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Get the Most out of Your Business Software

Investing in the right software for your business can be vital to its future success. Not only does your software have to be right for you today, in terms of its functionality and features, it also has to be work for you years from now, as your business grows and expands. With that in mind, here are three key points to keep in mind for getting the most out of your business software.

Look for the Right Fit

One of the most important factors to keep in mind is how software can be seamlessly integrated into the core operations of your business. For example, if your software needs to be used by your warehouse and finance teams, you’ll want software that has features and functionality for both.

Pricing also plays a key role here, too. Pricing can range from a “plain vanilla” use case to a huge, enterprise-class use case. Thus, you need to think in terms of where your business is right now, and how much power and functionality you really need. The key focus should be on solutions that can be adopted quickly and easily by users. There may not be a “perfect fit,” but there is going to be a solution that provides at least 80 percent of what you are looking for in a software solution.

Calculate the ROI

Return on investment, or ROI, is a big buzzword in the business world, and for good reason. At a glance, you can tell whether you are gaining or losing on your investment. And an investment in software is no different—you need to be able to measure whether you are getting everything you can out of the solution.

Often, by choosing a solution that will help migrate data, you can lower implementation costs and boost the overall ROI of the software solution. You can think of this in terms of savings—both time and cost savings. If software is easy to set up and use, that is going to save you and your team a lot of headaches.

Start exploring some of the software’s add-on features. For example, you may not need certain features when your business intelligence team only consists of two individuals. However, as your team gets bigger and bigger, you may need some of the more advanced analytics-related functionality that’s available in the software.

Think Ahead to the Future

Over time, your business is going to grow, evolve and change. And so you will need a software solution that will also grow and evolve with you. Within the business world, this is often referred to as being “scalable.” The more scalable a solution is, the more it can grow from 10 employees to 100 employees. And it means that your data and information will be available when and where you need it.

Why Real-Time Inventory Management Matters to Your Business

Distributors, suppliers and retailers are embracing real-time inventory management as a way to streamline their supply chains and get better visibility into their inventory at any time. If you haven’t yet embraced real-time inventory management, here are 6 great reasons to start:

Reason #1: Greater Reliability

With real-time inventory management, you get error-free data because the whole process is automated. If an item leaves a warehouse shelf, it will automatically show up as a change to your inventory. This empowers your employees, by giving them perfect confidence in knowing that their inventory data is flawless.

Reason #2: Enhanced Visibility

The most important reason to embrace real-time inventory management is to create a real-time view of what’s happening to your organization’s inventory. This is particularly critical during peak periods, such as the busy holiday shopping season when having an optimal level of inventory is critical.

Reason #3: Easier Reporting

Ever wanted to run a quick management report for a meeting or presentation, but couldn’t because the whole process just took too long? One advantage of using real-time inventory management system is the ability to produce any report at any time. This equips your management team with the necessary data to respond to sudden spikes in supply or demand.

Reason #4: Improved Efficiency

The real drawback of a manual inventory management system is that it is so time-consuming! It just takes too much time to key in changes to inventory. Instead, using real-time inventory management solution will free up your team to focus on what really matters, rather than wasting their important time by keying in data.

Reason #5: Better Scalability

As your business grows, it needs to ensure that its supply chain grows accordingly. That’s why so many organizations report easier scalability as the result of adopting new business solutions with real-time inventory management capabilities.

Reason #6: Cost Savings

While there are upfront costs in implementing a new real-time inventory management system, you also have to keep in mind of all the potential cost savings once you start using the new solution. These result from fewer stock-outs, shortages and canceled orders. In short, a new real-time inventory management solution can pay for itself in far less time than you ever thought possible.

It’s easy to see how real-time inventory management can drive significant value for your business. It will make it more efficient, more productive and better able to respond to changing market conditions. In doing so, you will create the foundation for new growth.

Interested in hearing about Spire and how it delivers real-time inventory management to better manage your business? Get in touch with us!

Essentials of Finding the Right Business Management Software

There are four key factors to keep in mind when choosing which business management software solution is right for your business. In most cases, it’s not just the case of picking the lowest price solution or going with a vendor with the best name recognition.

