Business Master / Planit Enterprise and Gatekeeper Code Expiration

Business Master / Planit Enterprise wont boot? Are you seeing the Gatekeeper Code pop up form? Is your Gatekeeper date 1/1/2020 and now you need a new code? We can help you get up and running.

Business Master / Planit Enterprise

History of Business Master / Planit Enterprise

Business Master is the core software application from Master Solutions, developed since 1997. At one point, Planit Solutions licensed Business Master, named it Enterprise, and sold it to their network. These 2 applications sales channels were active until Planit Solutions ended the licensing arrangement with Master Solutions. Subsequently, Planit Solutions became Vero, which was acquired (yet again) to another company, Hexagon.

Immediately after Planit Solutions terminated the licensing arrangement with us, support and development became disconnected from the Planit customer base. We made efforts to connect and support those customers. Eventually Planit discontinued allocation of the support time their customers paid for to Enterpise support, and many customers fell into a black hole. We have made every effort to continue to support them, and keep them up and running.

Versions updates and Source code

Master Solutions continued to develop and adapt the source code based on customer feedback until about 2010. We then began to develop a Source Code version, which allowed users to purchase the source code itself. This solves several ongoing struggles for companies who didn’t maintain yearly support and updates. In addition, this gave Business Master and Planit Enterprise users the ability to totally customize the program, and stay current with the regular updating of Microsoft Office and Windows versions. It was a frustrating experience being forced to purchase a new operating system, and not be able to use previous versions of Office to keep everything the same.

We have made every effort to reach out to Enterprise and Business Master users and communicate the benefits and the opportunities. This change to the platform makes this powerful program sustainable and more effective than ever.

The Initial License and Date Codes

The original design of Business Master worked around using the customer name, address and contact details to determine a code unique to that operation. This was “GateKeeper Code” was combined with a “Gatekeper Date”. The functional aspect was to allow customers to get the product, test it, or even make regular payments. Each Code/Date pair would expire if a new code was not supplied.

The original context was to work with customers through the initial training and installation, then help support them and supply version updates at  least yearly. This service was separated from the Gatekeepr Date/Code pair. Once all payments and installations was completed, a final Gatekeeper Date and Code was issued. the date 1/1/2020 was picked as the farthest conceivable date in the future that would work. All customers were then given this “permanent” code, with the assumption that we were going to remain in contact and version support with our customers.

Looking at the calendar…. 2020 is almost upon us. And many of our customers are out if the wild, with no current contact with us. And we expect that many of them will hit this magic code, coming back in from the holiday season and find the Business Master and Planit Enterprise suddenly wont work.

Contact Us now to pre-empt this problem!

We still support, develop and use the Business Master code base. Everything from simply updating it to the most current version of Microsoft Office, to integrating with the Web and Mobile devices, to developing totally new connectors and modules.

We have even begun developing a SQL based version that will allow a complete update to a cloud based, high performance database server, using the traditional Access front end, but also web based and mobile based front ends to solve you business operations problems.

In addition, we might be able to help determine if we can make a new gatekeeper code for a new date. It is possible in some use cases to calculate this security code without any changes. In some cases, the different combinations of Windows, Office, and update history may require you to update to the Source Code solution. By doing this, you will end up with the actual code itself, which allows us to support your unique combinations of desktop and office combinations.

When we update to the Source Code version, we will typically need 4-5 hours of support time and will need to train your staff on some of the differences and migrate the data. This can be a great time to improve the productivity, and your unique company operations support.

Make sure you contact us BEFORE January 1 2020 if you can. We want to help you avoid any downtime and stress. If you got stuck, contact us right now.

Web and Mobile Software Toolkit

Web and Mobile Software Toolkit for BusinessMaster / Enterprise

Have employees out in the field and want to collect information to be used for the rest of the team? Master Solutions now offers you the ability to exchange data real time between the office and the field. And we can create custom web and mobile software based on this platform as well.

Master Solutions Web Services

We currently are in the final phases of implementing a web based, mobile compatible solution for integrating key data with BusinessMaster and Enterprise. Many people have requested these features over the years and we have finally developed a framework that allows us to handle these initial concepts, and allows for customizing and adding new features per customers requirements. 

