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  • Introducing Ryan: From Sawmill to Software

    We believe that Merchanter's power comes from our intimate understanding of merchant’s needs. Our team has spent over 40 years immersed in the world of inventory management, sales order processing, and pricing strategies, catering to the unique challenges of merchanting, and this deep expertise is what makes our software truly effective. That’s why we're thrilled to strengthen that expertise even further with the arrival of Ryan, our new System Implementation & Project Manager. With 20 years of experience working in the timber industry, Ryan brings a wealth of knowledge and insights to the table. He'll be instrumental in ensuring Merchanter continues to evolve and excel in serving the specific needs of timber merchants. We had a chat with Ryan about his past roles, and how he hopes to use them to improve the Merchanter implementation process. Q: Welcome to the team, Ryan! You’ve got a fascinating background in timber and IT - Can you tell us a bit about how it brought you to Ten-25? Ryan: It’s actually a two-part story. While working at Hopping's Softwood Products, I saw firsthand the potential of Ten-25’s software (Unitrade and UT360 at the time), especially for timber importers like us. I even helped Ten-25 understand our specific needs, such as forward contracting and Timber Certification, and develop relevant features, user experience and layout. When Hopping's was sold, I moved to Silva Timber, using a different system. That experience, unfortunately, wasn't ideal. Poor project management, implementation and lack of user testing led to major launch problems. I knew there had to be a better way to help companies transition smoothly to new systems, so I reached out to Ian at Ten-25, hoping to put my experience to good use. What unique perspective do you bring to the Ten-25 team? I'm not just an IT guy; I've lived and breathed the timber industry for 20 years. I understand the quirks, the B2B and B2C dynamics, and the specific challenges timber companies face. This helps me see things from both sides – the customer and the software developer – and bridge the gap between them. And how does Merchanter compare to other systems, based on your experience? Merchanter shines in user control and flexibility. With other systems, you’d have to contact developers for any changes as they don’t natively understand timber, which of course adds expense and delays to the project. With Merchanter, much of that can be handled by users after a little training. It's like giving them the keys to their own system, saving time and money on development. So, what's do you want to achieve from your role as System Implementation & Project Manager at Ten-25? I'm in constant learning mode, soaking up everything I can about Merchanter and Ten-25’s customers. It's a fresh challenge, and I'm excited to be part of making a difference. My ultimate goal is to hear someone say, "Thanks, Ten-25, you saved me an hour a day!" That'd be pure satisfaction. On a lighter note, what are your passions outside of work? When I’m not diving into tech, I'm probably lost in a world of music, art, or a good old-fashioned Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Keeps the creative juices flowing! Thanks for the insights, Ryan! We're thrilled to have you on the team, and we can't wait to see how your unique expertise helps Ten-25 and our customers thrive.

  • Connected ERP: the advantages of integration

    Do you need a jack of all trades? If you’re building a house, do you employ one person to design it, dig the foundations, build the walls, fit the wiring, plumbing and heating, plaster it, decorate it and furnish it? Or, do you select a specialist provider with the more suitable skillset for each job that is needed? When you buy a new phone, do you use just the capabilities the phone comes with, or do you add and customise the apps that give you the best experience? It’s possible you’ll find one supplier who can provide total expertise in every area. But it’s more likely that you’ll need a range of suppliers working together to give you the best results. More likely that you'll install a range of apps that do the things YOU need them to do. That’s how we think of business software solutions. You want the best for your merchant business So do we. You want the best stock management and trading system? That’s what we do, and brilliantly (if we do say so ourselves.) You want the best financial platforms? The best eCommerce solutions? Well, that’s what THEY do, and brilliantly. (And we’re pretty sure they’d agree.) We're not too proud to say that yes, sector-specific platforms often provide the best solution. You see, modern ERP doesn’t have to do it all. It’s not a lone wolf. Because one thing it does (brilliantly) is allow you to connect best-in-class solutions across every area of your business. Teamwork. Collaboration. Communication. But with software, not just people. End to end, comprehensive, self-contained systems are great. But that notion is becoming outdated, a legacy hangover from when systems were housed in clunky on-site servers and couldn’t exchange information with other systems easily. Merchants had to make do with whatever accounts programme came with the system, or use a totally separate one. Modern software system architecture is built on new principles and agile foundations that connect best-in-class solutions to give the best overall result. It enables specialist providers to supply specialist solutions, meaning that the end user (i.e. you) gets the most advanced and capable systems in existence. It also means it’s simple to add extras, depending on your specific business needs. You can customise elements where that will really add value for your staff, suppliers or customers, but you can also opt for the more “off-the-shelf” solutions when budgets are stretched or time is of the essence. Evolution every day We have been providing trading and stock management software to merchants for 40 years, and we’ve learned a lot in that time. We continue to learn every day, and when we learn something new that will benefit our customers, we add it to our systems. That’s why we now offer a wider range of connectivity services to third party platforms than ever before. Because, as the old Abbey National advert used to say, life’s complicated enough. Connected Finance If you’re using Merchanter or UniTrade360, you can now connect with the following financial platforms: Xero; QuickBooks; Sage 50, Sage BCA, Sage X3, Sage200, Sage300, Sage500, Sage1000. If you are using a different cloud accounting platform and we haven’t listed it, just let us know – chances are we can link to that too. Connected eCommerce Choosing the right eCommerce platform that’s right for your product range and customers is vital. We work with a wide range of eCommerce solutions to ensure that whichever platform you choose, you can easily sync information with your ERP system. We are also talking to a range of PIM providers to ensure optimum compatibility in terms of product data transfer. As product data is a fast-evolving area, this will continue to change as time goes on, so again, please talk to us about integrating your PIM with your ERP system. Currently we have integrations with the following eCommerce providers, and are always looking to widen that proposition. If you are working with a different eCommerce provider and we haven’t listed it, please let us know, and we’ll see what we can do! eCommonSense; Shopify; WooCommerce; Amazon; eBay; Magento (Adobe Commerce) Connected Business Just as our software aims to connect all the parts of your business together, our integration strategy aims to complement that capability. Connected businesses offer better communication, better efficiency and ultimately, better service. What other platforms do you work with which would be helpful to integrate with your ERP? If you work with specific CRM, HR or any other platforms which you see potential in for integration, please let us know.

