From financial reporting to performance insight and commercial guidance

Kim Stokes is the finance director at Butterfly, a leading global brand and innovation agency. Their team of 40 operate out of offices in London and New York.

Kim says, “As a growing agency, the importance of organisation, internal control and solid processes was magnified. And we knew we had holes in our systems that could hold us back. Like most agencies, we’re flexible and agile but we knew we needed a level of control and reporting to drive profitability and performance.”

“We were using spreadsheets to keep track of opportunities and projects costs. Because everyone had access to the documents, numbers would be adjusted and there’d be formula errors. Plus, we had no version control to compare historical data and iterations.”

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The year following Synergist’s implementation was our biggest for profit.quote mark

After researching and reviewing the best agency management systems, Butterfly selected Synergist. Kim says, “Although we adopted the best system on the market, there was some resistance to it at the beginning so there was a period when we were using a hybrid, with some of the team working in Synergist and others still operating in Excel. So The Agency Works helped us set up Synergist in a way that worked for our agency, encouraged adoption and helped us maximise our financial and people performance. We’re now in a position where everyone is confidently using the system for everything, so I can be certain there aren’t any costs floating around on someone’s computer. Now we can all see the value it brings.”

“Whereas previously I relied on financial reporting, I can now report on performance too.” 

“Having complete visibility of projects in the pipeline, when they’re expected and their value, is invaluable particularly when I’m forecasting P&L. From a cash management perspective, we have complete transparency, so we can make informed decisions when we’re negotiating with clients and suppliers, and we know our limits.”

“It gives us a picture of our staff utilisation so we can see where and how people are spending their time, and whether or not there is sufficient return on investment for that time. So, we’re linking performance to profitability,” says Kim. “We set up internal KPIs to support this and 75% of those are driven from Synergist-derived data. And because we can monitor metrics such as project recoverability, the team is also being performance reviewed against their contribution to the wider company KPIs. That means we can train and develop the team with greater purpose.”

“We’re utilising project recoverability too so we’re budgeting more profitable projects,” says Kim. “We can see whether money is being spent out of budget, and confidently have that conversation with the client. It also helped us identify gaps in our project costing review and control procedures. Now we have templates set up in Synergist to prompt users to think about different aspects of a project, so our project recoverability has increased significantly.”

“Synergist, along with The Agency Works’ expertise and industry insight, has turned the agency into a well-oiled machine. It has given us a layer of organisation and control,” says Kim.

“The system and set-up really came into their own when we opened the New York office. Straightaway I could see how successful the office was, where greater opportunities lie and check we were making the right decisions.”

“Now I can help our founders understand how to invest for future growth and profitability.”

“Synergist integrates with other systems, including our finance system, so everything is in one place. The whole set up provides a level of surety when I run the numbers or report to the board.” Kim says.

“Automating processes and having access to the right information at the right time means I can now work more proactively. It’s freed up time to allow me to think more commercially and how I can use the data I now have to drive the business forward. We’ve been able to shift our focus as a finance team and have moved from being purely financial to more of a commercial partner to the business,” says Kim.

“The strategic support from Jay and the team complements this, and the roundtable discussions are instrumental to the decisions I make. When things come up like running projects, trading terms, commercial matters or rate-related questions, The Agency Works add real value with their insight. It’s something I can take away over and above system functionality.”

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