14 Jun 2021  |  1251

Our experts Chris Rivera and Jim Hall have discussed CAS and leveraging data for analysis in this podcast. Watch here to learn more.



Hosted by: Chris Rivera, Director Client relations, Entigrity Offshore Staffing

Guest: Jim Hall, Vice President, Tally Street




Chris: Alright! Hey everybody thanks for joining in today. I'm Chris Rivera Director Client Relations with Entigrity and we are on episode number 37 of #BKOT. And today I have an awesome guest with me. Jim Hall is the co-founder and VP of and something that we haven't spoken about is kind of what we're going to talk about today is CAS and Leveraging the Data for Analysis right. What do you do? How do you go about it? What tools are there so that's what we're going to talk about and so you might have been thinking about this for your firm or already implementing it. So Jim, thank you so much for taking time out and doing this with me today. So tell us about yourself and how you got a tally street all started.

Jim: Great! Well thanks for your time Chris and hello everybody. Yeah so my name is Jim Hall, co-founder of the tally street and we are a customer insights software tool, so we're designed to be providing data and analytics and insight for strategic decision making as opposed to more traditional financial and tax reporting type work. So basically how can you leverage the data you already are maintaining when you're doing your regular bookkeeping cas, you know outsource the accounting job correctly and timely and accurately. How can you leverage the data that you already manage and control to provide greater insights, better value, and more advisory-type conversational tools to your clients?

So tally street kind of started with a couple of personal challenges that my co-founder and I had for him he's his background brian set off his backgrounds in analytics and big data, and left the startup that was doing that you know multi-million dollar you know revenue-generating company to start a very small liquor distributor in the New England area so very different kind of business just him and a few consultants salespeople and very quickly started missing kind of the tools that he had to understand his customers that you know he used every day at a VC environment.

So he went looking for something to replace them and quickly found that there wasn't anything out there that A he could afford or B he could implement without an IT developer software resource. My backgrounds in banking and 20 plus years in banking and small business consulting and not a day went by where I wasn't providing advice to my business owners you know they're very good at what they do but they're not necessarily the most financially savvy people in the world, so they had questions all the time about well what's happening in my business, what's going on with my company, you know can you what do you. What do you see when you look at my finances? 

You kind of became sort of a therapist as a banker sometimes and so those kind of were the conversations that we had so that's where tally street kind of evolved out of was that pain and that struggle that business owners as well as their advisors their CPAs and accountants had when trying to address these situations because a lot of the CPAs and accountants that I dealt with or how I dealt with them as a banker was primarily around getting the taxes and the financial statements you know timely and in my hands not really looking at analytics.

Chris: Yeah I mean when it comes to leveraging the data it's literally where do I read it an analytical journey right and what do you do with it with all the data it's directly linked to how it's applied right you could have all this data. 

What do we do with it right? Well with firms you know there are so many value-added services that they could be doing right budgeting for shopping business efficiency technology and application advisory financial planning right so when a firm is trying to go about these value-added services you know kind of where do they start and how do they get started for their clients. 

Jim: Sure I think the first thing I would say is that business owners universally I've not met one yet that don't care about three things in varying degrees of importance. 

The first is sales they all care about sales love talking about sales you know my revenues were this much this year we grew 20% in revenues this year blah blah blah that kind of stuff you know they all care about their customers, they want to make sure they're taking good care of their customers and finding new ones and all those kinds of great things around customers and they all want to get paid it doesn't do any good just have sales that have customers if you never have any money in the bank, that doesn't that is that doesn't get your keep your engine running at the business so you know contrary to what accountants and bookkeepers think they don't care as much about getting the depreciation schedules accurate or the expense categories have done correctly according to the gap I mean that's sort of like baseline they expect that to be done, that's what they're paying you for.

If you can't do that they don't want they wouldn't hire you so they just don't care about that as much I'm sorry they don't so stop thinking your clients care about how pretty your you know balance sheet looks you know what no one cares about that, so let's get them reviewing information about what they are passionate about and then you can be the hero which is around sales customers and getting paid you know collections.

So all that data that we use and to do our analysis at tally street focuses on those three things and others but focuses on those three things and it all gets developed from the invoice data that you already maintain for your clients when you produce maintain sales receipts and invoices and post payments against those invoices in the accounting system. It already lives there. There's nothing else you have to do. You don't need to hire an IT person to install new software, maintain and update, etc. Just connect like you do an app for your phone and you're ready to go.

Chris: So what I’m hearing saying is it's going to be generating data from it, has integrations within the software, and producing specific reports. Do you have the ability to like packaging some different types of services or how does that work?

