Benefits of inventory systems for small business

Excel spreadsheets or non-integrated inventory systems are a thing of the past.  Today software provides strong reporting, stock management and cost controls which can be a game changer for small businesses running products, components/items for manufacturing and direct sales to end users.

Knowing how much stock you have on hand can enable business to support better cashflow, enhance greater profitability within the business and take away guess work usually done by ‘assumptions’ of what’s selling and what’s not.  A classic example of this is a business owner who sold the last 3 items in a product range so went ahead and re-ordered another 45 units; as it turned out they hadn’t sold any of those items for over four years and spent $12,500 on slow moving stock he was stuck with, all due to not having sufficient sales history on this particular item; a costly and expensive mistake when you are not able to forecast future sales opportunities.

Analysis of numbers and items across seasons, product lines, manufacturing components and sales channels are guaranteed to support business owners in making informed decisions on inventory.  Whether it be to re-stock top selling items, move old/expired units or slow-moving stock, transparency is critical to reporting the facts. Some software even automates a minimum count notification which then adds the item to a draft purchase order to restock more!

Stocktakes can be a challenge at the best of times, with the right software which allows you to count stock based on bin/bay location and bulk update/upload directly, it can save hours in time, additional costs and wages.  Completing regular stocktake ensures your inventory is up to date, lost or miss-picked items are minimised, and stock write-offs are heavily reduced, thus supporting better cashflow in the business.

With many apps providing support to a robust picking and packing system which uses multiple locations and barcode/QR scanning, the chance of a miss-pick or a costly return of product can be reduced or removed with some offering a double-check system prior to dispatch.  In addition, many freight companies now integrate their own software into these apps to make consigning product simple and seamless at the click of a button.

Knowing your customers is an important element to growing sales, many inventory systems include CRM systems and detailed reporting on their top purchased products, frequency of sales and other key elements critical to growing and maintaining excellent customer relationships.  Many software applications will have apps available so you can also take payments and receive new orders on the go, a great benefit for further increasing cashflow and converting sales on the road.

Considerations:

  1. Compile a “must have” and “nice to have” list of what you need the software to do.  Use this to consider the options available to you and help shorten the list, remember that most software will meet between 85-95% of your requirements and in some instances, you may need to find a work-around or alternative solution to meet every wish. We also recommend you ask your team as what is important to them, they may suggest something you hadn’t considered.  It also supports ‘buy-in’ from your team which will ensure a more favourable outcome when launching a change to their workflow.
  2. When thinking about your workflow process, consider what it might look like in the new software; This is particularly useful for measuring time to complete tasks and how much savings the software comparisons could bring the business.
  3. Make a list of existing software and compare how many they can connect to, automate tasks and what benefit that could bring to the business.  Aim to reduce or minimise as much double handling of work as possible.
  4. Budget and estimate how much you can afford for the monthly subscriptions, implementation costs and any additional costs associated with implementing the software.  Whilst training and upskilling may be slower at the beginning, many benefits of a great software decision should be that you start seeing the cost savings pretty quickly.
  5. Consider when the best time to install, train and migrate to the new software is for your business.  You want to avoid a busy time of year or when key staff are away on leave.
  6. Seek feedback – online forums, Facebook groups, testimonials etc are a great source of information, after all their experience may be a critical element in your decision making process.
  7. Book-in demos of the top 2-3 software picks and prepare a list of questions for them to show you how particular things work, watch for ease of use and take into consideration how other staff will also work within the software and/or how much training may be required.
  8. Download free trials and have a play.  Trials can last anywhere between 10 – 14 days before expiring so worthwhile showing the staff as well and gather their opinions too.

When in doubt, ask an expert! You are spoilt for choice when trying to find the right package out there to meet your needs.  We recommend research, partnering with an experienced app advisory business and rely on their expertise to get it right the first time.

2020 Annual ICNZB Conference

I was excited to attend the ICBNZ Annual Bookkeeping Conference in Napier last weekend and it was terrific connecting with fellow Bookies for a couple of days for intensive learning, networking, and of course, socialising!  Congratulations to everyone who has been involved in the association for the last ten years, and here’s to many more!

This event is important to me for various reasons. I love connecting with others in a similar industry, catching up with lifelong friendships, learning new things, and hearing amazing speakers sharing their skills, experience, and talents with others.

I was amazed by the number of first-timers to our conference and hope that this is a sign of things to come with the growth of our industry, having a fabulous association supporting our daily endeavours is a great asset to have. It shows the work going on behind the scenes within the association is working!

