Dog Is Good’s ERP System May Not Be Man’s Best Friend — But It’s Close

Gila Kurtz had long been a dog trainer when one day at a dog-training conference she happened upon a booth selling t-shirts expressing affection for dogs. The shirts said “I love my golden retriever” and “I love my dachshund” and “I love my poodle.” If there was a dog breed, there was a t-shirt for it. The booth was packed. The t-shirts were standard plain white. It was the message that struck a chord.  

“I knew I loved my dogs, but it was more than that. And what I saw working with families and their dogs was that, for them, it was much more than that, too,” says Gila. There was an element of humanization going on by owners toward their dogs, and a desire to tap into that connection between man and his best friend. “But there was no one creating anything in that realm,” she says. There was a big gap in the market, and Gila, and her husband, Jon Kurtz, stepped into it with the launch of a new company, Dog Is Good. From the very beginning, they didn’t really know where it was going to go. “We didn’t have a big business plan. Even today, we’re still a bit at, ‘let’s see what works.’ Along the way, the light bulbs go on,” says Jon.

Entering the dog days

Initially, Dog Is Good focused only on apparel but today its product line has grown to include everything from coffee mugs to car magnets and from Christmas ornaments to doggie waste bags. Products are emblazoned with the company’s clever and cute messaging: t-shirts that say, “dogs dig me;” and magnets that feature dogs in place of the Beatles on the White Album cover that read, “all you need is dog.” There’s even a whole collection devoted to “I like big mutts.”

Over time, the company also expanded into new selling channels, from wholesale and retail into licensing agreements with manufacturers in the pet, gift and home products industries. The company also sells online at Amazon and via dogisgood.com.

The Kurtzes seem to have a nose for the business, sniffing out opportunities that might not occur to others whose instincts aren’t as good. For example, early on, the duo decided to exhibit at the RV Camping Show. It was a perfect fit. Who doesn’t love their dogs if not RVers? “Dealerships ‘get it’ because they’re RVers and they understand the dog-lover lifestyle,” says Jon. “RV sees it as a brand that touches their customer and shows they understand them,” says Gila. “That builds rapport and relevancy with the customer.” With the support of the dealerships, the company was able to partner effectively to grow its business. Dog Is Good began to gain greater traction in the outdoor hospitality industry, selling at venues such as KOA campgrounds and at state parks. “Everyone has an association and a magazine and a trade show, which have helped the company spread the word,” says Jon, as has the expansion of the industry itself. “Outdoor hospitality is growing. When we were growing up it was just primitive camp sites but that has changed,” he says. “Now there are gift shops.”  

Lengthening the leash on the business

Back in 2007, when Dog Is Good got its start, the company adopted QuickBooks to handle its back-office operations. That worked well for a while, but by 2012, it needed a solution that could scale up with its growing inventory, SKUs (today numbering more than 500) and sales channels and that would integrate with the web and other systems.

It devoted several months to evaluating the pros and cons of various software. It wanted a cloud-based solution so it wouldn’t have the responsibility of managing anything in house; it wanted to eliminate manual spreadsheet processes; and it wanted a solution that could handle its core accounting, inventory management and customer relationship management (CRM) needs. It found what it was looking for with Oracle NetSuite’s ERP solution.

Now several years in, Jon says one of the many things that the company values highly about the software that it had not anticipated up front is the process that it puts around the business. “Everything from getting an order in to fulfillment, shipping, invoicing and getting money in the bank — that all follows a strict process in NetSuite. You can customize it to your needs,” he says.

The solution also integrated easily with other applications, such as bill.com, which Dog Is Good uses to pay its invoices. “Rather than receiving an email from the vendor, the invoice just goes straight to bill.com. It’s synchronized,” he says.

Like most software solutions, the ERP has a host of modules that can be added or dropped depending on changing needs. Most recently, Dog Is Good implemented NetSuite ERP’s Incentive Management module, replacing its previous time-sucking method, which involved unwieldy spreadsheets that required a lot of high-touch manual searching and manipulating to track and determine commissions.

Beyond the time and energy savings it’s provided, the module allows the company to easily set different rates for different salespeople and for different customers and on different products, which it automatically calculates. “You can make anything happen with the system,” says Jon.  

While process-oriented, the ERP system is also extremely flexible, allowing Dog Is Good to opt in and out of features and to set up parameters in ways that best suit its internal workflows and needs. For example, if it so chooses, it can set up preferred customers in inventory management so that they get first dibs on inventory, even though that might mean skipping a previously received order from a non-preferred customer. Alternatively, it can choose for inventory to simply be assigned automatically as orders come in and go straight to fulfillment.

“You determine how certain rules are applied. … Each sequence [in the system] is the same, but how it’s managed can be set by each customer and on the fly,” says Jon.

