We recently caught up with Jessica Farmer, Co-Founder of Foray Business Group, an online bookkeeping firm based in Vancouver, Washington. We discussed work-life balance and how Jessica uses Pixie to deliver month-end financial reports a whole 2 weeks faster! You can watch or read the conversation below...
Tell us a bit about yourself and Foray Business Group...
I’m the Co-Founder of Foray Business Group, an online bookkeeping and payroll firm based in Vancouver, Washington. We have clients in multiple states and team members across the USA (and across the world). We like to serve our clients the best we can, and sometimes that means being unconventional.
What challenges were you facing that made you look at workflow tools like Pixie?
There was a lot of confusion in the team around workflow and knowing what stage a specific job was at, making it hard to give clients updates. It was also challenging to know which team member was working on which project, meaning that sometimes it could be days, or even weeks, between one team member finishing their bit and another team member starting theirs.
Emails, texts, and messages just got lost and fell through the cracks. This led to a heightened sense of anxiety because we weren’t confident that we were providing the level of service we had promised to clients.
One of the other significant challenges we faced as a remote firm working from home was that we never knew when the workday ended. It was tough to create boundaries between work and home, so if we remembered things later in the evening, we’d have to jump in and do them right then.
What other tools did you look at to try and solve these challenges?
Like lots of firms, we started with spreadsheets. But as we grew, we realized that it wasn’t sustainable. Quickbooks Online has its own workflow tool, but it doesn’t work that great.
So we went to many industry conferences and tried to test & implement many of the tools that we found there. But a combination of the steep learning curve and the complexity was beyond where we were at the time. Our tagline at the time was to help our clients ‘streamline, simplify and demystify’, and every product we found did not streamline, did not simplify, and did not demystify our own internal processes. For about 12-14 months, we just struggled along until we found Pixie.
What made you choose Pixie over the other tools you tried to implement?
At the time, we had just converted our entire team over to Microsoft Office 365, and the fact that we could integrate our email into Pixie was great. I realized that probably 95% of our work was generated from emails, so turning emails into tasks in the same app blew my mind.
The fact that I could get the entire team working in Pixie for the same price was also a massive factor. Many other products have per-user pricing, and when you’ve got multiple team members, it can feel out of reach. The fact that Pixie is built and priced for small firms resonated with me - it was like a hand reaching out to help take our business to the next level.
I also love the client tasks feature. Assigning tasks to clients and setting up automatic reminders has saved us so much time. I don’t like having to nag clients, so letting Pixie do that for us has been incredible.
How long did it take you to get Pixie set up and implemented?
We were fully implemented within a month of me deciding to do 100% of our workflows in Pixie. That meant that every task, email, and client interaction needed to happen in Pixie. We built many of our processes from scratch, so it would have been even quicker if we already had these in place.
Now, Pixie is the first tab I open in the morning and the last tab that I close at night. All of our transactions with clients are in there, it’s where we save notes from client calls, and we even have a catchphrase in the team to say, “Add that to Pixie!”.
What have been some of the outcomes and results you’ve had since implementing Pixie?
One of the biggest outcomes has been improving my work-life balance. When I finish work and go upstairs to play games with my kids or tuck them into bed, I’m no longer half there and half thinking about what I’ve missed at work. I know that when I wake up first thing and open my first tab, Pixie will tell me exactly what I need to do.
Our team now has much clearer definitions of their role in any given project. We know exactly what the process looks like from step A to Z, and we have our own internal deadlines that we’re now working towards.
Pixie also helped us identify which of our monthly bookkeeping clients took longer than others and didn’t return information on time. This allowed us to implement better timeliness standards to the point that we used to deliver month-end financial reports between the 20th-25th, but now we provide them between the 8th-10th, a whole 2 weeks faster!
Wow, tell us more about how you managed to deliver your month-end financial reports 2 weeks faster?
When I used to work as an internal accountant, it was normal to have month-end financial reports ready by the 5th of the month. But when you’re working with 50-100 clients, it’s not as easy to hit the same standards.
Using Pixie meant that we could bring it down from the 20th-25th to the 8th-10th because we know exactly what’s on our plate, when we requested things from clients, and who is working on what. We also have an outsourced team in India working in Pixie, and it’s easy for us to see what they’re working on and for them to see what we’re working on.
The target for us now is the 5th. If we can hit that target, then we’ll probably all celebrate and go to Hawaii or something. That would mean we’re able to achieve the same level of efficiency for our clients as an internal bookkeeper - which is incredible.
That’s Amazing. Any final comments or things you’d like to share?
Good team members, good processes, good workflow management are the things that it takes to deliver an excellent service to our clients. It takes skilled people with a heart to serve, and the tools to be able to do it - and Pixie has been that tool for us above and beyond any other tool that we use.