SaaS Brief

Using QuickBooks to Manage Multiple Entities?  These Users Say Don't

Stressed Executive

Recently I published a blog post on managing multiple entities in QuickBooks, along with some questions QuickBooks users should ask themselves about how well QuickBooks and spreadsheets meet their needs.

Let me share with you five stories about QuickBooks users who outgrew its limitation. Each ran into a different set of roadblocks, and each found different benefits by replacing QuickBooks. I hope these stories are instructive and inspiring, and convince you there's a much better way.

Accurate Neuromonitoring

Accurate Neuromonitoring is a healthcare practice that provides live monitoring services during surgical procedures throughout 100 hospitals across 11 states. After operating for a decade as a small local provider, its partners decided to secure a private equity investment and grow the business through several acquisitions. In preparation, they transitioned from cash-based to accrual accounting and started consolidating financial statements across their multiple entities.

As part of getting to the next level of financial maturity, the partners also hired a CFO and controller. Tim Trexler, the company’s controller, remembers some of the process challenges from that time, “When we were maintaining three separate entities in QuickBooks, consolidations were very painful,” Tim says. “We had outsourcing help to support our month-end close and reporting package for investors, but it quickly became apparent that we needed a more scalable financial management solution.”

Accurate Neuromonitoring moved from QuickBooks to a cloud-native financial management system. After designing a new dimensions-based chart of accounts, integrating it for accounts payable and adding for expense automation, the company greatly streamlined its time-consuming monthly close and achieved several other benefits. Accurate Neuromonitoring went from needing the support of three outsourced accountants to managing its own financials with a single in-house resource – increasing efficiency by 66%.

By consolidating the reporting and workflows from multiple entities into a single chart of accounts, Accurate Neuromonitoring improved its operations.

“Now that we’re able to better manage our cash position and schedule payments, we’ve improved cash flow,” Tim says. “We’re sitting on a lot more cash than we used to, which brings flexibility to the business, and I love that I no longer have to look at cash forecasts all day.” His AP workflows have gone from hours of data entry, approval routing, and check writing each week to just 15 minutes of oversight.

Now the receptionist enters AP invoices, employees route their own expense reports, all of the company’s finance tools sync in real-time, and creates intercompany journal entries automatically. All of this saves Tim around 20 hours each month that he now puts towards more strategic tasks like consolidations and board packets. Flexible reporting capabilities eliminate another four hours that he used to spend preparing a 30-tab worksheet for board meetings. And Tim uses the system’s entity groupings, dimensions, and statistical accounts to effortlessly produce detailed management reports and dashboards for specific locations and entities.

Alder Partners

An independent franchisee of Planet Fitness, Alder Partners, LLC expanded rapidly over the past decade, opening three or four new clubs every year. The group operates over 21 gyms across Massachusetts and Georgia, serving over 147,000 members. In the early days, the partners ran each location as a separate business with independent financial processes and its own chart of accounts in QuickBooks. The company did informal quarterly reviews of its books but lacked comprehensive consolidations or real-time visibility across gyms.

Once Alder Partners reached six clubs and set a goal for continued 30% - 40% annual growth, its owners realized they needed to centralize financials to scale efficiently. transactions and consolidations. By consolidating entities using a modern cloud-native finacial management platform, Alder Partners automated its financial workflows, which offset the cost of a third-party accountant and avoided an estimated $100,000 in annual salaries – despite tripling in size. The platform helped cut the monthly close in half, allowing the company’s controller to free 50% of his time from day-to-day accounting tasks for more forward-looking business analytics, improve cash forecasting, and increase budget accuracy by 10%.

Anchor Loans

Anchor Loans is one of the largest “fix-and-flip” and new construction lenders in the U.S., providing real estate developers with financing to renovate or build residential and commercial properties. The company relied on an entry-level combination of QuickBooks and Excel that could not scale as revenue and complexity increased. The finance team labored with time-consuming, manual consolidations across 43 entities — each requiring its own QuickBooks instance — in an unwieldy spreadsheet with 25 tabs. Meanwhile, the Calabasas, Calif.-based firm had no real-time insights challenging the finance team from making faster, smarter decisions.

