Megaventory Blog - Online Inventory Management Software, Order fulfillment and Control System
This is the company blog for megaventory, an online software that helps small businesses that buy, sell and manufacture physical products to manage sales, purchasing, manufacturing and inventory. We blog about new features and updates but also about enterprise software, small businesses, cloud computing and the industry in general.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

How to manage your franchise business successfully

5 Experts share their tips and experience





You have probably heard and read numerous stories about the benefits of franchising. Usually, they are about how to successfully get under the umbrella of a bigger company, which allows you to reap the financial rewards of a well-known brand name.

But what about the hurdles involved in being a franchisor? What are the challenges and how can you overcome them?

We asked 5 successful franchisors to share their stories and picked the best tips.



Allen Fishman

Founder and Executive Chairman of The Alternative Board

When starting a franchise, the initial challenge is bringing on the first few franchisees. Business owners are typically skeptical of new franchises, and rightfully so. To overcome this obstacle, instead of franchising very quickly, I spent 5 years opening different offices in different cities, so we could refine TAB's system. We developed the tools for each office to succeed in its unique location. I'd recommend franchisors not start franchising until they have their system in place, with processes, protocols, and tools that are proven to succeed across the different places where they want to grow.

The key to running an efficient franchise is documentation, processes, protocols, and uniform offerings. At TAB, structure is everything. When we bring on new franchisees, their first 12 months are spent learning our coaching systems via tight protocol. More flexibility is allowed after the first 12 months, but only after they have a very clear picture of what they're supposed to be doing (and how they can succeed). Each new board is formed identically and is very process oriented.



Craig M. Morgan

Franchise attorney at Providence Law

The primary issue franchisors face when starting is developing the systems necessary to effectively monitor franchisees. Companies lacking adequate systems are unable to monitor the additional units. Issues such as consistency and correct royalty payment soon arise. Developing the infrastructure necessary to turn a small unit company into a multi-unit chain is a difficult task, separating the successful brands from the short-lived.

Franchisees should be monitored through a series of processes. Sales data should be reported in as near-time as possible, daily if not instantly. P&Ls should be reviewed quarterly. Field managers, working for corporate, should visit the individual units routinely, at least once a quarter (this, obviously assuming a brick and mortar establishment). In short, the more thorough the monitoring the more likely the success of the individual unit.



Alan Guinn

Managing Director of The Guinn Consultancy Group, Inc


My experience has been that the closer you can operate the franchisor and the franchisee financially, the better opportunity both have for success.  Operating with one set of identical or very similar reporting tools allows you to compare apples to apples as opposed to apples to oranges.  Parties are more open and conscientious when the books are open in a two way communications scenario, and it's easier to discuss opportunities and challenges faced than trying to position arguments or create issues from either side.





Troy Hazard

Shareholder and director of Poolwerx 

The typical challenges a franchisor faces in the early days is a lack of cash and resource. To attract franchisees you need to provide a service; marketing, field support, system manuals, buying power, induction training – the list goes on. When you are not generating any revenue from franchise fees that resource becomes expensive.

Poolwerx franchisees are all hooked into a central administration management software platform. This gives us real time view of how the business is tracking. Monitoring sales, stock control, and a range of other activity allows us to have a very clear picture on what we need to be addressing in the business on a day to day basis with all of our operators.



Brigida Aversa

Owner of Tiny Hoppers

It has always been important to us to maintain regular contact with our franchise owners and provide support wherever needed. We schedule weekly meetings with our franchisees, where we speak for 15 to 30 minutes about the status of the franchise and any problems they may be having. We also have managers for each district that visit each franchise once a month to check in on the site and provide feedback. This protects and maintains both the quality of the brand and the franchisee's investment.



In conclusion...


Going through all of the franchisors’ comments – and these are just the highlights, we’ve combed through many more for this post – certain patterns become obvious. Most franchisors stress the importance of having best practices in place and typical processes all franchisees follow. To make this happen specific franchise administration software is necessary to ensure reporting is adequate, communication is unhindered and information flows from one member of the partnership to the other as appropriate. And although all of the above seems like a complicated problem to solve, it certainly is addressable while at the same time hiding most of the complexity, leaving franchisors -and franchisees- able to focus on running their business more efficiently.



Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Alternative ways to use an inventory management system

It's not all about business


When you hear the words inventory management, you probably think immediately of retail shops and warehouses and a guy taking notes of what’s there. But, there are so many other ways to use an inventory management system - other than the typical business uses - which might solve a problem you have. Many of us tend to go to the hoarder side a little, and let’s be honest, writing it down on a paper is a solution which is neither hot nor practical.




