Recently, I had the privilege of visiting one of our small to midsize business (SMB) customers, Oberweis Dairy, a family owned, 90-year-old business located in the Chicago area. Essentially, Oberweis has morphed from a family dairy farm to a significant, regional food manufacturer and retailer.
With 39 retail stores, 40,000 home delivery customers and many wholesale local and chain grocery customers, the Oberweis operation today probably isn’t what Peter Oberweis envisioned when he started selling excess milk to neighbors in 1915. It is a sophisticated business that is growing, with plans to grow even more. To that end, Oberweis has used SAS Analytics, under the leadership of Dr. Bruce Bedford, to identify and correct manufacturing issues, mine customer complaint data and root out bottle return fraud.
Driving away from their factory, I couldn’t help but think of a recent business analytics white paper from UBM TechWeb and sponsored by SAS. The paper details survey results of 800 leaders at small- to mid-sized businesses. We comissioned the survey to better understand the use of analytics in the SMB market. Quite simply, we wanted to know how many SMBs are employing analytics in their normal course of business, and if not - why? And when they might plan to use analytics?
The survey asked many questions about how SMBs are using analytics, and what they thought was preventing them from employing analytics in their businesses. Many SMBs interviewed thought that it would be nice to have analytics deployed but didn’t think they could afford them. In fact, 50 percent of the respondents thought their businesses were too small for “big-enterprise” solutions and 24 percent said they would buy an analytical solution if they could afford it and understand the value it delivered. (Click image to see details.) It takes someone like Dr. Bedford to come along and show a smaller company that they can get the same benefits that larger organizations enjoy. In fact, to that very point, he said “…SAS is a great way for a small company to become a large company.” I agree and would take that a bit further and say that it is mandatory to deploy analytics not only to grow the business but to be competitive in the long run.
Comparative advantage is an elusive goal and pursuing it never ends. So, where to start? Asking some questions might be a good place:
- When a meeting is called do various departments seem to have conflicting data?
- Do you find it takes days to produce simple reports even with up-to-date data?
- Does it make you nervous that so much of your business runs on various Excel spreadsheets spread around the company, and are you unsure of the security, accuracy and integrity of the data and formulations in those sheets?
- Does your staff know the difference between simple descriptive statistics and advanced analytics?
- Can you predict with confidence what you will need, sell or receive?
- If you want to increase sales with a marketing campaign can you predict what customers are most likely to respond?
Day to day, business insight must be gained and decisions based on facts must be made to sustain and grow market share and ensure success. This applies to the manufacturing of semiconductors or ice cream; to big business and small business and everywhere in between. See, even cows need analytics.