• United States

Business software upgrade lessons

Jul 21, 20034 mins
ERP SystemsNetwork SecuritySmall and Medium Business

Everest accounting software keeps Animalmania from getting shortchanged on guppies.

If your idea of bliss means easy online ordering of hairy tarantulas, then Animalmania is for you. Mike Pata founded the company (located at in 1992, and along with 10 employees manages 9,000 creatures and supplies for his retail and wholesale business in south Florida.

Two years ago, Animalmania outgrew QuickBooks Pro accounting software and a custom FoxPro sales application. Pata needed one product to link his inventory to his catalog to his Web page. Pata learned about Icode’s Everest Standard Edition  accounting software from the technician hired to install new office computers.

Icode positions Everest as a “mini-ERP” package, providing enterprise resource planning tools to small businesses. Pricing starts at $1,463 per user and can increase to $3,500 per user with additional features. You can also lease the software for $43 per user, per month for 60 months.

Pata’s move to Everest – though bumpy – offers lessons for how to upgrade and improve technology without expanding beyond your comfort zone. First, the two things Pata wished he’d done differently: take the training and upgrade sooner.

“I played with the demo program for a month and thought I knew it. But I really wasn’t prepared,” he says. Small businesses often skip training because they can’t afford the cost or the time away from the office. But far too often that’s a penny wise but pound-foolish attitude. Training would have helped Pata prepare to do business in the structured manner the new software demanded. While large companies spend millions forcing vendors to fit their applications to their processes, small ones often resist new technology because they can’t find software that “fits” their ways.

As a result, small businesses develop and rely on a kludgy mix of software and manual processes that limit growth. To expand, they need help learning new processes and become better organized. But such changes take time. In Pata’s case, for two months he did twice the work by running the new and old business processes in parallel to verify the new one worked properly.

Pata also regrets waiting so long. QuickBooks did a great job for payroll and basic accounting, but had he upgraded sooner, Pata could have saved hours each day fighting exceptions to QuickBooks and the sales software to accommodate customers, and answering staff questions because only he understood the overall business picture. Buried in details, Pata never knew why he didn’t make more money. And QuickBooks didn’t provide the depth of information he needed to get the answer.

In the end, all the effort and growing pains were worth it. After six months, the new software worked great, and “now it’s second nature,” he says.

Everest software forced Pata’s employees to balance inventory in and sales out. Mismatches must be explained by shrinkage or mortality, a real problem for businesses handling live animals. Analysis reports showed Pata made more money buying farm-raised Clownfish for $8 each rather than wild ones for $5 each, because the farm-raised ones survived longer in captivity.

Everest software also showed Pata that he was routinely shorted hundreds of guppies per bag. They come 1,000 to a bag, but Everest’s analysis and inventory in vs. sales out tracking reports showed suppliers used “new math” to call a bag of 600 guppies 1,000. Pata changed suppliers, and guppies became profitable again.

Everest has also helped streamline the selling processes. The online catalog produced by Everest software comes directly from Pata’s inventory, so to promote a product all he does is plug in a picture. Inventory, shipping and invoicing happen in one process. Pata has even integrated an outside cricket vendor into the system so orders to get drop-shipped automatically.