Félix Latour of Le Contrôleur runs an outsourced accounting operation that provides a team approach to controllership with robust internal controls using the latest cloud accounting technology.
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Félix Latour: [00:00:00] I feel the future of our business. The future of accounting lies between finance and accounting and technology. And this is how we're utilizing both of those to create the greatest report and to be able to show that even if the operational system is more complicated or it's technology, why it's a little more advanced, we're able to bring out those data and make it speak with the rest of the financial side.
Blake Oliver: [00:00:34] Thank you to our sponsor ApprovalMax for making this episode possible. ApprovalMax is the number one tool to get bills and expenses approved quickly. It replaces paper and email approvals with automated approval workflows. ApprovalMax integrates with platforms such as QuickBooks Online, Xero and Oracle Net Suite to unlock powerful efficiencies for approvers and finance teams. Stay tuned to learn more later in the episode about how ApprovalMax can streamline your approval workflow. If you'd like to earn CPE credit for listening to this episode, visit your Mark CPE icon. Download the app, take a short quiz and get your CPE certificate. Continuing education has never been so easy. And now on to the episode. Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Earmark podcast. I, as always, and Blake Oliver, CPA, your host. And joining me today is Félix Latour. Félix, welcome to the show.
Félix Latour: [00:01:38] Thank you so much, Blake. Thank you for inviting me.
Blake Oliver: [00:01:42] Great to have you. I understand that you are based in Montreal, in Canada. Yesterday was our election here in the United States are our midterm elections. Does anything that happens here politically affect your clients or is that something you pay attention to?
Félix Latour: [00:01:59] We are paying attention to it for sure, because everything that happens politically on your side still has repercussion our way. We just had our election in Quebec precisely in our province early in October, and it was leaning with the same sentiment as it was leaning your way this midterm. So politics affects us. I wouldn't say that the midterms necessarily have a direct impact on our on our business, but we pay attention to it for sure. I was on my television watching this last night for sure.
Blake Oliver: [00:02:30] I've stopped watching it because we never know the answers now. We never know the results until weeks later. It's funny, though, like we have this technology and somehow 20 years ago we used to know the answer pretty much the night of and now we have to wait weeks. It's it seems like we've gone backwards in time somehow.
Félix Latour: [00:02:48] Yes, indeed. This morning we don't know anything for sure. We'll still have to wait a couple of days.
Blake Oliver: [00:02:54] Well, Félix, I'd love to learn a bit about your firm and your background in accounting. Your firm is called Le Contrôleur and. Or is it? Yes. Le or la? Le ... Le Contrôleur? [CROSSTALK] Yeah, I'm totally butchering it. I apologize. No, you are. You are a part of the French speaking, French first, you know, businesses in Montreal and in Canada. I love to know about your firm, how you started and what your focus is.
Félix Latour: [00:03:23] Le Contrôleur means financial control in English. The the idea is to had to have a brand name that was really synonymous with what we do, with how we change our clients business life to a little over three years ago, my partner and I will started started this firm with the intention of making a big change in daily and monthly accounting for our clients and businesses here in Quebec. So we're a French speaking business. You'll hear it in my accent, but we we deal with mostly French speaking clients. We have some English speaking client, but mostly mostly French, as Quebec is a bilingual province, if you'd know. So we deal with only Quebec, Quebec clients at the moment. And what we do is a little different than most accounting firm. We don't do any year end accounting, so we're specifically specialize in financial control, as we as we call it. So the whole monthly accounting setup. So we do all that a bookkeeper would do all that, a financial controller would do all that, a internal accountant would do. And we based our whole practice and our whole team on having multi-tiered level of accounting specialists. So we have bookkeepers, we have CPAs, accountants of, of experience in, in other accounting firms of year end accounting firms. We have more operational accountants internally that do different part of the whole cycle. So we do the whole monthly cycle. And the idea is to end up with a product on which we can produce reporting, forecasting for all our clients monthly. So we always say as a joke to our clients or our lead that it's a mandatory it's a mandatory reporting.
Félix Latour: [00:05:18] So every month. All of our clients receive a full fledged report based not only on their accounting and financial month, but also that touches their their operations or that gives KPI that are more close to what they're actually doing in operation. So a full fetch report on which we we talk to them, we we understand their vision long term, their in short term and we build objectives to, to go on. So all our clients are, I would say, growing businesses, businesses that wants to push the barrier. They're not looking for a bookkeeper. They're looking for someone who can actually bring them not only accounting, knowledge and financial wisdom, but also pushing the barrier forward technologically and financial way to produce reports that can actually help them. We see so many in in our past lives, My partner and I, we've seen so much of bland reports that didn't do an actual change in the client's life. We're always looking to understand their object to, like I said, to produce something that they will keep for months on and that that will build with them. Right? So we're now a team of a little over ten people at the moment and growing strong, too, because the like I've heard in so many of the other podcasts, this this idea of giving great value to client financially and building them to be financially literate and better understanding their operations in their business has tremendous value for growth and tremendous value for for just building out a better happy life for our clients.
