Thinking About Buying a Shop Management System?Posted 7/15/2005
By Rick Spahn
In 1982, I purchased a TRS-80 RadioShack computer, along with the best accounting software offered with it at the time. I wanted to automate some of the time-consuming paperwork tasks associated with the daily operation of my shop. I was spending at least two hours every day on bookkeeping, managing inventory and keeping track of customer records.
Soon after purchasing the computer, I discovered the importance of selecting the right software to actually perform these tasks. Armed with the best that technology had to offer, I was now spending at least three hours a day trying to make the software perform the routine tasks I did manually. Not exactly what you would call making progress and achieving my goals to spend more time with my family or build the business.
When shop owners ask me about the issues to consider before purchasing shop management software, I always ask them about their business goals, shop needs and what they want to accomplish. For example, Dick Zaagman of Community Automotive in Grand Rapids, Mich., wanted seamless integration with Activant and World Pac to bring parts and labor up quickly on the invoice. He also wanted the ability to set up and search generic parts, in addition to having customized job kits come up automatically. Having his inventory integrate with electronic catalogs and online purchasing was also a major requirement for his business.
Jack Flick of Qyst Tire Centers owns three locations in the Philadelphia suburbs and needed the ability to share a common customer base and real-time transfer of inventory between shops. Jack also wanted a software solution that could be customized to the way he ran the business. He wanted the software to be bug free and to offer fast and simple invoicing, along with reports that would show what was going right and wrong in his business. The No. 1 criteria he had for selecting a company to provide his software was, "The people behind the software should be better than the software itself."
Evaluating shop management software can be a lot like comparing that old TSR-80 to a modern PC. Both are computers, but there is a huge difference in how they operate and the tasks they can perform. Remember that shop management software is a tool and the features offered are the means in which you can accomplish the goals of your shop. That is why it is important to know what your needs are. Are you a shop with multi locations? Look for software that allows for a smooth system between shops. Your software should be able to be customized so that it can be adapted to the way you operate your business. Last but not least, make sure the company provides a high level of support, and you can actually talk to a real person when you call in with a problem.
Allow me to close by finishing the story that opened this editorial. After several months of struggling with the RadioShack software, I developed a custom program to address the needs of my shop and reduced the time required to perform the routine tasks to just 20 minutes per day. This program was the right tool for the job because it had the features needed for my business. Use AutoInc.'s Software Guide to steer you to the right software for your business needs.
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