Are you poised to revolutionize your lighting showroom with the power of data and robust ERP systems? We'll delve into the data consistency, examining its need to keep up with the ever-evolving industry standards. Information overload or the lack thereof can be an issue, but what if you had an abundance of searchable and sortable data at your fingertips? What would productivity gains mean to you and your staff? And how do we even quantify our losses due to bad data? The opportunities for improvement are many -- what steps is your showroom taking to update your procedures and deal with your data infrastructure?
This week's episode is sponsored by Zastro. Be sure to listen for their exclusive offer for LWL listeners! For more on Zastro and their illumiNet solution, visit: https://zastro.com/illuminet. To set up a demo, please email Heather Mestad.
Hello and welcome fellow lighting nerds and friends to another episode of a lighting with Lisa, the podcast. This week we're sponsored by Zastro. I have so much more information about them upcoming, along with a special offer just for our podcast listeners. So stay tuned for that. I can't wait to talk about it with y'all. So this episode sort of in honor of our sponsor, but that was kind of an accident. So I love it when a thing unintentionally comes together. But my topic planned for this episode was the importance of data, data consistency and systems in a lighting showroom. I've long time listeners of the podcast will know this is like a near and dear topic to my heart. My background in life, well before I entered the lighting showroom business, was in database management and I kind of love it. But like I'm a procedures girlie, like I really can get nerdy over like processes and procedures and in many businesses like all of them not just lighting showrooms, but that's what we're here to talk about Data is so, so critical to our success and has become increasingly more so I mean not shockingly given the world that we live in, but it's just so, so integral to how we operate on a daily basis. So I spent a lot of time thinking about it and thinking about ways to improve it and how to better work with, like the data sources that we have, and you know where, where do we go from here. So I just have kind of have some general thoughts on this that I wanted to talk about in this podcast and would definitely love to hear your takes in, your feedback, on some of the things I'm gonna mention, and then we can do a deeper dive on a future podcast. Before I get too far into the episode, though, I do want to remind y'all of the three Facebook groups that are associated with lighting with Lisa. So the first is the fixture finder page, which I started way back in lighting showroom coalition days, and then I turned that over to the LSA and then, as the LSA is exiting the week, kind of all just agreed I would still maintain it. So it's there now. If Facebookcom slash groups slash lighting fixture, help for that page. It's super, super, super useful and full of great ideas, so I appreciate everyone being a part of that page. There's also the industry job board. That's the same star at Facebookcom slash groups, slash lighting jobs and the name of that group. If you just want to search. It is residential lighting industry job board. And then the last group is the private group. That really is the support group of this podcast, in that it's where you can go to give me feedback on an episode or suggest a topic or answer one of the polls. You know I love a poll. You know it's just a good way to kind of get like top line information from y'all about what is critical to you or your business or, you know, sometimes we'll just do fun ones, but anyway, that's the group. Is Facebookcom slash groups, slash lighting showrooms and that's LWL dash lighting showrooms is the group. Please join us there. I'll have the links to all of these in the show notes for today, along with a link to our sponsor. So the thing with data in our beloved lighting and fan industry still is just a lack of consistency. Now I know there is the ALA format for data that I know most manufacturers used or probably still use, and I have an honest question about that. This would definitely be. You know, let me know. The spot Is the ALA format. Has it been updated recently for like LEDs and like to show if something is integrated or socketed? I really don't know. I haven't seen like the template in a lot of years. Somebody had forwarded it to me a while back, but that was a couple of years ago and I'm just not sure, just honestly, how often the ALA format is updated. If it's updated recently, that would be amazing, because there are just some things that are coming up now that obviously didn't exist. Again, the integrated versus socketed, what you know, a lot of the fixtures that are socketed, the ratings are shifting because of the full on ban on incandescent light bulbs. Like you don't have to put a socket rated for 100 watts in there anymore, anyway, so some of that shifting too. So it just is an ever evolving need for us that our data standards keep up with like the realities, like even things like whether a fan is an AC motor or DC motor, like sometimes that's identified, sometimes it isn't, but like that's something that like sorry for all the fan listeners, like for many of us in showroom world, that wasn't something that was in a topic of conversation until like five years ago or so, like where we would really kind of highlight the difference between, like, an AC motor and a DC motor. Five years maybe is too short of a timeframe, but just drawing on my best experience, anyway, and now it's like something we're talking about all the time. So the data definitely has to keep up with where we're at in terms of products and selling and what we have on display, and just oftentimes it seems like it doesn't all go together. Somebody had commented on that Facebook group. I just mentioned that. Basically, the issue is there's either too much information or not enough, and I always am fully on the side of give me too much information, but I like it to be like sortable