Practical Ecommerce

Job Description: ‘Startup Ecommerce Founder’

I’ve been browsing the job listings for ecommerce positions at large retailers. They can afford to hire expertise in marketing, supply chain management, human resources, systems, web design, business intelligence, operations, and finance. Small business owners do not have those luxuries.

As I’ve browsed the job descriptions, I’ve laughed at how unrealistic many of them are. It prompted me to consider what an employment ad might look like for a “startup ecommerce founder.”

Here is a hypothetical job description I came up with.

Job Description: Goals

“To quickly and responsibly build a profitable and sustainable ecommerce business that will compete effectively with similar stores in its market as well as complete with Amazon, eBay, and other marketplaces.”

Job Description: Responsibilities

  • “Develop long and short term strategies and tactics for growth.”
  • “Develop brand and messaging to attract and retain customers.”
  • “Develop and manage budgets for marketing, operations, and technology.”
  • “Develop and manage supply chains to ensure continuity and maintain margins.”
  • “Recruit, manage, and develop personnel to support business growth.”
  • “Develop a culture of success and employee satisfaction.”
  • “Manage operations to ensure customer satisfaction.”
  • “Meet revenue and profit targets.”

Job Description: Skills Required

  • “Creative”
  • “Visionary”
  • “Detail oriented”
  • “Analytical”
  • “Excellent planner”
  • “Excellent writer and verbal communicator”
  • “Highly organized”
  • “Responsive”
  • “Excellent manager”
  • “Skilled recruiter”
  • “Financial analyst”
  • “Quick learner”
  • “Adaptable”
  • “Decisive”
  • “Great leader”
  • “Tech geek”
  • “Proficient in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint”
  • “Highly competent in CSS, HTML, Java, PHP, AJAX, and other programming and scripting languages”
  • “Proficient with shopping carts like Magento, Miva Merchant, Shopify, and Volusion”
  • “Skilled in PhotoShop, Illustrator, and other Adobe CS6 tools”
  • “Able to set up and use QuickBooks”
  • “Expert on Google AdWords and other online advertising platforms”
  • “Expert on affiliate marketing”
  • “Ability to create data feeds for marketplaces, comparison shopping engines”
  • “Search engine optimization expertise”
  • “Budgeting”
  • “Network management”
  • “Supply chain expert”
  • “Online merchandising”
  • “Customer experience design”
  • “Graphic design expert”
  • “Use web analytics to identify and leverage key metrics for growth and profitability”
  • “Skilled writer and editor”

Job Description: Experience

  • “Minimum 7 years in ecommerce management, digital marketing, and developing and implementing successful business strategies”
  • “Minimum 10 years with brand and merchandising management, and in managing a online web development or systems environment”
  • “Managing 50 percent or more growth for 5 consecutive years”
  • “Proven ability to meet budget, revenue, and profit goals in retail environment”
  • “Experience building and managing a successful ecommerce team”
  • “Minimum 10 years in a finance and accounting supervisory role”

Job Description: Compensation

  • “Wages and bonuses will be entirely dependent on your ability to run a profitable business”
  • “Sweat equity”

What’s the Point?

Do you meet the qualifications for this job? I ran an ecommerce business for 10 years and I know I do not. Regarding the compensation, would you want that job?

The point is that running an ecommerce business is challenging. You have all the functional elements of running a retail business: sales, marketing, human resources, finance and accounting, purchasing, inventory management, and facilities. In addition, you have the technical challenges of building and operating an online store in a highly competitive space against worldwide competitors, including behemoths like Amazon.

Identify your Skill Set

Identify what you are good at and where you need help. This will vary at different times in your business lifecycle, but at all times you should be asking what you are best suited to do. Then, either hire someone with the appropriate skills and qualifications, or outsource.

Here are four typical profiles for ecommerce founders that I’ve encountered.

  • Marketing founder. Someone with the requisite skills in marketing and sales.
  • Tech founder. This person understands web development and operations.
  • Business founder. This individual understands strategy, finance, and operations.
  • Industry expert. This person has all the connections, suppliers, and subject matter expertise in any given market or product segment.

Which One Are You?

In a perfect world, the four hypothetical people above jointly launch and operate the company. They have complementary skills, and everything functions smoothly.

But in most cases, there’s only one founder. It will be up to him or her to recruit other talent to run the other aspects of the business. Successful founders realize they need expertise from all of those areas to scale their businesses.

Founders of small businesses typically wear many hats. As I started my ecommerce business, I oversaw finance, marketing, customer service and other operations. My wife and business partner focused on the products and website, and fulfillment.

As we grew, we hired people for customer support, fulfillment, marketing, and operations. I focused on strategy and finances. My wife became more specialized with the products. We invested in automation to simplify finance and accounting, fulfillment, and customer support.

We sometimes outsourced expertise we did not have. As a small business, this may actually be one of your biggest challenges. Finding a good graphic designer or web developer for a small project may be time consuming and cost more than you expect.

As you operate and grow your business, stay tuned to your staffing needs. Do you have the right personnel to meet the needs of your business? Would they benefit from training? Should you reorganize the company to be more efficient? Should you take on new roles? Is it best to bring in outside resources to assist you in a project?

Finally, seek outside advisers you can call on from time to time. It’s easy to get too close to the problems you work with daily. Sometime an experienced eye will quickly shed new light on a problem and offer an alternative solution that you have not considered. Don’t be afraid to solicit outside advice.

Dale Traxler
Dale Traxler
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Comments ( 3 )

  1. Michael Torkildsen May 21, 2013 Reply

    Hey Dale, we chatted before on a similar matter. I too started and ran a successful (small) ecommerce business and am now in the Seattle area looking at the big guys for jobs.

    I’ve been very disappointed in their appreciate for individuals with our broad experience. Instead, they’d rather hire a person with a very narrow range of experience.

    Blows my mind.

  2. Elizabeth Ball May 22, 2013 Reply

    This is brilliant, Dale! If any of us saw that list before we began our websites we would never have tried anything, and it is fascinating how many 9-5ers say they would never dare to, either.

  3. Mark Harding May 23, 2013 Reply

    I have been developing my own cloud based ecommerce product which has been sucessful organically.

    My problem now is, that to grow my client base and product I need investment. Anyone got any advice?

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