Crisis! My internet business is making me very unhappy!

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Crisis! My internet business is making me very unhappy!

Postby eBizMom on Wed Jan 09, 2008 4:21 am

I'm new to this forum, but I really need some advice and support from other Moms/parents out there who have home-based businesses. I am extremely unhappy with my situation. I apologize for the length of this post, but there are a lot of details to tell.

I run a home-based internet business selling niche products to consumers. The business is 5 years old. My husband and I have been married more than 20 years and have two young teenage daughters.

The "business" originally started out just as a blog (I was blogging my experience with something), and soon the blog was getting a lot of readers. A few months later, I got an idea for a product to make life easier for people. I created the product and then started an internet store to sell the product. Over time I have added more than 60 other third-party products to the inventory. Eventually the blog turned into a large informational website with a message board that has more than 5,000 readers.

The internet store is grossing almost a quarter million dollars of revenue per year. We are getting to the point where we can barely handle all the business. The informational website and the internet store have a symbiotic relationship -- my readers are my customers and vice-versa. Our store has a 5-star rating and is known for excellent customer service and high quality. Although we run it from home, it looks much bigger. Most people don't think it is home-based.

Sounds like a great success story, doesn't it? But it's driving me NUTS and I want OUT!

The retail end of the business is all located in our home and we do all the shipping ourselves (me and my husband). When the business was new and we didn't have much inventory or many customers, it's wasn't much of a problem. But now we get an average of 20 to 25 orders per day. Our garage is stuffed with inventory, and it also takes up a large portion of our family room. There are so many products, I find it difficult to stay on top of the inventory and shipping supplies, despite a halfway decent inventory system.

I find that I have less and less time and patience with my daughters, and absolutely NO creative energy (which is very bad, because at heart I am an extremely creative person). I don't have time or the inclination to do any hobbies. At times I get rather depressed and overwhelmed by the combination of business and domestic chores I must do. In a nutshell: I just want to stop all this and do something different now -- I need a change! I am very unhappy and extremely resentful. I feel like this business is a ball and chain around my life.

Going away on a vacation isn't even really a treat, because when we come home there are a pile of orders to fill (usually close to 200 orders in the course of a week). Nevertheless, we do travel for a week here or there in the summer. We don't shut the business down when we go on vacation because my husband is afraid it would kill the business (and other internet store owners advised me the same).

There have been times when I have gone on vacation just by myself. But I haven't been able to do that in over a year because I developed a chronic back pain problem (I've seen all types of specialists and done all types of treatments/exercises but it persists). Sometimes I wonder if my back problem is related to my unhappiness with my situation -- and I wonder if the business went away, and I had the freedom to do something new, would my back stop hurting? Recently I took up meditation as a way to help control my anxiety. It helps a little bit.

When I started the business, it was just on a whim. I had an idea and I wanted to see if anything could come of it. I figured that I had total control and could shut it down at any time. For the first 2 years, I ran it totally by myself. About 3 years ago, I began to feel really overwhelmed by it (and bored with doing it) and told my husband that I wanted to shut it down -- I was tired of "doing it" and wanted to do something new. I felt like all my creative energy was being sapped by grunt work (mainly filling/shipping orders). He began looking at my sales figures and said that because the business was so profitable, it would be a huge mistake to shut it down.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn't asked him -- that I'd just made my own decision and shut it down at that point. But he said he'd help me. He began with filling/shipping all the orders, so I didn't have to do that grunt work anymore. That was great....except that my husband also had a "day job" and traveled at least one week per month for his job...sometimes more. And when he travels, it all falls back on my shoulders. Usually I can handle the work when he's away by being extremely organized. But lately I'm just feeling extremely burned out and I just don't want to do anything, but I force myself to, because we have a commitment to our customers.

My husband was a manager in the software industry, and about 8 years ago he started his own software company with a partner. But the company didn't make it, and he wound up taking a regular job again after a few years. After having his own company, he hated working for somebody else again. When the latest company he was employed at went out of business last Spring, and he said he was tired of working for somebody else and wanted to start his own solo software consulting business. I thought he'd help me run my internet business for a few months before starting his own thing. I needed a lot of help with various things. He helped me a little bit, but mainly channeled all his energy into starting his own consulting business (partly out of fear due to the loss of his steady income). I was disappointed, because I thought he'd take a more active role in MY business and help streamline various things. Instead, he just helps me "when he can" which is very sporadic. And just like before, he travels on business one to two weeks per month (in his field, the travel is unavoidable). When he's home, he fills the orders. When he travels, I have to do everything.

