Castlegar, British Columbia
Ask Chris Knegt what kind of impact Spruce™ business management software has had on his lumber and building materials store and the answer you get is one that covers just about every aspect of its operations. More on that in a moment but first, a little background on Knegt’s company, Mitchell Supply Ltd. in Castlegar, British Columbia.
Mitchell’s is a family business that was founded in 1953. It is currently operated by third-generation owners, David Ackney and Karen and Chris Knegt. Over the years, Mitchell’s has sold a broad range of very different products—including coal, sporting goods, and animal feed! Today, however, the company’s mix focuses very much on its lumber and building supplies core, with lumber, paint, and roofing supplies currently representing the top three sales categories.
Business has been good for Mitchell’s of late, “Nothing but growth,” says Knegt, driven by a strong local economy and a recent expansion and renovation of the company’s retail store.
But Knegt, an LBM veteran with more than 20 years’ industry experience, is keenly aware that managing growth effectively can sometimes be just as difficult as fighting sharp market downturns. In good times or in bad, if you’re trying to keep the business strong using out of date and unwieldy management tools, the challenges become even harder.
Spruce software for lumber and building materials: built specifically for the industry
Before Mitchell’s made the move to Spruce, the company had relied on a generic POS system that had its roots in clothing and convenience stores. The program got the job done, he recalls, but it came with little back office functionality and even less in the way of features to address the very specific needs of a lumber and building supplies business.
Knegt and the rest of the Mitchell’s management team had been talking about bringing in new software for a while but when they started looking at possible options, one choice stood out from all the rest: ECi Spruce.
“Spruce was very clearly software that was designed for building and lumber people by building and lumber people,” Knegt explains. “Spruce came with so many features that were specific to our industry. It seemed like it would not only offer us the opportunity to take a big step forward as an organization, but also, we felt it would give us more bang for our buck than any of the other programs we looked at.”
Foremost among the features that put Spruce in the winner’s column for Knegt and his team was the way the software provided real-time transparency on just about every aspect of their store’s operations.
“With Spruce, you can flow everything through from start to finish—from the beginning of a transaction when you’re quoting the customer, through to placing the order, issuing the PO to the vendor, receiving the product, inputting the details into the system, selling it to the customer, paying the vendor and all the way through to posting the receivable.”
“With Spruce,” he continues, “I can click on any invoice and see the entire paper and activity trail before and after—the purchase orders and vendor invoices for the products on that invoice, who did the quote, who received the inventory and so on—it’s all easily accessible any time I want to see it.”
Spruce’s ability to track product flow and cash flow from beginning to end has made Mitchell’s more productive but, Knegt points out, the benefits of the program’s seamless linking go further than that.
“Spruce has made it so much easier to see what’s really going on in the business and that’s made everybody far more accountable for the work that they do,” he explains. “Because everything is linked, it’s very easy to identify the source of any problems that might come up and that’s made all of us more exact about what we’re doing and how we do it.”
Powerful POS software is key to Spruce’s success
A key selection criterion when Knegt was researching software options was power at the point of sale and there too, Spruce stood head-and-shoulders above its competition.
“The most important space in any store is the five feet in front of the checkout counter and if there’s a problem there, all the reporting and accounting in the world—no matter how good it might be—is basically irrelevant,” Knegt contends.
Fortunately, for Knegt and the rest of the team at Mitchell’s, Spruce has brought a new level of efficiency and customer service to the store’s checkout system.
“Customers are getting through the checkout faster with Spruce than with our old software and a large part of that is due to Spruce’s powerful search functionality,” he explains. “Spruce provides multiple ways you can search—key word, product description or code, SKU number—and results are instantaneous,” he says.
The news for Mitchell since switching to Spruce is just as good on the special orders front. “Special orders are a huge part of our business,” Knegt says. ”We have 34 different sales categories and special orders are Number Four. It’s an area where we have always done much better than the big box stores. Spruce has allowed us to make a major step forward in how we handle them.”
“With Spruce, we can generate a special order for the customer and put together the PO for the vendor while the customer is standing at the checkout,” he explains. “Then, when the product comes in, it’s tagged with the PO number, linked to the customer order and its location in the store or in the yard is also included. And the paper trail for accounting is as clean as it would be for any stock item!”
Spruce software is committed to continual improvement
Knegt also give kudos for the way Spruce’s reliability and robustness allows him to focus more time on what’s really important to the business.
“Spruce has been very stable for us since we converted,” Knegt says. “We have not lost a second of functionality or had a single situation where we were unable to do business because of a problem with the system,” he reports happily. “And the fact that we get software updates very regularly tells me the people in charge of the program are committed to keeping it current and continually improving.”
A commitment to continual improvement is a key part of the culture at Mitchell’s and as Knegt looks to the future, he sees Spruce playing a key role in helping him and the rest of the team meet that commitment.
“The people at Spruce know the industry and really understand what we need as a business to be successful,” he says. “Spruce has already made us more productive and more profitable and its ability to keep doing that is only going to get better as we go forward.”