  • Time Collection from any mobile, web connected device
    • Collect time against current projects
    • Collect GPS based location of the user
    • All the same features of the BusinessMaster Time collection: Time Punch, Lunch out, Clock Out against projects, departments and functions.
  • Upload pictures and documents from the field about Projects
  • Add Log notes to Jobs to track information
  • Add new projects
    • Add new project and collect time immediately.
    • Assign unlimited information details to project (materials, address information, notes, pricing and more

All of this data can be synchronized back to the BusinessMaster / Enterprise program and integrated on a constant basis.

Custom Web Based Software for Small Business

We can now take this basic framework, and expand it to accommodate your unique ideas. By using the framework we already have, we cut out significant costs and time to make a web based solution for your needs. Not starting from scratch creates tremendous advantages.

We use this same framework in very different industry and applications. The actual database structure is designed based on years of experience creating real world solutions, and therefore has a lot of inherent flexibility and strength. We can adapt things without totally re-creating things.

There are lots of classic traps that occur when building solutions. 

  • One Way Streets: Designing custom software applications for immediate concepts, and not understanding how the application will grow and change is a classic problem. It is easy to solve a problem, and find an even bigger one appear down the road. We know where these traps are, and we help you avoid them.
  • No Scalability: Not designing data structures and infrastructure robustly enough can kill you. We use the right database systems and web hosting that will scale far beyond startup. We have designed our Web Based Software Toolkit to scale on demand. We simply won't run out of performance, bandwidth or technology.
  • Keeping Options Open: The beauty of a flexible, well designed framework is that it keeps your options for incorporating new ideas available. As we incorporate feedback from users, we are able to try them out without total redesigns. We don't know what we don't know. Our users get their ideas out into the real world, and then come up with concepts that are even better than the original concept. Our web software toolkit is flexible and adaptive, our experience makes it possible.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

Small Business Management isn’t the goal

Don't settle for Small Business Management

There is a significant difference between managing your business and mastering it.

Small businesses find themselves constantly adapting. There are lots of factors in flux, some internal, some external.

Large corporate operations have more buffers, more structure, more management. There are resources that become highly specialized, roles that are allowed to focused on specific elements of the solution. The larger the operations, the easier they can handle changes and absorb ups and downs. They work from a defensive posture, protecting what already exists. As long as things don't get too far out, the battle is to bring things back into order, maintain the balance. They grow in a controlled, steady rate and try to keep that way.

Small businesses work in almost the opposite context. There isn't the extra resources to buffer change.  The resources are more generalized, often multiple personnel share responsibilities. Small businesses need to exploit the opportunities inherent in changes and business dynamics. They grow in jumps.

In small business management scenario, you are reactive. You can only wait for actions, and then try to bring them into a predetermined structure.

In a mastering scenario, you are both proactive, and adaptive.This puts you int he drivers seat looking ahead, rather than the rear view mirror. 

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

SEO Concepts

The Wild Wild Web and SEO

Do you have either a very small, or very simplistic website and have determined you want to develop and use a web presence as a key component of your organization? Perhaps you have previously invested in your web presence in the past, and find that you are simply outdated, or even worse incompatible with the current web environment and are losing not just your investment, but your position and business volume within the World Wide Web.

Either way, you might not realize how dynamic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) really is, how critical it is to your web presence, and what it means to get (and stay) current

SEO Concepts

Concepts of a Web Presence

The real questions is: Why SHOULD I Have a Web Presence at all? This is a very critical question, and you might think it is too simplistic. However we find many organizations in the Small Business segment to be fairly confused about why they even want one, and what they could, would or should even do. Following are a few simple applications. By not means are these comprehensive, but they might help for the purpose of this discussion. One thing to remember, all these following concepts must eventually end up accomplishing your primary business goal, which typically is to achieve profit in whatever form you measure.

  • A shingle out of the virtual streets: This is simply the idea that you have a website that advertises you as an organization that provides certain services or products, and that someone should stop and check you out.
  • A resource of information, content, and concepts about a topic or product.
  • A lead generator for your sales organization to follow up with, as well as market to in the future.
  • An online store for your products and services. Users can literally order or even receive product or services from you without contacting you directly. .
  • A brand homestead. You are simply occupying a spot out in the marketplace to maintain, expand, define, and protect your brand. You might not be attempting to create a specific sale, or lead, but you want to re-enforce your brand identity.
  • An extension of your organization to your customers and vendors. Think of a portal where customers can log in, interact with your organization, check on order status, or receive updates from you.