While I wasn’t able to convert my finalist award to being the winner, It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to sit with the Figuration Team and celebrate Amie winning two awards!  Being recognised for our hard work and passion for the industry is great to see. Congratulations to all the finalists and winners in each of the categories. I hope you take Haylee’s advice next year and enter the awards!

My key takeaway from the event is from the keynote speaker William Pike, my goodness, what an amazing man!  Goals certainly have helped William in his life, and I felt motivated to create my own goals, something I have just started working on both personally and professionally, so watch this space!

The “Blacker” Cat

Over Christmas lunch I was lucky enough to have a much loved family member share the ‘blacker cat’ philosophy and it has really stuck with me.

Basically… Someone always has something better, something brighter, something which ‘out-trumps’ your “thing” and is unreservedly unapologetic about it. They have a “blacker cat” than you.

The thing I have discovered over the Christmas / New Year break is the amount of people that do this, without realising and without understanding the consequences of their ‘self promotion’.

Whether it be the perfect family/work life balance, the perfect batch/holiday destination to relax and unwind, the perfect day completely disconnect from work, or perfect car trip from their holiday destination with no traffic… some of us look in awe and wonder how the hell did they get that and what or where did I go wrong to get it?

The thing they forget is that at one point in their life, they were exactly in the same position as we are now, that in order to achieve the work/life balance, they needed a village behind them to help achieve it; to achieve the perfect batch/holiday destination they needed a team or a hardworking staff or contractors to bring in the business while you are away; and to achieve the perfect car trip they needed a well organised household ready to go at a moments notice to avoid the rush (and with my 2 kids that’s highly unlikely!).

What they also didn’t share is the historical struggle to make it happen, the “behind the scenes” which makes sure it all goes to plan… The hard work it took to get there and also the mistakes and/or ‘practice attempts’ to get things right.

My point is this; you will always come across people who have the “blacker cat”; you can take it two ways… they are highly competitive, always are striving to be the best (and invite you to join in or share the journey) or people that they need to stand up, stand tall and wish be acknowledged for what they have done and just want you to look in awe.

Can you spot them? Who do you know has the ‘blacker cat”? Do you let this affect your way of thinking?

The Busy Christmas “Juggle Bells”

Busy business owners with little school aged kiddies will completely understand my mild panic attack when it dawned on me this morning my kids have one week of school left this year!

As I write this, my ‘brain-dump’ board of everything I want and need to achieve before the delightful chaos that will ensue, is chock-a-block! Realistically I know with all the usual interruptions, I anticipate only 70-80% of these actions will be done before that last school pick-up for 2018.

Being a business owner with a small family can be tough at this time of year… many can’t afford the (almost) two months off their own business and not to mention the feeling of guilt by being an absent parent, usual client needs and all those standard tasks that still need to happen, it can be really hard!

With that being said I wanted to share a couple of hacks that have saved me for the last couple of years, it has meant my clients don’t become disengaged, my kids still get to treasure precious family time, and I am not needing to book an emergency trip to the hairdresser to cover my increased growth in greys!

I hope that at least one of these might be able to help you too…

The Brain-dump: Grab a big sheet of paper (or a blank wall) and a pack of post it notes, scribble all those tasks down that are stuck in your head that you have been thinking about… create 3x title notes; Need to do, love to do and like to do (or something similar) and happily stick all those tasks into the column you feel it fits best. Now for those who love tech… I love using Trello for this but post-its work just as great (remember to take a pic of them just in case they fall off!) Once your happy, focus on the ‘need to do’ first and work your way through the rest, even if you just achieve the first priority list before school ends, your productivity will most likely increase.

Consider splitting your time between work and family: Once school has finished, perhaps work the mornings and stop at lunchtime to plan something with the kids, In my house I try to book them into a holiday program 2-3 days a week and spend the remainder of time with the kids. Sometimes, I will work Tuesday – Thursday and take Friday and Monday off so we can head away for a break.

Client Communication: If you plan on emailing your clients to share a Christmas message, let them know your hours will be reducing during the holidays and that you will be available intermittently, be clear that outside these times, they can call / email but you will have your mum/dad hat on so they can expect a minor delay. Also consider changing your business voicemail with hours of operation and update your out of office on email, so people know when you are working… at the end of the day, if it’s still urgent, they will still be able to track you down, but you have pre-warned them of any time delays.