The business is now paying for a lot of our household expenses. Again, yes this sounds great, but I never intended for this business to generate a large amount household income or be figured into our annual income. I thought it would be a little bit of spending money for me, or help pay for small things -- it would just be a little "extra" money. So in addition to all my unhappiness, I feel extremely guilty that if the business was shut down, it would now become a financial burdon for my family, because we are relying on the income for so many important things. My husband's consulting business is doing well, but not well enough for us to totally lose the extra income MY business generates.

So as you can imagine, I feel very trapped. Before I started my internet business, I was a technical writer with a really good income. After my first daughter was born, I stopped working full time and did some part-time tech writing and editing projects from home. But I haven't worked full time in that field in a long time and frankly I have no desire to go back into that field. If I do something else, I would want to do something new. I like working from home and being home for the kids -- I just don't want to do something so intense. I liked doing projects -- there was breathing room between them. But this internet business is unrelenting -- there is NO breathing room whatsoever! The orders just keep coming in, day after day, no matter what!

I discussed this with my husband recently and underscored AGAIN the fact that this situation is killing me (I've told him this before, but I think sometimes he believes I'm just blowing off steam). I also resent him for "making me" continue this business when I had wanted to shut it down a few years ago, and I know that the resentment isn't healthy for our relationship. Sometimes I feel like I'm headed for an emotional breakdown because I feel like I'm totally cornered by this monster I've created. I go through cycles with this....feeling overwhelmed, then handling it...then feeling overwhelmed again. After years of feeling this way, I believe that this is real unhappiness coming from my core. I hate to kill a very successful business, but I just can't take it anymore and I need to put myself first, even if it means some financial burdon. I mean jeez, Amazon isn't run by just one person, and I think it's INSANE that we do this all ourselves (and often I do it MYSELF).

After a long discussion with him the other night, we figured we have 4 alternatives:

1. Sell the business to someone else and be done with it.
2. Simplify the way we sell some of the products and then get a fulfillment house to fill the orders (this is complicated but not impossible)
3. Get warehouse/office space and hire one or two people to fill the orders several times per week (I feel weird about somebody coming into my home to help me -- seeing all my personal stuff, you know what I mean? If I was going to hire people, I would NOT want them in my house doing this work.)
4. Just shut the whole thing down and sell off the inventory.
(5. Other alternatives we haven't figured out ???)

Each of these solutions has its pros and cons.

So there is my story. I'm proud that my business has become so successful and I've become an "internet entrepreneur", but I'm paying the price with my sanity. I would appreciate if I could get some opinions and advice from other Moms/parents. All I ask is that you please don't flame me or call me a crybaby. I know a lot of you would love to have a business that generates this sort of steady income. But let me tell you, it isn't a bowl of cherries. I need to do something about this, and I need to do it soon!
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Postby Kit on Wed Jan 09, 2008 8:54 am

Hi!

Glad you made it to the forums. You sound so frazzled. I feel for you and have heard others talk about the same difficulties you've mentioned.

I think you can handle things but it sounds like you need to move from "do everything yourself" mode to manager/owner mode. This is done through outsourcing. Find good dependable people locally to pack and ship orders. Sounds like it might be a great job for moms or college kids who might need flexible hours.

As you get inventory handled, you may want to outsource as much internet stuff as possible. You can have a virtual assistant (or several) to take care of things like client emails (customer service), placing inventory orders, sending out newsletters and announcements for you. There are even virtual assistants who specialize in taking care of your finances!

Look at yourself as a CEO and start delegating anything you find stressful or you just don't want to do! ;)

Hope this helps some. I'll be sending good thoughts your way.
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Postby Mila on Wed Jan 09, 2008 9:29 am

Hi and welcome to the forum :-)

In my opinion, when something gets to this point it's time to change. It seems scary at first but going back and forth doesn't really get you anywhere. You have your options - a good plan is to put it down and paper and look at the pros and cons of each choice and then make a family desicion that feels right for everyone.

No business internet or otherwise should take over your life like this. It's easy enough to streamline a process to the point where you have to do very little (even with a huge and highly profitable business).

If I were you I would look at my process and start making changes right away - get a fulfillment house (some have printing capabilities too), automate as much as possible and hire a good virtual assistant to reply to customer requests, etc. It will take a little time to organize it all but the pay off could be tremendous.