The first 5 examples rely on far more than simply having a website. You can have the coolest, slickest, most-est website in the whole www and yet if no one can find you, and i compelled to engage your site, it will result in no benefit.


Google, the GateKeeper

By far, Google is the critical component of getting found. You can check this site and find out what % of traffic is provided by Google to the whole world. This essentially makes Google the gatekeeper of the web. They receive people at the gate to the www (searching for something), and then based on their massive database of websites they have inspected, and then direct the visitor to the best resources they have determined.

This simple idea has 3 significant points to consider:

  • If Google doesn't even know you exists, they CANT refer people to you. As big as Google is, they are not able to even know your web presence exists unless you tell them. In fact, you don't have to just tell them you exists, you have to engage them on a regular basis and remind them.
  • If Google doesn't understand clearly what you are about, then it doesn't know how to refer people to you. Remember, Google isn't a bunch of people reading your site. In fact, the best they can do (and they do the best job out there) is to "crawl" your website with software and make their best guess what you are about. Try to imagine a machine, without any context, determining your core service or product.
  • If Google doesn't believe you have anything valuable,  unique, authoritative, or otherwise special to offer, they have plenty of other sites (billions of them) that they have looked at and are happy to refer users to.

Google has a key mission (their bottom line depends on it): Providing the BEST referral to the BEST information someone is searching for.


Making Google happy

It is critical you make Google happy. Int he past, even as recently as 1-2 years ago, making Google happy was a math problem. The more people linked to you,t he more you did, the more volume you yelled at Google, the more attention you got. Normally this is measured in "ranking". How high up tot he top you rank on Google, the better (in theory) you do. It is proven that the higher up in the results you get on Google, the more success you normally have in your attempt to get attention.

However, Google is not only founded by, but staffed and motivated by, very smart people. Smarter than you, me and your 100 best friends (as long as they don't work at Google) combined. Google has put into place many adaptations that have filtered out things they don't like. Google began to change the focus from just a pure quantity issue, to a quality issue. It isnt just the amount of noise you throw at The Gatekeeper, but how well, how clear, and how authoritative your noise sounds to Google. Not only that, but the quality of the user experience is brought into play.And the most recent change, how well does your web presence interact with technology.


SEO strategy is a combination of many technical concepts


Quality Dynamics

Clarity: How clear, focused, coherent your information is is key.A jumble of bad information, poor grammar, or multiple competing focuses on a single page is fundamental. The way your information is indexed is key. A classic example of this is tags, categories and other website elements that help structure your information well for Google and your users.

Originality: The information has to be original. Int he past, simply copying content and reusing it over and over is actually penalized, not just overlooked. Your information needs to be unique when inspected.

Authoritative: This is a combination of good content coupled with other people recognizing it. When other people refer to your site, share it, linking to it etc... and Google knows about it, they understand your site as higher on the authority scale, and believe you are a better resource than others. As well, all things being equal, the longer a site has been around, and the more history it has, the better. 

User Experience: Your site must be well structured, with clear navigation, organization, and must be optimized. Optimized means everything from how it looks, to how fast it is. all things being equal, faster is MUCH better for Google.

Technology: The most recent change as of this writing is whether your site is responsive and usable to mobile devices. This is so important (the estimate is by far the majority of web searching is going on in mobile or table based environments) that many sites were significantly penalized by not having this feature when Google recently implemented it. Literally overnight, the traffic a site got evaporated without the right setup.

SEO Services

One of the solutions is to do all the research, become a web developer, and swing at this until you see a change. The obvious dilemma is simply that the learning curve is not only steep, it is constantly changing. Taking valuable time away from your core focus, and taking the risk on your ability to learn this is a mistake. Take it from us, this is a full time focus, and many (if not all) of the best ranking sites you are competing against are using a service. If they aren't, they either have an in house specialist, or will eventually migrate farther and farther down until they effectively disappear.

