Where in the world is Fishbowl?

Do you remember the Where’s Waldo children’s books where Waldo would be hidden on a page filled with hundreds of other characters and distractions and the trick was to find Waldo amongst all the confusion.  Here’s a picture for the Waldo-challenged. I used to “read” these books to my kids and, judging from the age range we have here at Fishbowl, I’m guessing some of our employees had the books read TO them.

Well, I play a similar game now, but instead of looking for Waldo, I’m looking for products sold by Fishbowl customers. Everywhere I go, every time I see something interesting online or hear something noteworthy in the news, I am actively looking for products that are manufactured or supplied by Fishbowl customers (at least the ones I know about).

For example, I think most of us are aware of Nutty Guys, a Fishbowl customer that sells discount packaged snacks and nuts at most convenience and grocery stores here in Utah.  But what about suppliers of other products that you wouldn’t normally see?

Dillon Aero, a manufacturer of gatling guns for the military (and happy Fishbowl customer), was once highlighted in an episode on the Military Channel.  To the right is a picture of an M134 Gatling gun and shoots 50 rounds per second.  Amazing.

Or maybe you’ve seen one of the dozens of distributors across the country for Backyard Adventures, a manufacturer of high-end swing sets (and one of our very first customers).

These are just a few of the happy Fishbowl customers out there that I personally know, but we have literally thousands of happy customers.  So last week I sent around an internal email request asking our employees for Fishbowl’s “coolest customers.”  Here are some of the responses I got:

Voyage Air Guitar:  Ever hear the song “United Breaks Guitars” by the singer Dave Carroll?  His guitar got broken on a United Airlines flight so he wrote a song about it that went viral.  Air Guitar is a foldable guitar designed specifically to avoid this problem by making it easier to take your guitar with you when you travel.  That’s cool.  Thanks for pointing this one out, Cade!

Blender Bottle (suggested by Ryan in Marketing):  For all you healthy eaters out there who like using protein powder in your drinks but DON’T like the protein powder lumps you often get when trying to mix the drink, try using a Blender Bottle.  It’s simple, easy to use, and helps to avoid the embarrassment of choking to death after a workout.  Thanks, Ryan!

Urban Jeeper:  Kevin Batchelor, our Head of Development, is a big-time Jeep fan.  So when he saw that one of our customers was an outfitter for Jeep-related products, he decided to follow them on Twitter.  He’s now in Jeep heaven.

All these examples are just scratching the surface of the coolest customers in the Fishbowl universe.  And, speaking of universe, have any of you been following the Mars Curiosity Rover on the news?  Ever wonder if any of our customers supply products for the rover, or maybe the International Space Station? Hmmmm.

Next blog post title in my Where’s Fishbowl? Series:

To boldly go where no Fishbowl has gone before…

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Using Fishbowl in a retail shoe store.

Concept:  Inexpensive Shoes for Women and Children

Owners: Malcom Felt (FB customer service) and John Erickson (FB VP of Account Management)

Purchase price of business:  $0  (They built it from scratch)

Additional cash required: $20k in loans.  $10k in cash

Getting Started Details:

  • Two months of construction.
  • Two months to set up store.
  • Started with $15k in inventory but eventually upped that by $55k, to $70k.

Rent:  $2200-3500 per month (The mall gets a cut of their sales based on volume.  The higher the sales, the greater the rent)

Average Markup on product:  50%

Employees: 8

Advertising: $0 (The store is located in the Provo Towne Center mall so it’s all walk-in traffic).

I often wonder, when I walk through a mall, why one store is successful while another store, selling the exact same products a few doors down, is unsuccessful? It seems like most new stores don’t last a year. Even some of the well-known brand stores will shut down an outlet or go out of business entirely (which always surprises me because how did they get to be a well-known brand in the first place if they can’t get their store to survive long enough to recoup their costs?) So why do some survive while others don’t?

Well, I don’t presume to know the answer to that question but I suspect a big part of the answer lies in how well the store is run. Even stores with questionable product lines, like one I saw focused totally on socks (seriously?), can still make it if the store is managed properly. So, in talking with Malcom and John, my interest was in the specifics of what they do to manage their store as efficiently as possible.

Getting started with Fishbowl. No matter how good a fit Fishbowl is for a company there will always be a few glitches along the way. For example, Fishbowl’s original Point-of-Sale was designed to be used with a regular computer monitor and mouse, so the buttons on the screen were too small to use on a touchscreen and caused problems. When Fishbowl Salespoint came out the buttons were much bigger and easier to use.

