29 Jun, 2020
In this customer catch up, we speak to Peter Magner, Director of Iridium, and Team Lead Chay Stockdale. They tell us about how they’ve onboarded new clients during COVID-19, and how they’re using Fathom to dig even deeper into their clients' data.
Fathom: Retail and hospitality are two of the areas you specialise in, how has COVID-19 affected your dealings with those clients?
Peter: So we've got our three main client-facing teams, and then we set up a fourth team which has been instrumental in a lot of the funding applications. We also repurposed our onboarding team and our office manager to do a lot of the government funding applications. That was quite a big thing for our clients, making sure that they've got money in the bank that they're able to apply for the loans and the funding options.
We also spent a lot of time assisting our clients with UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) and TERS (Temporary Employment Relief Scheme). We had over 60 applications every single month. This is stressful for the client, for the account managers and for people dealing with it, so we separated out a team of five people to manage that process. Consequently, we've had incredibly good feedback from our clients around how we helped them through that process.
Fathom: Have you taken on new clients during the crisis?
Peter: We put in a lot of time and effort to look after our clients and we've actually grown through this crisis. We've added 16 new clients, who’ve come to us for a range of reasons. Some went ‘I'm on an old desktop solution. I can't see anything. I've got no access to my accounting. Please help.’ Others said, ‘I thought I had a good accountant but as a result of COVID I've realised how bad they actually are, so I'd love to get you guys involved.’ We did lose two clients; both of them, essentially, closed down.
Fathom: How do you like to work with your clients?
Peter: Our approach to managing a company is ensuring we have a really solid foundation. So we make sure we cover all the things that a business actually needs to do.
We push really hard to get strong controls around closing out accounts every month so that we've got good numbers on a monthly basis. So at any particular time, our clients can go, ‘hey, I need the following’ and we have it. And once you've got that really strong foundation you can start adding the icing and the sprinkles. But if you start with, ‘I want a pretty report,’ and all the stuff below is crap, it's not helping.
Tell us how you found Fathom?
Peter: We've got a handful of clients that we went to and said, ‘what do you need from a reporting solution?’ We showed them a variety of options and software solutions. We said ‘these are the options, this is what they can do, and this is how they look’. Then we passed some real data through and every time they came back and said, ‘Fathom: wow!’. It's more flexible, it looks better and it provides a better overall experience for them.
Do you typically find yourself using either Fathom’s pre-defined templates or a custom one? Or do you curate it for each individual client according to their request?
Peter: I think the templates within Fathom, around say profitability or sales metrics, are actually really good. So we've been using the standard templates and then customise it to the client’s needs, especially if they're following KPI metrics that pull in, basically, non-financial data.
As an example, we use Fathom as an analysis tool with one client. We do this on a Zoom call and we actually share the full report with the client as well, not just the snippets. They've got the full access to dig through the detail in Fathom.
In terms of pulling in non-financial data, we've built out a range of indices to track staff performance, which we can overlap and build down to these indices, which are, basically, KPI metrics, which say, ‘How much does the staff actually contribute in terms of management fees? What is their salary? What do those indices look like? How is that metric performing over time?’ So we can pull all that through into the Fathom report and overlap it.
Previously, we spent a lot of the time hacking around with Google Sheets to eventually get a graphical analysis over time to try and see trends, now we just pull all that data in from Xero and do quite an easy trend analysis. We've got a special metric where we need to see funds outflow and funds inflow and then see them being offset on a monthly basis. And it's very hard to see that within Xero or looking at the numbers and doing it on a Google Sheet.
Using Fathom was the first time we actually had great oversight of what we were missing, and which funds we should be offsetting. So, we use it to do an analysis, more than just using it as a simple reporting tool to fire out a standardised report to a client.
With that client, was the main catalyst there the non-financial information? Is that why you introduced Fathom to them?