  • Are you in control?

    Few things fuel stress like feeling out of control. As a business owner or manager, chances are there will be times you feel out of control. And sometimes, that’s OK. There will always be some things that are outside your control, and trying to influence those things is unlikely to end well. But it’s important to recognise where you DO have the ability to be in control, and see the impact that those areas can have across your workforce. You can’t micromanage every aspect of the business and you need to trust your team to do their thing. But having visibility of the critical factors can make it much easier to let go of the small stuff and retain better balance in your life without ending up in panic mode. Key metrics, relevant to your role Which are the figures that keep you up at night? Whether it’s sales, invoicing, stock control, customer insights or logistic, having quick and easy access to the metrics which accurately reflect what’s happening in your business is key. Sure, some of the external factors causing the numbers to be the way they are might be outside your control (the last 18 months have been a stark reminder of that!) But once you can see where you’re at, you can make informed decisions quickly and confidently. Having accurate figures relies on a strong business system, consistently adopted processes across the business and an accessible interface which allows you to see the numbers that matter most at a glance. Having to spend valuable time wading through endless mazes of spreadsheets and sales reports is not a great start! Being able to generate accurate reports about all areas of business performance simply and quickly is a relief for everyone, and means you can keep on top of the business day-to-day without it taking over every minute of your life. It’s also important that you have the control to customise the metrics you see. Too much information can be overwhelming, so being able to tailor your everyday dashboard to ensure that you’re seeing the most relevant figures for your area of the business helps to sift through the “noise” and get right to the heart of what matters. Confidence in the numbers So, you’ve got access to the numbers – but can you trust them? We know as well as you do that stock figures aren’t always 100% accurate. Even if you checked everything yourself last week, mistakes can happen, like mis-counts, delivery errors or missing paperwork. If everyone is using the same system and the same processes, and that system is integrated throughout the business, there’s less room for error. Also, with features like Stock Confidence, you can actually see how reliable your numbers are immediately, which helps you to focus on the gaps and issues rather than diluting attention across the entire stockholding. Automatic alerts There really are only 24 hours in a day, and hopefully you’re spending decent portion of those either sleeping or not working – so it’s impossible to stay on top of every metric manually. If the major issues, gaps and potential problems are flagged automatically, it gives you more confidence to be able to focus on other important areas. You don’t always have to be watching out for the shortfalls, the late deliveries or the overdue payments because the system will let you know when you need to know. Likewise, you can programme in the safety nets you need, like margin control and credit issues. People and performance As the saying goes, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you have no idea about. Sometimes, in business, the numbers speak for themselves, and being able to see who is struggling can be a huge help in managing your workforce wellbeing and performance. If a sales manager who is routinely ahead of targets is suddenly falling behind, there might be something else going on. A new starter might need extra support, or a series of absences could signal a different kind of issue. Whatever the scenario, having the key metrics front and centre makes it so much easier to spot performance discrepancies. The sooner an issue is spotted, whether personal or professional, the faster it can be resolved. Your people are the heart of your business so staying on top of how they’re doing is really important. Of course you can’t “control” them, but if you can easily track how they’re doing, you’ve got a much better chance of spotting trends and patterns that might signal something more serious, either individually or for the wider business. Check in with yourself and your team How in control do you NEED to be? This will vary by individual but if you are feeling really out of control a lot of the time, it can be a really stressful place to be. Ask yourself why you feel the need to be in control of everything, and look around at your team for support. Don’t keep these worries bottled up – it’s always better to speak to someone else to get a sense-check. If the issue is in the business performance, being able to see and organise the numbers and KPIs easily will help you identify and solve the problems. Sometimes, it’s hard to trust a team to take over the bigger responsibilities, but again, one person can’t do everything so learning to let go is important. If you’re struggling with this, try writing a list of things within your control (this can be as basic as diet, exercise, what you choose to wear, who you employ or what processes you implement at work) and which are not in your control. Be honest about whether you are spending time worrying about things you can’t influence – and start looking more closely at the areas you actually can. Remember, some things in life genuinely are outside your control, and trying to overcome those is a recipe for stress. But having clear visibility of the areas that are within your control can give you a much more solid foundation and bolster your confidence to let those things go and focus your attention on the areas in which you can have the most effective impact. If you’d like a taste of how simple it can be to take control of your business, register today for a free trial of our digital ERP system, Merchanter.

