It was a great story about a couple of smart young guys who found a gap in a market. They went up against some major companies with a product differentiation that people love. They have developed a great, fast-growing business to consumer online business.
The story focused on the two young men, then on their marketing team. There was a video showing their marketing team members happily smiling, standing at a long bench near where their desks were, packing products into post-bags. 'We are so successful, we can hardly keep up with demand!' they proudly announced.
It occurred to me that if they continued to use their marketing team to pack their orders they would possibly not hold on to their success for very long. Before you give me the talk about everyone needing to jump in and help out and how small business demands this kind of flexibility, I hear you! I do, really.
But here are a few things to think about when you have a company that has a great idea/product, but doesn't have a sustainable order fulfilment system:
- What helped guide the company to its current place in the market?
- Answer: Marketing.
- Of course, without a good and relevant product, developed by the two people at the helm of the company, the marketing would not have helped.
- What was the makeup of the team who achieved this?
- See the first paragraph of this article
- If the marketing team are busy with the picking, packing and shipping, who is doing the marketing?
- Are marketers good at inventory management?
- Generally not, in my honest opinion (gained during twenty five years of working with marketers who need warehousing, fulfilment, order picking and packing. Believe me, I know).
- Is the office a good place to house inventory?
- Not usually. A big pain is that there is often insufficient space. I have been into marketers' offices where they sit sideways at their desks because they have so much stock sitting underneath it that their legs don't fit! Throw in a slow lift or a set of stairs and you've got an annoying situation. Is there a decent trolley or any shelving to house the stock once you do get it into the office? This article is about an online company, there is probably not a lot of warehouse-style hardware and equipment present. Also, I could be wrong, but there would not necessarily be expertise in safe materials handling procedures and safety procedures/work wear.
- Can the couriers deliver easily? Is the office on a main road or in a busy city office block? Is there a loading dock?
- Expense of office space being used for storage?
- Ease of receiving/shipping - does someone have to carry the parcels to the post-office?
- Is there a cost-effective courier solution in place? Is there an automated software system encompassing all carriers or does someone need to flick between various online courier options, depending on which carrier is being used?
- How can you easily compare costs between carriers?
- Is it a good idea to have expensive staff members who are trained in something else, and have proven themselves to be very good at that something else, doing this kind of work?
- What happens to the marketing if the marketing staff members have all become pickers and packers?
- What happens to the job satisfaction of the marketers if they are expected to spread themselves a little thin and into a work space they didn't sign up for?
- How much is your successful business really worth, without a robust logistics solution in place?
- Will you lose customers because your success overcame your systems?
- Bottom line question is - How much money/value does the company stand to lose?