Being an entrepreneur can be frantic. Even if your business is growing organically, your time is minimal. You focus on doing the monthly accounting, servicing clients, and managing staff. There’s very little time left for anything else, but this life can be very rewarding.
Don’t take my word for it though. I have a backup!
I recently spoke to Luan van Rhyn, founder of Thrive CFO, a cloud-based, fully nomadic firm offering monthly accounting, virtual CFO, and secretarial services. Thrive CFO was started 13 years ago and has been fully digital and cloud-based for the past 6 years. They still have an office that serves as HQ, but their business is now international.
Thrive CFO’s main focus isn’t on accounting, tax, payroll, or consulting, although they do offer all these services. Rather, their focus is on freedom. Freedom of time, money, and location.
Changes to the Services Thrive CFO Offers
Originally, Thrive CFO was called “Calypso Accounting”. Over time, there have been several changes to the services that they offer, so a name change was needed. However, Luan explained that the practice has long been in a transitional phase in which monthly accounting services served as the foundation, not the main event.
Their main service offering is financial management. Luan is primarily a financial management counselor. And in this kind of role, it’s crucial to see every client every month to maintain a relationship and provide value.
As a virtual CFO, Luan talks around concepts you would usually find in a corporate environment, such as key business metrics. However, he doesn’t work in a corporate environment but with small business owners. The team at Thrive CFO demystifies these dashboard metrics for clients who would typically be unfamiliar with them, helping them to make better decisions with their financial data.
Serving a global community necessitates working at strange hours to accommodate different time zones. It’s no longer a matter of working an 8 to 5. Working internationally means cutting into family time and your typical off-time.
To deal with this new challenge, it’s critical to find someone who can fit those client commitments into their schedule. Luan has just such a person in his staff – the resident night-owl.
As Luan says, “We don’t care when you do the work”. It’s all about committing to your clients and making sure that your work gets done when it’s supposed to be done.
Working internationally has been an eye-opener for the team at Thrive CFO. Luan was quick to say that although it’s difficult to be “always-on”, he doesn’t mean to complain. He’s very grateful for the opportunity to work in such diverse regions.
The Simplicity of Syft Reports
When Luan came across Syft Analytics for the first time, he had been working with another reporting app, but he’d noticed something frustrating about the reports they provided. When he started doing his customer reviews, clients told him that the reports he gave them were gorgeous, but they didn’t understand them. They said things like:
“All the pretty graphs and nice analysis doesn’t mean anything to us as a business. We can’t make informed decisions because we don’t understand the data.” Luan van Rhyn, founder of Thrive CFO
Luan did what most people of today would do: he turned to Google. And the Google machine brought up another name – Syft Analytics. There was a massive appeal for Luan in the simplicity of the software offered by Syft. So, he decided to give us a call.
Getting in Touch with Syft
Luan’s first phone call was “a deal clincher” because the person who answered the phone was Vangelis Kyriazis, one of Syft’s co-founders. Vangelis apologised for answering the phone himself, explaining that the sales staff were all busy, but he asked if he could be of any help to Luan. “That says a lot about the organization,” Luan said. The fact that one of the founders would take the time to help him personally meant a great deal.
Over the years, Luan has seen the transformation and growth of Syft’s product, and he understood the road map. What Luan loves about Syft is that:
“It’s an easy-to-understand tool that doesn’t overwhelm you with bells and whistles. It brings across what it needs to bring across. And it puts us in a position where we can also leverage our knowledge and not let the report do all the talking.” Luan van Rhyn, founder of Thrive CFO
One of the most important things that Luan has learnt over the years is that interpretation is key.
If you ask Luan what he really does, he won’t say accounting or virtual CFO work. He says that he tells stories – important, helpful stories, the stories that really matter to his clients.
