eBay Tips 2008: The Henry Ford Thing

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I once asked a particularly robotic, unimaginative and starched new employee at eBay (replete with crisp light blue shirt, tshirt underneath and immaculately pressed chinos) what he’d be doing. He replied, confidently; “I will manage the process”.

He’s doubtless doing well and is probably raking it in after numerous promotions and, even if I don’t totally understand what he does, I do get the gist. It’s consultancy speak for “I make sure we do things as quickly, cheaply and as efficiently as possible because when we do that, we make more money”.

It’s not a new idea and I like to think of it as the ‘Henry Ford thing’. Examine your working practices and make sure you’re doing your daily tasks as efficiently as possible.

Batch up tasks
Doing 15 parcels in one go doesn’t take fifteen times longer than doing a single parcel. Not if you include looking for the address labels, making a cup of tea and losing the tape gun. It’s often easier to take 100 pics or videos in one go: you get into the swing of it and get quicker. Planning ahead and only firing up the scanner or camera once a week will save time.

Multiple daily trips to the post office, emergency excursions to get supplies or just general disorganisation take up time. Even a modicum of planning (and I say this as one of the most chaotic people I know) will help.

Examine your Workspace
Henry Ford boiled down the entire process of car manufacture to find the most efficient way of making a cheap car and a healthy profit. You just have to see if you can save a few minutes here and there. I strongly suggest having a space dedicated to your selling, even it’s a tiny space, having everything in one pace will make it easier. If you have bigger operation, look at how you work and see what you could do more efficiently.

Check your Tools.
The one thing that revolutionised my selling was a label printer (Thanks Mountie!). Might a faster laser printer be something that could save you time? Even just a tape gun, a proper marker pen or a simple gadget could help. If it’s going to save you time, then the chances are that the investment is worth it.

7 Responses

  1. I never would have believed that faster printer = easier packing, but it really does. Thanks Mountie ๐Ÿ˜† If anyone’s still plodding along with an inkjet, really, they shouldn’t be.

  2. Also – if you’re not using SMP or some similar kind of auction management fingy, do it now. I spent many, many years printing off PayPal packing slips, and that is HOURS of my life I won’t get back. Being able to print off everything at the click of a button makes Monday morning much less like hard work.

  3. Echo Sue! I spent years decrying SMP as a waste of time and the most unreliable tool on eBay. I still do to a certain extent and wouldn’t trust SMP inventory in the slightest. However the ability to generate invoices (VAT invoices at that!) has saved me countless hours of work. Auto SMP emails for despatch notifications likewise.

    As for printers – if anyone out there still uses an inkjet add up how much you spend on ink refills. A decent office quality laserjet will do 10,000 pages for a toner costing around ร‚ยฃ20 on eBay – that’s about the cost for one set of inkjet carts. Don’t go for the cheapie lasers in PCWorld – they’ll only do about 2000 prints per cart. Buy a second hand ex-corporate printer and it’ll save you thousands on ink and hours of time ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Buying a small label printer was one of my “why didn’t I do this sooner” moments – It’s cost effective, quick and looks a lot more professional than handwritten addresses, or a Word document with scissors and sellotape.

    (I hadn’t found Mountie’s shop at this point though… ๐Ÿ™ )

    I’ve also started preparing jiffy bags in advance of batches of auctions ending – return address label, thank you notes & flyers etc – just drop in the item, seal & label. They may only seem like small steps, but looking back it does makes things a lot easier.

  5. I guess Turbolister has to take the prize in my arsenal, although like Chris with SMP, I don’t use all the facilities – I don’t trust the Synchronise function and don’t use it, but the time saved on using the SYI form over the last few years is so immense I doubt it can be quantified.

  6. two other things that have improved my efficiency:

    I like to list with postage prices for UK, Europe and Worldwide. This means working out in advance the weight and postage.

    a) I have a ready reckoner on excel that has my postage prices for each weight band (including handling and packing costs, and VAT where necessary) for each of the area categories.

    b) I have one each of my box sizes (about 10 different sizes) in a pile next to the scales, each filled with bubble wrap.

    It is therefore a work of moments to pop the item in the box size that it will be sent in, weigh it, check that weight band on the ready reckoner and put it straight in to the listing.

    I can’t emphasise how much confidence I believe it gives a buyer to see accurate postage prices, and it is certainly reflected in the number (very small) of postage queries I have to reply to, and I believe it improves both my sell through and my DSR ratings.


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