Software timesaver for franchisee

Building and sustaining a successful enterprise demands a keen understanding of when and how to address potential issues – turning what could be a critical weakness into a value-added strength.

As a Pepsi-Cola franchisee with 25 years in the distribution business, LinPepCo had the intuition to make a change in their accounts receivable (AR) collections process by using Esker software.

Before Esker, LinPepCo relied on a largely manual process to manage its collections. Paper was prevalent, as the team was tasked with printing statements and sending reminders by hand.

“A lot of cost and manual labour went into that,” said Jen Pfeifer, director of IT at LinPepCo. “We knew there had to be a faster, more cost-effective way to help our staff collect and our customers make payments. Esker’s TermSync product offered that solution.”
The solution

One of the biggest goals LinPepCo wanted to achieve in implementing a new solution was to utilise as few different systems and technologies as possible. Ultimately, it was Esker’s automated Collections Management solution that stood out for its robust capabilities and integration with VIP, LinPepCo’s existing software system. Esker’s business partnership with VIP meant a faster and seamless solution delivery process for LinPepCo with few resources needed to get up and running.

“Esker checked off so many boxes for us that we really had no reason to test other solutions,” said Pfeifer. “It was perfectly compatible with what we had in place and the implementation process couldn’t have been more painless. After just a few weeks of going live, we had customers and team members telling us how slick the solution was.”

Approximately 67 per cent of LinPepCo’s customer base (3,800 customers) is currently using Esker’s cloud-based solution. Nearly one in four customers are using the auto-pay feature, which has proven to be a time-saver for both the company and its customers.

“All our goals have been accomplished with Esker’s Collections Management solution. Payment reminders are being sent out electronically, our staff is more productive and proactive, and our customers are happy. Everything we were hoping for was delivered.” said LinPepCo CFO Kara Deist.

LinPepCo went live with Esker’s Collections Management solution in early 2015. Since then, the company has achieved a number of business benefits. Among these include:
Reduced day sales outstanding (DSO) – with electronic reminders being sent out and reduced manual duties, LinPepCo has significantly reduced its DSO, virtually eliminating customers in the 90- day past-due category.

Improved customer experience – due to Esker’s online portal, LinPepCo can offer its customers a number of self-service options for managing invoices; since go-live LinPepCo has seen a 69 per cent increase in auto-pay customers.

Freed up staff time – fewer administrative duties has freed up LinPepCo team members to spend more time on strategic things like managing reports, contacting customers, reconciliation and more.

Inventory software grows with herb expansion

Starting a business from scratch can be daunting. Especially when you accidentally fall into it. That’s what happened with Renae Colbert, who along with her husband Chris, started up medicinal herb business Herbal Connection six years ago.

Coming from a corporate background, Colbert wasn’t totally green to the nuances of B2B enterprise, but she was to herbs and their medicinal properties. How she came into the business was not due to a life-long ambition to be a connoisseur of herbal remedies. There was a much more practical motive.

“The reason I got into herbs was because I had a medical condition that I struggled to have traditional practitioners diagnose and help me manage,” she said. “I went looking for alternatives to try and fix that problem on my own, and in doing so I found relief in natural medicines. I credit my naturopath with getting my health back on track. I couldn’t have done that without medicinal herbs. I had such a life transformation that I knew I had to do something with it. I just knew there were so many other people that could benefit from the products.”

Initially, Colbert had designs on blending her own teas and a range of other products, but quickly realised that the wholesale side, and to a lesser degree processing, were the skill sets that she and her husband could best utilise. Six years later they now employ five full-time staff and the business keeps on growing. As with any growth, it’s important that the business side of the enterprise runs smoothly. Colbert even knew right at the beginning inventory software was a key ingredient to making Herbal Connection a business that wouldn’t cause any unnecessary issues. Thus Colbert invested in Unleashed Software.

“We were a small business, but because of where we had come from, our understanding of warehousing and what we wanted the business to be and what we wanted it to grow into, we knew we needed a robust inventory software solution,” she said. “It needed to have the ability to grow with us and have the function and features that we were going to need down the track. This is what Unleashed gave us. While we didn’t need them all of its functions at the beginning, it was great because we could start off small and then have Unleashed grow with us.”