Blake Oliver: [00:07:06] So that's very different than most most firms, which tend to be focused on year end tax compliance doing they might be doing the books, but it's generally for doing a tax return. You are doing the books, but you're also doing more than bookkeeping. You're providing controller ship level services. It sounds like there's CFO level type services in there in some as well.
Félix Latour: [00:07:27] Yeah, in some cases. So that the big difference than what we do is first doing month end compared to year end, that's a big change. The second thing is technologically, technologically wise. So we have a whole tech stack, we call it the recipe, the ecosystem financially that we implement at our at our clients business. For them to better understand some parts of their business that add value to their accounting system that they already have, add value to their team internally. So there's a big difference in our business based on what we're reporting on month and year end, but also how we're doing it, the technology behind how we're building this this accounting ecosystem.
Blake Oliver: [00:08:15] I love also that you focus your marketing on your website on providing this corporate finance solution. Google translated your headline on your website to innovative solutions and corporate finance. Is that a good translation?
Félix Latour: [00:08:33] Yes, it is that the idea is to elevate. Our small business because because we're working with businesses that have ten employees, 50 employees, 75 employees to elevate those teams as having a great financial control, a great solution for finance that is closer to what bigger businesses have. Usually those the clients we deal with start with. We have one person internally that's doing the invoicing, that's doing the payments, that's doing the the AP, the are they're doing the the month end. But in reality, they need to help from their external CPA to do so. But with our team, it brings out a whole structure. Like I said, we have bookkeepers, we have financial controllers, we have CPA. It gives us the possibility to grow in a structure that's more that's more rugged. So this is where we we say financial solution, as in we're a one stop shop for their whole monthly accounting, right? We bring out a recipe, a solution that can grow with them.
Blake Oliver: [00:09:41] And you're focusing your marketing as well on internal controls and having good controls in your business, which makes sense because once you grow beyond, say, ten people, you're a 50 person organization, 75 people. Like you said, that's where accounting and finance can get out of control. And I love that it's in your name, it's love controller, and you're focusing your marketing on efficient and rigorous financial controls.
Félix Latour: [00:10:11] It's it's a right in your face type of marketing, right? The name says it all right means financial control. But if I'm so passionate about building approval workflows, building accounting workflows that are rigged at my client's expense, I you will understand that internally we have most of and more of all those processes internally to produce great reporting, to produce great bookkeeping, to produce great financial control, is to have a really great structure internally, not only in in in titles, but in actual processes operationally and the follow through and the follow up on all those processes. So we've built our team as a really we say we're like an an NBA team or an NFL team, right? It's it's a whole group of really performance. Performance ridden type of team that can build the best financial solution and that has the great organization, something we also apply directly in our marketing. As you'll see as most accounting firm based their marketing around people, that the interaction with people and that's something we we've gone a little different than to try to show people that we're a technology first business and our ecosystem will be different than what they already have. Our financial system will probably be different than what we already have. The type of automation we build with them will probably be different than what they already have.
Félix Latour: [00:11:58] Our clients, like I said, are growing business. They want that change. They're looking for someone to push the needle technologically. That's why we show animations, we show products, we show robots that do verification. We show a little more of the technology side of the accounting world. And we feel in the coming years two, three, five years, ten years, the role of the accountant and of the financial controller will really change in the same way as technology has evolved, the same way we did accounting ten years ago, a lot different than we we we are doing it today. It will change as of. You'll want a team of really intelligent and wise people that can understand not only finance but technology, because it's it's intertwined in our world, right? Understanding better reporting is also being able to to be a little of a data analyst of understanding how a certain ERP is able to give us some information that we can include in our monthly reporting to give a little more value, not only financially but also operational. So the finance and the i.t of it all, the technology seems intertwined or for us clearly is that's why we're showing it so much on our on our marketing.
Blake Oliver: [00:13:23] And you're using all cloud based systems. Is that something that is an easy sell in Quebec? Are companies there as well? I would say, you know, most Main Street businesses here in the US are pretty at least when I had my firm ten years ago, we're very far behind with tech and cloud. We've come a long way since then, where now something like 80% of QuickBooks users are on the online version. Is it similar in Quebec or is a little further behind further ahead? Where are you at?