  • Budget-Friendly ERP: Where 'All-Inclusive' Beats 'À la Carte’

    You’ve booked that plush hotel for a two-week break in the tropics or around the Mediterranean. It’s cost you an arm and a leg, but the holiday rep was very convincing, and you’ve earned it. You arrive at the hotel; the building and grounds are beautiful and secluded. You check in, unpack, get a deckchair on the beach and… “Hiring for half a day or whole day?” asks the attendant. “That’ll be 10€ please”. Begrudgingly, as you have paid top dollar for the hotel and your own little slice of this beach, you part with the cash. In his other hand you see the drinks menu, alongside the snacks menu, and everything is in double digit euros. Evening comes, and every meal is at least 100€ a couple - and that’s without the cocktails. In the morning when you fancy trying out a windsurfer or canoe – well, make the most of it. You won’t be hiring one again. Within days you feel like you’ve walked up a dark alley and now you know you’re going to be mugged – or maybe you’re just a mug? You realise that your holiday is going to double in price from what you’d budgeted and there’s little you can do about it as the hotel is miles from anywhere. A slight bitterness settles in, a sense of buyer’s remorse. The holiday you deserve Enter, stage left, the all-inclusive holiday – a genuinely inclusive one with branded drinks, snacks, and access to water sports all bundled into the price. A holiday where you know the price upfront, and if you need or want a little bit more you merely need to ask. No preorder, no fee, no drama – bliss. Buying business software can be a similar experience (bear with us here). It’s easy to get drawn into the marketing and opt for the glossy and “too-good-to-be-true” package only to find that it actually is too good to be true, and not a package at all. Modules you would assume are included are not, initial training and implementation services were quoted but if you need extra help then that’s almost £1000 a day extra for the privilege. You want it hosted? That’s extra. Support? Extra. How about out-of-hours support (out of the suppliers’ hours, not your hours!)? Also extra. It’s not a surprise that many business systems (ERP) users experience a doubling in their original budgeted cost within a few years. And just like our secluded remote luxury hotel, you can’t go anywhere else because now the only feasible option is the original supplier’s option – welcome to the dark alley. The grass is greener… However, it doesn’t have to be this way and if you’re a fan of “knowing where you stand”, accurate budgets and the relaxed feeling that you get from a genuine all-inclusive holiday, then you’ll be pleased to know that software can be purchased in the same manner. Our preference is to provide our customers with an all-inclusive service and offering. One which is devoid of any “nasty little surprises” but still provides the very best in functionality and technology for our merchant customers. A price that includes the software, the hosting, the support, the installation and, in the unlikely event that you need some more training (as the system is designed from concept to be easy to use) just ask and we will provide – at no extra cost. Why do we do this? Well, if our clients are to retain their competitive edge then we don’t feel that they should be faced with the dilemma of extra costs to achieve it. Cost shouldn’t be a barrier to improving the efficiency in your business or the service you give to your customers. When your business does grow (and our customers grow by an average of over 19% compared to the industry average of 6%), and you have new members of staff, simply let us know and we’ll add an extra user to your plan at a low set price per month (from £45 - £155 per additional user depending on their user type) – no additional training costs, no surprise set up fees. And if you do need some bespoke development to suit your specific needs, or a round of in-person on-site training, we’ll quote everything upfront – so you'll never be caught off guard by an unexpected invoice. So take a break, take a “holiday” with Ten-25. Relax, knowing exactly what to expect and at what price.

