Software on the Christmas wish list

In the last issue, I wrote about R/A Profit$ software and how it could be used as part of a solution for improved tool route management. Maybe it has to do with the end of the year coming, or maybe I am thinking about Christmas and my wish list, but I’ve figured out what my dream route management software would look like.

RECEIVABLES

First, my dream software has to manage receivables. Most route management programs show you at a glance the customer’s payment history, have the ability to add on service fees or finance charges, and, of course, manage sales and payments.

But I want more. After all, this is my dream.

Imagine a program that monitors the break-even point for a customer. In other words, how much more do I need to collect from this customer until I have broken even, or collected the cost of everything that I have sold him? If this customer was to disappear from the route today, how much in real dollars have you made or lost?

It is normal to want to collect, repossess (or even break legs) when a customer skips out. Realistically, additional collection activities take additional time. That time has to come from somewhere, whether it is on route time, hobby time or family time. How much time is it worth? Is it worth filing a small claims case? Knowing this break-even point is crucial to maximizing your time. What if you are selling the debt to another dealer or a collector? The break-even point could help you know the price you need.P

art of receivables management is making sure that the customer is credit worthy. Has he skipped out on his last tool dealer? Imagine software that transmits to a national database that can match your new customer (or your skip who left last week) to another tool dealer? How about software that would log in and check public records for judgments, tax liens or other public records? Wouldn’t it be nice to check for a credit report right from your computer? If you have an Internet connection on the tool truck, this type of check could be instantaneous. If not, the software could log in and check in the evening from home.

A couple of other dream functions for receivables: it could show each customer’s individual weeks to turn, showing total accounts receivable aging, and print a list of missed customers and missed payments for the day, the week or the month. Of course, it could also automatically bill technicians, who agree to it, by billing a credit card or initiating an ACH debit from their checking account. This is just the beginning.

INVENTORY

Next, we need inventory management. Of course, the software needs to track what is in stock and the value. It has to keep track of re-ordering, and invoices received from the orders. This is pretty standard. The software also must directly connect to anywhere that you order from (franchises or warehouses) to make ordering and receiving freight simple. Ideally, it should do this right over the Internet.

My dream software would tell you the date you received any item on your truck. It would show the last date that you sold one, and how many you have sold in the last week, month, quarter and year. It would tell you how many you sold automatically the last time it was on special, even if you didn’t know the date. And, you wouldn’t have to go to a separate section, such as reports, to get this information. You would be able to see it right from the sales screen, as well as the screen where you place orders.

Special-order items would be noted wherever you check in freight. It would note the name of the person who ordered it, the shop that they work in and the day that you need it.

Pricing label support would be mandatory, as would the ability to print point-of-sale merchandising signs right from the software. The price that you purchased the item at would be noted (if you clicked a button on the screen … wouldn’t want customers to catch a glance at that!) as well as the cost to re-order.

And of course, it has to have an easy way to perform a physical inventory.

If this software were produced by an independent company, it would be great to have price comparisons built in to the sales or order screen, including the franchises and the warehouses. Yes, I know that I am probably dreaming here, but why not!

Finally, the inventory functions should show some features and benefits of an item that is brought up in a sales screen, like a catalog entry right on the screen, even including the picture. At the same time, it should bring up a list of any accessories, or possible related items, to help the dealer to sell.

ACCOUNTING

Some of the biggest improvements would come on the accounting side of the software. Most of the franchises use a generic expense and accounting module, but many dealers do not fully utilize it. Many dealers use an accounting package (like Quickbooks), but it requires them (or their accountants) to enter the information into these programs manually. This makes duplicate work, or more expense, and tool dealers do not need either!

My dream software would use Quickbooks as its expense and accounting module. Most accountants and bookkeepers use and understand this program. You could print a standard financial statement in just seconds. Your accountant or bookkeeper could access the accounting module to make needed entries, or to monitor critical metrics. Also, you could take a class, or a read a book about Quickbooks, so that you could understand it better. Try doing any of these things with any of the route management software packages out there now.

So, that was always part of my Christmas list for route management software. I know that I would have always paid big dollars for this type of system, and I am sure that there are others out there who agree with me. But we can dream. In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to use what you have for software “tools” to effectively run your business. I will be back to explore more of those next time.

Woodward is an IT consultant and former mobile distributor based in Maine.

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