Félix Latour: [00:13:59] I feel it's a little farther behind, to be honest, though, in the last three and a half year, four years of our business, it changed dramatically. Three years ago, it was a complete different world. One of the big aspects COVID had a really big aspect ongoing cloud for sure. Not only people are are not are remote and they're not in their actual their actual office. The proximity to data has been a great focus for much business, and being clouded is being able to have data whenever you want, wherever you want. That made a big change though. In Quebec, I feel we're a little on the back foot. Unfortunately, due to the language barrier, there's so much great software that are produced in the US, New Zealand, Australia, in Europe that. People are reluctant to use due to the fact that it's only only in English and that it's not a bilingual portal. How we've been able to circumvent this, this difficulties here is that most of our ecosystem, our financial ecosystem, is not necessarily client facing. A lot of it is used internally. So all our approval, routings, they're done internally. How all of our portal that do app that do are the it's working here internally and the people that work here are bilingual there. They want to push forward with technology. We're looking for that type of the type of of teammate, right? So that has been a big change because QuickBooks Online like you know, it's it's an all language, right? So the front facing part, the reporting part to the client we're able to to push it in French though use the greatest tool unfortunately is to work in all the greatest tools are done in English. That's why I think in the broad market, people have been more reluctant to make the switch, though it hasn't been a real difficulty for us because we're using it internally and not necessarily at the client facing wise. That would be a difference I see in both our market.
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Blake Oliver: [00:17:45] If you're on zero, you can use ApprovalMax to route and approve sales invoices and credit notes. You can even use ApprovalMax to create standalone workflows for approval of any request or document beyond APP and AR. For example, you can use ApprovalMax to route contract approvals, proposed capital expenditures, requests for time off and travel requests. Your team will love ApprovalMax, and so will your auditors approval. Max posts a detailed audit report into the general ledger along with each approved document. Give your auditors access to all the approval workflows and read only mode so that they can easily view and analyze your approval process. You can generate reports on documents pending approval documents approved and even potential fraud detected. Customers say ApprovalMax, is a game changer that delivers improved efficiency, time savings, easier compliance, as well as data accuracy. And they're thrilled to reap the positive benefits of going paperless as a result. Learn more and sign up for a free trial of approval. Max at ApprovalMax. So let's talk about the the tools that you are using. Obviously, QuickBooks Online is your general ledger. What else is in the mix? If I'm a client, what are you going to introduce me to so much?
Félix Latour: [00:19:08] In reality, we have, I would say, a base recipe that works for pretty much all, all clients or that have a great capacity in all types of clients. But what we did in the last year, year and a half, that has been a big change internally for us is to work on specific verticals, staying away from being a generalist, but building a team of specialists. So we have specific activity domain on which we have a greater specialty, not only accounting wise, since we have most clients in, in those domain, we gain operational wisdom to to bring out to their reporting. So that has been a big change. But to go back to the financial ecosystem, all our clients are on quick. Books online or a QuickBooks Online only firm. And we use some AP system. Some are system. We use a payment system so that we can have approval payment and we don't pay through the banking of our clients. We use approval routing system. We use a backup for QuickBooks Online. There's multiple multiple modules or add ons that clicks on to QuickBooks. So to give an idea of a big change we did in the in the last in the last year is we integrated a new a new add on for most of our client that's based around approval routing, approval, routing of bills to pay.
Félix Latour: [00:20:39] And since pretty much all of our client has the same core recipe, it's easy to find a new system that has great value. Test it out for one or two clients and see if it's a possibility to bring it out to much. So we have this this leeway since we're pretty much on the same structure. Where it really changes is depending on the the domain that we're were looking for were really big in manufacturing. We're really big in professional services. I.t. Businesses, engineers, architectural firm, marketing firm on which we have a different recipe or some software that adds on to better integrate with their operations or with their internal ERP that we're used to working with. So everyone has a core recipe. Then we go through more specific modules. If you're a manufacturer, you're an engineering firm to, to produce better data for sure.
Blake Oliver: [00:21:42] So walk me through a typical workflow. Let's say I'm your client and I've got a bill to pay. What do I do with that invoice that I've received? And maybe it was mailed to me at my office, right? What do I do with it?
Félix Latour: [00:21:56] So there's, there's multiple ways for us to deal with, with invoice to pay that the most clearer part of understanding it is click book is our source of truth. We want only data that goes into QuickBooks that has been verified through checked, controlled, and then it's ready eventually to pay, Right? That has gone through all the stops. So we're using an OCR technology, a really common system that's called text that actually produce a clouded source of document. So people would either take a photo of their bill, they would send it through email to a specific address on which it will connect to their their next account and text would create a ledger of all invoices classed by the vendors that have that have appeared on invoices. So we have a system that reads the invoice, reads the taxes, reads to the possible ledger that should be routed to. But that's not enough. Only codifying an invoice and sending it to QuickBooks Online is not enough for us to be called the controller. We're looking for financial controls, approval, verification, so we have an in-between between Dex and QuickBooks, which I feel most Cloud clouded accounting firm use decks and QuickBooks or decks and Xero. But we're looking we have been looking for a while for an in between that give us the possibility to build out approval workflows. For us it's a system called ApprovalMax. It's a European software. And what ApprovalMax does is actually create approval workflows for POS. So having the possibility to create purchase order that aren't in QuickBooks, QuickBooks have the possibility to create purchase order. Xero has to, but it's it's a simpler, simpler features, right? So being able to produce pop in in approval Macs being able to route them for approval and acceptance and then pushing it in QuickBooks.