  • How to turbo-charge your sales, order management and stock control

    Would you like to turbo-charge how your business handles sales, orders and stock control? If you’re using a financials platform like Sage, Xero or QuickBooks to run your sales, order processing and stock management, you might well be finding it’s not giving you everything you need. If that’s the case, we’ve got good news for you: you can turbo-charge your financials package and get the best of both worlds, with all the advanced sales management, order processing and stock management functionality you need. Lots of merchants are in the same boat. You’ve got a great financial package with the likes of Sage, QuickBooks or Xero, and it’s doing a brilliant job of handling your accounts. On the face of it, it’s also a simple, cost-effective way to manage orders, basic stock control and sales. However, these platforms simply don’t have the advanced operational capability that an industry-specific system has. You could be missing out on really important, beneficial functions which might be able to transform not just your efficiency but also your profitability, scalability and growth trajectory. Merchanting isn't as simple as retailing, as you know. You're dealing with complex orders, information and timelines. Having more advanced sales management, order processing and stock optimisation software at your fingertips could be extremely advantageous (and you don't even have to ditch your financials package to do it!) Pros and cons of upgrading to an industry-specific, cloud-based ERP system It’s a big decision, we know. And yes, we’re a bit biased when it comes to the solution we think you should opt for. The bottom line is though, you have to opt for a system that is right for you. Chances are, if you’ve been using a financial package so far, it has a lot of benefits. And there’s no denying, there are some drawbacks to upgrading. The cons might include: Expense. ERP systems are expensive, there’s no doubt. (That said, they ought to be able to pay for themselves, and then some, in the benefits they return) Disruptive, intimidating scale of change. There’s a lot of learning (and unlearning) to do and that can be painful for a while. Significant training required. (A good reason to choose a system that’s as easy as possible to use!) Complete overhaul of systems and processes internally which could also highlight flaws / loopholes and cause resistance Trusting technology where previously you’ve relied on human judgement (don’t worry, a good system should still allow for the best of both worlds and reduce error, not remove people) Timescales can be extensive for initial set up. Getting your system customised and fit for purposes takes a fairly hefty time commitment. There’s often a lot of work involved for you to get all your information and data carried across. Obviously your ERP provider can help with this to a point, but there’s no getting away from the fact that there’s quite a lot to get done But the benefits of a strong, industry-specific order management and stock control system far outweigh the temporary inconveniences of that initial investment. Advantages of upgrading to an industry-specific ERP system include: Scalability. Your system can grow with your business and you can add users, features and functionality as you need it. Keep your financial system. There’s no need to ditch your current financials package – we simply integrate with it so everything ties together and you get the best of both worlds. We already have successful integrations with Sage, QuickBooks and Xero (among others) in place with customers so we know first-hand the benefits this offers. Clarity. Functionality is aligned to user role so your system can flex to meet the needs of the people using it. Your trade counter staff can just have access to the tools they need, without their system being cluttered with irrelevant information. Automation of repetitive, day to day processes saves A LOT of time. Auto-emailed invoices, reminders and so on really do add up and you can save multiple days every month in admin time alone. Alerting focuses the attention where it’s needed, whether in stock gaps, pricing changes, credit control issues or unfulfilled orders. And because you know where the issues are you can quickly identify solutions before things get out of hand, and manage customer expectations. Consistency. With everyone accessing the same system, using consistent processes and recording information in the right way, information is far easier to find and errors are reduced. It also means that over time, the quality of information in your system gets better and better, meaning fantastic reporting and analytics insights to drive smarter decision-making. Clean slate. Yes there may be some teething pain getting set up, but once you’re up and running you can be confident the information is current, accurate and relevant. Product specific capabiity. Construction materials don't all come in neat packs with barcodes on the back. Merchanting specific features like length reporting, metrics conversion and stock confidence are all designed specifically for the types of materials you work with day to day. Stock optimisation. The advanced stock control functionality lets you enhance your stock profile, see exactly what’s happening in the business, reduce duplication and help you make more informed decisions around replenishment and merchandising. The intelligence and insights available in the system represents an enormous opportunity for merchants. Perpetual inventory is always preferable to intermittent and disruptive stocktakes, which are usually outdated by the time the next delivery leaves the yard. Sales and order management. The complex nature of merchanting vs retailing makes advanced sales and order management software a must for merchants, agents and importers. The stock control is a huge bonus of course, but the sales processing power alone is enough of an advantage to be worth the investment. Being able to manage complex time lines, bulk orders, forward contracting, back to back deliveries and milling / processing instructions straight from an order really does make life a lot easier! Convenience. The system fits around you, being available and accessible to you where you are. You aren’t tied to a desk or a PC – you get access in the yard, on the road, at the sawmill or port. It gives you control and visibility from wherever you are, and ensures the information held in the system is always up to date. Quicker access to critical documents. You can digitally attach documents together – certifications, delivery notes etc, so you’re using less paper for a start, but also enabling much faster retrieval, fewer mistakes, and a lot less time spent searching through filing cabinets! Amplified impact of every member of your workforce. When everyone plays their part, the sum of the information held within the system and its capabilities far outweigh the individual parts. Everyone’s role is key, and the magnified benefits of that system, where everyone pulls together to form a powerful whole, are huge. Better service. All this adds up to a business offering the best service to your customers. The easiest sale you’ll ever make The easiest sale you’ll ever make is when you have the right stock in the right place at the right time, at the right price – and the right people know about it. But in merchanting, making that "simple" scenario happen is far from straightforward without the right tools. With the advanced sales management, order processing and stock optimisation capability that an industry-specific ERP system can offer, you’re in the perfect position to make this happen more often, reducing your cost per sale while boosting productivity and profitability along the way. If you’d like to see how easy Merchanter is to use, why not sign up here for our online demo system? We’ll send you login details and you can have 30 days to test drive the system with your own data, and discover what a difference it could make for your business.