“That’s one of the big roles we play in the industry [interpreting data]. We’re not accountants, we’re not virtual CFOs, we’re actually storytellers. The software that you choose to actually tell your story has become as critical to us as a Mont Blanc or MacBook is to a writer. It’s the tool of choice because that’s where a lot of the expression happens.” Luan van Rhyn, founder of Thrive CFO
No matter how many science fiction movies have suggested that computers pose a threat to humanity, software can never replace the human touch. Technology’s true value lies in adding value – in complementing uniquely human skills.
This is why Syft can best be likened to a storyteller’s pen. Syft is the Financial Storyteller’s tool of choice, an essential weapon to add to your professional arsenal.
A Pivotal Business Moment
Making the transition to Syft “was one of those pivotal moments in the business” for Luan. But before we get to that, we need to back-track a bit…
Luan started Calypso Accounting back in 2007. It grew a lot and, before he knew it, Luan had this “behemoth of an office”, which was like a “hungry baby” with an insatiable appetite. This was never what Luan had intended to happen. So he closed down everything and started over.
Part of the challenge that Luan faced when starting over was getting back on top of cash flow and a business model that allowed for scalability without drastically increasing fixed costs. Syft allowed him significant scalability without compromising the quality of the data.
Moving to Syft was a “no-brainer” for Thrive CFO. As Luan says:
“Sending those first 10 sets of management accounts in that first month, we said, ‘This is what we’re thinking of rolling out. Do you understand these? Do they speak to you? Are they easy to understand?’ And the client feedback was phenomenal. Everybody said immediately, without even one of our consultants talking them through it, that they were actually able to understand the numbers themselves… You roll them out, you have the conversation, and Bob’s your uncle. It’s really as easy as that.” Luan van Rhyn, founder of Thrive CFO
Today, Thrive CFO uses Syft’s management accounts, such as the detailed business overview and customer report, which was specially customized for them by their Account Manager, Nerine. They find the graphs under Visualize to be very insightful and have now embedded these into their reports.
Thrive CFO also uses forecasts for scenario planning, helping businesses who are branching out, and acquisitions. When it comes to planning and forecasting cash flow, they also find Syft to be very useful.
Luan says that the predetermined reports make life a lot easier and that it’s more efficient to push out data using Syft.
Why Hire a Virtual Financial Storyteller?
Irrespective of what country you find yourself in, a Financial Storyteller, or, if we’re using the usual lingo, a virtual CFO, is the missing link that many small businesses are after, especially after battling with the repercussions of the pandemic.
Two years ago, a lot of international businesses found the idea of working with a remote CFO to be strange, but thanks to all that we’ve learnt during the time of COVID-19 and widespread Zoom calls, people are beginning to realise that it doesn’t matter where your advisor lives; it’s about the value that they provide you.
Using virtual CFO services that operate in South Africa, like Thrive CFO, saves international businesses a lot of money as labor there is much less expensive than what you would find in a lot of other countries.
Luan’s mantra to businesses is: “you need to see us [your virtual CFO] as an extension of your business, as part of the team”. A virtual CFO from Thrive CFO has two or three recurring meetings every single week with their clients. And it’s no longer just the business owner who gets involved with financials; it’s the whole team. When all is said and done, it doesn’t help to isolate the different departments of your organization from each other.
Financial Storytellers help clients to better understand how their business model feeds into various key performance indicators (KPIs). After all, what does a KPI mean if it’s not being measured? What does a KPI mean if it’s not understood, or if clients don’t understand why it’s even there?
In the olden days, working with businesses was a lot easier. Now, these stories that you’re so invested in are complex and time-intensive. Part of the journey is discovering and understanding your clients’ business model, extrapolating the data to formalize KPIs. Then you can begin reporting, tracking, and realigning KPIs, conducting quarterly reviews, and analyzing the data.
Using Syft speeds up the process, meaning that Luan and his team can spend their time on the valuable interpretation of reports – the vital storytelling that their clients benefit from the most. And we can’t wait to see how Thrive CFO will continue to grow and evolve in the future.