Jim: Yeah, we basically have a set of reports that we produce based on what people are looking for. We could have some customization options if you have a very special need we're able to accommodate that we do have a google sheets integration, so if you have a certain chart, a pivot table you want to use and always have used, or a dashboard you have created, etc. We can work with that we also have CRM integrations available so if you use salesforce or Hubspot you can put some of the insights into your CRM, so you can safely share that information that customer insights regarding payments and sales and outstanding invoices and past due balances, etc. with the sales and marketing and customer success team so they have it at their fingertips and the tool that they use.

And aren't bothering you as the accountant or bookkeeper for it I have not met a single financial person accountant bookkeeper that wants to give a salesperson the keys to the quick books like a password, to let them mess around in the in their accounting platform so that's been an audit no no so it's fine that's great you know you maintain the record of truth as the finance accountant bookkeeping expert with your cast work and let's share the insights that are related to sales customers and cash flow and collections in the tools that they use either through third reports that we create spreadsheets and or CRM integrations so those are all kind of platforms we play nicely with.

Chris: Nice! Yeah, because in order to really be successful as a client accounting services model they have to have the CPA, the account has to have a good understanding of the business, and have to do a deep dive into it. So does it have the ability to where in order to provide quality service delivery for the clients? How can it help without getting too much into a deeper understanding is the reporting ability able to provide some insight in regards to that?

Jim: Absolutely! Yeah, we provide insights into the customers of the business and I think one thing to point out here is whenever you talk about advisory or CAS or bringing value-added services, I want to make sure I’m very clear about the difference between expert and experience, so being the expert is this is my world, I live here I know all the ins and outs about it which is the things that you do well in CAS. Your bookkeeping, your accounting compliance with GAAP, and tax code reconciliations are done accurately and accounts are balanced. You generate your traditional financial reports that are required for lenders or investors or whatever but what it is not what an expert is not is having all the answers to every client's business problem.

Chris: Right.

Jim: You're not there to provide all the answers versus leveraging your experience which is to make sure you set up things properly, having an efficient process helping clients develop efficient processes, suggestions for the tech stack, what's a good tool that you should use given your situation and leveraging lessons learned from other clients right. 

Your business owners that you work with life in their own little bubble, you work with a lot of different clients, a lot of different types of clients. Maybe it's a lot of clients in the same industry but different aspects or sizes or problems or whatever but you have all that experience. So what that really is providing good data, good insights, and good reports so that you can ask good questions. Being an expert having that experience means you know how to ask good questions, you don't have all the answers you might have some potential solutions for them to consider but if the business owner says well. 

Hey I want you to give me good information understand my problems and give me the solution well that's a little more than you're getting paid for you know so and in most cases, the business owners already have in the back of their head like what they want to do like a solution that they believe, they want to implement they just need your help in making them feel good about it like what's the data? What are the results? How can I track this? What have I learned from? What I’m already doing that I can leverage that's good and get rid of things that maybe are not as successful? etc. 

Historically that's sort of fallen outside of the accounting function but as in the accounting system, you have the record of truth you know what's been sold? the price that's been paid, the quantity purchased when they bought it when they paid you were they late? etc. All that information lives in the data you already maintained when you're posting invoices and posting payments against them. It already exists so why not leverage that information, provide some great insights into sales customers and cash collections for the customer to think strategically about their business and then that opens up a whole world of conversation about their business, that you're just not going to get when you're looking at a P&L and a balance sheet you know it's a little more difficult to have those conversations when you're looking at it at that big of a level which is really like trying to steal steer a boat while looking behind you at the wake. It's like you need to be looking forward to the world of analytics you have. You know the descriptive prescriptive food chain that you're kind of trying to move up and that's where you can provide more value to your client absolutely.

Chris: Well said, yeah! in regards to now, the time to do this right because the time is of the utmost importance and a lot of it upwards of 70% is working in the compliance work and correspondence and too much in the business right so to take off that the work that has to get done to generate all these reports with bookkeeping bill paid, receivables everything like that right offshore staffing can definitely come into play and I wanted to get your thoughts on that. What do you think it is now and where do you think it's going for the future to enable and empower these CPAs to do these types of services for their clients?

Jim: Absolutely! I think that what you said is enable is the keyword for me, it's like it enables you to spend less time doing things that are repetitive and are foundational and allows you more time to do things that are more prescriptive and strategic with your client. 

