"Stuckage" & Accountability: Why DIY ecommerce is unrealistic (even for us)

"This is embarrassing. —kind of. I mean, we can't seem to get momentum. It's very easy to be like, ah, we gotta get to that, but we're gonna keep doing this. Gotta—you know—it's procrastination." 

Beyond the Cart Lightburn Podcast - Ecommerce

We're ending season two talking about "stuckage." It's totally real. We see it all the time. You're stuck making decisions. You can't get any traction on your project. It happens a lot in ecommerce. And we're gonna talk about how to solve that. We're also gonna apply some of the solutions that we often give our clients to our D2C brand, Bilberry West.

Hosted by:

Andy Winthieser
Partner
Nora Lahl
Partner

Today’s Topics:

  • DIY ecommerce is unrealistic — even for us
  • Don’t create problems that don’t exist yet – part one
  • The answers are normally obvious but hard to accept
  • The "sunken cost" fallacy
  • Don’t create problems that don’t exist yet – part two
  • How accountability will make or break your business
  • How to remove heavy emotional barriers and move forward

LOOK & LISTEN 

What are we talking about? Getting stuck. Getting unstuck. Getting unstuck. 

Welcome to Beyond the Cart, presented by Lightburn. I'm Nora. And I'm Andy. And this is a podcast all about ecommerce where we share some of our experiences building, managing, and promoting direct to consumer brands. Let's get started today. We're rounding out season two and we are talking about "stuckage." 

Yeah, stuckage, it's real. It's totally real. Except it's a made-up word. We made it up five minutes ago, but it's a real thing. And I bet if you're listening, you kind of know what we're talking about. We see it all the time. You're stuck making decisions. You can't get any traction on your project. Happens a lot in ecommerce. And we're gonna talk about how to solve that. We're also gonna apply some of the solutions that we found for our clients to Bilberry West.

Andy, do you have an update for us on Bilberry West. Well, we're stuck. We can't seem to get momentum. Yeah. We don't have a launched site. Yeah. The limited number of product that we have is sold before we can do what we need to do with it, which is kind of a good thing. We're getting great feedback on it, which is the silver lining is that you've got some chairs out in the wild and people are enjoying them, right? Yeah, absolutely. But we can't get materials enough materials to really get things started, especially for a site to go live that we could sell. Yeah. That's part of it. That's getting better. I like to use material as the, uh, excuse. Yeah, totally. It's a material. To avoid doing all those things that we have to do to get an ecommerce site up and running. Uh, yeah. Like we haven't figured out shipping yet, but we don't have enough products. So that's like a future us problem, right? Yeah. Yeah. So there's a lot we could be doing. Yeah. But it reminds me of a lot of what we do every day for our clients is it's amazing. Cuz we walk into these, uh, our clients' businesses and, and they often tell us we're stuck. And, and to us it's just like, whoa, this is easy. And we, we can unravel it and. Unstick them. Unstick. 'em very quickly. Now the tables have turned. We are the client and I get it.

DIY ecommerce is unrealistic — even for us.

Yeah. Like I think, I think it's funny because if, if we are coming in, you know, fresh to a problem like that, where it's like, oh, we can't get this off the ground. There's so many outside forces that are causing trouble. And it really turns out a lot of the forces are, are coming. It, the call is coming from inside the house. eah. We really don't have materials. Like you couldn't build chairs tomorrow if we had everything else sorted out. But I'm also man dragging my feet a little bit on putting pressure on the, you know, eight months ago, nine months ago, that was a real issue today. It's kind of an issue we could probably be like having, having these things dovetail. Like we have kind of an idea of when we're gonna get materials in so we could have a production timeline so we could get the rest of the stuff worked out now. So it all come together. Yeah. And right now we're putting that off. So. Yeah. Well, It's just overwhelming. I mean, when you take a step back and like, oh yeah, this is all the stuff we have to do to get an ecommerce site launched, which we knew, which we know cuz it is what we do all day and we do it for our clients and we do it very well for our clients. It's just different when you're trying to do it yourself. Yeah. And I think part of the problem is that like not one of us owns it. Like I've been seeing through the website build and design and it exists. There's some pieces that are missing, but for the most part, the site is there could sell a product. I could get that off the ground soon. Yeah. But there's lots of questions I have for you, but we aren't sitting down and doing that. Yeah. So it's funny that it's so easy for us to come in and help our clients out and get unstuck. We can see it. We can just like, see it immediately.

