January 10th, 2013

The internet puts pressure on small and mid-size businesses to maintain customer service levels that compete with companies like Amazon and Zappos. While it is impossible for you to set up the infrastructure that large companies can afford, you can still learn lessons from the global leaders. It may not be as hard to keep up with the big guys as you think.

Most customers like to support their community and do business with local companies. Many of today’s ERP systems incorporate best practices based on global industry standards. When you upgrade your systems to a fully integrated ERP, you and your customers will reap the benefits with:

  • Expanded e-commerce options. Connect your website directly to your financial management and supply chain systems. With integrated ERP, your customers can see what you have in stock and how long it will take to ship it. With systems that securely accept their payment online, you can build a healthy internet business.
  • Targeted marketing. With an integrated CRM/ERP system, you can identify which customers buy certain products and offer promotions that build their business. When you can analyze customer purchase history, you can even predict (or suggest) what products and services they will buy next.
  • Deliver on expectations. With full insight into your inventory, you can promise delivery with full confidence. When you know exactly what you have in the warehouse, you can fulfill those special orders faster.
  • The right answer every time. With an integrated ERP system, you don’t have to track down a spreadsheet and hope that it is up to date just to answer a customer’s question. Customers don’t like guesses and they don’t like getting a different answer every time they call. Keep it straight and keep it simple with ERP.

You can compete with the big guys. Keep your local customers happy with a global ERP system that delivers the information that you need to be professional and competitive. Let’s keep your business growing, give us a call.

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December 28th, 2012

As 2013 rings in, this is an excellent time to take the next step in building the foundation to help your business grow this year and into the future. Implementing an ERP system is a big step – and will take an investment of time and money – but the payoffs can make profound changes for you and your employees.

Better information that can transform your business

With an ERP system, you can look at information across the business from different perspectives. Perspectives that could change the way you do business, like:

  • Comparing revenues and fully loaded costs for each client to determine which customers are your most profitable.
  • Looking at your inventory by volume and margin every week, to see which products should get the most shelf space.
  • Analyzing purchases from vendors across all your locations so that you can consolidate purchases to get volume discounts.

Consistent business standards

Customers expect consistent service from everyone in your organization. Without consist information, employees have to make guesses and go searching for confirmation. Share information and standardize processes for reliable results, like:

  • Ensuring that special orders don’t get lost using automated workflow,
  • Having customer history at your employee’s fingertips – even in the field,
  • Providing the correct answer to customer questions the first time and every time.

Optimize employee productivity

The accounting program and spreadsheets that you have used in the past keep your people focused on administrative tasks instead of giving you their best work. To grow the business effectively and remain competitive in today’s economy, you need to automate manual processes to focus employees on income producing activities. They will help you more by:

  • Looking for trends in sales data instead of entering data in two separate systems,
  • Finding ways to consolidate and streamline warehouse functions rather than counting inventory,
  • Making more deliveries each day instead of filling out reams of paperwork by hand.

Isn’t it time for you to take your business to the next level. This is a great time to consider all the ways that ERP can fuel your growth.

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December 21st, 2012

As the economy begins to sputter back to life, are you ready to capitalize on better times and build your business? While sales growth may come more easily during the next few years, growing profits is more important. With a focus on productivity, you can grow sales with the same team you have in place now to contain costs and increase profits.

Productivity is the key to growing profits
Implementing an ERP system will give your business the foundation to automate and connect the full range of financial management, supply chain management, human resource and payroll management, manufacturing and project management. As a unified business management system, ERP gives you the power to:

  • Automate manual processes to allow employees to spend their time on productive tasks rather than manually entering information,
  • Centralize information so that people don’t waste their time searching for answers,
  • Access information instantly to allow employees to make educated decisions quickly.

When your people can focus on their responsibilities, rather than on chasing information and juggling applications, they’ll keep critical tasks on track and get more done.

Select an easy to use ERP
As you evaluate ERP systems, make sure to consider how easy it will be for your employees to use. Look for an ERP system that works the way your employees already do. Most systems today provide the basic functionality to manage the business, but real productivity gains come when the system is intuitive to use.

This is the time to prepare for growth. With systems that support productivity, you can grow profits at the same time you grow revenue. Let’s talk about how you can build your business with ERP.

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December 14th, 2012

More and more companies are finding creative ways to add recurring revenue streams to their business model. Examples of industries that are adding and expanding recurring revenue models include:

  • Farmers sell produce direct to customers through a weekly subscription model,
  • HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) companies offer monthly service maintenance contracts to consumers,
  • Florists contract to deliver flowers to hospitality and health care establishments each week,
  • Business consultants offer subscriptions to training video series to clients.

Businesses that can offer customers value through a regular billing model have more predictable revenues to get them through the ups and downs of the economy.

