Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Want to Buy Wholesale Software? Here’s How.

You know that you need some sort of system to help manage your wholesale business. Maybe you have a lot of manual processes and are tracking information in spreadsheets. Maybe your inventory is never accurate. Maybe employees are making a lot of errors shipping the wrong product from the warehouse. But what do you buy? Do you replace all of your existing systems for one solution? Is that even an option? Do you try to find inventory software that can integrate with your existing accounting solution? How much will it cost to buy wholesale software and how long does it take to get a new system in place? Are there even systems available geared towards wholesale businesses? These questions and more are all important to help you find the right solution to manage your business. When you decide to implement a new system, the goal is to automate processes, reduce manual work, streamline operations and ultimately, grow your business. But how do you find the right solution?

To help you buy wholesale software, follow these steps. 

Review existing business processes to determine what functionality you need
Set a budget – what tier of software is appropriate and what is a realistic idea of costs
Determine if your business has unique or industry-specific needs
Research options using Google, consider asking friendly competitors or talk to people in your network to get recommendations
Engage with a couple of different wholesale software vendors – ideally less than 5
Follow each vendor’s sales process with an open mind to learn more about each option
Narrow down your list to 2-3 final options
Ask for a proposal from your shortlist of vendors to make your decision
Choose a vendor, sign the proposal and prepare the initial deposit as soon as possible to guarantee the implementation timeframe you want

Review existing business processes to determine what functionality you need.

This includes not only evaluating how your business currently operates, but also identifying gaps, and areas where improvements can be made. Just because you have always done something a certain way does not mean you should continue to do it that way.

Set a budget – what tier of software is appropriate and what is a realistic idea of costs.

To properly set a budget, you must first determine what tier of software is appropriate for your business. Learn about the difference between using introductory software with manual processes  and an all-in-one ERP solution. You also want to evaluate the non-monetary and less obvious costs such as how long it takes to perform certain tasks (such as entering orders) and how many people you pay to do this job. Make sure you calculate how much money you’re spending on all of your existing systems if you plan on replacing them for something all-in-one. Are employees performing manual tasks that can be reduced with a proper software solution? Can you delay hiring new people to manage an increase in demand with the right system? All of these factors will help in determining an appropriate and realistic budget.

Determine if your business has unique or industry-specific needs.

Do you need to find a solution specific to your industry, or will any system designed for a wholesale business work? For example, wholesale businesses dealing with pharmaceutical products will have very different requirements from a wholesale business selling consumer packaged goods.  

Research options using Google, consider asking friendly competitors or talk to people in your network to get recommendations.

Although you may be familiar with some brand name software options, consider learning about other solutions based on what information you can find through Google and recommendations from your network. Brand name is not always better, and sometimes larger corporations do not provide the same personalized experience as smaller businesses.

Engage with a couple of different wholesale software vendors – ideally less than 5.

Trying to evaluate more than 5 vendors can lead to search fatigue. It makes it difficult to distinguish between each system and can cause you to become overwhelmed with too much information. 

Follow each vendor’s sales process with an open mind to learn more about each option.

Just because one vendor jumped into a demo, does not mean that is the best approach. Each software vendor will have their own sales process designed to best determine fit and showcase their product. When evaluating different options, dedicate the time to giving each vendor your full attention and be open to following their process. 

Narrow down your list to 2-3 final options.

Once you’ve had detailed discussions with the different software vendors, narrow down your list to 2-3 and ask to see a demo if you haven’t already. Trying to remember and compare 5 different options can be impossible. Instead, it’s best to focus on the top options to help make the right decision and to keep the software search process moving forward.

Ask for a proposal from your shortlist of vendors to make your decision.

At this point, it’s important to not just review each proposal but to also review each system’s available functionality, the feel and comfort level you have with each vendor, how you anticipate it will be to work with the vendor and their team, their experience with companies that are similar to yours and lastly budget. Budget should never be the focus of your evaluation process.

Choose a vendor, sign the proposal and prepare the initial deposit as soon as possible to guarantee the implementation timeframe you want.

