Spruce brings new efficiencies, management insights
Adam Hendrix still remembers the way things were before his O’Fallon, Missouri-based company, Chic Lumber, switched to Spruce® software to run the business. And he makes clear, those memories aren’t exactly pleasant ones.
Back then, the company would lose a weekend’s worth of sales, and rack up a small mountain of overtime every year, in order to take physical inventory. Once the counts had been completed, there was another month of data entry to get them all into Chic Lumber’s old system.
Every month, it would take a team of four working two full days to generate and mail customer statements.
And every day, Hendrix would walk past a room housing more than 30 five-drawer filing cabinets filled with the year’s invoices and similar paperwork and an area of the warehouse that was home to even more cardboard boxes with older documents which they were required by the IRS to keep.
It's time to pick new business software
Chic Lumber had been using the same program to run the business in one version or another since 1982 but when that software company came in and told Hendrix they were bringing out new software and were no longer going to support his program any more, he decided the time was right to take a broader look at the market and see what his software options might be.
Over a six-month period, Hendrix and his team evaluated a number of different systems, talking to software houses and fellow building material dealers across the country before settling on Spruce. And what made them make that choice?
Chic Lumber has been very much a customer-driven company since it was founded by Adam’s father, David Hendrix, in 1979, and for Adam, the most important factor was how Spruce performed at the point of sale.
"Spruce took the cashier at the counter the least amount of time to get a customer out the door and as simple as it may seem, that was ultimately the key factor in my decision," Hendrix recalls.
"I also liked the fact that Spruce is a Windows® based system and that makes it very easy to learn," he adds. Chic Lumber operates out of three different locations, including a retail store that’s open seven days a week and staffed with a sizable contingent of part-time cashiers. "With Spruce," Hendrix reports happily, "we can train a new employee to be ready to handle point of sale at the counter in just 30 minutes and for a business like ours, that means everything!"
Spruce trimmed days from the time required for some tasks
Chic Lumber made the switch to Spruce in March 2009 and since then, Hendrix and his team have found plenty more reasons to justify the move beyond the ability to give customers a fast and trouble-free run through the checkout.
For example, the annual physical inventory, which closed the business for a weekend and required so much overtime, is now a thing of the past. Today, the company uses handheld scanners to cycle count inventory throughout the year. Chic Lumber’s retail store, for example, has some 60,000 SKUs on the shelves and it’s counted three times a year using part-time help. Lumber gets counted weekly.
And not only does Hendrix no longer need to close up shop and write those big overtime checks, he’s also far more confident about the numbers that he’s seeing these days than under his previous system and that has made buying a whole lot better throughout the year.
Inventory turns at Chic Lumber with Spruce are in the thirties today, Hendrix reports, a dramatic improvement on the old system where if turns hit double figures, it was cause for celebration.
And as for those monthly statements which used to take four people two full days to process? With Spruce, they all get done these days by just one person and it takes her just four hours!
Dramatic reduction in paper use, saving money and space
Gone, too, are all those filing cabinets and storage boxes that once housed a small forest’s worth of paper. Today they’re simply no longer needed as Spruce’s powerful document management functionality has allowed Chic Lumber to become an essentially paperless operation.
Hendrix says that not only has freed up somewhere in the region of 1,000 sq. ft. of racking space that would otherwise be used for paper storage, it also means that just about any business document can now be accessed with just a couple of mouse clicks instead of having to spend time searching through literally hundreds of pages of paperwork, which was standard operating procedure under the old system.
Indeed, Spruce has given the entire organization much greater visibility into just how the company is performing than they ever had before.
"Every one of our management team and our sales staff can see real-time dashboards on their computers that show them where we are to budget as a company and where they are, not just in terms of their own sales and margin goals but also how they compare to the rest of the sales team," Hendrix reports. "It not only makes for some very healthy competition among our sales staff but it also allows us to track our overall performance in real time and identify areas in need of attention."
Even with Spruce, recent years have been challenging for Hendrix and his team. The Great Recession hit hard and it’s only this year, he says, that they feel like they’ve finally recovered and are truly moving ahead.
Chic Lumber, he says, is poised to enjoy its best year ever and that’s good news. Even better, of course, is that thanks to Spruce and the new levels of efficiency it has brought to the business, they can not only look forward to new sales growth but also, to equally welcome growth on the bottom line.