From the July 2008 issue of eBiz Insider magazine. Download the complete issue as a PDF by clicking here.
So, you’ve worked hard. Your online business is running smoothly, orders are steady and sales are up. But you are tired. You’ve been burning the candles at both ends for two years straight without a break. Those 80 hour weeks have finally caught up with you and an opportunity to get away on a 7-night Caribbean cruise is staring you in the face. Now, what do you do with your online store should you decide to take a break?
Planning the Great Escape
It’s happened to all of us at some point in our online careers, and we’ve all survived a week away from home base. But getting to the point where you believe you’ll survive is important. Before you escape, do some basic business planning so you’ll be comfortable with someone else minding the store while you’re embedded in the conga line on the Lido deck.
Haste Makes Waste
Shutting down your online store while you’re away isn’t an option, so your priority is finding someone to keep the orders coming in and going out. You have two basic choices. Plan A is obvious: this is when many small business owners will decide to hire their first employee. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Hiring staff changes your business, and the worst thing you can do is rush or be forced into it. Your new hire is going to need training and you have to learn to trust that person. After all, your business will be in their hands while you’re away. If you’re not ready to become an “employer” yet, you’re left with plan B, otherwise known as “friends and family.”
I am not a big fan of hiring friends or family members, but in a crunch they may be your best resource. Just make sure whomever you select is capable of the basics – taking some phone calls, answering email and getting orders out the door. Other business functions can wait for your return.
Keep it Simple
Here is a checklist of tasks your temporary assistant should be able to handle:
- Pulling orders off your website and entering them into your order management system
- Answering the phone during your normal business hours
- Providing customers with product information
- Entering phone orders and processing credit cards
- Picking, packing and shipping product from your warehouse
- Answering customer email
- Handling returns and exchanges
Now here’s a checklist of things you should do to make your assistant’s job easier:
- Show them how to use your voice mail and telephone system
- Write explicit instructions on how to do things (pull orders, charge cards, ship a package, etc.)
- Write a FAQ – a list of frequently asked questions that customers may ask during a call or email
- Leave a list of usernames and passwords for your website and order management system
- List emergency contact numbers in case they have to reach you
We all need a break every now and then; it refreshes us and inspires us to think up the next big venture that will allow 2 weeks of vacation next year! Ecommerce never stops and neither should your business. By choosing the right person to run things while you’re away, you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor knowing your “baby” is in capable hands.