A true entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to wear many hats helps Mike Rowan steer his forward-thinking marketing agency to success. Find out how FINSYNC helps him continue to pave his own way. By FINSYNC [caption id="attachment_5377" align="alignleft" width="200"] Mike Rowan, KPItarget[/caption] When it comes to Mike Rowan’s professional journey, impressive is an understatement for this jack of all trades. After mastering several areas of business for others, Mike decided to go out on his own with his robust skill-set and experience. Not once, not twice, but three times. And even though it hasn’t always been easy, he assured us that it’s all been worth it — as long as you’re willing to put in the effort. “If you believe in your concept, believe in your team and believe in what you're doing, really the only thing holding you back is the ability to work hard,” he explained. “And that’s something that you have direct control over.” Digital marketing is the industry you can find Mike thriving in today, running his multi-faceted marketing and media agency, KPItarget. He took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss the rewards and challenges of being a small business owner, and to share some advice for those looking to pave their own way. What sets KPItarget apart from other marketing agencies? A lot of firms claim to be data- and audience-driven, but we really are. Every aspect of what we do is focused on that core philosophy. When you bundle that on top of robust analytics tracking and complete transparency with clients, it provides a winning solution that a lot of agencies promise, but very few deliver. Responsiveness, customer service focus and excellent communication means you'll never have to worry about being unable to reach us — we’re never out of pocket. I think when you combine our data- and metrics-driven approach with exemplary customer service, there are very few firms out there that deliver that combination. What are some of the biggest rewards of owning your own business? Honestly, it's having complete control of our company’s destiny. You get out of it what you put into it. What I've found is that the harder and smarter you work, the more potential rewards you get to glean. You get to hire smart people, develop relationships and work with great clients. It's an all-encompassing, wonderful experience for the most part because in our industry we get to deal with a lot of different types of companies. We're not necessarily restricted to just working with Fintech, or SAS, or CPG companies. We get to play with a lot of different types of companies and really influence their success through digital marketing. What are some of the challenges you face as a small business owner? A lot of our challenges deal with cash flow management. In today's world of net 30, net 60, net 90, and I’ve heard of some companies going to net 180, cash flow is just an extraordinarily important part of what makes a business tick. Obviously if you have employees and you're honoring your obligation to them and paying them on the 1st and the 15th of the month, and a client may be paying you net 90, you have to develop a large enough buffer to make that happen. That’s probably the biggest challenge these days from a projections and cash flow perspective, along with having the proper tools to manage all that in a way that helps the business hum along. It can be very problematic, especially given the terms that continue to shift outwards and outwards and outwards. How has FINSYNC helped with some of these challenges? FINSYNC’s software and their lender network really gives you a nice one-two punch. Beyond helping us manage cash flow, it helps us foresee trends and future needs, and predict surpluses and dips into the red. FINSYNC really helps us to be proactive in running the business, as opposed to reactive. They also provide the partnerships and the tools, whether it’s bookkeeping or accounting or financing, to really serve as an all-encompassing resource to run your business. Has FINSYNC made running your business easier? There's no question. The simplicity makes it a lot easier to run my business. With every aspect of FINSYNC’s software, whether it's the cash flow management capabilities, financing, even bookkeeping and accounting — they really provide all the tools and resources that I need to run my business in one spot, which is very important to me. You recently refinanced your line of credit with FINSYNC. What was that experience like? It was completely seamless. The application process was simple. I had to sync up our bank accounts, which was very easy to do once I dug out my username and password. It took a couple of minutes for all the transactions to import and after that, you just hit the submit button and it was that easy. I had lenders calling on me within the same day. FINSYNC was great throughout the process, not only answering any questions I had leading up to it, but after the fact. This is not the type of company that’s just looking to resell your information to a million lenders. I even touched base with their customer success team. I told Santi what type of loan I was interested in and he was able to talk me through which of my potential matches was the best fit. I wanted a loan with no personal guarantee that isn't tied to me. Obviously, interest rates are very important as well. And he was able to take the information and match me up with a lender that met my specific needs better. With other providers, you're really just a number. You're going through the process and then all of a sudden you end up getting 20 phone calls a second and it quickly becomes unmanageable. What advice do you have for other small business owners? I would advise them against doing what I did for the first couple of years, which was winging it. Software like FINSYNC is as affordable as you want to make it. I think we first signed up for their base package, which was a great value when I saw it was really equivalent to 3 or 4 pieces of software in one. At first, I made the mistake of trying to manage everything through a spreadsheet and cutting checks manually. Plus, I fell victim to what is considered “easy” by immediately running payroll through one of the larger companies out there, but it cost an arm and a leg and still required a lot of my time. Tools like FINSYNC ensure that you don't have to do it yourself, at a fraction of the cost. It really helps manage your business smarter, and you end up saving quite a bit of money from an opportunity cost perspective. You can assign an hourly rate to what your time's worth. When I was just starting out, I would balk at a piece of software that may cost $50 or $100 dollars a month, without realizing that the software would save me five hours a month. So effectively I was losing money by not buying the software. It’s an investment that will absolutely help you scale your business better.