Delegation: Who in your office can you delegate to? If you’re a small business, perhaps consider outsourcing some duties during the break? We have a number of clients who delegate tasks to us during this holiday period so they too get a rest, albeit they have pre-planned this 4-6 months ago, but it means they truly get a chance to step away from the business and trust that things are still ticking along.

Realisation: Respect the fact that you might not be able to do it all! I learnt a long time ago (yep, the hard way!) that you can’t be everything to everyone and still wear a superhero cape! I am allergic to housework and my Mt Wash-more (aka clean clothes pile) may require a ski pass, but guess what? I’ve had fun doing the juggle and the kids have had precious memories created… and let’s face it, you can either work as a team with your partner, hire a cleaner or turn things like this into a game with the kids to get it all done and never miss out on that quality time.

At the end of the day, it’s time you can’t get back from the business or the family so you need to choose what works, when and where, be prepared to adapt to suit and don’t stress! After all, this is a chance for you to step back and have a breath too! Life is way too short.

My most favorite memory of a family holiday was going camping in the suburb next to us! We packed up the gear, drove the long way (via the motorway) so the kids thought we were miles from home and camped for a week! I popped home to get work done when it was needed but we all got to eat, sleep and swim as necessary… For anyone who knows the Hibiscus Coast, we went from Orewa to Red Beach (usually a 5 km trip!); the kids still talk about the awesome holiday by the beach and I will probably tell them the truth at their 21st!

I would love to hear your tips to get through this holiday period, please feel free to share them with us!

In the meantime, from the 5 Star Admin Team and myself, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Business Efficiency… working smarter, not harder!

This last week, I have had the privilege of speaking to a number of small business owners in supporting their decisions to make their day to day operations of business more efficient.

From time-saving tips to removing double handling from their workloads, I was surprised how quickly they were able to see the benefits just a couple of changes were going to make to their organisation, and more importantly the adaptation and up-take in software improvements was going to ensure they saw increased profit and freedom to do more of what they wanted.

By simply changing the way they thought about the time spent ‘in’ the daily activities and looking at ways to enhance their workflow, I could see the lightbulbs go off around the room.

One guy even said he might have time to take the family out to tea next week! (This coming from a hardworking tradie whose days start at 7am and end at 7am)… I told him to send me a selfie to hold him to it too!

Software is the easiest and simplest form of efficiency in many of today’s businesses, from Xero app integration to better management of a diary, you too will be surprised how changing just a couple of things in your own business can create more freedom to do what you love.

When efficiency gives you more freedom

Home Office Desktop View

This week I had the pleasure of chatting with an entrepreneur in the starting blocks for phase two of his business.  The passion and drive he had when he spoke was infectious!

He appreciated the fact that he could not be all things to all people and still expect the current systems and processes to handle the increase in workload, he wanted some advice on great tools to make his working day more efficient and without adding to it.

Home Office Desktop View

CONSIDER THIS… How can YOU achieve more in your day? What would your freedom look like?

It’s a tough one for many to really see inside their current structure and quickly identify the ways to create more efficiency.  Below are a few questions to get you thinking further about it…

  1. What takes the most amount of time that you really hate doing? (e.g. Reconciling bank accounts)
  2. Is there anything you need or want to improve to make it better? (e.g. reduce time allocating projects)
  3. Have your internal or external customers really noticed something and mentioned it to you? (e.g. follow up emails)

In our experience, software and apps should be the first start for increasing efficiency.  However, you don’t want to be trialing several apps, or spending hours scrolling through reviews to see what you think. 

Get a specialist involved and use their experience, knowledge and expertise to do it for you. 

After all… isn’t this the start of being efficient?

Give… Give… Give… then you will GET!

When I first started out self-employed in business, I had no idea how much I relied on others to support, mentor and nurture my ideas and concepts into a reality. The support networks were everywhere, coffee groups, friends and family but It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, I added my social media connections and Facebook groups which I am involved in to the support circle.

Strange, isn’t it? Small home businesses can start to become quite insular in our approach to making an impact on the wider community or target audience and it’s not until you start collaborating with other online forums / groups that you realise your reach is a lot wider!

A few months ago, I reduced my business and client base significantly to focus on some important family time due to two very important people in my life passing away.  This time gave me a chance to reflect on what I am doing, what I am offering others and what can I give back to the online community.

I made the decision to continue to do what I love and share the love with others as this is what truly makes me happy (and wished there was more of when I started out).  During one of my research afternoons (a.k.a. scrolling through Facebook!) I came across a group called NZ Woman’s Entrepreneur Network (now called She Owns It) and was immediately struck how collaborative and supportive everyone was in the group.  I sent a request to join and from this date forward I have never looked back!

