Jim Vass has had his finger on the pulse of cloud working since it entered the market. His firm, ATB Chartered Accountants in New South Wales, Australia, was looking for a solution to help them add more value to their clients’ businesses. There’s always more to learn in the advisory space and standing out has never been more important.
Learning to master the Futrli platform has opened Jim and his team up to new services. Futrli Advisory Certification has levelled up the team’s knowledge, so the firm is now solving and preventing more problems for clients than ever.
Becoming Futrli-certified has also helped the team deep-dive into what makes their clients’ businesses tick. Including non-financial data in forecasts and reports means clients receive more strategic advice, and more visibility. For the firm, white labelling has tied all of their offerings together, so they can stand head and shoulders above their competitors.
Interview in full
Tell us a bit about yourself and ATB
I’ve been in the accounting profession for about 30 odd years now, and we’ve been in business for about 25 years. We started moving towards the cloud about eight years back. Since then, advisory has been the follow-on as our clients need good, current figures.
What made you decide to adopt Futrli in your workflow?
So, now most of our focus with our clients is looking forward as opposed to reporting historically. We’re looking much more towards what’s going to be happening in the future and what we have to do to avert problems and increase profitability. That’s where Futrli really comes into its own, as we use the platform extensively to work with our clients.
I also love the fact that it’s so quick to get things into Futrli. It syncs, so you’re actually looking at real-time data against forecast, as opposed to having to manipulate things. You know what’s in Futrli is a good starting point to make decisions moving forward.
Do you think clients are looking for advisory services?
A lot of our clients want it and rely on it – once you’ve got used to planning, budgeting and forecasting, you become very reliant on it. There’s a lot of demand for it from the clients.
How do you conduct client meetings?
Part of the discussion is always asking the clients what they’re expecting or hoping to achieve in terms of personal goals and also for their business goals. We ask: What would you like to be earning by the end of this year? Where do you see your business going?
A lot of people don’t think about that too much, they just keep on doing what they have been doing. When you actually start questioning what they’re achieving as far as profitability goes, a lot of people will want to increase turnover, without thinking through what activities they’ll need to undertake in order to increase the turnover. Is it going to be additional equipment?
Have you built a structure to follow for each client?
With most of our clients, we’ll meet either monthly, quarterly or biannually. We have a five-step plan we follow:
- Understand your purpose
- Assess if it’s practical
- Prioritise the tasks
- Implement the process
- Measure the results and plan
Rather than being reliant on a platform, we wanted to take more ownership of what it was and try and customise it to match what we do. That’s why white labelling was a great choice for us.
Do you use KPIs to help your clients understand the direction their businesses are taking?
Yes. You’re going to need to know what your gross margins need to be and what your wages to turnover are to know how efficiently you’re running your business. Unless the margin’s broken or seriously wrong, most of the benefit the clients are getting out of this is people are working knowing what their KPIs are or should be.
We can identify where things have gone wrong. But, because that’s the past and it can’t change, we can then say with what we know now, let’s plan for the next 12 months.
How are advisory services are adding value to your clients?
When we meet, our clients usually have a limited knowledge or grasp of what they think is going to happen. So, we get an analysis sheet, run through their customers, plus all the revenues etc. If historically they’ve been generating X amount of revenue in the specific client base, we can say ‘we expect this is what you’re going to do’, and see who they’re going to be targeting as new clients. Then we explore what the revenue is going to be after that.
It then raises more questions. If they get that revenue, what’s happening to their business’ headcount? We can see if they need increases or decreases. We take them through the impact of hiring on equipment and everything else. Then we meet throughout the course of the year. They’ll know if they’re 3 or 6 months down the track how they’re progressing for the year.
We compare what they’ve planned in their blueprint to what’s going on in real-time. We give them revised balance sheets and P&Ls so they’re more on track. From the feedback we’re getting that’s where they’re getting the most benefit out of it. They can refine what they’re expecting.
How did you find our CPD-accredited Advisory Certification course?
The course was great. It was a good opportunity to really learn the software. The biggest learning curve for me in the course was with the non-financial data. It actually got me thinking a lot more about the non-financial data that we could look at obtaining from clients which in certain instances is actually quite important to be able to model things.
Can you give us an example of using your new skills with a client?
For example, I’ve got an organic farmer client who has a number of different greenhouses and I started thinking the type of information required from him when he was planting crops, when picking, what planting, what yield is per crop, what’s your average price for your product.
We could make their timetable help us work out their cashflow. I wouldn’t have been able to provide that level of service without the non-financials. We can see what’s actually happening in the business rather than guessing. It’s easy to manipulate a forward budget without much drama. I hate to think how I would have done that without Futrli.