Keep in mind that implementations don’t happen overnight. Resource availability and business process complexity will all have an impact on when your business can be up and running on the new software. Make sure you sign and return any necessary paperwork ASAP to better guarantee the implementation timeframe or time of year that works best for your business.

 

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Understanding Sales Reports with Blue Link

Within the past month or so, we have been taking some time to highlight different reporting features that Blue Link provides to help you run your business effectively and efficiently. First, we covered the different types of Accounting Reports that Blue Link ERP is capable of offering, then we took a deep dive into Blue Link’s Operations Management and the different tools and reports that are available at your fingertips. Hopefully, by now you have a basic understanding of what is possible with Blue Link, and how upgrading from an entry-level software can put you and your business miles ahead of the competition. So for today, we are going to go over Blue Link ERP’s Sales Reports and Dashboards. The type of sales reports that you are able to generate with ease in Blue Link provide a lot of detail and give you a much more in-depth look at your business and a better understanding of how your business operates.

When it comes to sales reports and sales dashboards, Blue Link ERP provides extremely detailed reports and information that can greatly benefit you when it comes to making business decisions and changing the way you run your business. We believe that in order to make smart decisions, you should have the information and the facts to back those decisions up, and with Blue Link’s reporting tools you are able to access that information with ease. Not only does Blue Link have detailed reports and more technical reports, but Blue Link also comes packed with many basic reports such as Top Inventory Sales, which showcases your business’ top-selling items by dollars and quantity, as well as Sales by Customer at a summary level or a detail level. These built-in and easy-to-access reports give you a lot of flexibility right out of the gate, and while it may seem like a lot, you really are just scratching the surface of what Blue Link is able to provide.

Another incredibly useful tool that Blue Link ERP provides is dashboards. With Blue Link’s customizable Sales Dashboard, you are able to view several different important pieces of information at a glance on one screen that you can then drill down on and fully get down to the detailed level with a wide range of information. The Sales Dashboard is an incredibly useful tool and also gives you the ability to view different reports on sales, such as Sales Margin by Customer comparing the current year to the previous year, and giving you a good look at what has changed for your business and which items are flying off the shelf. Again, we want to be able to provide you with information easily, and broken down in a way that it is easy to read and understand, helping you get the information you need and make decisions quickly and efficiently. Blue Link also provides other useful reports, such as Booked Sales Reports, which combines both open sales orders and posted invoices based on when the order was actually booked and can show you different levels of detail based on how much information you want to see. We like to give you plenty of options, because the more options you have with your information, the better you can use that information to help run your business. We also give you the ability to slice and dice your data and your sales information interactively in Excel, giving you even more flexibility when it comes to analyzing your orders and processes. This type of functionality is not something you would normally find in entry-level software, which may be another reason for you to leave the old stuff behind and make a leap to something more powerful – Blue Link, for example.

Something that many of you may not realize is the vast difference between entry-level software and a true ERP. With entry-level software, you are able to get your work done, but under certain constraints that may not seem apparent to you at the time, but will ultimately reveal themselves once your business begins to grow and expand. With a real ERP system like Blue Link, you are able to access information at a highly detailed level, and the number of sophisticated reports that are available to you is truly astounding. For example, with some systems you may only be able to view basic reports and have them shown to you in one way, whereas with Blue Link you are given plenty of options – like being able to choose from a long list of reports that can be delivered to you through email to specific users, or be sent reports daily, weekly or even hourly. As a business owner, you should be able to view your reports and analyze your information as you see fit, and with Blue Link you can. With so many possibilities of choices and options, you are able to make better decisions as a business owner and company, and you are able to use the information in the best possible way to help your business operate and grow. Blue Link gives you options with reporting and dashboards – something that differentiates true ERP from entry-level software.

For a quick overview of Blue Link’s Sale Reports and Sales Dashboards in action, a look at the video below, and please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions – we’re always happy to help.