Don’t create problems that don’t exist yet – part one

What, what is holding them up? And you know, we were talking about this earlier, before we came over to record. And one of the clients I thought of was Callisters who we had on last year, who I think they tried to launch a ecommerce site two, three times, like how yeah. But what I'm mistaken, it was two or three times. Yeah. And they did. Yeah. Without, you know, and, and well, well start before us and it kind of failed. Yeah. Or didn't get off the ground completely. You know, they had two. Yeah. They did start, they did have at least one site that went live. Yeah. Um, but then it just, they had to turn it off because they hadn't figured out shipping and it was the, the site was super slow on the back end. Yeah. So they couldn't process orders it was a bit of a train wreck. Yeah. But then you reminded me when we were talking about it, that one of the things that they were really hung up on and felt like this insurmountable problem was inventory. Yeah. It seemed really complicated. Um, and when they came to us, they said, we don't know how we're gonna figure out, you know, taking inventory from our retail locations, our stores and making sure that we have that inventory available on the site. What if we oversell accidentally what's gonna happen? This is like a big problem to solve. And I think it was you like, what, what did we end up doing for them? Yeah. We just built a different inventory. Yeah. We just split it. 

The answers are normally obvious but hard to accept 

It seems so simple. Like obviously split it out and then you have that dedicated inventory. Yeah. For the shop. You're never gonna accidentally run out because of the store, but you know, they needed that outside perspective to come up with that solution. Yeah. And I think we've, I can think of a couple things that on our, on our site, on Bilberry West or, you know, our company feel big, feel like big problems that probably just need a new set of eyes. Maybe. Yeah. Um, yeah. I mean, I think we're, we're doing a, we're not applying what we preach to our clients. So it's really, it's been fascinating to see, like we can go into a client and we do this all the time. They are stalled. We come back and in record time launch a site and get it done and get it going. And we can do that. We do that all day and then we're not, we're not actually, but all the issues that our clients coming to us to fix, we're having with Bilberry. Yep. And then we're like, I don't know, what should we do? What's happening? Why is this happening to us? I think it's not a matter of being smart enough or experienced enough. I mean, certainly our experience, I think helps us solve problems for our clients that they don't, you know, face every day. Yeah. But it's also just like having that focus. Yeah. Focus. That accountability of having that outside partner holding, holding you to deadlines. Yeah. Holding you to making decisions. Yeah. And we're, you know, one thing I think we do a really good job of, we're very positive. We're very confident with our clients and say, okay, we're gonna do this. We're gonna split inventory or fix this problem. However we're gonna do it. We're very confident which gives the client confidence to move forward, stop overthinking it and, and, and get it done. Yeah. It's bizarre that we're not doing it for ourself. It's a little embarrassing. Maybe. Sort of.

Of, but it's also easy and I get it cuz our, a lot of our clients faces. There's a hundred other things that are going really well. We are very busy. Yeah. It's very easy to be like, ah, we gotta get to that, but we're gonna keep doing this. Gotta, you know, it's procrastination. 

Priority. Yeah. And I think that's okay. Part of it, what we need to get it done. Yeah. We have fairly significant investment in this. We need to get it done. How are we gonna get it done? You have some ideas. 

