The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how critical it is to have the right tech stack in place to enable business continuity - and even growth - during times of economic and social uncertainty. In particular, the sudden acceleration of eCommerce revealed to many Australian retailers the strengths and weaknesses of their current business systems.
One such small business, online retailer True Protein (“True”) was in the midst of preparing to implement a new ERP, an important step in their business growth strategy when the crisis hit. In June 2021, Annexa spoke with Lachlan Cornwell, True’s Chief Financial and Operations Officer (CFOO), about the learnings and insights he’s gained from heading up this project over the last 18 months, as well as the benefits the online retailer has reaped from their NetSuite ERP implementation.
Founded in 2014, True is a family-owned manufacturer and online retailer of health and wellbeing supplements, apparel and accessories. Based in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, True initially focused on the domestic Australian market, however, the team is now expanding internationally, most notably New Zealand and Asia, and more recently, the USA.
How did True respond to the COVID-19 crisis?
Speaking broadly, CFO Lachlan Cornwell identified two strategic options for businesses when faced with a watershed moment, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Option A is to take a defensive approach and measure success based on implementing a survival strategy to manage the crisis. Option B is more offensive and involves looking for short and medium-term opportunities to invest in new ideas, products and people in anticipation of a rapid upswing post-crisis.
“At True, we’re very much an Option B business, and one of the key catalysts for an Option B approach is being able to quickly access and disseminate information to our teams and leadership so that everyone can be part of the process and activate the strategy in an efficient and confident way,” explained Lachlan.
“So we really tried to involve all our staff in all the decisions we were making - taking suggestions, hints and advice from them. And I think that’s been a very positive way of dealing with the crisis.”
“One of the big questions for us was actually whether or not to continue with the implementation of NetSuite. But we surveyed our staff and they responded very positively, and because of that we were in a great position for what was ahead.”
How has NetSuite ERP benefited True?
- Time savings
One of the key benefits that Lachlan identified for his team was the time that they won back through having a single source of truth for data.
“The hours we used to dedicate to manual, menial tasks at month’s end, such as cash flow forecasting and supply chain analysis has been drastically reduced,” he said.
“That frees up the finance function to really assist with problem-solving and being a genuine partner with other parts of the business, whether that’s marketing, product development or warehouse.”
“We’re now able to provide strategic and innovative insights across our entire value chain and it’s really the ERP that’s allowing us to do that.”
- Data enablement
Closely related to the time savings is the data enablement that came with True’s new NetSuite ERP.
“NetSuite integrated beautifully with some of the other business systems we use,” explained Lachlan.
“And as an aggregator of data, it really moved us from a world where we lacked faith in certain information because of disparate systems, to a world where we’ve got great confidence about decision-making based on that single source of truth.”
“It allows me to connect managing a balance sheet with all the underlying operational activities, such as behaviours, people and the decisions they’re making to try and drive better financial outcomes,” he added.
What did you learn from your NetSuite implementation?
- Never make assumptions
“I think the number one learning with any business system implementation is to never make assumptions about its capability,” said Lachlan.
“Sometimes the simplest and most obvious benefits may not actually eventuate for you if you don’t scope out your project properly, think deeply about what you want the system to do, and get everyone’s buy-in on what you’re trying to achieve.”
- Have a partner you can trust
“It’s essential to have a partner that you really trust and who has the expertise to make the capabilities of a system come to life for you,” he continued.
“And that extends beyond just the implementation but also into the early live phase when teams are grappling with teething issues and new learnings.”
You need a partner that’s going to stand beside you and make the change a positive one for everyone in the business, and Annexa has very much played that role for us in this journey.”.
- Look towards the future
“My final advice would be to think beyond what your immediate requirements are and consider the next 5-10 years even,” said Lachlan.
“To really achieve sustainable long-term growth, you need to constantly look at different ways that you can punch above your weight, particularly in the online space. It’s very easy to go from being a market leader to a dinosaur if you’re not thinking two or three steps ahead.”
To learn more about the benefits and learnings that True Protein have taken from implementing NetSuite as their new ERP, take a look at their Netsuite implementation case study.
Annexa is a leading NetSuite partner with extensive experience designing and implementing comprehensive and customised business systems, including payroll solutions, financial management, warehouse management and ecommerce solutions.