When the dairy payout price changed the day before Stephen Stafford-Bush’s client board meeting, he wasn’t worried. There was no last-minute need to update budgets; no rush to re-do reports. All it took was the click of a button and he had the latest information to present to the farm’s stakeholders the following day.
“One minute we had a budget, the next, new payout prices came through, but with Figured’s Fonterra feeds, we could instantly and easily see the changes. All I had to do was plug my laptop into a TV screen and we had the data in front of us for everyone at the meeting to see”.
“We would never have had time to get all that information and prepare reports in time for the board meeting previously, but with Figured, all we had to do was click a button and we had up to date numbers.”
This, Stephen says, is an example of where access to real-time data with Figured and Xero is so beneficial. “The impact of being able to see those numbers straight away is huge. Figured greatly reduces the time it takes to get quality information, and the ability for us to instantly demonstrate the impact of a change to clients is very powerful.”
A faster way to get meaningful data
Before moving to Figured and Xero, Stephen’s South Auckland practice, McConnell Stafford Bush & Associates Ltd, was using Excel and Banklink for cashflow reporting and budgeting, and APS for annual accounts - systems he says were cumbersome and time-consuming when it came to imputing data and extracting meaningful information.
Since switching to Figured and Xero, the time savings have been significant - particularly when it comes to managing revisions. “We would be doing one revision and the bank would ask for another a week later - we kept revising revisions and it was just so time consuming. Trying to reforecast as things changed was difficult, and ultimately was quite costly to the client”.
Not surprisingly, Stephen and his team are also seeing that Figured is getting a positive reaction from rural banks. “The integrity of the reporting and the speed at which changes come through mean that it is really having a positive impact on a farmer’s relationship with their bank manager,” Stephen explains.
Visibility and adaptability
Volatility is something that farmers can be certain of facing, and managing the impact of this on their operations is one of their biggest challenges. However Stephen says that, thanks to Figured, the visibility that farmers now have over their numbers is helping them to better manage their finances through good times and bad.
“Thinking about whether or not to go for a big expansion, or whether or not it would be profitable, now becomes a lot more strategic thanks to the information we have in front of us. It allows farmers to really understand the impact or outcome of those decisions - which was not easy to do in Excel.”
He’s also seeing that farmers are a lot more engaged with their finances, “For us, it means we’re able to have more insightful conversations with clients, particularly those who have expanded in the last few years and who are feeling the effects of the lower payout rates. We’re able to sit down with a client and say ‘If we we do this…’ and have the numbers to back up these conversations.”
Looking to the future
Stephen also works with farming families to help develop a realistic succession plan for the farm. He believes that the ability to quickly develop forecasts and the implementation of the Scenario Planning tool will also greatly assist with discussing possible options and ‘what ifs’ with farm owners and their succeeding children to work through the right result through a succession planning process. “The opportunities to use Figured and Xero in these situations will be extremely powerful as it can often be quite difficult and time consuming preparing these forward looking plans.”