or searchable, like. If you're going to overload me with data, fine, but let me like then pull out the pieces I need Like. Oftentimes I find these things are just like huge data strings and it's hard to pull out what you want and when and why. It just can be such a challenge. So I, again, I always say too much is better than not enough. But yeah, there is frequently not enough Like and I, you know again, longtime listeners will know my constant complaints about like product imagery or linking to factory spec sheets and things like that that are frequently not available for a while, sometimes ever. You know it can just be really, really frustrating in the showroom, even within one manufacturer, like there's going to be some products that you have an excellent amount of data on and can see everything you need to know, and then in that same brand, you'll have something else that doesn't have any of the details and you're like frantically hunting around for something in front of a customer. But it was there on this item but not on that. It's just. It can be very, very challenging. So just more consistency. And again, I always say more is better and then I can filter out the things that I don't need. But if I don't have it, I can't even I don't even have the opportunity to filter them out. And in the world we live in, there is just more data than ever to manage. Like, if you just think about it, it's not just like your product database, it's your customer database, it's your inventory database, it's your everything. There is just so much more to keep up with and all of our emails and your customer emails and your marketing campaigns, like there's just a ton and like even more so than I mean just honestly, even like 15 years ago, if you think about how much more we're doing on the computers with our data than we ever did before in trying to find ways to like, drill into that data to become more and more successful? And then, when you don't have the ability to do so, how do you measure those costs? Like, how do you measure your real costs of bad data? And I feel like, intuitively, we all know Bad data is costing us. We know it, but it's hard to quantify that on a global level for your business like. I've spent probably way more hours than I need to Thinking about this and trying to figure out, like, how can I quantify what this is costing me Because I want to do this and that and the other, but like, is this really an expense to the level I think it is in my blowing something out of proportion? You know, whenever I'm trying to make a decision for a business, I really try to come at it, as I know most of us do, from like a fact based perspective. I don't want to just like make assumptions and make a business decision off of that, but how do you even accurately measure the cost of bad data? Like, aside from sort of the obvious issues like where you have to honor a pricing mistake or or else, so you know, if you don't honor, like a pricing mistake because you weren't appropriately notified of a price increase and a customer comes in and you're, you know, haven't, didn't know there was a price change, or you just found out about the price change in the tag in your store hasn't changed and the price went up and your tags wrong. I mean you are gonna lose revenue honoring the price of that mistake, or you run the risk of generating ill will or a bad Google review if you're just like no, it was a mistake, I'm not gonna honor that. You know, I think most of us Default to that. You know customers always write mindset where like yeah, I know it's costing me, but I'm not gonna like pick a fight over this, I'm just gonna honor my mistake and try to move on. But it costs. Every time that happened it costs and that's probably about the only time we can really quantify it. But what other costs are associated with bad data or a system that isn't working for you? Like, are you just losing out in functionality? Are you like not able to track things like the way you might want to with your customers, or follow up with them, or Track your shipping and delivery? You know there's all these little components to data. That's not just like the data files from our manufacturer partners, it's all this other stuff that comes together to and trying to Quantify, like what your losses are, what your costs are, by something just being like, actually incorrect again, whether that's the data feed from the manufacturer, or bad customer email addresses or bad customer mailing addresses and the invoice goes to the wrong place or the email address is wrong and the AR people can't get it. You know, just like there's any number of things that cost us all money and it's just really hard to quantify, and I just think it's so important for all of us to really take a step back and look at all of our data systems and how they might be working or not working and the data feed, the product data feeds from our manufacturers. However, you get that information, whether it's like direct from the manufacturer through a third party service. It just needs to be better and better all the time and it just kind of seems like it's not and it is just such a challenging part of what we do. It's not really a set it and forget it kind of thing. It's something that we need to go back and review all the time and again. All of these things Are costly and there are time consuming and requires a lot of manpower and you know, that's kind of where I think the data gets to where it gets in our industry and it is just a costly, time consuming thing to get right. But once if we can work better on getting it right like from the jump, then we're all going to be so much more better off and potentially have less like loss and costs associated with bad data files or bad data feeds or missing information. It's the missing information for me that really, really kills me. It just can be such a waste of a sales person's time tracking down information that should have just been there. It shouldn't be such a headache to go find this answer to this question. I in it can really just like drive a person nuts. So Let me shift here