I signed up as a paid member and commenced my 2017 goal of giving back… If a question was asked and I had something useful to share, I shared it!  If I had something to offer, I offered it.  Simple but VERY EFFECTIVE.  I wasn’t expecting anything in return, just loved the feeling of helping others and providing some well received support or reassurance to other woman entrepreneur’s.

So this week, I gave back to them more… $500 dollars’ worth of product and services more!  The WE Network had a Celebration Launch for at a wonderful venue in Ponsonby.  I gave away a PA for the day, a “home office survival basket” and three months free Xero subscription!

In addition, I had the chance to speak and share my story in business and why I chose 2017 as the year for giving back.  The referrals and contacts I made with people that night were incredible.

My tip?  Seek your perfect online space to be supportive and share your stories with others because if you keep giving and love it, it will eventually come back to you.  If you would like to know more about WE Network, then check them out here… Don’t forget to say hi if you see me online!

Until next time, take care… and have fun!

What to consider when hiring a VA

There are a number of factors to consider when hiring a VA and one thing I have noticed lately is that it is similar to a job interview however, the interview actually goes both ways! Remember that they are business owners too with their core business providing you with professional service.

Not only will you be checking that they are the right fit for your business but, they too will be just as inquisitive to see if it can work for them. We have come up with some helpful tips to assist you in your interviewing potentials and hope that this helps you come to the important decision of who to entrust to compete your outsourced work.

Should you have any questions at any stage, we are more than happy to have a no-obligation chat to get you on the right track, it can really help put things into perspective for you.

1. Introduction​:

  • Try where possible to meet face-to-face or via skype (or similar) to conduct the meeting.
  • Tell them about your business, what industry you are in, how long you have been in business, the size of the business, what your target market is, what your vision for the business is.
  • What is the vision of the business and both your short, medium and long term goals?
  • Why you are looking for a VA and what are some of the immediate tasks you need attention to?

2. Purpose:

  • Once the introduction has been completed, Ask the VA if this is something which they are able to assist with.  From here, you will start to gather a solid ‘feel’ for the person.  One really important note to look for is the impression of a business expert or employee; a business expert should really come into their own at this point and start leading and probing for more information, an employee perspective might wait for more ‘interview questions’ from yourself and not show assertiveness, if this occurs – be aware that they may not be suitable to take the initiative/lead and may need a lot of future guidance or micro-management.
  • Questions or discussions you should be looking for the VA to ask are things like: What is the project timeline?, What systems, tools or software do you use?, Is there a budget?, What are the KPI’s which need to be achieved?, Is there templates which need to be used? Is someone in the business currently completing these items already?

3. Solution:

  • At this point they should be feeding relevant and specific information back to you and showing you how or what they can offer the business and be able to complete the tasks quickly and efficiently.
  • Make sure you find out what experience they have in this field, whether they have done it before, have they completed any training previously in this area and what examples they might be able to show you.
  • Ask the VA what is their availability for completing your work and what their average working week looks like – this will give you a great impression on whether this will fit with your needs, that time zones are suitable and what capacity they actually have to complete the work.  At this point I would also recommend enquiring if it would be just them completing the work or is a team working in the background as well… may sound unusual but in many instances, they could be ‘farming’ the work to others rather than completing independently (happens a lot overseas) and this can add all sorts of challenges!
  • Ask how they like to communicate with their customers and what their invoicing/payment systems are that they currently operate, if based in New Zealand – ensure that they are GST registered (for your tax purposes).  Ask for an estimated time frame on how long the task or project might take and what an estimated cost might be – if they are experienced in this field, they should be able to provide a verbal price quickly and follow up with a formal quotation.

4. Commencement:

  • Once you are happy with the VA and the quotation provided, they will (or should) have contract and agreements for you to sign and accept.  These are there primarily to protect you and ensure that confidentiality is maintained at all times. These are effectively a sub-contractor agreement which ensures that both parties are covered and more importantly, should the business relationship discontinue for any reason, all commercially sensitive material remains confidential and is returned to you without delay.
  • Be aware that working with VA’s in another country than yourself can be very different, for example the law’s and tax/finance etc.

It may seem overwhelming at first but I assure you that when you get the foundations right, it can lead to a long a prosperous relationship for both of you.  Happy to answer any questions you may have by email tara@5staradmin.co.nz or visit our Contact Us Page to complete the online enquiry form and I will be in touch!

Happy searching.