 

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Everything You Need to Know About Cycle Counts

If you’re a company that buys and sells inventory, you need to perform inventory counts to track and record all products within your warehouse and available for sale. Manually counting all inventory in your warehouse verifies the number of inventory items and the condition the items are in. This allows your company to determine the real count of inventory in your warehouse (which can sometimes be different from what you think you have, or what your software thinks you have). Without proper inventory management, your business is susceptible to overstocks and out-of-stocks. Poor inventory management can also result in a loss of money due to misplaced or improperly sorted inventory, inaccurate lot counting and employee theft. Most businesses perform a full physical inventory count once or twice a year as they are a time-consuming and manual process. Therefore, it’s also a good idea to perform cycle counts multiple times a year to allow your business to check how well your inventory processes and systems are working.

With cycle counting, you count a small subset of inventory on a specific day which helps to audit your full inventory set. Cycle counting helps you compare how accurate your inventory records are within your ERP software, to what product you have in your warehouse.

How Often Should You be Performing Cycle Counts?

Many businesses will do a full physical inventory count once or twice a year, and then count a smaller group of products on a more regular basis. You can choose to perform a cycle count as often as you want depending on your business as they are much less disruptive. You can determine how often to do a cycle count based on your inventory turnover rate and how accurate past inventory counts have been. Another factor that can impact the frequency of cycle counts is the type of products you sell. For example, if you sell lot tracked items with expiry dates or seasonal items, it is a good idea to perform cycle counts more often. This will help to ensure you reduce the amount of product spoilage and dead stock.

Cycle Count Best Practices

When performing cycle counts you need to decide the best method for doing so. For example, do you count by product SKU or by warehouse location? You can also schedule more frequent cycle counts for specific areas of your warehouse or specific SKUs, and then perform a full physical count of all inventory at the end of the year. The most common cycle counting methods include the ABC Method, Control Group Cycle Counting and Opportunity-Based Cycle Counting.

ABC Cycle Counting

ABC cycle counting uses a class system to determine what inventory to count. The idea is that all your SKUs get categorized into different classes. You can base the class on product value, usage/sales volume or some other factor. The Class A items are then counted more than the B items which get counted more than the C items. The classes you choose will depend on what is most important to your warehouse and business.

Control Group Cycle Counting

Control group cycle counting is based on identifying any issues with the counting process. It allows warehouse staff to choose which sections of the warehouse or product SKUs they want to count. With this method, you count a small group of items multiple times in a short period which helps to identify any issues with the count technique. You then continue to count small groups of items until you’re confident in your cycle count process.

Random Sample Cycle Counting

As the name implies, random sample cycle counting is a cycle count of random inventory items in your warehouse. This is beneficial when you stock a large number of similar items. If you choose to count the same number of items each time, it will result in you counting some items more often than others. Another option is to exclude items previously counted from being counted again until all items in your warehouse have been slowly counted over time. This means that each count after that selects inventory from a diminishing number of items.

Whichever cycle counting method you choose, remember that it is important to mix up your cycle count schedule. This helps combat the unfortunate reality that is employee theft.

Benefits of Cycle Counts

For wholesale distributors, there are many benefits to cycle counts.

Reduce Holding Costs. When you know the true count of your inventory, you’re able to reduce holding costs by only stocking enough items to meet demand.
Improved Shipping Processes. When you maintain accurate stock levels, customers receive product more quickly with fewer issues.
Better Purchasing Decisions. With proper inventory management, you have better insight into what products are selling well, what products aren’t and how much to buy from your suppliers.
Accurate Financial Management. Managing inventory costs and depreciation is easy when you know what products you have on hand.
Better Forecasting. Tracking inventory allows you to analyze historical data and predict trends to make better purchasing and selling decisions in the future.
Happy Customers. If customers can rely on you to have the product they need when they need it, it will increase their loyalty to continue buying from you.
Improve Warehouse Operations. Cycle counting allows you to monitor and sanity check your systems and processes for accuracy. Are you picking product in the best way possible? Are you putting items away correctly? Are products labelled properly?

