Dries Van de Walle on Pharma More and the impact of digitization

Those who do not digitize are hopelessly behind in the near future! So says Dries Van de Walle, Founder of Pharma More. He recently switched to Exact for Commerce. So he is perfectly placed to articulate the impact of digitization. Dries will share his vision on Sept. 25 during Work smarter, not harder, a joint knowledge session by Exact and BME.

Dag Dries, perhaps you could clarify who Pharma More is?

Pharma More develops products and builds brands intended for pharmacy and para-pharmacy. The focus is on OTC (Over The Counter) products. These can be sold freely without a prescription. Today, Pharma More has 2 brands on the market: Les Couleurs de Noir: makeup for women with sensitive skin(www.lescouleursdenoir.com) and ByeBugz / ByeBite: products to prevent and soothe insect stings and bites(www.byebugz.be).

Early this year, you took your first steps to digitize Pharma More. What were the biggest pain points that made you make this decision?

Right from the start, Pharma More has focused on structuring and monitoring data as well as possible, especially in the area of CRM. The choices we make here are always related to our growth and expansion. What was necessary on day 1, turned out not to be sufficient after 2 years. Which in turn cannot be compared to our situation today.

That is why we decided at the end of last year to implement a strong digitalization in terms of ERP with integrated CRM systems and accounting packages. An important factor here was that about two years ago we made the choice to outsource our logistics completely. At the time, our former software package proved inadequate to guarantee smooth logistical integration. As a result, there was too much manual work over the past 2 years, delays arose and the chance of an error increased!

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Why did you ultimately choose Exact for Commerce?

I ended up with Exact on the recommendation of our e-fulfilment partner BME. After analyzing several CRM/ERP packages, Exact for Commerce turned out to be the most complete. Most software packages have "either CRM, or ERP, or accounting" requiring you to link the software together via complicated (to me at least) APIs. I am convinced that in the long run this causes problems in terms of delays and updates that are out of sync, ... causing errors to happen.

Every integration is always a challenge, how did you experience this yourself?

Despite thorough preparatory work, the start has indeed been somewhat difficult. Surely there appears to be a difference between the analysis of an integration and its effective implementation. As a result, estimating time and deadlines threatened to become a stretch. Fortunately, this did not pose a problem for our client because we were able to continue with our former program in the meantime.

So I do suspect that each sector is different so no integration is identical and in retrospect a 2 month integration period is quite quick. What is important here is that during such an integration the communication is smooth in order to be able to deal with unforeseen problems. The result is that we have now started using Exact for Trade smoothly and with satisfaction.

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You are now 6 months along. What change has this digitization already brought today?

Time and a smaller margin of error! At every level of our operation...

On the one hand, we have saved a lot of time with the automation of our orders. Where we used to have to export and import manually, everything is now done automatically. This saves our back office time to deal with what is really important, which is following up with our customers.

Our accounting has also evolved positively. We never really had problems with bad payers, but with better tracking of shipment - invoicing and tracking of payment, we notice that our average payment time has improved even more.

We also now have a near real-time view of our numbers, whereas before we had to wait for feedback from the accountant.

Even in terms of workload, we are taking steps in the right direction and this stimulates our creativity. After all, creativity is our core activity in the development of new brands and products. In short, more fun at the desk and thus a progress for the entire team!

Bye Bugz image 2

Dries, with Pharma More you are growing fast, what are your ambitions for the next 3 years?

Indeed, Pharma More is certainly not standing still. Just last year we had a 33% increase in sales. We have some ambitious plans for the next 3 years. Our strategy is to grow in 4 directions: being number of brands, number of products per brand, number of pharmacies and own distribution and export.

We are in the process of a capital round to bet on all 4 of these pillars which will put us into new momentum. Details of our plans I cannot reveal yet, but we have some great projects coming up.

How important has your move to digitization been in this? And what steps do you still foresee to realize your ambitions?

I see digitization as a continuous process. Every year there are new tools that reduce the workload, buying you time to focus on what really matters. I strongly believe in outsourcing tasks that are not part of your core business.

Personally, I think the way our customers purchase today is rather conservative. I think there is a lot of potential for an online platform where they can submit orders by scanning products with the smartphone, for example. This is not to say that I don't believe in the pharmacy-representative-firm relationship! Just that I think there are more efficient ways to order and that the representative could spend more time on training, merchandising, discussing numbers and sell-out,... In my opinion, merely entering an order is not one of the core tasks of a sales team. Digitization could provide a solution here.

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Finally, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who have yet to start the digital transformation?

You can make a digital transformation in very different areas. Think about website, CRM, ERP, VoIP, ... Find out for yourself where you can save time and workload in order to focus on what you really find important in your company. The time that is freed up automatically creates a new flow in the company, which will lead to better results.

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