A Sign Of The Times: Advance Global Finds The Right Tools For The Job With SMB Consultants
With generations of experience, Advance Global’s sign manufacturing business needed a digital makeover to keep pace with growth and increase their market share. SMB Consultants were there to help.
Road safety signs might not be something that people give much thought to, but they have to come from somewhere. And in the remote regions of Australia, many of them come from Advance Global.
Advance Global has been running for 15 years, after being handed down from father to son. It started out as a simple exhaust-fitting business, before branching out into selling safety and compliance products – road signs and accessories, and safety solutions for Australia’s giant agricultural and mining industries. Recent growth put pressure on their operational systems, having grown to 15 staff from just three people only five years ago.
“We’ve had quite a substantial amount of growth and we’re looking at increasing that again by another 50 percent in the next three years,” says Advance Global’s Sherilyn Mansley, who looks after the system and finance side of the business.
At the crossroads
Advance Global saw further growth coming, and knew that they needed to be ready for it – but their existing systems were getting in the way; a classic Catch-22 for many small businesses making the jump from small to medium-sized.
“We weren’t keeping up with the growth, and that was preventing us from growing as much as we could,” says Sherilyn. “Plus, we didn’t have any forecasting tools, and we wanted to understand how things would look when we did grow our sales. What stock levels would we need? What were we wasting money on? That was a big thing for us – we seemed to have everything we didn’t need.”
The team went looking for an inventory management solution, and they found Cin7. “We contacted Cin7, and they sent us some preferred partners, and of the ones they sent, SMB Consultants looked like the best fit.”
Sometimes the right product is just around the corner
Advance Global knew that Xero alone wouldn’t be what they needed to manage their inventory – it’s simply not what the software was designed for. “We knew that it was a bit of a band-aid over a broken arm,” Sherilyn says. But after a less-than-stellar self-implementation experience with Retail Express, they knew they had to get that part of the business under control before looking at another software to replace Xero.
After going through SMB Consultants' careful process to scope, select and test the right operational software, the Advance Global team decided to use DEAR Systems – later renamed Cin7 Core – as the foundation of their new tech stack.
Jeff Atizado, founder and CEO of SMB Consultants, says that one of the best ways software coaches can help small businesses is by helping them think a bit differently.
“With businesses like Advance Global,” he says, “when they've got one piece of software like Xero, it can be very difficult for them to think outside of that box, in terms of how a software stack can be integrated and function as one system”
Turning the corner
Getting software implemented with SMB Consultants is a two-way street. They’ve worked closely together with Advance Global, each step of the way, to get their new tech stack perfectly tuned to the needs of the business.
“We wanted to have a process in place which was proactive, leaving us able to go back to the business and say, these are things that we talked about initially, have we completed them?,” says Jeff. “If we haven't implemented those changes, are those changes still important? It's a process we've been working on and Advance Global has helped us refine it”.
After relying on a disconnected mixture of Xero and spreadsheets, things are now very different. Ordering, receiving, and invoicing all go through Cin7 Core, and then orders flow through to Starshipit for sending to customers, and Pinch Payments are used to manage overdue accounts. All the finances flow through to Xero, where they’re easily accessible for reporting and compliance.
“It’s removed the fog from our eyes - that technological things aren’t as hard as they seem,” Sherilyn says. “When you’re stuck in a system, you’ve got no potential to grow. Whereas now we know ‘Cin7 Core will do that,’ or ‘We can add this on Cin7 Core.’ It actually has helped a lot.”
“Xero is there working in the background,“ adds Jeff, “but the fact that you can have a front end like Cin7 Core is what gives Advance Global front-end functionality. Cin7 Core can be customised to manage this workflow from start to finish, but still integrate seamlessly into Xero and just be in the background.”
Earlier in their journey, Advance Global was buying and selling finished products, but their new tech stack has helped them with manufacturing some of their own. Here too, Cin7 Core has made itself particularly useful. Its Bill of Materials functionality means that anything that comes in as a raw product and is manufactured into a finished product is properly accounted for. Once assembled, Starshipit’s integration with Cin7 Core allows Advance to do freight quoting and other vital shipping tasks.
“We are using the system that Jeff and SMB have implemented from start to finish.”
Advance Global and SMB Consultants make a winning team
With SMB and Cin7 Core, Advance Global has been able to completely streamline their operations, removing a lot of the multi-stage, manual processes in the business and freeing up resources for other areas of the company.
With their successful business relationship with SMB, Sherilyn and Advance Global are confident they have made the right choices for the future of their business.
“As we go along on our journey, we have a point of contact who we can reach out to. Before we’d engaged SMB, we didn’t know where to go or how to make certain things happen. SMB has become a support partner. If we want to build a website or move forward in any way, we know we can reach out and have those talks with SMB. If we do a 3PL, we know we can reach out. Not only have they integrated us with Cin7 Core, but we know that 3 or 4 years down the track, we can reach out for help integrating any other software requirements as the need arises”.
Having seen the remarkable results from the implementation, Jeff agrees. “It's a credit to Sherilyn and her team,” he says, “for embracing change and going on this journey with us so that we could identify these areas where integration and automation could streamline and save time and make data more up to date.”
The journey hasn’t been without its twists and turns, but Advance Global see an open road ahead of them. “We’ve got a lot more control over what stock we do and don’t have. We’ve reduced the amount of stock that we’re running out of and we’ve reduced the time spent on manual processes,” Sherilyn says.“Before, if we ran out of something, they’d have to write out and order it and then it’d go to our purchasing department, and now it’s an automatic process.”
The business has, in short, gone from manual to automatic, and management and staff alike are enjoying the much smoother ride. “Cin7 Core has taken out a lot of the manual processes that were involved in our business,” Sherilyn says.
She unhesitatingly recommends that any businesses looking at software implementation engage a coach or implementer along the lines of SMB: “I would say engage a partner right from the start. Find out which software package is going to suit your business and then they'll guide you every step of the way.”