Have you heard of the Theory of Constraints? It’s basically a business methodology that helps you identify procedures that put a strain on your operations or hinder your business output. The idea is that once you pinpoint the bottleneck between you and your overall business goal, you can improve your processes until you eliminate the constraint.
What does this have to do with selling on eBay? Well, what if that constraint—or what stands between you and selling more—is the shipping aspect of your business? Not the task associated with setting your shipping and handling times, but the actual act of finding scissors, fetching boxes, wrapping items, and printing labels.
Could a lack of organization in this department be a liability for your eBay business? Take this quiz to find out:
If you answered “yes” to all of the above, you’ve just identified an operational inefficiency in your business—one that, once remedied, could help you grow by leaps and bounds.
Getting your ship together.
To kick off this blog post, I posted a request for shots of real-life shipping stations via various eBay Facebook groups. I used a small stylized, pie-in-the sky shipping nook that I found on a design blog to accompany my request for photos.
A funny thing happened. About 50% of sellers were inspired by the concept of optimizing their shipping space, even sharing the post with fellow sellers. The other 50% laughed it off as not realistic for a busy seller. Someone even said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
Granted, what works for one might not work for another, but there’s something to be said for organization and preparation when it comes to shipping on eBay. So, if shipping is a business constraint for you, let’s fix that.
Designing your shipping station.
If money and space were no object, I’d tell you to order a shipping bench, load it up with supplies, and call it a day. But since most of us don’t have an extra $1500 lying around, let alone space for a 750 lb. workbench, it makes more sense to start with the basics.
Find a dedicated space.
This is the most important part. If you don’t have a fixed space, you’ll waste time looking for supplies, and your operation will slow to a crawl every time you sell something. It doesn’t matter if you take over a whole room, a small closet, or a corner of your garage. Just make sure that you have a space for the sole act of processing orders. You’ll need a flat surface or table for packing and shelves or racks for your shipping supplies.
Stock your space with shipping supplies.
When you sell something, the last thing you want to do is go on a box hunt. If you typically ship Priority Mail, march on down to the Post Office and grab a large assortment of free boxes and mailers or place your order online. If you use eBay branded shipping supplies, buy a large array of boxes and mailers to keep on hand. If you swear by recycled boxes (please, no Bisquick), make sure they’re broken down and sorted by size. Here are some other supplies that you’ll need:
Now, just make sure all of these items are within arm's reach. Think of your shipping space like an assembly line and order each step for maximum efficiency.
Keep it neat and organized.
Many of you chimed in on Facebook to say that you’d surely win an award for messiest shipping station should that contest ever come up. I get it. You’re probably an army of one, and having a Martha Stewart-inspired shipping center is not on your priority list. However, just a little organization and foresight could help you avoid losing precious time searching for your missing scissors.
Plus, there’s a psychological element to the look and feel of your shipping station. If it’s a pleasant place to spend time, your whole day will be brighter. If it’s a chaotic, dark dungeon, well…you get the picture. Also, contrary to what some of you might think, there’s no law against having a vase of flowers on your shipping table. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your space!
Of course, these are largely tips for small-scale sellers. If you grow to the point where you have a big warehouse (fingers crossed), you’ll need a large rack of well-ordered supplies and a long workbench for packing orders. But, the rest of the advice above applies. Keep it neat and well-stocked, for the win.
Remember, the first step in this process is identifying whether shipping inefficiencies are a constraint to your growth. If they are, you can improve upon your operations and free yourself up to doing more selling.
And, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can keep going with the Theory of Constraints and move on to the next area of your business that needs work. You’re the boss.
Are you inspired to up your shipping game? Tell us in the comments below. Feel free to share this article with your eBay colleagues via email, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
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