Practical Ecommerce

Time Is Money

It never ceases to amaze me how much time people waste trying to save money. Having grown up in a small town (fewer than 2,000 people), I recognized that paying a little more for staple items locally was less costly than driving 20 miles to save a few bucks.

In the business of ecommerce, it’s more about time than anything. Tried-and-true technology (whether it be smartphones or automation software) is a must if you want to reap the true benefits of working for yourself, and my bet is the majority of small business owners are working for peanuts.

Take order processing, for instance. The majority of small online-store orders are still manually processed — an employee retypes orders into an antiquated database. This wastes time, increases costs, and makes it difficult to offer competitive prices and zero handling fees. Yet, accounting says that outlaying a few grand right now isn’t feasible.

I watch my neighbors sacrifice family time to do tedious things themselves. Sure, I could mow my own lawn and get on a ladder to clean the loose coconuts and fronds off the palm tree, but it would take me hours. So when I have a guy come do it for $35 – well, it makes sense. In other areas, I’m very frugal and refuse to overpay for services I don’t need (like 411 assistance when I’m on the web anyway).

There is software that can import store data — on the fly, updating inventory in real-time, printing shipping labels and passing tracking numbers directly to customers. Yes, it’s an investment, but when you analyze the time it saves, you come out ahead. The more expensive “lite” photo editing programs will do mass thumbnail creation and allow you to quickly resize, crop and touch up graphics. Online postage will save you from standing in line at the post office.

There are also tricks that cost only a fraction of upfront time to implement: Did know you can easily link to UPS order tracking by referencing the order number alone? Or that Google’s Picasa software is quite handy for organizing photos by date, folder or a slew of other references? Simply using the product code (or SKU) as names for related files (like images, spec sheets and video presentations) expedites the time it takes to locate files on local machines. Some online store software will let you hard code the reference, eliminating the need to import those fields.

I have a rule of thumb: If I can make more money doing something myself — as long as I’m capable — I do that. But if it’s less expensive (based on what I think my time is worth) to automate the task or pay someone else, that’s the route to go. It’s no secret that most small-business owners and managers work far too many hours. The ultimate excuse is the time it will take to change the way we do things, and we wind up staying the existing course, never making it easier or more profitable.

Pamela Hazelton

Pamela Hazelton

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Comments ( 5 )

  1. Legacy User February 7, 2008 Reply

    I agree with the timesaving techniques for business, but when it comes to personal life, why take the elevator to save time, then go to the gym after work for exercise when you can ake the stairs? You can save $80 (monthly gym membership, and mowing/gutter cleaning) by doing the work yourself and you get exercise! Just a thought.


    — *Derek Baun*

  2. Legacy User February 7, 2008 Reply

    Love this article! So true. I personally got my Virtual Assistant BEFORE I could afford it…she does my databases, shopping cart system, copywriting/editing-so I can make money doing what I love! It's all about balance! Time IS Money & your life can slip through the cracks!

    Marcia the Transition Chick! (my blog is being re-designed-by another!)

    — *Marcia Merrill*

  3. Legacy User February 7, 2008 Reply

    I found your article very refreshing. It's nice to finally read what I've been saying for a long time. As a sales rep for an ecommerce solution, I find it difficult understanding why customers aren't willing to "go the extra mile" to have their ecommerce solution directly connected to their accounting software.

    I will certainly use some of the arguments you've submitted next time I meet some potential customers.

    Great job

    Dominique Caron

    — *Dominique*

  4. Legacy User February 7, 2008 Reply

    Reading a great book right now that preaches automating and outsourcing.

    The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris.

    I'm in the process of launching another company and this time around I am searching for ways to keep things running smoothly without so much of me in the middle. Thanks for the tips.

    Deborah Smith

    — *Deborah Smith*

  5. Legacy User February 6, 2008 Reply

    Funny you should mention this. One of my businesses has an inventory/customers, and I switched from 2Checkout to PayPal a couple of years ago and it was such a change to go from manually entering customer info into Quicken Home & Business to having everything done by PayPal. What a time saver!

    I'm now looking to move from PayPal to my own merchant account/shopping cart system, and have started researching ways that I can keep the "flow" going that I have with PayPal (the one positive there to a growing number of PayPal negatives). It looks like you have some information here on that, so I'm hoping my search just got easier – thanks. :-)


    — *Rich*