Dr. McDonnell? or: How SaaS Helped Me Stop Worrying And Love The Job (And Help The CFO Do His)

Peter Seller Dr Strangelove Adaptive Planning CPM CFOs Corporate Performace Management Business Intelligence (CPM) (BI)Entering college at the University of Vermont, my father said, “I don’t care what it is, but get a trade.” And when I was approaching graduation with an accounting background, I had an offer from a Big 5 audit firm and was studying for the CPA exam. The year was 2002, the firm was Arthur Andersen, and the collapse of their client Enron made that offer as worthless as the fraudulent energy giants’ balance sheet.  By 2003, a flooded job market, bad economy, and some poor decisions meant me being an auditor was now as unlikely as me being an engineer or a doctor. I ended up in another ancient profession, sales.

By applying my accounting knowledge to interact, consult, demo, and sell to CFOs, I was successful in financial recruiting and later in corporate performance management (CPM) sales. Yet I had lingering regrets and worries.

What if I hadn’t taken my foot off the gas after getting the offer?

Is pestering CFOs really a trade?

Why didn’t I chase down every local CPA firm and beg them for a job instead of pretending to be John Hamm and say,” The Best, or Nothing”?

That arrogance may be good when selling a Mercedes, but it got me zero interviews for audit roles and landed me in a career that I resented.

In 2012 I walked away from a CPM firm as their #1 sales rep and joined its most formidable competitor. The move was daunting.

Will the grass be greener?

Will my success carry over?

Does the technology really matter that much?

What if this cloud craze dies?

My decision to join Adaptive Planning was made the moment I requested a free trial, filled out a form, and immediately received my login credentials via email.

There was no, “Thanks for your request. Our sales rep will follow-up with you to qualify your company…etc.”

With Adaptive Planning, everyone who asks for a free trial gets one. My previous “trial vs. trial” losses made sense now.  By the time I was getting on the phone with the CFO, they had already spent hours using my competitor’s tool! The SaaS grass has gotten greener, but I was still lacking a true sense of pride in my trade.

That all changed last week when I attended IE.Group’s Boston FP&A Innovation Summit and  heard three customers speak about their experience with SaaS applications, including Adaptive Planning’s solution suite. The first was Tim Sousa, Controller for Gemvara, a Boston-based e-commerce start-up delivering customizable fine gemstone jewelry.

Within one year of its founding, Gemvara went from one order per day, to dozens, using QuickBooks Online. Gemvara’s hyper-growth was a dream for their investors and a nightmare for Tim, who had to hand-write more checks, process more transactions, distribute more stock options, calculate more sales tax impacts, budget more scenarios, send more invoices, track more people’s time, and approve more expense reports.

Gemvara had outgrown spreadsheets for all of these processes, and was pushing QuickBooks Online to its seams. Their board politely laughed when Tim proposed a six-figure ERP solution. Given their constraints, they pursued what Tim called “ultimately their only option”. QBOL was easy to connect to other cloud applications due to open API’s. As you can see in the graphic below, that’s just what they did.

Adaptive Planning CPM CFOs Corporate Performace Management Business Intelligence (CPM) (BI)

Expensify – For Expense Reports That Don’t Suck©.

Bill.com – No more signing checks, integrated to their bank accounts.

A Seamless feed from their homegrown online order entry system.

Avalara for Sales Tax.

TimeForce for streamlining time and people tracking.

Corporate Focus for options and 123R.

Adaptive Planning “revolutionizing” their budgeting, reporting, and forecasting process.

All apps feeding data to, or getting data from, QuickBooks Online. A poor wise man’s ERP. Tim saying, “I’m not sure if I could have kept my job, or my sanity, if these SaaS apps hadn’t worked so well together,” was encouraging to hear. That’s the value of integration.

At this year’s show I ran into a friend from high school who, coincidentally, is also an Adaptive customer.  He’s the FP&A director of a publicly traded company, and I was glad to hear he was having a great experience with Adaptive. Otherwise, it would have been a pretty awkward encounter.

When Chris Abbiuso (formerly of International Power/GDF Suez, currently an Adaptive Planning employee) said it helped him be a better father, our whole dinner table paused.

The application I sell  (sometimes wondering if I had lived up to my potential, if the CFO wants to hear from me, how many voicemails I have to leave) had cut his work week from 70 hours to 40 hours, enabling him to be more present as a father.

 Corporate Account Manager may never be a trade that parents raise their kids to be, but I think my father is proud of what I do for a living. I know I am.

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