You can take advantage of warehouse staff idle time by getting them to perform cycle counts. ERP software that supports cycle counting allows you to manage and track your progress – by injecting a range of products or by selecting a range of bin locations and then printing off a count sheet. With more advanced WMS tools, you can count product using wireless barcode scanners. This reduces any human error with pen and paper methods and helps your warehouse become more environmentally friendly.

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Improving Your Operations Management with Blue Link

Some of you may remember that a few weeks ago we posted a blog detailing the different types of Accounting Reports that Blue Link ERP is able to provide. That topic hopefully gave you some insight into what is possible with Blue Link, and how far it stands above entry-level software with what it offers. Today, we are going to take a quick look at Blue Link ERP’s Operations Management features and the types of reports you can generate with the software. Again, as stated previously, there may be some of you who are currently using entry-level software such as QuickBooks and are looking to grow to something more powerful, something capable of giving you the detailed information that you require. We aren’t saying that entry-level software isn’t good and that it isn’t capable of doing what it’s supposed to, in this case accounting, but that’s really it, it is only good at doing exactly what it is supposed to, and not much else. With Blue Link ERP, you are given a massive range of tools and reports that can fulfill your every need and provide you with whatever information you require. So, let’s get down to business.

Blue Link ERP helps you manage your operations and supply chain with purchasing and inventory reports, dashboards, and other essential information that can greatly benefit you and the way you run your business – giving you information that you need to make the right decisions. With Blue Link’s Operations Dashboard, you are given a very useful look at information that can benefit you at a glance, plus the option to drill down further to get into the real detail that Blue Link provides. For example, you can choose to have a graph that shows your Potential Lost Sales Over the Last 30 Days, which when broken down for you shows you items that were back-ordered and if they had been in stock would have been ready to sell immediately and not resulted in a potential lost sale if the customer ends up canceling their order – a useful tool for inventory management.

Another incredibly useful tool that Blue Link ERP provides is the ability to have a personally customized home page, where some of the more interesting reports are found. We want to be able to provide users with a customizable snapshot of beneficial information, and the Operations Dashboard does that with ease. It is a powerful tool, that with the ability to customize, becomes even more powerful in the right hands. Here, you can review reports such as; a sophisticated Dead Stock Analysis, a report that shows you which items in your inventory rarely sell and are unlikely to sell in the future, or an Analysis of Purchases by Vendor, which you can view over a selected period as well as choosing whichever category of product you would like to include with the specific report. These different reports, and the ability to choose different parameters from which to pull data give you the most optimal view of the info, which will lead to you making the best decisions going forward. This type of reporting and level of customization is not something that you will see when using entry-level software and is one of the major benefits of upgrading to Blue Link ERP. Not only are you given advanced reporting tools,  but you can also customize them as you see fit to give you the results you need.

For a quick overview of what type of Operations Management reports are included with Blue Link, take a look at the video below, and please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions – we’re happy to help.

 

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DEA Suspicious Order Monitoring with Blue Link ERP

Since 1971, the DEA has required pharmaceutical “registrants” to monitor sales orders and inform their DEA Field Division Office of any suspicious orders of controlled substances. The criteria for a suspicious order is any order that is of unusual size, any order that deviates substantially from a normal pattern, and any orders of unusual frequency. With multiple customers and ship-to locations, trying to manually police the order entry process is impossible. Therefore, to adhere to DEA regulations, your business requires a sophisticated software solution to accurately track, monitor and report on any suspicious orders. With input from our clients and following industry regulations, Blue Link’s all-in-one Pharmaceutical Distribution Software includes sophisticated and configurable Suspicious Order Monitoring functionality.

This feature comes out-of-the-box with our other pharmaceutical-specific tools including lot tracking, DEA and state license expiry date management, identification of product, customer SKU classification and controlled drug scheduling, transaction history management (T3), saleable returns and more. These pharmaceutical distribution software features work alongside core ERP functionality – such as inventory management, accounting, warehouse management, financials and shipping. 

