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Tenth - Branching Out

Tenth
Date: 2009-02-04 22:35
Subject: Branching Out
Security: Public
Location:Not Jersey
Mood:busy
So, while I try to keep this journal personal and very much separate from anything that might lead back to my job, I do have a vaguely work related question for you guys.

Very work related, I guess, but phrased vaguely.

My company makes business management software, and for a long time, we were specialized to a particular industry. But for a variety of reasons, we've been trying to branch out... The problem is, we're not really sure where to start knocking.

After all, there are a lot of cheapo options out there these days... Quickbooks is probably the best known, and one of the most popular, as it is fairly affordable and covers accounting as well as the basics of inventory management, sales, statistics, and so on.

The thing with us, though, is that we're really good at customization. Thanks to more than ten years of dealing with clients with their own bizarre ways of doing things, we have learned to deal with a lot of different methods of business. Maybe you also manufacture or assemble things, and need to order parts in different ratios based on the demand for your finished products; Maybe you resell things and need to keep track of their value over time. Or maybe the value (or some portion of the value) of your inventory varies over time due to exchange rates or gold prices... Or you might be selling hours of service (at different rates!) by various employees or other sub-contractors as part of, or along with your goods. Or you're interested in having a touchscreen kiosk display in your office that ties into your system, so customers can search through your inventory without bugging your staff to loot through the boxes in the back room.

It also gets interesting when you want a website for your business that ties into all this stuff. With the proper permissions, of course, so your employees can track their accounts and orders, or at least the parts of their accounts that you want them to. Or you might also be interested in tying parts of your business into other websites or online services... Listing items on Amazon or EBay, or tracking events and appointments through Google Calendar. Whatever you got, really, because unlike the business software you can buy at Staples, we wrote it ourselves, and we have a lot of experience with people who need to do things "differently". Oh, and we support MacOS. And Linux. And Windows. All together on the same network, even.

Recently, we've talked to some boutique clothing shops, a high end shoe store, and (I really should have thought of this one earlier), a tattoo parlor.

If you have any other ideas, or you know someone (or some company) who might be interested in our services, please let me know! While we're definitely more expensive than some of our brand name competitors, we're interested in expanding into other fields... And if you can introduce us to the industry of courier services, piercing shops, or alpaca farmers, or whatever, really, we can probably make it worth their while.
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 "Falls From Sky"
User: morgansong
Date: 2009-02-05 14:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
1) Are y'all going considering buying a "list"? How are you tracking down businesses? Besides posting in LJ or course.

2) As it's in Boston and I was hoping to crash at your place anyway, you should come to the IRCE conference with me in June. Not that you need any of the workshops, but I had no one to be snarky with last time. But you can be dashing and hand out your business card a lot.

a random list of industries that may or may not work:

bicycle shops

sporting goods

comic shops

a place like Faces (speaking of which they don't have an online store. It vexes me.)

gift shops

kitchen supplies

infernal decorating

bridal shops - Tess and I want to build a wedding dress database but we can't afford you guys

coffee / tea shops

MONKEY SHOPS! er... pet stores

My industry does not suck but I won't introduce you to any of our competitors. ;) And unfortunately our "new guy" does not suck. If I hear that any of our dealers / agencies are looking I'll let you know.
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Tenth: Prince Of Sky
User: tenth
Date: 2009-02-05 22:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Prince Of Sky
1) Sales isn't really my department, but right now we're trying to find businesses that would be a good fit for us (e.g. people who would actually prefer our fancier but more expensive software to Quickbooks), and then to meet people from that industry that we'd like to work with while getting started in their industry. (At least, who we would enjoy working with more than our current clients. Which in some cases, is not saying much. But that's another story.)

2) Oooh. Yeah, that might be a good place to throw cards and try to meet people who aren't total bastards.

3) Bicycle Shops are a good one, actually, because they do repairs and stuff too. (The problem with coffee shops and similar establishments is that, as far as I know, their business process is pretty simple, at leas the part that gets recorded on paper or in databases, and something like Quickbooks can cover it. Possibly even Excel. But if there's some coffee shop out there that wants to track more detailed info about their employee performance and do Coffee Sales Commissions calculations, I would love to meet them!)

4) I am actually glad to hear that the new guy is actually worth the paper he's printed on! And I understand completely if you guys have sort of burned out your budget for computer services already.

But that being said, since you are a friend, you are much more likely to get some kind of introductory deal, if you ever decide that you don't like your business system as a whole. And if your website is in PHP, it shouldn't be hard to get it to talk to our system.

But yeah, if you know any retailers with weird requirements, that's exactly what we're looking for.
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 "Falls From Sky"
User: morgansong
Date: 2009-02-06 03:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'll have Work-Jenn let me know if she hears anything.

As for the IRCE I'm signed up for Tuesday and Wednesday. Last time there was a big formal dinner and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy performed. I skipped as going alone to a formal dinner / concert is LAME. Haven't heard if there will be any wackiness like that this year.
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User: thedoubleduches
Date: 2009-02-05 21:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Here are some ideas for ya. I have no contacts though, unfortunately.

-independent yarn/crafts shops
-gyms/yoga studios
-spas/salons (for women at least, there are many levels of how expensive your haircut can be, and different stylists charge different amounts)
-law firms

You might consider emphasizing your services starting with what the system can present to the customer - especially with the economy, people will want to know how they can sell more stuff if they hire you. (Maybe you could throw in some free hours of design consultation and do an overhaul of their site design as a perk?)
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Tenth
User: tenth
Date: 2009-02-05 23:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Gyms and Law Firms definitely have some interesting potential... Gyms do weird recurring and special fees, and like to keep track of what their customers are doing, and Law Firms certainly have a lot of unique records to keep track of.

It sounds like lots of medical software is pretty crappy, at least judging by how many medical profession people are complaining about it, but they are big into reliability... And there are a lot of laws and standards involved there, too.

You do make a very good point about perceived value. It seems like we potentially make the most money for people who have a hard time tracking their costs... People who build things out of parts, materials, and labor end up estimating a lot when it comes to the price, and often can't tell if they're losing money or making a profit unless it's a big margin. Especially with items that they (or some since-departed shop employee) made a long time ago.

For other businesses, it's more of a time saver, though for people who have to track appointments and hours, it can mean better efficiency (and thus, packing in more work, avoiding scheduling problems, and generally getting paid for more of your employees' time.)

I guess the most widely applicable part is the Website aspect; If you have a website (and can somehow get people to click on it), you're getting a whole new source of sales... From around the country and the world, even, but only if you're willing to deal with shipping and returns through the mail, and mainly if your product is unique (or competitively priced). If people can get your product elsewhere for less on Amazon, it's not really worth going online at all. Though there is something to be said for warehousing obscure items (so your listing pops up when Amazon and friends are out of stock.)

We've been considering a more comprehensive package, where we not only build you a site, but help you keep track of it and manage links and advertising and stuff... So far, though, that hasn't been a big draw for our existing clients. They're usually very enthusiastic about "getting on the web", but want to spend as little money on it as possible, and avoid any extra expenses. They especially don't want to devote much time to maintaining and operating it, unless they are big (or affluent) enough to afford a full time computer/web guy... In which case, they may choose to shell out for a computer/web guy who is also smart enough to make them a website.

Still, most of our internet work so far has been for people who do have a computer/web guy, who is busy enough with their core business that he's decided to outsource the art and programming aspects of the site to someone else (in this case, us!) and just take are of management/advertising aspects. That seems to work out pretty well, since someone from their company is making sure that the site is representing them properly, getting attention and advertising at the right times, and generally being business-compatible, while we're entirely concerned with the technical details.
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