Software can make a significant difference to production efficiency, but selecting the right tool for the job is key.
It’s always very hard to decide what kind of business software your company should run.
Doesn't matter what type of business you are responsible for - the sustainability of the system, the future developments according to the new business rules that appear every day, and even the company behind it are normally first on the list of concerns. Would you prefer a very experienced operations manager and the best sales manager in the industry or will anyone do? The business software in a company is almost like a super managing director shaping the way the people work. Sometimes it’s more powerful than some managers.
It’s true that a good business can be run over paper, or considering the new times, over excel, but does excel know anything about your business? Does your excel operator? Hiring a new operation manager or sales manager from the industry happens not only because they know the business, it’s also because they prove themselves in the industry and, more than that, they might also bring some new ideas and that might create the chance you are looking for to accelerate your business in the way you always expected to. Does this new operation manager know some magic ways to route the customers in such a structure that you might grow your customer base without adding more routes? Does your new sales manager bring any new promotions or pricing rules that will allow the company to sell to other prospects that were not covered before?
A water cooler business at a glance looks a very simple business model. In some cases it’s almost just one main product, one or two types of equipment to rent and maintain, but then, real life comes along and the complications start. If anyone could start a company from scratch I am sure that it would be a much simpler company but, in fact, companies always have a huge burden from the past, to be supported today and take to the future. Some of this burden was created by sales managers that were not from the industry and tried to implement business models that were not designed for water coolers. In any case, the software has to be able to handle it. Or, in the end, if the current software doesn't support well enough, send the responsibility to a notepad, or an excel operator, which is more or less the same thing but faster.
If your software doesn't know anything about water coolers you might be implementing the wrong business model just to accommodate and follow the software. What would you prefer; hire a new sales manager that has many years of experience in the industry, with plenty of happy key accounts, even if younger or less recognized, or would you prefer to hire a more established one, slower to implement but recognized all over the world for decades for selling anything but water coolers and water?
The only similarity I see between a pair of shoes and a water cooler is that both came in a box when they were new. It’s true that shoes don’t need to be plugged into power sockets, at least while humans are still able to walk, but would you exchange the same shoes from one customer to another, even if you clean them? Would you go to the customer office, periodically, to polish their shoes?
In a water cooler business you have to meet your customers face to face, all over again, every week, and they have to be happy to receive your invoice every month. I know that no one likes to receive an invoice every month, except when they are really happy to see the cooler plugged in, bubbling every now and then and remembering how healthy it is to kill their thirst.
Published in "Cooler Plus" Magazine, issue 56, April - May 2015