If you’re a startup company or a business just beginning your operations, it can sometimes feel like you’re having to line up all your ducks in a row before you can actually get going. The systems you’re using to run your business, record your accounting and keep track of stock can seem like added complexities in the mix. Especially when you’re starting off using spreadsheets and different systems for different purposes. But is there an easier way to take away the clutter and not only get started simply, but also get started quickly?From NetSuite’s annual SuiteConnect conference in Sydney this year, we heard from a number businesses who had been in similar positions before. Like Emma & Tom’s, who had started out small, but had also made a conscious decision to start simple. Emma Welsh (one half of the duo who started up the business) spoke in an “Ask the Experts” panel discussion about initially setting up their business management software, JCurve ERP. Emma decided to focus primarily on the accounting, inventory, production and planning for the initial setup and implementation. This let her simplify the set up process, get their core requirements in place and have their business running faster. Getting their accounting right was the main focus before moving on to the other aspects of their small business software system which would continue to provide additional benefits.
While every business will have its own unique requirements, and often be as individual as the people running it, it’s worth considering the methods that other successful businesses such as Emma & Tom’s followed in the initial stages of their business set up. Let’s have a deeper look at how to start out simply, focus on your core requirements and have your business set up quickly and ready for further functionality and business growth to follow.
Know Your Best Option
With everything that’s going on when you’re setting up your business, it can be a huge benefit to find a business software solution, and technology partner, that will not only allow you to set up simply, but also work with you to help you set up quickly. Take a moment to consider the different software options in which you can invest, and what may be the right fit for you.
There’s a big difference between an accounting system and an ERP solution. We cover this more in depth in our article on What Is Cloud ERP Software – but in summary, an accounting system will allow you to manage your financials such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, trial balances and sometimes payroll. An ERP system will include the features of an accounting system, but also provides inventory management, CRM, sales, marketing, eCommerce, business intelligence and more. And while you may want to start out with just the accounting functionality, it’s important to consider what your business will need down the track. The last thing you’ll want to be doing once your business is in full operation is going through another re-implementation of a more advanced system to cater to your needs.
More traditional, on-premise ERP solutions will run from physical servers which need to be set up and the software installed and configured by technical resources before you can really begin your implementation. Much of the hidden costs of on-premise ERPs can be in the cost of that physical equipment, storage, data backups and dedicated IT staff to monitor and maintain the equipment.
Cloud solutions can be set up much faster, as they use the existing ERP vendor infrastructure with cloud deployment. The system can simply be logged in to and work commenced once your licenses are purchased and set up. Software updates are also managed by the software vendor, tested and released to you seamlessly via the cloud. If you’re considering whether a cloud based solution is right for your business, have a read of our article 10 Benefits of Cloud Computing to gain some more insights.
You’ll also be able to find cloud software providers who offer rapid implementations to further speed up the implementation process and get you running with your core functionality even faster.
Start Simply, Start Quickly
Before you start, make a quick list of the functionality that’s most important for your particular business, e.g. Accounting, transactions, inventory management, etc and which other functions may be able to wait until you’re up and running, e.g. eCommerce, marketing, business intelligence, etc. Be sure to also communicate your priorities clearly to the software vendor or implementation partner with whom you’ve choose to engage. It’s imperative they’re working towards the same set of priorities that you are.
One other point to consider when choosing the software vendor to work with; do they offer a solution with a reasonable cost of entry that can also be scaled up as your business grows? If you’re wanting to stay as a small operation, there are a lot of good vendor options out there who can handle your basic accounting requirements well, and with a low cost; for lower transaction numbers and straightforward transactions, that is. But if your sights are set on becoming a growing business, make sure you’ll have the option to add the advanced functionality you’ll need and scale up seamlessly as your business grows.
Once you’ve decided on the technology partner and solution that’s right for you, be sure to clarify the scope and timeframe. Many partners will provide you with a Scope of Works (SOW) which outlines the work to be undertaken. It will also identify what will be additional work outside of your initial setup and implementation project. You’ll also want to ensure you have the resources needed (both internally and from your technology partner) to ensure your implementation is achievable within the set timeframe. The sooner you can finish off your implementation, the sooner you can use your new software as your daily driver and begin seeing Return on Investment (ROI). It also means you’ll have the opportunity much quicker to look at additional functionality that can help reduce your operational costs and boost your sales. Have a read of our article on How to Gain ROI from Your Implementation Faster for more ideas on seeing the maximum ROI, faster.
Get Your Team Involved
It’s so important to involve the team who will be using your ERP system, right from the start. For new businesses and startups, this is often a small number of people. By getting buy-in and feedback from those who will be using your new ERP software, you’ll not only make them enthusiastic about it, but also allow them to learn about it from the get go.
The key to successful software implementations is the people involved. Take the time to explain the benefits to them, how the software will help them in their day to day activities and be up front about the time and commitment you’ll need from them during implementation.
Expand on Your Core Functionality
By now, you’ll have worked with your chosen technology partner to deliver the right business management software. You’ll have a clear view of what’s been achieved as part of the implementation project, as set out in your SOW, and how you went against your expected timeframes. Your team will be using the software day to day and continually learning more about it. So what’s next?
If you’re using a scalable ERP system that focuses on more than just accounting, you’ll have only scratched the surface. So your next big ticket item will be to focus on the aspects which will increase your ROI even further by helping boost your sales and reduce your operational costs.
Some of the next points to consider to help boost your sales will be around sales performance visibility using dashboards and KPIs, quantity and discount pricing, sales team organisation, CRM setup and sales force mobility. Our article on How to Grow Sales Faster expands on these points in more detail.
There are also many more cost reductions to be leveraged from here, including better inventory management processes, increasing your warehouse efficiency, knowing your stock position better to reduce stock obsolescence and write-offs, process automations, reduction of manual processing errors and much, much more.
The Right Approach
It’s always interesting hearing individual business stories about what worked during their start up, and what didn’t work as well. Every business in different, so it’s important to take stock of what your own business priorities are before deciding on the right approach. Would a scalable small business software solution work better for you starting out, or do you need a more enterprise level solution? Will a simple approach suit your business and help you see ROI faster with a rapid implementation? Or do you have bigger requirements which all need to be met up front? If you’re not sure, why not get in touch with someone who talks to businesses every day about exactly that? Get the advice you need on whether a start simple, start quickly approach could work for your business.
Interested to hear more about what Emma & Tom's did to boost their business growth through managing their stock better, running more efficiently and delivering a more personal customer experience? Have a read of their customer success story or watch their 3 minute video.
Or get our whitepaper with all in the info you need on costs compared between cloud ERP and traditional on-premise ERP systems: