Well, the process moves on. We are still in the middle of property details, and hope to have some better idea of a timeline this week. Like anything worth doing, they are complexities that you only figure out once you’ve moved into that territory. The space we’ve found and are working on will be so awesome, so really its just a matter of dotting the T’s and crossing the I’s.
In the meantime, I’ve been busy diving into Accounting software (OOOHHHH GOODIE!!), POS systems, Banks, Merchant Accounts, Email Marketing systems and such. Yeah, not the most glamorous of tasks, but a necessary one. There are tons of websites and content out there comparing major systems and software providers. Some are great and informative, some are pretty dense and complicated. One of the best I’ve come across has been Merchant Maverick (and at first I thought it was one of those junk ‘everything-under-the-sun’ review sites that Google will throw at you), and the reviews they have are straight forward, helpful and updated regularly. Here’s what I’ve decided on so far…
Accounting Software: There are some many players in this realm, but the most interesting ones seem to be QuickBooks, Sage, Wave, and Xero. There are more, but I felt it was best to stay with the more well known choices to start with. QuickBooks is the main system out there, and they seem to have a pretty good strangle-hold on the market with something like 75-80% share of accounting software in the small business community. They are impressive, and there are tons of support choices and integrations with other products. I’ve seen and read other forum posts, blogs, websites where other micro- and nano-breweries have used this system. They all seem to do ok with it, though most have said it leaves them wanting for some other functionalities specific to our industry. There are some purpose built accounting and management systems out there for brewers and breweries specifically (OrchestratedBeer as an example), but they are pretty expensive for a small startup to begin with. So, QuickBooks seems like it’ll work for us to start with… as a backup. As I looked into more stuff I was really intrigued by Xero Cloud Accounting and what they could bring to the table. They are a smaller company that started out of New Zealand, and have since expanded into Australia, the UK and now the US. The features they have are nice, the monthly pricing seems very reasonable, and they are continually adding new integrations and updates. As we get further into this adventure, I’ll report back on how Xero is handling what I throw at it, but for now they are our go-to for accounting.
Payroll: Ah yes, the other hand to accounting. Payroll will be an important function for us, especially as we (hopefully) get bigger. I may be able to do my own taxes and deal with the excise reports for the Feds, but I KNOW I don’t want to deal with all the intricies and minutae of payroll taxes and such. This is where a good payroll company comes into play. Again, there are a wealth of options to choose from like the BIG players such as ADP or PayChex, but again cost and ease of use come into view for a small company like ours. ZenPayroll was one of the newer companies I came across, and they seem like the perfect solution to what we’ll need to start with. First off, they integrate with a lot of the major accounting systems out there (QuickBooks and Xero specifically for us), and they are current with all 50 states here in the US. The pricing is reasonable, and they seem to be able to add new employees very simply on demand so we’re not paying for functionality the we’re not using. (As a side benefit with Xero, they are also slowly moving into the payroll world here in the US, and currently have 7 States they work with now. Colorado looks to be in their next update to this feature, so we’ll be keeping an eye on it.)
Email Marketing: As we get closer to opening and moving forward, email marketing will be useful to keep our customers and fans abreast of what’s happening at the brewery. As we participate in events, festivals, competitions and such we want you guys to know about them (You can sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of the page!). That’s really the main purpose behind email/digital marketing, is to start a conversation. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. are all outlets in which we can interact and communicate with our fans and see what they are looking for or listening to what they have to say. The occasional newsletter just helps to bring new topics to the forefront and add to the general conversation. In any case, the two main choices for most small businesses is Constant Contact and MailChimp. Yes, there are lots and lots of other choices, but these two come very highly rated from past history, and they have the features and pricing scheme that we’re looking for to start with. It’s as simple as that, and we’re going with… (coin-flip)…. MailChimp!
So there’s a little bit of what we have decided on. Other items are such as POS systems, Merchant Accounts and Banks are all somewhat tied together, so I’m having to noodle on these a bit longer. We’re mainly looking at the iPad POS systems that are out there, and though many do have their own Merchant Account (i.e. credit card payment systems) functions in place, there is something to be said for working with whoever your bank runs through. So it’s a matter of comparing features, fees, prices, contracts and such and seeing what will work best for the near future. The other factor coming into play in this realm specifically is the new EMV cards and how that is going to affect businesses like ours (breweries, bars, restaurants, etc), how we’ll be able to accept these payments and also the ‘Apple-Pay’ type contactless systems.
A quick sidebar on EMV: The new EMV (or Europay, MasterCard, Visa) system cards are the ones the the little microchip on/in them. They make your credit card look like a giant sim-card you’d find in a cell phone. These chips are encrypted with bank info and are more secure against fraud and other issues when using your credit card. This type of system has been used in Europe and much of the rest of the world for a few years. The US is the last major country that has not adopted this system, but we will starting in October this year. Now, we as merchants are not going to be required to have these new systems for these cards, but the downside is if you don’t then we the company are liable for any fraudulent payments we receive from a fraudulent card, or in other words that money from that card disappears and we don’t have any recourse (at least that’s what I understand). The problem for our industry is that these EMV cards (or what they call chip-and-PIN cards) can’t be used to open a bar tab and pre-authorized for a certain amount of money. They can only be used at the final transaction once everything has been tallied and the customer is ready to head out the door. For the foreseeable future with theses cards, there will NOT be any move to make open bar tabs or such something these cards can do, which makes the dine-and-dash a much greater risk unless you physically hold onto the card itself (which customers generally HATE). A problem with no real answers right now…
Well, that was a long post. But, as you can see, there’s lots going on behind the scenes and decisions yet to be made.