Over the past few months I’ve gotten more involved in the actual conversion process between TBA and Lizzy due to the time it was taking to get dealers converted. Our original intent was to convert our dealers over from the old TBA system to Lizzy with the click of a button. However, we knew we didn’t want to bring across any junk from the old system because Lizzy is much more capable of organizing and presenting the data. We deal with these same issues when converting any system over to Lizzy and we’re very particular about what we bring across and what we don’t. We were more hopeful with TBA though because we knew it inside and out. We thought we could work through most issues and save a lot of time switching each of our dealers over. It turns out we were very wrong and in this blog entry I want to not only walk you through the process in detail, but also by using a real life example, demonstrate just how smoothly a conversion CAN go IF the proper personnel put forth the faith and effort required. Our real life example is Lifestyle Cycles out of Los Angeles, CA. We went on-site to personally supervise the conversion and because of their super pro-active participation and willingness to embrace the new processes and capabilities that Lizzy presents. If this is something you would like to see with YOUR conversion to Lizzy then please, read on.
The first step towards getting any dealer converted over to Lizzy is organizing the information they currently have in their old system and determining what we’re going to bring across and what we’re not. This takes a considerable amount of time because very few dealerships actually use 100% of any system they have. As a result they might have been ordering their parts from it, but maybe they were not receiving them. Or maybe they received but didn’t pay their bills through it. So far there has been a break down in almost every single dealership we’ve converted. This goes with TBA customers, Lightspeed customers and any other business system out there where we are gathering information from one system to move over to another.
The next issue that seems to always come up is the “I had no idea I had that.” syndrome. Dealers performing inventory and finding things they didn’t know they had, or things they thought they were out of and had more than enough. The list is long of these types of issues and a simple conversion from one system to another electronically doesn’t bring them to light. This demonstrates WHY it is SO important for a dealer to review their converted data IMMEDIATELY! If this is not done then a ton of time is wasted after the fact correcting the data while still trying to conduct day-to-day business.
I could probably go on for an hour with all the scenarios that seem to play out during these conversions but the point of this blog is to demonstrate just how smoothly a conversion from one business system to another CAN go IF the dealer’s personnel are willing to completely embrace the new processes and willing to put forth the effort required UP FRONT. The conversion itself went very quickly and the team at Lifestyle Cycles was awesome to work with. Read on so that you can judge for yourself the benefits.
The first and most important step to having a successful conversion is for the owner of the dealership to take a stake in what is happening. Junior at Lifestyle Cycles did just that. He stayed on top of every aspect of what was going on, stayed involved in what his employees were doing and got involved to answer his employees questions himself where he could and involved us in the process only when he wasn’t sure of how to respond. This attitude allowed him to learn the system very quickly and for his people to see the importance of what was going on. I can not stress enough just how big of a roll this played in the success of the conversion. Dealerships NOT taking this approach take forever to get converted and the end result is almost always less than great.
So from the very moment we decided to go out to California, Junior had his employees watching videos, learning the system and preparing their specific departments for the processes that were coming. He stayed in touch with us and made a list of things he saw as problems and areas we needed to address before we ever arrived onsite. He checked his parts imports to insure they came across OK and that his customers and vendors were loaded and accurate. We decided early on that no inventory was going to be brought across because he wanted Lizzy to be 100% accurate and plans had been made already to have people there with scanners to start doing inventory the day we arrived.
The point to this step is that someone at the dealership who has authority has to step up and take the lead. It is not a good thing to have 4 people in the dealership doing 4 different things with no one giving direction. These types of conversions will take forever and there is no unity in the final product. If you want a very quick successful conversion from any system to Lizzy, assign someone to be the leader and make sure that everyone gets their part done in a timely manner.
Before you get started doing the conversion you should have already had your customers, part numbers, suppliers, employees and any other basic information entered into the system. This is critical to a successful conversion because it allows you to focus on entering the information necessary to run the business into the system instead of having to add a supplier every time you go to order a part.
We have also taken the time to document the specific order in which you want to enter your data and it is CRITICAL that you follow those guidelines. Plan your conversion processes around our suggestions and you’ll have a successful switch. If you don’t listen to us, well, then, prepare for the storm.