  • New Feature: Automatic Suggested Reordering

    As a merchant, you'll know only too well that your reputation is heavily influenced by your service levels, and you'll know that effective stock management is the life blood of your business. You know deepdown that a pen and paper system just won't cut it, and you're fed up of struggling with the inconvenience, loss of business and customer annoyance of regularly shutting down branches for manual stocktakes. You're the experts, and we're not here to teach you how to suck eggs. But we are here to make your life easier. Which is why we've recently added a new feature for Merchanter users - Automatic Suggested Reordering. We won’t bog you down with the ins-and-outs of Automatic Suggested Reordering, but let’s run through the basic principles. Suggested Reordering uses both real-time and historic stock and sales data to help you make informed decisions about what you should be keeping in stock. It all starts with setting preferred stock levels to drive the suggested reordering, with minimum, target and maximum quantities in your chosen metric, or maximum financial value if you prefer. But why not work a little more dynamically? With Merchanter, the system uses historic supplier lead times and average sales per week to ensure you’re holding enough stock until your next order arrives, without having to calculate the figures manually. The benefit of working in this way is if your supplier’s lead time creeps up, or if your sales start to slump, your target stock figures are adjusted automatically to ensure you’re never without product – or drowning in it - thus avoiding lost sales (and potentially customers) and dead stock consuming warehouse space and your valuable cash. Choose your preferred supplier for the product, set the minimum order quantity (if applicable) and quantity rounding (for those products that are sold in packs rather than individual measures) and your system is ready to do the heavy lifting for you. A job that would take a stores person a day can now take you minutes. And now for the good bit... Using a low stock product view, you’re able to immediately see all products that are sitting below your target stock holding, and especially any products below your minimum. And it goes without saying, these figures always account for allocated stock, and stock already on purchase on order, to avoid duplication. Filter by supplier, product type, depot or any number of categories, run a suggested order report and you’ll be presented with a list of low stock products to select a suggested supplier for. Once all products are allocated a preferred supplier, review the details of each order and tweak quantities before generating as many draft purchase orders as are required to get your stock levels back to optimum levels – based on fact, not hunches. You always remain in control and no order is sent without a human taking a view. Artificial Intelligence may have its place, but it doesn’t know about your plans to open another branch, take advantage of a rebate deal or the fact that the major building project in the area is just about to start or finish. This targeted, Merchant functionality is available at a fraction of the cost of some systems, and will even integrate into most accounting packages such as Sage, Quickbooks and Xero (to reduce disruption and retraining). It’s simple to understand (but we offer unlimited free training just in case) and remains a cornerstone piece of functionality to enable you to retain your competitive edge, and help you trade profitably regardless of the economic forecasts. Take a few minutes to review our online demo and see, for yourself, just how easy holding an accurate stock profile can be.

  • What could you do with an extra month a year?

    Time moves fast, right? Time is precious. Time is finite. Time is impossible to reclaim once you’ve spent it. And for most of us, there’s just not enough of it. So what if we told you that you could gain back a month or more of time, simply by changing your software system. And what if we told you that was a month EVERY YEAR. And what if we told you that was just in one area of your business, and that the potential time savings across the whole operation could be much, much more? What could you do with that time? Time is precious A clichéd expression, perhaps, but in business, it’s actually true. Time equates to cold, hard cash at the end of the day. The faster a process can get done, the less time it takes, the lower the cost of each process or transaction to the business, and the more time is freed up to process more, or focus on other things. A customer recently told us that the automations in the invoicing system of Merchanter was saving them three days a month in admin time. 3 days a month! 36 days a year. That’s over a month, just in the invoicing department. "Due to the multiple ways in which Merchanter can deal with customer price terms, we are saving at least three working days per month on invoicing and invoice issues, which makes a huge difference." Mike Tregunna, Build Supplies When you look at all the time-saving features included in other areas, you start to see how having a better software system at the heart of your business can really add up to major time-savings. If you could build perpetual inventory methods into your daily stock management processes, how much time could you save a year in stocktaking? If you had alerts to flag up potential stock issues before they became a problem, how much time could you save reacting to issues and managing customer expectations? If you could make changes to document branding and layout quickly and easily in-house, how much time and money could save outsourcing or asking your IT supplier? If every PO, sales order, milling instruction or quote took a few seconds less – how much time would your workforce save in a year? How many more transactions could they process? How much more profitable could you be? It’s easy to see how the savings add up, and a system that saves you that much time (as well as reducing waste, streamlining efficiency and boosting profits) will pay for itself very quickly. When we say time is precious: we mean it. Compound value adds up to more It’s important as well to think about what you could do with that time. We’re not talking about laying off staff or paying them less; but freeing up large amounts of time does enable you to focus more on the areas of the business which drive profit. "The searchability and visibility throughout the whole system makes every task quicker, easier and that bit less painful." Mike Tregunna, Build Supplies Ltd So, you could be spending longer analysing product sales trends to inform your buying decisions. You could be redeploying admin staff into sales or customer success teams. You could be using the savings in transport and logistics to invest in new, greener technologies or additional resources for your business. You could be leaving on time more often. You could be on holiday without having to dial in every day. You could be growing your business. It’s not just the day-to-day time savings that are tangibly reducing overheads and improving quality of life for your workforce. It’s also the added value of using that time in a more efficient, productive and profitable way, to drive more sales and revenue and help your business grow in a stable and sustainable way. If you’d like to find out how much time you could save across your business, why not try our free online demo system for 30 days.

