Business learnings from another complicated year

As 2021 comes to an end, we’re reflecting on the ups and downs, as well as everything we learnt from yet another highly unpredictable year.

Despite a strong and positive start, half of the Australian population went into an abrupt lockdown halfway through the year, and we’ve only recently emerged. But we emerge with new hopes and goals, as well as some positive results despite the difficult times we’ve all had.

So, what has 2021 taught us, and how will we evolve from it?

How wholesale distribution businesses have been affected – and how to overcome these challenges

2021 continued to amplify challenges from the last year which affected many of our customers.

Highly publicised supply chain shortages and delays are being experienced worldwide, and unpredictable surges and drops in product demand occurred on an almost weekly basis – and yet consumer demand and expectations have only grown more intense.

All of these challenges have left businesses and their owners struggling to catch up – but they have also found new opportunities and assistance. Our two most popular blogs for the year provide great insight into how many businesses were able to help owners tackle these new challenges:

The rise of B2B eCommerce

The pandemic has meant that many of us have done our shopping exclusively online. But many wholesale & distribution businesses have yet to embrace online selling platforms – more commonly known as B2B eCommerce.

Without eCommerce, wholesale and distribution companies may find themselves weighed down by intensive manual ordering processes and staff constantly chasing critical information around real-time stock updates, pricing, information, invoices, order history and more to meet customer information demand.

Some immediate benefits of eCommerce are:

  1. Making more sales
  2. Encouraging repeat business
  3. Freeing up valuable resources

Over the horizon thinking

How do you successfully plan in a time when no one knows what’s coming next, or what could change tomorrow? It’s a question many businesses faced thanks to COVID-19.

When we released this blog in April 2020, we stressed the importance of resisting the urge of reacting now, but rather using this time to your advantage and think long term – we believe this still holds true. There are simple things you can do during downtimes to make the most of what you have and support your business and those in it until we regain some normalcy.

We shared some long-term thinking strategies to help businesses prepare for further volatility:

  1. Use your staff wisely – your people are valuable (you hired them for a reason!) and can help you improve your processes and understand your position better
  2. Change your thinking to change the outcome – whilst your current challenges may be overwhelming, taking a step back and looking for ways to protect your business and people is critical
  3. Use our downtime checklist to take advantage of quiet periods – we’ve compiled a list of tasks that can help you organise your business during downtime so you can bounce back as quickly as possible

What content resonated most with you?

Despite challenges, we’ve had quite a busy year and I’ve been able to share some of my thoughts and advice on this blog. It was great to see that there were a few particular posts that resonated with you all.

Looking at some of our top posts, it’s clear that the focus many of us have had is on improving our chances to thrive and profit.

How DW Tiles future-proofed their business and transformed customer confidence

DW Tiles is a ceramic tile importer and wholesaler, who has grown into one of Australia’s major tile suppliers. The organisation operates out of a single Sydney location, serving over 200 customers across NSW and acting as a stock partner of some of the country’s biggest tile retailers.

Since 2005, DW Tiles had been using the same ERP system – even after 10 years the system was still working well and supporting the business operations. However, Manager Cheryl Zhang could foresee issues, as the system had limitations that would stop them being able to upgrade their processes in the future.

After a long search, DW Tiles came across Micronet Systems – and after quite a journey to implement HARMONiQ, DW Tiles has seen numerous benefits in just twelve months:

  1. Improved stock management
  2. Clearer communication
  3. A new level of customer service
  4. Quick and easy reporting

“We didn’t have to waste time starting everything from scratch. HARMONiQ is at least 60-70% customised for tile industry, if not more.” – Cheryl Zhang, Manager.

What can you achieve with an ERP system?

Business owners realised that 2021 is the year to take a step back and think about how they could be doing business better, using it as an opportunity to invest in some of the long projects they had imagined.

Every business has its weaknesses and the parameters in which it can effectively operate. That’s doesn’t put you at a disadvantage though – so long as you can define those parameters and work within them.

And the best way to do that? Workflow automation.

Some of the benefits that workflow automation carries for businesses are:

  1. Automating mundane tasks to give staff their time back
  2. Mitigating risks by identifying them and introducing prevention measures
  3. Receiving notifications and alerts for important tasks and information

Industry-specific ERPs vs generic ERPs: finding the right fit for you

It’s not only DW Tiles looking for a new ERP – many of you are also trying to find how to improve and streamline your business processes with an ERP.

There are lots of options in the market to choose from, and it can be difficult to know whether a generic or industry-specific ERP is the right choice for your business. The ERP you choose can have a huge impact on your business, so it’s important to consider the benefits of each one.

An ERP specific to your industry can provide some immediate benefits:

  1. A quicker and easier set-up that’s already customised to most of your processes
  2. Minimises the time it takes to get a good result thanks to modifications for your business already being put in place
  3. Increase productivity through automating manual tasks and allowing your staff to focus on areas where it matters more
  4. Grows with you and your business

The valuable lessons we learnt in 2021

It’s been a privilege to continue serving our customers for another year, and we hope to continue to do so for many to come. And throughout this year, we’ve been able to learn some of our own valuable lessons that we haven’t shared on this blog yet:

Serve your industry well and the rest will come

When your business proves to be an expert in your industry, it will become easy to thrive.

In 2021 we organically became of the key ERP providers in the Tile Industry, due to our solution being so well matched to businesses with complex inventory, distribution, and management requirements.

Organically from here, we had an influx of enquiries and eventually, new customers come out of the Tile industry, showing you that If you serve an industry well, through word of mouth and referrals, the rest will come.

Serve your current customers well

The adage that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep one proves true.

We’ve recently invested heaving in creating a customer webinar series designed to help our customers get the most out of their software, as well as kicked off a HARMONiQ user group. These initiatives are designed to make sure that our customers are supported and understand how to get the most out of their HARMONiQ ERP, ensuring that we’re able to continue to build great relationships with our current customer base.

Are you ready to jump into 2022?

We’re determined to take all these lessons into the next year and ensure that we continue to grow and build resilience in unsteady times. It’s important for business leaders to take a step back and review the events and learnings from the previous year to ensure that they continue moving forward.

If you’re a business leader looking for ways to take your business forward by leveraging new technology, to achieve sales outcomes and growth, please call me on 02 9542 2000 or email me at drew@micronet.com.au.