Some argue that you have to have hundreds of stores to afford the staff and expertise needed benefit from business intelligence. Processing, organizing, analyzing and sharing the insights takes time, money and resources that are just too costly for small operators. With all the challenges of running a store the management is just too busy keeping the doors open to divert attention and resources from the main operations. However, it is a shame to miss the opportunity as C-stores have such a wealth of information every day. What you will can learn about your business while evaluating your data will often surprise you. It helps you realize and face your problems head-on for in business, little else can speak the truth better than numbers.
In thinking about the importance of business intelligence, consider the value of accurately knowing the answers to theses fundamental questions about your business (as well as how the answers are trending):
1. Are you getting more customers?
2. How many purchases were made?
3. Which items were sold?
4. Are you selling more or less each time?
5. Is the store losing money to theft?
Most operators are already dealing with parts of business intelligence. Typically, each operator has some simple check list or spreadsheet to make sure the deposits match and inventory is not missing. This simple approach is one that works and provides value every day. If such a simple and high return approach could be applied to all of the detailed data that you have, just imagine the impact you might realize in your overall C-Store performance.
While it may take a few tries to find the value, the very process of studying the data will most likely yield useful results. If you prove that your results are optimal you get the satisfaction of recognizing good work in action. If you find ways to improve you get the benefit of extra profits or more time handed back to you. Learning about your business from the objective view of your performance data will provide insights that will lead to improvements.
Many times we fail to learn and improve with new technology due to fear or inertia. Here are some simple things you can try to start your journey. Rather than debate about the value or the difficulty of using Business Intelligence, we recommend a different question: Why not start today? The worst thing that will happen is that you will waste a little time trying to learn something new about your business. Here are a few ideas that may have value even if you do not start a business intelligence program:
1. Talk to your current vendors on their next visit and see what data is available.
2. Find an existing report that addresses some area that you think can be improved.
3. Have lunch with a store manager and ask her what she thinks would help.
4. Search on line for C-Store performance and management ideas
5. Talk to other owners and operators to see what they do
6. Sit in a webinar – many provide them for free
The main thing is to get started . Tackle what seems to be an elephant a little at a time. Do a little bit and you will find yourself able to measure the results. You might be amazed at what knowledge you will gain to make your job easier and your P&L Statement better each month.