  • When the challenges are big, is it time to think small?

    Have you ever trained for a marathon? If so, you’ll know that you don’t just wake up one day and run 26 miles. You do it step by step, run by run, building up in tiny increments until you’re able to go the distance. From learning a language to climbing a mountain to developing healthy eating habits, big things are usually only achieved in little, consistent steps. Making business decisions can be similar. Big changes and major overhauls of systems and longstanding processes can feel too time-consuming or overwhelming to be possible right now, but there is huge power in small changes. If it feels like the pressure is really piling up on all sides, sometimes it can really help to think small. Here are just a few examples where thinking small might be exactly the way to win big. Local vs national While it may be tempting to take on the world when it comes to new customers, focusing on your local market is often the best place to focus. Firstly, a local market is likely to be more loyal, more frequent in its purchasing and more likely to make other local recommendations. Secondly, your cost to serve will be lower, with more efficiencies for logistics and even marketing being available to you, and your environmental impact for longer-distance delivery will be reduced. Local business searches (e.g. builders merchant near me etc) have exploded in recent years, serving as a very measurable reminder that local really is big business. Small supplier vs market leader There will always be pros and cons, but depending on the size and scale of your business, choosing a smaller supplier may well be a better fit for your business. If yours is a small or medium sized business, you may find you can get more focus and prioritisation from smaller suppliers, and even if your business is bigger, you may find the personal touch more rewarding to work with. That’s not to say that bigger suppliers don’t have their advantages of course, but don’t discount the little guys just because they’re small – sometimes the extra effort and responsive, personal service can be a big benefit. Process efficiency over total business overhaul While saving a few seconds here or there may not feel like a big win, if the time saved relates to something that happens often in your business, it will add up to significant efficiency. If you could halve the time it takes to raise a PO or sales order, check stock levels, check a customer’s purchase history, spot a replenishment issue, plan a more efficient delivery route or track down stock in the yard – how much time would you save every week? Small process chances can save huge amounts of time, just like small improvements to stock control, credit and quote management and customer service can drive significantly better profit and productivity. Having the information you need, integrated across the business and up to the minute accurate, will make every process quicker and easier, leaving your staff more productive and your customers happier. If you’re not sure where you could save time or make efficiency improvements in your business, why not book a Business Process Review and get that external viewpoint to help focus your efforts? Your software can help you It should come as no surprise to know that your ERP software (or order and stock management software) can help you when it comes to driving efficiency improvements across your business. Whether you want to make improvements to your quote management, stock control system, stocktaking processes, transport planning, logistics, invoicing or document automation, or any other area of your merchant operations, we are here to help. We’ve spent 40 years helping merchants by building effective software tools to drive operational efficiency – and we’d love to help you too. Try Merchanter Free

  • Plumbers Merchants – Are you winter ready?

    Ah, the summertime. Feet up, sandy beaches, sunglasses on and a cold beer or ice-cream in your hand – time for our Independent Plumbers Merchants to sit back and relax, with not a care in the world. After all, it will only be three or four months before the trade comes piling back in, all after boilers, radiators and spares, and unlike all the years before they’ll be patient, standing at the counter while you and your staff struggle with your manual order processing and pricing systems. They will be understanding, of course, when you are short of 15mm copper, pipe slices and waste traps because your stock system just wasn’t man enough to cope. Ball Cocks? Yes, you’re probably short of them as well. But relax, safe in the knowledge that you’ll soon be back, making calls to chase suppliers, spending your evenings doing paperwork, chasing debts, sending out statements and answering those late “have you got this specific thing-a-ma-jig in stock for my job at 8am tomorrow?” queries. Enjoy your time off - you’ve earned it! You’ll have earned it again in a few weeks, after the temperatures drop and the evenings draw in. Failing to prepare… You could, of course, prepare, and use the next few months to install a tried and tested, easy-to-use and affordable ERP system (that’s business system to most of us) to automate the very tasks that take up so much precious time when it gets busy again. By the time the autumn comes around you could have installed completely (or the foundations at least) a system that will not only speed up operations, but also save on human error, improve customer service and help generate more business. If the software is user-friendly enough - and designed specifically for a merchant - then it will have all the tools you need to rapidly place sales orders with the correct pricing and terms, produce invoices, statements and remittances (and the inevitable payment-chasing letters) automatically with zero fuss and minimal manual work. As a result of taking sales orders, the same system can accurately work out what you will need from suppliers, create a suggested order and purchase order (priced correctly), email it to the supplier, and even chase for late deliveries if needed – whether you’re dealing direct with the supplier or via your buying group. With a little more thought and time, the same software could help with the marketing, sending out promotional emails to your contacts and making sure that your internal sales team are speaking with customers on a regular basis. With the analysis produced, automatically, you’ll be able to identify drifting customers and those that only buy certain ranges from you – enabling you or your team to pick up the phone and have a friendly discussion about expanding their product horizons. Push a little further and you might even be able to setup a rudimentary website (to be enhanced and expanded as time permits) with a customer portal so that they can answer their own account queries 24/7. This is not pie-in-the sky-thinking - it is achievable, especially for those migrating from a manual system or a pure accounting solution that doesn’t effectively handle the trade sales, pricing and buying. The reality is, the best time to start installing an ERP system is when you are quiet, when you and your colleagues have time to think and prepare, because you won’t stand a chance when the trade counter becomes busy. Before you know it, you’ll be back on the beach putting off the decision for another year. It’s a fallacy to think that business systems are difficult and expensive to install. Well okay, we can admit that some are, but not if it’s designed specifically for your size and type of business. If your new system requires an IT Manager to run it, then maybe consider something more practical to install – and in the process save yourself a lot of expense and heartache. Is it worth it? Does it work? You probably know a competitor that has moaned about their computer system (or more likely supplier) but we doubt, very much, if you will ever find a merchant that has bought a system and was disappointed enough to revert to a manual or accounts-only setup. Now put down the beer, or ice-cream, pick up your smartphone and google “computer systems for Plumbers Merchants”. Or save yourself a step and treat yourself to a free 30-day demo of Merchanter – the perfect solution for Plumbers Merchants.

