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Less Doing, More Living: A CEO’s Path to Business Transformation

Automation and Optimization

Written by Tara Morgan Schinkel, CPAAccounting Systems Lead & CFO, Stewart Technologies

The opportunity for growth doesn’t always come when you’re ready for it.

In 2019 Stewart Tech had just been awarded a game-changing customer contract. And I had just had my third child. At the same time I was growing my family, the opportunity to grow our business presented itself. Ready or not.

A client hired us to convert 12 different companies from their various (and outdated) accounting packages to Sage 100, one of the accounting and ERP packages Stewart Tech specializes in. And we had to commit to getting it done in 15 months – an extraordinary feat for any firm, but an especially large ask for our small company.

We dug in, diligently facilitating the technical conversions. As we did so, we recognized a new set of issues. The customer needed help with the change management at their companies, too. As their people began to learn a new system, they also needed communications, training, and other end-user support unrelated to – and well beyond – the accounting system upgrades and integrations. With grit, determination, skills, and a lot of hours, our small but mighty company supported the customers through the transition and we were rewarded with three additional companies to convert. The client was happy and we had officially launched ourselves into a new playing field. Win-win, right? Not quite.

Fast forward to 2021. Our team had been working at this intense pace for two years. Although we had successfully converted all of the companies over to Sage 100, the sheer amount of manpower required regularly to support this customer was more than we could handle comfortably. As a result, the mental wellbeing and self-care of me and my team was suffering. By July 2021 I knew something had to change – for the company, my team, and for myself.

Inspired by Ari Meisel’s The Art of Less Doing, my first step was to adopt a “Less Doing” mindset – the practice of evaluating each thing that you do and asking yourself some questions:

  • Should I be the one doing this?
    [Spoiler alert: if the answer is “no,” delegate.]
  • Why am I doing this?
  • Is there a better way to do this?

With these three questions in mind, I made myself really LOOK at the accounting work I was doing for Stewart Tech and challenged myself to find a better way.

When Kristy Mumma and I bought Stewart Tech from our founding partner in 2017, there were many legacy processes and flows that we blindly learned and followed without really thinking about the “why” behind them. Once I examined the processes I realized that in any given month, I was spending 30 hours of my time doing the accounting for Stewart Tech. I also realized it was stealing my time from other entrepreneurial things I could (and should) have been doing but I wasn’t able to because I was too buried with internal work. As a co-owner in a growing business and a mom of three, I didn’t have time to waste time. The moment to optimize was now.

The first task I tackled was our Purchase Order (PO) process. To be honest, I dreaded doing it every week because it required so much of my time. On top of that, the entire process was manual – and for no good reason other than that was the way it had always been done at Stewart Technologies.

The way the PO process worked:

  • Purchase Orders come in and get booked/recorded
  • As part of our posting process, I would review every order to:
    • ensure that there was a corresponding Sales Order for the customer
    • if it had not been billed yet, I would email whoever was responsible for approving that order all of the information needed to
    • then ensure we could get it invoiced to the customer before we had to pay the vendor for the accrued client expenses.

Truthfully, I resented the 30 minutes of time it stole from my week. Also, there were no reminders if I got busy and forgot or ran out of time. It was obvious that at our rate of growth this wasn’t scalable. Plus, it was horrible for our cash flow, which made me ask, “Why am I (we) doing this?”

A New Automation Was Created

Eliminating the PO approval process altogether wasn’t an option, but automating the process with the help of Sage was. As Purchase Orders are entered into Sage 100 and invoices posted against it, we set Sage Alerts up to email notifications every week about invoices that come in and what Sales Orders they are tied to. By implementing this simple automation we eliminated the entire process of me having to remember to review invoices and having to email different people to pull Sales Orders. Instead, it all happened in one step. And the best part? It shaved up to 30 minutes of time off my week! A big WIN! And, while I didn’t have the time to write any of the Sage Alerts automation myself, I was able to delegate this task to another team member to get it done quickly and efficiently.

How the Sage Automation Works

Every Wednesday night, an alert runs with a list of all the Purchase Orders received and their corresponding Sales Order. This list gets emailed to two people in the office, one of whom is our office manager. On Thursday mornings, the list is reviewed and Sales Orders are marked for Friday’s approval for billing. Although I still review the list, I no longer have to:

  • Check while posting the Purchase Orders. POs are posted daily which gives our office manager better visibility to our Aged AP Invoices and allows her to proactively follow up with customers for payment.
  • Manually type emails to others about what got posted. This all gets sent out in one email from Sage instead. This step alone saves me 15 – 30 minutes each week!

With this automation, we created a system that doesn’t require manual intervention from me, I gained time in my week to focus on other business, and the best part? The automation works even when I’m on vacation or away from the office, allowing me more time to spend doing other things.

As an added bonus to the flow we implemented in 2021, we hired a new ERP/accounting software consultant to join our team. Now, instead of management reviewing the Sales Orders, we have another team member that lets us know exactly which orders need to be checked. The entire process is automated where it could be and delegated where it couldn’t. YES.

With this WIN under my belt, I was hooked on automation – in work and in life. Ari Meisel is onto something here! Better work – life balance was finally becoming a priority.

Continue to follow our automation and optimization blog series, to find out what I automated next…

Stewart Tech CFO and Accounting Systems Lead Tara Schinkel shares her journey of “Less Doing, More Living,” and how optimization and automation continue to transform her business and her life. This is the first post of the series. Continue to follow our social media pages for additional installments in the “Less Doing, More Living” blog series.

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If you’re looking to automate, optimize, or streamline your accounting and ERP processes, visit the Demos and Overviews section of our website to see how Sage can better serve your accounting needs. Looking for more information? Consider scheduling a Sage consultation call with one of Stewart Tech’s Sage certified consultants.

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