As an Account Manager at Big Bang, I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of small business owners about their work. I’ve had the chance to speak to clients selling everything from mannequins to 3D scanners. I’ve sat down with CEOs of hundred-year-old firms who are looking to respond intelligently to a changing market, and I’ve met with the owners of enthusiastic startups who need a solution that can keep up with their growth.
No one conversation is the same, of course, but there are a lot of things that seem to come up again and again. And a lot of the time, businesses don’t realize that the challenges they’re facing are an indication that it is time for a change. Instead, they simply accept sub-optimal operations as a natural part of running a small business.
With that in mind, I thought it was time to set down, once and for all, the 9 signs and symptoms that it’s time to consider an ERP.
Making a sale requires about a half dozen phone calls
You have to call one person to confirm the order, another to confirm the discount, another to check your inventory and yet another to ensure an invoice gets sent. Meanwhile, you’ve been going back and forth in negotiations with the client. Which raises another point…
You have no idea what your field sales reps are doing
Without a single unified system, each member of a team manages their own processes in isolation. There is no unified Customer Relationship Management system, which means anyone who isn’t physically in the office is a question mark. Not only are your sales reps out of sight, but they are managing their own records their own way while also having to report information back to the larger team. Which leads to another problem…
You have to re-enter information several times
Nobody has time for that. It is a reality that a lot of small business owners have simply grown accustomed to. But with increasingly affordable and efficient solutions for back office management, having four or five people enter the same information several times in different systems seems more and more absurd.
Particularly because sooner or later you’re going to run into sign number four…
Your business lives in spreadsheets – and not all of them agree
Look, I’m not knocking Excel. It is a great program. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met with businesses managing their CRM, accounting, production and procurement in separate spreadsheets. Whoever enters sale in one spreadsheet then has to send an email to someone else in the organization letting them know an order needs to be fulfilled.
The end result is multiple sources of “truth” and a whole lot of data entry. It’s pretty exhausting. And it ultimately means that…
The departure of a single employee would cripple your business
If business critical data is stored locally on separate computers, having a key player out sick for a week can bring business as usual to a grinding halt. Particularly when…
You plan your production schedule around “gut feeling”
Your inventory count is based on “eyeballing” it
I encounter these symptoms all the time. The experience and wisdom of warehouse and shop floor foremen, procurement officers and inventory managers never ceases to amaze. Small businesses all over North America fail or succeed based on the educated guesses of key people. While this process is impressive, it doesn’t scale – sooner or later production schedules grow too complex and inventory counts become unwieldy.
An ERP can manage this automatically, of course. But not just any ERP. If, for example…
Your current system doesn’t even have a user interface
…it might be time for an upgrade. If your legacy system looks like it was installed using a floppy disk, you’re in the market for an upgrade. The only thing more worrying than a legacy system without a UI is the final, and perhaps more important symptom:
You still have a fax machine
The digital age is here. Let’s talk?