“When you have that many entities, exporting financials from QuickBooks to Excel for consolidation was an ongoing nightmare,” says Bryan Thompson, Anchor Loans CFO. “I talked with our CEO and said, ‘If you want reliable, timely financial information, we can’t do it in QuickBooks. It’s too cumbersome and too manual. In order to deliver timely, accurate and meaningful financial statements, we will need to upgrade the accounting system.’”

Within a few months and switching systems, Anchor eliminated up to 16 hours a month of manual bank reconciliations that had been done in Excel. Plus, it made it easy for accountants to spot reconciliation discrepancies and drill down into details for resolution. Thompson’s team saved another 16 hours a month by automatically calculate cost of funds across seven financing vehicles. Integration with loan origination software eliminates another eight hours a month of manually entering origination data into QuickBooks, all while improving accuracy. Meanwhile, Anchor has markedly optimized the balance sheet reconciliation process from 12 business days a month to just three – a 75% improvement.

Blue River PetCare

Founded in 2009, Blue River PetCare has grown tremendously as a nationwide network of veterinary hospitals focused on high-quality healthcare for pets and outstanding service to pet owners. With an aggressive acquisition strategy, the Chicago-based company has expanded from 20 clinics in 2014 to over 145 today, across 31 states. Revenue soared nearly 12-fold while the workforce has grown to roughly 2,500.

As it grew, its accounting and finance team hit the limits of QuickBooks. Multiple entity consolidations and intercompany settlements grew increasingly difficult and complex, forcing extensive manual work in Excel. Paper copies of invoices, checks, and other documentation filled filing cabinets. Slow and cumbersome reporting in Excel wasn’t delivering the timely business insights that Blue River needed.

“We knew we’d have to hire a lot more accounting staff if we stayed on QuickBooks, and still we’d be wasting time on inefficient manual processes,” says Controller Amy Ward, who joined Blue River in 2014.

Using a QuickBooks alternative, Blue River has eliminated roughly 75 hours a month in manual work even amid triple-digit annual growth while delivering new business insights for data-driven decisions Overall, Ward estimates that Blue River has doubled its accounting efficiency. The company has seen significant time savings in journal entries by using templates to help automate the process. Another large efficiency gain has been realized in accounts payable with capabilities to upload bills covering multiple clinics and items, eliminating previous manual data entry.

“We do anywhere from 250 to 750 checks a week, so we probably would have had to double our AP staff as we grew if we had kept doing it the old way,” Ward says. Between both journal entries and AP, Blue River has racked up about 50 hours a month in time savings across what is today an 18-person accounting and finance team. And with automation, Blue River shifted from quarterly to monthly intercompany settlements, saving up to seven hours while improving data accuracy. “Intercompany used to be very manual, but if everything goes smoothly it’s a 30-minute process from start to finish,” Ward says. “Before it could easily take more than a half-day at the end of the quarter if you had to dig into data to find an error that happened three months ago.”

StarCorp

StarCorp is a successful franchisee of CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., the parent company of the Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Green Burrito and Red Burrito fast food restaurant brands. Based in Phoenix, Ariz., StarCorp operates 144 Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants in Arizona, Texas and the Midwest.

With QuickBooks and Excel, the Phoenix-based StarCorp had ample room to improve its financial management efficiency. A lack of consolidation capabilities in QuickBooks meant that the accounting team had to manually reconcile financials for each of its 144 locations. “QuickBooks was just too time-consuming between the different restaurants to have to go through and deal with a set of books for each restaurant,” says StarCorp Controller Cesar Elizondo. “Financial reporting could take a long time, just exporting everything out individually from QuickBooks into Excel.”

