Classes Every Ecommerce University Should Teach
Last month, Gene Marks wrote a piece for the Philly Post titled, Ten Classes Every Business School Should Be Teaching, which has inspired us to extend this concept to apply to ecommerce merchants as well. In this article, we’ll be addressing his points (denoted by the headings in bold below), and discussing how and if they relate to ecommerce merchants.
Mr. Marks opens his article by saying: “Our country is in an education crisis! Students are graduating without jobs and owing punishing amounts of debt…It all has to do with the curriculum. If our students emerged from universities better prepared for life in the business world, there would be more opportunities awaiting them and graduates would be fully prepared for, well, work.” The reality for many ecommerce merchants though is that they never majored in business in the first place. A huge number of ecommerce merchants are self taught (Anyone reading this attend ecommerce university?), and only start thinking about what business schools are teaching when they start hiring business school graduates. So this article, isn’t so much written to business school administrators to suggest ecommerce university classes, as much as it is for the ecommerce merchant to review and add to our opinion on what skill sets it takes to make an online business successful.
1) “Psychology 101″: It’s true, business graduates aren’t really taught how to deal with difficult personalities out on “the street,” but within the ecommerce industry, difficult personalities can take on a radical new and egregious form. In fact, ecommerce merchants often deal with people at their very worse because online commerce communication is limited to phone, emails, and social media. It becomes so impersonal that people who would never hurt a fly in the “real” world can quickly morph into sadistic monsters when things don’t go their way online. The key to making relationships work online is to go over and beyond to make things as personal as possible, and always emphasize the people in your organization.
2) “Engineering 897: How to Talk to an Engineer“: We can’t agree more! Ecommerce merchants who aren’t technically savvy must constantly deal with web engineers. At FastPivot, we have project managers in place to bridge the gap between the pure code-oriented mind and the sentient world, which many ecommerce merchants live in. *But, it’s important to say that our programmers have awesome personalities to boot, as our clients will attest. Who doesn’t miss Adria!?
3) “History 635: The History of Small Business”: Ecommerce time moves a lot quicker than it does in the bricks-and-mortar world. Things change by the hour. Online businesses can be moving along just fine and watch their entire business become obsolete within minutes, hours, or mere days. Google Panda, anyone? So, while understanding the history of ecommerce is important, it’s even more important to stay relevant.
4) “Economics 833: Working at the Dry Cleaners” : In this section, Marks makes the point that hard work, really hard work, is important in becoming successful. Anyone in the ecommerce industry knows that to be true, but often merchants are hoping to make it big overnight. And this has happened, but it’s not the norm. There’s also the attitude out there, as demonstrated in popular press novels like The Four Hour Work Week, that ecommerce merchants shouldn’t have to work long and hard, but we’re here to tell you, light on the perspiration doesn’t work in the online world either. Ecommerce merchants quickly find out that there is not closing time, it’s a 24/7 game.
5) “CompSci 344: Fixing Printers:” Printers? Maybe not, but everything else–yes. Everything is glitchy in the online world. There are so many moving parts when a business is built upon technology, so ecommerce merchants have to have their minds around the nuts and bolts of the deep level switches if they want to survive, or have the cash to keep someone knowledgeable around to be on call.
6) “English 447: The Great Business Books”: It’s always important to keep up with the great business books, and the more ecommerce related they are, the better. We suggest digging into ReWork, as our development team did a while back. Enlightening.
7) “Art 121: Avoiding Taxes” : Well, ecommerce merchants have done a pretty good job of not having to pay out of state taxes , up until recently. But watch out, it’s getting way more complicated and the tides are changing, so stay tuned on this one.
8) “Language 872 and 873: Intermediate and Advanced Mandarin”: Don’t worry about taking the time to learn to speak and write Mandarin as Marks suggests, this is way too impractical. Hire a translator to do it for you, unless you want to spend the next 5 years, three-four hours a day, slaving over character matrices and tonal variations. But, ecommerce merchants, should be internationally minded, and that means looking for ways to market and ship products all over the world.
9) “World Cultures 646: The People of India and the Czech Republic”: The point Marks makes under this section is that we should be outsourcing to save cost and learning more about the people we’re outsourcing to. We would argue that trends show that sure, we are working online with people all over the world, so we must learn how to manage projects across cultures…but we’re seeing that many businesses in the U.S. prefer to hire talent from inside the country to avoid difficulties with bridging differences in culture, language, time zone, legality, costs/expectations, training, etc.