View Full Version : Wanted recomendation - Software to manage web-based business?

01-05-2006, 06:41 AM
Newbie questions - be nice to me :)

I'm not sure what I'm looking for, but wish to free up some time by seeing if anyone knows of easier ways or software to use with my business.

Let me run through a few process's of how my business runs.

This bit is a separate issue from the accounts side of the business. We receive enquiries via email (currently use Outlook Express) which are generally text only generated via forms on the website. We removed our email address from the site to make people use the forms, as they quite often left out vital information. These enquiries are acted upon and replies sent out via email. At our end each enquiry is hand written out on to enquiry forms to aid tracking in the office. But an easer method of tracking would be nice as we do have lots of enquiries, so occasionally some items get overlooked. I have gone down the route of providing a Q&A page to cover some of the regular questions, and update pages to cover some others, but will continue to have one-off questions.

Now to the money side of my business.
I run an online store where most orders are received via email from paypal (at present - but wish to change later). These orders are manually typed (generally copy and pasted using signature texts to sort of pre-generate the email) in to another email for our supplier to supply the goods and send them direct to our customer (we hardly ever send out orders via fax). Occasionally we receive orders via the phone. We do send out a very limited amount of orders direct to the customer from our stock held at the office.

Most of the orders generated from our website are for items set up on 'add to cart' buttons, so the order matches our stock list (Excel spread sheet) verbatim. But some are for items which the customer manually types in their requirements and costs, then send that off to paypal. Each stock item has our own unique product code, which is cross-referenced via a single spreadsheet to a supplier, description, OEM product code, supplier code, sale price, purchase price, shipping cost etc. So the above consists of emails in, cross-referenced to spread sheet, back to email.

The customer is also sent an email confirming receipt of their order and likely delivery date.

The supplier sends out the goods to our customer, then sends us an invoice for each delivery, followed up with a monthly statement. These details are manually typed in to another spread sheet together with the cash receipts. A lot of time seems to be spent on this bit of the process to generate reports for payments to suppliers, bank balances etc. At present there is no real connection between the stock sheet and the general accounts sheets. so no day to day checking of suppliers charges against their pre-agreed charges.

Does anyone have any ideas or recommendations to streamline our various processís and perhaps hopefully integrate them all together.

Thanks for reading this far and any help you can give


PS I'm based in the UK and only deal with UK customers

01-05-2006, 07:11 AM
I've recently been helping a client go through a similar process (also UK based). Their business is also a mix of online shop with 'other stuff' via phone and fax, with offices in three different places. Now they also want to take seminar bookings and such where there is no deliverable.

The first thing we learned is that no software is going to clean up a messy process until you have really thought through the business processes themselves and rationalized them. A lot of the difficulties were in the fact that the business has been growing organically and has become rather chaotic as differents bits got 'bolted on' wherever they could be. Sitting down and working through the processes managed to iron out a few difficult areas immediately.

With stock in two different places, and with three different offices and a range of products, it became clear that there needed to be a central point where data was processed, and in this case it was decided that the online shop would be the central datastore for the business. So all orders, whether by web, email, fax or phone will get put into the same process as early as possible. The accountant gets a QuickBooks export of the relevant data whenever he needs it. (Or at least, he will when I've got that part together). We may add on an office wide contact system (or even customer management system) that will need to tie in to the shop as well.

It has also been clear that sorting out the process will incur a certain amount of cost, but it should be a one off cost that will pay back in a short time. Most of that cost will be in custom programming and setup to integrate the various parts of the business.

Whether any of that is practical (or relevant) in your case I don't know, just thought I'd pass on our (ongoing) experience.


01-05-2006, 07:57 AM
Hi jalal,

Thanks for your input.

Although there's lots of process's, its relatively simple in practice, but time consuming.

I see you mentioned QuickBooks. Is the whole system build around that product, or is that only a small part of it?


01-05-2006, 01:01 PM
No, the system is based around the online shop, which is a heavily modified version of osCommerce.

The QB part comes in because the whole accounts/tax side is run on QB and has been for a long time.