Mark purchased the business back in 2002, but that was just the beginning. “My background was in automotive machining, but after 10 years I’d had enough of that. I’d also done a bit of farm work, but the family decided it wanted to buy a business and Ballarat Bolts and Fasteners was available. It was very small back then, with just four employees including the manager.”
The original building housing the business was also very small, just 150 square metres and not nearly big enough for what Mark had in mind. “We took on a larger warehouse and doubled the business in a couple of years, but soon we were outgrowing that as well.”
Ballarat Bolts and Fasteners was also outgrowing its accounting systems- a DOS-based program for inventory inherited with the business combined with MYOB for the general ledger. “It was cumbersome to operate the two systems side by side” Mark observed.
Around 2009, Mark installed SapphireOne because it brought all the various management and reporting systems together. It allowed tighter control of inventory and was easier to have all the business functions run on the one database.
“SapphireOne’s effective management reporting system allowed us to grow the business with a better understanding of what products were selling well, what volume we were shifting, and it could handle all the general ledger and payroll functions as well.”
With the essential management and accounting systems under control in 2011, Mark moved the business to the large 1200 square-metre building where he is today.
“Sales have grown nearly ten times since we purchased the business. It’s something that could never have happened without SapphireOne – our old system couldn’t even tell us what stock we held, requiring us to do a physical count. With SapphireOne, we are fully in control.”
And stock control is an integral part to Ballarat Bolts and Fastener’s success.
“We buy in bulk from four or five suppliers, so being able to look at individual items, see what they were purchased for, how quickly they are selling and what we have left in stock is vital. We can also link through to the customers who have purchased the stock, giving us yet another level of understanding. SapphireOne provides us with a wide range of reporting. For instance, it allows us to look at three, six or twelve month periods or trends, select a range or class of inventory items and see how many were sold in a period. This in turn gives us the ability to look at current sales trends and make decisions about the stock we need going forward.
And that’s the strength of our business, having the stock on hand that our competitors don’t. In today’s market, people aren’t organized. They ring us up and they need it now and there’s every chance we have it. I know most of our competitors just don’t have the stock levels we do – so while we might lose a quote from time to time because a competitor is cheaper, often the customer comes back to us because we actually have the items on hand.”
One of the benefits of working with SapphireOne is that it’s employee-friendly and straightforward to learn. “Most of the guys we employ have some basic computer knowledge these days and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to drive SapphireOne.
SapphireOne is also very useful for sales. The way you can search and find items is convenient and very clever. For instance, a lot of our inventory items have prefixes with which you become familiar, so you can just enter in the first couple of letters and narrow your search down from there. You can see all the different inventory items and their descriptions, so it is easy for a new operator to come up to speed very quickly.
Currently there are eleven of us working in the business and everyone uses SapphireOne. Even the delivery driver can use it to print manifests.
We have two part-time girls working in accounts and they’re using SapphireOne extensively, from generating cash sale receipts to lodging the BAS. There are two computers running SapphireOne on the sales desk which are shared by the sales team. The purchasing guy sits at his workstation all day and there’s another in the warehouse taking care of the arrival of goods, so everyone is using SapphireOne in some way and they all have access to different areas. Being able to tie down different areas within SapphireOne is really functional and everyone has access to what they need.”
SapphireOne is a business management system that integrates all facets of the business. Mark says his business pays up to 90 different suppliers each month and there are potentially up to 400 suppliers in SapphireOne. “SapphireOne has helped us manage both the sales and ordering processes, right from the moment our customers walk in the door.
“For instance, say a customer enquires about 100 widgets. SapphireOne allows our sales staff to prepare a quote, either on the phone or from the sales desk. They can then print or email the quote, of course, but the time saving comes when the customer comes back with the order. We convert the quote into an order and it becomes live within SapphireOne. SapphireOne then produces a picking slip or if the items need to be ordered in, it produces our purchase order for the supplier. We haven’t had to re-enter any data, so we are sure that what we’re ordering from our supplier is exactly what we quoted for initially.”
Personally, Mark say he spends most of his time within SapphireOne grabbing inventory reports, looking at bulk orders, different product groups and high-volume lines. “I don’t utilise a lot of the accounts side and I think we’re using SapphireOne more or less as it comes out of the box. However, we have asked for some special features to be incorporated and SapphireOne has been incredibly accommodating. I know we also benefit from the features that other SapphireOne users have requested along the way, so it’s a win-win.
Plus, SapphireOne support is great! We had some data file issues and they dropped everything to help us get it fixed, even though it wasn’t strictly speaking their issue. My job is to look after the server and once when I was away for a convention, it crashed, but John and his team were able to step in and get it rolling again.”
And it’s this type of support that made it an easy decision for Mark Fawcett and Ballarat Bolts and Fasteners to stay with SapphireOne for nearly a decade.