Instead, you should be thinking of which accounting software can transform your company into a well-run and profitable business by providing the best tools and interface for keeping track of expenses, revenues, invoices and data. With that in mind, here are four factors to consider before committing to a business management software solution.

Features

The problem with low-cost (or free) solutions is that they are not designed to grow along with your business. If your company is experiencing a wave of growth, you may need to upgrade to a more powerful offering, so you want to make sure that your business management software solution is robust enough for your needs and your growing customer base. A great accounting software system will integrate all your accounting, reporting, resourcing, purchasing and scheduled tasks into one reliable solution.

Technical Support

Even if you have the most talented and proactive employees, there will always be a moment when even they will need to call up technical support to help them through a difficult issue. You want to make sure that there’s someone on the other end of the line, when you need them, for those types of emergencies.

At the very least, you should ensure that there is sufficient support during the installation process. Typically, most software vendors will offer support packages so it’s best to take advantage of this.

Security

You want to be able to have the full ability to limit which employees have access to your company’s data. As a result, a system with security features and user restrictions is a must-have for any business management solution. Moreover, keep in mind that security is not a one-time event, especially now that most software vendors have so much data stored in the “cloud.” Security needs to be part of a continuous effort to keep your company safe from malware and viruses, as well as the prying eyes of a competitor or other outsiders (e.g., hackers).

Integration

If you’re like the majority of small business owners, you may have multiple software installed on your computers. The key, then, is for all of that software to be able to talk to each other. The obvious answer for many small business owners is just to bundle all the software together. With Spire, all modules are fully integrated into one solution, from accounting, purchasing, inventory and customer/vendor management.

Accrual vs. Cash Basis Accounting

When it comes to accounting models for your small business, you have two basic options: cash basis and accrual accounting. At their core, these accounting models represent two fundamentally different ways to think about revenue and expenses at your business.

Cash basis accounting is the type of accounting that you typically use in your everyday life – simply checking the balance of your bank account or the inside your wallet. The basic principle of cash basis accounting is that, until any cash changes hands, nothing needs to be recorded.

Accrual basis accounting, though, is what most small businesses use to present a more accurate view of the way they operate. It recognizes that, even if no cash changes hands, the operational status of the business has changed. Using the accrual accounting method, your business records revenue and expenses when they’re earned or owed.

While cash accounting is easier and more intuitive, you’re literally just tracking the cash that your business spends and receives. Most businesses require a more powerful, sophisticated form of accounting that takes into account how they match their revenues and expenses. As a result, accrual and cash accounting can present very different views of your business.

Here’s just one example: let’s say you are a medical equipment supplier. As part of running your business, you must maintain an inventory of various medical equipment, pay the rent and utilities of the facility and also pay the staff. You may be paying for these items on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. In return for incurring all these expenses, you also have your customers who pay for repairs on their purchased equipment.

Using cash basis accounting, you would simply record any cash that you spend for auto parts or rent or salaries. And then you would record any cash that you receive from customers when the repairs are completed.

But is that really an accurate view of your business? The truth is that many different variables and factors comprise the overall condition of any small business. Using cash basis accounting, your business would appear to undergo sharp swings in its performance. Some days, it may lose a lot of money, but a few days later, it may make a lot of money.

And what about all that equipment kept in inventory? You’re not using them immediately, but you are treating them as if they are a one-time expense. And what about your customers? What if they are paying using credit or some method other than cash?

That’s where accrual accounting comes to the rescue. It provides a system to match revenue and expenses, so that they are spread out over the time period in which they occur. It provides a system for depreciating assets held in inventory over their entire lifetime. And it makes it possible for a business to truly understand where it stands at any point in time. The core principle is something called the “matching principle” – it recognizes the fact that every expense has some amount of revenue associated with it.

That’s why so many small businesses use an integrated accounting and inventory management software like Spire — it helps a small business owner move to the accrual system of accounting and ties into tax filings as well, which makes things a lot easier every year. So if you still believe that “cash is king,” it’s time to take a different look at your business. Accrual basis accounting gives you a far better view of the underlying fundamentals of your business.

Are You Taking Full Advantage of Your Business Software?

One of the most important concepts in the business world is return on investment (ROI), and that concept can be applied to business software as well. In short, there are costs and benefits to any business software package, and it’s up to the organization to prove that the benefits far outweigh the negatives over the long term.