And technology can help do that offshore staffing that has that type of experience and can certainly be a great enabler for your firm and your practice to go the way you want it to go which is you don't you only have so many hours in the day and what do you want to spend them doing. And so you just have to really look at yourself in the mirror and take a hard look at what you want to provide and what your clients are really asking you for? And what are they willing to pay for? Honestly, I always tell advisors that work with us at Tally Street is that if you were to generate these reports that we produce on your own it would probably take you at least a few hours a month let's say two on the low end two hours a month and if they would allow you to generate an hour or two of strategic advisory conversation with your client that they're willing to pay for, that's a four-hour swing, you're spending two hours less doing stuff you don't want to do that many times it's just sunk work sunk cost and you have a couple of hours of time you can spend consulting with your business owner about their business and about things they're passionate about which is sales customers and having cash in the bank.

Chris: Yeah absolutely and when many clients that I have spoken with since about last year or so have literally been firing a lot of their clients or degrees they want to focus not on the headaches and time consumers, they want to focus on how they can do this deep dive and provide the resources that they have, but again with time is of the essence so you need to have an understanding the right packaging of services and here's where you come into play with the right technology in order to do this. 

So my question is just some guidance for firms that are doing this. What have you seen and worked with besides what the business owner wants? What else have you seen to kind of help and guide them along this path?

Jim: Well I think the last year has really shown the importance of paperless in the office and being more paperless just less paper floating around I had several clients that couldn't get to their office for months and things that were in the mail just got backed up you know it just wasn't he couldn't get to him and then remote being remote. So paperless and remote were the two big things that kind of came into play and doing those things well and doing those things consistently allows you enable you to spend more time doing the things that you want to do really focusing more on the quality of the time with your clients versus the quantity of time you spend on clients or the number of clients you have really focusing on client quality, not client quantity.

And again providing them what do you want and again Tally Street we try to be we're not going to be that super deep it'll solve every problem type of a solution, we're going to be let's give you exposure to things that matter to your business strategy and then having those conversations with your client and asking good questions will uncover really what they care about and you can start going deeper from there.

Chris: Yeah and then what I find is that clients are trying to figure out right now to piece and put all this together and so if they have the staff in place they have kind of what they want to deliver to their clients I mean how quickly does your technology integrate. Is this a day a week like how quickly they can get if they're from?

Jim: If they are using a cloud-based platform like Quickbooks Online or Xero or sage intact it's a 15-second connection and you have reported in about two minutes. So it's literally like connecting an app to your phone it probably takes you more time to do your march madness picks in this on the sports app you choose on your phone than it does to connect Tally Street it literally is 15 seconds of energy to connect and two minutes later you have the reports in your inbox and it's ready to go, because you already have all the data you have already done all the hard work all the things that you have already done all the entries, you have already done all the invoice records and everything you have already applied for payments appropriately to the right customers against write invoices, etc. 

You're already doing that for your client or the clients doing it on themselves and you're working on other aspects of their business but the data is there in the in their accounting system which is the record of truth that we tie into for that source of data and it's accurate and we've found that no matter how messed up the books are quote-unquote you know reconciliations might not be timely, you know you might do those in the 10th of the month versus the first whatever but most business owners and accounting businesses always have the invoices done accurately because the customer's not going to pay in an accurate invoice and you want to cash in the bank. 

So you want to get those invoices out as soon as the customer owes you the funds right you want to get those invoices in their hands to say you can get paid at the end of the day so we find it to be the most accurate and timely source of truth is where we get our information to produce our report so I encourage everybody out there try us out it's a free trial 30-day free trial, kick the tires break it, prove me wrong might take you 30 seconds might take you five you know I have had it just it doesn't take long at all so like unlike a lot of other software that are out there that do take days weeks to implement and those kinds of things it's just we specifically had this design in mind we built it that it was connect and go there was no other work to do there wasn't a whole lot of other heavy lift to get it installed and going because we basically leverage what you're already doing.

Chris: Yeah that's why I asked because I know trying to integrate a new software technology and whether you love technology you hate it you have to embrace it, you know 15 seconds two minutes heck that's easy right.

Jim: Exactly!

Chris: That helps exactly with the whole time management. So where do you see Tally Street kind of going in the future or wanting to branch out to or are there any fun projects in the works?

Jim: Integrations with more accounting GL systems like Microsoft Dynamics and Netsuite are on deck, now we connect with QuickBooks. All versions online desktop enterprise etc. Xero and sage intact so getting Netsuite and dynamics integrations online or is next on tap and if there's anybody out there that's interested in partnering with us and collaborating on what that would look like and how that would work best. We'd love to have a conversation about that because we'd love to make sure that it's meeting your needs at the end of the day, but yeah we just continue to want to be the customer insights platform for a small to mid-sized business that's what we want to be.