And the aforementioned ability of the software’s features to expand as the company grew turned out to be fortuitous because the company has done exactly that.

“We had no inventory management system when we first got started and we only had maybe 150-200 SKUs,” said Colbert. “We now have in excess of 500. The business has quadrupled over that time, so it was great that we had the software which was easy to set up and use. Any time there is an update, it’s easy to update. It integrates with all of our other software, such as the eCommerce platform we run for our online presence. It also integrates with our accounting software. We made a decision right from the get-go that we were only going to use a product that spoke to everything else. I needed it to be easy.”

Being the owner of a small business means that Colbert has to wear many different hats. The last one she wanted to have was that of being an IT manager.

“I needed to know it was plug and play and it was going to work,” she said. “It’s very intuitive. If you know your way around a computer, it’s easy to figure out.”

There are a couple of features that are her favourites, including the ordering function, and it also helps out with the customised processing Herbal Connection does for certain clients.

“I find the reordering my inventory reports as one of my favourite features,” she said. “I couldn’t run the business without that ability. It’s easy. I do it once a week. I put purchase orders to my suppliers, and it is done.

“We also do production for clients. We are a certified organic producer and we have a lot of clients that want us to do their custom tea blends for them. Those blends are built into the Unleashed system and we find that particularly useful.”

Being certified organic is an important part of Colbert’s business, however not all of Herbal Connection’s products have the certification. Again, this is where Unleashed comes into play and saves the business a lot of time.

“The software gives us the ability to differentiate between what’s a certified organic product and what isn’t so when it comes to audits and things like that,” she said, “it’s easy for us to track the certified organic product coming into the warehouse and its movement through the warehouse.

“It also tells us if a product has got different blends; what order has it got added to – we get to track it all coming in and all going back out again.”

The medicinal herb market continues to be a growing space, according to Colbert. More people are becoming aware of what it means to take care of themselves and what they need to do to put their own health in their own hands.

“More people are coming to that realisation that they have to do something about it,” she said. “This particular situation – COVID-19 – only highlights that for people. We find we’ve had an uplift in business as a result of this because they are looking for things to help boost their immunity. They’re looking for things that will help support their families and keep them healthy.”

And it helps that they have an inventory software that can keep up with the increasing demand and can adapt to the company’s needs.

“As long as you have your inventory levels set up, it’s really a case of clicking the supplier, run the report and reorder. It can be that simple,” she said. “We’re all over this software. There is not one part of that software that we don’t use.”

Eloments covers all bases with Unleashed software

Starting a new company is risky – and the food and beverage industry is no exception. It pays to have done your research and development into the product you are hoping to sell.

If that isn’t hard enough, then adding in specific conditions to how the food is made produces a new set of challenges.

When Julie Hirsch and Nicole Lamond started tea company Eloments, they didn’t just want to make it different in terms of what it delivered in taste and health benefits; they also wanted to make sure that the ingredients for its range of patented vitamin- and mineral-infused teas were sourced ethically and via fair trade agreements.

“Tea is a beautiful, healthy beverage and we know that a lot of people like tea, enjoy tea, and love it for its health benefits as well as the taste,” said CEO Lamond. “It seemed like a perfect medium to add vitamins and minerals to. So, we developed Eloments, which contains nine essential vitamins in every cup.”

“We would often talk about how hard it was to focus on our health as busy professional women,” said COO Hirsch. “Sure, vitamin supplements were there, but we often forget to take them and didn’t like swallowing tablets. When we were looking at the fact that five per cent of Aussies aren’t eating enough fruit and veg for their general health, we thought we could combine our love of fair trading with our love of healthy products and put natural vitamins in a fair trade cup of tea.”

Lamond and Hirsch found it a challenge to blend the tea leaves with the natural nutrients so they could be put into teabags. They spent two years on research and development and came up with a patent-pending process on how to do it.

