I've been out of the loop for quite a while. Lots and lots has changed and it looks like we are finally getting somewhere. I met a group of guys a while back who run a co-op. Most of them do woodworking, metal work, spray painting and such like stuff. We immediately clicked because we all have the same vision, problems and most of all: drive. I decided to rent a large space inside the premises and to move my entire operation over. It's been a hell of a task because we had to move whilst keeping up with production. We are more or less settled but I am still busy working on various infrastructure issues. Be that as it may I absolutely love it.
Ok, so a bit about the set up. We call ourselves the Makers Co-Op. We are all small businesses with 1-5 employees. There are about 5 carpentry shops, 2 welding shops, spray painters, a company that manufactures food trucks and ourselves. A couple of guys sponsored by MIT and moving in on Tuesday to manufacture some or other wonderful product. We fit in perfectly because of the services that we offer like the laser cutting, cnc, electronics, graphic design, cad etc. The nice thing about the set up is that we are able to take on jobs as a collective that none of us would have ever been able to do alone. We truly have a one stop shop...and that is amazing...The reason that it works so well is that we are all independent businesses and each business is driven to succeed.
But as all things go there are issues: The biggest problem that faces each of the businesses is that of systems / management & admin. Each guy is so busy being busy that nobody is able to manage their affairs. What I would like to do is to set up a front office / admin service that services the entire group. We all have the same needs and those needs can be catered for by a centralized administrative department. The biggest problem that I have in this regard is finding good software. I'm not looking for SAP but rather a scalable management system. I suppose Pastel could be used but I have an aversion to the product for various reasons. The product needs to be a business management tool rather than an accounting system.
Here are a couple of thoughts regarding what I am looking for in terms of data structures and functionality:
3. Manufactured products - components / processes / suppliers / stock on hand / reorder levels etc
4. Sell through products - suppliers / markets / customers etc.
5. Assets - tools etc.
6. Staff - leave / salaries / bonuses / productivity etc.
7. Quotations based on data inside and outside the system.
8. Turning quotations into orders and accepting ad hoc orders.
9. Job sequencing and job card creation and management.
10. Job card management should include all manufacturing documentation, expected build times / costs etc.
11. Job completion / QA / sign off.
12. Pseudo invoicing to pass over to the accounting system.
13. Pseudo orders for stock.
15. Planning tools / expense projections / income projections / actual income plans / actual cost of sales etc.
Anyhow, there are many many more aspects of business management that should go into such a system but most of all it should be able to cater for multiple businesses. The great thing about such a system / administrative department is that not only are costs saved per business on these tasks but various aspects of running all the businesses can be unified and as such creating really big savings. Things like general collections & deliveries, purchases etc. can be handled by a central team which of course means that each business doesn't need to duplicate these services.
Ok, so where to from here. Although we are a group of individual businesses and as such need to grow our individual brands we also need to grow our collective brand and structure.....That guy who has a BBA degree and no job would be just the man to put it together....
BTW: I advertised the position on Gumtree and man did I end up with strange people. Let' just say that I will rather muddle along myself till 3am every day than employ the clearly deranged individuals that sent me their CV's