Expanding means opportunity, but also great challenge. The trick is to streamline systems and tap into the cloud.
Managing growth is a good problem to have, but it can be a big hurdle for small businesses.
It could be that enterprises acquire smaller businesses, expand their product offering or launch new offices. Each strategy is time and resource intensive, and companies often risk destabilising their existing business.
In the digital age, many are turning to technology for help.
An enterprise resource planning system (ERP) can streamline and simplify growth. Many SME owners are familiar with ERP software, which can integrate inventories, communications, transactions and data.
The 2014 Mint Jutras ERP Solution Study found 64% of businesses had an ERP system serving more than one operating location. According to the study, businesses with annual revenue less than $US25 million ($AUD 34 million) used an ERP system to serve 2.1 operating locations on average.
Now, the internet is giving businesses access to customers all over the world, but successfully scaling up requires a well-executed strategy and efficient processes. Here are five key steps to streamlining growth:
1. Take it to the cloud
Technology is offering expansion opportunities which can come with fewer costs and fewer risks. Software as a service (SaaS) strategies like cloud computing are allowing companies to expand without taking on the capital burden of new IT staff, hardware or physical offices.
John Brightwell is the owner of FixPlus Australia, a company that sources and supplies products to the engineering and building industries. FixPlus launched 14 months ago, with Brightwell saying cloud solutions have proven invaluable.
“If I wasn’t cloud-based, it just wouldn’t happen,” says Brightwell.
Using a cloud-based ERP system that doesn’t require external experts or staff, he says, allows him to have tight control of his operations, without extra costs.
2. Automate processes
An expanding business faces increased transaction volumes and mounting costs that put a strain on resources. New international customers from different time zones pose a challenge, and with 24-hour service now a norm, labour costs can quickly spiral out of control. An ERP system that automates invoices, stock requests or even communications can ease the burden.
3. Data capture and use
Keeping on top of inventory and customer data can be simplified with an ERP system. Brightwell, who uses an ERP solution from SAP, SAP Business One, says data capture is one of the main benefits of the software. For Brightwell, inventory and forecasting is “pretty critical.”
With both local and interstate suppliers, his volume of stock is widely varied. Using SAP Business One, he’s able to quickly determine what stock is on hand, what’s on order and what items need to be restocked.
4. Resourcing efficiencies
For growing companies, taking on new staff can mean extensive training, a process that costs businesses both time and money. Those hiring internationally may find that staff are used to different software systems.
Strong, intuitive software can help overcome resourcing inefficiencies by offering easy-to-use systems across the entire company. According to Mint Jutras, 60% of survey respondents said minimising time to complete tasks was in their top three most important “ease-of-use” issues.
5. Anytime, anywhere access
As business owners and employees face increased demands from their growing customer base, remaining responsive to the changing needs of their business is vital.
With a customer base largely in south Brisbane and suppliers all over Australia, Brightwell relies on a cloud-based ERP system to work on the go.
“I’m on the road all morning and head home around lunchtime,” Brightwell explains.
“If customers want a quote or anything like that, I can turn things around fast.”
With his business’ information stored in the cloud, he can access inventory details and costs from any location.
All companies hope to be more responsive, agile and streamlined, but those priorities are even higher for those scaling up. In the digital age, ERP systems are easing growing pains for expanding businesses.
Click here for more information on how SAP can help simplify your growth challenges.
Written by: Jessie Richardson