Well, okay. So here's an example, right? This was a really good decision. That is a really bad decision. And then it's, it's something that I would, we would actually get involved with at a client. So we have a really cool space. Mm-hmm to build these chairs. It's perfect. Sort of. Maybe a little bigger than we need today, right? Nah, Not really. No, no. I mean once when I had production going there, we were using every inch. Okay. So it's a great space. But when we first started down this path, we were gonna get material in one form. Oh yeah. And this space as perfect as it is, is on the second floor of an industrial building. How many elevators are there? There are zero elevators. Oops. Um, we're getting the material in a different way. Right. So we're now we're getting it as a sheet instead of boards. Very big sheet. It's very big and it is ridiculously heavy. So part of my procrastination with pushing the, everything forward is like the few times I've gotten material, it is a horrific experience. To get it up. Yeah. To the second floor. Yeah. So. What's uh, like it is a, so instead of being like, well we should fix this problem. I'm just like, well, we can't build chairs. You know? We're like, we're stalling. Oh, materials pushed out another week. Oh that's okay. It's like, cause, I don't have to solve this other problem as long as yeah. Yeah. So I mean really easy solution. We just find a different space. Yeah. First Floor. Yeah. Done. Yeah. Now Know, so our client came to us and say, well, we got this great product, you know, and I keep getting text messages being like, Hey, you guys have any more? Mm-hmm you know, Steve just sent a text. He's like, Hey, where can I get some chairs? And I was like, uh, so yeah. It's just crazy how you like you're stuck on problem. Yeah. You're stuck on trying to like make that space work when the point of this business is not to be in that space. Yeah. The space doesn't matter. The space cares about doesn't blow or other spaces burn it. Don't burn down. Don't burn it down. But you really, I mean, we need to, to burn down the space, find a different space. It's really about taking like a step or two or five back and figuring out what your real problem is. Yeah. Because I think you get hung up on the end of the problem sometimes instead of stepping back, like the inventory one, the, ‑ Yeah. It's the same situation as inventory. Like they got kept getting stuck on. Well, we're not sure how to, we're gonna have to move inventory back and forth from our brick and mortar stores. Mm-hmm to ship it or do we ship out of the, and it was like just carve out some inventory. Let's get started on the website. Yeah. And boom. Well, A little bit of it is that like sunk cost fallacy, right? 

The sunken cost fallacy

Like you've put time and effort into setting up that space. The shape of the space is great. You picture yourself in that space when you're thinking about how this is gonna go. Yeah. Whether or not you realize it. And so you've, you've invested in this space. Yeah. We've paid however much to be there. You've set it up. You built out a couple like half walls to make some Space's. It's great. It, it is. If I could take that space and transport it yeah. Lower to the ground, it would be perfect for what we need. So yeah, to me that reminds me of another client of ours that like was hung up on getting like hundreds of possibly thousands of pieces of inventory, like skews onti their site. Literally tens of millions. So yeah. That particular, no tens of millions. Tens of millions. Okay. Yeah. Like just every permutation, every permeation. Yep. So this client, uh, has a custom product that is made up of a number of components mm-hmm and, and use the, the customer can configure out. However you want, if you take all those materials, substrates and what they use to build them. Yeah. Infinite possibilities. It's that infinite. But it is literally over a hundred million combinations. Yeah. Which Is crazy. They're a first attempt that they failed. And then they stalled. They were trying to load into their ERP system, every single possible scenario. And we said, why would you do that? You're never gonna finish that task. Right. So that was their stalling point. They spent a ton of money and time. Yeah. Trying to engineer it, their system kept basically blowing up. They were like, it was just a disaster. Just. Spinning. Yeah. 

