Family Paint Purveyor Stays in the Black

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Although it's a family business, Harper Inc. is no mom-and-pop shop. The commercial paint equipment and coatings company has more than 20,000 customers globally, and, as a result, needed to automate its order processing. The heart of the Atlanta-based family business is its focus on meeting the needs of individual customers so they can keep their own businesses running smoothly.

Last year, when Joe Harper, partner and chief operating officer at the company, joined the business his father founded 30 years ago, he realized that "our company is no more than a product marketing company." Harper Inc. sells everything from color mixing equipment to dispensing solutions. Independent hardware store owners constitute 70 percent of its business, while the rest is likely to come from larger manufacturers, like Benjamin Moore, that are looking to buy and distribute equipment to dealers.

"Usually we're selling to someone who opened a new store and, therefore, requires equipment to be able to open, or they're replacing failed equipment, so it's a very contracted sales process, where they're not only saying, 'I need it,' but 'I need it quick,'" Harper explains.

Typically a purchase of paint equipment represents a capital investment for a company. As Harper puts it, "It's a very long-range use product, but usually a short-range purchase."

Last December, Harper Inc. was knee-deep in manual order processing and had essentially "lost our way and growth because we didn't do what we wanted to do, which was be a sales and marketing organization," Harper said. When he looked to the open-source, Web-based SugarCRM Professional On-Demand solution, he was impressed by the ability to customize the solution to carry through product updates and "make it my own."

When it first deployed SugarCRM, Harper Inc. found it was able to increase its average monthly orders by 33 percent through simple automation. Now, once an order is placed and the customer receives confirmation, there are automatic triggers to follow up and thank, as well as let the customer know if there are other related products for them to purchase.

Using SugarCRM has also helped Harper Inc. triple-check its work on the back end, acting as a means of verification for orders. It has gotten better at data capturing and forecasting and seen its end-of-month reporting time drop from two weeks to 90 minutes. While the company used to write each order in a Word document, print a copy, mail it, and at the end of the month write the orders in a spreadsheet and mail that to the company's two vendor-suppliers, it now has a streamlined order process.

"Any company would tell you the biggest issue they have with sales is follow-up," Harper remarks. "If I talk to fifty people in a day, am I going to remember that John Smith said he would call me back? Probably not. But I will remember if I get a pop-up on my computer or phone." SugarCRM's lead, opportunity, and account management features, along with campaign management and email tracking, make this possible.

Harper Inc. can accommodate a greater volume of leads and expedite its order process because its entire product catalog sits within SugarCRM. If a customer has a question about an item, employees don't have to take the additional step of reaching out to the vendor-supplier. Streamlined processes across the board have contributed to a $2.5 million year-over-year sales increase from 2011 to 2012.

The Payoff

Using SugarCRM, Harper Inc. was able to:

  • increase average monthly orders by 33 percent;
  • reduce end-of-month reporting time from two weeks to 90 minutes; and
  • increase sales by $2.5 million.

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