Podcast: Business by Design – Eric Brown of Johnson Products Shares Their SAP ByD Story
I seem to be recording more content than I can release, which may be the kind of problem you want to have. At any rate, I wanted to get this podcast with Eric Brown, CEO of Johnson Products, out on SCN before Sapphire. We can expect SAP to say a lot of things about Business by Design in Orlando and Frankfurt, but I wanted to get a customer’s perspective. I had the opportunity to speak with Eric Brown about his experiences implementing By Design as the Influencer Summit in December 2009.
During my talk with Eric, I was struck by his story and the compelling way he told it. I also thought that his story raised some important points about how SAP should be thinking about By Design. In the podcast, I asked Eric about why his company didn’t even look at Business One. I also asked him to share his advice for SAP on bringing By Design to market.
In my initial JonERP.com intro, I called this a “milestone” podcast because it was my first that didn’t focus on SAP large enterprise products. I’m sure there will be more, so let me hear your comments on what other SME topics you’d like me to cover. I may not be able to get to them all, but I’ll try to address them with subjects like Eric who are willing to give us a full and honest picture.
Anyhow, during this 35 minute conversation, Brown talks about why his team chose ByD over other SME offerings, how they implemented in thirty days under intense deadline pressure, and what he thinks SAP can do from here to improve the ByD go to market strategy. Brown’s entrepreneurial dreams would not have been possible with out a cloud-based ERP solution that could provide a major savings in cost and infrastructure without sacrificing functionality.
Johnson Products is an ethnic hair care products company with a proud history. Brown shares his frank views on what it was like to purchase the company and lean heavily on By Design to get his business off the ground.
(If for any reason the player doesn’t work, you can download the podcast using the “download media” link on the right hand side).
(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it’s not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on JonERP.com in the meantime.)
(:52) Eric shares the background on Johnson Products and how his company was launched. Eric’s investment group acquired Johnson products from Proctor and Gamble in March of 2009.
(1:50) Jon: As far as I know, you’re the only ethnic hair care products company amongst SAP’s 80,000 or so customers. As it turns out, Johnson Products has some interesting history – can you shed some light on that?
(3:43) Jon: Eric, you made quite an impression at the Influencer Summit with your story about how your Business by Design selection and installation was literally wrapped up in the fate of your business itself. For those listeners who weren’t able to hear your talk in person, tell us about the unique business circumstances you were facing.
Eric: We didn’t acquire any infrastructure (such as IT and customer service) that typically carries over into an acquisition. We closed the deal on March 31, 2009. On April 1, we had to hit the ground running with a new organization. I literally had less than six months to transition the entire business. For software selection, we were looking at cloud computing options, and we made the decision to go with Business by Design in August of 2009. We were up and running on Business by Design in less than 30 days.
(6:05) Jon: And how high were the stakes here? Would you have been able to move forward if the by Design installation had not been successful or completed on time?
(8:15) Jon: so you held SAP’s feet to the fire as well. That was a big vote of confidence to SAP for a new product like By Design.
(10:22) Jon: One thing that surprised me: at the time of your last talk, you only had ten employees, but you never even looked at SAP Business One, which is the product I would have thought was best for a company of your size – what drew you to by Design? Was it the cloud-based option? What capabilities and features drew you to by Design?
Eric: This wasn’t a situation of throwing more people at the project we could get things done in our timeframe. We needed a solution that we could implement in a very short period of time. But we didn’t want to lose out on the functionality we wanted because of our short timeframe. With SaaS, I saw the chance to eliminate the hardware-software overhead costs, and remove it from the timeline. This would allow us to focus on the functionality.
(17:50) Jon: Tell us about the process of implementing by Design. Were there outside experts involved? What kind of in-house training or support was needed to get it done in 30 days?
Eric: It was all internal, across finance, IT, and supply chain – those were the guys who had the weight on their shoulders to make this functionality work. One of the things SAP did to win us over was to say, “We’ll do what we need to do to meet your timeline.”
(20:25) Jon: Now another interesting chapter in your business and the possible use of by Design has emerged. Last time you and I spoke, you were considering taking on the manufacturing side of your business and possibly using by Design’s manufacturing functionality to do so. Where do you stand on this now?
(26:03) Jon: SAP’s by Design rollout is moving towards general release as we head towards Sapphire Orlando. As SAP learns from its flagship customers prior to broadening by Design into general release, what advice would you give SAP based on your experience?
Eric: I’ve said this to SAP directly, but I think SAP has a huge opportunity on the marketing side that they haven’t taken advantage of. I found SAP, not the reverse. It may be that SAP is holding back the reigns, so to speak, but SAP has not done as well on the marketing side as they could. The other challenge is debunking all the myths that I saw about the perceptions of SAP being appropriate for small businesses.
(30:40) Jon: most of the companies I interview that are truly successful have a recognizable corporate culture and leadership philosophy. What drives your success at Johnson Products?
(34:09) Jon: What you said just now reminded me of something you said at the Influencer Summit – that one thing you liked about running SAP is that you didn’t feel there was any limits to your growth.
Eric: When someone asks what kind of ERP system are you running, whatever their motivation was, when I say, “I’m running SAP,” the question got answered. To be able to say that means that we’re serious. There’s other smaller, less complex systems – so when we choose SAP, we’re saying, “We have put together a platform, we can play with the big players.”