Before getting into ecommerce, Chad Rubin was working on Wall Street.
When he first launched his ecommerce business, he knew he was in over his head–he had never run a warehouse or managed business finances or operational procedures.
“I was 50 pounds more than I am now, a pre-diabetic working til three a.m. every night on my couch,” says Chad. “At the time, I was managing 17 employees and a disorganized warehouse, and my business was growing like crazy. I couldn’t keep up with demand, but I just couldn’t get out of the rat race.”
One day, Chad fired his warehouse manager, and everything came to a screeching halt when that warehouse manager called OSHA, which promptly shut down his business. Only his father-in-law and wife were allowed to pack and ship thousands of orders every day.
“I couldn’t keep my head above water,” explains Chad.
The turning point came when Chad outsourced his warehouse and started researching ways to automate repetitive tasks and decrease “business bloat.”
This eventually led him to join forces with current co-founder and developer, DJ Kunovac, to create Skubana, a technologically advanced ecommerce operations platform designed to accelerate the growth of high-volume merchants.
We sat down with Chad to discuss how he ascended from that sinking warehouse in NY to the solid businesses he’s built and automated today.
Here are 9 of his proven tips to make your ecommerce business less chaotic and more profitable.
1. Streamline your tasks.
Chad’s first point is also a tough one–take an inventory of your everyday life, and figure out which tasks you should be outsourcing.
First, keep track of the things you’re doing every day. Then, when you have enough data gathered (perhaps from a time tracking tool), start your inventory by asking these questions:
- What do you hate working on? What do you love?
- What do you love doing, but aren’t good at?
- Is your hourly wage worth the time that task takes you?
At the end of this inventory, you should be able to identify your top priority tasks that are high-impact, meaningful, and aren’t frustratingly time-consuming.
2. Streamline your employees’ tasks.
While you’re streamlining your own life, don’t forget about the extensions of you in your business–your employees.
“Have an employee document what they do for a week,” recommends Chad. “Especially if you have a lot of employees–you probably don’t know what they’re doing all day. Next, understand what your employees’ core competencies are, and get rid of the things they shouldn’t be doing.”
This may sound tedious and nearly impossible if you have many employees. Ask employees to use a time tracking software (not pen and paper), and outsource the core competencies portion to a good organizational psychologist.
Finally, make sure you explain what you’re doing so your employees don’t get worried about your sudden intent to track their daily activities. If you do this well, you should get immediate ideas for redistributing or eliminating time-wasting tasks.
3. Create a bucket list and a f***-it list.
“As entrepreneurs, we wear a lot of hats. We do the dishes, we do the laundry, and we manage our business on top of it. I’m the hardest boss I’ve ever had, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs are like that.”
Now that you have a laundry list of important and needless tasks for you and your employees, it’s time to create a bucket list and a f***-it list, says Chad.
That list will help inform the next steps in your streamlining process.
4. Find a powerful software to handle routine tasks.
Once you look through your lists of daily tasks, take note of how many programs you have to open on a daily basis to manage your business.
If you find yourself bouncing from spreadsheets to inventory management system and back to spreadsheets, it’s time to find a good software to fit your needs. Chad has a few tips on choosing a viable ecommerce business management software (yes, he’s slightly biased because he runs Skubana).
- Choose software that will grow with you. “When you’re choosing your software, don’t just think about software and automation, but also pick a software that doesn’t limit your growth,” says Chad. “Even if you only sell on Amazon today or Shopify, it doesn’t mean you’re limited by it. The software should lift those limitations.”
- Make sure it’s cloud-based. “We live in a portable world,” says Chad. “If you’re on vacation, you want to be able to check in on your business. The cloud next-generation, and it’s unified–so essentially, you shouldn’t invest in a feature there, feature here, feature everywhere–focus on a solution that has to has the capacity to allow you to grow.”
- Try before you buy. “You want to test drive a car before you buy it, and a lot of software providers don’t let you under the hood,” says Chad. “Ask for a test run before you’re locked in, and it’s too late.”
5. Start using contractors.
Remember those tasks you wrote down earlier that you’re not good at? Hey, even if you enjoy graphic designing branding materials for your business, it’s time to be brutally honest with yourself. Is it eating up too much of your time?
If you don’t happen to have an employee with a lot of bandwidth and graphic design skills, you may find yourself asking if it’s time to hire. Before you do that, find out your revenue per employee, says Chad.
“The size of the company isn’t a true measure anymore,” Chad explains. “It’s all about how you can do more with less.”
For many companies, online contractors may be the answer.
“Don’t be cheap–just be cost effective,” says Chad “You should also still treat your online employees as well as you would your in-house employees.”
6. Once you empty your plate, don’t fill it up again.
Once you outsource your tedious tasks, and you experience more flexible or even free time, resist the urge to pile on a bunch of new tasks.
“My mistake is I outsource to get more stuff done, and then I forget to relax and just add more to my plate,” says Chad.
However, in order to not end up back at step one, take things slow and ask yourself the tasks you’re taking on are actually important–or just to fill up your calendar so you don’t feel bored.
7. Consistently measure performance.
When it’s your own ecommerce business, and you don’t have investors or a board to impress, you might not feel the need to keep track of your monthly and quarterly numbers.
However, it’s still important–even for the projects that may not have a direct ROI, such as your blog.
“You need to have accountability,” says Chad. “You can have a backlog of 500 blog posts, but you should know the most important blog posts to work on this month–or those that will have the biggest impact.”
8. Don’t forget your own health.
Chad knows how easy it is to let health slip when your business’s health takes a dip. However, he’s also discovered this has been crucial to his current ability to stay focused.
“It’s so important to stay healthy. You may have heard the saying ‘to make a million, you need to look a million’, says Chad. “I do CrossFit twice a week, which is an efficient workout, and add in three other workouts during the week to stay in shape, keep sanity, and to give me headspace.”
This applies to vacations, too. It can be hard to find time to get away, but Chad and his wife (who’s also an entrepreneur) love to travel–it’s one of their biggest priorities.
“We’re both on the grind and we’re both hustling really hard–but it’s so important to find those areas when you can ‘hop out’ for a moment,” Chad says.
9. Stop dwelling on past events.
Chad calls this “ripping off the rearview mirror,” which is obviously dangerous on the road, but in the business world, it makes a lot of sense. Chad explains his theory:
Sure, you can look back at your business’s history, but it’s hard to look at what happened and project that history into the future. What happened, happened. A lot of these lessons are about me losing money, hair, time–all these things came out of problems. In my case, it happened for the best.
You have to trust that it’s going to work out in the end as long as you’re giving if your all. The small things–that’s not what we really remember at the end of the journey.