Many SMBs find small amounts of cash slipping through their fingers on a monthly basis unintentionally. It might be due to operational ineffectiveness or inefficiency; it might be due to less productive employees. Finding solutions to that often comes short; asking your employees to produce more is just doesn’t work. Social media? It’s just the same; no Facebook blocking or snapchat spy app can keep your employees from procrastinating on social. Getting employees to work more or putting up walls to keep them from escaping their cubicles is so industrial age. You need better solutions.
What is an SMB to do?
No business can afford “revenue leakage,” regardless of size. Yet when accounting is left to live in spreadsheets, duplicate purchase orders and lost invoices are difficult to avoid. Keeping track of stocks is awfully challenging. Employees can only do so much – even the best ones. The answer is not by forcing your employees to work as if they are doing a forced labor. The answer is using technology.
We recently chatted with John Macomber, who is the Director of Sales of Deskera, a business management software provider. He has been working for ERP software companies all of his career. In the interview, we break down the ways to use technology to avoid leaking revenue.
Ivan Widjaya (Q): What is ERP software?
John Macomber (A): ERP stands for enterprise resource planning. An enterprise resource planning system is the management hub for everyday business processes for organizations of all sizes. To move your business forward, you need the “spokes” of sales, inventory, purchasing, finance and manufacturing connected to a central “hub,” the ERP. All of the spokes are necessary to the wheel, but the hub supports each to allow the wheel to roll.
Q: What are some of the processes ERP software affects?
A: At the lowest level, ERP software is an intuitive accounting book where all financial transactions reside. This includes invoicing, purchasing, payments and financial reporting. At the highest level, ERP can influence sales, inventory and manufacturing.
Q: What keeps small businesses from taking the plunge on ERP software?
A: Often, just the fact that it’s called enterprise resource planning causes small business owners pause. Because they don’t believe their business is big enough to be considered an “enterprise,” they automatically disqualify the idea of ERP software. The truth is, if your business has a cash flow, you need a system to manage it, whether your yearly revenue is $500,000 or $500 million.
Q: What are some of the risks businesses run by not using ERP?
A: Revenue leakage often results what we call “spreadsheet accounting.” Consider this: an organization making $50M in revenue can experience leakage of up to five percent, or almost $2.5M in preventable losses. These losses occur over time and typically are the result of the following:
- Incorrect data entries
- Unclear payment timeframes
- Unsent invoices
- Unchecked generous discounts
- Unmonitored profitability
All are preventable mistakes, but without ERP software, they’re much more difficult to detect. As small businesses grow, it becomes harder and harder to keep all the line items straight in an Excel sheet.
Q: All the software options available could make the choice overwhelming. What is your advice to small business owners looking for a vendor that’s a fit?
A: Firstly, avoid paralysis by analysis. Keep in mind that the perfect vendor likely doesn’t exist, so outline your criteria carefully. Make a list of two to three “deal-breakers” – items that must be present before signing a contract. Examples of deal-breakers could include in-depth financial reporting or various integrations. Cost could be a deal-breaker as well. Next, make your wish list of features that would be nice to have, but you could get along without, such as a corresponding mobile app. These lists will serve as guides for your vendor search and will inform the questions you ask during software demos.
Integration time is another item to consider when evaluating vendors. Expressing a desired timeline for “going live” is another way to evaluate software for your needs. Every company’s integration time is different, so ask what the timeline looked like for one of their existing clients, from signing to onboarding.
Q: Speaking of onboarding, CEOs often worry if they’re employees will like the software, much less use it once it’s live. Do you have any tips for the employee side?
A: Perhaps the best piece of advice I can offer is to not skimp on training. Your software provider should be able to provide your team with in-depth, tactical education on how to use the platform to its highest ability. Even once the training is complete, the company should outfit you with a customer success rep who can answer questions throughout the duration of your contract. Encourage employees to send their questions. As for software usage, if you migrate all your books, your employees won’t have a choice of whether or not to use it. Mastery only occurs after repeated use, so consider the first few weeks as a practice run for all.
Many thanks for your time, John!