Taking The Fear Out Of Finance – with Claire Grimes of Paper Plane
Claire Grimes wanted to take the fear out of finance and create a service that made good quality financial information accessible and understandable, meaning that business owners could get clarity on their numbers and use cash flow forecasting to anchor their decision-making.
In 2015, armed with a MacBook and the burning desire to help small business owners understand their numbers, former photographer Claire set out to spread the word about her brand new bookkeeping firm.
Without wanting to break into a chorus of Paper Planes by M.I.A (yes, you know the one), let’s meet the entrepreneur behind bookkeeping experts, Paper Plane.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Paper Plane have a wide range of clients that include many from the creative sector and hospitality. This could be down to their wonderfully personal approach to their work, or maybe their location (Melbourne’s trendy Chapel Street to be precise), but in the words of Claire herself, “Look, anyone we can help and make this all a bit easier for – we’re in!”. Well said, Claire.
With three years in Melbourne under her belt and a network of supportive and enthusiastic friends and ex-colleagues, it was good old fashioned word of mouth that grounded Paper Plane as part of Victoria’s energetic business community.
A gap in the market
Claire has worked in accounts for almost 20 years. Her first experience in bookkeeping was with her mum in their small family business where she fondly remembers her big green cashbook! She then moved on to accounting practice and later worked for a high-paced, rapid-growth tech startup. But it started to become clear to Claire that there was a gap where small business owners didn’t have enough access to solid, straight-up financial support with their finances in a way that was easy to understand.
“We want to take fear out of finance and replace it with confidence.”
Today, Paper Plane’s creative business services include end to end bookkeeping services: accounts payable, receivables and payroll, along with full scope BAS Agent services relating to a companies’ compliance needs. They also work very closely with their clients to support them in an advisory capacity too, working on forecasts, key metrics, cash flow and helping them get to know their numbers and understand what they mean.
“We fell in love with the software and the team at Xerocon 2019”
Float was recommended to Claire just over 2 years ago and initially she had two clients up and running on the software. From there, they’ve now rolled Float out across the practice and it’s their preferred forecasting and cash flow planning tool.
Moving away from spreadsheet forecasting
Cash flow forecasting wasn’t always a service Claire provided. Originally, she was forecasting in spreadsheets, which even today she says still gives her the horrors. One small formula error or a typo can have a massive impact on the accuracy of a cash flow forecast. The sheer amount of time involved to forecast in a spreadsheet meant Claire never actively promoted any cash flow services for her firm.
It wasn’t until she partnered with Float, which gave her a reliable, efficient, time-saving way to provide forecasting for her clients, that she was able to easily roll out cash flow forecasting services to her clients at an affordable price. This also meant that she was delivering clarity and financial literacy to her small business clients; getting a clear insight into your numbers shouldn’t just be reserved for big businesses.
Cash flow is the biggest killer for new businesses
Claire describes why having an understanding of where your money is and where it needs to go is so crucial for your business: knowing how much is needed and when, and what changes and plans can be made to make a business thrive is crucial. The last nine months have certainly proved that the preparation, control and understanding of cash flow are paramount.
When asked why cash flow forecasting is so important to her and her clients, Claire says: “Peace of mind. Confidence and understanding. We strive every day to ensure our clients don’t get nasty surprises that can hurt their businesses. Cash flow forecasting is an integral part of that. You don’t need to lay awake at night worrying about all the things that might come up trying to remember them all – it’s no way to live! Get it out of your head and into Float and get back to sleeping.” Now those are wise words right there…
Cloud accounting and choosing Float with Xero
“I knew I wanted to be a 100% Xero practice from the moment I started.”
Having worked with many software platforms between starting her career and running her business now, Claire says it was a no brainer for her to partner with Xero and adds that the support and community she’s received from their partnership has been invaluable.
Claire has used a large number of different forecasting softwares, and is no stranger to a powerful app stack using Receipt Bank, Practice Ignition and HR app Deputy alongside Xero. She remarks that for cash flow forecasting, Float makes it easy. “There are no questions or uncertainty in the numbers – each total being reported in your forecast is easily sourced, updated and managed with the integration to Xero.”
Solving problems together
Claire and her team use Float to translate the numbers for their clients. If a client is having difficulty understanding particular numbers, a strategy that Claire finds useful is to jump into Float together with them. That way, she is able to guide them through their cash flows visually in the software and break down the information into clear, digestible chunks. Claire also mentions that the live, real-time update of cash balances for each account from Xero is a great motivator to hit their goals!
Cash flow during Covid
“Float was the answer for us.”
Back in March 2020, Claire and her team (like many others around the globe) found themselves rallying together in discussions about what they could do to help their clients get through the uncertainty of the coming months. Covid-19 wasn’t something anyone could have planned for and business owners felt they had no control over what was happening. This was when Claire decided she wanted to give back the power to her clients by giving them a feeling of control.
Paper Plane rolled Float out to all of their clients and offered one-to-one training sessions on how to use the software, and specifically, the scenario planning feature. At the time, there were so many moving parts in the form of government support, restricted trading and businesses having to change and adapt. Claire says, “It was a lifesaver to be able to pull all of that together and in one simple place using Float”.
“Cash flow forecasting shouldn’t just be about survival.”
Claire makes an extremely valid point that cash flow forecasting shouldn’t be something you only do once or when your business is in trouble. “In ordinary times we should be using this information to work on how we can achieve our goals and what small changes can have a big impact on our business.”
And those goals really vary from business to business. When business owners are going through rapid growth, Claire uses Float to help them understand the timing and cash impact of growing their team. For some, it’s about investing in assets like cars or property. For others, it’s about what cash they can take out of the business and when. There are also some cases where the goal is to simply get on top of compliance debt that has gotten out of hand.
“Whatever our client’s goal is, Float helps us break it down into realistic and achievable parts, rather than something overwhelming and impossible.”
Would Claire recommend Float?
“I already do. To pretty much anyone who will listen and even some who don’t – but certainly need to!”
Start your own fearless finance journey with a free trial of Float!
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