From XU Magazine, 
Issue 22

A perfect fit for a fitout company

From the cool Melburnian take on New York City’s illustrious smoking lounges and new office chic in Northcote, to a world-first co-working space for more than 400 not-for-profit and social enterprise workers, Canopy Fitouts has taken the interior design market by storm...
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After working in construction for more than 15 years, founder Karl Simity realised there was an opportunity to offer a specialised office fitout service. The business launched in February 2016 and grew rapidly, turning over more than $4.4 million in just its first year of operation. And even today, they’re still counting.

“Every day thousands of people go to work in offices across Australia, and we believe everyone has a right to a beautiful office to work in,” says Karl. “We create office environments that help our clients improve staff effectiveness, happiness and productivity. We truly believe your surroundings can inspire you.”

And that’s what Canopy Fitouts do with every single client: Inspire through spaces. The team has grown from one to ten in just four years and they’re always looking for different patterns and textures to use in their design to help clients have a mental break and divide work spaces from play. After catching up with the team recently, it looks like their creativity is paying off!

The growing pains are real

There aren’t many businesses out that that can go from ‘flying blind’ with spreadsheets to 400% growth and counting, without experiencing some kind of pain. Karl knew he was losing visibility of his projects and control of his spend management. “I quickly realised that in order to maintain control, I needed to have a better understanding of how my costs were tracking in real time. As I began to hire employees after I found this added even more complexities.”

It was at that point that spreadsheets were no longer cutting it for Karl, who felt like he was losing track of ongoing profitability, a common problem in a lot of industries, not just construction.

“High end cloud-based software solutions designed for the construction industry were not the right fit for my business,” says Karl. “Those platforms aren’t designed for the quick pace of the design and fitout industry and it takes just as long to enter the data than it does to run the project. Software really should be an enabler for efficiency, and not slow you down.”

“I used Xero for day-to-day financial management and bookkeeping, but it didn’t have the project management functionality I needed. I was thrilled with the growth in my business but I was running blind, not knowing what costs were ahead of me in the next four to eight weeks.” Karl was experiencing a common growing pain for small businesses today.

Finding help when you need it

Managing cash flow and accurate forecasting is critical, and Karl was ahead of many businesses by realising he had a problem early, and addressing it before the business grew too rapidly. Also benefiting Karl was his very solid mapping out of his own project processes. He was ready to make the move and was eager to embrace a new tech solution and create better systems to support his continued growth.

“My accounting firm, Young & Grant, suggested Business Continuum, a WorkflowMax implementation partner who helps businesses to excel in the cloud. I was impressed with their approach. They worked hard to understand my business and my specific needs and didn’t overpromise. They didn’t force their favourite software solution to fit, but rather came up with a considered approach, that made a big difference,” says Karl.

An all-in-one solution was an easy decision

GM of Business Continuum, Shelley Foster says, “Deciding WorkflowMax was the right fit for Canopy Fitouts was a no-brainer. After the initial scoping session to map out Karl’s exact business requirements, we quickly ditched those spreadsheets, and manual systems for a more streamlined solution.”

“Because WorkflowMax is very flexible and customisable, we were able to spend time configuring it, to the unique project processes and needs of the business,” says Shelley.

“We originally took care of the migration by importing data across from the old system. Then, we staged a training session,” says Shelley. “The team learned everything, from how to process invoices, manage quotes, enter and track leads, add costs to individual projects and much more.”

Now three years on since first implementing WorkflowMax, Business Continuum and Canopy Fitouts are still working together, tweaking the setup to suit the changing nature of the business.

Taking the product to the next level

“Since we first started with the solution our Project Management team grew, and our sales team quickly followed. Knowing we had a fairly good handle on the functionality in the project management area of the business gave us the confidence to test the software in sales,” says Karl.

“Just in the last few months we’ve deployed a number of different functions within Lead Manager. We’ve introduced close rate reports and future purchasing data fields so we know exactly when our clients will need our help again. Being there at the right time is so important in a service business like ours.”

“Another report we are really excited about is a drill down on our closed jobs. Being able to look at where we’re closing jobs, not just geographically but via industry vertical is really helping us to understand where we need to invest, in terms of lead generation and developing our pipeline,” says Karl.

Technology matched with good process really drive ROI

The Canopy Fitouts business has quadrupled. Of course, there’s many factors to their success, but Karl says “Business Continuum and WorkflowMax have played a big part in where we are today.”

“I have no idea how I lived without it,” says Karl. “Now, we can have up to 45 projects in the lead stage and 35 active projects at any one time. My project managers love it. They use it to delegate tasks and stay on track with delivery. And, we can quickly and easily process 80 invoices a week.”

“I can easily plan the design team’s time based on the phase of each project, seeing at a glance where they are and what’s coming up. I like to get a broad, birds-eye view of the entire business, to see where everything is at, financially and operationally. But I can also drill down into the details too. I’m across everything: payments, leads, weekly numbers, schedule, discussions, work in progress. The benefits for our customer relationship management have been tenfold - navigating our clients through the conversion process is far more efficient since we’ve been using this software.

“Last year alone we sent out and reconciled 1476 purchase orders, created 320 invoices and kicked off 110 new projects.

I really can’t imagine how we could have achieved this without an end-to-end project management solution like WorkflowMax.

“We’ve exceeded our targets, because the software allows us to stay on top of costs, workloads and deliver amazing results for our clients on time and on budget,” says Karl. “It’s absolutely, and most definitely helped facilitate our growth. Without it, I would be buried in paperwork.”

WorkflowMax Hacks

Karl’s favourite features that have really made a difference...

Reporting - The ability to financially run a job through reporting. Live financial summary reports help me keep supply chains lean and our project management team accountable.

Xero integration – hands down, a core benefit of the solution. Speed of account syncing really gives me and the team control to make powerful decisions.

#5 reasons you should work with a Cloud tech expert

1) Huge gains from expertise

Not everyone is technical. Cloud experts live and breathe tech every day. They are highly skilled at process mapping and recommending the right solution based on business needs and requirements. There’s real value in leaving it to the experts.

2) Tap into a depth of industry knowledge

Often Cloud experts work with a range of industries and are very knowledgeable about nuances that exist so they can apply their depth of experience to every setup situation.

3) System and process driven

Most Cloud experts are very methodical and systematised in their approach to ensure a smooth rollout and adoption of the software and eliminate any disruption to BAU.

4) Help you implement the full power of the software

Cloud experts can help surface the right features for your business and make sure you are using 100% of the software’s capability. Most offer ongoing support / consulting and grow with you and your business over time.

5) Optimise and advise so you get better results

They will work with you to continuously improve and optimise your software, so you can work smarter and faster, and get better results.

Why leave it there?

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