The people at Lifestyle Cycles took the bull by the horns and each person embraced the change and got going. When we arrived on Saturday, everyone was prepared to work as long as they needed, and believe me, they did just that! We got started with entering their open purchase orders and they already had them printed out and ready to enter. They had them grouped together between ordered but not received and ones they had not ordered yet. This allowed them to enter them exactly as they were in the old system and got things going very quickly. Handling purchase orders in this way also insured that only accurate information was added and not old things that needed to be cleaned up. It also eliminated all the review time it would have taken to try to clean up the old system since we only brought good things across and could just ignore everything else.
After the first hour or so they were able to start entering their open service tickets and special orders. They assigned a couple people to do those jobs, and again, within only a few hours they had them all entered into the system. Once they had entered the things with open parts attached and allowed Lizzy to automatically attach them to the open PO’s they entered in the beginning, they were ready to actually get started using the system. Manually entering the information also serves as a very good initial training because instead of waiting on customers to come in to learn how to create a new invoice, they can do it on their own time and ask questions without having a customer looming over their heads.
We worked pretty late into Sunday morning and one thing that got a little frustrating that I wouldn’t suggest doing again, is that they had decided they were going to open to customers on Sunday. It was surprising how busy they were all day and it ate into some of the training we were planning to do. In the end it didn’t effect anything at all and things flowed pretty smoothly. We did decide by the end of the day though that a computer running Windows XP that only had 512mb of RAM wasn’t really a good thing, so we upgraded some of their hardware Sunday night and Monday morning. We also decided that outside of a computer that actually worked, the monitors were a pretty important aspect of being successful. They originally had tiny monitors on some of the computers and we upgraded them to larger 19″ flat screen models which made a world of difference.
In the end, these simple upgrades made the employees much happier with their day and the overall operation improved. It was very nice to see an owner willing to invest in his company to make it more successful and I’m more than positive that by the time we left his business was much more successful.
Junior had scheduled help with his inventory and hired a few guys to come in and scan items into hand held scanners that we then used to transfer into Lizzy. This allowed them to quickly scan entire shelves in only a few minutes and to my amazement they had successfully completed their inventory of over 6000 items in just 2 days. These people worked VERY hard to complete this difficult task! However, in just 4 days, Lifestyle Cycles went from using a system they were very displeased with to Lizzy who had all of their data perfectly stored and ready to go. It was impressive to watch.
One thing Lifestyle Cycles does more than most any other dealership we have is sell Consignment units. I would guess about 60% of their business is dealing with Consignment units and this honestly makes things a bit easier to deal with from a data entry perspective because they didn’t have to create very many purchase orders to receive units against. However, at the end of the day, major units are one of those things you don’t have to have 100% done the first day in order to successfully use the system. As long as you know how to get them entered in order to sell one, its all that really has to happen. I’m not saying its cool to take 2 months entering them, but that a week or two is not going to kill anyone.
Just like everything else, the team at Lifestyle Cycles jumped on them and had them all entered into Lizzy within 2 days. In fact, they were actually selling bikes out of Lizzy on Sunday and had everything figured out by Tuesday when we left. Junior and his staff at Lifestyle Cycles were really on top of the entire thing; they wanted to learn the new system, they were asking questions about things that surprised us and overall just rocked it! I hope that we can take what we learned while working with these guys and apply it 1000 more times with the rest of you because it really does make a difference. As an example, on Sunday the first customer came in to by a consignment unit and instead of Junior asking me to help the employee, he jumped right in the middle and taught the employee himself and let me watch. This insured that he knew what needed to be done, showed the employee that it was important to do it right and to understand it and showed me that he’d been listening after all.
In closing I can not stress how impressed I was that Junior, the owner of Lifestyle Cycles, dug in with the entire team and got his hands dirty. He helped enter data and wanted to make sure he fully understood everyone’s job so that he could make sure things were getting done correctly. It wasn’t at all that he micro-managed everything or that he even wanted to be involved in doing everyone else’s job, but that he wanted to understand what was involved in case problems came up. I would also argue that this is the single most important aspect to convincing the employees how important it is to do things right. After all, if the owner doesn’t do it right then why should they?
So, a special thanks to Junior and his team for giving us one of the most successful conversions I’ve ever been a part of.