I completed my BA at MMU in International Business and embarked upon 2 years’ work experience in the world of recruitment. Although there were lots of positives with the role, an exciting opportunity arose in the retail sector so I decided to move to pastures new. The role has a particular focus on the undoubtedly fastest expanding sector of the market … E-commerce.
I have put this post together as I am keen to share my experience of quitting my 9-5 job to undertake a director’s role within a start-up. I want to let others who maybe in a similar position and experiencing a slight feeling of anxiety when considering their next career move – to TAKE THAT RISK!!!
The importance of the online consumer in today’s retail market is undeniable and the potential sales increase that accompany this were highlighted during my recruitment career. My company’s largest client, yes you guessed it, was Amazon! The influence and change this company has created within the retail market is un-paralleled, having worked alongside this e-commerce giant for some time, I woke up one day and thought to myself, “I want a slice of that.”
Luckily for myself, my family currently operates and runs a successful business within this sector, albeit operating predominantly within the high-street area of the retail market supported with an e-store. From this moment on I made it my mission to become a part of this small organization, with a modest website and to help transform their e-commerce operations into a national outfit.
Having successfully persuaded my Parents with a range of ideas, I was brought aboard to transform their e-commerce site and tap into the endless possibilities e-commerce has for every business, thus my hard work began! I bit the bullet and handed in my notice with an excellent employer – ASP Group Recruitment and plunged into the unknown world of e-commerce, determined to carve out my own section of this booming industry.
Some of you will know, some won’t, there’s many struggles associated with working for yourself within a start-up & working alongside family, versus working for an established employer within a structured environment – they are “worlds apart”. I’ve listed my top 4 – so far … which should give those of you out there an idea of what’s to come, if you are planning on working for yourself!
- Focus – Maintaining your concentration whilst working is an absolute necessity for every job, but when working for yourself – it can be difficult, now and again. I’ve refreshed Facebook & Sky Sports News 3 times since the start of writing this post! All jokes aside, I did find keeping my mind focused on tasks difficult in the first few weeks without having a boss there to ensure I wasn’t checking the ASOS sale!
- Structure – Working for an established organisation gives most of us a structured job role, with clear responsibilities, targets, and most significantly a rough guideline as to what tasks to complete daily. Working in a start-up environment, your job role encompasses every task between CEO & chief tea maker! This job role can sometimes be a little daunting, as your ‘to do’ list changes completely throughout the day. You end up completing tasks that you didn’t even know existed until an hour before – yet the buzz you get can’t be denied – it certainly beats the day to day slog of working in office – for me anyway. I know this jump won’t be for everyone, but all I can say is I’m enjoying the ride so far.
- Learning new skills, lots of them and fast! – Since the start of this amazing journey, I have found myself mastering new skills on a daily basis. Most significantly, I have been learning to use a number of new software packages, including; Photoshop and various applications related to embroidery and heat transfer printing. I will spare you all the boring details associated with stitch counts and vinyl types, and tell you that it is a lot of vital information that you simply must absorb quickly or risk falling behind the competition!
- Working with family can be tough – Ask anyone that works alongside their family, this can be the most difficult aspect of your job as the dynamic of your relationship changes for 8 hours of the day. Your family member becomes your boss and admittedly it can be difficult at first to treat them as your boss but the best way we have found is to set clear & precise expectations on treatment in the workplace & measuring performance.
I have to be honest, it’s been tough learning a variety of new software packages in a short space of time, I have put in the hours – believe me. But, it’s well worth it. You need to be prepared to put in the hard work when you are starting out. Being adaptable and quick to learn is essential for anyone looking to work within a start-up … you need to ‘wear several hats’ to begin with. So whilst we are growing and taking on new members for our team I am making sure I can quickly shift from one task to another – until I have a mini-army to train (you need to be positive in your thinking)!
Having learnt all the above skills on top of designing and populating a new website (ok, ok, I got some help from WordPress!) I find myself now working until stupid-a-clock perfecting among other things my site’s SEO, for those non marketer’s this is essentially how you can influence your sites ranking on Google with the aim of being on the all-important first page!
Reflecting on the past few months, one of the most crucial lessons I learnt working alongside the world’s most successful e-retailer was the need to put the customer first in every decision you make in what they call ‘Customer obsession.’ This is something I have tried to implement into every aspect of our business model since arriving, that’s not to say customer satisfaction wasn’t always a core value of our business – it always has been, but the word ‘obsession’ does take this to another level.
In my opinion, this customer obsession is prominently focused within user experience on your site and this can be difficult to master if you are first timer in this sector as I am. Perfecting this aspect of our business has arguably been the most difficult responsibility I have undertaken in my new position, as something you have designed appears to be easy to use but as I am sure you are guessing this isn’t the case for everyone.
As with many tasks when you are starting out on your own, trial and error is the only course of action, that and asking your friends and family to try and use your revamped site and report back on its usability – it’s cost me one or two pints to say the least!
I now find myself at a critical junction of my journey within this e-commerce start up, the website has been successfully launched, with steady sales, yet I aspire to take this business to the next level and I hope those of you out there with an interest in e-commerce or just fancy helping a guy out could spare a couple more minutes of your time and check out my website….
www.heavensentbabygifts.co.uk as I would appreciate any feedback anyone may have as to the layout, accessibility and product range!