If you really have no passion for it or energy to do that then selling is always an option.

The decision ultimately is yours but most people make the mistake of thinking that in order for a business to be profitable it has to be like this whereas it's actually very easy to change things around.

Good luck, I hope it all works out well for you! :-)
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Postby Audrey on Wed Jan 09, 2008 10:10 am

Actually...you've come up with great answers.

If you sold the business...what would you do for income?

On the flip side, if you kept the business and took the road of business owner/manager and hired folks to fill order, keep track of inventory etc, it would still create an income for you, you'd be able to leave once you had a well trained supervisor and you might gain some of your sanity back.

Your business is worth too much to just shut it down...consider either selling it or managing it :)

My two cents.
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Postby LorettaOliver on Wed Jan 09, 2008 7:13 pm

I think options 1 and 3 are your best choices.

1. Sell the business to someone else and be done with it.

3. Get warehouse/office space and hire one or two people to fill the orders several times per week (I feel weird about somebody coming into my home to help me -- seeing all my personal stuff, you know what I mean? If I was going to hire people, I would NOT want them in my house doing this work.)


I would have thought of upgrading to option 3 first, but like you said you aren't happy with the business right now so selling might be your better option. From the sounds of things you could get a really nice sum of money out of the sale, enough to last quite some time.

I do think that if you hire some people to help you it might make the business more enjoyable for you again though. Doing everything yourself has to be very, very stressful! That amount of stress certainly isn't good for you or your family.

What if you hire a few people to help you and try it that way for 3 - 6 months then reevaluate how you feel about the business? If you still are unhappy with it and totally stressed out that might be the time to sell. A larger company may come along with more resources and offer you a large sum for the whole shebang.

Whatever you decide I hope it works out for you!
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Postby eBizMom on Thu Jan 10, 2008 12:34 am

I want to thank you guys for taking the time out to answer me. I feel better just having gotten it off my chest. After spending a couple of days being upset, I have come to the conclusion that I want to see a therapist to talk about this and other issues in my life. I'm 47 years old and I think I could benefit from some midlife counseling. When I'm not upset, I feel much more calm about everything. I think you ladies can relate to the whole pre-menopause hormonal stuff that goes on and how it can do a number on your head. I think I'm going through some of that.

I have learned a lot already from this website. For instance, I'd never heard of a "virtual assistant." I can think of a few things a person like that could do for me.

You are correct when you say that I need to go from "doing it all myself" to becoming a manager. I think you hit it on the head. One problem with having a business in your house is that....it's in your house, with all your personal (and/or valuable) stuff. The way my business is set up, some of the products are in the garage, but most are in a second floor family room and office. You have to walk through some of the house to get to it. I think I just have to get over the fact that "someone else" would be in the house with me. I guess I'm a very private person and I don't like other people to see my house if it's messy or to be looking at my stuff. I think I need to get over the whole privacy/embarrassment issue and just hire someone part-time. It would help enormously during the weeks when my husband is travelling.

Then depending on how that goes, maybe we would get a warehouse space. We're very torn between outsourcing it all and doing it here. There's a lot to be said for having physical control over your merchandise. The fulfillment houses sound great, but there will be a pretty large learning curve if we want some other company to eventually fill ALL of our orders. Not to mention, we would need to get much better control over inventory management.

We just sent out this huge mailing (responses from an ad we placed in a trade magazine) and we expect our sales to hit a new plateau by the middle of the year.

You ask if I'm still passionate about what I do. When I'm thinking clearly and calmly, yes I am. For example, when I think about having a consultant put a floating shopping cart on my site, I get really excited. So I guess that says that deep down I still do have a connection to this business. I'm just getting overwhelmed with the enormity of the unrelenting shipping/packing/inventory control/customer requests. If I concentrate on streamlining as much as possible for the next few months, maybe things will be better by the middle of the year and I won't feel so stressed.

It's hard to give up control, but I think "push has come to shove" for me with this business. I am going to try to think more like a manager and less like a slave.
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Postby Kit on Thu Jan 10, 2008 4:21 am

Woooooohooooooooo! Way to go!! You sound so much more at peace and I''m so glad you found some comfort and hope in our suggestions. *big cheesy grin*
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Postby lwillard on Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:17 am

Congratulations on your decision. Keep us updated on your progress. One of the hardest things sometimes is delegation. Giving up some of the every day tasks will help you become a better manager of your business and the peace of mind you need.
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Postby Treece on Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:01 pm

Are you my twin?