Clothing stores like to have what is called a “Part Matrix” that shows the style, color and size in a simple matrix. Fishbowl does not have that feature so Sole Envy simply designed each sku to convey the shoename (style), size and color so that when any style is searched on within Fishbowl, all the corresponding colors, sizes and inventory levels for each style will be shown.  It’s not as convenient for the end user as a part matrix would be but is easy to set up and use.

Give ‘em what they want! If you read the notes above you’ll notice they opened the store with $15k in inventory and eventually upped that to $70k. According to Malcom, they did this because they started tracking the number of people that came in the store and purchased something versus the number of people who came in but didn’t purchase. Often, the reason they didn’t buy something was because the right size wasn’t on hand and with a walk-in shoe store, if you don’t have the right size, then it’s just as easy for the customer to walk out. So, over the course of their first year, they gradually increased the inventory, (and therefore the selection), by $55k and watched the number of walk-in “conversions” increase. Also, with the increased inventory/selection the average sale size increased as well because when someone would purchase a pair of shoes they would often find another pair or two to purchase.

Keep an eye on things. Let’s face it, if you own a retail store you’ve got to watch you’re inventory like a hawk because some of it is going to walk out. Case in point: A woman and her 4 year old (holding a soccer ball), came in the store. On a given signal the 4 year old would throw the soccer ball into a display. While the attendant’s attention was diverted the mother would stuff as many shoe boxes as she could into the stroller and then walk out the door. They know this because, later, the store cameras showed her doing it. When she came back in the store several weeks later the employees recognized her and called security. She ran out the door and got away. I’m guessing she won’t be back.

Another scam involved people asking for refunds when they were not entitled to one. The store has a 30 day return policy so some people would buy shoes, use them for a while, then bring them back without a receipt and ask for a cash refund after the 30 days. They solved the problem by simply date-stamping each box of shoes that was purchased.  Simple solution.

But probably the best idea they had to avoid shoplifting was simply to design the store with an open floor plan so that everything can be seen from a single location and the temptation to shoplift is minimized in the first place. As a result their “shrinkage” (that’s always sounded like a politically correct term to me), is less than 1 percent.

Sole Envy has now been in business for four years, they’re profitable, and are now planning on expanding to a second mall by the end of 2012. Remember us peons when you guys get rich and famous.

Till next time!

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Why can’t I still get a 35% discount!!! The changing world of reselling…

About 9 years ago Fishbowl started a reseller program.  We patterned it after the standard model at the time where resellers, typically consultants, could reach discounts of up to 35% on the software based on sales volume.  It was our belief that our resellers would eventually build up their expertise in Fishbowl to where they would feel comfortable doing their own demos and, through their own marketing efforts and word of mouth, eventually build up a clientele of potential Fishbowl clients that they could sell our software to.

That is, in fact, exactly what happened, but to varying degrees and with differing areas of focus.  Some preferred consulting.  Some preferred sales.  Some did both.  But the vast majority preferred to refer Fishbowl to their clients and let the Fishbowl sales team provide the demos and make the sale.  As a result we changed our program to make it easier for the “referring” minded consultant to send leads our way.  No requirements, no certifications.  Just send us a lead and if we make the sale then we pay a 10% commission on the sale.  And for our resellers, we began requiring they do all their own demos but we increased the potential reseller discount up to 50% based on sales volumes.   The end result is that 99% of the consultants who work with us are referrers and around 1% are resellers.

Several years ago, Sage (a huge reseller of business software), made a similar announcement, and last year, we at Fishbowl, decided to stop accepting new resellers entirely and start promoting our Referrer Program.  I see a similar trend in many companies that sell business-related software.

So what’s going on?

I know when we at Fishbowl started our reseller program we had several valid reasons for doing so. First, customers like to have a local expert who can come over, fix problems, and answer questions if need be. Second, they tend to have that personal, trusted relationship with their clients. If the consultant recommends a certain course of action, then the client is more likely to agree. Third, as a software company, and with a limited amount of resources, you simply can’t be everywhere all the time, so working with consultants is a way to leverage limited resources and jumpstart entry into the market. Fourth, the reseller approach had been a tried-and-true method of selling business software for decades.

But times change, which means you have to adapt or run the risk of being left behind.

