When you get started with a new business, there are a lot of things you are not going to know. That’s okay because it is impossible to know everything before you get the ball rolling. It is also impossible to eliminate all mistakes you are going to inevitably make. You are going to have to cut yourself a little slack. Realize that grizzled veterans with MBAs don’t know everything either. Some of the most catastrophic errors in business history took place at the hands of experts.
If you are not an MBA holder with tons of experience in the business world, you already know that there are things you don’t know. That could actually give you a small advantage because you are aware of your shortcomings, and are far more likely to seek help when it is needed. When you run into friction, you are not just going to forge ahead and try to get by on bluster and false confidence. You are not going to proceed as if you already know everything. You are going to sit down and take a look at the aspects of business for which you need expert advice. That will be your shield against most of the bad things that threaten your success.
Three areas of business you will not be prepared for are logistics, operations, and IT. Most people are aware of how much they don’t know about technology. They know they need technology help. You likely need even more technology help than you think. The other two categories have a lot of hidden complexities. It is possible that you think you know more than you do about those subjects. Before you launch your grand opening, here are a few things you need to know about the things you don’t know as well as you think you do:
There is more to logistics than affixing postage to a box and handing it off to a delivery person. That is to logistics what correct spelling is to writing. It is merely the tip of the iceberg. If you really want to understand it, you have to consider all the ways your business can lose money when it is done poorly.
Your best bet is to find someone who can help you with full-service logistics consulting. The following is some of what you can expect:
- Assessment of your current contract and 3PF wish list
- Direct negotiation with the incumbent or evaluate the market via RFP
- Ensure provider accountability
The first two are directly related to saving you money. The third is explained by the makers of Shipware in the following manner:
By working Service Level Agreements (SLAs) into your contract, we hold your 3PL or 3PF accountable to measurable service and performance standards. This way, you can ensure operational efficiency in your supply chain and logistics processes
Did you know that you might be eligible for discounts, refunds, and credits from your shipping provider? If you are handling your logistics by yourself, you could be losing a lot of money that is due your business.
You also need to consider warehousing and fulfillment. You can’t do it all yourself. And you can’t compete with Amazon without help. Consider hiring a consultant to audit and assess your warehouse facilities. A logistics consultant can suggest improvements such as utilizing dedicated pallet racks for better organization, or they may recommend a more efficient inventory management system.
You might also consider third-party fulfillment opportunities that handle the warehouse and inventory component for you. With the right software and partners, you can offer your customers much of what they are used to with Amazon while managing your inventory in a way that maintains profitability. You can spend the next several years of lost opportunity to figure it out on your own. Or you can bring in the experts and give your business the boost it needs.
The key to ops is recognizing the type of business you have, and knowing its operational priority. For example, a service business operations focuses on getting the most out of both the front end and back end portions of the business. The front end is about consumer-facing processes such as delivery, customer service, technical support, and the like. The back end is more about proper staffing and training as well as keeping the operation on budget.
The challenge for the operations officer is to improve the entire system for greater efficiency and profitability. This is done by measuring performance, keeping up with the latest trends, and finding ways to streamline processes. If your company has 50 or more workers, you should have someone looking out for business operations who knows the territory.
Do you know what a server is? How about SaaS? Cloud computing? BI? HRM? We could go on this way for a long time. If you have to look some of this up, there is a good chance you need some help with tech if you are planning a company with over 50 workers.
Even if you are planning something smaller, you need to know about business networks and how they differ from the broadband you use at home. Making the right call regarding internal and external networks can make or break the security of your business. You need to know which systems to air gap and which to allow communication with the internet. An air-gapped system is one where no connections to external networks are possible. Systems with client data such as stored credit cards should not be accessible by systems connected to the open web. Your system backups should be air-gapped from everything else so that you have a hedge against ransomware attacks.
There is also the matter of data security. Whether or not you are aware of it, there are people trying to get into your data right now. And they are much better at getting to it than you are at keeping them out of it. Your clients’ data deserves more protection than some consumer software you picked up from the discount rack of a big box store.
You don’t need to know everything before you can safely start your business venture. But understand that some gaps in your knowledge can be more costly than others. Get expert consultation when it comes to logistics, operations, and technology for your business.