I’ve run a monthly pipe tobacco subscription service for approximately a year now, and there are several processes that have to be completed in order to ship my boxes each month. From the beginning I’ve kept up with these processes through excel spreadsheets. However, over the past couple of months I’ve been researching different project management systems in order to get more organized and identify areas that can be streamlined. Some of the processes that I complete each month include:
It’s quite a lot to keep up with, and each of the processes above can be broken down into several smaller steps. I knew these processes needed to be organized in a better way, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I experienced several months of rushing to get boxes shipped on time for various reasons that I knew could all be solved by better organization.
I researched several project management tools/systems to determine what would be the most effective and easiest to implement. This resource from Zapier has been a huge help in introducing me to the various systems out there, and breaking down the pros and cons of each. I settled on the Kanban system with Trello because it provided an easy and visual method to break down each step in my fulfillment process, so nothing gets overlooked. It also allows me to identify key tasks that can be completed in advance.
The Kanban system was originally created by Toyota engineer, Taiichi Ohno in the early 1950s. The basic premise is that different aspects of a project move across the board in different stages of completion. This allows team members to manage their time more efficiently and keep everyone on the same page. The system that I’ve developed is more of a variation of the Kanban system. Instead of tasks moving across the board into different lists, they get classified with different colored labels to signify their level of completion.
Since I’ve grown my subscriber list, I’m now able to save more capital to purchase tobacco blends and accessories in advance. This system allows me to keep track of what tasks I’ve completed and which ones need more work. Some of the downstream tasks like sample and box assembly are dependent on the completion of more upstream tasks. With this system I can see what tasks I need to prioritize in order to best manage my time.
It’s not perfect, and I still need to keep up with inventory on excel, but this system is very helpful for where I am right now in my business. As I continue to grow, and possibly add team members to the company, I may need to rethink this system to accommodate the delegation of tasks to different individuals.