This is part two in a two-part series. You can read part one here.
In part one of this two part series we gave you some tips for optimizing your in-house fulfillment, should you decide to tackle it on your own.
Even if you run your business completely in-house, the time may come when your startup outgrows your limited man power. This is a great thing! How you handle it can make a big difference in your customer satisfaction, though, so here are some clues that your company will soon need the help of a fulfillment service or 3rd party logistics firm:
- Your analytics show a steady rise in business. Hopefully, you’ve been tracking your sales and using some sort of analytics package to help you see trends and other useful information in the mounds of data your website generates. If you’re seeing a steady and reliable rise in business month after month or season after season, you can pretty accurately predict when you’ll be out of your depth. Plan ahead, and be sure to call in help before you need it.
- You’re struggling to find time to focus on other aspects of your business. Small operations are brought down by a lot of things, but one of the most common is when the few workers are stretched way too thin. If you’re focusing on fulfillment, but never have time to input or source new products, you’re still in trouble. Your orders are getting out, but soon you’ll be out of things for customers to order and they will go elsewhere.
- You can’t keep your fulfillment area organized. As we discussed in part one, a tidy fulfillment area is key to optimizing the process. If you’re constantly shuffling stock or have so many orders to fulfill that it’s getting hard to keep everything straight, you have a great problem, but one that will hurt you if you let it continue. Get your products into a bigger warehouse and distribution center before your customers start to suffer long delivery wait times.
- Your orders are falling behind. Too many orders and not enough hours in the day will eventually catch up to you. If orders that should have shipped Thursday are still waiting to be picked, packed and shipped Monday morning, that’s not a good sign. Slow orders and impatient customers are not a good combination.
Running a startup is as much learning how to do all the jobs in your company as it is knowing when it’s time to turn those jobs over to someone else. As your business grows, you’ll need to partner with many different experts, including fulfillment services and 3rd party logistics companies. Developing these relationships can take time, though. Plan ahead so that when it is time to hand over the reigns, the transition will be invisible to your customers.