Small business owners speak up about how FINSYNC has helped them tackle cash flow management with real-world examples from their day-to-day operations. By FINSYNC For small businesses, cash flow management is crucial to success, but it can also be time consuming, confusing and often overwhelming. FINSYNC’s platform makes managing small business cash flow on a day-to-day basis easy to understand (even at a glance). The right tools can give you the confidence to consider the bigger picture, so you can make decisions that will give your business an edge in the long-term. Getting to know our clients on a personal level gives us insight into how important successful cash flow management is to their business, and hearing how we help them accomplish their goals is incredibly rewarding. Here are a few highlights from our Spotlight on Small Business Owners series in which some of our clients talk about how FINSYNC contributes to successful cash flow management. [caption id="attachment_5316" align="alignright" width="300"] Erik Fogg, Founder/Sales, ProdPerfect[/caption] Predictability & Centralization “FINSYNC has helped us create a level of predictability around what we’re spending and taking in, and what we’re likely to spend and take in, so that we can make budget decisions in order to keep the pace that we’ve been keeping. That’s been mission critical for us. I need to be able to report what our revenue looks like, and we need to be able to raise money on this. FINSYNC helps with the centralization of everything. The platform can do everything I need as far as paying people and taking money in, and then it knows where all that money is and where it’s gone. And I can print a report on it, which is great. We don’t have anyone who’s going to sit there with a spreadsheet and do that all day. There are only three of us, and two of us are trying to build a product. That’s one of the biggest challenges that FINSYNC has helped us solve. I don’t have to do the work, and I don’t have to hire someone. Everything is in one place and we’re able to tack on FINSYNC’s bookkeeping concierge. At the end of the month, I can go look at my books and know how we’re doing with the budget. In fact, I can look week to week and know how we’re doing with the budget. And I can make decisions on it with a short amount of time and a very tight level of data.” Clarity [caption id="attachment_3245" align="alignleft" width="165"] Sonia Dumas, Founder, Curio Haus[/caption] “For me, FINSYNC brings clarity and confidence both to our processes and cash flow management. From the FINSYNC command station, I can see the financial health of my firm on a daily basis. I love that I can monitor the profitability of client engagements. The cash flow dashboard when you first login can either give you a heart attack or it can make you rest well at night. It can push you to say, okay, I have a 45-day window to bring in another client or do something different. And it’s good to have that kind of head’s up, versus talking to your accountant or getting statements once a month only to find out you’ve got two weeks. The other thing I love is being able to know where to quickly trim the fat on value-depleting expenses and say, how can we become leaner in certain areas, or where should we become a little bit more generous in certain areas? Especially if it’s client-facing, and it’s going to improve the value of our relationships with our clients.” Simplicity [caption id="attachment_4389" align="alignright" width="300"] Galen Dalrymple, COO, Polymath[/caption] “Everything we do is pretty much on a project basis. By having the time tracking built into FINSYNC that automatically updates costs and projects, and being able to track expenses, I can go in at a moment’s notice on any project and see what our budget for the project was. I can see how much we spent in labor and how much we’ve spent in expenses and what it looks like our projection is going to be. And we use that historical data on future projects. Having all that information in FINSYNC, it’s just a matter of running a report and you’ve got that information. We use that to price out future projects so that future projects are more profitable than past ones. Having the information in FINSYNC that we can pull out to make better decisions has the biggest impact on us in terms of cash flow.” Foresight [caption id="attachment_4724" align="alignleft" width="218"] Travis Peters, President, Impelos[/caption] “Cash flow has been a big [challenge]. Being able to run the business without debt, manage our investments into the business, and ensure that clients are paying and contractors and vendors are getting paid in a straightforward fashion has been the biggest challenge. With the cash flow tools that allow us to see where our financial trends are, we’ve been able to look forward and see where potential problems might arise. This allows us to plan accordingly rather than having sudden surprises.”