“We had a lot of fun blending. We partnered with members of fair trade collectives around the world to source some truly beautiful fair trade-certified ingredients,” said Hirsch. “We sourced vanilla from Madagascar, Egyptian mint and fantastic cardamom, cloves and cinnamon from Sri Lanka.”

With these range of self-imposed conditions for making sure the ingredients were sourced ethically, as well as making sure they were giving the consumer a refreshing and healthy experience, both Lamond and Hirsch knew the logistics of keeping track of all the different aspects of their business was going to be tricky. Enter Unleashed inventory software.

“When we launched the product we did a trial manufacturing run and then realised we needed a very good inventory management system,” said Hirsch. “One that could manage organic and fair trade inventory for us, such as batch numbers, multiple locations and multiple warehouses etc.”

Hirsch said the company didn’t have the time to trial any products but did do their homework on what sort of inventory system they wanted.

“We did quite a bit of research and Unleashed was the best option for us,” she said. “We started using Unleashed from the beginning. It’s a very powerful program. Once you have it set up and working well, it is easy to use.”

And what are the features that Hirsch and Lamond like best? There are a few that have piqued their interest and made life easier.

“From the sales perspective I find it absolutely fantastic for reporting sales figures,” said Lamond. “From that end of it, it is so adaptable and has a lot of great filters, so you can pull any information you want. I really like the interface too. In fact, the ease of use and the reporting are probably the two biggest things I like about it.”

Hirsch agreed, and added that, because of the way the company does business, this function is a necessity.

“Our sales are very complex,” she said. “There are seven territories around the world. We sell into Australia and the UK – both larger retailers and smaller retailers – so we need a lot of flexibility in being able to do different sales reports and sales templates for our various customers.”

Another reason Hirsch and Lamond decided to use Unleashed when they launched the business was that they knew that the business was going to take off quickly and they needed to be able to scale to demand immediately.

“We’ve been selling for about 14 months now, and we’ve got shelf spacing on more than 2,500 stores around the world,” said Hirsch. “If we had started out with an inventory management system with limited capabilities, we would have had to change it six months in. It was great how we started out straight away without having to swap it out.

“Because we are organic and fair trade certified, we have to be able to trace our product’s journey every step of the way. We need a package that has the ability to do that and Unleashed certainly does.”

Eloments’ raapid expansion means it has moved into overseas markets quickly. Again, Unleashed has helped them navigate the sometimes ever-changing landscape of exchange rates and foreign currencies.

“One thing we utilised with Unleashed was the foreign currency feature,” said Lamond. “We are buying in multiple different currencies and we’re selling in multiple different currencies, so having a programme that can support that is important.”

Hirsch explained further.

“Especially as a small Australian business, we don’t have lots of support, so it is really important and helps make the business possible,” she said. “And we can put in those different currencies and track sales and purchases directly to the Unleashed system.

“We partner with the Fair Trade Collective in Sri Lanka for most of our teas and spices. We purchase them in US dollars, Australian dollars and the UK pound. Having the flexibility to manage that in one system it makes it possible for us to run our business.”

Overall, Hirsch and Lamond are very happy with the software. Lamond has a final piece of advice.

“When you are assessing software, I would say make sure it does what you need and make sure the system you choose can meet your needs,” she said. “Unleashed ticks our boxes and is easy to use. Because when you are running a business, you don’t want to be sitting there working out how to use a piece of software. These days, software should be intuitive enough so you can mostly work out how it functions just by using it.”

Software unleashes inventory solution for liqueur manufacturer

When coffee nerd Tom Baker joined forces with Philip Moore in 2013, they probably didn’t realise within five years they would have an award-winning product on their hands.

Moore, the distiller, and Baker, a designer by trade, both loved coffee and decided that consuming it in a liqueur form had yet to be perfected, and thus Mr Black was born.

Brewed on the Central Coast of New South Wales at Distillery Britannica, Mr Black has not so much found a niche in the coffee liqueur market but taken it by storm.

Mr Black is a cold brew that has made headway into the UK and US. Five years ago it won a gold medal at the London Spirit Show and has continued to collect silverware on a regular basis. Mr Black operations manager, Rick Roper, can see only good things in the future for this Australian-based beverage.