Evaluating SEO services is simply as overwhelming as the SEO world itself. We worked on a project developing SEO for a photographer, and saw pricing ranging $25 a month to $1500. Obviously, with that range there is huge discrepancy. After a lot of research, it became clear that the lower end of the scale was very rudimentary, and in some cases, totally bogus services. At the higher end, there was a similar problem. There were many claims of success, along with incredible disclaimers that absolved the organization from any obligation of results!

After significant time researching it become obvious that there was a lot of scams. The stories were too numerous to ignore. It also became obvious that some services were working, because it was simply impossible to truly rank in Google without outside support or dedicated, full time internal effort.

The Solution

The reality there is a need for coupling an internal structuring and method for creating content and putting it on the web ("on page") with external ("off page") activities that provide the authoritative signals Google wants. These external services have to be "white hat", or legit, highly regarded by Google. The alternative is called "black hat", and can be anything from frowned upon by Google, to outright fraudulent and even illegal.

When it comes to the technical, under the hood element of your web presence, we can help. We can help you understand and develop a method for content that will determine the best words to use, the way to present content optimized for Google, and the way to keep reminding Google about you.

In addition, we have a key relationship with an SEO service that has an extremely long history of foundational SEO service.  In fact, as we began working with them, we began to see that there is only a handful of companies that actually do this work, and most of the organizations offering SEO services are simply resellers of these organizations. Many of them are marking up the service hundreds of %, without supplying and additional value! We work with you AND them to get you a great in house strategy, while making the job easy and quicker for the SEO service. The interesting concept for our SEO service company is you DO NOT PAY until your content is ranked organically on page 1 of Google. This is a dirty little secret most services wont talk about. They charge you thousands of dollars a month, and you have no guarantee. Normally their contracts are 6 months. With our service contractor, you pay a certain fee to initiate all the research and effort, then you will not pay until you are ranked. This way everyone has incentive to go as fast as possible and get your rankings high. It is normally a 3-5 month process, so starting sooner is better. Anyone who says they can provide you results faster is probably using :black hat: technique, and you run the rick or permanent black listing by Google. . 

We also work with visual designers that can provide consulting on the visual, graphical elements of the way the site looks and feels. An effective style guide, with integrated colors, typography, and layout can go a long way to a better looking site, as well as a better conversion rate among your visitors. 

If yu need to take a deep look at your web presence, improve it, and benefit from the massive scale of the web, contact us. 

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Current Update Offer

BusinessMaster Upgrade

Are you thinking about updating your BusniessMaster/Enterprise program? What are you waiting for?


Want some incentive? We have an offer for you.

If you purchase 20 hours of training/support ($2500), we will give you the update to our source code version of our Small Business Software Toolkit FREE!

With the Source Code version, you get all the upgrades we made, and are able to fully customize anything in the program you want. Change forms, fields, reports... remove things that annoy you or add even more features like integration with other programs or even the web. We don't care... you have the code! We are happy to help you get where you need to go, and not force you into a box built for some other organization.

We are extending this offer only to the first 5 organizations that purchase it.No gimmicks, No tricks. Just a good deal...

Here are the requirements:

  • You must be the purchaser of the product or the company we have on record.Contact Us if you changed ownership or Company name.
  • The offer applies to ONE license. If you have multiple licenses or copies in your organization, .Contact Us and we will work out a good deal!
  • You must have a working copy and/or meet the minimum requirements of the program: Windows OS and Microsoft Office Professional (Access) must be installed on at least one computer (preferably 2007 or later but we can work with earlier versions).
  • A portion of the time (usually 1-2 hours) will be used to convert the data files and get the front end (forms, reports, etc...) up and running.
  • Purchased hours expire within 6 months of the date of purchase so you must use the 20 hours within 6 months.
  • You must be one of the first 5 to respond! Once we hit our capacity, the deal is off the table.

It is always a good time to make changes to get more profitable! Kick off 2015 with a good deal and set yourself up for long term returns.


Contact Us and lets get going

Cabinet Makers, Cash Flow, and Small Business Inventory Planning

Inventory Planning

Cabinet Makers and Small Business Inventory Planning

We mentioned in our first article, our roots are deep in a few industries, and woodworking, specifically cabinet making, is one of them. We then looked in the second article that cash flow is key, and one of the most direct elements of cash flow is Inventory. We discussed some basic elements of Inventory, and how powerful it is to get a picture of how much capital you really have located outside your bank account.