Félix Latour: [00:24:08] So when we receive an invoice in Dex, it will eventually be pushed to our ApprovalMax module on which we'll route to whatever routing the client is, is looking forward, sending it to the project manager, sending it to someone on in administration, then the project manager to level to level approval, sending to three people. If it's over 10,000 bucks, whatever type of approval they're looking for. So then eventually, if the whole workflow has been gone through, then the invoice is correctly pushing QuickBooks as a verified control and correctly codified invoice. So QuickBooks is really the source of truth we see. So. So many accounting firms or we feel so many clients of ours pushing invoices that aren't in a payment ready state in their accounting system and going on either paper or email to follow through with with approval that they aren't able to report on the aren't able to show, well, this people were dispersed and we're waiting on five invoices to be reporting on. We're waiting for two approval for those invoice. That's why it's not in this system. So we built a whole Dex approval mix and QuickBooks solution that pretty much all of our clients have. And that's the AP module. It's hard to explain to clients at first because it's three system. Why do you need three system to codify approval and process and invoice? But in reality, the fact that it's in three different system, it's it gives us great specification.
Félix Latour: [00:25:54] So Dex is really good at producing or codifying invoices due to their OCR approval. Max is really good at approval routing, so we're getting the best of all three modules since it's a standalone product, right? We're just bringing them together. So that would be the lifecycle of an invoice to be produced as, like I said, a source of truth in QuickBooks. The end of the life of an invoice would be to pay it. In our case, since we're, like I said, based on financial control and security, we're not looking to have an account in the bank of our client to then produce the payment from. We want it to be approved. We want it to be verified. So we're using a Canadian software that's called Pluto in Toronto, and they specialize on outgoing payments. So even when we're at the state of having all of it verified and be ready to pay our financial controller, go at it goes every Monday through the whole cash flow of the business, see what they have to pay, and then they send those payments for final approval to an administrator or to administrator of the client that actually pressed the button that sends the funds. We're not looking to have security level in their banking system much more than we should. We're really conservative in how controls should be done. So seems like a long cycle of the life of of an invoice. But in reality, it's fast, it's user friendly all the way through and it's reportable all the way through. That gives us great access to that.
Blake Oliver: [00:27:41] So how often are your employees going into text and processing transactions, or are they doing it on a daily basis, weekly basis? What's the cadence of all this?
Félix Latour: [00:27:52] We have a schedule based around a week of work. So every week of work for, let's say, our bookkeepers, the people that are the employees that are working in techs every week is pretty similar, but it's spaced around five days. So we go in decks three days in the week. Specific days that are already specified. They go through what we try to build the workflows internally and processes so that since we're using so many softwares or bookkeeper can actually do all of their clients and the one system then go through the next system and not following the normal order of following through a whole cycle of one client, but actually being able to process decks for all their clients, then be able to process what they have to do in approval. Max For all their clients separating around software because like I said, we have so many software that are connected, they're always linked to a task, to an actual task, codifying invoice, approving invoice. So doing it by separating the week into which system we are going into is actually separating the week in what and what task we're actually doing. One thing we're really, really proud of, my my partner and I is building task board for our employees every week. So we have an internal system that's based around the retainer of our clients that have multiple modules, let's say AP are payment and approval and of month taxes annual obligations for for the government. It's all different retainers built in in a system on which we can produce recurrent tasks. So every day our employees go into this this internal system.
Blake Oliver: [00:29:51] What is that system called?
Félix Latour: [00:29:53] So it's it's called axle being a no, sorry, a CCL.
Blake Oliver: [00:29:58] Oh, yeah, yeah, I've heard of that. They've been around for a little while. Yeah.
Félix Latour: [00:30:02] Yes. The, they originally were created as a project management system, but they've now ventured into different module. We're really using the retainer module that's based around creating recurrent tasks. So every morning, every employee of the business I oh, I have a task board will have a task board. Everyone has a task board that they can log into and see what are the tasks to be done for this specific date for the specific week they can reroute if they have to send a task to someone else or send to another day so that everyone has an an in-depth schedule every day. The reason we're doing this is as accountants, everyone will know we have so many things to remember. It's impossible. The number of things we have to remember. So imagine having multiple clients to produce accounting on it gets exponentially complicated. So we've built out a whole internal process way too, to create recurrent task on which everyone has on board. So through the whole week they get back to your question, I think we go index three times a week, we do payment once, it's always on the Monday. So there's specific dates that in the in the week that has a meaning, but it's all based around a retainer period that are processed in our internal system.