Don’t create problems that don’t exist yet – part two

Similar to how are we gonna get these boards up? Like there that isn't a solvable problem. You have to solve a different, you have to step back and like what, what's the problem we can solve. Yeah. You're not gonna make there be an elevator in that building. You're not gonna make it easy to get those sheets up to the second floor. No. So stop being on the second floor, correct. You're not gonna get your 10 of millions of skews loaded. So stop trying to do that. right. Like load. And they try, I mean, they try, they spent two years and not with us lots and lots of dollars. So yeah. I think, you know, we see people B2B launching ecommerce they get stuck, you get into a meeting, you look, you start to break down all the things that you have to do to do it really well. And yes, you do need to do those things, but you don't have to do 'em right away. Well, and perfection is the enemy of correct. Is that perfection is the enemy of good. Yeah. Let's go with that. Let's go with that. I like, so, you know, it's you're we had a client who was, kept talking about supply chain redundancy and they didn't have an audience yet. Like you don't have supply chain issues. You already have. You, think some inventory you're hoping you will. Yeah. Like that's the hope is that you have these bigger problems to solve in the future. But today you just have to tell people that your product exists. Maybe like they don't even know about you yet. Right. Don't worry about supply chain redundancy. That's not a problem for your startup to solve necessarily. So I think it's, you know, it's that balance of solving the right problems for today. Yeah. I think that is where you can get really hung up as you're you're either looking too far ahead solving problems you don't have yet, because really you're avoiding the problem that's right in front of you. Yeah. That does need solving. Yeah. So have you decided to move? Is that the, that that's the crux of it all. I think so. Yeah. Yeah. I'm kind of disappointed cuz I do like that space. So do I, But, and I've hunted in that area. We like that area. Yeah. I've hunted nothing. So I don't know, but we're well, we'll see. It's it it, it sort of changes what the problem is. Like I thought it was supply. It was a little bit yeah. And I use that as a crutch. Mm-hmm I also thought we would have more, quite honestly, negative feedback on the product. So it's like, oh, well it's done.

Well, I will tell you that the two that are on my porch, there have been a lot of Pokémon cards traded this summer, sitting on that porch, my son and his neighborhood friends. And it's all great feedback. Yeah. Perfect. The arms are the perfect size to lay out a couple cards for trading. Did you even realize— I no, but I can, I can picture it. Yeah. Yeah. So I, I do think moving is in our future. I think that is the, um, solution to the log jam. Well, it's interesting that you say that because that's, this is a perfect example of, I didn't really put it together. That that was the real, like, that was the big problem to solve. And now that you say it's so simple, It is the most horrific experience. But you've been avoiding in my life. Yeah. You've been avoiding all the other like this. You knew that this was a problem that you didn't have an easy solution for. So yeah, I get it. It sounds like we've, we've kind of solved this big problem that was looming and holding us back this whole space issue. But really, to me, there's a, a bigger issue that we've had, which is accountability. Yeah, absolutely.

How accountability will make or break your business

We don't have it because we're, we're treating it. Like, you know, it isn't our priority. No, there's no one person who owns this more than any, you know, it's not their top priority. I think you said it earlier, we're treating it like a second class citizen. It's not our top focus. No, not one person owns it. And I think that's where, when our clients come to us, they're ready for that accountability. They're creating that accountability by hiring us. Yeah. We're like a personal trainer. Yeah. For ecommerce. Yeah. Right. You know, it's really easy to skip a day at the gym when nobody's there to tell you what the fuck. Yeah. And it, or if it's internal, if you can manufacture some other more important thing, then you can push it down. You've got a reason. Everybody knows that reason, but you've got, you know, someone like, you know, our relationship with our clients. We're, we're emailing you with that status update once a week. Yeah. We're saying, here's what you owe us. Why haven't you gotten it to us yet? Let's have a call. You cannot hide . Yeah. Um, and I think when I look back at our clients that are like, have been unstuck by working with us, they maybe we're trying to do something internally and they were distracted by their primary business. So, you know, the new site, the new direct to consumer offering, you know, just didn't have the focus internally. That's one reason I think it gets stalled out. Or if you have a partner that isn't fully owning it. Yeah. So if you have a partner, maybe it's just a developer, they're still waiting for you to tell them what to do. Yeah. And we've seen that we've had clients that have hired developers internally on staff to, to launch B2B commerce and it gets stuck installed because it's just not, they're not solving the right problems. Right. And they're not thinking broadly enough. I think they're getting a site to exist. That has a picture and a product. Yep. And that's great. You need that. But then what kinda asking those next questions do, have you figured out shipping, you know, what, do you know what you're gonna do about taxes? How are you gonna tell people about this? Right. Do you have a marketing plan? All of that. You know, if you're hiring a developer to build an ecommerce site, they're not gonna ask those questions. So unless you have somebody who's 100% accountable, internally has their sole focus to get this thing done and they can make decisions. That's another thing, if you just have like a project coordinator on it internally, it's probably gonna stall out. You need someone who is empowered to make decisions. Yeah. Owning it a product owner.