We want to expand on this and look at how much more power you can have when you grasp the idea of Inventory Planning. These fundamentals don't apply just to Cabinet Makers obviously, we are just using them as a great example.

So let us assume you have worked through a process to get your current Inventory amounts accessible. You can find out with fairly good accuracy how much you have on hand of a given material right now. You know how much value it has, and how many. You soon find out that while you have some great information about where you are at now, you don't know much more than that.

Just knowing you have x amount of a product doesn't tell what you need to do ABOUT it. Do you have enough? Do you need more? Do you have too much?

 The main problem here is you don't know how TO PLAN your Inventory.

Inventory Planning Basics

Inventory Planning thinks about Inventory OVER TIME. Not just what you have now, but how much will you need..And we need to keep in mind the 2 Rules of Inventory

The #1 rule of Inventory Management

Never run out of inventory

The #2 rule of Inventory Management

Never have more inventory than you absolutely need

Get your Demand Together

Demand is the amount of product you need to consume. Here is an example of a Raw Material (Red Birch plywood) We see here a basic summary of an MRP (Materials Resource Planning) report in our Software Toolkit. We will break down each piece as we go.






Inventory: You have 18 of this part currently in stock. If you have no demand, you have product you don't need.

MRP-Current Inventory



The next section is the DEMAND, or the amount you need. In this case we have details about which job (called a PhaseMat) they come from. The Left column, represented by a negative number is how much of this part the Job needs. For the moment, let's disregard the dates that normally occur on the left. We will get to those later.

What we see is that we need 29 units of the part. The second column shows a running total of the first line (Current Inventory) and then includes each demand from the jobs. So the starting amount (18) will only allow you to get through 3 jobs at best if you use the inventory for Job 151890, 151720, 152700 but you do not have enough to make job 152550

Inventory Planning Demand

  • If you were to look at any one job demand without knowing the current inventory, you would now now how much to order. You would run out of Inventory.
  • If you look at the sum of all demands, without knowing the current Inventory, you would buy too much because you already have Inventory on hand.

The next piece of the puzzle is Safety Stock. How much of this product do you need on hand even when there isn't a demand? Do you need some extra in case someone scraps some material? How about if the product has a long lead time and you need some buffer? What if it is used often and you want to accommodate last minute orders?

In this case we have 18 on hand, but only want 10 in safety stock. Somewhere in history, we have bought more than we need, and it resulted in us carrying more on the shelf than we had to have, tying up captial.

Inventory Planning Safety Stock

We need to make sure we have an extra 10 left over AFTER we fulfill the demands. From above, we know we have 18, we need 29, so we are 11 short. In addition, we need to have 10 remaining on hand, so we actually need 21 units to fix Inventory. 

Inventory Planning Whole Picture

Think about how often this situation occurs with all the materials you use.

Knowing the current inventory is good. Knowing how much you will need for upcoming jobs is even better. Knowing how much you need to have on hand is good.

Knowing all these factors at the same time is GREAT

Looking at the By When

Now that we see total quantity is important, along with the other factors, we need to look at one more factor. Timing.... Lets look at the whole picture WITH DATES

Inventory Planning Whole Picture









Now we see an even more profound picture. We obviously have to use historical dates so just look at the sequence, and assume it is 7/1/14 and you run this report.

  • Current Inventory is what you have NOW.
  • By 7/21/2014 you have completed 2 jobs, and have 1 unit of stock remaining.
  • You do not need any more product (outside of the Safety Stock you want to have on hand all the time) until 8/4/2014
  • By 8/4/2014 you will need 10 units for Job 152550
  • By 1/19/2016 you need 1 more for Job 152700. This date essentially means it is not scheduled seriously or confidently.
  • From a basic planning standpoint, we have more than we need right now, and run down to 1 unit and hold it for 2-3 weeks. Then we run out, and have nothing on order to let us complete the jobs we have scheduled.

If we then respond and go place a Purchase Order int he system to plan perfectly, it will then look like this.

Inventory Planning Updated


While this isn't 100% perfect, perfect isn't a real goal. The main thing is we aren't running out of Inventory (the #1 Rule) and we are minimizing the amount we have on hand going further (the #2 Rule).

