Last month, I discussed how warehouse and distribution businesses can prepare for the ‘new normal’. A large part of this was about growing customer bases and expanding into new markets.
But if we look further ahead, the goal for many isn’t just getting back to ‘normal’ – it’s continued growth.
This major disruption has (and will) affect many businesses growth plans and trajectories. The momentum they had, or the strategies that had been put in place, now won’t be as effective. Or, they’ll take much longer to come to fruition.
Exploring new customer opportunities is an important step to getting back to where you were at the beginning of the year. But growth will require more than just new business. The road to growth starts with internal changes, ensuring your business processes and operations are set up to support an expanding business.
Businesses are facing big operational changes
This disruption is clearly not over (as our friends in Melbourne are discovering). And the impact on this industry could set to continue, or worsen, over the next 12-18 months.
It’s one thing to be able to roll with the punches for a couple of months or through one lockdown period. But this is no way to approach a long-term change to operating and selling.
I previously discussed that the way businesses sell has likely changed, and there will be a need to adapt. But on top of this, there will also be an internal change to how operations run, and how the customer promise is met. During the next little while, a lot of businesses will experience:
Some businesses are facing returning to ‘normal’ or increased operations with fewer staff to carry out jobs. This means not all jobs can be done, and there will be a strong need to prioritise some tasks over others
Changes in stock needs
Fluctuating sales and customer numbers can create inventory management headaches. Continuous changes in ordering trends and customer numbers makes ensuring stock availability without overstocking a fine balancing act.
Growth and sales patterns have been thrown off, making it hard to identify trends and forecast business performance. As we’ve seen, things can change dramatically in as little as 24 hours, leaving everyone feeling uncertain. Even those who haven’t felt the crunch are unsure about what the next year or two means for them.
Growth takes more than increasing customers
Up until now, the main objective has been survival. But as we realise this isn’t going away, and the way business operates is likely changed for good, simply keeping a head above eliminates the capacity for bigger and better things.
Growth stems from not just managing what you have, but having the capacity to take on more without it affecting your customer promise.
Attracting more customers and expanding into more markets will definitely help with business growth. But to be successful in the long run, you need the internal processes in place to support an increase in business.
Simply put, you have to be able to do more with less. And to successfully achieve this, you’ll need:
- Operational efficiency – Automation helps frees up staff time so they can focus on more important tasks, and allows you to function at a higher capacity with a smaller workforce. This means that as your customer base and order demand grow, your team can still deliver.
- Sales support – Access to market and customer insights not only helps with inventory management, it helps the sales team follow up more leads, serve customers better and improve opportunities to up and cross sell.
- Data insights – Forecasting is always key to running a business, but becomes even more vital when things are changing rapidly. You need an idea of what’s coming and where you sit to be able to effectively plan your way forward.
Your internal processes will make the difference between surviving and thriving
In terms of how businesses operate more effectively and stay ahead of the competition, change has been coming for a long time. The recent circumstances have just sped the process up.
The next step is not only setting ourselves up for surviving the disruption, but thriving in the new normal. The further you look, the faster you go. Look beyond the next step – growth might not happen straight away, but it needs to be in the plan.
Look at your processes, look at your systems and software and reassess their ability to help you in this new normal.
- How has your business changed, and what capabilities do you now need to meet goals?
- Can your existing systems support efficiency and productivity and deliver ROI?
- Are you in a place to invest in improvements?
Your software and systems play a big role in supporting growth and, if you’re able, it could be time to change things up. If you’re committed to sustaining long-term growth, overhauling your processes with an ERP system could be the best answer for you.
An ERP sets you up now for future growth but also provides flexibility to work with whatever further changes and disruptions come our way. Giving you the power of not only automation, but real-time insights you need to:
- Supply for the market
- Prevent inventory shrinkage
- Forecast revenue
- Support your customers
If you’re considering implementing an ERP system into your business, you can discover more about the process in our eBook ERP Automation: Is an ERP system the right move for my business? If you’d like to discuss any of the steps I’ve mentioned further, or get some guidance around market expansion, reach out to me via our website or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Butler is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome inefficient sales, inventory, and customer relationship management practices by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to discuss preparing your business for growth or improving business processes, you can reach out via email here.