Yeah. So for me, like the big lesson learned out of this is we didn't do a good job of identifying the real problem. And I think true, we're very good at that with our clients. We did not do a good job of that for bill Barry for our shop. We just didn't. Do you think that's because you’re too close to it, do you think that's because we didn't designate one owner, it was sort of like, oh, we're gonna do this. And like, you're gonna own a piece of it and I'm going to, and Scott's gonna have a little piece and we didn't really say, okay, this is the point of you being here. You gotta get it done by this day. Like we really didn't have that. Maybe. But if we would've solved this problem sooner, we wouldn't be, I don't, I, I, the digital side would not be an issue. I agree. I, because that's the part that I'm responsible for and it looks great. Of course, of course our brand looks great. The site's Zippy . Yeah. So, you know, for me, I guess my advice is if, if you're trying to launch B2B, ecommerce B2C, B2C, B2B, any sort of ecommerce and you are just spinning in the mud, chances are, there's a problem that you don't want to face. You are hiding. You may or may not know it, what that problem is. Chances are I have a feeling, most people do know what that problem is. They're just not willing to put the simple, I mean, often most of these problems are simple, moving sucks, but it's pretty simple. It's a pretty straightforward solution when you really get down to it and it unlocks so much. Yeah. Right. So, yeah. And I think that's why sometimes bringing it, the answer is ha bringing in a partner, knowing when you need that outside perspective to unlock it. 

How to remove heavy emotional barriers and move forward

Because like, we're, we're small enough, we're talking to each other, imagine, you know, it's so much more complex. We've got multiple departments having to own little pieces of something like this. If you've got an it department and marketing and you've got a executive sponsor and it's that much harder to really get down to what is the core problem. So having an outside partner can sometimes see that so much faster. Yeah. There's not that emotional. I'm convinced that there's in this case, an emotional fear of failure. Sure. Fear of success, probably more so as they were going as that's, that sounds but is like, uh, well, It's creating new problems for yourself. Right. And I think a lot of our clients actually have fear success. I think they sabotage until they, they finally say we gotta get help. Yeah. And then boom. Yeah. Once you get that outside help. So do you wi I mean, is there a little piece of you that wishes? We had an accountability partner that was outside of us. Uh, the person that probably dropped the ball is gonna say, no… Answer. You're like asking me if I wish there was somebody that, because like, no matter what Scott says to me, I doesn't matter. He like—you’re brothers, it's hard. yeah. I think just the fact that you're kind of copying to the fact that you've been avoiding, this is a, is a breakthrough. Yeah. And I brought it up and I'm so proud of us. And we, we talked through this issue probably three months ago now and I kind of went down the, okay, I need to find another space. 

And then I got distracted with something else. And then I never, but I know it's been eating at me pretty much every day, which is crazy because of how much mental energy I've spent avoiding fixing this problem. I'm excited. This is good. It be a whole campaign. It's A whole thing. Stuckage. Stockage. Yeah.

And that's a wrap on our season two of Beyond the Cart. We may be talking to some other folks in bonus episodes, but for now, thank you so much for joining us for this season of Beyond the Cart!

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