ROI is one simple number that expresses just how much of a boost you are getting from your new business software. Some of these results may be tangible,such as increased sales, and some of them may be intangible—such as increased productivity or improved worker satisfaction. So how do you go about taking full advantage of your business software and maximizing ROI?

Make Sure You Are Updating Old Processes in Addition to Old Software

There’s one big problem with old legacy software that doesn’t work—it also leads to a lot of convoluted workarounds that no longer make sense. These workaround have often become so ingrained in how we do business that employees will cling to them, even when there’s a new business software that has been implemented. The easiest cure for this problem is a comprehensive training program that teaches employees how to use the software properly, and that also helps to educate them how it can make their lives easier.

Make Sure Employees are Using the Software Efficiently

There’s something about physical paper that makes employees feel more comfortable than trusting a digital stream of 1’s and 0’s on the computer screen. But that leads to a lot of bad habits, like using printed reports and handwritten notes in lieu of software. Software can run optimally when all the necessary information is available. In addition, make sure that employees are entering information to the system as efficiently as possible. Sometimes, the manual keying in of data may not be required.

Make Sure All Software is Fully Integrated

Within any organization, it’s common to think of silos—where data may languish without being shared throughout the organization. That’s one problem that modern business software is meant to address. And that’s also one reason why Spire offers a fully integrated set of features—everything from accounting to inventory management.

Whenever possible, try to avoid using external, non-integrated solutions. Often, your new business management software has a lot of functionality that just hasn’t been tapped yet. The goal is seamless integration.

The best advice, when it comes to maximizing the value of your new business management software, is to figure out all the triggers and pain points for the organization. That’s where you’ll want to focus as you search for a new business software solution. And then, two to three months after you go live, you can follow up again. The key is to schedule regular check-ups and follow-ups so that the software is always performing at its peak capabilities. When that happens, you’ll have found out a way to maximize your software’s ROI, and that’s a rewarding win that you can share with all the stakeholders of the organization!

6 Tips on Hiring Your Next Employee

The success of your business is directly related to the talents, skills and experiences of your employees. In order to make sure that you are hiring the right people for your business, you will need a system in place that takes into account the following six factors.

1. Company Core Values

Sometimes, the right hire is all about the right fit. To ensure that a new employee will fit in well with your company and its other employees, take some time to consider your organization’s mission and values. For example, an employee coming from a large organization may not be the best fit for a small, nimble startup.

2. Have Clear Expectations

Nobody wants to be hired into a company where it’s not clear where their job responsibilities begin and end. By creating a very specific job description, you can help to avoid this problem. Each description should clearly convey not only the skills and experiences needed to excel, but also the mindset needed to succeed.

3. Structure the Interview Process

Who will a candidate need to meet in order to be hired? In some cases, it might just be HR and the hiring manager. In other cases, you might want the entire team to meet the candidate. And, in terms of the overall structure of the interview, you will want to consider how different questions that attempt to measure a candidate’s behavior, mindset and expectations can be integrated into the overall process.

4. Think Beyond the Simple Resume

The CV is a great place to start when evaluating a candidate. But there’s a lot to consider that just won’t fit on a single one-page document. You can get a sense of the candidate’s accomplishments, but what about what makes them tick? What are their interests, ambitions and priorities?

5. Find Out What Others Think

References are always a good way to check (and re-check) some of your initial impressions about a candidate. And, thanks to social platforms such as LinkedIn, it’s often possible to find people within your own organization who have worked with that candidate. The goal is to get a true, 360-degree view of the candidate.

6. Create an Onboarding Process

Most companies expect their new hire to “hit the ground running” on Day 1, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create an onboarding process that will let this new employee know a little more about your organization’s mission, culture and history. The bigger your company is, the more important it is to create a formal orientation program that includes access to training and even mentors. In fact, according to experts, a good orientation program can boost your retention rates significantly.

By following all these tips, it’s possible to create a hiring process that really works. Not only will you be getting a talented and skilled employee, you will be getting one who is excited and passionate about your organization!

