When it comes to task management for your small to mid-sized business, don’t get so focused on sales that you neglect to add inventory monitoring and analysis to your “to do list.” Fail to acknowledge the value of this kind of protocol in a restaurant, for example, and you can wind up spending your hard-earned profit on food that spoils and winds up in the dumpster, not on the plate. The same is true for bar owners. Slack inventory management can leave your bottles dry when business peaks, or can have you paying for the wrong brands and categories that only gather dust on the shelf. Worse still, if bar inventory becomes too unmanageable; you could run afoul of state alcohol regulations and wind up in legal trouble. Businesses with alcohol licenses typically have to account for every bottle of booze they sell – and if they cannot keep track of their liquor inventory, they may fail an audit.

Even Wal-Mart, a giant when it comes to expert and agile inventory management, is not immune. Three years ago, according to an article in Forbes Magazine, “Wally World” managed to lose a whopping $3 billion due to out-of-stock products. At first glance, many business owners would assume that the source of the problem was not ordering enough merchandise to keep up with sales. Or you might suspect that vendors were at fault because of manufacturing, distribution, or shipping delays. But one of the most interesting lessons that can be learned from Wal-Mart’s problems was that it lost all that money because of out-of-stock merchandise while it simultaneously grew its inventory at a rate that outpaced sales. The inventory was there, Bloomberg News reported, but it just wasn’t where employees could get their hands on it fast enough.

Once you get your head around that puzzle it becomes glaringly obvious that no company – especially a small one with limited resources – can afford to do without excellent software that also encompasses the inventory workflow. You may have inventory in your back room or warehouse. But if it’s not easily accessible, identifiable, and ready to move, simply having inventory alone won’t save you from losing sales. Plus, while your employees are scrambling around to try to locate merchandise on the back end, customer service on the front end – at the all-important point of sale – suffers. Keep a customer waiting long enough, especially when the final outcome is that you must tell them their item is out of stock – and you risk losing that customer to your nearest competitor.

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Fortunately, there are many new and innovative software applications – including apps you can download and use from mobile devices – to eliminate all of your inventory and stocking headaches. You can find affordable programs designed as weekly to-do lists and online to-do lists that can have you managing inventory at multiple locations with less effort than you are now expanding to manage just one place of business. You can track orders, delivery confirmations, product categories, and barcodes, as well as management of merchandise once it’s inside your facility. Get it off the truck, on the shelf, and into your customer’s hands without wasting time or mismanaging your vital and valuable inventory or human resource assets. Best of all, do it at a price you can afford with apps that are easy-as-pie to download and use.