Blake Oliver: [00:31:30] And how do you manage your capacity? Does a bookkeeper get X number of clients on average? Does a controller have so many clients? Like like, what's the load that that you can handle?
Félix Latour: [00:31:43] It's it's a pyramid, for sure. So being a bookkeeper here, you have less client on which you're actually being able to work on than a financial control, because a financial control has less work to do in the month than than a bookkeeper. So there's a different number there. What also makes it a little difficult for us is small business. They're all different, right? They all have different needs. They all have different number of of hours to process. On Our way of working with clients is really simple. It's a simple one time fee every month. So it's a recurring invoice with a specific fee. And internally this fee represents a number of hours for the internal CPA, for the department that deal with internal controls. It has a certain number our four bookkeeper for financial controller, so that we build out this whole recurrent tasks based around what we've made of fixed fee pricing. So internally, bookkeepers work on less clients. And to be honest with you, with the type of technology we use a solely, one bookkeeper can easily work with five, six, seven clients at a time just because we automate so much of the actual punching of data that what we're looking for is, like I said, intelligent, brilliant people that can see exceptions, that can understand harder classifications of accounting. So our bookkeepers are, I would say, a tier of bookkeepers because we're looking for people that can see exceptions and not necessarily punch in that.
Blake Oliver: [00:33:34] That number is interesting because I always like to ask it because it really tells you something about the type of clients you're working with. For instance, if, if, if you're doing just right up type of bookkeeping work, which my firm was based a lot around that much smaller businesses than the ones that you work with, we would do essentially monthly bookkeeping write up. And if that's all that a bookkeeper was doing, they could potentially handle 20 or 30 or even more if they were an all star. But you're doing you are basically replacing the internal accounting team at a company they are using use for it all. So you have a lower client to bookkeeper ratio than, say, a pure bookkeeping company would.
Félix Latour: [00:34:21] I always say it's an in-depth relationship we have with clients, right? It's it's as if we represent an employee, one or two employees, a team. We're really close with them. And also we're not dealing with the really small clients that we do bookkeeping every three months. We're not interested in that kind of business. What drives people here from being a bookkeeper to being a financial controller is actually growing the client's business, understanding their needs, being on the ground floor with them. Even though we're all remote, we feel like we're on the ground floor with them. This is why the number of client is. Lowered for sure than than what you're comparing to, because it's the in-depth relationship, right. Even at the bookkeeper.
Blake Oliver: [00:35:07] Level, but significantly higher fees since you're replacing headcount for them.
Félix Latour: [00:35:11] Yes. Yes, yes. We feel like it depends on all clients for sure. Sometimes our fees account to let's say when we have a prospect someday, sometimes our fees is come. Comparative to replacing one person. Some sometimes it's comparing to replacing two person what we usually see. And in this type of market of every business needing employee, everyone needing trying to recruit, what we see is in the implementation side, when we there's already a great team internally for the client, let's say one or two people that are doing administrative work and accounting work. We actually just take out the accounting side of the their work. But every client keeps their great resource, right? We're not we're not never feel like we're stealing job because people are always staying there, always staying to work at the client's expense. And it's usually a more interactive work for them. They're doing internal sales, they're doing administration, they're doing h.r. They're doing what? They're there most likely loving about their work and not doing grunt accounting work. Right. So our clients usually feel like we're not replacing where we're switching, where the work is done. So the people usually stay in the business to add value their way.
Blake Oliver: [00:36:40] But the client is feeling a pain point, which is I have people that are doing accounting and other stuff, and accounting is probably not what they were born to do. So ultimately they they would as an alternative to hiring you hire an in-house controller.
Félix Latour: [00:36:58] So yes.
Blake Oliver: [00:36:59] When you price your services, is that how you think about it? Do you think about it in comparison to what what an in-house controller would cost or an in-house bookkeeper would cost? Or because you mentioned that you are creating a time estimate internally. But yes, you don't you don't sell it that way. You don't price it that way to customers, do you, when you give them that fixed. No we don't. Okay. Yeah.
Félix Latour: [00:37:24] It's only it's only a fixed fee though. You're right. We compare ourselves to them adding an internal controller or them adding, let's say, a more specialized accountant or specialized bookkeeper. It depends on the client for sure. Some some clients were doing more of the bookkeeping side. Some clients are really pushing forward for the CFO services, so that changes the fee for sure. One thing that's a big, big difference in that that clients really understand after dealing six, eight months with us is there's a big difference between having an internal employee and having an external team that works for them. So we have a multidisciplinary team that has the possibility to respond to much question Having one person your of course it's a liability in terms of, of leaving, of changing work of so we're there to state. That's the first big difference. And the second is if you're adding an internal controller, well, you're solely representing him as your source of truth and accounting. And also his idea of approval workflows is idea of building your your accounting ecosystem internally. Right here. We're we're selling it team. We're selling multiple views of seeing a problem every day. We have questions that we have to go through the team to better understand, better respond, better, line up the client with the right answer, right? So being able to sell it as a team, which is actually what we are, is a big difference for client and sometimes the taker for saying, well, I'm paying the same thing as if I was paying an internal controller. They're not going to be here in the office next to me, but they're always a phone call away. And I know I can speak to him, her, him, her. And they all have a different specialty that I could maybe see in the growth of my business, because maybe at this moment you're not looking for having someone that's really ingrained in internal controls or or approval routing. But in the future, growing your business a little, you'll need that. Well, we can evolve with the client. That's a big, big change.
