How tough is on-line retailing?

I know lots of online retailing millionaires. Is it easy? No. Is competition fierce? Of course. Are margins slim? Usually. But if you have passion for an idea, a market, a good plan, and are willing to work your butt off, then there are fantastic opportunities. 

(Aside: You won’t get a whole lot of response from people making their fortunes in on-line retailing in December - many of them are working 20 hour days this month.) 

I have often thought about starting something, but I’d rather hack. (I think that anyone can retail, but few can hack - I’m not so sure how empowering this thinking is.) 

Things you’d better consider before taking the plunge: 

- How will you find customers? Search engines, email blasts, catalogs, list buying, renting, or sharing, advertising… 

- How will you fulfill orders? Your own garage, rented space, dropshipping from your vendors,… 

- What capital will you require and where will you get it? (This may be the biggest barrier vs. hacking) 

- How much volume will you have to do to break even? (Better be right about this or you’re dead in a hurry) 

- What people will you require and how will you manage them? 

- What systems will you require and where will you get them? (Needless to say, there is great opportunity for competitive advantage here.) 

- What makes buying from you so much better than anyone else? (Maybe the most important question.) 

- There are hundreds of other things to consider, but you get the idea… 

People have started with a small idea are parlayed it into hundreds of thousands (and even millions) of dollars per year in less than a few years. The case studies are almost endless. Google a few and see how they did it.

Or watch Donny Deutch’s show “The Big Idea” on cable TV.

If you decide to do something like this (not the best time of year now since everyone will be tapped in a few weeks), find your niche and go for it. Best wishes.

Why is ERP becoming a dinosaur?

I remember leading the test drive of a popular ERP system for one of my enterprise clients. The salesman had never had a prospect force him into a “test drive”. My number one rule was “Nobody touches the keyboard except me.” 

As I entered an order, I asked, “How do I find my Customer Number?” 

As I entered a part number, I asked, “How do I see how many are in stock?” 

As I scheduled the order, I asked, “How do I see the current factory schedule for this item?” 

It drove the salesman nuts. He couldn’t explain how to do anything without grabbing the keyboard. 

I asked, “What good is this system if I can’t even enter one order?” 

His response…”Are you going to train your people or not?” 

That’s pretty much their attitude. He was so upset with me, he went directly to the CEO, who asked me what was wrong. I handed him one of our orders and said, “If you can enter this order into that system, we oughta buy it.” He couldn’t. We ended up buying another system that people could use.

The dinosaur is big, but it is dying. Hack on, and let the one who delivers the value win.