You’ve got a system, maybe even a number of systems and they work. But are they all working as well as they should?

When you’ve got a system that the team is used to working with, change is almost always daunting. The barriers that tend to go up include the hassle of identifying the right solution, the disruption that a changeover could bring, costs and time. The result is that it’s all too easy to postpone any overhaul because the system still works, even if it doesn’t work very well.

But if any of the following three ring a resounding bell, your system is struggling and could be performing much better. And the overhaul probably isn’t nearly as complicated as you might at first think.

Data error

It happens.  Human error. Whether it’s inputting a client name into the system incorrectly, missing a deadline, misfiling something or just failing to follow up a new enquiry. Once is perhaps understandable, even forgivable but when errors are starting to undermine what you do and the service you deliver, then it’s a sign that all is not well with your systems.

Using FileMaker, we can custom design a system based around how you work that minimises the risk of human error. We can add simple drop-downs, checkbox or radio button selection for staff, or we can set things up so that information is automatically input into forms, or cross referenced. We can catalogue, label, add barcodes and centralise information so you have real time, accurate data at the click of a button.

For example

One client we worked with had 8 different spellings of a company name and each time a staff member tried to contact them, it was a guessing game as to which was the correct and most up to date version of their record. We designed a new system that only allows a company name to be selected if it exists in the system, and if it is not there, an option to create a new one is offered.

Wasted Time

If one or two members of your team are spending unreasonable amounts of time on laborious admin chores, the chances are there is a better way of doing things. With most of our clients we find we can save them at least an hour a day in admin and often much, much more.

For example

We worked with a client who needed to streamline their annual process of checking 1.5 million lines of spreadsheet data and converting them into payments. This process took two members of staff three months each. We created a simple piece of software which imports the spreadsheet data into the system and can be left overnight to be processed. In the morning, a single button click allows all of the processed payments to be allocated to the correct person and payments made to them, saving the client six months of staff costs every year.

Different systems cobbled together

By the very nature of the way most businesses evolve, you get to a point when you may have a number of different systems and processes that just about work together. Maybe you have a virtual filing cabinet which almost works with your mailbox. Or an accounting package that you want to work with your CRM. It works. But not brilliantly.

For example

We can integrate with most software, and we’ve done full integrations with Outlook, Xero, QuickBooks, MailChimp, HMRC (VAT for Making Tax Digital), G-Mail, Google Maps and many more. These can be anything from a simple “Upload Invoice to Xero” button or a “Show in Google Maps” window to an overnight sync with a different system. We make sure your systems talk to each other and work together in a way that is seamless and makes your life easier.

Every business is different. But whatever part of your system is causing you grief, we can improve it. Just give us a call to arrange an appointment or fill in our assessment form.

A quick look at my LinkedIn profile often throws up the same question. How do you go from being a tour manager with international comedians and performers to being a software developer? Where is the natural progression in that?

Understanding the not so glamourous life of a tour manager

To understand the why in my what, it’s necessary to understand a little about the very unglamorous life spent on the road with celebrities.

Comedians tour all the time. When they get enough success, they can invest in a promoter who will take a nice cut of their ticket sales but will send them to much bigger venues. Promoters don’t like comedians touring on their own, as the logistics of getting from A to B and making sure the show looks and sounds great are not where their skills lie. So, people like me get employed to be a tour manager, to deal with the logistics and chauffeur to the comedian.

Once we arrive at the town for that night, I go and set up the show. Sometimes there is a bit of staging…I always have to check the sound, and program the lighting. Sometimes the stage set is a bit bigger and I have to unload a van full of gear and set it up.

An hour or so before the show I go and pick up the comedian, get him or her to do a soundcheck, then make a cup of tea, or snacks or wine, and at the right time, open the show. During the show, there will probably be some video or sound cues to run.

At the end of the show, all the gear goes back in the car or van, and you then take the comedian through the crowds for autographs, and back to the hotel.

The next day, we do it all again. Touring with bands you just multiply that by 10, 20, 30 etc. depending on the size of the tour. Instead of 1 person doing the staging, there might be 20; 3 or 4 sound engineers; lighting, video, catering, tour buses, drivers. Everyone gets to specialise in their area.  You get the picture.

And here’s where the software developer steps in

Nearly every aspect of every tour generates data which needs to be collected, processed and analysed as we go. This used to start with a spreadsheet. Name and dates of tour. Then we slowly added lists of towns and venues. Then these dates had to be copied into a new spreadsheet so that we could add marketing details. Then these needed to be updated once confirmed with further details. Then we’d need another tab or spreadsheet for weekly sales.