That flexibility has been critical in its most recent expansion, which has opened the door for independent operators to sell Dog Is Good merchandise. Via the new entrepreneurial model — which is not a franchise — “other dog lovers can be in business for themselves” in a way that works with their lifestyles and goals, he says. This takes a variety of forms, with its operators exhibiting goods in a range of settings from pop-up mobile stores at events such as pet expos, rock festivals and state fairs to trunk shows at retail stores. The booths are set up to look like Dog Is Good stores but operators are given wide leeway not only in where they set up but also to carry merchandise other than licensed Dog Is Good products. “The formula for success is to create a branded look and feel,” says Gila.

Like the product, the new business model has also struck a chord: “We set up to recruit 50 people last year and recruited 53,” says Gila. The company is on pace to surpass that this year. “These are likeminded individuals who are dogminded,” she says. How likeminded and dogminded? “One of them recently got a tattoo of the Dog Is Good logo.”

Its NetSuite ERP has been able to easily accommodate this new model, allowing operators to go into the system directly to order products, while on the other side, Dog Is Good can set the system to give priority to these vendors. “Their events are ‘one and done.’ We have to make sure they get their product quickly,” Gila says.

As it adds more inventory and more operators and debates new products and models, Dog Is Good does not have to worry about getting too big for the system. “This is scalable and we will never outgrow it,” says Jon. Dog Is Good has its sights set longer-term on $50 million in sales.

Overall, its ERP system has relieved the company of many manual, error-prone, redundant and time-consuming tasks. “There’s an infinite difference between using spreadsheets vs. having everything integrated,” says Jon. With its system in place, the company has more time to focus on its mission to share dog goodness everywhere.

Jordan K. Speer is editor in chief of Apparel. She can be reached at [email protected].


 

Matt Rhodus

Directory & Industry Principal — Retail

Oracle NetSuite


 

Apparel: How has omnichannel commerce changed the demands placed on an ERP system, and what does a sound ERP system offer today that it didn’t five years ago?

Rhodus: Omnichannel commerce is all about making sure the customer’s needs can be met regardless of where the inventory resides. A proper planning and ERP system can certainly help to plan and make sure that inventory is where it should be, but planning is never perfect. Omnichannel commerce can best utilize inventory from all sources based on where the customer and inventory actually end up being. Providing that visibility can only be done if you have a strong system of record at the core with a single unified view across your organization. And I don’t mean creating an abstract layer in between disparate systems and the customer interaction system in which to do this. The systems that run your business at the core themselves must have this view; to best ensure that there are no lags or errors in what gets presented to the customer as available. Not all ERP systems have caught up to the quick pace at which the customer journey has evolved. There are great options available to help consolidate technical debt and provide this critical foundational view that omnichannel commerce is so dependent on to be successful.

Apparel: Today’s market demands faster speeds and more variety but often smaller quantities of product. What challenges does this pose for apparel retailers and brands and what are steps that companies can take to solidify their core business operations so that they can focus on the innovation and growth that these changes require?

Rhodus: The question highlights a great point that purchasing and selling are now often tied together or even more closely linked than ever before. Supply lines are changing and shifting; customers are asking for more and faster. Ultimately this means that the way you’re conducting business today will be very different from how you conduct it two to three years from now. One word that traditionally has not been associated with core business operations software is ‘flexible.’ Traditionally, you would find a system and bake in your current processes with a few improvements here and there, and then figuratively pour concrete over those processes. This means that you have to get it right from the start before you’ve thought through how your business will run two to three years down the line. The first step you can take to removing some of these growth barriers is to find a system that is: 1) multi-tenant cloud; 2) modularized software that comes to the table with a prescribed idea on how to leverage those modules as you grow, to help you control costs and preserve cash flow as you grow; and 3) software that is just as much software as a service as it is platform as a service. Look for software that doesn’t consider “customization” a bad word. Seek a vendor that won’t penalize you by making it harder to evolve your business by preventing you from changing or adding things as you grow.

Apparel: How is the cloud changing the nature of the way companies conduct business, and how would you advise an apparel company that is looking to move operations away from on-premise hosting?

Rhodus: Firstly, the cloud offers something that wasn’t available 10 years ago: controlled costs with flexibility. Moving systems to the cloud helps to reduce costs and overhead that a traditional brand or retailer used to have to absorb all on their own with legacy on-premise software. The cloud helps free up resources and money to focus on other activities. These cost-effective options have given businesses that otherwise couldn’t afford either the cost or the cost in time of pulling their employees into long implementations the ability to look at systems that can actually help them grow their businesses by growing with their businesses. That’s far preferable to finding the systems that work just for now and needing to look for another one in three to five years.

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