Blue Link’s suspicious order monitoring (SOM) functionality works by monitoring sales order activity in several areas throughout the software. In addition to the criteria listed above and outlined by the DEA, Blue Link allows you to automatically check all sales order activity for a variety of other criteria such as: 

The ratio of controlled vs. non-controlled quantities
Abnormal combinations of products
Items outside of the scope of practice
Strength check
Different product family combinations
Orders with a large percentage of products from the same family

Blue Link provides complete flexibility to our customers by allowing them to create additional criteria for SOM outside of those set above. The software also allows you to dictate which products you want to check. Any order that then meets the criteria outlined in Blue Link’s SOM tool gets flagged and the system will automatically put the order on hold. The system will then notify an authorized individual within your company of the order on hold. The ability to configure the suspicious order monitoring criteria and remove the hold status requires specific user permissions. 

Blue Link’s SOM functionality allows you to feel confident that the sales orders you process fall within the DEA guidelines. If a customer tries to order a product that is not acceptable, or if someone on your team enters the wrong quantity on the order, the system will immediately flag and hold the sales order. This makes it easy to train new employees and gives management peace of mind by preventing users without the right permissions from making mistakes, engaging in fraudulent activities, or violating DEA and DSCSA regulations. 

This sophisticated functionality can help you achieve VAWD accreditation, comply with the DEA requirement and shows visiting DEA inspectors that you are serious about your responsibilities.

 


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Accounting Reports Every ERP System Needs

There is a massive range of software that is available for companies to use, and plenty start out with entry-level software with basic accounting and financials as a way to save money and not be overwhelmed with options. Sometimes it really is better to just go with something basic with minimal fuss just to start things off, and find the perfect solution that fits your needs down the line. Though, as you and your company progress with entry-level software, everyone always seems to end up running into the same problem – that you aren’t given enough information. You need the details, the minute-by-minute and real-time updates, breakdowns, and graphs, you need to be able to analyze data quickly and efficiently so that you can grow and streamline operations as you expand. This isn’t always possible with entry-level software, so you have to look elsewhere to get the information you need. That’s where Blue Link ERP comes in.

Blue Link ERP provides every report you could possibly need for analyzing your business. Accounting reports, sales reports, operations reports, you name it. In order to be able to properly manage your business, and have the kind of detailed information required to make big decisions about inventory, sales, or anything else, it is necessary that you have the correct data to back it up. Simply having such a wide range of reporting features built into the software places Blue Link ERP miles ahead of any entry-level software, and will become very apparent that those features are something that any business will benefit from having.

Blue Link not only includes a fantastically detailed Financial Dashboard that displays a customized overview of your reports at a glance, but it also allows you to drill down on a long list of reports to give you the specific details you require. For example, Blue Link includes Customer or Vendor Aging Reports in summary or detail, current or retroactive, as well as more operational reports such as Vendor Payment Requirement Reports, and Deposit History Reports – a report used to review deposits processed during a specific time period. These are reports that you won’t find in basic software, and especially not with this level of detail and information. Having the right information in front of you will greatly benefit you and your company, and is necessary to grow and expand your operations.

Another feature of Blue Link is the ability to view the General Ledger Trial Balance in summary or detail to ensure the trial balance actually balances as it should. Also, when it comes time to produce financial statements, the Blue Link Financial Report Writer Excel Add-in gives you unlimited flexibility to generate statements using your real-time financial data.  For the average user, these and some of the other available tools and reports might not seem like something that stands out, but in the hands of someone with the right training and knowledge, these reports can be used to produce incredible results.

For a quick overview of what type of Accounting Reports are included with Blue Link, take a look at the video below, and please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions – we’re happy to help.
Blue Link Demo Video: Accounting Reports


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Purchase Orders and Purchase Order Requisitions in Blue Link ERP

Purchase orders and the purchasing process is a key component of any wholesale distribution business. Where a sales order is an order from your customer to buy goods from your company, a purchase order is a request from your company to purchase products from your suppliers to then sell to your customers. For wholesale distributors, purchase orders are a part of everyday life. However, depending on your business operations, the creation of a purchase order can be triggered by different scenarios. For example, you may issue purchase orders to maintain a certain stock level in your warehouse based on inventory min and max levels, or you may issue a purchase order only after receiving a sales order from your customer. Whatever the process, purchase orders allow you to buy product to then sell to your customers (the backbone of your business). Pretty simple right? Where there is sometimes confusion, is around the topic of purchase order requisitions. Below we take a closer look at the difference.