How does this affect Cash Flow?

The simplest way to think about this is Inventory is cash not in the bank. The ability to reduce the inventory on hand results directly in cash in your bank (unless you spend it somewhere else!). By minimizing Inventory, we keep the cash where it can be used best.... IN THE BANK! 

Looking at Inventory totals is good, but not great. Unless you have very, very simple dynamics you typically need to know WHEN you need materials, and if the date is valid. You also need to know about what you want left over in case you have to use this material in other situations.

The elements to track this kind of information is all in our Software Toolkit: Current Inventory, Demands on Inventory (from sales and/or manufacturing), Future incoming (Purchase Orders), and Safety Stock.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

Industry Focus: Cabinet Makers Part 1

Cabinet Maker

(picture from His Life Woodworks)

Focus on Cabinet Makers and Their Unique Concerns

At Master Solutions, we have a lot of experience working with organizations in the "Secondary Wood Products Industry" (as opposed to the "Primary Wood Products Industry"?) . The Genesis of our Software Toolkit was in a Custom Cabinet Operation.

At the time we started working with them, they were growing fast, and were hitting all the normal walls that businesses hit with high growth rate. These are just some of the real, daily issues:

  • Cash Flow Crunch: Every payday was a "fire drill". The nature of being a subcontractor to residential construction simply creates a cash flow problem. Most builders are taking monthly draws at best, and yet the Cabinet Makers are paying out payroll and materials weekly. In essence, the operation is a bank, lending their customers capital for weeks, even months at a time before truly getting paid. Add growth to that equation, and the problem is even worse.
  • Administrative/Overhead Issues: There were 2 full time people (out of 5-7 non production people, and 15-20 other production staff) who didn't "make sawdust", yet it was never enough. Just importing the time punches from their time collection systems and calculating payroll took 2 days. The rest of the time was Accounting, Writing Bids for Sales, Answering Phones, and managing the office and Human Resources.
  • Critical Data Access: Each Job was a large folder, which go handed around to different key people. The folder held critical information, however wasn't accessible to anyone else. It was not uncommon for someone to go desk to desk looking for important details about a job several times a day.
  • Data Integration: The key data elements were in folders, and there was no comprehensive view of data. For instance, all open jobs and their status was on a wall, rarely updated, and had no ability to compare key data to each other. If it was in some software based form, it was an excel spreadsheet someone wrote, and it was always unclear if it was up to date, it was single user, and would occasionally get contaminated or even get corrupted forcing a rebuild.

The 3 key elements of the organizational problems were Efficiency, Data Accessibility, Data Integrity

Lets look at each element a little more in depth, and subsequent articles will detail how we addressed Business Processes to improve these 3 key elements.


This term has several different aspects, but the main idea is using any resource (employee time, machine time, capital/cash, materials etc...) as effectively and minimally as possible while not compromising on speed or quality. It's not just getting more done faster, because doing the wrong thing or the unprofitable thing faster just increases failure. So it is striking the right balance between doing the right things (or doing things right), as quickly as possible.

Do the math: 5 employees, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year.

Wasted Minutes

Data Accessibility

This concept means simply getting information to the right people.  Just a simple piece of information like a contact (phone number, email, correct spelling of a name etc...) which can be very critical, is a prefect example. Or the last vendor used to purchase the melamine. Or the status of that hot job you promised would go out Friday.

The main point is for the right people, to have the right data, when THEY need it. This is an Efficiency issue certainly, but it also supports user effectiveness, and accuracy.

It's not uncommon for employees to avoid doing things that are hard or frustrating, or leave them incomplete if it is too difficult to get the right data.

This puts an emphasis on Centralizing. Data needs to be accessible centrally, meaning in one easy to reach place. Having the ability to share information, but having data scattered about in 50 different users computers, sub folders, and formats won't work. Data needs to have a central location, with clear and simple paths.

Data Integrity

Just getting Data to the right people, as quickly as possible, isn't enough if the Data itself is inconsistent, out of date, or cannot be maintained easily. The accuracy of the data, as well as its stability, and its structure is critical.

