Lis Anderson is one of two directors at award-winning Bristol-based PR agency AMBITIOUS. Eight years ago, it started as a small agency with big plans. So, when their finance processes and systems stopped supporting the agency’s development, they realised something needed to change.
Lis says, “When we began taking on more clients and working on more complex projects, we knew our finance set-up needed an overhaul. It was clear more relevant systems needed to be put in place to keep operating effectively and efficiently, and to take the business to the next level.”
As is typical of many smaller agencies, Lis and her fellow director, Sarah Woodhouse, wore many hats, with one assuming responsibility for finance. Being a small team, getting together around a laptop armed with an Excel spreadsheet worked. They could access the data they needed and the visibility to analyse and act on it.
"Without strategic-level support to create the right management information and analyse and interpret that information, we couldn’t move forward in the way we wanted."
It was clear more relevant systems needed to be put in place to keep operating effectively and efficiently, and to take the business to the next level.
As the agency started to grow, that level of micromanagement became unsustainable. With the directors managing all the business operations as well as a growing team and increasing numbers of client relationships. There weren’t enough hours in the day. It became impossible to extract the more complex financial data they needed using the existing system, and they lacked the strategic financial expertise to make the most of it.
“We added a financial controller to the operations support within the business, and it certainly made a difference to our day to day finance admin and management,” says Lis. “But we needed help with the more strategic numbers planning and crunching. Without strategic-level support to create the right management information and analyse and interpret that information, we couldn’t move forward in the way we wanted. And when it came to putting more relevant systems and processes in place to support our KPIs, we knew we needed agency-specific expertise if we were to get to where we wanted to be.”
"We know we’re tracking the right management information and KPIs that will drive our business in the way we want."
A key contributor to their newfound confidence was the strategic support Jay provided. We worked with Lis and Sarah to develop a financial strategy that aligns with their business strategy. And we helped extract the KPIs that will drive the business in the direction they want.
Lis says, “Jay works across many different agencies, from micro-businesses to bigger companies, so he has an abundance of experience and knowledge – and the answer to any question! He’s very in tune with agencies. And his financial background means he has a specialist understanding of financial management. It’s a unique blend and perfect for mid-size agencies like us.”
We took the strategic planning and fed it into the design and implementation of a new project management system, Synergist, to bolster their financial management reporting and data accuracy. The directors now have a tailored-made financial dashboard so they can manage and monitor their financial performance monthly at their board meetings – so no more laptop and Excel spreadsheet.
And with agency-focused financial coaching and hands-on support, their financial controller became familiar with agency-specific ways of working much sooner, and now confidently puts together more relevant financial data than that provided by their accountant.
“Now we have focus and clarity on how we can increase our profit, and already we’re saving time. We know we’re tracking the right management information and KPIs that will drive our business in the way we want. We have complete confidence in our data because of the robust systems and processes Jay helped put in place, and because we now know what optimal financial management looks like,” says Lis.