Blake Oliver: [00:39:56] Yeah, the content. Annuity is a big advantage in working with a team like yours. Since everywhere it seems the job market is so competitive, it's an employee's job market and so people tend to to leave roles in. The last thing you want is to have to train a new controller and teach them about your business over and over again.
Félix Latour: [00:40:17] At that level, you're looking for a partner. I always I always say this to clients, like if you're looking for an internal controller, you're looking for someone that you want to build a next couple of years with. You want some someone that's going to stay, that's going to build a hard structure that's going to be able to help you grow in the many ways you want to grow. So it's it's not that's not a normal employee. I don't feel like finance and accounting is is a role That's that's that's standard and it's standard in all business. But it has the possibility to tank you or to make you grow and elevate. And this is the trend we're looking for.
Blake Oliver: [00:41:00] So one of the challenges with a team approach, a team that serves the client, is then making sure that everyone's on the same page when the client has a question or a problem. So how do you how do you communicate with your clients? Are you are you using technology for that or is it email? Is it chat? You mentioned phone. How do you stay on top all that?
Félix Latour: [00:41:22] Well, we all have VoIP phones though in reality we're using it's. I'm happy that you're talking about it because it's not something I often have to speak about, though it's one of my proudest achievements internally. We're using a system that's called Front Front App, which is in reality like a ticketing app, just as if we were the call center, let's say. But what happens is our clients always have a an email address that's connected to their accounting, right? Accounting at client, administration at client. In reality, since we're an employee of theirs and since we're, like I said, in depth relationship, we also have the. An email address. At their expense. It's not. Client A call for sale. It's actually an email address that they're on their servers.
Blake Oliver: [00:42:24] On their domain.
Félix Latour: [00:42:25] So on their domain. Exactly. So we're part of their team. We integrate this this email through the app that I talked about, front app, which now we're able to collaborate around emails directly on there. It's a platform on which we have inboxes for all of our clients that we're able to restrict who's seeing which inbox, who's seen which, which emails. We're able to collaborate around emails, emails on specific tags that gives us automated workflow to remind that it's an urgent, let's say, order so that it should be routed to this teammate or this teammate. We have a really good automated way of dealing with with interactions. Of course, if it's not going through emails, let's say our clients always have the phone numbers of their financial controller or their bookkeeper. They're able to just call them as if it was a team member. But we always look forward to working with emails because we're more rapid, more collaborated and we have better answers and better follow through if it goes through email. And we always see that at first of the clients and they're always they're never convinced. They always start by saying, I want to speak on the phone with the with the Roxann or with Florence. But in reality, after a couple of months, they see that our internal routing of emails is so proficient and so efficient that it's easier for them to just send a small email and know that it will come in the right inbox at the right time and the right people will contact them.
Félix Latour: [00:44:17] So being able to have this, like I said, I don't usually talk about front because it's not a typical thing to talk about, but it has been one of the biggest add on internally. We did for our accounting firm how to deal with all those emails. Not using outlook, we're not using Gmail, we're using a dedicated software that's based around Cole Sentry, let's say, email, managerial type of system that actually produce. Efficient response in quick response to our client. To give you an idea, we're receiving that the last couple of reports I've just read, the October reports you were receiving about 5500, 6000 emails a month. So it's a really, really big flow of data to treat. A lot of those are invoices that are able to be routed in our in our ecosystem. A lot of it are also client demands that have levels of urgencies and levels of based around the agreements they have based around the actual demand they have. So being able to use a system that integrates all clients emails and that are directly in line with the tasks we have to do gives us great. Efficiency for sure.
Blake Oliver: [00:45:43] I love that you are using front end that you're talking about this because I feel like it's a big missed opportunity in most firms. A lot of the problems in firms come from communication being siloed in individual email inboxes. And what front essentially gives you is a shared email box for every client, and you can have multiple for each client if you want. And the client just emails one address and they know it's going to get to the right person. And it's something that has been so successful for software companies. They use support at a solo dotcom or, you know, support at QuickBooks or whatever it is, and they're using those kind of ticketing systems on the back end because it allows you to actually track response times to clients.
