How did you become CEO at ZebraSci?
I’ve known ZebraSci’s founder Rob, for over 5 years. Rob asked me to join ZebraSci and help scale the company as he prepared to transition the company from focusing on product sales to predominantly a services-based model. Rob needed someone to help run the business and grow it while he focuses on technology development.
I’m actually an engineer by education, and started my career in manufacturing. From manufacturing I moved into supply chain, project management, and program management; then eventually into sales and marketing. Now I’m combining it all together in general management..
How are you using the outsourced accounting service provided by Wiss?
There are two main benefits we realize through an outsourced accounting service: The first one is providing the process and infrastructure to support our business, and the second is utilizing Wiss to help monitor and maintain those tools and processes.
In terms of tools, we’re using Sage Intacct and Bill.com. While I think we could have put the time in to learn and onboard them ourselves, it has been fantastic to have a team like Wiss with deep experience to guide us through the process.
The monitoring and maintenance is also key. We provide input in terms of what needs to go in, but we’re not doing the actual coding. We receive bills, then pass them off to Wiss for processing. Wiss is doing all the data entry and making sure everything is done correctly.
Wiss provides a level of sophistication that we just don’t have as a small business. And now that it is all set up and Wiss has the insider knowledge, it’s running much more efficiently than if we had someone else manage the process or try to do it all in house.
Have you benefited from better automation?
Definitely. We use Bill.com for all of our bills payable, so the invoices from our suppliers come into that interface, where we can approve them, then they’re automatically reconciled back to Intacct. On the accounts receivable side, we use Intacct for all the invoices: We submit our requests to Wiss, who generates the invoices using Intacct and sends them on to the customers. Wiss reconciles payments back into Intacct when the payments come into our bank account.
Before we started working with Wiss, we weren’t managing things very efficiently. If we completed a project deliverable, sometimes we’d send an invoice within the week, and other times we might send it a few weeks later. In some cases, we would drop the ball and fail to send the invoice at all. That’s a huge disconnect.
It’s essential for us to have the financial discipline to make sure that when we finish a project, our systems triggers the invoicing, and we know that Wiss will take care of everything from generating the invoice to sending it to the customer to reconciling the incoming payment. It gives us peace of mind. We make sure we keep track of the jobs we’re doing, but then all the financial aspects come together once we pass it off to Wiss.
What is the key value that Wiss brings to you aside from the day-to-day accounting?
As a small company, we didn’t really have a proper finance function. With Wiss, we have someone who understands our business, and that understanding grows deeper each day.
For example, Wiss suggested and helped us recruit an internal finance support person to initially assist with cleaning up the books and then migrate duties to support day-to-day administration and financial operations. This has been a real win-win because we have an inside support person who is being guided and trained by the extended Wiss Team. At the same time, we can tap into the strategic advice from Carolyn Hall and Paul Ursich, who are Wiss partners and our key advisors on the account. It’s really nice to know that as we grow, we have the full range of Wiss services and expertise at our disposal.
One of these days, we hope to be in a position of strength from which we can proactively invest to grow the business and get ourselves ready for the next level. I expect Wiss is going to be instrumental in making key introductions and facilitating discussions with lenders as well as helping with the necessary forecasting and budget-planning steps.
What have you learned from the COVID crisis?
Cash is king. I think we were not in a very comfortable position financially when all of this happened, so we had a lot of stress and angst within our organization. We were quite fortunate that we were already in the process of getting our finances in order, so we had a good understanding of where we stood. As we continue to grow the organization, I think a lot of the work that we have done throughout the COVID crisis has helped prepare us to have a stronger foundation to grow off of as business (hopefully) picks up over the summer months.
What advice would you give another CEO who is leading a business through a major transition?
If you’re a small company, focus on your product, focus on your process. Leave your accounting to a company like Wiss. Wiss has been through this before, they work with small companies, and they’re going to be able to help you because they understand what you’ll need.
Maybe you’re worried about how your income statement is going to be prepared and come together. With Wiss, that’s one less thing you’ll need to worry about. Wiss keeps it updated for you, and you can log into the online Intacct portal and look at that on a weekly basis. That gives you peace of mind. You’ve got someone that’s a trusted advisor, and they’re ready to scale with you as your business grows.