Manage Recurring Revenues automatically
To make the most of a recurring revenue program, you need a system that will bill customers correctly every time without manual effort. Using spreadsheets and limited function accounting programs take too much time and are prone to errors – which customers will not appreciate.
An ERP system will help you manage the process easily and ensure customer satisfaction. You and your customers will get the most value from your recurring revenue program with:

  • Customer billing tailored to your products and services,
  • Proper revenue recognition to avoid tax questions,
  • Flexible pricing to offer promotions and trial subscription plans,
  • Matching of revenues to expenses to understand the profitability of your programs,
  • Tracking of customer trends to identify additional services that could be offered through contract or subscription.

Now is a great time to look for new sales opportunities. Recurring revenue can help you build your business and serve customers better. Let’s talk about how you can manage new business models with ERP.

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December 7th, 2012

If you are still operating with spreadsheets and paper, you probably can’t answer (with any degree of certainty) many of the questions your customers ask. “Has the item been shipped?” “What time will the service rep arrive?”, “Have you received my returned item yet?”

Customers expect answers on the first call
Whether you serve consumers or businesses, customers don’t have much patience for vendors who can’t answer their question right away. Online retailers like Amazon and Zappos are setting a high bar for customer service standards – it’s challenging to try to keep up. The first step in keeping pace with higher customer service standards is to answer your customers’ questions on their first contact.

ERP delivers answers that build trust
The only way to meet hose high demands is to put centralized information from your ERP and CRM applications at the fingertips of your customer service staff. With a fully integrated ERP system, your employees will be able to give complete information to customers on the first call. You will keep customers when you can answer questions with confidence, like:

  • “Do you have the premium model in stock?”
  • “How much will it cost for 2-day delivery?”
  • “When can you ship the part I need?
  • “Can I add one more item to the order I placed yesterday?”

Fast response and accurate answers will keep your customers coming back – instead of looking for alternate vendors. This is a great time to make the move to integrated ERP. Let’s talk soon.

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November 29th, 2012

Historically, the operations side of business has focused on efficiency. Operational systems, including ERP, were put in place to increase productivity and decrease costs. While productivity is clearly important, serving customer needs at the operational level can drive sales and increase margins.

Break down department silos
The first step in taking a customer-driven approach to operations is to break down departmental silos. A fully integrated ERP system allows data to be shared across departments for analysis at the customer level instead of the department level. Through cross department analysis, you’ll gain a better understanding of customer preferences and cross-sell opportunities. Use the information to:

  • Identify the customers who use the products/services from multiple departments,
  • Identify customers who only use a small percentage of your products,
  • Look for trends in cross-department product purchases.

Everyone is in sales
The operations personnel who deliver the company’s products and services typically make up 60-80% of the organization’s workforce. Every one of them should be looking for opportunities to better serve customers. From service technicians to product designers to delivery drivers, each employee should be listening to customer input and delivering that information back to the organization through the ERP system.

That customer interaction feedback can be gathered directly through ERP or through an integrated ERP/CRM system. Opportunities to better serve customers may come in the form of:

  • Services, like scheduled maintenance, that would keep machinery running better on the customer’s shop floor,
  • Lower minimum orders to allow customers to reduce inventory,
  • Packaged services designed for specific customer groups.

ERP connects your business to your customer
A fully integrated ERP system will help your operational employees add more value to your customers and the company. Through analysis of the information gathered from customers and employees, you can recognize trends faster and respond to changing markets quickly.
Let’s talk about how your operations can drive sales and margins.

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November 21st, 2012

Growing a company can get complicated, fast. A merger or acquisition builds the volume and/or the breadth of your business, but it also adds to the complexity of financial management and reporting. To monitor the results of the business and build value with customers, you need an integrated ERP system built to handle multi-company operations.

Simplify financial reporting
One of the benefits from merging companies is the efficiencies gained through central and shared services, like accounting and customer services. The challenge comes with allocating the costs to each company correctly.

Separate financial management or ERP systems force the accounting team to spend hours manually calculating revenue and cost allocations and then making journal entries in each system. Every month. Time that could be spent analyzing results to identify new revenue or cost saving opportunities.

With an ERP system that supports multi-company allocations, you can automate the process based on the business rules that you define. You will streamline month end closing to make accurate financial reports available quickly.

Share information to serve customers better
A key strategy in growing the business through merger or acquisition is often expanding the range of products and services that you can offer to the combined customer set. Shared data, giving employees access to inventory, customer data and documents across the organization will accelerate cross selling.

With combined information, your sales team can identify opportunities to sell new products and services to existing customers. The customer service team can centralize operations to improve and expand services. The accounting team can analyze revenue and costs to find growth opportunities and cost saving measures.