Félix Latour: [00:46:31] Yes. And Sally levels response times reporting on this, being able to follow through with the team. It's it's like I said a big miss I feel and internally I shouldn't say this but our employees are. Internal controllers that produce the year end documentation descend send to the year end accountant. To do that the the the actual tax and the actual work they're always so happy that the the external accountant sends messages twice we already send a documentation but they're asking it again so that it's so easier for us in front to just see the whole package of what we said. Reroute an email saying, Oh, we already sent this documentation on this thing because it's so easy to produce, Right. Is a good is a good solution. There's also Zendesk. There's also other systems that are based around I.T teams for support, just like you did. This is where our so where we took the idea of what if we were more of a support team, more of a well based around support systems that can actually do this. So you were talking about response time, but if you would see the number of rules we have on those inboxes to follow through on to specific people, assign specific teammates, assign a group.
Félix Latour: [00:47:57] When it's a specific person that sends an email, it there's so much that you can do internally to make it faster. At the start, it was, let's say, more complicated. When people are coming from Outlook, they're coming from Gmail, they're used to working with this email client. It's it takes some time to to to bring them to understand why shell shared mailbox and signing work is better. But on the on the client side it's so easy for them to just remember one email, one way of communicating and we assign. We always sign our name. They know if the they know who that is, they know who it is. They know who the team members are that work with their team. They speak with them on teams. They speak in that they speak with them on Zoom. But being able to just send one way and be done with it, it's it seems like a really great solution for our time.
Blake Oliver: [00:49:00] Yeah, I agree. I use a tool right now called Hiver, which we're on we're on Google Apps. And so it's a it's a support, it's a plug in for Chrome that integrates with Gmail. So it takes away one of the disadvantages of a system like this, which is people are used to outlook, they're used to Gmail and now they have to learn a new client essentially. And Hiver allows you to create those shared inboxes inside of your Gmail with with some success as a plug in, though it's less reliable than a separate Web app. So I think I have my own reservations about it, but it's a great way if you're on Google, I know most firms are not, but if you're on Google, it's a great way to build, to try it out, test out something like that.
Félix Latour: [00:49:46] We're in an old 365 firm, right? We're on on Microsoft Software's all the way. But I know that all. All systems that we talked about upfront, Zendesk, all those support based softwares, they're able to connect to every channel. So to be honest with you, front is not only a tool that we use for client interaction, but it's also it also has a channel for all leads that coming to the website. Yes, all leads that comes to Facebook or all leads that come through Instagram like it has the possibility to connect you with multiple channels that are not necessarily client channels, that could be internals and which only internal members that should be should be restricted to see those, see them and alleviate some other pain of having a specific email for which to send a request from the from the website, let's say. So it has it's multifaceted. It's not only client facing.
Blake Oliver: [00:50:55] So there's one more area of your technology stack. We haven't talked about that I'd love to get to in our time left. And that is how you report to clients. So this can be a very tedious process. I think many of us are used to logging in to QuickBooks exporting reports, formatting them in Excel, PDF ing them, sending them to clients. I'm going to guess you're not doing that. So tell me how you produce reports for clients. And I'm especially interested because you're focusing a lot on the managerial aspect of this. These are not just reports for compliance purposes. These are reports to help clients run their businesses better. You mentioned you have KPIs. So yeah, tell us about tell us about how you do that.
Félix Latour: [00:51:36] It's the funnest part for sure of our ecosystem. It's where financial controller have the most of their time. We don't report in QuickBooks like, like you said, we. We use, let's say, the tax report from QuickBooks to do tax compliance. But in reality, what's all front facing client is a specific tool for reporting. So a specific add on that's added to QuickBooks Online. In our case, we're using we're using Fathom HQ. Been a while for been a while. We're using the solution. We haven't found any better, a better product at the moment there than Fathom HQ, due to the fact that it has in depth and more advanced feature that we need to do great financial control. So this system connects to QuickBooks Online and it fetches all the data and it brings it to a new reporting tool. So in this tool we do multiple things. We first of all create all KPIs, either financially or non-financial KPIs that are really important for the client. So this is where all the the key pie intelligence lies to. The second thing we do in phantom issue is do actual reporting. So we have report templates for all clients. They're all they all have a core a core idea, but they're all a little different, the little different depending on what their actual objectives are, what their targets are, which specific operational KPIs they're looking for. So there's always a little difference between all reports. And the third thing we do in Fathom HQ is forecasting. So there's a specific feature that was launched a little over a year ago for forecasting. This is where all we do, all our budgeting for clients. We follow one budget that we built on Fathom.
