We’re shining this week’s small business spotlight on ModelTrainStuff, an Endicia customer and successful online business that supplies model train products and parts to model train enthusiasts around the world.
We recently chatted with ModelTrainStuff shipping manager, Suzette Piel, to see what tips and tricks she might have for SMBs when it comes to their shipping business strategy and what obstacles she’s encountered in her day-to-day operations.
Endicia: We know that ModelTrainStuff was started by Morris Benjamin Klein and later taken over by his son, Ted. What would you say is the best thing about working for a family business?
Suzette: I think it’s the fact that we (the employees) have direct daily contact with Ted, aka the decision maker. This helps move things along to produce faster results. In return, this quick turnaround environment allows us to better serve our customers.
Endicia: The original business, M.B. Klein, Inc. (a general hardware store) began in 1913 and was later converted to ModelTrainStuff. What would you say has kept this evolving online business side of the venture successful throughout the years?
Suzette: I think it would have to be our prices. We are able to offer the most sought-after items at rock-bottom prices. This gives train hobbyists the opportunity to have the layout they envision at affordable prices, and it keeps them coming back.
Endicia: Serving as the shipping manager of a mainly online business can’t be easy! What are the biggest obstacles you’ve come across in this role?
Suzette: The biggest obstacle comes around every year from November through the beginning of March — this is our busy season. During this time, we have increased hours of operation, and the number of orders to ship grows enormously, resulting in drastically increased staffing needs.
Additionally, coordinating with the shipping carriers at the height of our busy season can sometimes create a few bumps in the road. However, establishing a good relationship with my USPS and UPS representatives makes all the difference and can often be a true game changer.
On that note, dimensional weight pricing has also thrown a few curveballs our way. It’s been a learning process figuring out how to pack orders so they don’t get damaged in transit, all while keeping the boxes as small as possible. We’ve found it challenging, to say the least.
Endicia: Sounds like you’ve definitely got your hands full! Do you have any tips and tricks that you’ve found helpful in regard to your shipping business strategy?
Suzette: I’ve always said that you should pack an order just the way you would like to receive it. Put care and consideration into it because your customers expect to receive products in pristine condition. At ModelTrainStuff, we really take pride in our box packing. We’ve had countless customers take notice and express their appreciation, especially the hobbyists. Also, it’s important to keep your customers in the loop as much as possible. Provide them with an order confirmation, shipping confirmation and a tracking number with their orders.
Last, but not least, the cheapest carrier is not always the best carrier! Make sure you do your research when it comes to shipping services, prices and quality.