Using Plate IQ, Quickbooks, Dropbox, and Square Register to keep connected by our computers, emails and texts. We use social media to promote our businesses online and reach our customers. But for the today’s purposes, the technology that I want to focus on is the kind that improves our profits! As your resident operations and systems expert, I would love to geek out just a bit and share a few apps and tools that help me run my food business in a way that increases my profits at Noe Valley Bakery:
In that same vein of “tech we use in the financial part of our business”, we recently have moved our accounting system into the cloud as well. We use Quickbooks desktop and host it in the cloud. Quickbooks works really well for us and it is the standard bearer in the industry, so everyone I work with knows how to use it and prefers it. I recommend the online version or the desktop version hosted in the cloud because that way your whole financial team can access the files from wherever they are at the time they need the information. (do you see a pattern here with me?) Before Quickbooks, I used to email my bookkeeper for a report and then have to wait until her work schedule allowed her to send me the reports I needed. With the new hosted version, I can go in and print out the reports whenever I need them. That saves me both time and money because I don’t have to pay my bookkeeper to do it for me and I get it when I need it.
We love having a secure cloud based file storage system at the bakery and we use Dropbox. Everyone at the bakery, and certain team members have access to our files in Dropbox. The first reason is the classic “backing up your data reason” — if anything were to happen to our computer at the bakery or our home computers, the files are safely in the cloud and can be accessed from the replacement computer. But the second reason is because it is so darned efficient. Our whole team is empowered to access the information they need, when they need it from anywhere – independently. We have our cash reports, bank statements, recipes, marketing materials and everything else in folders and we share the folders with those who need them. We don’t have to email each other to ask for what we need to do your jobs. We just look in the Dropbox folder and there it is. Dropbox has given Michael and me our time back, because we are no longer the bottlenecks or the keeper of the keys. Not only do we not have to be involved, but we’re setting the expectation that OUR TEAM is responsible for getting what they need to do their jobs. If you’re not on some shared system, you’ll be amazed at how it can change your whole workflow.
The next piece of technology we could not live without is Square Register. We have been in business for 21 years, so we have used a lot of different things to track our sales and accept payments. We started with an abacus…just kidding…We started with an old fashioned cash register (like a glorified calculator, actually) and moved to different POS systems like Micros and Aloha. In 2014, we switched to Square and we could not be happier. Square is a modern, easy to use POS and credit card processor that continually updates and improves itself at no cost to me. Actually that is not exactly true…Square’s percentage rate fee as our credit card processor is higher than I can find elsewhere, but the transparency of information I get in return more than makes up for the higher rate. I can look at my phone or computer dashboard anytime I want to see what is happening at the bakery. I can see what we have sold and get reports whenever I need them. Also, I think that the best thing about Square is that it doesn’t give me tons of stuff that I DON’T NEED or use. The old POS systems had HUGE capabilities that I never needed or used…even though I had to pay for them through yearly support contracts.
A really cool technology tool that I’m using to make the Noe Valley Bakery more profitable is a brand new app called PlateIQ and I’m really excited about it! It is a food business accounts payable solution with real-time food costing. Plate IQ is my new favorite thing because it feels like magic. We can use our iPhones to take pictures of our invoices and they go into the PlateIQ system. From there the invoices get automatically coded by the software and then imported directly into Quickbooks. (Incidentally, this highlights another advantage of using Quickbooks – software companies write code that integrates with Quickbooks because it is the industry leader.) When I need to pay the invoices, I just click on them and they get paid automatically from PlateIQ. Now I don’t have to worry about getting physical invoices to my bookkeeper, she doesn’t have to spend billable hours entering them into Quickbooks, and she doesn’t have to send me checks that I sign and mail. (GOODBYE US Postal Service!) I just snap a picture, click on what to pay and it’s done. I love the efficiency of all of it. If that doesn’t have you dying to automate your accounts payable, Plate IQ also can help you lower your Cost of Goods. I enter in my recipes and get food costs for each recipe and it tells me when my ingredient costs are fluctuating. I feel like I died and went to technology heaven! It is making me more efficient, saving me bookkeeping expenses AND giving me valuable information from which to manage my business. That is like saving three times!
Now for some action steps
I think you can tell that I can talk about technology systems and automation all day long, but I think we’ll stop there — those are four of my favorite technology tools that we utilize at Noe Valley Bakery.
These certainly aren’t the only ways to create systems — there are LOTS of ways that you can leverage tech to create efficiencies. The important thing to note here is that there are tools out there that can free you up to spend your time growing your business and creating happy customers.
If you are with me on this journey of making your food business more profitable, here’s your homework for this week: Think of ONE process in your business that you currently have to touch or do yourself to make it work. You might have many, but start slow. I want you to research just ONE piece technology that you can implement to get yourself out of being involved (or less involved). To get you started, I have attached a list that you can download right now of some tools that I love below.
If you need more ideas, ask your team where in your processes they are slowed down. Start with one area that you need to make more efficient and find the tool that is right for your business and set it up. It will take time to do this, but this is what Highly Profitable Food Business owners do – they constantly innovate and adopt practices that make their team more efficient. They set up systems that help them focus on business building for long term financial success.