How We Manage Our Wine and Liquor Store
One of my many work-from-home jobs is to manage our brick and mortar store, Warsaw Wine & Spirits.
You can listen to this podcast episode to hear a little more about how we run this business.
Most people when they open their own business also act as the main employee, managing their store while they are there during the week. We decided for a couple of reasons that this would not work for us.
- We just had a baby, and there was no way that I was
A-going to bring her with me every day to the store or
B-going to send her to daycare so I could work at the store.
- Our store is located 45 minutes away from where we live, there was no way I was making that commute!
- We opened this business as a sort of long-term retirement plan (along with our other businesses), so if it was going to be successful it needed to be able to run on its own.
In this article I am going to share with you the steps we took so that I am able to run this business day-to-day from home.
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The System is the Thing
One of the most important items we purchased for the store was our POS system. Tom did his research and was able to find a system that sold all of the equipment along with the software. This made it so much easier to ensure that all of the parts not only worked together but also worked with the POS software.
Our system came with retail software called Cash Register Express from PCAmerica. This software, when set up correctly, is what gives us the ability to keep track and re-order stock at our store. Unfortunately, we failed to read through the how-to on setting up inventory. We realized after we had added it all that we missed a vital step! In order for all the items to show up on the systems “Re-Order” report, we had to go back and add information to every single inventory item. And by “we” I mean “I”. Once we had the items in the system with all the necessary information, this allowed us to run the re-order report, which shows what items were below their re-order number. Every week, we save this report (and others, read on), and that’s how we figure out what to order the next week. It took some finessing, but after a year I have this method down!
The Lesson: Read your manual! Make sure you are hooking your equipment up correctly. And when it comes to software, use the resources they give you. These programs are made to make your business run smoothly, but you have to know how to use them!
Now, as I mentioned above, we rely heavily on the re-order report each week to figure out what to order back in. I also use a generic inventory report, which lists every item we carry alphabetically, the price it comes in, the price we sell it, and how many we have in stock. Sometimes I like to double-check the inventory list and make sure I didn’t miss anything on the re-order report, and I will also refer back to it for other reasons. Another report we use every week is the invoice daily totals report. This will show us the daily sales summary from a given start date to a given end date. We keep track of all of our sales on a spreadsheet Tom created.
Once a week I enter our sales information for each day. From there, the spreadsheet calculates our daily, weekly and yearly sales graphs. These graphs are very useful in understanding when and how our sales come in, as well as how we are doing against our goals.
I also use these numbers on my weekly budget sheet. In order to figure out how much I can spend on re-ordering inventory, I need to know the sales from the week before. Because we have Net 30 with our vendors, it was tricky to figure out a budget sheet that works.
Ours breaks down all of our monthly costs into weekly costs, then we enter the sales from the previous week, take out sales tax and voila! Our budgeted amount to re-order.
The Lesson: This process took us a while to perfect. There were a couple of weeks that we had to put in our own personal money to cover orders for the store. Make sure you include everything on your budget sheet, and if possible, try to have a buffer amount in your account for any miscalculations.
Checks and Balances
Possibly the most important process besides our re-ordering was figuring out a way to keep track of our finances. Because we already used Quickbooks for our other businesses, we decided to do the same for the store. We set up the account with suggestions from our accountant, using the vendor/billing options to keep track of our unpaid invoices. And although we use online payments in our personal life, we chose to use a business checkbook to make payments, at least for the first couple years.
I prefer the routine process of entering invoices, writing checks and filing paid invoices since the business is still fairly new. This gives us solid records in case the bank or liquor authority ever audit us. I keep all the paperwork for the store in a filing cabinet in our office for easy access.
As for the non-paperwork storage, we are huge fans of Dropbox. Because we have multiple businesses, Dropbox allows us to each have our own accounts with each business folder shared between us. When we opened the store, we created a WWS Dropbox account on the store PC. This allows us to create and find documents from home as well as at the store. It also allows me to create documents the employees can access, like work schedules, signs or labels to be printed. And lastly, it allows the employees to save the reports for me to access from home since I only travel there once a week.
The Lesson: Do your homework, and put a system in place. Your business will run all the more smoothly for it.
