Most small and medium-sized businesses have to deal with inventory management at various levels. Benjamin Yee is the entrepreneur behind an innovative software, EMERGE App, that makes it easy to manage the process. It's a user-friendly and affordable app that businesses can utilize to help increase efficiency while reducing overall costs involved.
We had a chance to interview Benjamin and asked about his story, how he started his business and the future of Emerge.
Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
I sort of stumbled across my business. I didn't set out to write an inventory management software package from scratch. It really started as an in-house software solution to address the stock woes that I had with my custom t-shirt printing business. From there I realized that a lot of businesses that deal with inventory were using pen-and-paper or juggling multiple spreadsheets. Spreadsheets sort of worked for a while but it didn't scale with my t-shirt business and it certainly didn't help me to invoice my customers on time or avoid an overstocked situation. I then spun out this software solution and named it EMERGE App. I wanted to target and help other small and medium-sized businesses around the world that had the same inventory problems as me.
How did you come up with your business name?
Emerge generally means to move out of or away from something and become more apparent and visible. So in this way, I wanted businesses to move away from the old way of doing things with their inventory and embrace something new and cutting-edge with my software. I also wanted their business to emerge out of the shadows and grow with us. I hope that my software will help them to get out of a growth rut by reducing their costs, increasing productivity and achieving efficiency in their workflow.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
My company's flagship product is an order, purchase and inventory management software for SMBs around the world. As with all new software nowadays, it's delivered as a web application that can be used in any web browser. This makes it very portable and lightweight as there's nothing to install or update. It's all done in real-time and in the background! I help my clients by getting their back office inventory workflow in order. Business software isn't glamorous but it's nonetheless important to help sales, operations, purchasing and fulfilment teams to process sales orders and ship them out on time.
A good part of my software has built-in smarts. This means I automate a lot of things that had to be previously done manually. For example, landed costs are a pain for importers. You need to apportion them proportionately to each item in a purchase order so that you get an accurate figure for the CIF costs in importing them. With EMERGE App all this is done automatically and seamlessly.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
Our number one USP is our unwavering focus on Customers and their Needs. We're so customer-focused that their every praise or criticism informs our next move and direction for EMERGE App. Our goal is to be the best inventory management software for SMBs. And to do that this means listening to customers carefully and incorporating bug fixes and new features with every release of the software. And we don't stop at listening to our customers. We put ourselves in their shoes every day to test and critically examine our software to make it more user-friendly, faster and intuitive for our customers. We want everyday users to simply pick up our software and start using it for their job role and the business.
Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years?
As you know software and technology moves very quickly in a short space of time. For instance, we measure our software releases in three-week windows! So 3-5 years is very long in our time frame when we are about two-and-a-half years old.
But for the next 3-5 years, we're looking affirming our standing as the best order, purchase and inventory management solution for SMBs bar none. This means retaining the same good-looking user interface, our wallet-friendly pricing and the same dedication to customer satisfaction.
But our biggest goal over this timespan is to internationalise our software interface. We want native versions of EMERGE App in Chinese, Spanish, Hindi and Tamil languages. These four languages plus English cover a good deal of the world's population. This is an immense market. Of course, this means adding developers, support staff and marketers fluent in each language as well.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Always put your ego on hold in the very beginning. Your product or service is probably NOT what the market is looking for despite your enthusiasm and single-minded belief. So how do you check or confirm this? Get some mentors on board, preferably those who are in the same industry and have their exit strategy well in place. Listen to them. Build a proof of concept. Toss it to select users for their honest feedback. From there you will know what the market wants. If it doesn’t work. Reiterate and move on fast.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
It will have been something from the late Steve Jobs:
“We hire people who want to make the best things in the world.”
This pretty much sums up my philosophy at EMERGE App and how I look for talent around the world. I travel three weeks out of the month. I meet lots of customers, investors and candidates during this time. When I size up someone I don't bother with their educational qualifications or where they studied. This doesn't mean anything to me when I want to build the best inventory management software in the world for small and medium-sized businesses. Instead, I look at what they've done in the past and what they want to accomplish with me at EMERGE App. Can they talk, articulate their ideas and sell it to me? I like to think that I'm giving them a springboard to jump to greater heights with us. If they're happy and productive with me then that's a true win-win situation. Naturally, not every candidate works out but those that pass are gold. At the end of the day, I want to be satisfied that I've extended an opportunity for someone to step up and shine rather than missing them out completely.
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
Here, my proudest achievement isn't measured in terms of dollars or awards. It's about setting up my software development centre from scratch in Vietnam. Young, talented software engineers and testers can be hired for very competitive wages there.
Suddenly, I was responsible for the livelihoods of a dozen young, bright faces. Some had even moved to be nearer to the office! A few were planning to get married. Others wanted to start a family. Another wanted to earn enough to buy a house in her hometown. Yet another wanted to migrate to another country but keep his remote technology job.
I helped each and every one of these individuals to work towards their dreams. It wasn't just an employment contract anymore but an obligation to uphold my side of the bargain, to keep the company growing and to make their dreams real. I'm glad to say many have achieved their goals so far! Above all, I feel honored that many have joined me to help me achieve my dreams and push the envelope for state-of-the-art business software.
Anything else additional you want to tell our readers?
As you know, being a CEO and founder of your own company is tough work. It's not glamorous and there were many times when I felt that things were working against me and not for me. As I mentioned earlier, you need to put your ego aside and work with what you have.
So, if you need to seek additional funding, then so be it. Eat humble pie and search out those investors around the world. You will perfect your company's pitch in your sleep and you will deliver it in the time it takes to ride an elevator! Despite all this, no job in the world would have given me the satisfaction, wins and losses all rolled up in one that you have to bear as a CEO and founder. I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.