I can’t answer for other companies, but here’s what we discovered at Fishbowl. It is extremely difficult to bring anyone up to the level of expertise required to answer all the prospects’ questions accurately.  Fishbowl is a big chunk of software and can be applied across extremely diverse markets, so it takes time to become familiar with our software to the point where it can be properly applied. There simply is no substitute for experience. But most consultants who were working with us as resellers did so only occasionally and therefore didn’t do enough demos or implementations to become expert on our software. As a result, sales were sometimes made where Fishbowl wasn’t a good fit or was misapplied and, as a result, our tech support group started getting hammered by tech support calls from dissatisfied customers.

Additionally, as people became more reliant on the internet for demos and support, it became apparent that the best people to provide these services were our own sales and support teams. But our resellers still had that personal relationship that we couldn’t provide so our approach was to develop and promote our Referrer’s Program where the consultant could still receive a substantial commission by referring a client to Fishbowl, but would not be required to become an expert on our software. The consultants benefited because they no longer had to devote the majority of their time and resources to one product but they still received a substantial commission (avg. $1300/sale).  And Fishbowl benefited because this approach was easier to manage, it was cleaner and, frankly, we made more sales. In the end more sales benefited both the consultant and Fishbowl because we each now had more customers to work with.  I suspect the other software companies have had similar experiences.

So, what do you do if you’re a consultant/reseller who no longer has the opportunity to resell (and therefore no longer has the opportunity for that additional income)? Well, let’s face it.  At the end of the day your clients simply want their problems solved.  Period.  And if your area of expertise doesn’t exactly fit your clients’ specific need then you run the risk of losing their business because they don’t want to waste time with someone who can’t help them.  Would you?  A consultant who only does one thing is like a dinner party guest who can only talk about their recent trip to Thailand.

More than ever businesses, particularly businesses in the SMB market, want someone who can solve, or at least address, multiple problems, sometimes across multiple different specialties. So why not keep your area of expertise but expand your horizons to include a greater depth of knowledge in other, related solutions (Fishbowl is just one) to the various problems your clients may encounter?  Your clients will appreciate it, your marketability will go up and, best of all, you can start saying yes to a lot more clients.

Till next time!

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Using Fishbowl Inventory in a service industry

I love the fact that here at Fishbowl we have multiple employees who run their own businesses on the side. Fishbowl is, after all, still a small business (94 employees), and even though we’ve been in business for over 10 years, we have an ongoing entrepreneurial mindset so we tend to attract entrepreneurs. Today’s post is about a couple of those entrepreneurs, Kendrick Hair and Terry Sharp, who went in together to start up a massage business, and yes, they use Fishbowl Inventory to run it.

A massage business? Using Fishbowl!? Yep. But before I get into that, let me give you some basic statistics about their business:

Solase Massage and Oxygen Bar: Kendrick Hair and Terry Sharp
Purchase price of business: $0 (They built it from scratch)
Additional cash required: $137k, which included:
• Rent on the retail space during the renovation
• The actual renovation cost. Massage tables, individual rooms, oxygen bar, etc.
• Managers for two months prior to opening. The managers had to be trained not only on the business but on how to use Fishbowl in a service-type business.
• Advertising in a local mailer and in a parade.
Rent: $2,500/month
Employees: 22 (straight commission for the masseuses)

So, how do you use Fishbowl, which is geared towards manufacturing and wholesale distribution, in a purely service-centered business like a massage parlor? Well, when it gets down to it, a service-type business isn’t all that different from a business that sells physical items. To Fishbowl, a massage has a name, a value, and it can be sold. Yes, it isn’t inventoried like a physical item, but then Fishbowl handles non-inventory items just fine. The only real difference is that when a massage is sold, there is no physical inventory to be reduced. But that’s for the simplest sale of a single massage. What about more complex issues like gift certificates (many massages are sold as gifts), or membership programs and customer groups, like the local running community that gets ongoing discounts?

Gift Certificates
Solase makes most of their sales during the Christmas holidays by selling gift certificates for a year’s worth of massages at a steeply discounted price. So, what’s the best way to track gift certificates in Fishbowl Inventory and be certain that no one is duplicating the certificates they have received? Solase avoids the issue by creating uniquely serialized “Massages” in Fishbowl and storing them in virtual inventory (again, even though these are not physical items, it doesn’t matter to Fishbowl). Each month in the packet of 12 virtual certificates has its own unique serial number, which is tracked by Fishbowl. The customer is then given a packet of 12 certificates (kind of like a packet of tickets) with the same serial numbers. Then, when the customer comes in with their serialized ticket for their massage, the corresponding serial number in Fishbowl is pulled from the virtual inventory and used up (“Quickshipped” in Fishbowl terminology). That way, duplicate tickets, if any, can easily be identified.