Félix Latour: [00:53:31] So all of our clients has the have the well, all administrators have a license in Fathom. It's a front facing software for us. They're able to go on there alone. The all already know how to follow on their budget, already know how to follow on their their target, their objectives, their KPI. But when someone when do we do the month end? We push all the right reports corrected with annotations of what has happened in the month, not only financially but also operationally. Since we're so close to the client, we can already know what what has happened and what big things operationally has skewed the financial one way or the other. So they already they always have a big report every month and we do an actual presentation. Like I said, it's a mandatory presentation every month. We talked every financial controller has an hour, an hour and a half, 2 hours with the client to go over the financials, but not only talking about the reporting and the financial side of it, but also talking about operations, what happened, what's causing this, how we can modify this? Is there something we can automate on our side financially that could help them have a better data to be able to to work on operations a certain way? It's a really the teamwork. It's it's a brainstorm and a teamwork session every every month that we do with with client. The, like I said, have all different KPIs. One reason if I can vouch a little more for Fathom HQ, one reason it's a. I feel unbeatable at the moment. It's because we can cross-reference financial and non-financial data. So I'll give you a simple but great examples.
Félix Latour: [00:55:31] We deal with a lot of i.t consultant businesses. Those are call center type of teams that that have. Let's see. Up to 500 clients on which they're doing the IT services for. Right. They all have complicated contracts that include time, some products, some expenses. And they all have a really great ERP internally that can produce great reporting on agreement profits. So gross profit on specific types of agreements. Those are all data that are not necessarily in your GL. It's not coming from QuickBooks, right? Even though I can report on on a lot of financial KPIs, I tend to go in depth operationally to better understand the client. Where Fathom has a really big advantage we feel in the market is I'm able to produce their reports, those reports in their ERP and bring out, let's say, billable time, gross profit on agreements, all utilization report for their employee and bring it out really simply through an Excel sheet or just directly and fathom to cross-reference financial and non-financial data. So when they see their whole report at the end of the month, it's not only financial gibberish that they don't understand, and we have to go six months over to to to explain what the working capital is. It's close to what they're actually dealing with, right? Oh, we had a better month in our service department and our billable rate went up. Right. How does our billable rate and our utilization rate of the team compares to the margin we're able to to bring on as a service team in the GL? Right. Those are all comparison that we're able to do since we're referencing two types of data.
Blake Oliver: [00:57:34] It's so important if you only present the financial information, you're missing half or more of the key data. Arguably, operational data is far more important than the financial read.
Félix Latour: [00:57:49] Yeah, indeed. And this is where it gets complicated. Oh, I'm.
Blake Oliver: [00:57:52] Sorry. No, please, go ahead. Where does it where does it get complicated?
Félix Latour: [00:57:57] It gets complicated for accounting firm to produce operational data. I feel and understand the operations of the client because they're not connected to it. Since we're we have such an in-depth relationship with the client, we're able to understand their pain point, even operational pain points that we that we can elevate our reporting to show good, good, show the bad. This is something that when you're doing year end accounting, you can never do. And if I'm able to produce a report monthly that brings out operational business, operational data and financial data, we feel like it's a complete view. And to go back to what we we've started to talk about, comparing an internal controller to team service. This is one area where I feel having a team having we have team members here that are specialized in doing implementation, not only financial implementation, we do some operational implementation to well, they have the capacity to understand ERPs, to bring out great data. This is not something I feel alone financial controller would necessarily be able or be inclined, right? Since we have a team of multidisciplinary people, we can take the best of of everyone. And and it makes another point to what I was talking before. I feel the future of our business. The future of accounting lies between finance and accounting and technology. And this is how we're utilizing both of those to create the greatest report and to be able to show that even if the operational system is more complicated or it's technology, y is a little more advanced, we're able to bring out those data and make it speak with the rest of the financial side. So this is where I feel technology and finance, it's it's intertwined a lot and it will be much more in the future.
Blake Oliver: [01:00:20] Félix, It has been wonderful speaking with you and learning about Luck controller and your insights into the future of our profession are just really wonderful. It makes me excited to be an accountant, so thank you. If our listeners would like to connect with you, learn more about what you're doing and about your firm. Where should they go?
Félix Latour: [01:00:46] Thank you so much. First of all, Blake, for the invitation and the and the kind kind of open conversation. If people want to get in touch with us, either to speak on an actual business problem, to speak on a software problem or or an ecosystem problem, I'll be glad to answer all questions. You can go directly to our website. It's in French, so I'll spell it out. C0ntrolpur dot cr0. We can go through this website or email me directly at the flt0urf lato at Laudato Si. So glad to speak with you.
Blake Oliver: [01:01:29] And we will have those links in the show notes for this episode. Félix, have a great rest of your week and, and great rest of your year.
Félix Latour: [01:01:39] Just to thank you so much Blake. Have a have a really good day.
Blake Oliver: [01:01:46] Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode and that you learn something new. And if you did, wouldn't it be nice to get some CPE credit for it? Well, I've got great news. My new app, Earmark CPE offers free Naspa approved CPE credits for listening to podcasts, including this one. Visit earmark CPE to download the app, take a short quiz and get your CPE certificate. That's earmark CPE. Com.