Originally published on January 11, 2017, updated July 1, 2020
By definition a project manager is a professional whose job is to achieve specific goals and deliver specific results in the form of a product or some type of valuable change. Project managers are critical to any company, as they often lead necessary and impactful changes. What can we learn from smart project management that can be applied to running an Amazon business?
Let's start by taking a look at traits of a great project manager through the lens of an Amazon business.
Behind every successful company there is a clearly defined purpose and goal. What is the business's mission? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to impact the world? These are not just theoretical questions. Behind every successful company there is a mission and purpose bigger than the company's lifetime. As an eCommerce business leader you should be able to articulate the vision for your brand at any point. Understanding and being able to communicate your vision not only gives sense of direction, purpose and unique edge in branding. It also creates a non-negotiable framework for prioritization on a daily basis for you and your employees.
In every business multiple things have to happen on a daily basis to make the company run. Inventory management, marketing, product development, customer care and vendor/supplier management are some examples of areas that an Amazon seller must navigate regardless of the products they sell.
Even though workstreams may be intuitive for a business owner, it is important to define processes. This sets clear parameters for all of the moving pieces of a business, making it easier to manage work, train employees, track and manage progress and implement improvements.
Once workstreams are defined, documenting workflows and processes within each workstream is the next step. Documenting is often put on a back burner because it does not directly contribute to the bottom line, or does it? Documenting becomes critical when a business starts growing quickly. Writing existing processes can serve two goals:
Best-selling business writer Harvey MacKay put it this way: "A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline."
A great project manager helps define and facilitate the process of setting goals within the business. The main vision of the business should help set the framework for the major things the company wants to accomplish within a specific period of time. When the main goals and priorities are set, deciding on a to-do list on a micro level becomes a lot easier. Here are some suggestions on setting clear objectives:
There is a saying that you can't manage what you can't measure. In eCommerce, there are a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) that are naturally determined by the nature of business (such as sales numbers, customer-related metrics, inventory management, advertising costs). A good project manager helps determine KPIs and tracks performance of those strategic indicators regularly.
Once clear objectives are set, it is important to look at the data in the existing business to see which metrics can help assist with progress towards those objectives. Create progress checkpoints to measure those KPIs.
Every smart project manager understands that their value is not in executing everything themselves, but in providing direction, problem solving and ensuring that things progress as planned. In your business there are a number of things that only you can do. Those should be strategic, mission-critical functions. One of the best ways to ask if a task is a candidate for delegation is to ask, "Can I train somebody to do this just as well, or maybe even better than I can?" And the truth is that most of the time the answer is yes. Once you have identified workstreams in your eCommerce business and documented the workflows and processes, the next step is to remove yourself from as many pieces of it as possible. One of the fastest ways to scale is to leverage strengths and time of others to help you focus on the most important aspects of your business.
Any business experiences roadblocks, issues and setbacks. The difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful business is not what type of issues and setbacks are faced, but how the business deals with them. A good project manager has a resolution-driven mindset and keeps the main focus on how to solve a problem, understanding that issues will always arise. Focusing on the problem creates sense of control and empowerment (vs. focusing on "why us?" and "this always happens to me!" which is de-motivational and not productive.) Anticipating roadblocks can also help to create a process to mitigate negative effects before an issue comes up.
Celebrating wins is often under-appreciated, especially in high-achievement driven organizations. We often focus on how far we have to go and not on how far we have gone.
A good project manager, however, takes time to celebrate even a small win with their team. It gives sense of momentum and accomplishment, which is a boost of motivation for everyone involved in achieving that goal. It also gives an opportunity to recognize contribution of others and give credit for all the work done. Celebrating and acknowledging others' work and contribution is also a sign of a good leadership, and a smart project manager is also a good leader.
Running an Amazon business can be challenging. The competitive landscape, technology, trends and ongoing pressures on margins and profits all contribute to those challenges. Operating an eCommerce business on the Amazon marketplace also adds complexities of operating within Amazon's Terms of Service, which often change.
Developing and improving project management skills within an Amazon business has measurable impact on the business across all levels: from the Big Hairy Audacious Goal of the business to the details of the day-to-day operations.
Consistently applying the project management practices laid out in this article will positively impact growth of your business.
Originally published on January 11, 2017, updated July 1, 2020
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.