3 ingenious shipping tips from successful small businesses


These ideas may reduce the load on your staff and save money and time in the process.

Orders are coming in from everywhere. There's an irate customer on the line. A staff member is sick and needs you to cover. Ahhh, just another day at work, right? Here, three small business owners share with you how they free up enough time to handle the unexpected – all while saving time and solidifying their business' success.

Three small business owners share how they free up time to handle the unexpected – all while saving time and solidifying their business' success.

1. Create an integrated, easy-to-use shipping interface. When Harley-Davidson owners want to beef up their hogs, they look to companies like TAB Performance, which send upgrade kits and parts to more than 40 countries from its small warehouse in Lincoln, Neb.

"Australia and Germany are very big for us, but Japan has heated up lately," says Justin Pflanz, who bought the three-person company in 2012. "Everything we do is pretty much online. To have that international presence has amazed me."

But Pflanz faced an issue with international shipping. TAB's previous carrier provided no tracking visibility beyond the United States. The consequence: You guessed it – WISMO (where is my order) calls, and not always in perfect English.

Creating export shipments was also time-consuming, requiring "lots of manual entry and the potential for mistakes," Pflanz says. So he looked to UPS, which recommended switching to WorldShip® and integrating the software package ShipWorks. Together, they made for a powerful time-saving duo.

Now all customer orders made online are pulled into one location: ShipWorks. From there, they're processed for shipping on WorldShip, which provides vital door-to-door tracking visibility (no WISMO calls) and easy-to-print labels – another time-saver.

"The integration of ShipWorks and WorldShip was easy," says Pflanz. "On average, it's saved about five to 10 hours a week. It's been a huge deal for us, freeing up time to focus on other areas of growth."

2. Rely on third-party drop shipping. Why handle orders when your supplier can send shipments directly to your customers instead? After all, it saves both time and money. The downside? You would be outsourcing customer service to someone with less on the line.

And for Katie Kiyo, WISMO calls are not an option. Her startup, Big Hug in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., sends gifts that honor the memory of a loved one or mark a special event. Customer items vary from simple gifts to family heirlooms weighing up to 300 pounds.

"I don't get [WISMO] calls," says Kiyo, who started the company in 2009. "We take pride in how our packages are delivered. UPS makes it simple."

Kiyo says tracking technology with all UPS shipments means that she – and her customers – can keep updated with third-party orders, most of which are shipped direct to customers from any of the 30 companies in Big Hug's network.

With all the shipping handled by UPS, Kiyo's time is freed to market the business. "I've asked all my companies to ship via UPS. That way I'm aware of the status of all orders," she says. "Lately, I've been getting requests from Canada, and that's a market I intend to pursue further. I don't understand Canadian shipping, but UPS does."

3. Find a shipper that can meet changing needs. Jesse Hulbert has two loves: motorcycles and warm weather. So, fed up with New York winters affecting year-round riding opportunities, he moved Chrome Glow, a family-owned business that creates safety lighting fixtures for motorcycles, to Florida.

The move renewed an emphasis on growth. And to do it, Chrome Glow needed two things: more international customers and a shipper that could handle the load. "During the busiest times of year, we ship anywhere from 150 to 200 packages a week," he says. "Because of the volume, we need flexibility for pickup times."

That's why he switched from his previous carrier to UPS. "It's a real bonus having the same person handling our orders every day and pickup times that meet our needs, not the carrier's schedule," he says. "It's really helped us through peak season efficiently, and we wouldn't switch back."

Do you have effective time-saving strategies? If so, we'd love to hear them in the comments below or through our Tell My Story form.  


Reader Comments

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I use Worldship and I can designate different "ship from" addresses for my dropship orders. My UPS rep assisted me with this issues.
too bad WorldShip isn't available to Mac users - we use UPS, too!
Too bad Worldship still hasn't made it possible to designate a different 'ship from' address in profiles for all those suppliers drop shipping for these small business owners. Believe me, they don't want their clients to know the direct source for their order.
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