An online business is as real as any other business, so why not treat it that way? When I started reselling over 25 years ago, I never saw it as a real business. It was just a fun way to help pay bills and earn some extra cash. I had no idea how to run a business, nor did I think anyone could even make it a business by reselling in the first place. I was just selling junk from all over the house.
Things have changed dramatically since that time. I have now been a full time reseller for over a decade and run my business like any traditional business would. I had the luxury, however, of working as a general manager and then as a regional manager for a national company for almost 20 years of my life. During this time, I was able to learn all the ins and outs of running a successful business.
Once I started reselling online full time, it didn’t take me long to realize the benefits of using the practices and methods used in Corporate America to advance my own business. There’s a reason companies do things in a specific way. They’ve spent millions of dollars figuring out what works best and how to maximize their profits. So why not take advantage of what has already proven its worth? Reselling, after all, is as real a business as any other business, so you should treat it as such. There are some very simple practices that most businesses use that can help dramatically improve the business and life of most online resellers.
One of the first practices I adopted was a storage and labeling system for all of my merchandise offered for sale on eBay. When I started listing items, I never thought about putting them away or tagging them so that I could easily find an item once I sold it.
I only had a limited number of items, and I thought to myself, how really hard could it be to find an item? But, as time went on and I listed more and more items, I soon realized that I was spending a lot of my time trying to find items that I wanted to ship.
One day, after spending almost an hour trying to find a postcard that I needed to send, I finally had enough. After I packed all of my items for posting that day, I ended up spending the next day and a half labeling and sorting all the items I had. I even went through all of my listings and added their storage location to each one. This practice alone saved me more time than I could have imagined.
Another practice that I have used, almost as long as stocking and labeling inventory, is to keep an accurate count of all my supplies that I use for my business. We ship packages several times a day, six days a week – and there was nothing worse than running out of boxes, printer ink or address labels at the last minute.
Several times I would rush to pack everything before the post office showed up, only to find that I didn’t have enough boxes. When this happened it meant a trip to the store to get more boxes and then a second trip to the post office to drop off the unwrapped and ready items, when the US Post clerk showed up earlier. .
Taking a simple inventory of everything I use has reduced my costs considerably and saved me a lot of time. If I run out of boxes, tape, printer ink (or whatever else when taking inventory) I just order more before they run out. I also always try to take inventory or place orders on the same day every week, and wholesale whatever I can from one source.
With many items, the more you buy at the same time, the lower the price will be. Boxes are a great example of this and are also one of the biggest costs associated with shipping in general. With cartons, I can order an entire pallet from one manufacturer, and distribute it among several other sellers I know, which greatly reduces my shipping costs. Depending on the quantity purchased, I can save 40% or 50% on the cost of their purchase in store.
I’ve also learned from my past experiences that it’s always good to have at least one backup of everything you need to run your business. When I use the last of something, I will order another then.
I have extras of everything including scanners and cameras which I haven’t been able to do financially for the last five or six years. I exclusively use DSLR (single lens digital SLR) cameras to take pictures of objects when needed, which can cost a considerable amount of money.
I once had a problem with one of my cameras and had to mail it in for an authorized dealer to fix it, so I wouldn’t void my warranty. The camera was gone for over three weeks. If that was the only way I could have taken pictures, I might have been unable to list new items until they came back.
These are just a few of the basic practices and methods used by large companies, and the ones I would personally recommend all dealers to practice. Personally, I wish I had started using them early on in my resale journey. My business would have been much better much earlier, and I would have been much happier.
As your business grows, there are many other business strategies you can take advantage of, which I will talk about in a future column.