Purchase Order Requisitions

Not every company will need to create purchase order requisitions, and some companies may only require this type of document for certain types of products or purchases. Implementing the creation of purchase order requisitions (or a PO REQ) as part of your purchasing process can be a means to prevent fraud, or for control and tracking purposes when buying product over a specific value. The creation of a PO REQ is a request from an employee to make a purchase on behalf of the company. It is a formal process that allows an employee to create a purchase order request, send the request to a manager or department head for review and approval before it gets turned into an official purchase order, which is a legally binding document. The manager or department head has the authority to make any necessary adjustments to the PO REQ or deny the request. Only once the appropriate managers/department approves a purchase order requisition, can it be turned into a purchase order and sent to the supplier.

Creating a Purchase Order Requisition

In Blue Link, security permissions dictate who can create a purchase order, who can create a purchase order requisition and who can authorize submitted requisitions. When creating a PO REQ in Blue Link the first step is to choose the vendor you wish to purchase from and then add product to the order. This allows a business to assign an employee the groundwork for creating an order – the task of finding out information about a product and pricing but not creating a purchase order. If necessary, the employee can create multiple PO REQs for the same product from different vendors which allows the person with authority to choose which product and vendor they want to purchase from after reviewing all the options. When an employee submits a PO REQ, the systems records the date, time and employee ID. An employee can also set a status for the PO REQ – for example, important, submitted, on hold etc.
Blue Link Demo Video: Purchase Order Entry, Receipt and Requisition

 
Authorizing a Purchase Order Requisition

When authorizing a PO REQ, the person with the right permissions in Blue Link has the option to authorize only specific items and quantities in the PO REQ or all the products. Once someone authorizes a PO REQ, the system records the date, time and employee ID and updates the status. The authorizing person can then choose to take action and create a PO from the PO REQ screen. Automatic workflows in Blue Link ERP also notify the appropriate people when someone authorizes a PO REQ. Since you can create a purchase order from a PO REQ, this allows the authorizing person to add quantities from a PO REQ to an existing open purchase order (if you’re buying multiple items from the same vendor for example).

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How to Reopen Your Business During Uncertain Times

Businesses worldwide have been struggling with how to handle the constant changes and developments brought forward by COVID-19. Lockdowns that cause businesses to shut their doors, lack of money that leads to layoffs, outbreaks at factories that shut down the supply chain, and what seems like an endless list of changes and procedures that will affect businesses going forward. As a society, we are trying to be as safe and responsible as possible, but at the same time, we must be able to continue to work and offer our goods and services. During this unprecedented time, it is not business as usual, as we must learn to adapt and be one step ahead of the curve to continue to operate. Now, as businesses begin to reopen, there are plenty of things to consider to ensure a smooth transition in a world where COVID-19 exists.

 

Preparedness:

 

The most important part of reopening during this time is preparedness. Businesses need to be smart and prepare for any possible outcome. Even if everything is done perfectly, and every possible safety procedure is put in place, there is always a possibility for a future outbreak to occur, which could lead to your business once again taking a step backwards and reducing back to minimal output levels. This is something that a business needs to prepare for. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Businesses should also prepare for various degrees of ramping up. There shouldn’t be the expectation that once your business reopens it will immediately resume to a pre-virus level of sales or activity, so it is best to gradually expand, and not spend on anything unnecessary without thoroughly thinking it through. Discuss with your team, form a plan of action, and have a backup plan just in case. The more prepared you are the better and be sure to consider the following:

 

How long in advance will you know when your business can (or will) reopen or ramp back up?
Be prepared in case a restart is temporary – there may be another shut-down or slow-down in the future.
Plan for various degrees of ramp-up – your sales may take a long time to get back to where they were, but if you’re not properly prepared to handle orders when they do arise, you may end up actually causing or exacerbating it. Therefore, plan different ways to ramp up output without overly committing cash before it’s justifiable.

