For a company that says, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, that it produces a $12,000 toy, Lift Foils takes its business very seriously.
The Isabela, Puerto Rico company is making a big splash — metaphorically if not literally — with its product, a motorized surfboard with wings that gives the rider the feeling of flying over water, no wind nor surf required. The company sold its first board in 2018 and expects to sell 5,000 of them in 2021.
CFO Steward Wagner says Lift Foils anticipates doubling its sales each year, reaching sales of 80,000 boards by 2025 — not bad for an adult toy.
"It's more of a lifestyle product," said Wagner. "People really want this product, but it isn’t a necessity."
Of course, that depends on one's definition of "need." One of the company's biggest market thus far, according to Wagner, is people who want to recover lost mobility. Think of a veteran who's lost the use of their legs. (You can ride the Lift Foil seated.) Lift Foils boards are certainly changing lives.
The company is getting its product into consumers’ hands in a number of ways. Lift Foils sells 40% of its boards via its own site. It has a network of 250 surf and stand-up paddleboard shops around the world that provide hands-on training and generate another 40% of sales. The remaining 20% comes from a reseller market you don't hear about every day: yacht companies whose clients want to add a Lift Foil to their onboard entertainment options.
In Inventory, a Turning of the Tides
Lift Foil's meteoric growth probably would have crippled it by now had it not opted to commit to NetSuite ERP two years ago.
At the time, the company was struggling with inventory control, as it lacked the supply chain visibility to ensure parts arrived in time to keep production schedules on track. Over the course of six months, Lift Foils had to shut down production six times due to inventory issues. The snag usually involved a small part, such as a screw or a handle, that its system — a combination of QuickBooks and bolt-on inventory system Fishbowl — couldn't track.
That frequency of interruption was not acceptable.
"If I run out of something because the system says we have it and we don't, I'm mad about that," said Wagner. "When you're constantly chasing the latest surprise, you can't operate, and you certainly can't double every year."
Inventory wasn’t the only issue. Wagner said almost every process, from procurement to order fulfillment, took forever. Closing the books required two weeks.
He decided enough was enough. Lift Foils began looking for a more mature ERP solution, preferably a SaaS ERP. After looking at SAP, the company turned its attention to NetSuite, saw a platform it could grow with, and began deployment. About three months later, Lift Foils went live and almost immediately began to see benefits.
"Everything related to inventory control just got better," Wagner said. "We can see what's in transit and whether vendors can meet demand. Having that knowledge makes things a lot easier."
Those production interruptions that plagued the company have been reduced significantly. The two-week financial close is down to two days. And NetSuite tracks Lift Foils’ six price levels and five currencies while delivering accurate information, which means Wagner no longer needs to task a team member with checking data accuracy.
Lift Foils by the Numbers
200% sales growth YoY for 3 years, yet just < 30% headcount growth in 2021
2 weeks à 2 days required for financial close with NetSuite
8 hours à 0.5 hours spent reconciling commissions for affiliates each month
6 price levels, 5 currencies tracked with ease
250 partner commissions calculated monthly within 2 hours.
Riding the Wave
As Lift Foils has grown, NetSuite has supported operations. Consider that the company's sales have doubled twice since it decided to jettison its old system and yet Wagner's back-office staff has grown by only three people.
"That's pretty unheard of," he said. "We would have been adding people left and right on the old system."
Going forward, he intends to remain lean. While the company expects to double its revenue again in the coming year, its current staff of 34 will likely grow to only 40 or 45 members.
"We will find ways to be more efficient, helped by NetSuite," Wagner said.
The company also sees NetSuite paying off in other, unexpected areas, such as business continuity: The team now has access to company data from anywhere in the world and doesn’t have to get on the phone constantly to verify information.
Lift Foils has also added NetSuite’s Incentive Compensation module, which means the team now spends just 30 minutes each month — vs. eight hours previously —reconciling commissions paid to affiliates. That has Wagner eyeing other strategic additions such as integrations to shipping partners and additional multi-location inventory functionality.
Lift Foils plans to eventually replicate its entire Puerto Rico operation in other locations around the world, enabling it to increase production, build closer to its markets and continue doubling sales each year. The way Wagner sees it, none of this would be possible without NetSuite, which is essentially removing any shackles holding Lift Foils back.
"There's no limitation for us from a system standpoint that we can see for the next four to seven years," Wagner said. "NetSuite does everything we need it to do."