Chay: We’d been building out a lot of models and reports in, basically, Google Sheets and Excel. That was my core thought to build out and dig into profitability and see what the key drivers were and finding out ways to improve the business. With Fathom, we have a centralised way of pulling all that data into a report, rather than all these models, which we have to then go through individually.
Fathom: What was the pain point that tipped you into using Fathom? At what point did frustration tip over into ‘there's got to be a better way of doing this?’
Chay: So I think that it comes back to a bit about our business model. We've got a range of clients and we've been focusing very much on getting the foundational stuff right so the numbers are perfect. We do the bookkeeping, the accounting, we send out the management packs. From there we overlapped in some areas where we've built up customised reporting in Xero.
Our next focus is actually building up great analytical reporting. Now, for the clients I manage and a few other clients across the company, we actually consult purely on an advisory and analytical basis. We don't get involved in bookkeeping or accounting. And that was the pain point I found is this transition. We are actually doing the accounting work. I actually have to now advise these clients but the analytical tools and existing software we were using were not quite there. So how are we going to fill in that gap?
We looked at Google Sheets, which was the straight go-to, and Excel, you can do quite a lot of stuff in there. But the actual overall view of that report or that dashboard is not great. You don't want to be flipping between sheets and going, ‘Look at this graph. This is what's happening.’ So that's the trigger where we said, ‘We need to fill this gap.’ So we're producing a professional pack built on the analytical data we're actually doing for those clients.
Do you charge your clients for the Fathom subscription? Are you passing that cost on as part of your advisory work?
Peter: No, it's currently included in our management fees for these clients.
What were the clients' impressions when you showed Fathom to them for the first time?
Chay: It was very well received by the clients, especially when, during COVID, we did cost control for them. In terms of the client response, they were used to receiving a P&L, which had a bunch of GL accounts on there and the balance sheet. They would look at, maybe, their top line, their bottom line, and see their sales increased a bit or their profit went down. They wouldn't know why. And now I've got clients who are chasing me going, ‘we've got a management meeting next week, can I have my Fathom report beforehand as I want to prepare for the meeting’. So it's been well received by our clients.
In terms of onboarding clients, you first migrate them onto Xero, but what other apps or processes do you put them through pre-Fathom?
Peter: So we've started using Xavier, to actually quote people before, and you can get an incredible amount of information from Xavier that gives you interesting insights around transactional volumes and errors in the accounts that I can then take back to the client. We also set them up on Xero, Receipt Bank and SimplePay, which is payroll as our stock standard. Once those are working well we start looking at other things. If a client is in the retail space, we will tag on e-commerce apps like Shopify.
We wanted to roll out lots and lots of reporting a year ago but weren’t ready. Now I feel we're in a great position to start asking ‘how do we add more insights for our clients?’ And the answer is Fathom because I've found it's easy to understand and you can just do more. It looks sexy and savvy. It's like picking up an Apple product. And the experience that we want for our clients and for our team is something that's intuitive and easy to use and beautiful. And we give our clients Xero, which is beautiful accounting software, we want to give them beautiful reporting tools and love them to also use those insights to drive their business.
Fathom: So what does the future look like then? We've got, obviously, COVID, but besides that where's the company going and where do you see your clients going?
Peter: Can I use an emoji? It's the rocket! 🚀 We're a monthly recurring revenue, fixed fee business and as I said, we picked up 16 new clients during COVID, which totals to about 12% monthly revenue increase. Clients are our partners. We’re in the thick of things with them to drive and grow the business. Our clients aren't there just to pay a monthly bill and we do an outsource service. If you see it that way, it's wrong. This is a long term relationship where we're there to help them grow their businesses, provide them insights and it's a five, 10-year relationship.
We communicate with our clients more than the average accountant. We get the basics right, have great communication, and once you've got the foundations, then we can start adding awesome layers!
Written by Andrew Webb
Andrew is Fathom’s Content Strategist based in the UK. He has a background in journalism and has worked for companies like the BBC and HuffPost, as well as start ups in education and technology. Andrew has also published 5 food books and makes a great pie.