Moving to the cloud sets the style for Stables

Clothing retailer Stables shifted core business processes to the cloud to stay on top of a rapidly growing small business.

Stables, a retail clothing store, cafe, and wholesale fashion distributor located in a multi-purpose space located in Sydney's Surry Hills, has been operating for almost four years. In that time, the business has grown from a team of three to nearly 20 staff members across various business arms.

Danny Sekulich
Danny Sekulich Image: Stables

The business needed to have systems in place that could adequately scale in line with its overall growth. According to co-founder and general manager Danny Sekulich, the MYOB and LightScale systems being used at the time simply couldn't keep pace.

"LightSpeed required an in-house server to run, and lacked the level of integration we wanted with Shopify and Xero," said Sekulich.

Sekulich said that MYOB was good enough when the business was just a three-man operation, but lacked the necessary features and integration points to fulfil the demands of a growing business.

The business began its move to the cloud for payroll, invoicing, and employee management. Sekulich said the move has saved the business five days and about AU$1,000 every month.

"Xero gives me and my team a live visual of our current position, as well as a better understanding of where we need to be on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. The whole team now has better knowledge of the accounting process, allowing the directors to focus their energy on generating revenue, while the stress of managing paperwork is taken care of by Xero.

"Ultimately, more detailed information resulted in better analytics for our forward planning," said Sekulich.

The result of the forward planning has been the rollout of Kounta POS for the cafe, Vend for the clothing store POS, Shopify e-commerce platform for the online store, the rollout of a customer loyalty program using Collect Rewards, MailChimp for its email marketing platform, and Timeline for managing customer bookings.

Sekulich said that the fact that these cloud-based tools seamlessly integrate with one another means they can communicate live with the finance department, as well as with their end consumers in a more direct way.

"It's allowed us to plan ahead as well as communicate with live data across all categories of the business. The combination of Vend, Shopify, and Xero gives us a sales chart that allows us to email invoices and receipts to both our wholesale database as well as end consumers.

"With tools like Timeline, we can build a customer relationship by having a client history on record, and automate client engagement initiatives like sending SMS messages to our customers on their birthday.

"At the other end, all of our finances are maintained through Xero. We use most its features, such as statements and aged reports for our wholesale accounts."

Sekulich said that having complete oversight of how much is coming in and going out of the business with live financial data has enabled Stables to avoid the common trappings of a growing small business.

"The main data that we draw is the live, historical, and forecast data that allows us to confidently track our current versus forecasted expenses. As a result, we have been able to address the impact of long-term expenses like staffing when the growth steadies."

Another benefit in adopting cloud technologies for core business operations is that Stables can now maintain both an online and retail database, so that customers and wholesalers alike can order from its online store at retail or wholesale price points, respectively.

Outside of the technological changes made throughout the business, Sekulich said that cultivating a strong staff culture has also played a pivotal role in managing the growth of the business effectively.

"Our motto is that a small retail concept doesn't need people with big corporate ideas, but instead people that are more community focused. Spend time discussing your business with your staff, and allow them to have a voice and some level of ownership of selected decisions."

So what advice would Sekulich give to other small businesses that are experiencing growth?

"We had to support the growth through personal financing, as banks and most lenders are generally not keen to support you unless you provide some level of security. A major change for us has been the evolution of what type of accounting and point-of-sale software we are using and how accurate the reporting has been," he said.

"Diversify your business so each revenue stream can feed the growth of each other. For example, hospitality could assist a wholesale buy and vice versa, while ensuring you don't waste time on either when the sales are not going well," he added.