  • Case Study - Henlow Building Supplies

    "We have been delighted with it so far. It makes it easy for every member of the team to handle any customer enquiry, with no need to dig through lots of records.” With over 35 year’s trading experience, Henlow Building Supplies is no stranger to listening to its customers. With an increasing number requesting some sort of loyalty discount as repeat customers over the last year, the directors began a manual system of loyalty card. Without any promotion or advertising, over 100 customers have signed up for the scheme. However, it relied on each member of the sales team having a very good memory, and made for a cumbersome process, manually inputting each agreed discount. It also made human error a very real possibility. As existing clients of ours, the directors gave us a call to talk it through. The UniTrade system was instantly able to accommodate their requests, and Henlow has now been able to issue cards and key fobs to its regular customers to grant them automatic – and fully tailored – discounts. Every customer is different, and buys different quantities of different materials. Therefore Henlow is now able to offer a range of discounts to each customers based on their purchasing habits: a carpenter, for example, might qualify for a certain discount on general building supplies, but a higher discount for timber and tools. A painter and decorator will have different needs to a bathroom fitter, and so on. Each card is linked to the system, so with a simple scan or swipe, the full buying history is available to any member of the sales team, and the bespoke discount will be applied. No hassle, no manual input – and no human error. Director Chris Curson is very pleased with the time-saving system so far. He says, “We are hoping to roll it out officially in February, but have been delighted with it so far. It makes it easy for every member of the team to handle any customer enquiry, with no need to dig through lots of records.” The loyalty card is not the only new measure that Henlow has implemented recently. Within the last couple of months it has also started using the market-leading Paxar handheld scanning and printing device. ​ Stock-taking and repricing shop-floor or warehouse products is always time consuming, as we all know. The new handheld device links to the UniTrade system, so it automatically updates the whole system with whatever has been scanned from the shop floor, warehouse or stock yard. Labels for repricing can be printed off on the spot, saving a lot of time and duplication of effort. Thanks to its integration with the main system, it enables a real-time, accurate overview of all stock to be instantly accessible. Chris says, “We are moving towards a rolling stock-take system which will save us all a huge amount of time. It’s early days but so far we are very hopeful it is going to be a fantastic tool which will save time and effort, and avoid errors in copying the information across.” The device also has a purchasing function, enabling the user to instantly create purchase orders for scanned products, which again can save a lot of time and hassle. ​ Chris has also been very complimentary about our input throughout these projects. He says, “We started working with Ten-25 because we thought they offered excellent value for money, and have been really pleased with the service. The system is very flexible and has grown with us, and we have a good relationship with the people there. They are always responsive and we know they really listen to what we have to say. ​So, thank you Chris! We are delighted to be able to help our clients to provide a superior service to their own customers, and to make their lives that little bit easier.

  • Case Study - Robbins Timber

    "We’ve never had any issues with the software from Ten-25. It’s great that it has continued to evolve over the years to meet our needs, and the time is right for the next natural progression" Robbins Timber is known as a specialist in marine timber, with the company’s roots in Bristol Docks going back to 1750. It has developed its own range of Robbins Elite Marine Plywood, and offers the widest range of timber and sheet material in the country. It also operates in general timber, and has full milling and planning facilities for a comprehensive, and often fully bespoke, service. However, being so adaptable creates a lot more back-office work, so one particularly appealing aspect of the upgraded system is the new CRM functionality. With comprehensive customer notes seamlessly stored alongside trading history, accounts and ad hoc certification and attachments, the new CRM module will make it easy for any member of staff to deal instantly with a customer query, no matter how complex or unusual their previous ordering. As a trusted supplier, Robbins depends on its existing customers for repeat business, and the CRM system should make that relationship stronger. As Richard Bagnall says, “Anything we can do to make it easier for people to work both with us and for us is a plus. We want to be the very best for our customers; so being able to see what they need on a repeat basis will help that, and give them faster and even more intuitive service.” Another element which will make a big difference is the Trading Analysis feature. Giving faster, easier and more flexible insight into the data already held within the system should prove a major benefit, providing user-friendly access to the information from whichever perspective is required. “The new Trading Analysis software is streamlined and simple to use, and will be familiar to new users. It is designed intuitively, so you can cut the data any way you want,” says Richard. “You can also look at several sets of data simultaneously – in previous systems you’d have to exit one thing before opening another. This way it’s all visible immediately, which makes it very slick and easy to use.” Stock management is always critical for any timber merchant, and again, the upgraded functionality of UniTrade360 will help Robbins to manage its supplies even more efficiently. We are also looking at developing a range of enhanced stock management features to help our customers still further, ranging from mobile apps to handheld devices. Every aspect of the system is always fully integrated, meaning all trading information is held centrally on either Cloud or system-based servers, regularly backed-up, and supported with an unbeatable promise of helpdesk service. ​ Every business has unique demands, and with as many specialist, niche market customers as Robbins, it’s vital to have the right system in place to not only meet customer requirements, but to surpass them, and plan more accurately for the future. UniTrade360 helps the day to day running of operations, with the sophistication and strategic insight to also expedite the year on year growth of the business.