And let’s not forget the spreadsheets for the technicians and their equipment and a spreadsheet for any incidents that occurred during the tour with associated paperwork, invoices, receipts, etc. Each tour generating dozens of spreadsheets and each season generating between 30 or 40 tours.

That’s a lot of cumbersome data much of which had to be inputted manually over and over again. It was also a system that was hugely susceptible to error.

Enter stage right

So over 20 years ago, I started to use a software system called FileMaker to help pull together all a tour’s data. I found I could use it for collating and processing year end receipts, and for producing show reports for the promoter which catalogued events in real time, so that with a few clicks I could pull up all the relevant information in respect of any single issue.

At first, I just did this to make my life easier but as I refined my skills, it became obvious that the challenges I face as a tour manager are similar if not the same as the challenges faced by all sorts of businesses across multiple sectors. If it could help me save hours and hours of time, it could help others and by 2012 I was a certified FileMaker developer. In the years since, I’ve developed customised databases and systems for multiple businesses from SMEs and dynamic start-ups to multinationals, revolutionising the way that they do things.

If you’re wondering whether there’s a better way…

Then there almost certainly is. Your software should work the way you want it to work. Enhancing what you do, increasing productivity, reducing errors and doing the boring admin stuff for you. So that you can get up on stage and be the star of your own particular show. FileMaker can make that happen. And I can make FileMaker happen. It’s how I evolved.

If you would like to discuss how we can create more efficient business systems and processes for your business, please give us a call or fill in our assessment form.

I was on holiday last week. And I took the brave decision to turn my phone off during the day, and just check it once each night to see if anything important needed my attention. After all, I spend my days surrounded by tech, using it make other people’s lives easier and more efficient, creating order from chaos. But that begs the question…

Can you have too much tech?

Being a small business owner, I don’t turn off entirely for a week; would a parent leave their toddler and not check on them? Would Romeo not send Juliet a cheeky text or two?

But being liberated from my emails and phone calls throughout the day made me appreciate the beauty of the Cornish countryside, the laughter of my wife and children, and strangely, the relationship I have with my phone.

We are all tethered to our devices and are vilified for it, but the tech is there for a reason, and has improved our knowledge and general standard of living immensely.

There’s no escaping reality

And that reality is that like it or not, we have a relationship with tech. With that little box in our pocket.  And although I doubt Shakespeare would have written “The Two Gentlemen of Samsung” or “The iPhone of Lucretia” were he alive today, you can certainly bet he’d have had a lot of tech in his sonnets and plays – they’d all have been written in Word for a start.

It’s not a case of how much you have

But what you do with it. We can all have a little too much of each other sometimes but it’s not necessarily grounds for divorce. And whilst you may not be enjoying the romance of the century with your technology, your smartphone is perhaps more Nurse than Romeo to Juliet. The facilitator rather than the main star but none the less, pivotal to the story’s success. The Malcolm to Macbeth.

Just take a moment to consider all the thousands of tasks that are made possible or easier: directions, shopping, reminders, messages, photo edits, banking, getting fit, creating films, learning new skills, the list goes on…just take a look at the Apps on your phone.

Which in turn then answers the question for me. Yes, a break from tech is sometimes a good thing. But no, I don’t think you can have too much tech. It’s what you do with it and how you manage it that counts. But I suppose I would say that, wouldn’t I.

If you would like to discuss how your technology could be improved to create better business systems and processes, please give us a call or fill in our assessment form and view our calendar for appointment times.

If you’re thinking about customised software, it’s probably because your current system just isn’t working efficiently enough for you. Perhaps you’re spending too much time on doing stuff manually (inputting and processing data, dealing with emails, etc.) or maybe you’re worried about the risk of errors or are having trouble managing your data in a way that is meaningful, efficient and productive?

You’re pretty sure that you need new software, but your next thoughts are probably along the lines of: how much is this going to cost, how long will it take, should I buy an off the shelf solution instead and will my team be able to get to grips with it quickly enough? All good questions but here’s the deal…

Cue Claris FileMaker

If you haven’t heard of it, FileMaker is a type of customised software that can help your business grow more quickly with easy-to-use applications. It’s a really cost-effective solution because you don’t pay for functions you don’t need, and it’s quick to design and roll out so you see ROI on investment early.

FileMaker has been around since the late 1980s. It is lightyears ahead of Microsoft Access and competes with all top-level data solutions. And we’ve been working with FileMaker software for over 20 years.

Can it help us?