Inventory and Supply Chain:

 

If you haven’t already, now is the time to get in touch with your key suppliers, partly to “insure” the relationship, and partly to be on top of issues they may have in restarting. If a key supplier has gone out of business or is not prepared to revamp to pre-virus levels, the sooner you know this the more prepared you are to come up with alternatives. This not only includes suppliers of products, but also services such as software. Make sure you have access to all the supply chain technology and partners that you rely on.
 

Staffing:

 

After deciding on a plan of action, a business must then look to whatever staffing needs are necessary. During this time, millions of people lost their jobs due to businesses closing for a time or perhaps permanently. It is now time to look at bringing these people back into the fold. If you are ramping up at a high speed and expanding to pre-virus levels of operation, it would be wise to offer those laid-off their jobs back. You will need them to operate at efficient levels, though as a business you should always be prepared that some of the employees that were let go may not return whether due to retirement or finding employment elsewhere. This is another aspect that a business owner should prepare for and have a plan for. To operate successfully, you need trained staff to be able to handle the workload, and if that isn’t properly in place, then you may end up seeing poor results. How long will it take to re-hire staff or hire new employees?

 

Customer Continuity:

 

During these times of uncertainty, it is likely that some of your customers also experienced disruptions to their business. For those that have struggled, is there a way that you can proactively help them remain in business and also ramp back up?

 

Your business is nothing without your customers, so use this time to strengthen those bonds. Keep your customers in your plans and try to do what you can to show support for them.
 

Keep in mind that there are potential opportunities to gain market share if you’re able to restart your business quickly and efficiently, especially if you’re ready to go before your competitors. However, this means the converse is also true. Now is the time to start preparing for the future, even as so much uncertainty still remains.

 

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The Surprising Truth About Custom Software

Your business’ USP or Unique Selling Proposition is a unique aspect of your business that provides you with a competitive advantage. This could refer to a feature of your product, service aspect of your business or a specific process that allows you to beat competitors and grow your customer base. Sometimes your USP requires a specific piece of software or software customization to manage. However, before you jump into custom specifications and custom development, it is important to be aware of the downsides of custom software. Not only does custom software come with its own set of issues, it can encourage more complex business processes and product development.

Follow the 80% Rule

As a rule of thumb, it is always a good idea to try to find a business management solution that can address 75-80% of your business needs out-of-the-box. The other 20% can then be addressed through configuration, workarounds or lastly, through customization. If you’re struggling to find a solution that can manage the 80%, it may be because you’re looking for the wrong system, or it might be time to adjust your expectations and processes. This applies to whichever type of system you need – whether an accounting solution, CRM or all-in-one ERP. Unless your business operates in a very niche market, it is safe to assume that there is an existing solution that can meet most of your needs. While it is true that there may be certain processes that require a specific set of software tools, you could also be over-complicating processes based on old habits. This is especially true since most advanced software solutions will provide multiple ways in which to complete a process. Therefore, you can train employees on how to use the software in a specific way, as opposed to trying to find and customize a solution that provides limited tools.

This ties in with the MVP methodology. The idea is to find a system that allows you to operate business as usual, with the option to add additional features as needed down the road. At a minimum, you want to ensure employees can do 80% of their job using what is already included with the software.

Consider Future Business Disruptions

An important consideration when deciding to customize or not, is the potential for things to change down the road. Not just your business processes and strategic goals, but also other changes such as:

Technology changes
Government regulations
International trading rules
Competitor offerings
Customer/target market needs
Reporting requirements
Environmental/economic changes – think of COVID-19 as an example
Opportunities to increase efficiencies, etc.

When internal and external factors change – most of which are out of your control – your custom software will no longer work leaving you to either develop new custom or find a new solution. Neither of which is an ideal fix.

Configure the Software to Meet Your Needs

Another option over customization, is configuration. Most systems allow you to configure the software to meet your specific business processes. For example, configuration allows you to:

Turn on “flags” for specific actions such as customers over their credit limit, which prompts employees on what to do when that happens
Set-up available order statuses based on workflows
Automatically update a status, populate a field, email an employee etc. based on certain criteria being met

Many businesses require some small amount of customization when implementing software, however, too much customization and you start to run into problems.