  • Competitive vs Profitable: how merchants can use ERP software for a competitive advantage

    Following months, if not years, of market instability and volatile pricing, merchants are under pressure to optimise their pricing and margin management to remain profitable despite needing to remain competitive. It’s a delicate balance, but there are a number of tools at your disposal designed to help with achieving it. Merchant margins are often very slim, and when supplier pricing changes rapidly, it easily become non-existent. As a one-off or conscious choice, that might be OK, but if it’s longer term or across multiple product lines, it’s going to start to eat away at your overall profitability. "The flexibility and control in terms of pricing; the simplicity; and options available to control our stocks; Merchanter is a gamechanger to our company.” Mike Tregunna, Build Supplies Ltd. Obviously there are numerous ways a great ERP system can proactively help you to manage margin, pricing and reduce waste across the business, from stock optimisation to logistics, order processing to customer service. But thinking specifically about pricing and margin protection, here are some of the ways that a merchant ERP system can help you to remain profitable yet competitive in a fluctuating market. How to optimise pricing and margin management using sector-specific software Improved pricing accuracy and consistency One of the most significant advantages of using an ERP system for pricing and margin management is the ability to ensure pricing accuracy and consistency across multiple locations and channels. With a well-designed, sector-specific ERP system, timber and builders merchants can set and manage pricing rules centrally, ensuring that all products are priced consistently across all sales channels. A system like Merchanter lets you track supplier and market pricing so you can sense-check your own prices and ensure consistency from suppliers, to avoid under- or over-selling products. You can also set up process rules, limits and alerts to keep margin consistent while flagging up significant changes. This improves pricing accuracy, eliminates pricing errors and discrepancies, and ensures that customers receive the same pricing regardless of where they purchase products. With instant access to customer records and visibility of historic transactions, it’s much simpler to apply a consistent approach with customers regardless of who is handling each specific transaction. Better cost management ERP systems can really help merchants manage costs more effectively. By providing real-time visibility into inventory levels, supply chain performance, and other key metrics, an ERP system can help businesses optimise their purchasing and inventory management processes. It can reduce waste, both physically in terms of more accurate stock ordering, allocation and logistics, and in terms of time and resource. The overall impact of enhanced cost management across the business cannot be overstated and having clearer visibility of overheads and costs will also help you to set pricing and margins at a more realistic level. Improved – and protected - margins By optimizing pricing and cost management, ERP systems can also help timber and builders merchants improve their margins. And with built-in controls that let you set and control margins at the optimum levels, either by customer, product line or product type, you have all the tools at your fingertips to manage and safeguard your margins. Better analytics and reporting Being able to see in an instant what’s going on in your business, and having your focus drawn to the gaps and issues quickly, lets you make faster, smarter decisions about how to manage your operations. Greater insights let you set pricing at the optimum levels, while easy-to-use tools let you experiment to see what works best across the business. It can also flag up supplier issues and customers whose service requirements outweigh the value of their business to help you make informed decisions about who you choose to work with. With real-time insights into sales performance, inventory levels, and other key metrics, an ERP system can help businesses identify gaps, trends, opportunities, and areas for improvement. This can help merchants make more informed pricing and margin management decisions that improve profitability and drive growth. Enhanced customer service Consistency, reliability, fairness and accessibility of information all lead to a better overall customer experience. When you have the information you need at your fingertips, your team can answer questions faster, look up past quotes and orders, and ensure well-informed and reliable logistics communication. Retaining customers is usually more profitable than having to acquire new ones so again, keeping existing customers happier, and finding opportunities to upsell where possible, makes for a profitable and efficient business model. An industry-specific ERP system like Merchanter can help merchants of all kinds to create efficiencies across all areas of the business. At the heart of any merchant business’ sustainability will always be profitability, so make sure you have the tools you need to make informed, commercially astute decisions across the business. If you would like to try Merchanter for free, just register here to be sent login details for the online demo system and find out just how easy it could be to build even better business.



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