The limitations of the entry-level software were also seen in payroll. Employees spent needless hours each pay period keying data manually from QuickBooks into the payroll system, “and obviously the more you key in data, the more likely it is you’re going to have errors,” as Elizondo notes. As a young company with strategic growth objectives, StarCorp recognized the need for a modern cloud accounting environment that could improve speed, heighten visibility and scale with business expansion.

Since replacing QuickBooks, StarCorp has seen groundbreaking improvements in how it manages the business. Rather than manual bank reconciliations for each of its 144 stores once a month, it now does a single daily reconciliation that covers all the stores with automation, saving nearly 20 hour a month. The accounting team is saving eight hours per pay period on payroll, as data is automatically exported from payroll with no manual work needed. Time spent managing vendor bills has been cut from four hours a week to 15 minutes, and StarCorp is saving another 90 minutes a month with recurring bills.

More efficient accounting has freed time for reporting and analytics, leading to greater transparency and informed decisions. For example, management has much better insights into labor and overtime costs across its eateries and can adapt accordingly. StarCorp uses dimensions to break out in-store maintenance by urgent and lower-priority items, with a scheduled weekly report delivering visibility into costs vs. budget. Cash management is streamlined as well with a forward-looking view at financials, not the rear-view mirror look of the past. “Before, we were putting a lot of things in a spreadsheet and not really forecasting,” Elizondo says.

Improved reporting also supports data-driven decisions on whether to keep a restaurant open as the end of its lease approaches, and whether to expand into a given area with a new restaurant. Now the speed and ease of establishing new entities allows StarCorp to accelerate time to value, without the cost and complexity that would have needed in the QuickBooks days.

Vets Pets

Vets Pets is growing rapidly with a highly successful cooperative business model that benefits wholly owned and joint venture/partnership veterinary practices, as well as pets and their owners. Vets Pets headquarters supports its practices with a range of centralized services and field support, from HR and IT to marketing, facilities development/management, accounting and finance. That proven structure allows practice leaders to focus resources on serving customers — both pets and people — and leading their local teams while avoiding significant cost and time to employ their own staff for back-office and other management functions.

Vets Pets saw an opportunity to further improve efficiency by upgrading from QuickBooks. The system required accountants to log in and log out of QuickBooks each time they needed to access a new entity, now numbering 17. “It was a nightmare,” says Blair Myers, the Vets Pets controller. “It took a really long time just to produce financials because you’d have to log in and log out to book journal entries and do a lot of manual work in Excel to match the numbers up.” The monthly close dragged out for up to 23 days, while Myers spent three hours each week signing dozens of paper checks — usually at home in the evening after her young children had gone to bed.

Meanwhile, Vets Pets’ use of Excel for reporting didn’t provide the insights Vets Pets needed to support growth. “You’d just be in this pit of a month-end cycle, and never have the time to analyze the information or do value-added work,” Myers says. “As soon as we finished financials for one month, we’d have to start on the next month.” Vets Pets examined leading solutions and selected a cloud-native financial management platform to streamline accounting. Ease of use, automation, robust reporting, and a wide range of third-party partner solutions were key: Vets Pets has dramatically improved its efficiency and visibility with the change. That’s delivering the scalability the business needs as it continues growing.

Myers took an aggressive approach to utilization and partner integrations, generating great results in a short period of time. Her small team has reduced monthly close time by roughly 3x — from as many as 23 days to as few as six days. Now, the accounting team has ample time to closely review financials and expand reporting, which is improving accuracy while providing more timely information to management. Vets Pets is saving roughly 100 hours a month with automation and add-on solutions from ecosystem partners.

Did any of these stories resonate with you? Regardless of whether you have one entity or multiple entities (and StarCorp has more than 100), a cloud-native native financial system can deliver real value that you can move to the bottom line. Click below to learn more about Sage Intacct at one of our daily coffee break demos.

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