Why We Built Our Forecasting Tool, AutoCFO

A Forecasting Tool on a Mission to Help Business Owners

So many people ask us this question, so we want to answer it. Why did you build AutoCFO? The simple answer is we believed business owners needed an easy, straightforward way to understand their cash. Cash is the most important aspect of keeping any business afloat—and we couldn’t find anything that didn’t take a ton of time or require lots of manual entry.

AutoCFO isn’t your traditional accounting or finance tool, in fact, it is only a small part of it is about looking at your financials. It’s really about planning for your business’s future. And because we don’t like wasting time, it is easy to get started and even EASIER to get a quick update on where you are and where you are going.

If a tool can be built, we think it should be built in a way that you can use it without tons of setup and maintenance time. Your smartphone takes just minutes to set up, so should all-powerful software. Part of the power of great modern tools is their simplicity. Built to be used right out of the box. So that’s what we built.

Skipping over the complexity allows a person who isn’t in the financial weeds to use the tool and understand what it’s telling them in minutes. And this brings me to our next big goal: breaking down the financial barrier.

A Forecasting Tool That Doesn’t Break Data

Largely because of the way data is tracked and monitored by accounting and finance teams, a wall has unintentionally been built around the financial data. The systems are complex, everything requires manual updates, and the spreadsheets are fragile and easy to break. Complex systems and spreadsheets have to be set up a certain way and entries into the system done incorrectly can take hours to unwind.

Because of that, we built something that links to, but doesn’t mess with and can’t break, the original data. Financial data is crucial to running a successful business, but as business owners and operators we are trained to always go through the proper channels to access the data so we don’t break anything (or rack up a massive overtime bill from our team). The problem with this is you need that data to RUN your business and you need it all the time, not at regularly scheduled reporting intervals. We believe there shouldn’t be a closed-door policy on financial data. We think that door should be wide open and welcoming you in.

So we built something that syncs in real-time to the most recent financial information in a format that is not only open-door friendly (it even has a beautiful design!), but easy to interpret.

We like pretty data pictures. Okay, sort of. We like data that tells a story, that helps the observer gather insight in a glance without mental math or spending hours staring at spreadsheets. It doesn’t hurt that it also doesn’t hurt your eyes!

A Forecasting Tool That Saves Business Owners Time

Business owners are busy. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked to a business owner and they’ve said, “I’m so glad we set a meeting, I’ve tried so many times to sit down with the numbers but there was always some interruption.”

We built our software to fit into the five minutes between the team meeting and the 4th crisis before 10 AM. We (the recovering finance professionals that we are) used to spend hours answering one-off data requests, but noticed by the time we were able to pull and send the data, the CEO got busy and it might be days before she had a chance to review what we sent. So we removed the middle man and created reports that are always up to date.

We also realized business owners and accountants often talked past each other. Not because they were not excellent people, but because they spoke two different languages and accounting data requires a different structure than operational information. But it (accounting data) is incredibly useful information to the operator when it’s in their format. So we took the core data from accounting and allowed our operations-focused users to view it in a way that allows them to make business decisions quickly and clearly. With drag and drop reorganization and the ability to rename accounts (difficult to do in any accounting software and not favored by accountants) without changing the source accounting data.

And a light bulb went off for our users in how they interact with their accountants. Users started requesting modifications to the accounting team, not name changes of words (because they can change them in AutoCFO) and a couple of new rows for more detailed data allowing them to see things like the breakdown of their marketing spend by vendor and Google ads versus Facebook ads. Suddenly the dialogue between accountant and CEO became one of sharing information and working to improve the information together.

Financial data that can show revenue versus marketing spend in real-time. 🙌 🙌 🙌

A Forecasting Tool Bridging Today’s Data With Tomorrow’s Plans

The next gap we see with accounting systems is that historic data isn’t enough. In fact, most business owners spend very little time on what has already happened. Most business owners only think about the future (except at tax time). They needed an easy way—based on real, historic data—to think about where they were going and how to get there. And they didn’t have hours a week to spend on it.

So we built a forecasting tool that allows CEOs and their teams to bridge today’s data with tomorrow’s plans in the reality of a constantly evolving world. A way to build targets for your business, limits (if needed) on certain expenses, and a way to assess what business lines are going to build the future of your business success (and which are not).

Business operators and owners live in the future. So they need a dynamic planning tool focused on the future.

The next big item I often help business owners with is understanding: where things went wrong. Maybe the plan was to be cash flow positive this month, but it didn’t happen. Using a target set of financials or a saved forecast can help you understand why your goals weren’t met, which helps you better plan for tomorrow AND obtain your goals.

Enter: automated comparison of targets to actuals. This can take forever in Excel! And we were tired of updating spreadsheets, so we automated it. You can even see how you’re doing mid-month. 😳

Essentially, we took the kind of data analytics available to the Walmarts and other big businesses (often produced by hundreds of analysts) and made it accessible to businesses with one or two people who sometimes do the numbers. For entrepreneurs who are changing the way the world works and how we live our lives on a daily basis, we wanted the best. We wanted to help them compete —to be more successful. And since it didn’t exist, we built it.

Our goal is software that saves time, saves energy and reduces or eliminates that nagging “Do we have enough cash?” feeling.

If there is another business finance challenge you’d love us to tackle, email us at support@autocfo.com. We’re always up for a challenge!

Let’s build the future we want to see together.