The Great Spreadsheet Trap

A classic technique is for a user to make spreadsheets, with ever increasing levels of automation (macros) and formatting. This data might even live on a centralized server. However, a spreadsheet isn't built to handle data that changes often. It is a fantastic tool for analysis, charting, calculations etc... but is a snapshot of data. And it is all one file, that must be saved all at once. As well, a spreadsheet isn't multi-user. Multiple users can VIEW, but they cannot interact with it.

If key data is stored in an individual users spreadsheet, there are too many opportunities for the data to be out of date, mis-managed, corrupted, or isolated.

The Out of Date Trap

Even within database systems, data that isn't current can be very problematic. It is vital that all data be accurate and current. It is even better when the data is getting updated from the system rather than waiting on a user to go in and take an action.

The Duplication Trap

A problem with poorly designed systems (and processes) is the ability to create duplication of key data. This can be simply poor design, or it can be from a user not being able to find key data, and assuming it is not there and entering it a second (or third or fourth) time. Classic examples of this are Contacts, Items, Sales Orders, and Purchase Orders.

The Formatting Trap

Many database systems use key data elements and sort on them for reporting or display. Punctuation sorts very differently than text. Text sorts very differently than numeric values. Without proper formatting, many lists of data become hard to manage, and lead to duplication, or out of date scenarios.

We will look at each of these issues above, and put them into context for the common cabinet maker, and walk through how to address them in a series of in depth articles to come.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

Cabinet Makers, Small Business Cash Flow and Inventory


Cabinet Makers and Small Business Cash Flow

We mentioned in our first article, our roots are deep in a few industries, and woodworking, specifically cabinet making, is one of them. Cabinet makers are simply some of the most resourceful, hard working groups of small business owners out there. And their industry has some unique challenges,. However the primary one isn't unique to their industry, it is common to all small businesses. The flow of cash in, through, and out of the company is critical to the health and success of the organization, but it is very hard to manage without the right mindset and tools.

We want to expand on this and discuss the basic steps that organizations can take to improve cash flow. Here is our quote from the previous article:

 Cash Flow Crunch: Every payday was a "fire drill". The nature of being a subcontractor to residential construction simply creates a cash flow problem. Most builders are taking monthly draws at best, and yet the Cabinet Makers are paying out payroll and materials weekly. In essence, the operation is a bank, lending their customers capital for weeks, even months at a time before truly getting paid. Add growth to that equation, and the problem is even worse.

Where does the cash flow in a small business?

Clearly cash comes in from SALES, and goes out on EXPENSES. That's the most basic element to cash flow. So the conclusion to most businesses is that as long as what goes out is less than what comes in, things are good. Right?

In some sense, that may be true, but what gets overlooked is how much cash is tied up in the operation itself, and the timing of how the cash moves around. Let's take a little deeper look at this, and describe some tools to help address the problem.

You have a secret bank account, hidden in (mostly) plain sight.

If you can state with any decent level of accuracy the value of inventory you have on hand right now, skip this section. You already know the problem, and have a solution. While it might take a few days of work a month to get the number, if that number is close to accurate, you have a key element in solving this problem.

Inventory, essentially the raw materials, in process work, and the finished goods laying around waiting for someone to buy them, is essentially CASH. And it is CASH you DON'T have in your bank because you already spent it. When you purchased more materials, or paid your team, overhead, machine payments etc... and/or converted it into something else, you simply took cash and transformed it into something else. Because you haven't received any cash for it (in hopefully it's new, more valuable form!), a huge portion of your organizations cash is "tied up" in a form you cant do anything with.

Managing Inventory is a constantly changing game for most manufacturers, and for any group doing custom or semi-custom work, it can be a lot harder. While there certainly are multiple facets, in a small business Inventory Flow is essentially small business cash flow.

The #1 rule of Inventory Management

Never run out of inventory

Why? The problem is usually 2 fold:

  1. If you don't have raw materials, your labor force (which is typically a bigger piece of the costs/more expensive than the materials in cabinet making) will be standing around with nothing productive to do.
  2. If you have no finished goods to sell when your customer wants it, you cant convert all your hard work into more cash than you paid.

Running out of inventory (at the right time, but more on that later) is a big problem, and one that must be avoided at almost any cost.

The #2 rule of Inventory Management

Never have more inventory than you absolutely need

Why? This problem is essentially what we discussed at the beginning. Inventory is cash you don't have in your bank. Holding any more inventory than you absolutely need is keeping cash out of your bank account, and therefore out of your pocket!