Small business owners speak up about how FINSYNC has helped them save time with real-world examples from their day-to-day operations. By FINSYNC We don’t have to tell you how busy small business owners are. Between putting out fires and making sure your employees get paid, finding the time to pursue timely growth opportunities can seem impossible. FINSYNC’s suite of software tools can help you free up precious time to get back to growing your business. From streamlining back office operations to simplifying cash flow management, we’re here to help you manage your business better, with less effort. But don’t take our word for it. We love speaking with small business owners from across the country for our Spotlight on Small Business Owners series. Here, we share some of their insights about how FINSYNC has helped save them time. Consolidation “We were using various tools and none of them talked to each other. We were using QuickBooks Online for our receivables. Later, we added the payables part to it, but it wasn’t connected to payroll, nor was it connected to time tracking, nor to our project management data in Excel for project cost accounting. I was spending a lot of time trying to get the data we needed from one tool and then patch summary information to other tools and make sense out of it all. It was very costly and very burdensome. FINSYNC pulls all the data together so I can make sense out of things. It was the only platform we found that did everything we wanted. The only platform that really seemed like it did project cost accounting well in a way that made sense to me was FINSYNC.” Payroll Shaun Lapacek, Founder Rock N Wool Winery “I have absolutely no concept of how to deal with the whole payroll system. I can do all of that stuff for myself, but when it comes to filing for other people, that’s where I was kind of going crazy. The paperwork’s the worst thing. I had talked to Square originally and they want to nickel and dime you for everything. They wouldn’t be flexible with me for what I needed. That’s why I went to FINSYNC. FINSYNC was great. They were able to accommodate how people got paid, what taxes got taken out and it’s very easy. They’ll send me reminders about running payroll and things like that. It’s so nice to have that completely off my mind. It’s a hat I don’t have to wear. FINSYNC really allows me to focus on what I want.” Payments Andy Rostad, Executive Producer Media Beyond “I used to have 30 vendors, some of whom did not participate in our digital ACH wire transfer program, so they wanted paper checks. In order to create a paper check in my old software, I would have to buy special printable paper, line those up with our printer and send them through, and there would be misalignments and duplicate check numbers. It was just a nightmare. When I found FINSYNC, they said you can send somebody an email, and they can elect whether or not to get a paper check, and we’ll handle that for you for a trivial cost. That saved me hours of headaches and let me focus on my business. That’s just been the FINSYNC way — it’s really easy to use. We don’t have a ton of complex needs, but whatever I need, I can do quickly and get back to creating content.” Accounting Diane Bloodworth, CEO Competitive Sports Analysis “FINSYNC has made my business more efficient. They’ve made my time more efficient. Accounting and bookkeeping is something that’s very important to the business, but I don’t like spending a lot of time on it. So it’s helped make my time, and therefore the business, more efficient. They really have just made my accounting and bookkeeping life so much easier, especially with payroll. I have a lot of hourly interns on payroll right now, so it just makes my life so much easier. I’m not an accounting person, and I find the system really easy to use. I’m very grateful.” Processes Sonia Duma, Chief Marketing Officer Curio Haus “Time is my most valuable asset. At this stage in my life, I don’t have time for another app that adds complexity to my world. I have a drive for simplicity. As executives we’re in this ever-vigilant battle to make our lives more simple. I was looking for a way to streamline our processes. How can we streamline marketing and communication so that it’s simple, effective and relevant to both our team and our clients? Everything about FINSYNC is very intuitive and simple, and the customer support team is fabulous. At the end of the day, it’s a relationship — these people are part of my financial team. FINSYNC, on some level, is a part of my financial team. They’re in the day-to-day because so much relies upon what their system does. And only seeing it get better — I love it. I can’t see myself on another platform.”
Jeremy Chavarria has set ambitious goals for his business, FreshScapes. Find out how FINSYNC is helping him get there. By FINSYNC When it comes to customers, Jeremy Chavarria definitely knows his ABC’s: Always Be Communicating (and also closing, of course). The owner of FreshScapes, a landscaping company based in Austin, TX, spent the majority of his career selling for other people, but now that he has his own company, he’s working even harder to close deals and keep customers. “Basically, my whole life I’ve been trying to sell something to somebody. Now that I’m older, I find myself probably selling more than I was when I was working for someone else selling,” he explains. “I’m trying to sell something to someone right now!” The always-on-the-go family man had a chance to talk to us about the joys and pains of being a small business owner, and his big plans for the future. What are some of the biggest rewards of being a small business owner? Financial independence. Being able to do the things I always dreamed about doing. You work hard, you play hard; that’s my motto, I live by that. I work extremely hard, and we play extremely hard. My thing is being able to pay off debt, being able to give my kids the opportunities that I didn’t have. Also, being able to work with people like my nephew and cousins who work for me, and friends who work for me. It’s putting as many people as I know close to me who want to work and achieve the same goals as me. What part of your job gives you satisfaction? When you work in landscaping, you truly see what you did. It’s kind of like a doctor; somebody’s sick and you go in and treat them, then you see them a week later, out-and-about saying, “thank you so much.” That’s the satisfaction I get out of my landscaping. You take an area that’s dried out, doesn’t have any water, looks bad, and you give it a shot in the arm, and you see the fruits of your labor and that means a lot to me. People walk by and see it and say “Amazing job, man,” and it’s awesome. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a small business owner, and how has FINSYNC helped you with them? Here’s the thing that really turned me on to FINSYNC. The year before we probably had to write off $45,000 in unpaid invoices. So, definitely on the invoicing side of things, the reoccurring invoices. A lot of my business is reoccurring, so I send out invoices every month, and FINSYNC will generate the invoice and send out an email to the customer. That’s absolutely been the biggest benefit, it’s really helped us. So, would you say FINSYNC has made your life a little bit easier? Oh, I would say a lot easier! I would say it’s relieved about 70% of my stress on invoicing alone. What advice do you have for those who are thinking about owning their own business? From the very beginning I would say get all your ducks in a row about how you’re going to do your accounting and invoicing. Make sure whatever you do, you get something in place from the very beginning. I feel like the money we spend with FINSYNC per month is a steal. Save yourself a couple of cases a beer a month and get this right now. Get this type of instrument that can help you with your business right now. What’s next for you? I have goals and I’ve set my goals very high! I want to grow my business — not too much where I can’t handle it, especially in terms of customer service, I’m very particular about that. But I want to slowly grow my business. My son is fifteen, and I want him to have the option to take it over. I love being a family-owned company … And I think in the next five years, I want to be a $10 million company.
