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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Making e-commerce work from the get-go

Laying solid foundations is key to the success of any business, as e-commerce expert, retail guru and fellow entrepreneur Sabri Marsaoui knows first-hand.

Got your brand name? Check.
Built your website? Check.
Distribution network in place? Check.
HMRC/VAT registered? Certainly.
Profit and Loss and Cash Flow forecasts? Definitely.
Supplier agreements in place? Of course. Ready to Launch? Not quite yet.

As a Startup, you become a business because of both the talent and ambition of the entrepreneur. What’s
evident from experience, is that these first two parts are the simple bit. The entrepreneur has a product or a service they are clearly an expert within and they have the will to sell and provide that service ingrained within their DNA. I’m always asked can anyone become an entrepreneur; the simple answer is yes, however not everyone can become a successful one.

What is more evident though, is that startup businesses usually have very little capital and
even less time to focus on looking holistically at the business as a whole. HR, health and safety,
tax, people management, insurance, compliance, marketing; the list is endless. But as the talent-
driven idea develops into a solid business, with a few team members onboard perhaps, having a view and understanding on every element is vital for survival and certainly for taking that next step.

In the world of e-commerce, this is no different. You may not be setting up shop, bricks-and-mortar style circa 1990, but in 2017, the foundations are just as important. A great example that springs to my mind is that of an innovative e-commerce company that was started by two very technically savvy entrepreneurs, who understood the internet and its capabilities, however would openly admit to not being the most business-minded startup owners.

With a turnover approaching £1.2million, when I joined the company – through targeted general management of the business and clear leadership and direction; just 18 months later, staff numbers had quadrupled and turnover soared to £12.1million.

When the business was finally sold to a premier provider of online health and beauty products and private prescription services, they knew that what made the business a huge success was the true partnership approach which was the key to delivering these exceptional results. It’s the reason that I was asked to go across to become the Chief Operating Officer for the new owners – now a market leader in the industry.

It’s also an example of how understanding and embracing technology, whilst delivering exceptional service, helps businesses to reach their true potential. But with budget restraints, tax regimes hampering growth potential, the wake of Brexit and now even a General Election, it’s time to think more laterally about the ways in which Startups in the e-commerce sector can build a successful and profitable business.

It doesn’t have to cost the earth and it doesn’t have to mean employing permanent members of the team; rather more, it takes the objectivity and additional talent of expert consultants to really hone and shape a business that is viable in a very crowded market place. And it doesn’t stop there.

Ongoing support from consultants willmean that entrepreneurs feel supported throughout their journey and even when they are established. We can troubleshoot, but what is more important is to have a relationship that flourishes as the business does too. That person you turn to when you need honest, objective and constructive advice.

It’s about creating that partnership approach between entrepreneur and consultant, where both sides see value and work to their strengths that makes Startups into SME’s and beyond.

From the get-go, Startups need to have the basics covered – software, website, location etc, but moving forward, making sure that all the other aspects are given focus, when you, as the entrepreneur, don’t have time to do so, is critical.

So, the time is now.

Top 5 tips for Startup entrepreneurs:

• Research your marketplace and competitors
• Create a clear vision and strategy for the business and focus on your USPs
• Reward customer loyalty
• Don’t try to do everything yourself – build a team of highly trained people
• Get experts on board early

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