BizSlate Part 2: In Conversation with BizSlate CEO Marc Kalman

Last week in the TEC blog we talked about up-and-coming Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider BizSlate Inc. The company offers small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) in distribution- and retail-centric environments a solution for managing customers, vendors, orders, inventory, logistics, and supply chains. To further discuss BizSlate’s ERP philosophy and product offering, we spoke to BizSlate CEO Marc Kalman, an experienced business leader and supply chain expert who has been recognized as a leading authority in the supply chain space. (Kalman has been included as one of the top supply chain professionals in the country by Supply and Demand Chain Executive magazine for the past five years!)

TEC: Of your multiple main product capabilities, what has been a door-opening feature, and what has been selling best of late?
MK: We are just kicking off our first production release of BizSlate v1.0, and there are two functions in particular that are quickly becoming very popular. The first one enables users to rapidly enter new products into BizSlate, which is particularly useful for businesses that have hundreds and in some cases thousands of products. As an example, one of our footwear clients entered over 300 new pairs of shoes into BizSlate in about four minutes.

The second attention getter is BizSlate’s fast and easy order management process. The process is so quick and simple, users are able to access BizSlate on iPads and laptops from their trade show booths, providing the ability to enter sales orders into their live ERP while customers are standing in front of them. They can also access real-time inventory on the fly, thus ensuring they are accurately promising delivery of merchandise. This is done directly in the ERP without the need of synchronizing disparate applications. By improving accuracy of inventory and eliminating the need for pad and pen, BizSlate has been proven to reduce order processing time by as much as 50 percent.

figure-4_bizslate_kalman_small.pngTEC: What else is in your “secret sauce” and what is your ideal customer profile?
MK: BizSlate’s ideal customers are small distribution businesses—up to $200 million (USD) in revenue, with an expectation that most of our customers will be below $50 million (USD) in revenue. They sell products and services to large retail chains and department stores, specialty shops and boutiques, and direct to consumer. They span such industries as footwear, apparel, and consumer goods. These businesses face considerable operational problems on a daily basis due to a lack of adequate ERPs designed for small businesses. Our initial focus covers businesses in the United States and Canada.

What makes BizSlate unique starts with our management team’s experience and core understanding of small distribution supply chains. We are fortunate enough to have this complimented by the guidance of our customer steering committee. Unlike most ERP vendors that start as accounting packages and work into the supply chain based on old school methodologies, BizSlate starts from the supply chain and operations side and works inward. We are challenging every outdated assumption of ERP software and blending extreme power and efficiency with ease-of-use, affordability, and mobility.

TEC: As a corollary, what is typically the reason that you lose to your competitors?
MK: BizSlate is brand new -- we just released version v1.0. We do not yet have the breadth of functionality that our long-time competitors have. That said, the features we have developed are unique and disruptive. Feature by feature, function by function, we are improving efficiency and reducing data entry by as much as 90 percent. We have had great success demonstrating and communicating that message. Businesses see the difference and have selected BizSlate over several of the leading competitors.

TEC: How extensive is your partner ecosystem?
MK: As a new SaaS ERP to the Marketplace, our partner ecosystem has yet to mature. Due to the uniqueness of BizSlate’s user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), power and efficiency, and supply chain and operations focus, we are rapidly developing key traditional channels with a growing list of value added resellers (VARs) and independent software vendors (ISVs). We are also having early success with two unique channel partners that I prefer not to disclose at this time. I expect that channel relationships will be an important part of BizSlate’s rapid growth over the coming years.

TEC: Which regions and industry segments have been most active of late? What do you foresee in 12 to 18 months, more of the same or not?
MK: I feel we are at the cusp of a wave where SMBs will leverage SaaS for core systems such as ERP.  It just makes sense for small businesses to take advantage of hosted multi-tenant solutions where possible. Small distribution businesses are hungry for good systems that solve real problems. BizSlate solves real supply chain and operational problems, and it is my belief that we will gain rapid adoption across the United States and Canada, and eventually globally.

TEC: What are the evident remaining white spaces (functional gaps) in your suite and how do you plan to fill them?
MK: ERP is a continuous development project, particularly at this early stage for BizSlate. Our focus today is a strong and powerful foundation that we can build from, similar to the way one would build a skyscraper. Our core system remains true to our mission of coupling ease-of-use with power and efficiency. We are first addressing the real problems SMBs face in their operations and supply chain, and that seem to have been overlooked by other ERP systems. Our core system helps SMBs improve management of customers, vendors, orders, inventory, and logistics. In addition to core operational capabilities, 2013 development will include an e-commerce add-on as well as the start of our advanced logistics module.

TEC: Have you seen any recent changes in buyer/user adoption and buying attitudes? For example, who are your advocates and decision-makers at prospective customers’ organizations?
MK: Small distribution businesses are hungry, eagerly waiting for a solution provider to come in and actually solve their real problems in supply chain and operations. Combining this with the fact that more SMBs are trusting SaaS for core system capabilities, companies are willing to invest time and money into a system that provides real return on investment (ROI). The Market trends show north of 20 percent CAGR for SaaS ERP adoption, and I would estimate from what I am experiencing that the SMB Market will grow even faster over the next couple of years.

While there are certainly still (and probably always will be) those businesses that prefer their own instance of an application, an increasing number of businesses understand and value the benefits of a multi-tenant cloud system. As a provider, this method of deployment permits us to offer more to our clients by managing a single application. Proper configurability of BizSlate allows us to offer a single system that effectively works across multiple verticals such as footwear and housewares.

TEC: Are social capabilities the requirement for your target Market and what are you doing in that regard?
MK: I do not believe social capabilities are a requirement for a distribution-focused ERP, particularly one that targets SMBs. I believe an ERP that makes this a core focus demonstrates that they do not understand the Market and what businesses really need. I see social capabilities as more of an add-on to an ERP’s e-commerce module, and perhaps an add-on that offers little value in the big picture of what is truly important.

TEC: Is there anything you would like to add as a parting comment?
MK: BizSlate’s journey is just beginning. These are clearly exciting times for us, our customers, and the overall Market. We welcome more companies to come join “Team BizSlate” as we help distribution businesses become more successful in a global Marketplace.

Related TEC Publications:

BizSlate Part 1: Newcomer Cloud ERP for Small Distributors (May 2013)
NetSuite to Perfect Omnichannel Order Management (May 2013)
NetSuite Acquires Retail Anywhere’s Cloud POS (January 2013)
Old and New ERP Establishments Should Watch Out for Acumatica (Oct 2012)
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