Taking your traditional business into the digital age

Constant innovation within a fast-paced market means competition is rife, and customer expectations are high. What’s more, technology is altering the face of every industry. As with previous generations of the Tusting family, we’ve been required to adapt to change, transforming our business operations to capitalise on the benefits of digital working.

Formed in 1875 by my great-great grandfather, Tusting began in the English leather and shoe trade, and since then we’ve spent 130 years grading and trading luxury leather goods. As the market evolved throughout the years, the tanning trade gravitated overseas, and our business had to adapt to keep pace. Now, we are fortunate enough to count members of the royal family as fans of our bags, and supply leather goods to high-end brands, such as Aston Martin.

Our business, like many others, has had to adapt to the digital revolution. Taking a traditional, family-run business digital is something we’ve successfully navigated and here I share my top five tips for other companies looking to do the same.

  1. Digitise your payment systems

For many businesses, managing payments can be stressful, particularly for those relying on paper-based records and invoices. This can act as a hindrance, as it drains both valuable staff time and resources. To streamline payments, improve cash flow and ensure better visibility of the day-to-day operations of the business, a holistic and centralised approach is preferable.

As our business operates internationally, we work with multiple currencies and rapidly fluctuating exchange rates. Using Greentree ERP software, we are able to ensure that each financial handler has the data for their job on a single dashboard. As a CEO, this simplifies matters for me, as I’m able to view up-to-date financial figures in real-time all in one place.

  1. Experience real-time stock and inventory tracking 

Without effective stock and inventory control, we wouldn’t be able to operate as effectively.

By having full visibility and control of materials in the supply chain, manufacturers can ensure that they buy only the amounts of raw materials they require, helping them make useful savings that can be invested elsewhere in their business. It also ensures that businesses always have the correct products in stock, which ultimately will help them to avoid a loss of revenue, or a damaged reputation.

In the past, we tracked our leather manually across multiple locations using hand produced records, which proved to be time-consuming and tedious. Since adopting digital working practices, we can locate our bags and leather stock in real-time, both internationally and locally in-factory. Live inventory tracking has been a crucial element of shipping items on time, and keeping ahead of the competition in a volatile economic climate.

  1. Invest in customer service

As our products are considered luxury gifts, and often constitute an indulgent purchase for many of our customers, they expect a level of customer service to match the product and the brand. Using our ERP software, we create customised alerts for our legacy customers and VIP orders to go the extra mile in customer care. When we receive a query from a customer, we can see their full purchasing history. This allows us to assist them in their next purchase or organise for a repair with ease. Getting customer service right will encourage customers to return and build a loyal fan base for your brand.

  1. Streamline your reports

Reporting should always be a help rather than a hindrance, and pulling a report could take up to three days for us in the past. Since embracing more digital ways of working, I can pull a month-end report in 30 minutes without the help of my accounts team.

Real-time business analysis saves valuable employee time, whilst data management systems ensure that operational decisions are well-informed and quick. We have personalised, intelligent dashboards for our employees in the accounts team. A system like this will provide your business with real-time information in a single place, allowing you to work more efficiently.

  1. Honour your heritage

Implementing digital working practices doesn’t have to disrupt the business. Modernising our business systems has allowed us to produce greater volumes of stock more quickly and effectively, without the quality of our products being compromised. If anything, ERP software has allowed us to maintain our status as a luxury brand by increasing our efficiency throughout the business. For traditional businesses, it’s possible to remain true to heritage, and most importantly your products, whilst welcoming change and updating your systems. In this way, you can empower your employees with the live data visibility they need to make informed business decisions.

Tusting has embraced various shifts in the market since it was formed over 130 years ago. As a family-oriented business, we have a workforce whose ancestors have worked with us for generations and have experienced these shifts with us, and we will continue to welcome change in order to grow and prosper. Further change is imminent, and businesses should embrace digitisation to remain competitive, whilst ensuring they are meeting ever-changing customer expectations.

By Alistair Tusting, owner and CEO at Tusting, a producer of high quality British leather goods