Travis Peters shares how a long career in manufacturing administration and a knack for organizing systems (and cattle) led to a small business journey that has been quite a ride. By FINSYNC The longer you work in an industry, the more you notice the problems it faces and start to build potential solutions. Work in a space long enough, and you could end up with a lot of solutions. The longer you work with cattle, the more proficient you become at moving groups in a single direction. In his spare time, Travis sharpens his skills as he works cattle with his family in Northeast Texas. After wrangling a herd of cattle all weekend, reigning in administrative processes seems like a breeze. That’s where Travis Peters found himself when he started Impelos, a provider of back office software solutions for manufacturing companies, an industry for which he had developed profitability solutions over a period of years. When Travis and Impelos needed to improve their own administrative processes for finances and invoicing, they turned to FINSYNC. We sat down with Travis to talk about how his journey began and continues to grow today. What inspired you to start Impelos? There’s a significant need in the American manufacturing industry for optimized processes in the administrative workspace. Having previously done this throughout my career, it’s been a thrill for me to be able to remove processes through lean thinking. I use lean thinking to design software, as a contractor and as an employee. Over the years, I’ve developed a suite of productivity tools that relate specifically to manufacturers. My goal with this business has been to bring those tools to a broader market. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced running a small business? Cash flow has been a big one. Being able to run the business without debt, manage our investments into the business, and ensure that clients are paying and contractors and vendors are getting paid in a straightforward fashion has been the biggest challenge. Another challenge is from a sales perspective. Bringing a potential client into the fold to use our product takes a long time. It can be challenging to convey to a client that’s building 30 to 40 custom units a day how our software can freeze administrative overhead where it is today while expanding capacity by 300 to 400%. Managing our team is also really important. We have employees and contractors, and we use FINSYNC to manage payments for both, as well as all of their related financial needs. What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned growing your business? Every business I go into is different. They each have their own market niche and competitive advantage. That inevitably leads to a different solution as they produce and market their product, fulfill orders and deal with their vendors. That’s been a fun part — discovering how companies choose to differentiate themselves. As far as running a business for myself, using a method called “profit first,” I’ve found it’s pretty lightweight to manage the financial operations for this business. That’s been a really fun journey for me to be able to make sure that as revenue comes in, the money is allocated appropriately ahead of time, so I don’t find myself in a bind later. What prompted you to start using FINSYNC? We had tried Quickbooks and several other solutions, and they all prevented us from getting visibility into where our cash pain points were going to be. Early on in the business we often found ourselves running out of cash unexpectedly. Whether something someone had purchased on a credit card wasn’t foreseen, or a client payable wasn’t paid on time and we didn’t anticipate that, these situations became a problem. Working with FINSYNC we were able to get a lot of visibility to anticipate the crunches and prepare for those situations. How has FINSYNC helped you overcome your challenges? With the cash flow tools that allow us to see where our financial trends are, we’ve been able to look forward and see where potential problems might arise. This allows us to plan accordingly rather than having sudden surprises. Any advice for small business startups out there? Strongly consider the profit first method to ensure your most valuable employee gets paid. That’s you, the entrepreneur. You can’t do that without good financial planning. FINSYNC helps with that.
Callie Ogden talked to us about capitalizing on an industry need, forging her own path and embracing entrepreneurship — with a little help from back office automation. By FINSYNC As the Founder and Director of Event Vines, Callie Ogden helps enhance the event industry by connecting everyone in it. The former Director of Events for Wanderlust Yoga, Callie gained experience in the event industry and developed a wanderlust of her own, into entrepreneurship. Wanderlust Yoga and other venues and vendors in the Austin area all struggled sorting through connections, contacting and evaluating options and booking events. Callie went into warrior’s pose to develop a network to simplify the event management and booking process. From that seed, Event Vines bloomed. As Event Vines expanded to create tools to help event professionals connect, Callie soon learned that her own business would need tools to enable her to reach the next level. She turned to FINSYNC to help improve invoicing, automate repetitive tasks and allow her to focus on business growth. What inspired you to start Event Vines? I was working in both the event and real estate industries in Austin, and I noticed a lot of similarities, but the event industry has way fewer resources. I saw a need for an event industry directory (modeled after MLS) and a la carte event services, especially for white-glove buyer support (functioning similar to a Realtor). I did about a year of research with venues, vendors and event planners while I built the directory and then launched in Austin just in time for the SXSW Festival in 2017. I’m so glad I made the leap into entrepreneurship! What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a start-up? My biggest challenges are administrative. Since there are a lot of moving parts with Event Vines, between the directory and the services, there is a continuous stream of administrative tasks ranging from emails to vendors and clients, invoice payment and collection, and more. As a bootstrapping start-up owner, I would initially juggle most of those time-consuming tasks on top of sales, event sourcing, booking and marketing. Each year I’ve gotten more efficient by outsourcing and managing the administrative tasks, so I can focus on building the business and team. What’s the best thing about being a small business owner? Freedom! Event Vines is growing on my terms — so I have full creative freedom to shape the services, brand and offerings. I also enjoy the freedom to work remotely and according to my own schedule. