Build or Buy?

November 4th, 2021

Think you need a reporting solution?  Deciding to build or buy?  Let me tell you a story…

Roughly 25 years ago, I was hired out of Waterloo to work at Petro-Canada in Calgary. My office was almost at the top of the tallest building, had glass walls, a solid wood door, and a window so vast you could practically see downtown Winnipeg. Almost as big as the window was a state-of-the-art 19” monitor that was more deep than tall.  This was the big time!  My job was to maintain a reporting system that a high-priced consultant had spent months building using Quick Basic and Excel 4.0. It consolidated data from a number of systems and generated spreadsheets for each retail gas station. Throwing myself to the task, for all of about 4 days I quickly came to the conclusion that this consultant didn’t know what he was doing. After all, I was a Waterloo grad and surely I knew better!?

I don’t know how I managed to get my big head in and out of that office.

Every company has these Wunderkinds. They have just enough knowledge, way too much moxie, and an endless passion for challenges. Fuelled by the people around them constantly impressed with their work, they soak up all the praise like a sponge. They love a challenge, hate repetition, and so are compelled to automate. These younglings are priceless but they can also be a pain to manage. However, they make their bosses look great and their work impresses at the monthly executive meetings.

But after a while, what happens? Their great innovations become expectations. Their hard work is rewarded with more hard work. They churn out report after report, dashboard after dashboard, all the while in the back of their minds, they toil… it’s getting monotonous.

The kids love the accolades. They’re seen as saviours and shining stars that bring light to the doldrum of spreadsheet hell. Eventually, they get tired, and they move on. Maybe they get promoted or they jump ship to a new opportunity. And now you discover that you have replaced all those spreadsheets, and all those original authors who had finally been released from their responsibilities, with fancy new dashboards that no longer update and no one knows how to operate. What do you do now?

For me, it took about ten years to figure out how to capitalize on my skill set.  All those that know me, know me to be the Excel guy, and it’s awesome. I’ve got my own Wunderkind now to manage and I finally realize how much of a pain it can be!  If my old bosses are out there reading this; Ange C, Dave W, Jon H, I get it now and I’m sorry!  Karma doesn’t forget.

It’s a lovely story and a further example that my head is probably still too big, but here’s the call to action… There are few companies out there like ours that do this work. We do it day in and day out. We know the ins and outs and how to work the systems.  We’ve got staff to back up staff and systems to make sure it’s all correct.

A few of us Wunderkinds get lucky enough to have their passion be their work. And fewer still are able to surround themselves with like-minded people anxious to learn the next great Excel function.  Hint… it’s XLOOKUP

What is Your Pricing Strategy to Cope with Inflation?

September 17th, 2021

Everywhere we turn we are seeing stories of input costs rising. Raw materials like sugar, wheat and oils are up and as manufacturers, this impacts your bottom line significantly. It begs the question, what do manufacturers do to cover these costs? 

More often than not, manufacturers are passing on these costs, at least in part, to retailers. From there, retailers are faced with their own choice. Do they increase product prices to consumers to protect their margins or do they limit promotions and discounts? Managing these particular decisions could have a major impact on consumer behavior. 

In a perfect world, price increases are small and brand affinity is strong enough that consumers won’t notice the difference… but that’s not always the case.

Consumers only have so much money allotted to feed their families each week. As they shop the grocery store aisles, consciously or unconsciously, they’ll be making decisions at every turn. If one product is all of a sudden a few cents more expensive than an alternative, and perhaps that product is even on promotion, they might sway away from brands they know and love. Alternatively, they might purchase less in general, realizing that they simply don’t have enough spend to support the “nice to have” items that aren’t a true necessity. 

Bottom line: if the price goes up, the velocity may go down, and that might lead to a less profitable scenario overall. 

The first step in determining how to manage these drops in profit is to identify them and understand why they are happening. While we can’t control inflation, we can offer support in managing these complex pricing decisions through the use of data. 

Every week we process retail sales data that details the total number of units and total dollars sold for each of the active SKUs and then, based on individual price, we track net sales and velocity. We then provide these charts to manufacturers who can review and identify problems. You can see price changes clearly and whether retailers implemented prices you expected them to and how the volume behaved after they took that pricing. You are then in a position to have the right discussion with retailers if something is not working, and you can clearly demonstrate why, using data to make your point. 

With access to sophisticated data like this, you can enjoy incredible visibility into consumption and make meaningful adjustments to your pricing strategy to optimize for maximum profit. As the saying goes, hope is not a plan, Springboard customers have more control when using this data to achieve the profit targets they expect. 

Being able to understand, anticipate and address how all the 10 cent decisions you make in your pricing and supply chain impact your bottom line is something you simply can’t put a price on.