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Accountancy case study; It is not just about the numbers.

Debbie Whitaker

Debbie Whittaker is the owner & founder of Leeds based Xero Gold accounting firm, Not just Numbers. Debbie is the heart and soul of Not Just Numbers and its phenomenal growth. Beginning her career in the construction industry, Debbie quickly became FD of multiple companies, realising her love of working with SME’s.

Not Just Numbers was launched in 2011 with a mission to change how small businesses work. She wants to help all small businesses plan for future financial growth.

“Since being in practice we have always offered real advisory services to the small businesses we support as I am a Chartered Management Accountant and my background is all in KPIs, forecasting and management accounts.

Ensuring people know their numbers and why is one of the core values of our firm. As accountants, we want to help our small businesses develop, not just survive.  This approach runs throughout my career, even back in the days of desktop computers and spreadsheets.

I passionately believe that small businesses should know their numbers and make decisions using them.”

What impact did cloud accounting have?

“The advances in cloud accounting technology have just made it so much easier for both me and my clients. Whilst the will was always there, there is now a way to offer the same services to all of our clients and open the door to more. 

We only have a small niche team, which is part of our success. What we do we do, we do really well but we are only small. We couldn’t grow from within spreadsheets which was our only cash flow forecasting tool before Futrli. We tried a desktop tool for a bit but that was time consuming as it did not integrate which left us still without the ability to scale and actually excel was still easier. 

We embraced Xero in 2012 and I could see the huge benefits. I met Hannah, the CEO & Founder of Futrli a couple of years after this and saw that what was missing was a cloud cash flow forecasting tool that had the detail to give accurate numbers to our clients. We needed it to start simple but have the capability to get more detailed, more complex as they grow.”

How & when do you start talking to your clients about the future?

“All of our client conversations start with a cash flow forecast, it sets the value that we will deliver to them from day 1. Every conversation, meeting and correspondence after that comes back to this cash flow figure, giving a really solid foundation from us all to work from, a shared goal. We then can create dashboards, KPIs, reports around the cashflow to have real operational purpose and value within that client’s business after the meeting.”

Is Xero + Excel enough, do you need a forecasting tool?

“YES! Cloud technology has had a huge time saving impact on our larger clients.

For example, we have one of our small businesses with a super complex model and before Xero & Futrli, it was all in Excel. Updating it was a nightmare, it took hours and was error prone. The fact we could integrate with Xero, bringing through brought forward balances directly enabled us to update the numbers quickly and easily to create scenarios. 

Sharing it directly with my clients in a dashboard that updates automatically every day gives them a true cash flow position that they can work from between our meetings. A rolling live cash flow forecast without any major work was huge for the client and timesaving for us. 

Honestly we couldn't do it without Futrli (and neither could our clients!)”

What do your clients think?

“Our clients love the simplicity of our services which are provided through cloud accounting technology. They are wowed by what we present, the service they receive and the level of detail we are able to offer really sets us apart. And, the impact on their lives we hear about every day.

“Our clients love the simplicity of our services which are provided through cloud accounting technology. They are wowed by what we present, the service they receive and the level of detail we are able to offer really sets us apart. And, the impact on their lives we hear about every day.

De-risking how they work, making their decisions faster and simpler. Numbers for numbers sake are often terrifying. We make sure they know where they are succeeding and of course help them if there are obstacles to overcome. When we show any of our reports or dashboards to a client they are astounded by the amount of info they have and the clarity they have about where they are going. They feel in control, often for the first time ever. This is something our industry often forgets as a base pain that we can solve.”

What advice would you give to other firms starting out on this journey?

“There are not enough small businesses focusing on cash flow. It is our job as accountants to try and change this and Futrli is brilliant for supporting you with this. Start your conversations on dashboards powered by their cash flow, bringing to life what lies ahead.

Always start with a cash flow, it is genuinely the only way you will add instant value with your clients. For first meetings and prospect customers we use Futrli’s Last Year's Actuals forecasting function. No setup required and you can generate a true cashflow forecast (P&L, balance sheet & cash flow) in less than 10 seconds. The perfect “wow” backdrop for you to show your clients and the impact that you can have on that bottom line. You can make a whole heap of difference to your clients with that first conversation.”

If you want to make it about more than just numbers check out the suite of products to help accountants and bookkeepers support their small businesses with cash flow and business performance on  futrli.com 

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