Accelerate returns
Mergers and acquisitions offer both opportunities and challenges. Accelerate the benefits for your employees and customers with multi-company financial management and shared data. The right ERP solution may be more affordable than you imagine.

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November 14th, 2012

The opportunity for small and midsize businesses to build competitive advantage – even against big business – has never been greater. Affordable business management systems put operational excellence within reach of every business. Are you ready to win?

Use information to build advantage
Disconnected business management systems keep your employees focused on finding information instead of serving clients. When you implement a fully integrated ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system you can use information to identify trends and build customer loyalty. With ERP you will be able to:

  • Deliver better customer service: The biggest advantage that you have as a small or midsize business is the personal attention you can give to every customer. Take a look at the processes that you have in place now. Can you improve response times or add special services for your best customers? An ERP system will help your employees automate processes to focus their time on customers.
  • Spot opportunities to act quickly: Data is everywhere but doesn’t do you any good if you can’t make head or tails of it. An integrated ERP system allows you to combine data from all points within your business to give you insights into results and trends. Identify the products with increasing sales to build momentum and clear out the products that don’t move. Act quickly to lead your market instead of follow.
  • Fine tune supply chain management: Speed is everything. If you can deliver the goods that your customers need quickly, setting expectations every step of the way, you will wow your customers. With an ERP system, you can track goods from order to delivery – even if you never touch the product.

More affordable than you think
The ERP functionality that was previously available only to the Fortune 500 companies is now within reach of every company. Not only cloud-based options, but affordable on-premises or hosted ERP systems can support your company’s situation – from IT support constraints to cloud security concerns.

There has never been a better time to take on the competition and win. Let’s make it happen together.

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November 1st, 2012

The Internet has made it easier for you to find and serve customers in new ways. At the same time, expectations are higher than ever before and customers can make themselves heard when things go wrong. It’s important for you to implement the systems that will support an excellent customer experience when you expand your distribution channels.

Evaluate new channel opportunities
Identifying the new channels that will best expand your client base or revenue mix is the first step. While the Internet has reduced many market barriers, careful evaluation of new channels is still critical to success. As with any business planning, the size of the target market, competition, margins, marketing will all factor into your decision.

Some of the ways that businesses are expanding their channels include:

  • Service offerings aimed at new markets – Companies who have served one industry or region can now reach across industries and across the globe.
  • Selling to larger clients – Small manufacturers can sell to the big guys directly using electronic data interchange (EDI) and other technology advances.
  • Reaching customers directly – Centralized marketplaces from eBay to Amazon are making it easier to reach customers directly, eliminating the middleman.

How ERP can help
The systems that you have in place were designed to support your current business. When expanding through new channels, the business process requirements will be different. Take a proactive approach to build the systems that support a great customer experience.

  • Integrate store front and back-office – If you are going to sell to customers through the Internet, a website connected to your accounting system is critical to deliver good service. At the very least, customers expect to know if the items they order are in stock and when they will ship.
  • Automate to support higher volume and smaller orders – For a distributor used to dealing with large orders, selling direct to customers means higher volume but more small shipments. Automation through an ERP system can streamline the order entry and fulfillment process to maintain profitability.
  • Integrated ERP provides one source for answers – Customers expects answers fast. If your customer service reps have to check three different systems to figure out if and when the order shipped, customers may report the slow service on their social networks.
  • ERP reporting will help you determine real profits – Not all channels will be profitable for your business. It’s better to know that early and change your strategy to focus on channels that work.

The opportunities to expand your distribution channels have never been better, but poor execution can reflect badly on your entire business. Let’s talk about the systems that you need to make your multi-channel approach fuel business growth.

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October 26th, 2012

Productivity is often confused with getting employees to work harder. The reality is that productivity gains should make work easier for your employees. Let them spend more time making good decisions instead of searching for answers.

Systems (or lack of) that make work harder
As your employees go through their day, do they have to check multiple systems to answer simple questions? Employees can’t do their best work if:

  • Inventory is tracked in a spreadsheet on someone’s hard drive. Can your sales people count on inventory actually being in stock when they promise it to a customer?
  • Paper invoices are crammed into bulging customer folders. When a customer calls to place an order, do employees have to go digging to find the last price charged?
  • Project documents are sent as email attachments. Do project team members know which project report is the most recent one?

Your employees are your best asset. If they have to spend time tracking down an answer every time they need to make a decision or a promise, it’s frustrating for them.

Work can be easier
The right mix of business processes and technology can simplify the work for your employees to make them more productive. An integrated ERP system will give your employees:

  • Centralized customer history to answer questions quickly.
  • Documents that are easy to find and share.
  • Trustworthy information that they can use to make promises without hesitation.

Your employees want to work better, not harder. Give them the tools to make their work efficient and fulfilling. Let’s talk about transforming the productivity of your team.

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