to talking about our sponsor for this episode, which is Zastro. If you have never heard of Zastro, I must add this little disclaimer at the top that I am a recent new customer of theirs. Zastro is a. They provide like ERP software all based on the Oracle NetSuite platform. I didn't realize it at first, but a lot of the lighting industry, especially our manufacturer partners, use NetSuite, so I don't know where they have it all licensed through. But if you start paying attention, you realize how many emails you get that say something about NetSuite in them. But anyway, zastro has developed the NetSuite platform with their Illuminat program. I don't know what the right way to say that is, but long story short, it is an enhancement for lighting showrooms and the lighting industry specifically. So it takes this like kind of general massive program that can be customized for whatever you need and they've done all the groundwork to customize it for lighting, the lighting industry, lighting showrooms particularly. That's the Illuminat platform. You can learn more about that on their website zastrocom slash Illuminat. They integrate fully with Lights America the weekly updates from Lights America. If you're a Lights America customer you know that they push out their updates every Monday. That is all like fully integrated. You can get your showroom labels like reprinted that morning. Get them up. They will monitor that. You can have NetSuite set up to monitor if you've met a free freight threshold with the manufacturer. So maybe you normally look through your orders like whatever days per week. You know like you have free freight day on Wednesday or whatever. But maybe somebody placed a large order and you met your freight minimum on a Tuesday and normally you wouldn't have even checked to see if you were able to order eligible to order free freight from a manufacturer on a Tuesday. But this system, via zastro, will notify you of that so you can go ahead and get your free freight orders placed earlier, quickly and do that all important thing of fulfilling orders faster, because that is just a huge part of what our customers want these days. You know, thank you Amazon, but it is, and we all know it. So any little tool we can have in our own tool bags to make that work better is just tremendous. So they have this fan. It's just a net suite program is like so massive and it can do so much so it would be really hard to like take this on like individually. So having this framework in place and knowing the industry is a really critical part of what Zastro does and it's been really great so far for me. I'm still in the implementation phase, but they net suite integrates with whatever e-commerce you might use Amazon, shopify, woocommerce, bigcommerce, whatever others. There's just a lot of flexibility and usability here. If you've never checked out the program, I would highly recommend scheduling a demo. You're going to want to contact Heather at Zastro. Her email is Heather at Zastro. Z A S T R O dot com. If you mentioned that you were referred by the lighting with Lisa podcast during your demo, if you elect to sign up, you're going to get a $500 credit on your first, on your first invoice, just for being a listener of the podcast and for checking out the program, and then, if you elect to become a customer, you're going to get $500 off your first invoice. So please do check it out If you haven't. Thank you, zastro, for sponsoring podcast. We super appreciate you. So back on to my systems, data and systems topic. The other thing I was thinking about with this is productivity and how, having a database system that has like quirks and things we all like learn to live with them right, and every system is going to have a thing right Like I don't think the Holy Grail exists out there. Everything's going to have its own like issues. You just want to find the fit for your business that has the least amount of issues. And I just realized with what we were using the productivity are still using, productivity is kind of slow for us because of, like just how the platform is set up. It's not a bad program at all. It's just we spend so much time honestly entering passwords in over and over to grant us the specific access level for looking at this or doing that within our system. I think if I put a time clock on how many times a day I enter my password and figured out the math on that, I mean it would be. I feel like days a year I spend just typing in a password, which is really just kind of excessive. So the other part for me, with good data and again having all of the data and having it be clean and accurate and up to date with how we work in today's world the other part of that that I think we is hard to quantify, but it's that productivity piece that is such a challenge in our industry because again we've learned to live with the workarounds, the incorrect data, this and that. But I just it like makes my heart hurt every time. I think about a missed sale of a phone call that carried on too long, a customer not getting what they want when they wanted it and not being able to reach out to this other customer because we had to spend so much time finding this issue for this customer or entering their order order and the password 25 times. You know, just like these little losses and productivity, I think can really have such an impact on our bottom line and it is so hard to quantify. This is like just a pattern I've noticed in my business. I'm not sure, I'm not sure, like, how to solve all of these problems, but I have identified that this pattern exists and I really it's a commitment of mine going into next year, especially as, like, the economy is looking a bit softer, it's a presidential election year, there's no politics here on lighting with Lisa, but who the heck knows what's going on with all that, then all the other conflict in the world that is just so heartbreaking to see and hear about. So who knows what's up for us in 2024. And as an industry, I feel like it could go a million different ways. So by kind of paying attention really in depth to all these patterns