If you spend too much time on or are having issues with any of the following, then yes, it can help:

  • Managing multiple suppliers, employees or customers
  • Invoicing, expenses or timesheets, payroll or quotes
  • Managing production costs, assets, stock, stock control and inventory
  • Custom forms, record keeping, reports or daily logs
  • CRM and time management systems

With FileMaker, at the click of a button, you’ll be able to find a record, email a client with a quote, print mailing and asset labels, import and export information, fill forms and save hours of valuable time. We can even lock down areas for different teams/departments, ensure data is not erased in error, integrate with your own systems and create cloud-based applications ideal for multi-site environments.

But we use Windows or OSX, will it work for us?

Yes, if your business uses Windows or OSX, we can develop applications to work across both platforms, saving your staff hours of wasted time. Most systems can be integrated, and the apps can be used across desktops, web browsers, iPads and iPhones.

Can it handle our high quantities of data?

Yes. There is nothing it can’t handle. It is very powerful and will handle a complex structure or a small mailing list. It is also versatile and intuitive to work with.

But is this just a quick fix?

With FileMaker you don’t have to keep changing or upgrading your software.  Extra functionality can be added, and latest revisions keep up to date with security and interfaces with other apps you may use. The software is robust and keeps getting better year-on-year. Claris FileMaker is an Apple subsidiary and will be around for many years to come.

Will it be pricey?

You will need a license for the software, but this is low compared to alternatives which won’t necessarily match your needs or grow with your business as you expand. Dependent upon the project, you will need a development budget, but we can advise on exactly what you will need and following a discovery session, we will give you a quotation to match your requirements.

Is it easy to use?

Yes. We’ll design a system that your staff will find easy to use, manage and share data, making them more productive.

If you would like to discuss functions and features for your business or explore possibilities and find out how we can make your business more productive and future proof, please give us a call or fill in our assessment form.

We all know that when you’re running a business, you need 100 pairs of hands to get it all done or 100 more hours in every day.

Or do you?

In our experience, there are a number of areas in most businesses where inefficiency has crept in, slowing down productivity, causing headaches and stealing valuable man hours. But with a little work on the system, it is possible to rid your business of these nagging headaches so you can power forward full throttle.

1. Say farewell to late invoicing

Cash is king, and if there’s no flow to your dough, your business won’t run as well as it could, and your life will be more stressful. The easiest way to improve cash flow is to invoice on time, every time. But we get it, you’re busy, and you have 101 different jobs to do, including invoicing and if it’s not your favourite task, it might just get shoved to the bottom of the list. Again.

But imagine software designed around you and your workflows, which integrates with all your other systems, inputs data automatically and means you can invoice easily and efficiently with just a few clicks. Job done. Payment received. Reconciliation complete. High five.

2. Ditch the double handling of data

Time is money. And the more time you spend doing something, the more costly it is. That’s multiplied when the time is spent on duplicated tasks like data being input several times in different places.

Wouldn’t it be great if when you went to do a task, all the information was already there so instead of copy and paste, copy and paste, copy and paste, it was just … click. Job done.

We believe your software should be designed to free up your time, so you can focus on what you are great at and what brings in the money.

3. Avoid Spreadsheet Overload Syndrome

How many spreadsheets?! Excel is a great tool, but yes, you can have too much of a good thing and when your info is scattered all over the place, it can cause headaches and create service issues. Not to mention the time spent processing line after line of data.

With bespoke software, all those different data areas can be brought into one place where valuable information is at your fingertips at anytime, anyplace, anywhere. A bit like Martini but better.

4. Speed up your processes

Every successful business, large or small, has two things in common – they have systems and processes. But how efficient are yours?  Are they quick and seamless or more like a snail on an afternoon amble?

Our software saves entrepreneurs time, it reduces inefficiency and improves the service you can offer your customers. We can streamline your way of doing things including speeding up the time it takes to book jobs in, recording staff hours, making sure all new enquiries get a quick response and get automatically added to the right place in your system and ensuring you never miss another important date or deadline. We take a lot of time to listen to clients about how you operate and design your software around your existing systems and processes.

5. Take Back Control

Did your systems develop on an ad hoc basis and are they just about cobbled together? A successful business can quickly outgrow your original way of doing things. You’re running but your systems are only just learning to walk and at some point, something inevitably is going to fall over. It’s probably not ‘if’ but ‘when’. And that’s the point where we can step in to help.

If your business feels like a runaway train, don’t despair – we know how to keep you on track and bring it back under control. We make sure all your various systems work seamlessly together and are secure and adaptable, so they can continue to meet your requirements as you grow.

Would you like to see where your software system could be costing you time and money?

Give us a call or book a 30-minute zoom for a no-obligation audit of how your software is performing.