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How Are You Managing Your Landed Costs?

There are a few different ways that you are probably familiar with for tracking and managing your actual cost of goods, with some being more exact than others. Maybe you calculate everything manually, or maybe you’re adding the same markup percentage across the board to cover all the factors that go into getting the product into your inventory (your landed costs). Maybe you have software in place that works for you, that gets the job done and gives you a number you’re happy with – but is that number accurate? So, now you’re wondering what you can do to improve your odds and give you the best and most accurate result. Good, because we are about to tell you.

First, whether you are aware of it or not, it is important to bring you up to speed with “Landed Costs”. Landed costs are the total cost of a product, or inventory item once it has arrived at your facility. This means it includes the original purchase price of the item, the shipping costs, customs, duties, taxes, and really any fees that are incurred during the process of getting the item from the seller to the buyer. If you are not tracking your landed costs, then you are most likely losing money as a business, and that is something that you will want to fix. It is impossible to know the true valuation of your inventory without tracking landed costs.

Manual tracking of landed costs is a viable solution, though it can end up being extremely time consuming and allows for plenty of errors when attempting to figure out the true landed costs associated with each unit received. These errors can end up causing you to lose money if you’re marking-up a product without having an accurate idea of all the Landed Costs. That’s something we are trying to avoid. The less manual processes here, the better.

Some companies may find they have had good results by adding an average mark-up across the board, on all their products to cover the incurred fees/costs, a tactic that is ultimately better than nothing, though it is still not giving the accurate numbers that you as a company need to be looking for. Instead, the best and most accurate way to track your landed costs is with landed cost tracking software such as Blue Link that uses estimates (assuming you’re unable to get actual costs at the time you receive the shipment of goods). You will then need to review these estimates on a regular basis for accuracy.

In order to give a better understanding of what this might look like in action, let’s try to build a scenario using Company A and take a look at how a company might be incorrectly calculating their landed costs based on poor estimates. Let’s say Company A imports product directly from manufacturers overseas. Because they may only receive an invoice for freight, customs, etc. weeks after receiving the goods, they base their landed costs on an estimate of previously associated fees, for example, how much it cost the company to import the product 6 months ago. But, if Company A is not regularly comparing these estimates with actuals, they could be losing money.  If Company A does not accurately track their true cost of goods, they will be expecting a higher return of profit on the sale of the imported goods, but once the true cost becomes apparent, their large profits will disappear. If Company A imports goods for $100 and sells for $125, they’ve made a quick $25 dollar profit. Seems great, right? Once you factor in the true landed costs that they overlooked by not correctly estimating, for example, $15 in duty charges, $10 in brokerage, and $10 in freight costs – well, you’ve lost money. Using wildly inaccurate estimates and not very fine-tuned numbers that closely resemble your true landed costs, Company A is doing a massive disservice to itself. With Blue Link, the difference between the estimate and actual freight bill (the variance) is treated as an expense if it is a small and insignificant amount – which if you estimate correctly, it should be.  If you’re dealing with a large variance,  it’s time to take another look at how you got your estimates. Some businesses want their ERP software to let them change the inventory value to account for these large variances, however, the better practice is to accurately track your landed costs, so that the variance is never large – because the more accurate you are with your estimates, the better. Therefore, it is best practice to continuously review and update landed cost estimates as necessary. Don’t be afraid to get on the phone with your freight forwarder or customs broker to get an idea of how they calculate costs. The idea is that your cost estimates should never be too far from actual costs, which means you can easily use these estimates in setting prices. Especially since you may not receive your actual freight or customs bill until long after you’ve sold the product. Blue Link will let you manually adjust your inventory value, but it’s purposefully a manual process to dissuade people from doing this, as the automated features using estimates to account for landed costs are a much more efficient option. The better you know your true costs of goods, the better your business will operate, and the more money you will save and earn.

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