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned? Collaboration is a powerful tool! In marketing and event sponsorships, you can combine forces with other business owners to share expenses, the workload, and audiences. This has been really advantageous for me. It’s also important to build for sustainability rather than as fast as possible. I’ve learned to be strategic with how I spend my time and my money. Any advice for small business startups out there? Pay close attention to what is and is not working for your business and promptly adjust as needed, whether it’s technology or hiring a contractor or just getting support. Don’t let the thing that isn’t working linger. What prompted Event Vines to start using FINSYNC? Before FINSYNC, we focused primarily on online sales and used Stripe and Quickbooks. This presented a limit for how many online invoices I could send. I needed a platform that would allow unlimited invoices and vendor payments since that is a large part of what I’m doing in my business. FINSYNC can do that and has many other features that are valuable to me. Has FINSYNC helped Event Vines overcome any specific challenges? FINSYNC gave me the tools and the customer support to manage my business accounting. I feel more confident in my ability to juggle administrative tasks that come with invoicing and paying out vendors because I have FINSYNC. I can simply CC them on an email, and they can follow up if an invoice hasn’t been paid by the client, and that is a huge relief. Before that, I had to follow up on everything personally. It just takes things off my plate to have the service and also the automation. Most of the events I do involve booking at least 12 different vendors. Then I have to pay the venue, and they all have different payment schedules. That’s where the concierge service has been super helpful. I can loop them in on an email to make sure I’m collecting payment when I need to and sending checks when I need to. I also like that I can have all my checks mailed to FINSYNC, and they handle the deposits through their lockbox service and make sure it is all recorded. That has been super helpful — less things for me to do. What are the biggest benefits Event Vines has experienced using FINSYNC? FINSYNC has an amazing customer support team that helps you learn how to use their solution and set it up. Their concierge service, invoicing, and bill pay have been the most beneficial for improving my administrative workflow. It doesn’t take me as long to complete tasks, and it gives me more confidence. I know I’m not forgetting to get something paid or to get paid. FINSYNC gives me peace of mind.
Finding the balance between creativity and commerce is one of Galen Dalrymple’s biggest jobs at Polymath, a creative agency with a focus on nonprofits where he works with his son. By FINSYNC From decades working in business management at big tech companies to a stint as a pastor leading a church in Northern California, Galen Dalrymple’s path to Polymath has been a long and winding road. As a full-service creative agency, Polymath provides digital marketing, video, content and branding services to amplify the story and strategy of nonprofits and other businesses. Galen is the COO at Polymath, where he’s in the unique position of working with his son, founder Tim Dalrymple. The yin to his son’s yang, the left brain to his son’s right, Galen talked to us about the importance of balancing art and commerce when running a small business anchored in creativity — and how FINSYNC has helped Polymath master project cost accounting. What makes Polymath different than other creative agencies out there? We work with a lot of nonprofits, which is also one of our challenges. We love to work with organizations that are doing morally significant work in the world. They have a cause and it's a good cause and they believe in it. They need to tell their stories, and we think of ourselves as their storytellers. We work hard to give them a really great product on margins that can get pretty thin at times just because we believe in what they're doing. It’s fulfilling work, and you feel like you're making a difference and helping them make a difference, but it creates some unique challenges for us. We have to watch our nickels and dimes. What do you like best about working for a small business? Getting to know the people so well, not just the employees and the contractors but the clients. The depth of the interpersonal relationship in a small business is just really fulfilling. It’s knowing the clients, knowing the people that I work with really well, and we have a great time together. I've worked in companies of several thousand people and managed budgets for a 55 million dollar department and sometimes big businesses can seem to be nameless and faceless places. We're more like a family, really, and not a corporation or a business. What’s the biggest challenge of running a creative agency? Creatives generally don't think in terms of dollars and cents. They think in terms of beauty and aesthetics and enhanced functionality. And they want to design and deliver the most elegant thing that they can think of in their creative brains. Getting them to think about profits isn't easy. It’s the nature of creatives to take whatever time it requires to produce an exquisite product, and I appreciate that about them — wanting to give clients the very best thing we can, and we try to do that. But when you can show them in terms of hours and dollars how it affects the project and company overall, and by extension their own wallet, it helps them to see that there’s a happy middle ground somewhere that you have to hit. As a small business, has Polymath faced any other challenges? We're small in terms of personnel and revenue, but small businesses face the same kind of financial decision-making challenges as the big companies do. We’ve got a smaller margin for error. A really bad decision can sink a small company faster than a bad decision can sink a big one. We were using various tools and none of them talked to each other. We were using QuickBooks Online for our receivables. Later, we added the payables part to it, but it wasn't connected to payroll, nor was it connected to time tracking, nor to our project management data in Excel for project cost accounting. Our time tracking vendor didn't connect to QuickBooks. We couldn't really have a project cost accounting solution other than Excel spreadsheets, so I was spending a lot of time trying to get the data we needed from one tool and then patch summary information to other tools and make sense out of it all. It was very costly and very burdensome. What made Polymath start using FINSYNC? I knew we had to have a better sense of where we stood as a company. FINSYNC pulls all the data together so I can make sense out of things. It was the only platform we found that did everything we wanted. QuickBooks can do payables, payroll, receivables, and general ledger kind of stuff, but the project cost accounting was virtually non-existent and time tracking didn't exist at that point either. Our accountant was a certified QuickBooks professional, but he couldn't figure out how to use QuickBooks to get what we wanted. The only platform that really seemed like it did project cost accounting well in a way that made sense to me was FINSYNC. How has FINSYNC helped Polymath with project cost accounting? Everything we do is pretty much on a project basis. By having the time tracking built into FINSYNC that automatically updates costs and projects, and being able to track expenses, I can go in at a moment's notice on any project and see what our budget for the project was. I can see how much we spent in labor and how much we've spent in expenses and what it looks like our projection is going to be. And we use that historical data on future projects. Having all that information in FINSYNC, it's just a matter of running a report and you've got that information. We use that to price out future projects so that future projects are more profitable than past ones. Having the information in FINSYNC that we can pull out to make better decisions has the biggest impact on us in terms of cash flow. Any advice for small businesses out there? In small business, you still need to sweat the details. It might seem like a dollar or two here and there, and that might not seem like much, but it all adds up and small businesses don't have the capital reserves as a general rule to be frivolous. Getting the tools that will give you the instantaneous information that you need in a way that's easy to consume and understand is really important. I don't know how a small business can operate without actionable intelligence anymore. I don't know how any business can. Many times, it can be a tool that you don't have that can submarine your ship. Many small businesses don't have project cost accounting, and I don't know how they make decisions without it. At best, you're guessing.
