If you stop someone on the street and ask them "What are some of the biggest pain points for small businesses?", you'll probably hear answers referring to things like taxes, healthcare, and gaining customers. While these are all valid issues facing small businesses and their owners, sometimes it's the unexpected things that can have a larger impact on their bottom line.
Recently, I interviewed two local business owners about their journeys towards building the business of their dreams. We talked about what came easy to them and what struggles they faced. Both have found success and spend every day doing what they love – but interestingly enough, neither of them have found a good solution to a big part of their business: inventory management.
Chrissy Jensen, a longtime lover of handmade art and design, owns Domestica: a handmade craft store selling everything from prints and notebooks to jewelry and glassware. Alongside her other full-time jobs as wife and mother, she spends her time curating gorgeous things.
One of the obstacles she faces every day is how to efficiently manage her inventory. She can’t afford the expensive setup and high running costs of most existing point of sale systems. Instead, she writes all her receipts by hand and uses a spreadsheet to log hours. The process of paying her vendors takes about a month.
Here's the interesting bit: Chrissy is no stranger to the latest trends in the tech world. She accepts Dwolla to process mobile payments, and absolutely adores her Square credit card reader. “For someone like me,” she says, “it’s a huge game-changer. I’m able to get my business off the ground without spending my life savings!”
The Cheese Shop of Des Moines
CJ Bienert, cheesemonger extraordinaire, always dreamed of a career in the food industry. Since 2011, he and his wife, Kari, have owned The Cheese Shop. There, they sell local, international and house-made cheeses, as well as a healthy selection of wines, beers, meats, and cheesy cooked delicacies. The Cheese Shop has attracted a devoted community of cheese-lovers, and is frequently packed at dinnertime. “We’re so fortunate that people in Des Moines have embraced us,” says CJ.
Unfortunately, The Cheese Shop also struggles to find an efficient way to track and analyze their inventory. At any given point, they stock between 100 and 120 cheeses, each of which needs to be categorized by origin, comment, and price range. Currently, Cheese Shop employees just log all the cheeses by hand.
CJ knows a point of sale system could do a better job tracking his inventory, but since the Cheese Shop is a combination service and retail establishment, their needs are very specific. CJ is familiar with all the different point of sale options out there – but he knows none of them can do everything he needs. He’s still on the lookout for a better way to manage all those cheeses.
Little Things Add Up To Big Things
What lesson can we learn from this? Well, sometimes the most aggravating problems facing small businesses aren’t always the most obvious. We have to remember that little things add up to big things. At the end of the day, any technology you introduce into a well-run business needs to be more efficient and easier to use than good old pen and paper.