Technology is a bit like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it. But Ramsey Dawson, owner of Ramsey`s kitchen, bedroom and bathroom showroom in Long Eaton definitely falls into the former camp. He is, arguably, one of the industry’s earliest adopters of technology, having embraced CAD nearly two decades ago and boasting an online presence for the past l0 years. But the effective running of his showroom can also be attributed to a continued investment in technology, using business management software and soon social media.
Starting with CAD
Ramsey took over his fathers plumbers’ merchants business nearly 20 years ago, and around the same time introduced technology to improve the efficiency of design. He explains: “We took on CAD drawing about 20 years ago and embraced that when it first came along. We used to put magnetic units together to create a plan, or we would draw it by hand and it used to take a week to drawjust one perspective. We couldn’t live without CAD now.”
And Ramsey is equally enthusiastic about his website, which gives his retail showroom presence 24/7 He adds: “The website is an ongoing advert for the company. We have been online for 10 years. I am embracing the digital age. We use the internet all the time, emailing plans and quotes to customers, everything is a lot quicker; it just works a lot better.”
In fact time-saving seems to be at the heart of why technology helps his business operate smoothly. After discovering a business management software package and its associated applications, Ramsey estimates he has gained two thirds of his time back. He explains: “I found I was duplicating a lot of work. We would create a quote on an Excel sheet. If that progressed to an order it would be typed up in a Word format and sent to the customer for the confirmation quote. From there, it was retyped again, and was sent to all the suppliers we needed to order from. So each job was generating a lot of paper work. You couldn’t just copy and paste because we were using lots of different programs, so you would have to manually retype it. There was a lot of work tied up duplicating the same thing.”
Now, business management software has enabled him to reduce the duplications and ultimately gives him more time to focus on other areas of his business. “Now, you do it once and the information can be emailed as a quote and an order It is just so much easier. We do everything from quotation, to ordering, sales invoices, deliveries, the whole thing, with one package.”
Infact, one of Ramsey’s main kitchen suppliers is tied in closely with the business management software, which enables any order to go directly to the suppliers’ computer ordering system. And he is able to import his CAD plans into the software which then re-prices everything for him.
Speed and efficiency
Of course technology not only makes sales quicker and more efficient but it can also help reduce the number of errors too. He admits it has limited mistakes being made at ordering stage and therefore keeps his customers happy, improving his service. Plus, just as importantly, the reduction of errors and efficient use of time means the technology has made his business more cost-effective too. All of which makes his initial investment into the technology pale into insignificance.
He adds: “I pay a monthly fee, but that’s for invoicing and delivery notes because it is all integrated. It is nothing really. We probably save what we would pay in somebody’s wages for the amount of work it does. I’ve got an admin girl that manages to do all the ordering and she is only part-time and comes in three days a week. So it saves me as a business. Save wherever you can in these hard times.”
Blogging on web
And while technology can help Ramsey save money in his business, he is also prepared to invest in more to further highlight and market his kitchen, bedroom and bathroom showroom. He is now looking at how to improve his website to engage with more consumers – on top of his traditional print advertising in local, glossy magazines.
He explains: “I am trying to get more brochures onto our website because then when people ask you for a brochure, you can say it is online so you are not handing them out all the time. We have the kitchen brochure up and running on the website, so you can look at it online, but our website needs tweaking. l designed it about tive years ago, but l want to go down more of a blog-based route.” Certainly, blogs are beginning to take off in the kitchen industry, with more retailers now using them to interact with potential customers.
Ramsey suggests a blog can offer a more frequent interaction with clients, as he comments: “There is always a new product coming out and you can put that on your blog and say it is now available. l don’t have the facility to do that at the moment. l’ve got a bit of information about kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms and online brochures, but it isn’t really geared up for blogging as such. I want to see ifl can integrate a blog into the current website. That’s the next thing I want to do when I get the time.”
Shaping future success
And Ramsey believes further use of technology can actually aid business in tough trading times. While he admits the recession hasn’t been easy, suffering a 25% drop in sales last year, he is optimistic and suggests retailers invest in technology to improve their business: “It’s all about the confidence as Gok Wan would say!
My advice would be to embrace the new digital era. I think if you use business management software it will save you a lot of time. We are all time poor: Anything that can save you time is welcomed and I personally think the software does save a lot of time and duplication of work and it streamlines everything.” And the use of technology also allows more flexibility in working hours, as Ramsey says: “You can work at home from it, as long as you have an internet connection. I could work from the pub with Wi-Fi. I like the freedom that I can be at home, at night watching the TV, and pricing a job – if l want to be. It’s the future.”
So why not take a leaf out of Ramsey’s book or page from his blog? See what technology can do to improve the efficiency of your business. It could help you shape your future success.