Membership Programs
Fishbowl allows for any customer to be tracked in the program and assigned to any specific membership or customer group that applies. For example, Solase has built up a strong reputation with the local running community and therefore offers them ongoing standard discounts. Once that customer has been entered into the Fishbowl database and assigned to a specific discount group, all discounts are automatically applied from that point forward, regardless of whether or not the customer mentions they are part of the group. All discounts, along with the appropriate name for the discount (like maybe, Runners Discount: 20%) are automatically printed on the receipt so the group member always knows if they paid full price or not. Simple and straightforward.

Solase has been in business for about two years now and is doing well (In fact, they’re doing so well that the local panhandler on the other side of the parking lot comes in for a regular massage, but that’s a different story). Next year they plan to start expanding into other stores or possibly franchising the concept. Good luck, my friends!

Next Time: Ever think about opening a shoe store? Well, Fishbowl’s Malcolm Felt and John Erickson not only have thought about it; they’ve done it with Sole Envy at the Provo Towne Center Mall.

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Shipping just got a whole lot easier in Fishbowl

OK, for those Fishbowl customers who had to set up UPS Worldship in Fishbowl, (that includes almost every Fishbowl customer), THIS is what you had to do:

Open the Control Panel, go to Administrative Tools, click Data Sources (ODBC). Click the System DSN tab.  Click Add. Select the Firebird/Interbase driver. Click Finish. A new Firebird ODBC Setup window will appear. Enter the following information in the appropriate fields. The fields are case-sensitive. Data Source Name (DSN): Fishbowl Driver: IscDbc Database: This is the location of your company’s Fishbowl database. For example, if you installed Fishbowl in the default directory, the path would be: (localhost:C:\Program Files\Fishbowl\database\data\EXAMPLE.FDB). EXAMPLE.FDB would be replaced by the name of your company’s database file. [If you are working from a client, see the client install and setup instructions below.] Client: Fishbowl Install Directory. \odbc\fbclient.dll (this will be appended with either 32 or 64 depending on your Operating System). Database Account: GONE Password: fishing All other fields: No change necessary. After all the fields are properly filled in, click the Test Connection button to ensure you are connected to your database. If the connection does not succeed, go back and check the information fields to ensure they are correct. Click OK to close.

I copied the above VERBATIM from our current User’s Manual and this was just to set up the ODBC Connection that would allow Fishbowl to send data to UPS WorldShip! (If you don’t know what an ODBC Connection is, then you have no hope.)   THEN you had to install and set up the UPS WorldShip integration: 12 steps, (8 steps for FedEx). And once all THAT was done, THEN you had to learn how to use UPS WorldShip!  Brutal.   For the full experience, click here (and I won’t even subject you to the horrors of the Q&A section).

Is it any wonder that maybe some of our customers have wanted an easier way to ship products?  That’s what Sam Balleza and Simon Chulin, two of our developers, are currently working on.  It’s scheduled to be released June 14 and is currently on track to meet that deadline.   Let’s start with the screen capture you see below:

This may not seem like a big deal but that UPS tab you see above, (and the UPS Shipping Codes window you see in the window to the right) are telling you that you will soon be able to create a UPS shipment directly within Fishbowl!  No longer will you have to enter in the Fishbowl Sales Order # by hand into the UPS WorldShip module in order for WorldShip to calculate your shipping cost, (often while the customer is waiting on the phone).  And no longer will you have to use the UPS module to print your shipping label for you.   This will all be done within Fishbowl.

But my favorite new capability is what you see in the screenshot below:

What you see is a new tab within the Sales Order module that will automatically calculate the total shipping cost for a given order. Now, when the customer asks “Well, how much will it cost to send it Next Day Air instead of Ground?” you’ve got every possible shipping method pre-calculated and waiting for you, right in the Sales Order module where it should be.  And if the customer modifies their order, then the shipping costs will be automatically re-calculated based on the new total weight of the items on the order.  No additional numbers for the salesperson to enter or fields to fill in.  Just click “Refresh Rates” and the new rates are calculated.  How cool is that?  As the release date approaches I’ll keep you posted on where we stand.

Till next time!

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Going Mobile with Fishbowl’s Surfboard

I don’t usually start off a blog post with a logo but I think I will today. “Surfboard for Pipeline”:

Doesn’t THAT look cool? But then, you may ask, what is Pipeline??? Well, let me answer that with another logo:

Pipeline, if you don’t know already, is Fishbowl’s first online CRM that integrates with Fishbowl and was released on February 9. Think of this as a beefed up and online version of the contact manager that is already built in to Fishbowl.