Diane Bloodworth shares how her innate entrepreneurship, knack for data and passion for sports led her on a small business journey that was worth every twist and turn. By FINSYNC For Diane Bloodworth, entrepreneurship runs in the family. Even as a ten-year-old, this little girl from Flintstone, Georgia stepped up to the plate to help run her family’s grocery store, at one point even taking over for an entire season, but Diane always had her sights set on bigger things. After working her way up the corporate ladder, Diane decided she wanted to create her own path. It hasn’t always been the easiest road to navigate, but she landed right where she belongs: running her own business. Diane combined her technology and data expertise with her passion for football to found Competitive Sports Analysis, a platform to help college athletic coaches recruit the best possible talent. “It’s been a pretty long journey to get to this point, which makes it worthwhile, when things start to move and happen,” she explains. “It’s very rewarding, but it has been quite the journey.” Diane spoke with us about the challenges and rewards of being a small business owner, and how FINSYNC has made sure she’s always scoring touchdowns. What are some basic challenges you think emerging entrepreneurs face? I think anybody that starts a business is going to face challenges. That's just the nature of entrepreneurship. But you know, when you're going into a new or evolving market, I think you face challenges with timing. Is your target market ready for the type of capabilities that you can provide? I think a few years ago the answer was no. Now that's turning to yes. So, I think timing can be challenging. Do you have any advice for small business owners? You need to be very passionate about what you do, but you also have to be willing to pivot, because sometimes you start doing something and you're so determined, you don't realize that you might need to take a step back and tweak or change. You've got to keep a certain openness to improving the way you're doing things to really be successful. So I'm all about perseverance. I'm all about passion, but don't forget that you might need to pivot. What’s your favorite part of your job? When a coach says, “This is great, this helped me find a recruit that’s really going to work out.” Or when a recruit says, “Thank you, I’m going to have a better chance of playing at the next level.” That just makes my day. It makes it worthwhile. The whole recruiting system is just so broken and there are a lot of recruits that don't even get a look because their high school coach may not know the right college coaches or their parents don't know the recruiting process, which is not that unusual. A lot of these recruits are overlooked and don't have an opportunity. I grew up in a rural area and I think some of those kids get overlooked. How has FINSYNC helped you when it’s come to running your business? My least favorite thing to do is accounting and bookkeeping, to be honest with you. FINSYNC is awesome, and I also love being able to work with another startup company in Atlanta. I think it’s great when startups can support each other. I’ve used other systems and bookkeepers and all kinds of things, and when I hired a bookkeeper it was kind of costly and then she had to ask me everything anyway because I knew the business. FINSYNC allows the person who knows the business to go in and work through these entries very easily. How has FINSYNC helped with efficiency? They’ve made my business more efficient. They’ve made my time more efficient. Accounting and bookkeeping is something that’s very important to the business, but I don’t like spending a lot of time on it. So it’s helped make my time, and therefore the business, more efficient. They really have just made my accounting and bookkeeping life so much easier, especially with payroll. I have a lot of hourly interns on payroll right now, so it just makes my life so much easier. I’m not an accounting person, and I find the system really easy to use. I'm very grateful for them.
