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Thread: Small business / Co-operatives / Where I'm at

  1. #1
    Diamond Member adrianh's Avatar
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    Small business / Co-operatives / Where I'm at

    Hi,

    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:
    1. Customers
    2. Suppliers
    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.
    14. Reports.
    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
    How easily someone is offended is directly proportional to how stupid they are.
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    I picked up on the word "scalable". IMO Omni Accounts does this perfectly. You only buy the features you need, so you can start out basic and add features as you need them. You'd have check their website to see if all your requirements can be met, as my businesses tend to use standard product manufacturing, and not unique jobs. I expect they will have some sort of job card feature. I don't think point 6 is covered by them though, so you'd have to look at a separate payroll package. I've been quite happy with intercode so far which came from a recommendation in a thread on this website.

    Your project is just the sort of thing I enjoy doing, but Cape Town is a 1400km commute

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    Diamond Member adrianh's Avatar
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    Thanks, I will look into Omni Accounts.
    How easily someone is offended is directly proportional to how stupid they are.
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    Junior Member DanE's Avatar
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    I have been researching various ERP systems for the last year or so looking to implement. We are a steel fabrication make to order operation. There are products out there for 200k + which would just about work.
    I am presently testing a product called Visual Inventory Control and it seems to be alright. Our biggest issue is data entry from the factory floor and the need to eliminate choice and the "rocket scientist" issue.
    I have commissioned a custom product but until it's ready will continue using quick books enterprise and quick payroll, both of which actually work surprisingly well with a couple or workarounds and no routing.

    If you find something awesome please let me know, I've scoured Cape Town and without changing my operation haven't had any luck.


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    Platinum Member sterne.law@gmail.com's Avatar
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    I always advocate QuickBooks.
    Really easy and powerful reporting.
    It's not one of the biggest selling packages in the world for nothing.

    Also really easy to import and export data, which is great for any interfacing.

    Of course as with any computer software, the trick is having someone who knows a program inside out and, very important, understands accounting and then sets up the program to give you what you need.
    Last edited by sterne.law@gmail.com; 24-Apr-15 at 06:38 AM. Reason: add on info
    Anthony Sterne

    www.acumenholdings.co.za
    DISCLAIMER The above is merely a comment in discussion form and an open public arena. It does not constitute a legal opinion or professional advice in any manner or form.

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    Diamond Member adrianh's Avatar
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    I found a product called xTuple PostBooks Edition last night. It seems like the free version might be worth looking at.
    How easily someone is offended is directly proportional to how stupid they are.
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    Diamond Member wynn's Avatar
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    The idea of a co-op with a separate front office sounds fantastic because it gives you the flexibility to work the hours you want to, if you worked to 3AM on a particular job to clear it, at least your office phone and front desk is answered even if you sleep to 11AM.

    If you don't want to be disturbed the front office takes messages and if something really urgent pops up they can get you to call back or react immediately.

    "Nobody who has succeeded has not failed along the way"
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    Diamond Member adrianh's Avatar
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    I agree. Most of the guys do onsite work so they have no front office to speak of most of the time.
    How easily someone is offended is directly proportional to how stupid they are.
    ~GS Elevator

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    Junior Member DanE's Avatar
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    It boils down to people with skills/talents in a field starting their own business for freedom, wealth etc and then getting bogged down in the admin, details and never having time for everything. As it starts building up then the cracks start showing and opening.
    This imo is the reason most SME's fail within 3-5 years. I am a firm believer in Gerber's E-Myth philosophy where you setup every business as a franchise model and systemise the living hell out of it.
    Having taken his idea onboard and building onto it I am now the proud owner of an almost completed ops manual with which a monkey could replicate my business. I expect I have gone too deep into it but will refine over time. I have issued bits and pieces to my staff but am nowhere near the finished product. Once I'm on a beach getting bored I will know I'm finished LOL 😄

    I think your plan for joint front end is great but you must as a unit agree on the structure/procedure to be followed in order to avoid issues in the future.
    My first step would be to refine the product offering into something a lay person can explain to another and understand. This will enable the front end to direct enquiries effectively without constantly having to back and forth about who does what...

    If your keen I would love to come through and check the operation out and have a chinwag over a beverage. I'm based southern suburbs Cape Town. I am hugely curious about the concept you have setup.


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    Gold Member Chrisjan B's Avatar
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    This may be the software thats needed: http://www.fusionsoftware.co.za/EN/Content/Pages/Home

    BOVER Technologies
    - computer sales and TeamViewer support
    Elmine Botha Freelance Photographer - Photographer/ Videographer

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