100+ Entrepreneurs reveal what it takes to run an eCommerce site

May 18, 2017

Two hours per day.

What would you do if you had a heart attack, and your doctor forbid you to work more than two hours per day, lest you suffer a stroke and die?

I think you’d be amazed at what you’d do. Humans are incredibly adaptive creatures.

We’ve conquered the sea and sky, built buildings that scrape the sky, and even sent massive metal hunks into space.

There’s no limit to what we can do…

...as long as you remove your limiting beliefs.

The two hour per day question was presented to me in Tim Ferris’s book, The Four Hour Work Week. And I thought it was a great question to display the adaptability, prowess, and creativity of entrepreneurs.

You see, true entrepreneurs force these kinds of “impossible” scenarios. They persist until reality bends to their will.

But what else do entrepreneurs have in common? More specifically, what do eCommerce entrepreneurs have in common?

We interviewed over 100 successful online store owners to find out. We asked them, “What qualities, habits, or skills led to your success?”

Here are their answers:

1. A relentless focus on customer service

Of over 100 responses, a focus on customer service came in at the most attributed factor of success.

It makes sense… customer service is a key differentiator between you and your competition. And bad customer service can cost you dearly.

Here are a few responses we got:

“We got where we are by working hard to provide good service, fair prices, and excellent communication to our customers. Happy customers come back and they bring friends.
Rob Cool of Vape Pen Sales

“Our goal is to source high quality products, to provide top level customer service, and to communicate as transparently as possible with our customers.”
Andy Thomas of 5col Survival Supply

“Persistence is key, and excellent customer service.”
John Catrambone Jr. of John and Co.

Ready to improve? Check out this list of
customer service skills to help you provide top-notch support.

2. Persistence

You had to see this coming. I talked about it in the first few paragraphs!

No entrepreneur can succeed without persistence. I’ve started six businesses now, and I can tell you that obstacles are inevitable. They’re just a part of life.

Whether your supplier backs out on your $1000 order at the last minute or your site gets hacked and you lose everything, something will happen.

It’s the ones who persist anyway who succeed.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what other store owners have to say:

“Put everything you have into your business if you want to be successful. The entrepreneurial lifestyle is not for the faint-hearted. Until you have truly spent every hour, minute, second of the day working, and every penny you have going back into the business, one will never feel the true pride of being their own boss.”
Samantha Liveoak of Samantha Dulay

Sharon Herrman of Zelda's Song

“Our biggest secret is just stick with it. So many times in the beginning it was tempting to quit but sticking to it through the toughest times has made us smarter and stronger. Bold’s subscription app has really helped get us through and has allowed us to add value for our customers.”
Jason D'Angelo of Talontoys.com

The day will come when you become profitable. You just have to keep up the work until you get there. One day, you won’t have to dump every waking hour or every penny into your business!

3. Prioritize before grinding

“Wait wait wait. You just said to keep going, no matter what!”

I know. But doing that without having your priorities straight is like hacking through a jungle but going in the wrong direction. You might get far, but you’re not going toward your goal.

“Make your to-do lists the night before. Take time to unplug and think on what to do next.”
Samad Saifudin of Sustain

“My first year of business, I just put my head down and grinded. Big mistake. I made a lot of silly, ok stupid, mistakes that could have been easily avoided had I just talked to other entrepreneurs. I'm now in year two and I'm super active on several entrepreneurial groups on Facebook. I even connect with them offline. We went from zero to more than 400 Target stores nationwide in under 18 months! I owe a lot of that early success to the people I've met and have helped me along the way.”
Justin Baum of ZZZ Bears

4. Always be networking

They say it’s not what you know, but who you know. And who you know often transforms into what you know. You know?

Networking is a VERY powerful tool in the entrepreneurial tool bag. Networks can catapult your business from five to six figures and beyond. (I should know - I went from $25k my first year in business to over $100k my second year thanks to my network expanding.)

Let’s see what others have to say:

“We have always tried to network with other store owners as much as possible.”
Julio Medina of Morale Patch Armory.

“Find a group of like-minded entrepreneurs and be active in it. I have a few social media groups that I belong to and it's great to bounce ideas off of each other, learn from one another, and be able to vent about the daily life of an entrepreneur.”
Michelle C. Smith www.mamasuds-llc.myshopify.com

“Networking has been huge for us. Except I tend to just call it making friends.”
Joelle Parenteau www.shop.xpeeria.com

5. Exercise, exercise, exercise!

I’m sure you expected this one. And the fact that you expected it shows how true it is.

Fitness keeps your energy levels (and self-confidence) nice and high. Besides, who wants to be rich, but fat and out of shape? No one, that’s who.

Here are some people who attribute exercise and general healthiness to their success:

“I have begun running 4-5x a week and that helps keep my stress down. Crucial.”
Brian Dale of RunRunRun

“Exercise, walking, drinking water, eating right, sleeping 7 hours a night, and living a healthy, balanced life have all been important to me.”
Mike Kearns www.vinopair.com

“Two big things have made me extremely productive: 1)  I work out every morning at 6:15am.  Gets my day off to a great start and allows me to not think about it throughout the day.  2) I take 20+ minutes at night to learn something about my industry and work.  Keeps my mind fresh, teaches me something, and sparks new ideas.”
Jon Katz of The Fanchest

Speaking of learning, that’s next up on our list.

P.S. Need help in the fitness department? Forbes wrote a nice, quick guide to health & wellness for entrepreneurs.

6. Lifelong learning

In the words of Master Yi, “A true master is an eternal student.”

Or to quote Frank Clark, “The more you learn, the more you earn.”

Learning is a crucial piece to the entrepreneurial puzzle. To have the most success, you must learn a lot in different fields like marketing, production, customer service, and more.

Check out these responses:

“I would say I am where I am today because I'm always willing to learn. Spend your time experimenting with software and look for ways to work smarter, not harder.”
Ricky Hayes of Incrediwear

“Read books. Not necessarily for pleasure (those are good too) but read any business book you can get your hands on. Many of them talk about ways to be successful and incorporating it into your personal life, smart business practices, and how to manage stress. All of which are extremely important topics.”
Samantha Liveoak of Samantha Dulay

7. They just DO IT!

I’ll let Shia LaBeouf take the lead on this one:

At the end of the day, entrepreneurs are those who just make it happen. They get out there and get to work, starting with whatever they have, wherever they are.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the eCommerce entrepreneurs we interviewed:

“I think that the secret to success is that there is no secret. Everyone seems to be looking for the magic bullet. It doesn't exist. What does exist for successful entrepreneurs is hard work, determination and a belief in themselves.”
Sean McHaffie of Brush Naked

Of course, there are more habits and qualities. Things like branding, problem solving, and automating your work.

But these seven are at the core of every success. They’re the fundamental habits and qualities to run a successful online shop.

For a final cheesy quote... “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Take that step today. You never know; Maybe you’ll experience a story like ours.

Topics: eCommerce News

Bill Widmer

Written by Bill Widmer

Bill is an eCommerce content marketing and SEO consultant. He's run several stores and worked with many well-known brands including A Better Lemonade Stand, SaleHoo, and Lifehack.

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