Spotlight on Small Business Owners: Andy Rostad, Media Beyond Andy Rostad and Media Beyond are on a mission to blend strategy and design to create powerful content for their clients. By FINSYNC After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Andy worked for nearly a decade on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Harpo Productions. He now uses that experience as the Executive Producer and Audio-Visual Alchemist at Media Beyond to help his clients tell a compelling story that fits their content strategy. What inspired you to start Media Beyond? My partners and I worked at the Oprah Winfrey Show and when she decided to sunset the program we had visions of becoming the next great television content creators and quickly realized that there was a greater opportunity to bring storytelling to business than there was to make more reality TV. The biggest part of the journey for us has been taking the skills and talents that we have and translating them to a value proposition that business people understand. It goes from how can I elicit emotion for an audience to how can I elicit action for a consumer. Along the way you've got to figure out how to pay your bills, do your taxes, track your accounts receivable, accounts payable, prospecting, project management and all the other stuff that when you're part of a big enterprise, you don't necessarily have to get your hands dirty with. What were some of the challenges that you faced as a start-up? Coming into the marketplace and not realizing that not everybody knew the things that we knew. It's like being experts in our field but always being surrounded by senior executives. It was difficult to appreciate the fact that we would be pitching services or ideas that couldn't easily be understood by people who weren't deep in the industry. The Dunning-Kruger effect is this idea that you assume that everybody knows what you know, so there were a lot of early missed opportunities to slow down and be more deliberate and more helpful in our messaging. The flip side of assuming that everybody knows what you know is trying so hard to prove that you know something special. I think in the early days a lot of companies make the mistake of trying to justify their existence instead of trying to be helpful. What's been the best part of starting a small business? The best part of having so much to do is getting to do so much. When you are contributing to a large enterprise, sometimes you just have to repeat the same function over and over again. While there's a certain pride one can take in being dependable and repeating the same task over and over again, we’ve enjoyed a variety of projects. Moving through many different roles, getting to bring to bear our fundamental acumen in creative problem solving and idea generation, and getting to apply that across lots of different media has been great. We’ve also had the opportunity to work with a range of clients, from gigantic companies to fellow startups. If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be? There is a lot of opportunity left on the table when trying to take something from maybe 80% to 90%. The amount of effort required to get an idea to perfection is infinite, right? So you can’t have a perfect anything. The closer you try to get to perfection, the greater the diminishment of the returns. There's a saying in the filmmaking community that movies don't get finished — they escape. Early on I think we could have been more effective for our clients by emphasizing speed to market and the idea of testing and iterating versus making something that is unimpeachably, uncritically perfect. That’s not to say that there's anything sloppy about what we do but there is something to be said for letting the marketplace determine what's good rather than one's own standards. Your audience will tell you what you're doing well. What prompted Media Beyond to start using FINSYNC? We were using QuickBooks because that's what our accountant had asked us to use, and I was looking for more cost-effective alternatives. FINSYNC had everything that I wanted at a much more attractive price point. Plus, they were much more responsive to inquiries, really friendly in the onboarding process and seemed much more concerned with our success and happiness than with just signing us up. The fact that there was a personalized onboarding process speaks directly to the difference between FINSYNC and the gigantic companies. Has FINSYNC helped Media Beyond overcome any specific challenges? The best one was I used to have 30 vendors, some of whom did not participate in our digital ACH wire transfer program, so they wanted paper checks. In order to create a paper check in my old software, I would have to buy special printable paper, line those up with our printer and send them through, and there would be misalignments and duplicate check numbers. It was just a nightmare. When I found FINSYNC, they said you can send somebody an email, and they can elect whether or not to get a paper check, and we'll handle that for you for a trivial cost. That saved me hours of headaches and let me focus on my business. That's just been the FINSYNC way. We don't have a ton of complex needs, but whatever I need, I can do quickly and get back to creating content. What are the biggest benefits Media Beyond has experienced using FINSYNC? One of the things that was really neat was being introduced to the idea of financing and getting a chance to participate in the early days of initiatives that they're testing. FINSYNC is always trying out new things, whether it's in-app access to bridge loans or inviting members to participate in a loyalty program. That chance to participate and see a company testing and trying new features and giving feedback that I know is considered is a real plus. It helps me think entrepreneurially to see what this innovative company is also doing. Also, being able to borrow against future invoices is great and painless. The idea of adding employees with FINSYNC and having to onboard new people doesn't cause me any concern. FINSYNC is really easy to use, so I know that if I all of a sudden have to add a new employee or train up a new administrator, it's not going to be a weeks or months-long process. It's going to be an hours and days process. If we added a slew of new employees, they would be able to enter and track their time, and we'd get everybody paid and taxed just as seamlessly as we do with our small team now. I know that there's room to grow and that it's easy.
