Yazin is a UX / UI designer who runs his own agency. He had been wanting to scale since he started but didn’t know if he could afford to do it or where to even start with all that encompasses. He was intimidated by his accounting, payroll, benefits, HR, and not to mention the cash he needed coming in and how much would be going out. We had been friends for over 2 years and had always had discussions of what he needed to do to sort all this out and it was always too much for him to take on so he just let things slide. He had come to me to do a formal engagement when he hired a $150,000 contract employee, he already had 2 full-time contract employees he paid hourly, that he would eventually bring on as a $150,000 W2 salary (HUGE Mistake #1) and he needed to understand the business he had coming in and what he had to bring in to keep scaling and affording employees. After building him a financial model and cash flow forecast, he knew that the deals he had in the pipeline weren’t enough to do what he had to do. He quickly changed up how work was being delegated and increased his profit per project and realized the $150,000 contract employee would end up costing him nearly $200,000 when all is said and done as a W2 employee. With the financial visibility I provided, Yazin was able to focus his efforts and approach his agency with a much more calculated perspective. Now, Yazin runs one of the most respected agencies in Chicago.
Kaeya had had great success being on Shark Tank and selling over a million dollars in product. She had always been great with seeing a need and jumping all over it instantly and getting a product to market, from a box moving box that’s easy to set up, to a jersey that turns in a bag, to a t-shirt with Derrick Rose’s mean mug look on it. Her greatest challenge was understanding the financial operations of it all. She knew that it wasn’t her expertise and like most others in that situation, didn’t want to deal with it at all. She needed a complete understanding of what she was making per product, her COGS, her marketing expenses, and what certain decisions would do to her bottom line. Providing her an easy to use model let her have conversations with her team much more easily and allowed her to drive business towards products that had a high margin and lower business on products that were costing her money. Now, Kaeya serves as a thought leader in the eCommerce space and has been responsible for building dozens of successful product lines.
Dan had been running Third Eye Health for several years after a long career in the medical device world and was having difficulty cracking market product fit for his new idea. After a major business pivot, he found himself having discussions with a VC that were asking questions he couldn’t answer, like how much money he needed to execute on the deals he was closing, how much money he needed to enter into new markets, how much money did all of the regulatory controls cost, and a ton of others. We were connected through a PE firm I was working with and Dan offered me a full-time position after only 3 days of working together. Aside from the great we had together, simply the value of having financial visibility to make decisions and answer difficult questions from was something he didn’t want to lose. After working together to go through all of the inquiries of the VC and showing them the numbers down pat, we successfully raised $1M from them and the race was on. Dan has just raised a $7M Series A and now has now Third Eye Health operates in over 20 states delivering telehealth technologies.
Founder Equity is an investment firm in Chicago that takes an active role in each of their investments. One of their biggest challenges is visibility into their portfolio companies, specifically one that was performing very poorly. I was hired by the founder and CEO of the fund to jump in and figure out what was going on with the finances of the company because they could never get a straight answer from the CEO and the data they were getting wasn’t from the system and they didn’t know what they could trust and go off of. They had analysts trying to build models and track what was happening to no avail. On the brink of having to fold up shop with the business hemorrhaging cash, I was brought on to analyze all the expenses and really get to the meat of the issue. After just one look at their QuickBooks Online data, I could tell there were wayyyyyyy too many expenses going out that didn’t look right and the margins they were communicating were completely wrong. Providing the CEO of the firm the correct data and projections with a cash flow forecast gave him all the information to fire the CEO of the portfolio company and cut monthly spending by over 60%.
CFOs4Tech provide outsourced CFO services to technology companies. One of the most time consuming activities is building and managing the financial projections and cash flow forecasts. I was introduced to the partner of the CFO firm, Ted Stann, by an investment fund that uses him for all of their portfolio companies and to teach classes for the accelerator program they run. Ted immediately through his full support behind Clockwork and even said he’s been wanting to build a tool like this for over 20 years. He uses it for his clients so they can have one collaborate platform so they aren’t passing excel sheets back and forth, to save them money with time he doesn’t have to spend updating those excel sheets, and to give the client more control and visibility into what has happened, what is currently happening, and what will happen.
Problem: MSTQ wanted to hire an additional employee and had no idea if they had the cash to do so or not. The team didn’t know exactly how much cash was coming in and going out at the end of every week or month. They also didn’t know if they had the additional work for the growing team in a few months if the influx of new business died down.
Cost of the problem: If MSTQ kept making hiring decisions without a full understanding of the impact it would have on cash, not only would they not be able to pay the team’s salaries, they wouldn’t be able to deliver on the contracts and agreements they made with their clients. The company wouldn’t be able to survive if that kept getting caught in the cycle of hiring new talent and then having to let them go because they couldn’t afford them after several months.
What would success look like: MSTQ would be able to map out how each impending decision affected their cash and ability to perform on active projects. They are working towards becoming one of the largest digital agencies in Chicago and want more hires, more clients, and be able to offer more services. They need to have real clarity of what was happening with their finances and not have to always depend on their accountant or bookkeeper for answers.
What happened / What did Clockwork do?: The MSTQ team was able to map out what that additional hire would do to their bottom line and the timing they had to make that decision. They decided that hiring that individual at the current moment would put too much strain on their cash situation and realized they would be able to hire someone more qualified in 2 months and since then, the agency has grown by over 200% in all aspects.
MSTQ has grown over 200% year over year since launching in 2015. The vision is to grow MSTQ into one of the largest digital agencies in Chicago and Clockwork is the tool they use to make sure they are growing without risking cash or opening themselves up to uncertainty. MSTQ relies heavily on project renewals to grow and uses Clockwork to manage what the renewals or non-renewals will do to the bottom line as well as for resource allocation. The team uses Clockwork to manage how many team members are working on which projects and when they need to hire additional staff. The ability to grow into new markets and offer new services are crucial for the continued rapid growth and creating scenarios in Clockwork allows the team to predict and manage that growth in real-time. Since using Clockwork, the staff has more than doubled and their newly added international markets now serve for over 50% of their business.
Problem - SWZLE is leading the charge in eco-friendly products with their reusable straws and customizable carrying cases. The SWZLE team needed to decide whether or not they should stick to their customized cases with a standard straw, order custom cases and custom straws, or offer additional products at launch.
Cost of the problem - If the team didn’t map out the projected sales of each scenario with the appropriate costs, they could run out of cash almost immediately if they offered too many products without an understanding of the margins. Not being able to see what effect the inventory costs, the differences in margins of the products, and the capacity of each product and market had on their ability to execute could cripple them.
What would success look like? - SWZLE would be able to map out each product and each market in each scenario and find out what impacts that had on their cash flow and finances. The team would be able to adjust their revenue and expense projections for each product and see what it means in the long run and what products would be the most profitable.
What happened / what did Clockwork do? - The SWZLE team were able to map out all of the products they planned on offering and could see which would give them the best chance for success. They decided that offering the reusable straws with an up-charge for customizing the straws themselves provided them the best offering and outperformed their projections by over 300% month over month.