Oneir Solution’s easy-to-handle ERP financial software solution and superb support stimulate growth of small town business.

by Andy Shaw

Frank Van Gelder has bigger things in mind these days for his building supplies company, Dwight Lumber, and that’s very fitting. Tiny though Dwight, Ontario, the village where Frank founded the family business may be, its Lake of Bays surroundings have a huge reputation. Encompassed by Canadian Shield forest, anchored on ancient granite bedrock, and refreshed with pristine waters all around, Lake of Bays has been named by National Geographic Traveler magazine, as the top destination among its world-wide “Ten Best Trips of Summer” rankings. But that’s no surprise to Dwight locals, nor Frank.

“The Lake of Bays region is so attractive to both cottagers and homeowners that it’s become quite affluent and recession resistant,” says Frank who is now planning to capitalize on that reliable affluence and open another Dwight Lumber location in the region. What’s given Frank the most confidence that he can sustain a bigger business is Dwight Lumber’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system from Oneir Solutions.

While its roots are in accounting, Oneir’s ERP has evolved into a far-reaching database management system that enables users like those at Dwight Lumber to track and manage all the company’s internal cost functions – while better connecting the business externally with its suppliers and customers.

“Oneir truly is more than just financial software,” explains Frank. “It is also, for instance, an excellent customer relationship management tool and good CRM is vital to to us. After all, our motto at Dwight Lumber with customers is: ‘We do what we say; our word is our commitment.’ It’s Oneir that very much allows us to keep that commitment day in and day out.

Frank cites a frequent example of how Oneir’s ERP-integrated record keeping at Dwight Lumber can help customers: “With many people either building or improving their homes and cottages in this area, a lot of our repeat customers are contractors. So let’s say a contractor comes in who bought a stain three years ago for one owner and now he’s back with more work from that owner and looking for the same stain. Odds are that the contractor will never find his invoice for that stain from three years ago. With Oneir we can tell him within minutes what the product was and how much he bought last time. We had another example recently after a house in the area was hit and damaged by lightning. Again within minutes, using Oneir we were able to retrieve invoices for the homeowner from five years earlier to support his insurance claim.”

Today, Frank and Dwight Lumber staff including the company controller Anna, Frank’s wife, can delve through the depths of company records on Oneir, almost without thinking. But when Frank first landed in Dwight back in 1992, he admits he didn’t know what to think. Frank certainly wasn’t used to thinking small. Though he went to Dwight for a career change and to live near his Dutch-born parents, Frank Van Gelder had driven two-and-a-half hours north out of great big Toronto, leaving behind a big-time senior executive job with a big national retailer.

Frank’s early days in Dwight were spent building a home for himself, his wife and three children, which soon led him to the nearest building supplier who was about to either sell or close the business. Immediately, Frank saw a big opportunity in that and soon began his second career.

“It was an interesting move on my part to, alright, because I knew zero about the business,” admits Frank.

Though his accounting for his new firm started out on paper he soon knew he needed to make his job easier and seek out something better. His search for a computer accounting app that was both affordable and easy to use, landed on Vigilant, the DOS-based predecessor to today’s Linux-based Oneir.

“I had very little accounting knowledge and like so many people in retail businesses, I am not at all a techie,” says Frank, “so it wasn’t long before we turned to the company’s very strong support service and started taking their advice.

So began a 25-year-and-counting relationship between Dwight Lumber and what’s become Oneir Solutions. “What Jon Mainwaring, Jane Giggal, and others – first at Vigilant and now at Oneir – are very, very good at is helping you adapt the application to your particular needs,” says Frank.

Among the business process-spanning ERP features and capabilities that Frank sings Oneir praises for are: a built-in price multiplier, which for lumber purchases, for instance, can, regardless of what length the 2×4 is cut to, or how many pieces are bought, the system produces invoices that customers can readily understand. Right away they see they are being fairly charged. And its a boon to inventory control. The company can instantly answer a customer question about how much of what the customer wants does Dwight Lumber have on hand, making it easy for customers to one-stop-shop for all their needs.

As well, Oneir accounting of purchases goes straight to the general ledger making it easy to bill all contractors monthly. Invoices clearly show whatever discount the contractor has been granted, so the contractors can determine what level of discount they might want to pass on to their own customers. There’s similar accounting for payables that helps Frank to do quick sales analyses. From them he can see what margins of profit he has on all products sold and which ones he might more profitably adjust.

“I can also look at trends with Oneir, so if I want to know how much I sell of a certain product at certain times of the year, I can,” says Frank. “But maybe what I am the biggest fan of with Oneir is that I can send all of our financials directly to our accounting firm. Accounting can be a huge cost for a retailer, but with Oneir it is not.”

Oneir’s ERP adaptability has also facilitated Dwight Lumber’s involvement with Sexton Group Ltd., the Winnipeg-based national purchasing organization that uses the collective buying power of independent entrepreneurs like Frank and their companies to help them compete with their industry’s larger and chain store retailers.

For the future, the Oneir ERP is also real-time technology well suited to help Dwight Lumber expand without skipping a beat. Says Oneir Executive Vice President Jon Mainwaring: “Because it is Linux-based, just as the Internet backbone is, our Oneir Solutions ERP software is very agile and can readily manage additional locations via the Internet. We chose Linux because it gives our ERP high speed, tight security, and low data exchange rates. So it can give Frank and Dwight Lumber the same instant high quality reporting they are used to, from a remote location.”

However, that’s not the biggest thing that is best about Oneir for Frank. What I tell people including members of our Sexton buying group who are looking for better financial ERP oftware about Oneir is that the company is incredibly supportive of whatever you ask its software to do for you – both technically and accounting-wise. Also I think there’s not an accounting or indeed any software product out there that you are not going to have issues with at some point. So you better make sure that somebody is always going to be there for you and take the time to walk you through the solution. That kind of customer care, to me, is the very essence of Oneir Solutions. That’s Oneir’s big attraction.”

No small praise that is.

Andy Shaw is a freelance writer, broadcaster and international journalist with articles in many business and technical publications.

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