Home supplies


If you have a big family, buying in bulk is not only economical - it is a must. On the other hand, when you have large quantities of supplies, it’s easy to lost track of what you have, what you need to buy and what you have too much  of, etc. And that’s true especially if you don’t have the abundance of space to keep everything in eye view. You might end with 5 sets of cleaning gloves and no detergent at all.

Keeping track of your home supplies is both economical and hassle-free in the long run. It’s also possible to get notifications when something is below stock – what more could any housekeeper ask for?



Personal Collections


From art collections to the contents of your closet, collections can get out of hand if not managed properly. With an inventory management solution you can easily browse what you have and where it is stored. If you are planning to resell, you can add the estimated prices of your pieces. You can even add pictures, because what is a collection if it doesn’t serve an aesthetic purpose as well?
















Home Insurance


Insurers and insurance companies would advise everyone to keep track of their belongings – even if just for the worst case scenarios. After a horrible event like a robbery or fire, people are shocked and cannot remember what exactly is missing. Of course, this might come in handy for more pleasant situations like a move or a renovation, when a sense of order is needed.


Home Clearance


Apart from insurance, having your belongings listed could be helpful in case you want to make a home clearance, especially if this is something you do quite regularly. You can share your inventory list with other people that might be interested, instead of having to arrange constant gatherings at your house with each interested party. You can also add prices, if you are planning to have a yard sale or resell some of your stuff online.


Renting, selling and AirBnB


The trend of renting your house to tourists who want the real experience has been going on for several years – and is picking up speed. Although there is a general ethical code about the whole project, keeping a record of what you own, what is missing and what you need to replace is a good way to have everything organized and track your expenses.

Moreover, there seems to be a new trend in the real estate world as well. Apartments are the hot new tech sector. A new wave of cloud-based platforms has emerged to provide marketing and leasing tools. Innovative services now offer landlords and brokers online hubs for tracking inventory, syndicating verified listings with consumer sites and running analytics on property performance (a big step up versus old-fashioned spreadsheets or even file folders).


Of course, this is just a small sample of the many possible uses of a versatile inventory management system. We hope that we gave some ideas of what it can do outside of the strictly business world and maybe inspired you to better organize your home. 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. And if you enjoyed what you read, don’t forget to share on social media!


Friday, 13 May 2016

Cloud news roundup: More bots, more files, more computing power

We haven't done an industry roundup post in quite a bit and now it's time to sum up some of the interesting recent developments in the tech world. They are going to make easier the lives of anyone running a modern business as well as those working for them - marketers in particular...

Facebook Chat Bots


Bots are about to take over Facebook Messenger - as well as most other services operating over the cloud. Bots will be geared toward helping businesses offer better customer support, make marketing a little bit easier and consequently boost their profits in a new way.

In a nutshell, developers will be able to use a Facebook-created tool to host computer-controlled conversations with their followers within Messenger. The challenge is to make these conversations come naturally and eventually be useful. Whether that's what will actually happen remains to be seen...

Dropbox is transforming the cloud (again)


Dropbox is finally solving a big cloud problem. Until now if you wanted to access your files, you literally needed to have them stored on your drive. Otherwise you would have to download them first and then open them or edit them. This contradicts the concept of cloud-storage - especially on devices with smaller hard drives.

Their new project is going to allow you to manage cloud files as though they were local but without them taking up space on your drives. And given the excellent track record of service Dropbox has offered so far, it's likely we're in for very impressive technology.

Quantum computing as a cloud service


IBM announced that for the first time ever quantum computing will be available to members of the public through IBM Cloud. The cloud-enabled quantum computing platform, called IBM Quantum Experience, will allow users to run algorithms and experiments on IBM's quantum processor.

This is one big step towards building a universal quantum computer that could be programmed to perform any computing task. It will be incredibly faster than classical computers for a number of important applications for science and business.

A universal quantum computer might not exist yet today, but the processor is the next best thing currently available to you. Not bad...


As a web-based software ourselves, we love to see more and more cloud-related developments being announced. Do you think these news could let you do your job easier or is their future just a bit too far still? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

5 methods to offer customer support (and one to avoid)


Through the years what we've learned is that offering a good product is not enough if you don't accompany it with high-quality customer support. Being there when your customers need you and showing them that their concerns are valid is crucial and will drive customers to keep doing business with you again.

So how do we make this happen?


1-on-1 demos


All our new users are welcome to set up a free, one-on-one appointment with us at a time of their choice (we've been using online meeting software meetme.so and calendly.com). We offer these demos in order to make sure that their introduction to Megaventory goes as smoothly as possible and that all their questions and concerns are addressed. Not all customers need such demos and not all ask for one - but the option is there for anyone interested.

A hidden advantage of these sessions is that we manage to keep close to the customer and understand their needs form a personal perspective - which is of very valuable for an online business.


Knowledge Base and FAQ


Not everyone has the time or the comfort for one-to-one communication and some prefer to search for information on their own. We believe that the best support is for your customers not to need to communicate with you.

