Business > Merchant Voice

To grow an ecommerce business, step away

I recently returned from a trip to Amsterdam. It wasn’t a holiday, but a strategy meeting. The three owners of Beardbrand spent a week in the city to focus on the bigger picture of how to build the company. Beyond that, we worked on ways to improve our relationships with each other, how our roles within the company will work, and what will be the big implementations to take the business to the next level.

Too often, ecommerce merchants get caught up in Facebook advertising, website conversion, or the various other daily projects that are sold to us as great ways to grow our businesses.

The reality is that one of the best ways to grow your ecommerce business and is to simply step away from it. The day-to-day grind takes a toll on your creativity. It can limit your ability to see the big picture. Inspiration for new ideas rarely comes when forced. It’s stepping away that helps you find opportunities to up your game.

One of the core structures of Beardbrand is quarterly strategy sessions. Importantly, we make sure to hold these sessions away from the office. I’ve found that meeting even in the same city can be distracting, as the normal daily grind is always pulling me back in. When we set our meeting in a new city, we break our habits, to be more focused.

My colleagues and I like to get outside of not only our city, but also the country. The costs are higher to have strategy meetings outside of the U.S. But we’ve found we get far more inspiration for how to improve our business. Just by immersing yourself in another culture you’ll find new ways of doing things and simple changes that can make a big impact.

During these strategy trips, we make it a point to not just sit in a conference room. We will have two days established for strategy, and leave three to five days for other meetings and exploring the city.

We’ll reach out to local business contacts for insight into how they are building their business, as well as things to do in the city. These connections with other entrepreneurs are helpful, as it facilitates future collaborations, as well as referrals to potential vendors.

For instance, when in Amsterdam I met with the founders of Dick Moby, a sunglasses company. They mentioned a fulfillment partner that has been a helpful resource for them. Those types of connections come about only through building a global network.

Another advantage of leaving the business for a longer period is that it forces you to make sure the daily fires can be handled by other team members. A core structure of being able to grow a business is to step away and know that others will pick up where you left off.

For the size of Beardbrand, it makes sense to limit our international trips to two a year. We’ll have our other two quarterly meetings in the U.S.

Regardless, the sessions help us set quarterly goals and stay focused on core investments, to grow the business. It also helps us identify sales offers from potential vendors that promise the world, but may not actually fit our business model. Having that foundational strategy to fall back on will help avoid these mistakes.

Strategic planning should happen at all levels of your organization to ensure big projects are built to move the company forward. It all starts at the top. Go ahead. Feel good about stepping away. Build something bigger.

Eric Bandholz
Eric Bandholz
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