Order management, accounting and supply chain software company BizSlate Inc. has been building a supply chain management software system based on the input of a steering committee of small-business managers for the last 11 months. The tool is now in its second test stage in advance of its planned launch later this year.
The software is hosted by BizSlate and accessed by clients via a web browser. It is aimed at small to mid-sized retail and distribution companies in the $1 million to $200 million annual revenue range, says CEO Marc Kalman. Pricing starts at $3,500 per year and increases $1,000 per year per the number of users, or employees who log in to the BizSlate software.
Kalman says the key advantage to BizSlate’s system is that it allows retailers to pick which parts of the software they’d like to implement to suit their business needs.
BizSlate designed its software to work with Intuit Inc.’s QuickBooks small-business accounting software. “No one has stopped to look at how small businesses operate [and] how they manage products, which is typically very different than how large businesses operate,” Kalman says. Before building the software, BizSlate interviewed many small retailers in four- to eight-hour sessions, which included touring their warehouses, he says. The vendor then asked the retailers what they were looking for in their back-end inventory and order management systems that wasn’t available to them.
One finding came from a children’s footwear retailer who had one employee spending up to two weeks at the start of each new season entering product information about the new shoe lines into the inventory management system, Kalman says, declining to name the retailer. By making customizable fields for attributions like style, size and color, BizSlate was able to automate entering much of the repetitive data and lower that time to two days, he says.
Based on the steering committee’s feedback, which now includes the input of 17 small-business members, BizSlate also added features to automate the placing and editing of orders, let retailers place orders online instead of via phone or fax and track inventory in smaller-than-standard shipping containers, such as crates. Small retailers often place smaller-than-usual orders for customers, Kalman says.
E-retailer and distributor of sanding materials Abrasive Resources began testing BizSlate’s supply chain management software six weeks ago, says Debbie Swanson, Abrasive’s president. She chose the vendor after shying away from the equivalent systems at Salesforce.com Inc. and NetSuite Inc. BizSlate quoted her $5,000, she says, half the $10,000 NetSuite was asking for, and allowed her to pick and choose which pieces of the system to implement and when. The other vendors required her to use their accounting and reporting systems, she says. “I couldn’t imagine trying to change the whole way my company was doing business,” she says.
So far Abrasive is running the BizSlate system as a test in tandem with its old software applications. Abrasive has different software systems to handle accounting and its sales database, but these will eventually be managed by BizSlate software, Swanson says.
“When I say I want my sales reps to be able to look up all the customer notes, they have their order history, know if they paid on time, know everything about them—BizSlate allows that,” she says. “That is the piece that sold me on BizSlate: They would allow me to take everything I had and put it in one place and I didn’t have to compromise anything.”
BizSlate has not announced when its system will be live, but Kalman says he expects it before the year’s end. Retailers can try the test version for free for 10 days.