Customer Story: Melissa and Sank Macfarlane, The Store

“The challenge in running a small business is that you can have all these amazing apps and cloud services to help, but in fact the more you have the harder it can be to navigate it all. I’ve realised that I needed to find an easier way to connect all my business information into one place, without having to open up various spreadsheets. Then along came Aider, and that is how I started to make my data work for me in an easier, more simplistic way.

“Having AI (artificial intelligence) technology in the form of a digital assistant like Aider really helps to simplify your business and make it less overwhelming. Aider allows you to interact with your business on your terms.  I now think an integrator like Aider is crucial to create value out of the volumes of data a business creates.

“It only takes one notification and you think maybe there is more to this data than I previously thought; maybe I should be looking at this more closely. “Aider is going to be great for small business owners and managers – the increased productivity that can be had from using data better is really tangible.”

“Aider is going to be great for small business owners and managers – the increased productivity that can be had from using data better is really tangible.”– Melissa Macfarlane, Owner of The Store

Five years ago Melissa and Sank MacFarlane quit the corporate world in Auckland and bought Sank’s parents’ business – The Store at Kekerengu, on the coast between Blenheim and Kaikoura.

They loved the lifestyle it offered and the rustic feel of the place. They knew the business required modernising, but they also saw fantastic opportunities to diversify and make the business more sustainable. They extended the gift shop, hosted some amazing weddings and added a camping ground on bare land they owned right next door. Then the Kaikoura earthquake struck.

With the Blenheim to Kaikoura road closed their trade was sustained only by the workers helping repair the infrastructure. Melissa returned to her banking career and commuted between Blenheim and Auckland. Sank, another former banker, found other local work and kept the home fires burning.

When The Store re-opened, Melissa was already embracing technology she believed would be time saving and allow her a better life-work balance.  The couple were keen to move from Sank’s parent’s paper-based record to computer and internet systems.

A key driver was Melissa was pregnant with her and Sank’s first child together. Melissa knew she would have to utilise the cloud to manage the business between Blenheim and The Store and balance life with a baby. She was struggling to be in two places at once, while still being on top of what was happening with the business. That’s what lead to welcoming Aider.

The business became one of the first customers to use the Kounta POS system and Melissa soon added Xero and iPayroll. Melissa says setting up Aider to consolidate those tools and things like Google Analytics was simple. She reckons if people can use Facebook’s Messenger they can easily use Aider.

Getting that first information based on her business data from Aider captured Melissa’s attention completely. She says Aider is teaching her what an amazing cloud-based business looks like.

Now with an under one-year-old, Melissa works on the business mostly from home. When Sank gets home in the evening she is up-to-speed on how much has been sold, who has been working and a myriad of other data that can be mined to help drive and grow the business.

The couple no longer base decisions on anecdotes and instinct – Aider crunches the data and they laugh when they say: “you can’t argue against facts”.

How Aider helped Melissa and Sank:

Melissa knew she would not have time to do constant analysis and build complex spreadsheets. Aider offered her the ability to keep close to the business numbers via her mobile devices.

Aider consolidated the data generated from the point of sale and accounting systems, the payroll software, even social media pages and events calendars, or local weather.

She set up proactive notifications at a time to suit their baby’s schedule every day and by the time Sank gets home she has checked The Store’s reports and actioned whatever is needed. That could be sharing an insight with staff or checking an anomaly.

As Aider’s ai learning kicks in, Melissa will be able to switch on “did you know” alerts – like did you know your sales are up 20% on last week, there’s an event near you this weekend, or other trending insights.

She says she and Sank are making business decisions on rostering, ordering and managing stock levels more quickly – and from a more informed position. Even though neither of them are working at The Store 100% of the time, they still feel connected and that they are helping their business grow.