It's not every day that a business thinks twice about a job from the Super Bowl... unless you're scrambling for cash and unable to cover your operating expenses? In that case, accepting the job would mean risking it all - for Brian, that meant leveraging his home.
Brian Taylor, Owner-CTO of Phoenix IT Solutions, will tell you, an MSP is "not like a factory or a store that sells X, Y, and Z widgets, it's exceptionally dynamic" with unique business needs. So naturally, when an MSP doesn't have the right financial systems in place, they're bound for "bloody painful" cash flow management.
For more than 20 years now, Phoenix IT Solutions has been a leading provider of managed IT services, delivering cost-effective solutions to businesses across Arizona, USA. In 2001, the same year as his company's conception, Brian was desktop accounting paired with an old PSA, which didn't allow for billing at the time; Brian had to "dump" data into Excel or CSV files before manually running it in his desktop accounting package, a process he recalls as having caused "lots of mistakes."
When Brian moved to ConnectWise [Manage] almost fifteen years later, he was able to run billing through his desktop accounting package, but that didn't mean it was smooth sailing (not yet). Instead, "things weren't billing correctly, customers were getting very upset," and Brian found himself returning to his "biggest" nightmare of them all: Manual invoicing, because he simply "couldn't trust the system and it took a lot of time."
When using ConnectWise and a desktop accounting package, Brian would execute a manual process every two to three weeks: Export each employee / contractor timesheet in excel format, manually manipulate then import each sheet into the desktop accounting package, and manually generate invoices within the desktop accounting package based on the billable time. For the second part of that recurring process, Brian would then manually add a service ticket number along with a brief description of the service, batch the invoices, and finally, send them to customers.
This heavily manual process cost Brian more time, money, and energy than he could afford. Brian was expending a minimum of 18-20 hours each month on manual billing and invoicing alone, where 2-4 hours would be spent on research; hunting for answers and solutions to customer queries.
With no ability to take credit card payments (as often requested by his clients), sync invoicing, billing or those outstanding between ConnectWise and his desktop accounting package, Brian was suffering from consistently unmatched balances between platforms, constant billing errors, and being unable to produce an accurate accounts receivable aging report. Here, Phoenix IT were typically 45-60 days behind on billing clients for their services.
At this point, it's worth mentioning, Brian was not alone in this process - he had a team of six employees and a number of contractors, including an outside bookkeeper for their monthly reconciliation, together with a minor in accounting. Each month, their bookkeeper would show Brian her version of their books, and Brian would show his version of their books to reconcile against - and he "never quite understood" what was going wrong.
In 2014, the Super Bowl approached Phoenix IT with "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," a half-a-million-dollar job, yet Brian was simply "terrified." With so many other important jobs lined up, having also fulfilled big projects for household names including Rihanna, Toby Keith, and Zac Brown Band, to name a few, Brian already knew he'd have to purchase up to 100k worth of equipment to fulfill this job, making the need for financial visibility over his financial situation - more crucial than ever before.
Brian describes himself as being "fairly astute at accounting," yet even with his accounting knowledge and a solid team, attaining financial efficiency "just seemed like an insurmountable objective," until the day it all changed: Brian met Tina.
In late 2018, Brian was introduced to Cristina "Tina" Garza, the CEO-Founder of leading bookkeeping, payroll and advisory services provider, Accountingprose, a proud advocate of Xero. As Brian recalls, it was during their induction that Tina was beyond belief that Phoenix IT had two versions of their books. After Tina walked Brian through how it all worked, she commenced what would soon become, a new beginning for Brian.
Brian explains, "it was a brutal project," which took Accountingprose up to three months to reconcile all of his records into a single version, at the same time as switching them over from their desktop accounting package to the online cloud accounting platform, Xero. From this point onwards, Tina's team "were taking care of all of it" from income statements to balance sheets, to building Brian a customized dashboard in Xero with instant, remote access to his numbers.
"It’s very easy - to me, it’s seamless, but when I say seamless, the big thing about using Xero and ConnectWise Manage is, you've got an accounting package and you have a CRM, but the two of them being married and actually producing the invoices for me, and seeing the same numbers financially in both packages... that was a game-changer for us - I mean, literally, that was a game-changer."
I used to freak out when we did payroll because I never knew exactly how much money was in our bank account. And of course, I could log into a bank account but then you never know what's outstanding, what's coming through... so, it really has been a game-changer for us."
