A few words of advice for small business owners

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WhistlingBadger

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Morning, all! There are several well-respected members on the forum who run small businesses online, and in my limited experience they do a superb job, so this post isn't pointed at anyone. I just want to share a few observations, based on recent adventures trying to get plants from various Esty and eBay sellers. I humbly offer the following advice for gaining and retaining customers:

1. Be proactive in communication, especially when something goes wrong. Any reasonable person is going to understand that life emergencies, weather, livestock shortages, and the US Postal Service can delay shipping. But it is common courtesy to make sure your customers know what is going on and what you are doing about it. If a customer has to contact you to ask where their item is, you've already messed up. Even if things end up resolved satisfactorily, they probably aren't going to come back.

That said...

2. Enthusiasm is no substitute for competence, and communicating your intentions is no substitute for actually doing the job. Customers don't want to hear, "Great news! We'll be shipping your item today!" They want you to ship the item, then upload the tracking info so they know. Likewise, don't bother saying "Hey, sorry we messed up. We're going to go ahead and issue you a refund for your trouble." Just issue the refund; chances are the customer will know why, and they'll appreciate your diligence.

Once you've actually done the work, sure, it's nice send the customer a personal note. But don't communicate your intention to do the job when you are capable of simply doing the job. When I get one of those "Guess what! We're going to do a thing today!" messages, I can almost count on the thing not getting done that day. That annoys the customer and makes the seller seem childish. It is baffling how many times I've had this issue in the past few weeks.

3. Remember that your responsibility as a seller doesn't end when you ship; it ends when the customer receives their item in good condition. This one is probably unfair, since postal delays and lost packages aren't the seller's fault. Most reasonable customers will understand this, especially if you've done your job and uploaded the tracking info. Still, it impresses the daylights out of me when I get a note from a seller saying, "Hey, I noticed there seems to be a glitch in the tracking. Have you received your item? If not, how shall we resolve it?" When the seller is on-the-ball enough to message me before I have to message them, it greatly increases my chances of coming back, even if something goes wrong.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Carry on.
 
You get the impression with many sellers, especially of plants, that these are more fantasies than businesses. People like to say they're entrepreneurial, and never to say their annual sales peak at $57. I suspect the advice above is good if people want to get past the 'business as a pose' stage and actually look toward at least partly supporting themselves with their efforts. Perception matters and since customers start out skeptical, it's really easy to reinforce that sense that people are playing at e-commerce.

For those of us on the buying end, the main goal is the delivery of quality goods in a reasonable timeframe. I don't think anyone is paying to have an inbox full of smiley emojis.
 
I should forward this to the seller on Amazon who sent me the wrong fish and refuses to reply to my many messages. I paid $40 for 3 fish and $40 for overnight shipping. He put a label on the box that said: DO NOT RETURN. CONTACT ME WITH A PHOTO.” I did this and not a word. Today I called Amazon and they are giving him 48 hours to respond. They did approve a full refund, but the shipping label is for ground. I cannot possibly risk their lives in 2-3 day shipping or even overnight. I explained this to Amazon. I’m hoping the guy will refund $40 and I will continue to keep these 3 fish.

I am the Queen of negative reviews and boy o boy this boy is about to get his, splattered everywhere.
 
I should forward this to the seller on Amazon who sent me the wrong fish and refuses to reply to my many messages. I paid $40 for 3 fish and $40 for overnight shipping. He put a label on the box that said: DO NOT RETURN. CONTACT ME WITH A PHOTO.” I did this and not a word. Today I called Amazon and they are giving him 48 hours to respond. They did approve a full refund, but the shipping label is for ground. I cannot possibly risk their lives in 2-3 day shipping or even overnight. I explained this to Amazon. I’m hoping the guy will refund $40 and I will continue to keep these 3 fish.

I am the Queen of negative reviews and boy o boy this boy is about to get his, splattered everywhere.
You can buy fish on Amazon?
 
If I may add a 4. to the list of advice... If your business is working and you intend to keep it going for an extended time (many years) treat yourself as an employee. By that I mean pay yourself a salary and do all the paperwork. When I had my computer business I did this including paying into Social Security. Now that I'm retired it makes a difference.
 
If I may add a 4. to the list of advice... If your business is working and you intend to keep it going for an extended time (many years) treat yourself as an employee. By that I mean pay yourself a salary and do all the paperwork. When I had my computer business I did this including paying into Social Security. Now that I'm retired it makes a difference.
As soon as I’m making consistent sales enough to make the double taxation worth it and change to LLC that’s definitely my plan
 
As soon as I’m making consistent sales enough to make the double taxation worth it and change to LLC that’s definitely my plan
LLC has advantages and disadvantages. I think it is the best choice for a small business with few employees. Personally I think the biggest advantage is that if someone sues you they can only sue the business, not you personally. Being sued can still hurt you but personalty owned things and property are protected. For instance no one could attach your home or put a lean on your car. Another big advantage is that you have total control of the business as no board of directors is required. Biggest disadvantage is that you cannot go public and sell stock. To be able to that you would have to incorporate which, with your type of business, would probably never be a concern.

In some ways incorporating is a rip off as to a small business. For instance when you incorporate you still have to pay unemployment insurance for board members yet those board members are never qualified to collect any benefits as they are considered to have been part of the decision to be unemployed. In other words they consider that you decided on your own to be out of work. This actually happened within my family. An aunt and two cousins had a business that was going down hill so they laid off my aunt to cut costs. She was denied unemployment benefits due to being on the board that made the decision. I THINK there MAY be a loophole as if the board member were removed from the board to become a regular employee then laid off but that would be self destructive as there would have to be a replacement board member to replace the one dropped. No real financial help is achieved.

Sorry, probably posted much more than needed but it is a topic that interests me a little. I MAY have missed a point or two in the above but I think, in general, it is pretty accurate.
 
Also don’t forget to do your taxes 🤪
 

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