If you’re a business owner, you probably know that the days can be long and the lines between your work and personal life can get pretty blurry. It can be frustrating to know how to get things under control without sacrificing your success.
Recently, we spoke to Dale Majors, an entrepreneur and successful internet retailer, who shared his advice for creating a better work/life balance. We asked the questions that we thought most Amazon sellers would want to hear and his answers definitely did not disappoint!
Liz: You mentioned setting aside time at the end of the week to plan for the following week. Is once a week enough to plan for all aspects of a business or should additional planning sessions be in place for specific things? For example, do you look at marketing, say, once a month and other operations on a weekly basis? What about yearly, long-term planning?
Dale: Honestly, I think I’ve done an amazing job at planning each week. I’d give myself a B or C at planning monthly and quarterly. That being said, I “recommend” (using the word recommend because I know it’s a best practice from all my reading and experience, though I do a bad job at practicing it) having 2 to 4-week goals and longer 90-day goals.
Liz: You said that there have been times when you’ve looked at your week and realized that you had neglected to plan time for yourself. Many people struggle with this. How important do you think it is to step away from work for personal time?
Dale: I’ve found it so beneficial to take time away from work to exercise. Your mind gets distracted from the work and lets you look at your business problems differently. I use reading books as a similar activity. It lets me focus on something else which lets my mind see my business problems in a new light.
I also think that if you work hard and focus on an objective, you’ll get it. It’s not worth meeting a goal if your relationships don’t flourish too. Life’s too short – plan time for relationships too.
Liz: It sounds like you are very busy and that you try to keep to a predictable, productive schedule. Have people ever assumed that, since you are self-employed, you have more free time than you actually do? If so, do you have suggestions for new business owners who are creating boundaries?
Dale: You need to define work time and personal time. It’s HARD!!! People know I’m pretty regimented and don’t assume I have plenty of free time. My recommendation would be for people to plan time for work, and when it’s work time, do work. Don’t work ALL the time but definitely draw the line around times when you’ll be working.
Liz: Can you think of a time when, as an Amazon seller, having a plan saved you as you faced an unexpected challenge?
Dale: When I was first starting my business we had too much inventory. In those days, in 2004, most anything you posted online would sell, so it really was just a listing issue.
I was in school full time and didn’t have the bandwidth to get it done. I figured that I could start going to bed earlier around 9 p.m. and wake up at 2 a.m. to list product. I did that for 2 months and caught up on all my listings. I then moved it to 3 a.m. and then 4 a.m. After I was completely caught up on anything I could imagine, I moved it back to 6 a.m. I see planning as your way to visualize how you’re going to win/conquer in whatever you’re playing.
Liz: You’ve suggested that business owners track what they are doing every 15 minutes to find out when they are most productive in the day. How crucial is identifying this pattern for Amazon sellers?
Dale: Every human has a finite amount of time. The famous management consultant, Peter Drucker, in his book, The Effective Executive, says that is one of the most important things an executive can do is know how they spend their time. I think it’s important for everyone.
Liz: You mentioned that it’s okay to start small since it will be easier to scale up once roots have been planted. Could you share an example of how this has worked from your own Amazon journey?
Dale: I started online selling used items but eventually moved into brand new goods from distributors. I started small with one distributor where I would call them on the phone once a week to tell them my order. We started very small with 15-20 products that we’d order in quantities of one to three, and that grew into a several million dollar part of our business.
Liz: You shared that you have a love for learning. Has this been instrumental to your Amazon success? How have you continued to add tools to your skill set as a merchant?
Dale: I listen to a new book on Audible every week. It keeps me fresh and gives me a more clear mind to focus on my business. I attribute a lot of my success to it.
Liz: What are some of the biggest time management mistakes that Amazon sellers might commonly make?
Dale: Not getting clear on exactly what they are going to do to build their business and, because they are not clear, that problem is multiplied as they bring employees into their organization.
Liz: If you had one suggestion for how Amazon merchants can better manage their time, what would it be?
Dale: Simple. Take one hour at the end of each week and review what went well and what they want to achieve in the next week to accomplish their business goals. I’d recommend they use the techniques from my LinkedIn article “The Dry Run.”
It can be difficult to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of entrepreneurship but it’s important to make time for planning as well as a break from your business. When you’re organized and prepared, it will make it easier to step away and clear your mind so that you return to your work feeling refreshed and revitalized. Continue to feed your mind and grow – you never know when you might stumble on the next big thing!