When you run a small business you need to be a jack of all trades, a master multi-tasker, a pinch hitter… basically you need to be ready and able to do any task that needs to be done at any time. If you have the right team and the right tools in place, things just work better and that means you’ll be able to focus on the things that matter most. But as your business grows and changes, how do you know if the tools you are using are really the best ones?
Here are five signs that the tools you are using to run your business aren’t working anymore:
#1: Managing your data is a daily game of spreadsheet Olympics
Your data is the information you rely on to make business decisions. Understanding the success of your products through the collection of data gives you a clear view on what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. But this process won’t work if you’re not sure if you're collecting the right data, where it is from and whether it is accurate and up-to-date.
Spreadsheets are typically the tool of choice for data management when you are getting started or don’t have particularly complex data to manage. But there are some real challenges to scaling your business with spreadsheets as your main tool for data collection and management.
First, there’s the problem of bad data. Let’s be honest, humans enter data into spreadsheets and humans are, well, prone to human error. If you are relying on manual data entry to make important decisions about your business and that data is wrong because of human error, you definitely don’t have the information you need to make good decisions.
Then, there’s the issue of data coordination or sharing information among different people or departments.
It’s pretty hard to keep track of the flow of information when you have a tool that does not allow for conversations, or for files to be uploaded, or for multiple sheets to connect.
Finally, there’s the challenge of connecting spreadsheets to other tools you are using or want to use. What happens if you decide to start using a new accounting system, like QuickBooks Online? Or to sell your products on a new platform, like Amazon? Connecting the spreadsheets you are currently using would cause a nightmare of duplicated data and unreliable information.
To put it bluntly, spreadsheets lack flexibility, they limit productivity, they aren’t secure, and they’re just not designed to help you run all aspects of your business.
#2: The tools you are currently using don’t connect to each other
The average small business uses a lot of different tools and systems to operate. For example, you might be using QuickBooks Online for your accounting, spreadsheets to track your inventory, a platform like Shopify and Amazon to sell your products and a 3PL to fulfil your orders. But things are completely out of control because none of these tools talk to each other. If these platforms are not speaking to each other and aren’t automatically updating their data, you are losing time, money and probably your mind.
Each of these platforms meets a different set of functions, and they are all great for what they were designed to do, but once you need them to do more, they simply cannot deliver. For example, if you are using both Shopify and Amazon and are tracking your inventory on each marketplace, you’re adding and subtracting available products to sell. But if you can’t connect these two platforms and you’re selling more in one platform than in the other, you won’t be able to allocate the needed resources where the demand is higher.
Imagine your business as a body, your business tools as the brain and each of the platforms as an essential organ. What happens to the whole system when the brain is not sending the right signals?
If you are using multiple tools and systems and they aren’t connected, that’s a clear sign it’s time for a change. Having your platforms integrate with each other helps you stay competitive, will facilitate your access to accurate data, will improve your productivity and will allow you to make better decisions.
#3: Friction points are derailing your ability to make customers happy
The way you handle the production, distribution and delivery of your products will have a huge impact on your customers’ experience. If things go exactly as you promised, you will open the door to repeat purchases and positive reviews. But if things don't go smoothly, you will quickly find yourself dealing with angry customers, bad reviews and more.
Friction points are hard to avoid when you’re running a business, especially when you’re selling from an ecommerce store. Customers expect the experience of buying online to be even easier and more seamless than shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store. So, when you are trying to provide the best experience, you need to prioritize the backend just as much as the frontend of your shop. Your website will be the only real contact point of your customer with your brand, so this platform and the fulfillment process behind every order made need to be connected to guarantee no information is falling through the cracks. Today, customers have high expectations and very little patience for a bumpy service.
As a business owner, you need to rely on your business management tools to make sure that your operational process is working properly and is not creating bottlenecks in the customer journey. This way, you can be at ease knowing your orders are being fulfilled smoothly and you can keep the promises you make to your customers.
#4: You’re manually tracking your inventory
If you are running a product-based business, you live and die by knowing how much inventory you have available to sell, where it is and when you are getting more of it. That’s why inventory management is both an essential and potentially complex part of growing your business. This practice requires you to know where everything is at all times, the quantities, your incoming shipments and your stock needs for reordering purposes.
Inventory inefficiencies are costly, wasteful, can take a toll on your relationships with your wholesalers and distributors and can quickly turn your green margins bloody red. And, not to flog a dead horse but, once you start to sell on multiple platforms that do not integrate, keeping track of your stock becomes overwhelming and stressful.
#5 - You can’t make smart decisions because you don’t have visibility into what’s really going on
Nowadays, technology has taken over our lives and changed the way we do business. That means that data is the truth we rely on to know what is going on and is the secret ingredient for success. But data alone doesn’t tell you much. Growing businesses need to be able to access and process that data in a way that gives them insights that help them make better, smarter decisions.
If you are using spreadsheets or a series of disconnected apps to run your business, that means that you don’t have access to up-to-date reporting about your business. Some business management tools offer customizable dashboards, data visualizations and reports, all in one place to give you visibility into your business and to make your life easier. This visual display of information is a lot faster to digest than when you are collecting data from multiple sources and you’re constantly trying to piece the puzzle together.
Having access to built-in business intelligence can also help you see trends and patterns that you’d not be able to easily understand when looking at raw data. Some platforms even offer the possibility of viewing sales in real-time which can help you better forecast and understand your customers’ behaviour.
Access to reporting makes your decision process a lot more straightforward because when you have visibility into your business, you can quickly know how much to reorder, which products are in high demand, what are your profitability margins, and much more.
So, what’s the solution?
Let’s face it, as humans we resist change, but when it comes to your business you should be working smarter, not harder. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they probably would’ve been able to build the city a lot faster had they had the proper management tools and technologies that are available now.
Today might be a good time to say goodbye to what is no longer serving your business and up your game with a new tool that solves some of the problems you are experiencing.
ParagonSMB could be the logical upgrade you didn’t know you needed. You’ll get a system that will grow with you, help you automate your processes, centralize your data, provide you with advanced analytics and most importantly, give you the peace of mind to focus on what really matters most - whether that be growing your business or spending more time with your family.. Yes, you read that right, a peace of mind is attainable even when you’re running a business.