And how we do that?

We offer comprehensive documentation for Megaventory to keep our customers informed - we use a Knowledge Base for that built using freshdesk.com. That includes both text and video walkthroughs of tasks. Video helps some people more than others - so we give them the option to learn what our service is about in that medium too. Some users are more visual than others, others prefer to learn on their downtime (eg in their lunch break) just by viewing a video and still others like to see (and share) clips they can fast forward through to the helpful part.




Tips and wizards inside the software


In today's busy world, few have the time to hop from one website to the other to solve their problem – so we have a solution for them too. 

Firstly, we offer ‘guides’ (multiple choice, step by step walkthroughs essentially) which show users along the most basic setups especially in their initial steps. This technique is very helpful with guiding users through your processes and limiting ways they can make mistakes. We’ve set it up using inlinemanual.com – an inexpensive and customizable service we’ve chosen specifically for that purpose.

Secondly, online help tips appear while users work their way through our service. These are either short or lengthy and are very helpful in solving questions exactly the moment they arise. 

Thirdly, hover tips appear when entering data or completing fields. Any time there’s a form which needs filling there’s also an explanation or clarification which will appear on hover of the mouse on them in all but the most obvious fields (name, address etc).



Live Chat


Users are able to interact with us through a live chat tool in the platform, powered by intercom.io, offering a friendly, informal, synchronous communication, integrated with the product and our website.  As an added bonus, intercom provides considerable value in the form of customers analytics which we can further use to understand our users.




Facebook Messenger


People are on Facebook throughout the day—especially those that work with the internet, so it’s only natural they would much rather stay on the same website rather than switch or pick up the phone to call us. Therefore, we have an active Facebook Page, where everyone can message us with their query.


E-mail


Last but not least is the good ol' traditional support channel: e-mail. Customers are always to send us an e-mail with their query and we make sure to respond as soon as we can.

Update: It is also important to mention that any support email opens a ticket in a dedicated ticketing system (we also use Freshdesk for that too) - this allows for proper tracking of any issue that arises. Such tickets can be opened either via a simple email, via a webpage contact form or from within a form in Fresdesk. There's an option for everyone!

Phone support (not)


And here's something we don't do. When you have an international client base, phone support requires having people around the clock answering calls. The expense of this in comparison to what it offers is immense and we want to continue offering an inexpensive product for all small businesses. Also, it’s a challenge to provide that in their native language some customers may expect and it doesn’t leave a trail for future search or audit purposes.

This is pretty much a complete list of the ways in which we offer support to Megaventory customers. Is there perhaps something we’re missing and could be added to the mix?



Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Searching in Megaventory


Our latest major release Megaventory 3.0 was launched a while ago and we completely revamped the search tools, so you can easily find what you are looking for.

Main Search


Products


At the upper right corner of every page in the application you can find the search icon where you can search for products by their SKU, Product Description, Product Version or Supplier SKU. Once the results are returned you can either click or hover on a product.
  1. Clicking on a product will open the Edit Product form. This is a good way to avoid having to navigate to the Gear Icon, then to Products, to search for the product and then click to edit it – instead all this is collapsed in a single search and click.
  2. Hovering over a product will display its SKU and will allow you to Trace Inventory Changes for this product. Similarly, this can save you considerable time and clicks to navigate to the right dashboard and retrieve that report from it. 


Orders and Documents


You can search for Orders and Documents by Document Number, Supplier/Client name, Supplier/Client Tax ID, Supplier/Client Phone, Contact Person, Billing/Shipping Address, Tags or Comments.

Specifically for Goods Inbound/Outbound documents and invoices, you can hover over the document number and issue a Return Document for that particular order right from the Search results. This is considerably faster than the usual process of navigating to the relevant dashboard doing a Return of Goods action and making the right choices in the drop down menus there.



Searching within Documents


Another way to search within Megaventory is to open one of your cards (such as Purchase Order, Sales Order or Work Order) and click on the search icon right above the list.


This is a quick way to find orders which include a specific product code – the search will try to match your term with either the SKU, the Product Description or the EAN of the products.


Searching within a Document


While editing a Purchase Order or a Sales Order (or the equivalent Inbound and Outbound documents) you can search for a supplier or client respectively by typing his registered name, phone, e-mail or Tax ID.


Similarly, when adding products in your order, you can search for a specific item.



Both these capabilities can used to speed up your everyday work after you’ve setup Megaventory. Given your familiarity with your product base and your clients and vendors you can quickly process orders by typing a few characters from the supplier name and the product name and have an order ready in minutes – if not seconds.

This is an overview of the search functionality available in Megaventory – it’s all been designed to help you be faster and error-free in your everyday work. Feel free to let us know in the comments how we can further improve upon it.