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Inventory Management Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs

Latin American woman thinking of creative sales ideas at the office to put in a wall chart As an artisan, you want to focus on perfecting your art and envisioning new ideas. But as a small business owner, you may feel the everyday tasks of running a business get in the way.  And as your business expands, it’s likely getting harder to keep up with both the creative and management sides of your company. Perhaps you spend more time creating price tags or sifting through spreadsheets, rather than putting your creative mind to better use to grow your brand. You may relate to Philippa Roberts Jewelry.  Founded in 1996, the company started out like many creative entrepreneurs: selling jewelry at street fairs.  As their brand became more popular, they opened a combined retail store/studio shop in Oakland in 2006.  Soon, galleries, boutiques, and museums around the world sought after their simple, organic, and beautifully cut gemstones. But as a business grows, so do its demands.  And the employees of Philippa Roberts realized their way of doing business had to change, too.  And that included implementing a more efficient method of inventory management. [Tweet "But as a business grows, so do its demands."] Here’s how effective inventory management can help a creative small business like yours:

Organize Your Inventory

Whether you’re filling orders online or prepping for a show, how will you store your items to maximize your overall sales efficiency?  Unfortunately, there isn’t a "one size fits all" solution, so find a filing system that fits both the size of your business and the physical space you have to work with. [su_divider top="no" size="2"]

Related Article: Spooky Things That Can Happen If You Don’t Track Your Inventory

[su_divider top="no" size="2"] Perhaps organizing your items by marketplace would work for you. For example, have a shelving system or container (depending on size and quantity) for Etsy items and other online marketplaces.  And perhaps prepare another portable container for your show pieces. From there, separate into more specific categories, such as necklaces, bracelets, or earrings that are either ready to be shipped for online orders or prepped for display at your next show.

Track Your Stock Levels At All Times

In order to do inventory tracking right, you need to implement an efficient labeling system.  Barcode labels can track each item, from how much you have on-hand to where it’s located in your warehouse area. With one scan, you will know the product’s name, description, price, weight, dimensions, or other data important to you. sid-free-consultation-0516 Philippa Roberts knows this first-hand.  As business expanded, their handwritten labels left them scrambling for time.  Employees manually copied item data from an Excel spreadsheet to each label, which was slow and very inefficient, according to Adam Evans, Philippa Roberts’ jewelry production manager.  The handwritten labels didn’t represent the uniqueness and rapidly growing popularity of the brand.  Plus, they simply didn’t look professional, like the other retailers they encountered at trade shows. Now, since switching to an automated inventory labeling system, the company has seen a 20 percent increase in time saved preparing for tradeshows. They also store the prices and print them easily.   Young man working in a creative business looking at a wall chart

Fine-Tune Your Forecasting

Do you handwrite or key in your product information?  If so, you’re one of 43 percent of small businesses, like you, that still use these manual inventory processes or don’t track stock at all. This is both inaccurate and way too time consuming. I realize you might be a start-up or on the brink of expansion. And you might think you’re ‘not there, yet’. But just think, even the most experienced typist makes one error every 300 keystrokes. Over time, those blunders add up and translate into poor customer service.  Think about it. If you consistently mess up customer orders due to mismatched data or poorly maintained stock levels, especially during peak seasons, word travels fast. And a potential customer can find a similar item somewhere else—at the click of their mouse (and tell their friends not to do business with you, too). Further, when you project sales calculations for the coming year, it should be based on accurate historical sales figures, market trends, predicted growth, the economy, promotion/marketing efforts, etc.  Yes, an inventory management system can do all that and more. And a bonus is that reports you generate will be accurate in real-time, when and where you need them.

Know Your Customers

 They key to any successful business is superb customer service. To achieve this, you need to learn a vast amount of data about your customers on a regular basis. The following questions should drive your core business decisions. For example:
  • What products sell the best?
  • Who is buying the most?
  • Which are peak months, and which aren’t?
  • Do you have any repeat customers?
Not tracking this information is detrimental to your business growth. When you know your customers’ behavior, you can make more informed business decisions for the future. If you are a creative start-up or early in your business, the investment into an inventory management system not only keeps track of your items in stock, helps completely organize your business and keeps your focus where it needs to be, it also saves you a lot of time and money down the line.