Five Big Reasons for Inventory Management Automation

Too many organizations are put off by what they perceive as the cost, complexity and time of implementing a new solution to automate their inventory management. But fear not—there are actually five big reasons why inventory management automation should be a part of every organization:

Reason #1: Efficiency Gains

Let’s face it, manually keying in inventory data is time-consuming. When you automate the process, though, you’ll start to streamline the entire process of inventory management. Your whole organization will become more efficient as details about your inventory are updated automatically without the need for manual data entry.

Reason #2: Accuracy Gains

There’s also a hidden cost to manual data entry: human error. In short, even the fastest, most reliable employees don’t always key in data correctly, and that could lead to stock-outs when you can least afford them. You no longer have to guess about inventory levels, or rely on safety stock just in case your numbers were wrong.

Reason #3: Real-time Visibility

Best of all, automating the inventory management process means that you can obtain real-time visibility into your inventory. At any given point in time, you’ll know exactly how many items remain in inventory and this helps to keep your business running smoothly. You’ll also be able to produce the types of management reports needed to see how your business is performing at any time.

Reason #4: Scalability

Organizations make the mistake of thinking they don’t need to automate the way they manage their inventory because “they aren’t big enough.” However, this belief could severely constrain your ability to grow in the future. The time to automate your inventory management process is when it’s still at a manageable level so that it becomes more efficient as your business grows.

Reason #5: Integration with Other Business Processes

Implementing an integrated solution needs to be a priority. It’s the single best way of guaranteeing that every part of your business will be able to communicate with each other. After all, your products are the lifeblood of your business, why would you not want to make inventory management a top priority?

The good news is that Spire is a fully integrated accounting and inventory management solution that can be customized to your organization’s size and complexity. Often, you’ll find that business software with inventory management automation can pay for itself with all of the efficiency and productivity gains that it brings to your business.

Want to see how Spire can automate your inventory management? Sign up for a demo here.

Why Employees Complain About Implementing New Business Management Software

For many employees in an organization, the decision by upper management to implement new business management software often comes with trepidation. Instead of seeing this move as a positive signal that the organization is experiencing a new wave of growth, they see it as a rude awakening from a status quo in which everything seemed to run smoothly enough.

Management needs to remind employees that, within any organization, there are ways of doing things that can be improved using technology. By doing that, they can address three common complaints that employees make about implementing new business management software.

It Doesn’t Fit into Their Schedules

Make no mistake about it—it does take some training and practice in order to be able to harness the true power of new business management software. There’s time needed to train employees, and there’s time needed to practice using the new software in a real-time environment. All that time takes away from what employees typically do throughout the way. That leads to longer hours. No wonder many of them say that it doesn’t fit into their schedules. What they don’t recognize, though, is that a few hours learning the software in the beginning can lead to many, many hours saved later.

It’s Too Hard to Figure out and Use

Yes, business management software comes with a bit of a reputation. Unlike other software, which may only tackle a single department or business unit of an organization, business management software is so powerful for the very reason that it attempts to unite and streamline the entire organization.

In many ways, there is a lot of inertia that needs to be overcome. As a result, top management should attempt to sell any business management software implementation as a competitive measure that will streamline the organization, get rid of unnecessary paperwork and save employees from a lot of time-consuming manual processes.

It Takes Too Long to See Results

There are no quick fixes when it comes to business management software. Not only does the implementation often take quite a bit of time, there is also a lag before real results can be seen. In some cases, it may take a quarter or longer before results start to filter down to the bottom line of the organization. Until it’s possible to see a spike in sales or a real boost in productivity, employees may be skeptical. In some cases, they may feel overwhelmed and actually think that the software is leading to a loss of productivity.

The big takeaway lesson here is that any business management software implementation can lead to really improved business results for an organization. Employees should view it as a difficult but worthwhile process that deserves to be embraced for what it means for the future of the organization.

Once the business management software implementation finally goes “live,” they will be surprised at how much easier everything becomes. There will be fewer routine tasks, less paperwork, and fewer manual workarounds. Everything will work as the heads of the company always hoped it would—and that’s good news for all employees.

Grow your business faster and more efficiently. Start your Spire free trial today >>

Is It Time to Change the Way You Track Your Inventory?

Your inventory is the lifeblood of your business and proper management is essential to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. Even if you feel you’ve managed inventory just fine for years, there are always new better ways to go about it.

