Never Managed Inventory Before? 5 Simple Tips to Get Started

Updated on January 31, 2020
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Managing inventory is a key component of growing any business, but all too often, this ultra-important task is pushed to the side. Many business owners know the importance of a solid inventory strategy, but don’t know how to plan and jumpstart this vital process.

Learning how to manage an inventory for the first time can be overwhelming, confusing, and time-consuming. If your company is new to inventory, select a highly organized, motivated, and knowledgeable employee to lead your business into a new era of organization. (That’s right, the leader doesn’t have to be you!)

Inventorying might be a little tough at first, but it’s going to be worth it. Plus, modern inventory solutions will make the process so much easier. Here are five simple tips to get your inventory set up today:

Learn how other businesses in your sector are approaching inventory management.

When it comes to getting organized, a little bit of planning goes a long way. Sometimes, the best way to begin is by scoping out the competition. After all, your rivals likely face the same inventory challenges that you do.

You might think that there’s no way your competitors would lend you a hand here. But you’d be surprised. Join a guild. Find a Facebook group. Consult Google. You’ll be amazed at how open many businesspeople are with their lessons learned and best practices.

Find an intuitive and user-friendly inventory solution.

If you can’t find support from your competitors, try talking to your friends who are business owners. Find out what works for them. Or search Google or the App Store for a few free trials and discover what feels right to you.

Great technology helps make your inventory process faster, more modern, and less painful. Instead of investing in bulky hardware and expensive, unnecessarily complex software, explore more affordable options online.

Many of these websites and inventory management apps will work directly with devices you already own, like iPhones, Android devices, tablets, and computers. Forget clunky barcode scanners. Your phone can do that for free!

managing inventory tips

List out a clear process for solving your inventory struggles.

This is the part where you’ll put pen to paper, standardizing and articulating an inventory process for all involved employees to follow. Of course, you’re not an expert, and writing this won’t be easy.

A good place to start is by understanding your inventory pain points and recognizing what organizational mistakes are wasting time and money. It’s not fun to write this stuff down. But the solution starts with recognition, and once you’ve identified the inventory issues that are hurting your business, you’ll be able to think about how a new inventory process can really help.

Once you think you have a solution, try putting it into simple steps. Remember, nothing is set in stone. What you’re really doing is hypothesizing how to solve your organization issues, using tips and tricks from peers—and strangers from the internet!

It could be as simple as this:

  1. Create a master list of everything you need to track.
  2. Make updates to this list as items are used, checked out, sold, damaged, etc. Do this instantly, daily, weekly—whatever works best.
  3. Audit inventory monthly to ensure accuracy and adherence to program.

Once you discover what inventory tools and systems work for your business, you can go back to your hypothesis and turn it into more of a standard operating procedure (SOP).

Temper your day-one expectations.

When it’s time to get your inventory started, don’t expect perfection right away. It might take a little time to see the fruits of your labor, and getting all your stuff organized, cataloged, and connected might be a bit of a process if you’ve got warehouses full of products.

Start with a small batch of items and figure out what works. So much of this process is trial and error. Hopefully, you’re using validated, modern inventory technology that’ll put you on the other side of the organizational learning curve way ahead of schedule.

Train a few early adopters first, then bring more employees into the fold as necessary.

Whether it’s you running your company’s inventory initiative or another trusted colleague, remember to keep too many cooks out of the kitchen at the very beginning.

Your inventory process is still young, so it’s best to just bring a few hands-on employees into the mix at first. This way, you’ll have much tightened quality control and can work out all the kinks in your plan. Then, once everything is running like clockwork, have your next wave of employees get familiar with the system.

Remember to schedule quarterly audits to ensure that your inventory strategy is still effective and that your employees are still following that plan to a T. If there are problems, address them head-on and get your business back on track the very next day.

Shahzad Karachiwala

Shahzad Karachiwala is Director of Marketing at Sortly. He is the lead writer for the Sortly blog and covers topics including inventory management, small business, organizing, and technology.
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