“In 2017, Mr Black was launched in the US and has now established itself as the biggest selling Australian spirit there,” said Roper. “It is highly regarded and is developing a strong following coast-to-coast.” The product itself is cold-brew, pressed coffee using speciality lot Arabica beans from Colombia and Kenya blended with high-quality grain spirit to make the final product that you see today.”

However, with that growth came logistics issues. In order to keep on top of the bureaucracy of running the business, Roper knew the company needed something to complement its simple inventory system, so decided to invest in Unleashed Software. Like Mr Black, Unleashed has a good reputation within its market. Roper said Mr Black needed a system that would handle the increased throughput, product size and range as it started to grow. This was because it became apparent that if something wasn’t put in place soon, the ability to keep on top of the increasing volume of product could get out of hand.

“Prior to implementing Unleashed, we were only using Xero but found it inadequate for the business because it couldn’t handle manufactured items,” he said. “Xero is a great accounting system but without a bill of material structure, it can’t assemble finished product from components. There was a need to have an inventory system that integrated with Xero in the cloud that was easy to use and could handle manufacturing to grow as the company did. Unleashed immediately gave us control and accuracy of materials and costs.

“In our case, we convert varieties of coffee, speciality sugars, bottles, and packaging into Mr Black in different concentrations and sizes and we have to have accurate inventory transactions at every step,” he said. “Unleashed does that and keeps track of inventory down to batch and unit of measure with ease.”

Ease of use has been one of the key benefits of Unleashed along with the ability to be partnered with other software. This was why Mr Black management decided the software solution was the right choice for them. In addition to Xero, Unleashed has partnered with other third-party vendors. Users can use their accounting system with an easy-to-use integration module in the integration store.

“You can also custom integrate other software via programming interfaces (APIs), that Unleashed can assist with,” said Roper. “Otherwise, to access support to use Unleashed, with clients like us, you can choose an integration partner. Ours is Cloudsolve in Sydney. Besides providing support to get us up and running between Xero and Unleashed, they also provide ongoing support and some outsourced financial services.

“Unleashed is continually adding modules and capabilities outside of pure inventory management. For example, the integration store offers more sophisticated material planning and eCommerce solutions. We have also integrated Unleashed with Shopify allowing efficient online sales fulfilment and billing.”

The key to any type of integration software is not only how it can streamline processes but also the ease of set-up and use. Roper said that Unleashed was not hard to set up or use and has been ideal for getting on top of manufacturing and inventory.

These integration capabilities have made Unleashed a widely used inventory software that is adaptable to many companies’ different needs, according to Roper.

“They are not trying to be a SAP or Microsoft Dynamics or anything like that,” he said. “It is inventory management software in the cloud and is simple to use.”

Roper said the core modules are great to use when it comes to raising and completing sales and purchase orders. For example, orders can be cloned from an earlier order and emailed from the screen. With some background setups in customers, suppliers, pricing, items, document templates and so on, transaction efficiency is high. Users don’t have to do excessive manual steps. In other words, there are less errors and it saves time, according to Roper.

“The dashboard set up displays relevant data such as period to date sales revenue and margins, purchasing and sales transaction status, inventory levels and stock turn KPIs,” he said. “Data access and exports are straightforward. Standard reports are all there and custom reports can be set up.

“While they are adding new features all the time, many features that are nice to have are there. One is that relevant information is displayed in various formats depending on the screen. For example, in Purchases, order minimums are made visible and supplier prices auto-populate” said Roper. “It has a pricing module by group, customer and product, enabling pre-setting of customer sales terms. Again, this helps with the accuracy and efficiency in order processing. It also has min/max stocking levels that can be set for alerts and reordering, as well as a simple replenishment function, which we use for reordering some items.

“For us it’s a one-size fits all. Set up was fast and no customisations were necessary. Even though we started small, all the modules are available to all users whether it is a one-user account or a larger multi-user account. For us, as we have grown, we didn’t need to upgrade do get additional modules. It’s scalable.”