I've been noticing it's really kind of what led me to believe it was time for my business for a change, because I did like the loss and productivity, the, this, the that, the not being able to have. We don't have currently a great like CRM management, and I definitely want to be better at that. I think it's going to become more and more vital that we're able to track our interactions with customers and potential customers instead of it just being kind of like haphazard. So that's been like a really, really big key to me when I think about data and systems. And then you know, I think all of us like, honestly, here I'm just gonna, this is my. There's my hot take for today. Who doesn't love QuickBooks? Really, it's so easy to use, like I love it, love it, it does things reasonably well, like it's such a great crutch or tool to use in like managing a small business, like love it. But what I've realized is, even though it's like a lower price and works great, I don't think it keeps up with the current business structure that I have at my showroom. My current business structure is well different than what it was when I started and although I name-drop QuickBooks, we don't really use them at my store but I have used them in many other capacities and it's a great little software tool. I know a bunch of lighting showrooms that do still use it for a big portion of what they do but it's kind of like a legacy software program that isn't customized for what we do and doesn't really keep up with how I believe many of our businesses currently operate and I believe that is at our own expense and it doesn't really feel like it. It seems like everything's working just fine but then when you realize that again the productivity loss, the having to like double enter things or copy something from here and put it there because they don't integrate, it's just all these little things, while none of them are particularly very hard or time consuming I think if you add them up like my little password entry, I think if you add them up, you'll realize that you're actually really spending a lot of time doing work that isn't moving your business forward. And we want to have tools that move our businesses forward and make us more efficient and more effective, like having good data on all fronts inventory, customer records, billing, financials. Having good data is like just a critical infrastructure piece for all of us. Do we all kind of wish it could be simpler and just handwriting tickets and just going to the warehouse and pulling it and delivering it and being done Like, yeah, like it to some degree? That was an easier, simpler time and there's a lot to recommend about working that way. I'm not gonna lie, but I just think, for being forward thinking and like the whole mission here of this lighting with Lisa and this revamped podcast, and everything else I'm doing is to really think about where we are now in the future and how do we move into our industry future collectively and find successes for all of us. And that's where this data topic keeps coming back up for me, not just in the product data you know that I've harped on probably endlessly but in all of these other components of data in our systems and how we use that data. It just becomes ever clearer to me that it's such a critical part of how we operate and I don't know that we all pay enough attention to that or understand quite how damaging it can be to not have great resources and systems and procedures in place. And you know, what's also often overlooked with data and data systems and this has become recently important to me, not with my database change but with other issues I've had in store is having great service to back up your data system. So, like whoever you partner with to provide your like ERP software, your computer systems, your IT support, having excellent service from those people is so, so invaluable. Because I tell you what, when you come into work and the store is supposed to open and your software cannot be accessed, you're totally locked out of it through no fault of your own. Like having service in that situation is so important, especially as, like the business owner or manager, and you just like feel the money rushing out the door because you can't process sales or you can't deliver product or you can't help a customer because you don't have access to anything, like it's just like there's nothing that makes me wanna just run down the street screaming. More than that, it's so, so frustrating. So, not only just having great systems with good data in them, but then having good service, so that when there's an issue oh my gosh, so, so vital and I didn't fully appreciate that always until, like the past, maybe couple of years this has become kind of more of an issue for me and I've absolutely made some changes so that we have the service to back up our, the software we use. It's just so so critical to me and our business. So anyway, that's my rundown on data for this go round. Again. I wanna thank our sponsor one more time, that is Zastro. Please reach out to Heather for a demo of their product. Heather, at ZastroZASTROcom, I mentioned that you were sent here from the Lighting with Lisa podcast. They will give you a $500 credit on your first invoice if you elect to move forward with them as a customer. But do check out everything that they have to offer, even just seeing what's available out there, even if it's not something you wanna do at this time. I did my first demo with Zastro probably like three years ago and everything just kind of came together to make it make sense for me to change our ERP system and to move over to NetSuite. And just so you know because I had to Google it like five times ERP is enterprise resource planning, which just means it's connectivity software to integrate your planning, your inventory, sales, marketing, financials, human resources and more, and you can do all that with the Zastro NetSuite platform. And I appreciate you all so much for sponsoring this and future episodes of Lighting with Lisa. Thank you so much for listening everyone. Until next time, take care.