Growing up in New Jersey, I watched my parents struggle paycheck to paycheck with their vacuum store. Seeing the effort they had to put into making ends meet, I decided I never wanted to be an entrepreneur (that didn’t work out). So I went in another direction and ended up on Wall Street.

In my last year on Wall Street, I discovered that Internet stocks seemed almost recession proof, and mentioned as much to my parents. I suggested taking their vacuum business online, but they insisted they wanted no part of it, because they didn’t understand it.

That got the cogs in my brain working. I wanted to show them how easy it was, but my own curiosity also took over and wanted to know whether I could sell vacuums successfully online.

So I created and branded Crucial Vacuum in 2008-2009, and today we have more than 1,400 products and do 88 containers annually across verticals. We permeated vacuum bags, rollers, hoses, filters, belts, and more. And it happened so quickly that I branched into replacement parts for other industries as well, building Crucial Coffee and Crucial Air.

Today I’ll be going over the challenges I’ve faced building my e-commerce businesses  (Think Crucial and Skubana) and how I’ve addressed them.

4 Common ERP challenges

I ran into plenty of enterprise resource planning (ERP) issues when I was starting out. From insufficient software to poor inventory tracking, I’ve hit it all since I started a decade ago. I’ll be going over the 4 more common ones.

Patchwork integrations

When I first started working in e-commerce, I had to have different tools and software for everything. One tool to manage inventory, another to handle order forms and returns, another to gather analytics…and they all integrated poorly. Data would get lost, inventory counts would be off, and the analytics weren’t accurate.

“ERP touches nearly everything in the enterprise. Ideally it should be able to exchange data and interoperate with every other program in the company.” – Rick Cook, ERP Integration Challenges

However, this wasn’t the case before Skubana, which I found out the hard way. I struggled with developers, switching out tools, and testing different software (which takes up a lot of time and money, since we had to migrate content over).

How to deal with this challenge

Since I began, Shopify and the rise of API-based synchronization has helped to resolve many of these issues. Look into using pre-built integrations that are already tried-and-tested.

Find a tool that offers the features you need, and not more. Take a look at your processes and what tools you need most before researching your options. What would it take to automate your entire selling process? Check as many of those boxes as possible. If you need inventory, order processing, and analytics, get a tool that offers those.

I realize that selecting an e-commerce tool can be a daunting task. Unless you’ve familiar with the landscape of available software out there, try doing this; Describe your processes and systems to an independent consultant to get their recommendations, or an integrations expert at different solutions companies. Have them advise you on the suitability of their systems, or refer you to a better fit. At Skubana, we make sure only to work with e-commerce sellers who are a good fit, that means turning away paying customers who won’t get the best use from our tool.

Selling out of inventory

Back in 2007, I had to purchase inventory on the open market, and things got pretty expensive. Not only that, it was difficult to keep track of all my inventory and things sometimes sold out for months.

When stock got low, we didn’t have the systems in place to alert us right away or automatically reorder, and we had too many SKUs to keep track of manually. That means that we were often marking up our prices to avoid selling out completely, or taking down successful ad campaigns because we were low on stock.

As you can guess, being out of stock wasn’t great for our reviews or reputation, so it was a huge challenge my team and I had to overcome.

Some of my early mistakes included overlooking the different channels we were selling on. We sold on Amazon, but we also had other sales outlets. When we weren’t careful, our other marketplaces were draining our inventory faster than we expected.

How to deal with this challenge

If you’re in a pinch, you can raise your product prices and stop any successful marketing campaigns to preserve your inventory. However, it’s better to prevent being in this situation with foresight. Amazon sellers can use Amazon Seller Central to get email alerts for their inventory on Amazon. If you’re a multi-marketplace seller, tools like Skubana can inform sellers what their safety stock level is, and constantly monitor/adjust in real-time.

Poor supply chain management

When I first started out, I paid more attention to delivery than individual steps in my supply chain, but the entire process needs to be looked at as a whole. Your supply chain dictates the quality, speed, and efficiency of your items. If your suppliers make a mistake, it could cause delays, resentment, and a poor working relationship. It just spirals out of control sometimes if mistakes go unchecked.

How to deal with this challenge

Focus on efficiency. Make sure you know your entire manufacturing process, including the source, raw materials, delivery channels, and even distributors. Ask yourself whether your production line is the most efficient it can be. Can you make your deliveries quicker, safer, and easier?

Learn about your supply chain and the time that goes into your product so that you can improve it. Here are a few places to check;

  • Do supply chain decisions happen at the management level or operations? Allowing your operations people to make decisions is quicker, but may not fit in with overall strategy.
  • Does it take longer to process paperwork and work through red tape than it does to process your goods? If so, your paperwork is taking much too long.
  • Have you minimized human touch points and areas for human error? Have you automated everything you can?
  • Is it more convenient to use cash, credit, or other payment systems at different stages of your supply chain? Is there a way you can automate payments?
  • Who is responsible if there’s a shortage of certain part? Will the suppliers you work with take responsibility if they run out of something?
  • Should you focus on best of breed or the best integrated suite for operation software? Do your tools coordinate well with each other, while doing the job?

Getting the right team

Getting the right team in place to help run my business has been one of the best investments of time and money I’ve made in my career. I run a remote and in-house team across my different brands. When you have the right team behind you, business runs smoothly, everyone is accountable, and you can relax at night. With a bad team behind you, it’ll be more difficult to run your business, and you’ll find yourself stressing at night about whether things got done.

How to deal with this challenge

Hire employees with credible history and experience. Always ask them to complete a trial run with the company before bringing them on full-time so you can gauge how they fit in with the culture, their work habits, level of commitment, how well they communicate, and their capability.

We regularly recruit on Upwork, Hubstaff Talent, and I’ve personally reached out to people whose work I’ve seen online (ie. writers of a blog, a freelancer who built an app I like using, etc.).

What to look for when selecting an ERP solution

Something that will help solve multiple ERP challenges at once is software that fulfills all your needs. Getting the right tool in place will integrate all your needs seamlessly, manage your inventory, and organize your supply chain for efficiency. It will help you and your team automate your operations so everything runs much more smoothly.

In order to utilize your tool to the fullest, I put together a list of what to look for when selecting an e-commerce solution.

  1. Your software shouldn’t take a cut of your revenue.
  2. There should be no contract.
  3. You must be on the cloud and operate in real-time.
  4. Ask: Is it customizable for your business?
  5. Your software must have the capacity to allow you to grow your company.
  6. Always try before you buy.
  7. There should be no set-up fees and no custom development.

Always expect the best from your tool, and don’t settle for less.

P.S. I built Skubana out of a need for this. Please email info@skubana.com with any questions, or sign up for a 14-day free trial..

Best of luck, sellers!

Chad_photo_HeadshotChad Rubin builds e-commerce businesses and is a top 250 Amazon Seller. Fresh out of college and Wall Street, he took his family vacuum business online and built his own direct-to-consumer e-commerce business called Crucial Vacuum. He grew it from 0 a $20 million dollar valuation in just 7 years. He co-founded Skubana with DJ Kunovac as an all-in-one e-commerce operational tool.

Written by EcommerceRVW
EcommerceRVW is a dedicated Ecommerce Blog bringing you regular ecommerce articles, reviews, case studies and guides. We're passionate about helping ambitious store owners take their business to the next level.