Spotlight on Small Business Owners: Erik Fogg, ProdPerfect ProdPerfect’s Erik Fogg talked with us about bike helmets, bookkeeping and the unique challenge of launching a startup that disrupts a long-established tech niche. By FINSYNC Erik Fogg is a startup veteran. A graduate of MIT. A published author. And one of the founders of ProdPerfect, a Boston-based startup that builds automated end-to-end quality assurance (QA) testing for web applications. Unlike the traditional QA process, ProdPerfect leverages live user data (rather than educated guesses) to determine what tests to write and maintain. And therein lies the disruption. Fresh out of MIT, Erik started his career fixing factories across North America as an operations consultant. From there, he was brought into HelmetHub, a helmet rental system for bike share programs. It was there that he met Dan Widing, who he hired to be HelmetHub’s lead software engineer. The two have been best friends ever since. Six years into their friendship, the duo traveled to Poland together. Erik had no idea what Dan was cooking up until somewhere between four and six vodkas in, Dan turned to Erik and said, “So, I have this idea.” And ProdPerfect was born. What inspired you to start ProdPerfect? We got started because we realized that in the world of web development and software development, there have been a lot of great advancements with data and analytics that have helped build products better, but quality assurance had been left behind. QA had always been this redheaded stepchild. Mark Zuckerberg famously said, “Let’s move fast and break stuff.” QA was always an afterthought. QA didn't have the resources it needed to be good at its job. And because it wasn’t good at its job, it wasn’t sexy. A lot of the advancements in technology that had been affecting other areas of web development could be applied to QA. What we want to do with ProdPerfect is bring data-driven decision making to quality assurance. How is ProdPerfect’s approach different than traditional QA testing? The biggest problem in quality assurance web applications is people don't know what to test. We’re taking the user traffic from the current application to tell you how your users are using your application. Let's test the things they're trying to do to make sure that those always work. And that's what ProdPerfect does. It takes the data from how people are using the application and writes tests that reflect it. So our customers are confident that whenever they ship code (make an update), they haven't broken something about their application that's important to their users. What’s the biggest challenge ProdPerfect has faced as a startup? The biggest challenge for us is that the product we've built is fundamentally disruptive. ProdPerfect is not a better mousetrap. We’re going to people who have spent the past 20 years doing things a certain way and telling them: You need to let go of having a feeling of control over what gets tested because machines using data are going to make better decisions than you. We’re asking them to take this big leap into the future, into the unknown, where they’re not personally in control anymore. A lot of people said nobody’s ever going to sign up for this because of the sales challenge. They were wrong, but it was hard. Has growing so fast been difficult? We had our first sale four months into the business with three people. It was this recurring revenue sale, and we very quickly had to get some sort of financial control over our business. We had to understand where we were spending our money. FINSYNC has helped us create a level of predictability around what we're spending and taking in, and what we're likely to spend and take in, so that we can make budget decisions in order to keep the pace that we've been keeping. That's been mission critical for us. I need to be able to report what our revenue looks like, and we need to be able to raise money on this. How does FINSYNC help you run ProdPerfect? FINSYNC helps with the centralization of everything. The platform can do everything I need as far as paying people and taking money in, and then it knows where all that money is and where it's gone. And I can print a report on it, which is great. We don't have anyone who's going to sit there with a spreadsheet and do that all day. There are only three of us, and two of us are trying to build a product. That’s one of the biggest challenges that FINSYNC has helped us solve. I don't have to do the work, and I don't have to hire someone. Everything is in one place and we're able to tack on FINSYNC's bookkeeping concierge. At the end of the month, I can go look at my books and know how we're doing with the budget. In fact, I can look week to week and know how we're doing with the budget. And I can make decisions on it with a short amount of time and a very tight level of data. Has ProdPerfect had trouble accessing capital? We ended up raising a substantial equity round, so we don't have cash flow issues right now. But knowing that we can get access to working capital from our future invoices through FINSYNC helps me sleep at night. We're in a SaaS business. And the SaaS curse is that you throw all this money at bringing on customers, you have this cost to acquire a customer, and then there's a time period for it to payoff. Because of that process there's normally a fundamental limit to how quickly you can work because of your working capital. With FINSYNC, we can get a credit line with an extremely competitive rate on our invoices. With the knowledge of our customer acquisition costs and a history of revenue generation, FINSYNC provides guidance into our future revenue, allowing us access to capital. The working capital crunch that limited growth — we just strategically eliminated that problem. That problem is gone. And it will never exist for us again. Is there anything you would do differently if you could go back? Yes. One thing that took us way too long to do was figure out what channels were bringing us the most customers. We spent a ton of money on customer acquisition channels that weren't working. And all I needed to do was spend four hours, which is a terrifying amount of time in a day. But it's a one-time four hours to step back and do the math. Let's see where these people are coming from, who's closing, and who's actually turning revenue for us. And we found that of the eight channels we were working at, six of them were a waste of time, two of them were great. It turns out we could do less work and get more out of it because we were smart and we made some fact-based decisions. Obviously FINSYNC financial control was a big part of being able to do that in four hours. Any advice for startups out there? When people with an idea ask me about how they should get started, I usually say get a better idea. Your consumer app is probably not going to work. If you want a start-up idea that's actually going to be a good use of your time, the idea needs to be a completely unique solution to a very expensive problem for a lot of people. So those are the three key things. You need to be the only one with it. People need to be willing to spend a lot of money. And there needs to be a lot of those people. And if you can do that, you've got a good startup idea. And then you should go build it. The other thing I learned is that a lot of people are going to give you advice, and it’s probably wrong. If someone listens to you for ten minutes and they say do this thing differently, they're probably wrong. If you have conviction that the way you're going to do something is going to work, stick with it. You're the startup founder. The whole point is that you're disrupting the things that normally work. If you just did the things that normally work you wouldn't have a startup. You would just have a regular small business. But if you want to go disrupt things, you're going to be breaking rules. If venture capitalists and other startup founders are uncomfortable with the rules that you're breaking, it means you may very well be doing something right. Erik Fogg, Founder of ProdPerfect