White Sulphur Springs, MT
When my team and I arrived in White Sulphur Springs, MT we knew we would be working with an awesome entrepreneur, Sarah Calhoun, who had made a tremendous impact in her local community through her company Red Ants Pants (RAP), which makes form fitting work wear and accessories for women. With Sarah juggling many balls in the air, our challenge was to streamline and automate the retail side of the business so Sarah could manage her business rather than her business managing her.
We attacked this challenge by first documenting RAP’s current business processes, both from each stakeholder’s perspective and that of the customer whether they made a purchase via the store front, by phone or online. This allowed us to get up to speed on the business and establish a baseline from which to identify inefficiencies and gaps. This included understanding how RAP managed the back-end of its online merchant transactions to overhead bill payments to how inventory was documented. With this in place, we went about tackling each gap and inefficiency through the process chain.
The central take-away we consistently found was the amount of manual steps the business was performing on a daily basis, which could be easily automated through common software tools, applications and structured processes, thereby freeing up human resources to focus on expanding the business. From creating a standardized CEO checklist to putting a plan in place to streamline and automate the back-end of her online retail presence to structuring inventory processes to connecting and automating her business bills to her business accounts, we were able to significantly reduce human resources needed in attending to mundane repetitive processes.
As we dug into the best software applications and business tools for RAP’s operations, we realized that many of the business tools and applications we were quite familiar with and took for granted, were completely foreign and unknown to RAP. By being able to explain simply the benefits of our solutions, the light-bulb went off and an excitement came over Sarah as she began to realize the personal time-savings these solutions would provide, allowing her to focus on other pursuits to expand the business.
While I came into MBAs Across America with an interest in understanding the inner workings of start-ups, I had never fully appreciated the number of different working facets that need to work in harmony in order for a retail business to function efficiently. I started to appreciate the wide variety of operations models like RAP.
In White Sulphur Springs, I learned that in order to be able to effectively manage a business and have the bandwidth to focus on big picture requires a streamlined, error-proof and repeatable business operation. For RAP, this extends far beyond just being a sustainable and profitable business model for as Sarah once said, “our pants are more than work wear, they provide our women comfort and power to help them overcome some of their largest life challenges.”