We had a chat with Rhys Roberts about how Cloudsolve and Unleashed work together. Rhys had been employed by various larger organisations for almost 20 years. He implemented the (large business) systems needed to run the business and provided management information. Rhys wanted to work in the SME sector where he felt there was an almost frightening lack of both systems to help drive business efficiency and information to help businesses improve their performance. In 2001, Rhys set up his own practice to provide these services.
Who are your clients?
We are really lucky to be able to work with a range of great customers across many industry sectors. Until a few years ago most of these would have been either “wholesale/distribution” or “retail” – but now most are in that merged space of “all of the above”! That is they sell online direct to consumers, sell as a wholesaler to other retailers, some also operate a bricks and mortar store. Some also do some manufacturing or assembly.
For many SMEs it is this multi channel distribution that makes stock control so difficult. And for those selling on an e-commerce platform (or through an online market place) this causes real issues in maintaining stock availability, or risking stock outs (with all the associated costs).
And how did you find Unleashed?
I had been following the emergence of cloud accounting solutions from around 2006 onwards, when Xero launched in Australia in 2009 we were one of the first practices to sign up. At the time there was a prevailing view that Xero was suited to micro business only, I took a different view – that with the right add on it offered a solution for some businesses right across the SME spectrum. So we started researching Xero add ons in the inventory / POS / Job costing sectors.
We looked at a number of inventory add ons and identified Unleashed as being the best option available for SME clients. Not sure if this was good judgment or luck, but 5 years later I think we made a good call!
Why do you think Inventory Management is important?
Where to begin?! Firstly we see so many SMEs who manage inventory really badly. To the point that it is both costing them significant amounts in lost profits, and in many cases is also making it impossible to grow their business. The types of problems we see with clients include loss of sales (because they run out of some stock items), but often they are at the same time overstocked in total (because they are carrying far too much of slower moving items). Lack of proper stock control sucks up cash, damages profitability, damages client relationships, makes it difficult to build better supplier relationships, ties the business owner to the business 52 weeks of the year, the list just goes on and on!
What are the challenges your customers are facing with Inventory Management?
All of the above, plus complexities around foreign exchange and landed cost, difficulty maintaining accurate stock levels when they manufacture (or assemble) finished goods, difficulty measuring profitability by product group or by customer group, managing cashflow, again I could write a very long list of answers to this question.
What benefits does Unleashed bring to your customers?
If implemented and operated properly it should address most of the issues outlined above. I stress that it needs to be used properly, else you will not get the information you need. Good implementation means both getting the base data right (a well defined list of products, segmented into types, customer groups, min/max levels, maybe bin locations, etc), but also challenging your established procedures – how do you re-order, what is your sales order, pick / pack process – can these be improved?
A well implemented Unleashed will allow a client to get control of their inventory, to understand their GP (at many levels), to improve their customer service, to reduce their warehousing costs, to improve their cashflow (apologies, yet another list that could go on and on!).
How did you find the partnership setup with Unleashed?
I love working with the Unleashed team. They offer great support, they respond quickly to enhancement requests, they respond even more quickly to bugs (yes, they do happen!).
They limit their dealerships to partners who are able to bring more to the relationship than just referrals: they expect a level of expertise working with inventory based SMEs, working with other add on apps (e-commerce, CRM, etc), which maximises the chance of a great outcome for prospective Unleashed users.
How has Unleashed helped your customers grow?
For my ecommerce customers, the integration saves them time. Prior to moving to Unleashed they were manually updating their stock. Not only did it take forever, it meant there system was almost always out of date.
How do you find the integration between Unleashed and other softwares?
I love implementing Unleashed, although after literally dozens of set ups we know most of the tricks and traps (although we never think we know it all!) The integration with Xero is really good (there are a couple of enhancements I’d like to see, such as batch posting which for some clients would be a huge benefit), and the integration with Magento, Vend and other apps allows us to build solutions for businesses with more complex requirements.
Some customers avoid changes but they may be missing out on getting more efficiency. What do you say about that?
I don’t really see how you can “choose to avoid change” in the current business environment. You may choose to delay it, but you cannot avoid it. How many businesses have no systems at all? That’s a huge change from 30 years ago. How many businesses run DOS based systems? That is a huge change from 10 years ago. How many businesses use one or more cloud service (cloud accounting, online banking, etc)? That is a huge change from 10 years ago.
That trend will continue, so that in 10 years time we will be able to add one more question to those above. How many businesses run integrated business solutions? The answer will be a huge change from where we are today. The issue is not whether you accept change, but how quickly you embrace it. Those that do so today will command a strategic advantage over their competitors, those who do not will have to play catch up. Some of those that resist hardest will not survive at all. Running a small business is tough enough without making it harder for yourself than you need to.
(For the record, we practice what we preach: we do not sell inventory so we do not run Unleashed in house, but we do run a range of cloud based business management tools to drive efficiency in our business, with the aim of being able to provide the best possible level of service to our clients).
Why do you recommend Unleashed?
Easy to use. Great features that will help you improve your business performance. It enables business growth (both in sales and more importantly in gross margin), And if pushed I’ll mention price: it will add value to your business (that is the overall benefit will be greater than the cost).
Awesome! And is there something your business is particularly proud of?
So many of our clients are really smart people running really great businesses, but some of them have a few weaknesses in their overall business skill sets (just as I have!) Luckily they are able to buy in expertise to help implement great solutions that improve their business. So, yes I am really proud of every great business we have worked with who have improved their business as a result of the work we have done with them.
How does the future look for your business?
I am really positive about the outlook not just for my business, but for all forward thinking SMEs in Australia (I think we qualify). There are so many great tools available to help us deliver improved service to our clients, enabling us to grow our businesses. I’ll come back to this and add a couple of specific projects shortly.
And finally, what do you enjoy about working with us?
Mutual respect, collaboration, fun (a much undervalued aspect of business), the opportunity the relationship provides to work with great Australian SMEs, the opportunity to make a real difference to those SMEs, again I could go on!