When Tina first sat down with Brian, she identified "several things" that concerned her, most notably, his "crazy expensive" payroll. Brian was using a payroll service that was costing him a "ridiculous" amount as if he were making "$5 million dollars a year." Tina introduced Brian to a company called Gusto and now, his payroll is down a staggering 90%. Now that payroll was no longer an issue, it was time to talk about his financial processes, which were costing him time, money, and energy he simply didn't have to waste -
"Look, there's a much better way, there's Wise-Sync and we'll set it up," says Tina. From that point, Brian was happy for Tina and her team to take the reins, and it wasn't long before everything was set up and running, where Brian's initial reaction was simply, "this is incredible."
It’s a very short process, and the great thing about it is, I don’t want to do it anymore, I want to be able to train one of my staff and say, 'This is your job now.' Now that I know it works, and I trust the numbers, I can delegate that role to another employee.
There's no way that I could've designated all the tasks that I was doing - the manipulation of the data, how I was extracting it... there’s no way I could’ve done that, I could not have delegated that to another person but now, the process is very straightforward and it’s documented. I say, 'do these steps, ta-da, you’re done,' and then I don’t have to do it anymore, so that’s our goal - that’s the next move."
What was once "a very painful process" has since become a "straightforward" and easy-to-follow series of steps, which takes Phoenix IT less than one hour each fortnight to complete all of their invoicing and billing; a staggering reduction from their former 8-10 hours spent each fortnight.
Further from immense time and cost-savings comes Brian's newfound capability to achieve the one task integral to the longevity of his business; Brian's now able to make strategic decisions "within minutes" based on the up-to-the-minute financial reports he can see; a far stretch from previously having to wait weeks just to gain "some sort of financial picture."
The solution stack of ConnectWise Manage, Xero, Wise-Sync, and Wise-Pay, supported by the unwavering guidance of Accountingprose, has enabled the financial automation of Phoenix IT's finances, where Brian revels in accurate and flexible billing, greatly reduced outstanding balances, astoundingly improved cashflow management, and a drastic reduction in customer queries (now that all billing's correct and up-to-date).
"We don't write off squat anymore! And I can tell you, our billing, the reminders are set, receivables, an aging report... we have a much different business process than we had before, it's made a big difference."
Brian's former manual process has since become a digital bi-weekly process that takes under an hour. Now, Brian simply runs his ConnectWise billing/timesheet report, batches invoices in ConnectWise, and selects 'Wise-Sync' - Brian then logs into Xero to see all of the invoices from ConnectWise have been created with granular detail, including service ticket information, a brief description of each service, and the given dates; he then batch approves these invoices to be sent via email. Brian approves and hits send, his clients receive a cleanly formatted invoice from Phoenix IT, further providing various options to pay the invoice, whether via CC, a bank transfer, and more.
With the launch of Wise-Sync's industry-first, real-time sync, this process that Brian explains, is bound to be even faster and simpler than ever before - you can read all about our new real-time sync here.
For fast adopters of technology, like Brian, the results that follow from having an integrated business platform, come as no surprise to the stellar team behind Xero, the leading cloud-based accounting software platform for small and medium-sized businesses worldwide.
We recently sat down with the Xero team to discuss how businesses are globally adopting and growing their solution stack, where the industry's seeing a rapid digital shift heavily focused on integrating digital technologies across all business areas.
From a Xero ecosystem perspective, it's really amazing to watch other businesses create such a large scope of value. Xero has this massive ecosystem of partners that just continue to build these niche businesses that make small business productivity expand exponentially. The value of our ecosystem partners is enhancing the value of our products.
It means small businesses can operate more effectively, greater job opportunities, and more entrepreneurs can succeed - and there's really nothing more satisfying than seeing other businesses create shared value for our joint customers," says Brooks Arbogast, Strategic Partnerships Manager at Xero.
The global pandemic continues to accelerate the need for accounting efficiency, with more businesses having to operate with less resources, which in turn, continues to motivate the pressing need for increased efficiency where working smarter (and not harder) has become crucial to the survival of any business.
And for business owners like Brian, who finally made the strategic business decision to embrace financial automation, it's only Xero to 100 from here!
If perhaps you're still in the same boat as where Brian used to be, there's a smarter way to do things and we can help you get there, get in touch with our friendly team today.
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