My favorite thing about running a small business is the opportunity to work with business owners, each with their own unique set of challenges. At Joy Accounting, we don’t just focus on getting books straight (although that is important!); we also replace sub-optimal business processes and create new ones, suggest and implement technology solutions, and work with our clients every step of the way to ensure people, process, and technology are all in sync.
In other words, while we certainly focus on the important metrics (revenue, profitability, etc.), we spend a lot of time getting to the root of WHY the metrics are what they are. Oftentimes we find that a few small process tweaks paired with the perfect technology leads to vast improvements, and can completely make the difference between ‘barely making it’ and ‘thriving’.
To illustrate this point, in the coming months we will be providing short case studies to show how we design solutions based on the unique requirements of our clients. We’ll start with our largest General Contractor, which we’ll rather uncreatively refer to as ‘Bob the GC’ for the remainder of the post.
The Fast-Growing General Contractor
Setting the Scene: Bob the GC discovered Joy Accounting within the first year of starting his contracting business. In this case, we had the opportunity to design the solution from the ground up instead of analyzing existing processes.
Bob was also unique because of the scale he was quickly looking to reach. His plan was to scale from virtually zero in revenue to $10 million USD in the first year, on up to $30 million in the second year. This is larger than our typical client and represented a challenge for Joy Accounting. How could we provide the entire back-end accounting solution at such a scale and ensure our client wouldn’t miss a beat? Before we got to the ‘how’, we needed to understand Bob’s core issues.
The Issues: Some initial discussions revealed that there were a host of challenges Bob would have as he scaled up his business, as follows:
- Tracking and ensuring proper approval and timely payment for change orders
- Managing the bidding process
- Bringing order to the unwieldy monthly draw process, ultimately ensuring everyone is paid on time for completed work
- Finding a project management system that would track everything and leverage repeatable processes in a way that would save time
- Designing an accounting solution that would accurately track things like labor costs, receipts, etc. while receiving funds and providing payment in a timely manner
- On-going CFO-level guidance and direction
After understanding the issues, it quickly became clear that the client needed an end-to-end business solution, not just an ‘accounting’ solution. Joy Accounting was more than ready to meet the need!
Designing the Solution
- Technology – QuickBooks Online (QBO) is the core accounting system that we use with all our clients, but it doesn’t do everything that is needed. To meet this need, QuickBooks has a lot of partner apps. While this is great, it can also be overwhelming. Thankfully, since we focus on the construction industry, we already have a list of ‘go to’ apps that we turn to first for our clients (although we are continually evaluating if these are still meeting the need). Sometimes we investigate new or different apps based on client need, which was the case for Bob with Procore. The suite of apps that we landed on for Bob are as follows:
- Procore – This is the best-of-class construction project management system in the world, and it handles most of Bob’s issues listed above. It keeps everyone on track in the all-important monthly draw process and so much more (including some nifty on-site tools for Superintendents).
- Bill.com – This is really the only app we’ve found that does a great job at paying bills. It saves so much time and hassle!
- T-Sheets – Everyone loves T-Sheets for time tracking. It’s intuitive and easy to use on the go, and it provides great reports.
- Karbon – This is an internal task management tool that we use at Joy Accounting. One of the cool features is that we can send tasks to our clients via the tool. This helps Bob stay on track with all the miscellaneous tasks we need him to do throughout the week.
- Process – Technology is only as good as the processes that a company implements. As mentioned earlier, Bob had only recently formed his company. So, although he was starting to use Procore (a great construction project management system) he really needed to define his processes so that he could leverage Procore in the best way possible. And this is where Joy Accounting came in again.
We worked with Bob to build out process flow diagrams for each of his most important processes. This work memorialized information that, until then, had existed only in Bob’s head. Getting this all on paper was a critical first step to scaling the business. Additionally, it defined how we needed to ‘tweak’ the system to make it work for his business. And it helped us define how exactly we needed to use the other apps mentioned above in the overall flow (such as Bill.com)
- People – Getting the processes and technology in place is only 2/3 of the battle; it’s critical that employees are on board as they will play a large role in determining overall success. Since we got the people and technology in place, we have been organizing trainings with various stakeholder groups such as Superintendents and Subcontractors – sometimes with Procore leading, sometimes with us leading.
Results: We are at the tail end of our first full year of working together with Bob. Getting the kind of people, processes, and technology in place and finely tuned is a bit like building a house. You have the design in mind, but there are many unforeseen challenges that come up and require tweaking. And we have certainly experienced some of those difficulties throughout the first year. However – Joy Accounting’s focus on Bob’s people, process, and technology has acted as a blueprint that we continually point to and drive toward.
As 2017 winds down, Bob is close to meeting his revenue goals this year and, as mentioned earlier, is looking towards tripling this number in 2018. It will not be easy, but we all believe that Bob can scale that next mountain with the partnership of Joy Accounting!