I just want you to know that I can totally relate to what you are going through.
I have done the same thing – maybe not quite as large, but certainly not small either. I also have two teenage daughters, and don’t really want to have people come into our home to work. dh is amazingly supportive, but also has his own business to attend to.
The success of the business has stretched me to my limits and some days it seems as if no one really understands the pressures of “good” problems.

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Postby Vera on Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:23 am

When I read your story it really reflects to me what I "just" went through. Actually it was quite the process. (I'm even getting emotional as I type because I know of the stress you're under with hubby).

My husband and I owned a very successful business and had 5 retail stores with a booming internet portion. But it took over our lives plain and simple.

I wanted out SO bad, but of course when that kind of cash flow is coming in it's hard because of the guilt you feel.

If you EVER want to talk I don't mind chatting with you. My husband and I took about 4 years to sell off our business, and we still have tons of inventory still (well he's onto something new too so that doesn't help).

But seriously, without going into all the details here, please know that I'm a mom that just went through the process of selling everything off and moving on with my life.

We owned our business for 12 years and said a final good bye May 2007, boy I miss our customers, but at the same time. I love my family.

Just so you know... Life has never been better for me.
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Postby eBizMom on Fri Jan 18, 2008 2:53 pm

I actually took a few days off to GET AWAY and relax while my husband held down the fort here at home. I want to a spa resort place that's 2 hours from my house. It was terrific and it really helped me to clear my head a little bit.

I'm due to get my annual physical, and before I went away I got a blood test done. When I got back, it turns out my doc had to move my appt to one week later. But I called the office to ask them to fax my lab results to me because I wanted to know how they were. I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (hypothyroid) and was STUNNED that my thyroid levels are the WORST they have been in over 10 years! Dramatically worse, after years of stability! It may account for my inability to make decisions lately and feeling overwhelmed so easily. When your thyoid hormone levels are too low, your thinking gets "fuzzy" and it's hard to deal with stuff and you tend to feel depressed and sluggish. So I'm wondering if THAT is one reason I've been feeling so much more overwhelmed and unhappy. Just thought I'd mention it. I wish I was seeing my doc sooner, but I asked her to call me because obviously I need to increase my Synthoid.

Anyway, while I was away my husband did some research into fulfillment houses. Today we will have a meeting to discuss what he found and make some decisions. Using a fulfillment house is an incredibly scary step, but I think that after we pick one and try it out, it will get easier to delegate. I bet that one day I'll look back on this and wonder what I was so scared about!

He is travelling on business next week and it all falls back on my shoulders again. I'm trying to figure out how to deal with it so that it doesn't eat up my entire day, every day. We already tell customers that their order will ship in 3 to 4 business days, although I like to try to ship orders within 2 days if possible. Maybe I just have to chill out and put myself first. The customers won't die if they get their stuff a few days later.
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Postby tishialee on Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:55 pm

I think that once you start outsourcing and stop trying to be super woman and do it all yourself that you'll be so much more relaxed and happier. Once you get into the swing of outsourcing things I bet you'll find yourself enjoying and loving your business and not wanting to sell.

It's a huge step to give up control but at some point we all get to that point where we just can not do everything ourselves anymore!
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Postby TanyaW on Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:25 am

Just reading this post today and wondering how things are going. Is there an update on how you are doing? Is the business still up and running with you managing/delegating more than before?

I find your story very interesting.
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Postby melbel1038 on Sat May 31, 2008 11:32 am

Hi there,

Its been a really long time since I posted here but I just saw your post and I had to reply. I've been in a similar situation for about 5 years. I wanted to just say to be careful if you decide to do option 3. We did option 3 and now I feel like I can't EVER let my employees down. I have a sense of responsibility to them as well as myself. I look back and life was easier when I worked from home and only had to support me and my family. It just adds another dimension to the whole problem. Another mouth to feed.

I would really think long and hard about why you started the business to begin with, what you like about it. Ultimately is this your dream job? Examine your reasons for staying. If they are truly that you love doing this then option 3 might be fine. Option 3 should not be looked at as a fix for the stress because most of the time it is not.

Selling on the other hand is a big possibility. You have something of value there. If during your self examination you find that this is not your dream job, you could sell and start another business that IS. Just a possibility.
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Re: Crisis! My internet business is making me very unhappy!

Postby janice2009 on Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:45 am

Get help and outsource... You need the extra help. Consider the situation as a challenge, don't give it up :D
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