Josiah here from Bloom.
Today I'm writing about an aspect that isn't talked about enough when running Shopify stores.
There's no lack of content out there on the importance of designing nice brand visuals, creating irresistible offers, planning a well-thought out marketing strategy, understanding your unit economics....and the list goes on.
I tried researching about operational efficiency for my own education, but surprisingly it's rarely mentioned. I suspect it's because this aspect doesn't have a direct impact (read: visible) on sales and revenue.
When done properly, it frees up precious time for business owners to slow down and review their business holistically. To think about the outcomes rather than focussing on outputs. To work on the business rather than work for the business.
Ever heard of the term "you're just buying yourself a job"? Lack of time to work on the business is a common barrier to business growth. I've witnessed it first-hand multiple times in my career working for different employers, and also experienced it first-hand running my own Shopify stores.
I won't dive deep into the details of our experiences in this article just yet (that's for another time), but I'm going to share 5 steps you can take action immediately to start smoothening your operations, increase its efficiency, and save time!
Just as you would buy all the groceries you need within one trip to the supermarket, or do all the laundry in one go - you can apply the same concept to your Shopify store's operations.
Task batching is the process of planning ahead, grouping up relevant tasks, then dedicating a block of time to complete them altogether.
This gives us a longer periods of focus time.
And if you want to take one step further, you can categorise your tasks based on the stakeholders you're interacting with. E.g. Replying emails > replying to suppliers > logistics > influencers/agency > customers.
This will further help reduce context switching and improve your productivity.
Also check out the article Maker's schedule, Manager's schedule if you haven't already. It should help you understand and appreciate the type of schedule you should be running as a business owner.
Sometimes at the start of our business journey, we have to do things that are unscalable.
E.g. Talking to your customers 1-1 to understand their wants and needs. Hand-writing thank you notes for your first 1000 customers. Writing every single social media post yourself.
But we can find smaller details that can be duplicated, thus building repeatable processes and templates along the way.
Ever heard of the term "Create once, distribute forever"? It's a popular content marketing saying by Ross Simmonds, and we can apply it to our operations too.
Talking to your customers? Create a template used for reaching out to customers. A list of questions used in every 1-1 chat. Turn it into a (growth) loop where you ask them to refer friends who'd be willing to chat to you for research purposes (doesn't hurt to ask)!
Hand-writing thank you notes? Build a template where you personalise the name and the first paragraph, but keep the rest of the thank you note the same.
Create once, distribute forever.
You can document them in good ol' Google Drive Suite, or try out Notion (where you can customise and build your own knowledge base the way you want, for free).
For tasks such as keeping up with the latest news in your industry, checking your website's performance, and sending customers emails, you can automate these tasks as they don't require too much personalisation or customisation, but are usually tedious to complete.
There's no lack of free tools out there for automating your general and specific tasks - here are some of our favourites:
Just to name a few!
Clear communication makes for a smooth-running operation. How often have you had to go back and forth with your team on bottlenecks that could have been avoided in the first place?
Your team needs to understand how their specific task fits into the overall business plan. By establishing context, it'll help set clear expectations of the outcome and deadline.
Depending on the size of your business, the 3 sets of questions below (commonly used at startups) may help you communicate effectively with your team:
When you want to convince others on a new idea or new campaign:
When you brief in your team or vendors to help deliver work:
When you're sharing results with your team (or if you're reporting to stakeholders):
Not at that stage where you need sophisticated frameworks yet? Maybe something as simple as Loom is all you need. Loom is a free screencasting tool that allows you to share on-screen recording whilst capturing a video of yourself narrating it.
I'm a big fan of Loom - it works great especially for remote teams or if you have staff who needs flexible schedules (e.g. working parents).
Most businesses face the same challenge of spending too much time on tasks which don't have an impact on the bottom line. Everyday they run on a hamster wheel, then wonder why they haven't been able to achieve business growth.
Often, urgent tasks can seem more important than they really are, and it's easy to get bogged down in them. You could work on 10 tasks, but if these tasks don't contribute to sales and revenue, they're just outputs, not outcomes.
The solution? Cut out the excess and block out time each week to work on the important tasks. These important tasks may not always be fun to work on, but they have a direct impact on sales and revenue. You will have to learn how to say no to most requests, but it will help you stay focused on growing your business.
If you haven't already, check out Gary Keller's book - The One Thing. Here are some of our favourite key insights from this book:
Now, to recap the 5 steps above and put them into action:
I'd love to hear about your experiences improving your store’s operations as I'm also learning along the way. What has worked for you and what not. Feel free to email us at email@example.com to start a chat!
We shared an excerpt of this blog post on Reddit, and here are some additional tips and advice from other SMB owners:
Hiring a VA:
Automating inventory management: