Ben Muller might be one of the world’s most notable towel enthusiasts. He’s the co-founder of Dock & Bay, a brand with a single, noble goal: create the world’s greatest quick-dry beach towel entirely from sustainably sourced materials.
The company’s founding idea was incredibly simple: to merge the concept of a compact, quick-dry travel towel with a nice, big, bright, colorful beach towel. Since then, they’ve had an incredible journey. It began with launching sales via Amazon and their own website, and — having barely reached the milestone of their first million in revenue — they had a lucrative layover at the Dragons’ Den, the UK’s cut-throat equivalent of Shark Tank.
“We had a nice little head-start in 2017 when we were on Dragons’ Den in the UK,” Ben says. “One of the dragons, Deborah Meaden, took us under their wing. It’s been a really good experience, to take the business from an idea into a bit of a startup.”
The quick wins from the Dragons’ Den appearance was a huge hit of exposure to worldwide audiences via the popular TV show. “That brand awareness gave us a real head-start to moving forward as a business, as well as some goalposts to aim for, as we expanded around the world,” Ben says. “And when we took on Deborah as an investor, she made us more accountable — we weren’t just doing a little side-project anymore, we had to be professional and respectable. It was a good kick up the bum to take things seriously and do things properly.”
One of those kicks up the bum? Dock & Bay needed to get a grip on their inventory. You could perhaps say that the problem was they didn’t know where their towels were — and they needed to find out.
Poor inventory management almost made Dock & Bay throw in the towel
“Inventory management was the most horrible part of our existence, for the entire business,” Ben says. “It was always a challenge. In the past, our warehouse owned the source of truth for inventory, and they put their numbers into our eCommerce platform. What that meant was, essentially, we didn’t have any control over what we were selling.”
Tired of using spreadsheets as a temporary fix, Dock & Bay team went shopping for an inventory management solution. Their main pain points were simple: inventory visibility, and an inability to do stock forecasting. “We didn’t have control over what inventory we had listed, because the systems around us seemed to be controlling what we were selling. The most we’d managed was Band-Aid fixes to our eCommerce platform.”
The Dock & Bay team needed help, from somebody who knew how inventory management worked and what the best systems were, and could help them get their system implementation right the first time. They found exactly what they were looking for in SMB Consultants.
SMB Consultants are Cin7 Experts. Their job is to help their clients find the best solution to grow and manage their businesses, and once that solution has been found, they work to seamlessly implement it. The foundation of their success is having a careful process that they go through with all their clients — first seeking to understand how the company is working, what the pain points are, and what changes need to be made to optimize operations.
“We originally reached out to SMB to say ‘We’ve got a problem,’” Ben says. “We knew there were a lot of inventory management programs around — TradeGecko, DEAR Systems, Cin7, and so forth. We said, ‘We don’t know which one would be best, but in general, each of these seems to do something like what we need.’”
Through a collaborative, in-depth scoping process, SMB helped Dock & Bay land on Cin7.
“SMB helped us throughout,” Ben says. “The first step was to understand how we’re operating now, and SMB have a really good view of how business operates, the challenges that businesses face, and how those solutions fit into software. When we first started talking, it wasn’t just “here’s what Cin7 does and why you should use it and we’ll install it for you” — instead, they understood the business and the challenges it faced, and they could pinpoint why Cin7 was the best solution.”
What clinched it for Cin7, Ben says, is the advanced level of integration Cin7 offers with Amazon. “It’s quite advanced compared to every other software available. All software has its own strengths and weaknesses, but Cin7 was the most well-rounded, best approach for us. SMB coached us, and their Cin7 expertise helped us understand how to implement our workflows in Cin7, and then train up our teams.”
The towel company that always knows where their inventory is
Dock & Bay have been with Cin7 for over a year, and a lot has changed.
One of the main differences is that the Dock & Bay team has fantastic inventory visibility, and confidence in their data. They no longer have to manually update convoluted, unreliable spreadsheets. Reporting is reliable, and gives decision-makers access to up-to-the-minute sales and operations information.
“The amount of data we’d have to deal with would break a spreadsheet,” Ben says. “But that’s where Cin7 comes in — we have trust in the data. And that’s the most important thing, because if you don’t trust your information, you can’t trust any reporting you try to get out of it. Cin7 gives us faith in our data, and automates the process of running reports, so we can make informed decisions.”
Cin7 now acts as the source of truth for inventory information across all the apps and platforms that Dock & Bay make use of. Sales made on Amazon and Shopify stores all pull from availability data in Cin7, and the software also looks after the routing of products in and out of their third-party logistics (3PL) warehouses.
Dock & Bay has five warehouses run by 3PL partners, one for each region they’re selling in — the UK, Canada, the US, Europe, and Australia. They also work with Amazon fulfillment in each of those regions, for a total of 10 warehouses across the business. On top of this, they also have different Shopify websites for either B2B or direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales for each region, in addition to third-party marketplaces like The Iconic and Nordstrom selling their products. This geographically disparate, multi-channel picture would be a near-impossible nightmare to manage, if not for Cin7.
“Cin7 manages the inventory in all of those warehouses,” Ben says. “It knows how many open orders there are, and that gives you your available stock. Every time an order takes place on one of our sales channels, it comes to Cin7, which knows it needs to update the other sales channels and say ‘You can’t sell this item any more.’”
Having this level of control means that Dock & Bay have been able to set up some routing rules, which simply wasn’t possible before Cin7.
“For instance, we can prevent orders going straight to the warehouse if it’s a pre-order, or if the customer hasn’t paid or is using an alternative payment method, we can set up some rules to make sure those orders don’t go out straight away — we can put in a delay of say, two hours. Being able to control that workflow really saves us a lot of time, hassle, and ultimately costs.”
Scaling up safely & sanely
Having Cin7 on their side has also given Dock & Bay something crucial: the ability to scale up safely. “Once a business hits a particular size”, Ben says, “a level of trust necessarily comes into the operations, as it’s impossible for any one person or team to check everything that happens. And if your system isn’t trustworthy, things can spiral out of control very quickly.”
“You need to trust that things are happening the way you want them to, without human intervention. Cin7 gives us the ability to create rules and automations to run the business, rather than having people do all those steps,” Ben says. “Cin7 has allowed us to grow with confidence.”
The high level of trust in their systems has been repaid with smooth operations, even over periods that typically give product companies nightmares. The Black Friday sales rush is awaited with dread anticipation by operations in the eCommerce world, with floods of consumers testing system integrity across the board. In the past, it’s been a huge bugbear for Dock & Bay. This time around, ready for anything, Ben told the support team they could call him anytime, 24/7. In the end, though, it wasn’t needed. Thanks to Cin7, Dock & Bay’s Black Friday went off without a hitch.
“In the past we had chaos, leading to weeks and weeks of issue resolution,” Ben says. “But this Black Friday we had no issues, because for the first time we had control of our data in all of our systems, and had the process down pat. I really do, 100 percent, put that down to the fact we’ve taken control of our business processes, and Cin7 is key to that.”
Customer service is now a snap
A further benefit of the Cin7 implementation has been a sharp reduction in customer service issues. Thanks to a much clearer view of inventory and more control over stock, the classic eCommerce bugbear of overselling has been almost eliminated.
“It’s reduced the number of customer service issues significantly,” Ben says. “Because we now own the information, and the process around it, we’re not overselling like we used to. The second thing is we now have a very valuable source of truth to look into where things may have gone wrong. In the past, we couldn’t really pinpoint where the issue was. Whereas now, we can analyze what happened in Cin7 and then identify where the issue is, and often even fix it ourselves.”
Ben gives a typical example of the sort of trouble they’d often face before Cin7 was implemented. If the warehouse system they were previously relying on was reporting incorrect numbers, Dock & Bay had no option but to remove the product from the website altogether. Now, they can simply adjust the stock figure in Cin7 or put a hold on the item, and that will stop the product selling across all sales channels. “Now, we can solve the problem and get on with business. That’s where Cin7’s helping us.”
Dock & Bay say that Cin7 has also saved them needing to expand the operations team. But that doesn’t mean skimping on hiring, or firing employees. Instead, they can run an efficient, high-performing, lean operation, and increase headcount in areas that will help grow the brand.
“Because we have trust in the process and the data that’s flowing through Cin7, we don’t have to intervene very often. This means our operations team can run pretty slim, and we can invest in roles like marketing and sales that add more value to the business. We’re just much more efficient,” Ben says.
Cin7 is Dock & Bay’s heart of gold and single source of truth
With the Cin7 implementation over a year behind them, Dock & Bay have a clear view of exactly how much being helped by a trusted Cin7 expert has benefited the company. The impact, Ben says, is absolutely huge, to the point where he says they “couldn’t have done it alone.”
To other businesses considering implementing Cin7, Ben says that if you’re going to be using a platform that controls so much of your business, you may as well do it properly, and get a certified Cin7 expert like SMB Consultants to help.
“SMB Consultants brought the dream to life. Having Cin7 has meant we could become more efficient, and trust the information in our systems. But we couldn’t have done that without SMB. We had to work with the right people as well as the right system to get where we are today.”
It’s safe to say that knowing exactly where their towels are has made Dock & Bay a much better business than they were before. It might seem improbable, but having Cin7 at the heart of the company makes everything possible.
“Cin7 is the heart of our business,” Ben says. “It controls what we sell, and where we sell it. It manages information from customers, through the warehouse, through our supply chain, into our accounting system, and all the way around our operations and support team. It touches every part of the business. We take all our trusted information from Cin7, and it’s our single source of truth.”
“We’d be very lost and very sad without Cin7, because there’s really no way to visualize how the business could operate without it.”