We Are Here
Since our store is a fairly young business, we have to rely on multiple marketing avenues to get the word out to potential new customers. Tom is pretty good with the computer stuff, so he, of course, created a website for the store (we recently switched it over to WordPress). He has also been able to work on our SEO and get Warsaw Wine & Spirits to show up on top on a Google search for “warsaw ny liquor” and a few other common search terms.
Our biggest marketing tool is probably our Facebook page, but we also use Pinterest, our local radio station, and our local paper (only for events/coupons). Because we are a retail store, we utilize our website & Facebook to advertise the products.
The website has all of them (or will once we have finished adding them!) and Facebook we use to show new products/sizes etc. Pinterest we like to use for all types of drink recipes, drink accessories, and specialized holiday ideas. Using all these types really allows for us to reach a varied demographic, specifically a wide-range of age groups.
The Lesson: Get your name out there! Whether you are an old or a new business, find the marketing tools that work for you and use them. Don’t fall victim to all those advertising schemes out there, a lot of them are fudging the numbers on how many potential customers they will reach. Do your homework before signing any type of marketing contract.
One of the hardest jobs for a business owner is finding employees you can trust, especially if you are not there running it every day. We have been extremely lucky in this, as all of our hires have been via personal references (a friend of a friend). Since we run the store from home, we are big on communication with our employees. They know to call or text me with any questions or concerns. We are fortunate to have a day-time staff member who works the weekdays, 2 part-timers who work weeknights and 2 part-timers who work weekends. I handle all the scheduling, which can sometimes be tricky but we make it work. I also recently started handling our payroll in-house, as it is a bit cheaper than hiring it out. We use Zenpayroll and so far we absolutely love it! If you are a small business and don’t mind a little extra work, this service is for you. They are currently offering your first 2 months free when you sign up through our link. Just send us an email and let us know you signed up and we will make sure you get your 2 free months.
The Lesson: Running your own business is tough enough, then you add managing employees! It can’t hurt to do some reading up on basic employee management and communication. Also, make sure you are aware of minimum wage, discrimination and tax laws in your state.
When we opened, we wanted customers to have a great experience while shopping at our store. This included a couple different aspects: décor, information to help the customer, and knowledgeable employees. We chose a clean, simple look for our décor, with black retail shelving along the walls and custom wooden wine racks down the middle and in the back.
Our decorations are a sort of country charm, as that is where the store is located. We use printed labels that fit in/on the shelves for pricing, they are easy to update when we get new items or change a price. I created a blank template for these labels that allow an employee to update and print as needed. Tom has also created customized shelf talkers for most of the wines we carry. They include all the details of the wine, good food pairings, and a dry-sweetness meter. This allows our customers to find new wines based on their preference.
The last part of this section is about our knowledgeable employees. We are very lucky to have had an awesome staff thus far. Not all of them know about every single type of alcohol or wine, but they have at least some. The rest can be filled in overtime, we keep a couple of wine books at the store, and if they need particular information they can Google it. We make sure to train all of our employees with the same process to help keep the experience consistent. There is a procedure manual we keep at the store for all the employees to reference, listing all the potential scenarios they may encounter with a detailed explanation of what to do.
The Lesson: I am going to reiterate a previous lesson here. Put a system in place! Make sure you have procedures for everything, that way if you ever are away from your business you won’t have to worry about things falling apart.
Because we don’t work at our business ourselves and because we are dealing with alcohol, a security system was an absolute necessity. We went with an 8 camera system to cover all parts of the store, and that had the ability to be accessed from another location. We have a TV in our home office that displays the store’s security cameras.
This gives both us and our employee’s ease of mind. We also invested in a good printer/scanner/copier. We set the scanner default to save to the Dropbox folder, any mail or important documents can be scanned into us right away. We can also save any documents there that we need the employees to have access to. And lastly, we splurged on a good safe. For any retailers that have cash on hand, I highly recommend a safe! We were able to find one that bolts right through the floor and has a drop door. This allows employees to add money to the safe without having access to its contents.
The Lesson: Do your research, compare your options. Just because something is the newest high-tech device does not mean it is right for your store (be careful with anyone trying to sell you anything, you probably don’t need it and they are probably leaving out some small print)! And before trying to do things on your own, make sure it is something you can handle. The last thing you want is to spend more time & money to have somebody come in and fix your mistakes!
So there you have it, a very thorough overview of how we manage multiple aspects of our business. If you have any comments or thoughts, please leave a comment below.
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