professionals strengthen client relationships, enhance their competitive advantage and, ultimately, boost firm profitability.
One tool that Allen has found especially beneficial in better serving clients is benchmarking. “Fathom does offer benchmarking, and we’ve implemented that by benchmarking a client’s companies or divisions against one another (i.e., our franchise clients can compare one location to another),” said Allen. “Overall, the benchmarking tool is very helpful and would be especially well-used if a larger firm were serving a number of franchise clients and wanted to prepare benchmarking reports for them to see how they compare to one another.”
Allen said another way that firms can utilize Fathom’s benchmarking tool is by loading all of their clients into Fathom, then benchmarking them against one another and against certain targets. Allen said this helps a firm see which clients might be in need of additional support.
Joanne Ort, owner of Seattle-based Joanne Ort CPA, also provides clients benchmarking services and said that she finds it “invaluable” to be able to compare clients with industry standards. To do this, Ort uses small-business planning tool Liveplan, from Palo Alto Software.
“Liveplan pulls industry data from Sageworks. So, if I only have one restaurant client, I can use Sageworks industry data,” Ort said.
Joanne Ort CPA is a full-service firm that uses such technology solutions as Liveplan, Fathom, Gusto, Quickbooks Online and Hubdoc to provide clients outsourced CFO services. Ort said this enables her to have a holistic view of her clients’ financial well-being and provide the necessary analysis.
“As a business owner, you need to know, if you’re selling product, which products you are making money on and which products are you not making money on. If it’s a service, the same thing: Which services are you making money on and which ones are you not making money on?” said Ort. “I think that your profit margin should be a minimum of 15 percent and, if it’s not, we need to look at all of your numbers and see what we can tweak. There are certain key metrics that I look at for all of my businesses; one of them is profit and one of them is gross margin. Those two, I think, are key numbers. I can look at those numbers with my clients and know if something is wrong and fix it as quick as possible.”
Added Ort, “Because I work with a lot of creative professionals, if I hand them a profit and loss statement or a balance sheet, I get the deer in the headlights look. It’s just a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper. With Fathom, I can give them visuals. Especially to a creative person, pictures just make a lot more sense. It doesn’t scare them.”
Echoing the sentiment is Tom Gabbert, managing director of Indianapolis-based maccounting. The firm provides outsourced bookkeeping and CFO services and leverages data analysis tools to help drive efficiencies and provide clients greater business insights.
“When we sit down with a client at the end of every month when we are doing a financial review meeting, we are presenting their information in a really nice-looking package that has dashboard widgets, graphs and charts, and visually pleasing information. It’s also accurate. It’s getting pulled off of the system in an automated way,” said Gabbert. “A package like we produce today would have taken us three or four hours; now we can do it in under an hour. Most of our time that we are spending on that is more adding custom comments and insights and things we want our client to pay attention to and, again, not making sure the numbers are right, formatting it and doing things we would typically do in Excel. So, it’s been a huge game-changer for us.”
Fathom recently introduced a new reporting tool that Gabbert said he finds especially beneficial. The vendor has also simplified the interface and enhanced the performance of its original analysis tools.
Meanwhile, Host Analytics, a provider of cloud-based enterprise performance management solutions, is striving to make finance a more strategic and dynamic part of every enterprise.
In August, the vendor unveiled a host of enhancements, including more powerful financial modeling, a more customizable interface, faster and more granular drill-through reporting, and greater flexibility and ease of use in its planning templates. “We spend a lot of time listening to our customers and working with their teams to understand what really