A lot of the fortune 2000 whatever number you want to throw out there most large enterprises have this type of analysis and analytics they have teams of junior analysts doing this kind of work most small to mid-sized business owners don't even own that hat of all the hats they wear that's probably not one they have. So this is one that they want and when you start talking about sales and customers and cash in the bank their eyes open up wide and their ears perk up and they go well how can you help me understand that better and for 15 seconds of time and you know small monthly subscription you can have it, it's really it's ready to roll that's what we want to provide.

Chris: Yeah, such a simple solution especially with clients needing additional help and you have what resources are out there and I found that when we spoke initially that this is something that's extremely beneficial because I know you work with accounts but I mean this is you know industry-agnostic pretty much. But to have the ability to focus on accounts to help them move into that CAS model I mean it's phenomenal because it is hard and they ask clients to ask me and I’m like we got staff but where else do you go because you have to have the right partnerships in place.

Jim: Like I said before it isn't about being the expert, it's about sharing your experience and asking good questions. That's really all it's about. It's like here's all the information I already maintained for you, here are some additional insights that you can use to help run your business.

And what I have found is that many times the accountant the CAS the advisor you know sees value or maybe doesn't see as much value as the client but the client sees tremendous value because they've been maybe struggling with something you know with their sales or their marketing or with their customer team or whatever that they just haven't brought to your attention because they figured you don't you can't provide any values. All you do is reconciliations and get my financial reports done but if you can show them that you can provide them more insight that they can use and that area of their business that you'll really care the most about frankly, that's a whole different conversation and you have totally elevated your status at that with that client and you just it's a whole new conversation it's a strategic conversation, not just diligence, due diligence process-oriented type conversation.

Chris: Exactly! Yeah, this is something that could integrate so quickly and they could start literally that day and help deliver what they want to the service that they want to offer for their clients.

Jim: Yeah, absolutely and I will mention as well for firms that we work with we do have a new report that allows you to see all of your clients and how they're doing in certain key measurements. You kind of benchmark how people are doing and so you can use that to help understand your portfolio of work with clients and where maybe there are some areas that you might need to get some additional training on or provide some additional value with clients, or maybe there's something everybody's struggling with or something like that, it allows you to benchmark how certain businesses are doing compared to others things like that. So we have that type of when you connect multiple clients with our platform we can provide you as the firm some analytics on your client base for you to use internally to see where maybe there are some additional opportunities to create value, provide more services, etc.

Chris: Yeah so perfect. Yeah, you got the firm in place, they got the vision and goal, they got the offshore staffing with us, they got the technology with you for the reporting, we're ready to rock and roll!

Jim: That's right.

Chris: We wind down any final thoughts this is really nice today, I appreciate you taking time and learning. I myself learned a lot but yeah any final thoughts for our audience?

Jim: I just say you know when it comes to the offshore staffing kind of concept I see that more and more and it's about leveraging those that work and those tools and those responsibilities that they have for the base information to get that to another level with your clients right. So spend your time doing the type of work that you want to do and if you're moving into advisory that's certainly a gateway to having very different conversations with clients and talk about quality versus quantity and hopefully a better quality of your work life, better balance etc. something we all are striving for. And I think everybody realized the importance of that safety net, that network that the team supporting you know during this whole Covid world that we've just come out of.

Chris: Yeah spot on awesome! Well said thanks so much, Jim. Everybody thank you for taking time out of your schedule today to listen and we'll be back soon with more special guests coming up. For now, take care, have a good week. Jim thanks again, be safe and take care.

Entigrity™ is a trusted offshore staffing partner to over 550+ accountants, CPAs, and tax firms across the US and Canada. Our flexible and transparent hiring model helps firms of all sizes hire staff for accounting, bookkeeping, tax preparation, or any other task for 75% less cost. As a firm 'run by accountants, for the accountants', Entigrity captures the hiring needs of accounting firms most precisely, providing staff that works directly under your control and management, still, you are left with least to worry about compliance, payroll taxes, overheads or any other benefits.

About The Author
Director, Client Relations

Christopher Rivera, Chris serves as a Director of Client Relations and Business Development at Entigrity. He is an expert at leading and managing teams actively from the front. His expertise in sales, training, coaching, mentoring and influencing combined with his competitive nature makes him a strong leader.  Chris has traveled through the length and width of the country and has spoken with more than five thousand CPAs, understanding their challenges and limitations. On the grounds of that, he can now easily provide opinions and solutions that can be immensely helpful to the professionals. He has also represented Entigrity at a number of major accounting conferences and networking events.

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