How to manage inventory

Inventory is the result of transactions. This means that it is dynamic, and must be calculated. The historical counting it once a year and leaving it at that doesn't help you understand what is going on right now. Stopping everything and counting inventory right now is also prohibitively expensive.

The solution is having a system of tracking the "ins and outs" of your inventory, and attaching a value to those transactions.

The IN: Purchasing and Manufacturing

When you purchase something, you essentially commit to paying for something. When it is received, that product is part of your inventory. Normally, you pay the bill within a fixed amount of time, in some cases you pay immediately. But for arguments sake, let us assume we have classic "Net 30" terms. We pay for the goods within 30 days of receiving them.

We need to track when this product is received. When did it join your inventory? How much? At what cost to you?

1st Gear

If you aren't using a database system like our Software Toolkit, you will quickly figure out this is almost impossible. You can make lists, spreadsheets, even marks on a wall or pallet rack, but it is prone to error and labor intensive to maintain. Writing Purchase Orders, and Receiving them is the fundamental step to Inventory.

2nd Gear

Assigning a vendor promise date to each item on a Purchase Order begins to develop a key practice that will take the idea of managing inventory even further, not just counting but Inventory Planning. Knowing not only WHAT you ordered, but looking ahead at How Much and By When materials will come in opens up a tremendous opportunity to manage inventory.

On the manufacturing end, you also add to your inventory by making something. You basically add value to something through labor, and now have something new. For Project based manufacturers (think custom), they don't really have Finished Goods with part numbers, but the products ready for a project have essentially become a value of inventory until sold.

The Out: Sales and Manufacturing

When you ship something, you "relieve" inventory. You exchange the inventory you have for the customers commitment to pay you. This inventory is either a bunch of part numbers, quantities, and prices or could be a project representing many items that are not treated as part numbers. Either way, until it is sold, this is inventory.

When you manufacture goods, you relieve the inventory of the raw materials as you make them into new things.

Add it up.... and then adjust

Simply adding the ins and the outs gives you an approximate number of inventory. If you were to take that amount and then go out to your shop floor and count an item, you might see that what you count is not what your system shows you. This can be from errors, scrap/quality issues, work flow, and theft.

Errors: Did someone order 100, received 100, and really only got 85? These errors can happen, and most systems have elements in place to minimize  them.

Scrap/Quality: Was there a problem in manufacturing that required someone to use more than what was originally determined? Did you receive product from the manufacturer, but it wasn't acceptable?

Work Flow: Did you pull inventory off a shelf, but didn't report it to the system yet? This is normally called Work In Process (WIP), and requires some kind of Work Order step in your system. Think of this as a Purchase Order to yourself for goods. We will address this more in depth in another article.

Theft: Is product moving out the back door for someones side jobs? Does someone have a "special arrangement" with the delivery person or vendor and you are paying for it?

Most systems have the ability to adjust the inventory when something like this happens. As well, regular counting allows you to make these adjustments and see if problems are happening. There are strategies for counting,a s it can be very costly to have everyone stop and count. One great way is to simply identify the materials that cost the most, and the materials that you use the most, and count them. Combining the 2 elements, and only counting the high turnover, high dollar materials should happen most often, and then as materials represent less and less of the value and activity, they get counted less often.

Basic Inventory Summary

So knowing how much Inventory you have is the best foundation for looking at where cash got "trapped" inside your organization. If you have inordinate amounts of a material, you need to examine why. Did someone purchase a whole lift because they were afraid of running out, only to find out you wont use it  all for another 6 months? Are you switching to a new hinge, and have a lot of the old one left over? Do you not have enough of the new one for upcoming orders?

Tackling Inventory at the basic level can be hard work, but it sets the stage for cash flow management. Next we will talk about how to take that information, and supercharge it.

Inventory Planning.... the next frontier...


Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

BusinessMaster-Item Master Customization

Item Master

 Item Master customization

This is an neat customization we did to speed up the process of finding a part. This organization needed a fast and simplified way to get to a part, and we ended up with a "dashboard" of sorts. The user could find a part even when they had no idea of the actual part number, and then work from there to get into the Item Master and interact with the part.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!