|Internet retailer, how are you organized?|
All by myself?
At the moment we have a family business: one person in programming, one in finances and one at the shipdesk, all three working part-time.
When number of orders does not exceed 100 pro month, it seems to work good, generating for us pretty nice amount of extra cash.
Now, when our business is growing (touch the wood!), we probably have to employ some extra stuff soon.
What about your experience: how many peple do you have in your Internet retail business, how is it organized and how many orders are you able to process?
When it was 100 orders per month, my wife worked fulltime and I partime. When it reached 200 per month, we hired our first part-time staff. When it reached 500 per month, we hired our first full-time stafff.
Now with over 1000 orders a month, we have the following configuration. Myself, My wife, and the following full-time staff: A web designer, a customer service officer, a merchandising clerk, and an office attendent.
We are lucky that labour is not expensive in Hong Kong. But we make decisions to hire extra staff very carefully. It is reactive to increased needs rather than proactive to anticipate needs.
Last month I had about 650 orders and I'm the only person involved, adn I only work part time in the evenings.
That said the products go nicely into a Jiffy bag, so, an hour in the evening is all i need to pack, then to the post office the next day.
Holy cow, chodges, I wish it were that easy for me to pack orders (and I wish I had 650 orders/month)! I do between 150-300 orders a month, and for the past couple months I have been doing that by myself. I have a lot of stuff to measure either by weight or volume, and some very small widgets I even have to count. It's difficult--I am always looking for ways to streamline and speed up the process. I usually put together orders 3-4 days a week. I probably work about 50 hours a week altogether, but at least half of that is doing things like site work, looking for suppliers, developing new widgets, designing labels, etc.
I run multiple site that sell different things. All together I see around 1000 orders per month or so. I have agreements with most of my suppliers so that I can send them the order and not have to stock items.
Most of my sites are automated for the most part so I dont physically have to do anything.
I do have 1 site which I have inventory for that only sees about 100 orders a month so packing and shipping isnt a problem for me. Most of my time is marketing and sitting by the 800 number answering questions and taking phone orders.
Right now it's me and 1 part timer. I work around 70hours a week or more though but I was doing that at my corperate job 4 years ago.
[edited by: travmed at 8:18 am (utc) on Dec. 14, 2005]
We do about 2000 orders a month. When we got to about 800 we started using a fulfillment company, and it was the best move we made. Granted, there are some issues that arise, but it's so worth the money IMHO.
sharbel - Approx how much does the fulfillment service cost per month? And do they take all your phone calls too?
Full fillment firms can be pricey so you need a volume product thats very profitable.
One I asked to take Sterling silver items from me refused as they were worried about theft....
Figure out the time it takes you to do the order fulfillment now.
Figure out how many additional sales you have to make to earn the profit to pay someone to do that for you.
As soon as you hit the mark, hire the help.
Then take that extra time, spend half on the 'web' part (increasing biz), and half doing what you enjoy, meaning something other than WORK.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Another option is just to do all the work youself even if it means staying up all night no matter how much there is (this can result in occasional snapping at unappreciative customers). When you hire employees does the work load really decrease for you? or does that work really just go into a different channel like managing employees, payrolls etc?
That's a good point, ispy. I had a helper for about a year to pack orders, but I actually found that often her being here caused me to waste time. I did enjoy talking to her, so that was good, but I realized after a while that that was the main benefit.
I haven't had her here for a while, and actually I get a lot more done and am more efficient without her. Bored, though. That's why God made Webmasterworld, I guess.:)
I think if you truely want to grow, you need to hire employees. If you are truely busy and need employees, you probably won't have that much time to sit around and chat with them all day. Currently, it's just me and my wife. If I were to hire anyone it would probably be because I would like to do more leadership type tasks like figuring out what my next website will be and how I'm going to get it off the ground instead of focusing on the tedious labor like answering the phone or packing orders. That's $10 an hour work.
Another factor to consider is the amount of time you have to spend training (which should hopefully drop to nil) and managing (which should ideally be minimal) the employee. This almost always takes longer than expected.
With 1 employee, it's usually not that much of a problem. But you can count on each additional employee increasing the management time exponentially, not linearly.