iStock_000054246394_SmallThis post is sponsored by PayPal.

Inventory management is a thorny problem for many entrepreneurs. Stocking too much inventory is a waste of resources, while holding too little will lead to missed sales opportunities.

And then there’s the matter of actually filling orders. Companies need a plan to get their products to consumers in a timely fashion, while maintaining the top-notch service their customers expect.

So what’s an entrepreneur to do? Read on for tips from successful e-commerce startups that have overcome their share of inventory challenges.

Tip #1: Define your distribution channels

When Daniel and Stephanie Rensing were seeking to expand their small business, The Smart Baker, which sells baking accessories such as monogrammed aprons and decorative cupcake towers, they figured they’d sell their products to anyone who wanted them.

But online wholesalers flooded the Internet with The Smart Baker’s products, diluting the brand, driving down prices and putting pressure on forecasting. (read more…)

Business gone global means that the ability of employees to work effectively together across borders and time zones has become critical. Cultivating global mindset in employees and organizations can squash misunderstandings that may hurt business while building team cohesion that can dramatically help. Still, studies show that leadership programs are failing at preparing future leaders with the skills needed to excel in this new business world.

Whether you are working locally, globally or virtually, knowing how to lead globally is now a necessity. Even if your business does not work abroad, it is most likely working with people in your own backyard who have come from other cultures and countries. A global mindset is a critical skill parallel to legal, marketing, sales or strategy. We need to take it as seriously as we do other business operations.

Here are the three most important skills for a global manager.

  1. The ability to transmit values and create culture within a team.
  2. (read more…)

71AQj8xHouLThe Simplicity Cycle” provides a roadmap to help people make good decisions about complexity in the things we design and use. One of the ways it does this is by examining the different phases of a project and highlighting different tools for each phase. In this lesson, we’ll look at four key verbs to be aware of as our projects move through the typical stages of development.

1. Start

At the beginning of a project, the key verb is “to start.” That is neither as obvious nor as easy as it sounds. Instead of taking a first step, we sometimes distract ourselves with superfluous activities that prevent rather than support stating.

We procrastinate and hesitate, unsure where or how (or whether!) to begin. We may feel overwhelmed or unprepared, so we spend our time and energy doing something else, anything other than starting. We optimize our paperclip collection. We shuffle documents around. (read more…)

At the end of my first year as school leader, I met up for breakfast with someone who was very instrumental in developing school leadership talent, and had founded a graduate level program in educational administration that I attended. He had also been a board chair for multiple area schools.

I had asked to meet with him so that I could let him enjoy the fruits of his labor (his graduate program had helped me secure my leadership position) while also gleaning from his wisdom and experience as I planned for Year 2.

As we ate we talked about the various challenges and successes of the previous year. At one point the topic shifted to the school board. It was then that he looked me straight in the eye and emphatically said, “You need to own your board.” By that he meant that I need to develop them and their thinking in a way that would position them squarely behind me to advance my agenda. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

How well do you stick to priorities after you set them?

  • Very well — I rarely deviate from my priorities: 15%
  • Well — I mostly stick to them but deviate occasionally: 73%
  • Not well — I have difficulty sticking to my priorities: 11%
  • Not at all — I neither set nor stick to priorities: 1%

Flexibility Matters. Things change every day. While it’s important to set priorities, don’t be afraid to deviate from them as required. Clearly it’s a balance. The most important thing to do when you do deviate from them is let your team know why the priorities changed. Help them understand why things move up or down. If you don’t explain it to them, they’ll feel whipsawed and won’t be able to see the bigger picture of how priorities are set and managed based upon challenges or opportunities the organization faces. (read more…)