Mistakes in Excel spreadsheets are common, which opens your business up to human error. A lack of inventory management is a cause for many businesses failing. To be truly effective and efficient with inventory, you need a solution that can automate processes, provide real-time data and eliminate errors that cost you money.

Here’s how your business can benefit from a new inventory management solution:

Customer Satisfaction

Your primary concern is keeping your customers happy. Constant inventory mistakes and delays can motivate your customers to find another company that provides faster, better service. If you have frustrated customers, consider implementing a new inventory management software to help track inventory and improve product availability. In doing so, you’ll notice greater customer satisfaction and retention, all of which will lead to a growing business.

Improved Data Accuracy

Smaller companies can typically use an Excel spreadsheet without any mistakes. However, growing businesses immediately experience Excel limitations in regards to data inaccuracies and forecasting problems.

Obviously, data inaccuracies can lead to multiple issues down the road. Besides keying errors, spreadsheets themselves are out of date. When more than one employee has access to them, you end up with even greater errors. If your inventory is shuffled between locations, this causes confusion within employees when they need inventory details. An inventory management system allows multiple employees to work on the inventory which saves time and prevents errors.

Scalability and Growth

In addition to greater control of your inventory, updating to a more robust inventory management solution can contribute to the growth of your business. As your company expands with multiple warehouses, you will require inventory software that will allow you to track multiple line items across multiple warehouses. So ask yourself, do you want to continue using a solution that can’t keep up with your business?

Accurate Forecasting

Inaccurate data leads to serious problems, both in the present and future. Excess inventory write-offs are costly and often the result of not knowing what you have in stock. When you don’t know what’s in your inventory, employees will end up wasting time searching for items, while customers will walk away frustrated because you don’t have the products they need. An inventory management solution with strong reporting features will give you greater visibility so you always know when to order new inventory and track which items move the fastest.

Still not sure if you’re ready invest in a new inventory management solution? Try calculating how many sales you’ve lost due to inventory errors or lack of product availability. The missed revenue should give you enough reason to make the switch to Spire, a more advanced solution to keep customers satisfied and increase your bottom line.

 

Seven Simple Ways to Boost Customer Retention Rates

Winning over new customers is a difficult and expensive process, so it’s no surprise that the world’s best companies place a premium on retaining their customers once they’ve acquired them. Here are seven of the best tips to help improve your company’s customer retention:

Maintain a Dialogue with Customers

You don’t need to check in constantly with customers, but it’s important to check in every now and then to see how they are doing. For some of your best or highest-value customers, it may be worth opening up a regular dialogue with them. This might mean making calls to them, or inviting them to events you’re hosting.

Engage with Customers Online

There are plenty of ways to engage with customers that are free (or almost free). With social media, for example, you can set up a Facebook fan page where you can offer tips and advice for using your products, or send out exclusive coupon codes. And with email newsletters, you have a way of connecting with your company’s customers in a way that’s easy and convenient. Just make sure you are actually providing value, and not just spamming them.

Send out Customer Surveys

Surveys are a great way to “check the temperature” of your customers. After all, it’s best to catch any weaknesses or gaps before they turn into real problems. With surveys, you get an early warning system of potential problems.

Build a Great Customer Service Team

Nobody enjoys calling up 1-800 numbers and being put on hold for 10 minutes, then being forced to explain their situation over and over again. So make sure you are providing the best possible customer service at every single touch point—from the representatives on the floors of your store to the people answering the customer service calls.

Know Your Customer

In a best-case scenario, you will know your customer by first name as well as all of his or her interests. Using data that your marketing or sales team already has at their fingertips, that’s now very possible. Many companies are now able to customize a website experience, for example, by knowing exactly who is visiting a website.

Make a Habit of Saying Thanks

Your customers are the ones who keep your business running. So it’s worth it to say “Thanks” every now and then. These might be special offers, exclusive events, or special loyalty discounts. Show them you care, and they will come back, again and again.

Invest in Software

With CRM software, you can develop a much richer view of each and every customer experience. These tools, like the Communications module in Spire, are a great way to combine notes, issues and comments that you have.

By following these tips, you will be well on your way to boosting your customer retention rates and guaranteeing that customer satisfaction rates are the highest they’ve ever been!

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