Carl Smith runs Bureau of Digital, an ultra-influential community of creative and digital agency owners. After using Pulse at his previous agency, nGen Works, he came back to Pulse because it gives him control over his business and confidence in his decisions.
Bureau of Digital
Bureau of Digital is making the web as collaborative as possible through events, learning, and sharing. Their portfolio of events includes Owner Camp, Biz Dev Camp, Digital PM Summit and many more.
After running a successful agency, Carl Smith bought Bureau of Digital and brought along Lori to help support their events and keep up with the finances using Pulse.
Tell us about your business.
The Bureau of Digital is an events and education company for digital professionals. It’s a peer-based support networking for digital owners that didn’t go to school for what they now do. It puts them in a room with 30-100 other people to share their journey and give advice to one person while learning from someone else. Our source main revenue comes from ticket sales.
Why did you come back to Pulse?
I used Pulse with nGen for many many years, but then I bought the Bureau of Digital from Greg Hoy in June of 2016. We work with a great CPA firm, but I’m not that sophisticated and I hate spreadsheets.
My journey back to Pulse started with a couple of months that didn’t go so well – I knew in my gut that something wasn’t going well. The problem was, I couldn’t start from the cash flow spreadsheets because I was convinced that there was a problem in there but I couldn’t find it. There was no way to drill up to a high level. A seasoned accounting professional could find it, but it wasn’t there for me – I had to start from scratch.
After going from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, I talked to Lori and said, “Get us back into Pulse because I know how it works and it’s easy.”
In Pulse, I can make a decision by unchecking a box next to an event and see if it’s going to kill our cash flow. In a spreadsheet, I have to highlight all this crap and I don’t know what the hell is going on. I was feeling out of control and I knew that Pulse would give me that control back.
Lori: We reconcile all the incoming and outgoing cash from Xero. We had spreadsheets with all this information, but I couldn’t see where the numbers were coming from. Carl couldn’t tell that he needed to put money in the bank to cover a future event. So if he has everything in there, he can see that the bank account looks low in March so we need to start selling the tickets for June’s event now.
I was feeling out of control and knew that Pulse would give me that control back.
Carl: What I wasn’t getting from those spreadsheets was the control. It’s the simplicity, elegance and ability to answer a question quickly.
As an owner - especially if you’re running any type of business that can change really quickly – you need the ability to find those answers and act right away – not spend a month finding an answer.
Describe how you use Pulse and how it fits into your accounting workflow.
Carl: Bureau is more of a product company, so we did have to hack Pulse a little bit. We put in our projections, and as things change, we go in and change the numbers to reflect the real stuff.
Lori: I list expenses by event. I’ve got all our expenses for an event, but I’ve pieced it together the way Carl and I want it to work - not the way we used it at nGen.
Carl: I gotta tell you, when you see the depth of what Lori’s done, Pulse looks like a powerhouse. For the most part, the beauty of Pulse is its simplicity. Even though Lori’s got every individual payment in there, with hundreds and hundreds of transactions a month – because you have a high-level drill-down – it still just feels manageable.
How has Pulse helped your business?
It allows me to answer questions really quickly. For example, we know that we’re running a little behind our goals, but if I know that I have an event and I know roughly how that event did, it’s really easy for me to replicate that event and see how that affects my bottom line.
If sales are looking low for a big event in October, then I can adjust our sales numbers for the next two months based on what I’ve been seeing to tell me if I’m in trouble or not.
What’s the most important thing you get from Pulse?
Pulse gives me simple control. I know that if I look backward (in Pulse), I’m looking at reality. If I look forward, I’m looking at projections.
Having both of those in the same view is great because I know that I’m only looking at half a guess. When reality hits at the end of the week and I see that our projections were not far off from our actual numbers, I have so much confidence in the remaining numbers.
At that point, I can think about taking everyone to a Marlins game and focus on the value my company provides instead of worrying about the revenue side.
I can…focus on the value my company provides instead of worrying about the revenue side.
Lori: The biggest thing that we needed to see was that because we float so many of our expenses on a credit card, Carl needs to see the up and down of the cash flow. He needs to see when we project money coming in versus when money has to go out and to see that outgoing cash flow as accurate as it could be in a projection.
Because I like numbers so much, the first thing I do every morning whenever I start work is to make sure that the amount of money in the bank is the same amount that we have in Pulse and Xero. It usually doesn’t take me more than 30 minutes, but because we have ticket sales every day I reconcile the projected with the actuals. That may be overkill, but it lets us go in at any time and look at an accurate cash flow.