Increase efficiency through the process of elimination - Jud Harris
As today’s guest, I am interviewing Jud Harris from ShipStation - a web-based shipping software for eCommerce retailers. Jud is the director of engineering at ShipEngine, which is ShipStation’s sister company, as well as the underlying platform on which ShipStation runs. How does ShipStation relate to ShipEngine? And how did you become part of this team? (01:40) Jud explains that ShipEngine grew out of ShipStation, which was founded in 2009 as a shipping application on top of eBay. It helps people automate the printing of shipping labels and fulfilling eBay orders. He joined ShipStation in 2016 when the company wanted to productize the shipping API as a standalone product, and that’s is how Ship Engine came to be. ShipEngine is the underlying platform that runs ShipStation. It became apparent that it would be worthwhile to productize that and expose it directly to the market. ShipEngine is both a product for people looking for a shipping API and logistics API, as well as an underlying platform for running all those aspects. Let’s talk about the automation that is ShipStation. How did you become part of this amazing organization? (03:05) Prior to ShipStation, Judd was part of a company called Amplifier. He was one of their first employees and helped build the company over the years. He has been in logistics and fulfillment since 2000. He was with Amplifier for a decade and a half where he was involved in IT, development, and even driving the trucks. His ability to fill all these diverse roles, along with building out the technology platform meant moving to ShipStation was a natural extension. He joined the software industry in 1994 while in high school when he got a job at an internet service provider. Part of his role in the company was provisioning ISDN modems, which was a very manual and time-consuming process. Looking at ShipStation, what processes are being automated, delegated, or eliminated? (14:58) He says a good place to start is their mission statement, which is condensed around the possibilities of elimination. For the CEO and executive team, elimination came into play with the mission statement. They created something short and easily remembered: “wherever you go, whatever you ship, exceptionally efficient.” ShipStation comes into play when a merchant knows who their sales target market is, and they have enough orders that they need to get to their customers. They import orders from any online platform the merchant is selling on, and from there the merchant centrally manages the entire order fulfillment process. On the back end, ShipStation integrates with any available shipping carrier, so the process of getting the order to the customer is solved on the delivery side as well. Solving the shipping label generation, as well as the order import problem is a big component of the automation of a merchant’s fulfillment business. If a seller wants to offer free shipping, how can they utilize Ship Station to do that in an economical way? (20:51) Jud says nothing is free and especially shipping. Products can’t be delivered for free, so if a seller offers free shipping, it means that they have worked the cost into the product price, or their general cost of business. ShipStation gives the merchant the ability to map free shipping to any number of shipping methods from any carrier supported by the system. It can also help set up automation rules that will result in the best shipping methods, that are relative to the seller’s goals. Sometimes, free shipping means there’s no guaranteed delivery time; products will be delivered using the most cost-effective method or can be bounded by some kind of service level. When you integrate with ShipEngine, you get access to any shipping carrier through a common API interface. You can use this tool to acquire rates from multiple shipping carriers and apply your own rules and customs to translate that free shipping into your desired outcome. What wisdom or advice would you give to entrepreneurs? (33:48) Jud says one of the most important struggles any entrepreneur should have is balancing the product-market fit with food architecture. When looking at the technical aspect of architecture, structuring the naming of your concepts is one of the most important things you can do. The words that people use for your concepts now, will be the same words used 5 years later. Investing an hour or two on wording early on will save you a lot of time and money in the future. Trying to rectify something a few years down the line will be expensive and timely. However, none of this matters if no one wants your product, so first make sure that people want what you’re selling, and then be sure to hire someone to handle naming for you. See omnystudio.com/policies/listener for privacy information.
Duration: 37 min