though is because we offer personalized items. So some of our products have to be embroidered before shipment. Glad it’s working out for you!

  13. payitalloff says:

    Wow congratulaitions! How do you keep shipping expenses low? Im having trouble with shipping its so expensive esp. for intl.

  14. Outsourcing any work is a big step and one that will do any business a lot of good. I think you made the right choice here.

    Pam

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