So what’s Surfboard? Surfboard is the mobile device app that connects you to Pipeline and will allow you to run various Pipeline features on your iPad or iPhone. It won’t be ready until June but, courtesy of Nathan Peterson in Development, I have a few sneak peaks for you. I won’t show all the screen captures but I’ll give you enough to get a feel for how it will work.

Surfboard Contacts:  Just enter the contact name here and Fishbowl brings the information up.  Any information that was stored prior to your last sync with Pipeline will be updated here.

Contact List:                                                                 Contact Information:

Surfboard will provide the user with all the basic CRM functionality a user would expect on an iPhone.  Contact lists, detail information on each contact, the ability to dial directly from the app and email:

Dialer:                                                                      Emailer:

Finally, Surfboard will sync directly with your copy of Pipeline so that any changes you make in Surfboard are updated directly to Pipeline.   And this is a true sync.  The information goes both ways.  It’s not a simple push of the information from one app to the other.

And that’s it for now.  Next time we will be giving you a quick look at Fishbowl’s new UPS integration feature.

Till next time…

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Using Fishbowl to run your own retail outlet…

Did you know that three of our 90+ Fishbowl employees run their own retail businesses on the side? All three run retail operations in very different markets and they all use Fishbowl Inventory to manage their inventory. So I thought I would take some time to interview each of these employees to provide a little detail, not just about how they use Fishbowl in their particular business, but the ins and outs of their businesses, the difficulties, the successes and maybe some of the mistakes they’ve made. Let’s start with:

Wasatch Office Supply: Adam Anderson
Purchase price of business: $18k
Additional cash required (mostly additional inventory): $15k
Rent: $1650/month
Employees: 3

Adam has always been interested in running his own business and would like someday to own multiple retail outlets that together would provide him and his family a comfortable living. He purchased Wasatch Office Supply in Heber City, UT last November for $18k from a man who had owned and run the business for 15 years and was looking forward to retirement. The price included the inventory but Adam quickly realized he didn’t have enough product on hand so he had to purchase an additional $15k to avoid stockouts of needed items and to provide a wider selection.

Stockouts: Just to be clear, stockouts are when a store regularly carries a product but is currently sold out. In order to track stockouts, it’s necessary to first know exactly what you have on hand. But prior to Adam’s purchase of the store, inventory wasn’t tracked on a regular basis. In fact, the store manager kept a simple spreadsheet of all the items in the store and would occasionally do an inventory count to see what they were short on. No tracking of sales by day, month or year (just the occasional call to their supplier when they ran short on something) means that this 15-year-old business now has sales data going back exactly 6 months. But it’s a start, and now Adam can run a report on any item and see what its turnover ratio is, how many have sold (over any time period) and, most importantly, which items are actually making him money.  (FYI:  The above picture is NOT Watasch Office Supply.  It is just a dramatic re-enactment of a SERIOUS stockout.)

Increased inventory and carrying costs: In retail, think of inventory carrying costs as an ongoing expense, so the initial thought as a store owner is to keep that expense to a minimum. BUT if your selection isn’t wide enough then people may come to your store, not find the specific items they’re looking for, and walk out. However, if you do have what the customer is looking for then odds are they’ll look around for other items they may need and make some additional purchases, which results in a bigger average sale. It’s a judgment call. In Adam’s case, he chose to purchase an additional $15k in inventory (almost the same amount he paid to purchase the company in the first place), but he’s managed to increase the average sale and is building up his clientele, as well.

Using the Groups function in Fishbowl: It’s tough developing a regular clientele, so Adam uses the Groups function in Fishbowl to track specific discounts for regular customers to encourage them to purchase all their Office Supplies from Adam’s store. Adam has worked out an ongoing discount with the Wasatch County offices and other organizations that regularly need office supplies. Whenever they come in for a purchase, they simply identify themselves as being from that group and Fishbowl automatically applies the appropriate discounts.

Cycle counts: In the past, no cycle counts were done, just the occasional check to see what they were short on. Now the store manager does a weekly cycle count to find out not only what they need to reorder, but what products are missing, as well.

Going forward, Adam plans to expand his business by using the Calendar function in Fishbowl for planning deliveries. This function allows him to schedule deliveries and identify the person(s) he wants products delivered to.

NEXT TIME: So how would you use Fishbowl Invetory to manage a massage business??? Next time we’ll be talking to Kendrick Hair, one of the founders of Solase Massage and Oxygen, to find out. Way cool.

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