Trevor Howard—one half of Media Suite—shares how accounting software (like FreshBooks!) helps his business save time and grow.
Trevor Howard and his business partner Bryan Bowen wouldn’t say they had dreams of becoming business owners. Instead, it was their shared creative passion for building websites and providing great service that led them to start Media Suite, a Canadian-based web design and development studio, almost 10 years ago.
Today, they pride themselves as a “one-stop-shop” for complete website development and have extended their services to include content, photography, videography, and marketing.
However, growing to this point in their business wasn’t always simple. Soon after launching Media Suite, both Trevor and Bryan noticed the business was missing something: A tool that would take care of their pesky paperwork and enable them to move fast.
Invoicing: The Early Day Solution
To alleviate their invoicing woes, Trevor and Bryan sought a solution that would take manual paperwork out of their day-to-day.
“At first [our solution was] simply a document in Excel,” says Trevor. “Then, for a very short time, we used a program called ‘Invoice to Go’ which is a phone-based application. The ability to send invoices on the go was great. But it lacked so many great features beyond that.”
So it was still early in the game that Trevor and Bryan realized they needed much more sophisticated accounting software that did more than create and send invoices. After all, their services were all about building websites, which meant they would have to account for the fixed cost of hosting. And keeping track of those invoices wasn’t simple—especially as the business scaled.
“We noticed the burden of managing our residual hosting invoices and the risk and cost of forgetting any,” Trevor explains. “Basically every website we build has an annual hosting cost that we invoice to the client of $265 per year. With about 10 launches a month this adds up. In three years that would be generating 30 invoices per month alone. So we needed a solution.”
Time for Change: Searching for Invoicing Software Without Limitations
To help them find a new solution that would meet their needs, Trevor and Bryan put together a wish list of features:
- Auto-billing: To help handle annual invoices that covered hosting costs
- Automated follow-ups: To give late-paying clients a gentle nudge without having to individually write reminders
- Automatic and online payments: To remove the burden of waiting to get paid
“It was becoming very possible when doing [the work] manually, we would overlook a customer’s annual hosting invoice which is critical to our bottom line,” Trevor shares, as an example.
So through a quick search on Google, Trevor and Bryan found FreshBooks and started a free trial. They had also toyed with Quickbooks at the time but quickly discovered FreshBooks was better built for their business needs.
Discovering a ‘First Employee’ in FreshBooks
As a FreshBooks customer for over 5 years now, Trevor and Bryan like to think of their accounting solution as their “first employee.”
“The ‘first employee’ thing was something we said based on the level of automation FreshBooks offers,” says Trevor. “We strongly felt that the automation it provides quite literally replaces our having to hire a person for that role should it be done manually.”
And today, they’re using FreshBooks to their full advantage, making use of most features from auto-billing, online payments, automatic payment reminders, time tracking, and estimates. It’s safe to say they’ve quickly learned that automation is key to running a thriving business.
The Power of Automation in a Fast-growing Business
With automation atop their wish list earlier on, a tool like FreshBooks has given them the ability to get more done without worrying about their invoicing and accounting. As a result, Media Suite has seen tremendous growth both internally and from a client standpoint.
“The time it saves us and the ability for us to more quickly receive payment absolutely affected our ability to grow the company at the rate we did,” says Trevor. “One of our largest challenges is time management. FreshBooks pays for itself 100-times over in the time it saves us and the work it provides on our behalf.”
But their loyalty goes beyond the features that FreshBooks offers their business. There’s something “homegrown” that continues to keep Trevor and Bryan around.
“It was appealing that you are a Toronto-based company,” Trevor explains. “It felt good it was close to home. Being a development agency ourselves, we can appreciate the amount of care and dedication that would be put into FreshBooks competing against previously established organizations.”
Trevor’s Advice for Small Business Owners
His advice is simple: “The need to have accounting software is absolute.” And Trevor advises that small business owners seek a solution sooner than later.
“Not only is it unprofessional to have Word document invoices but it is totally unorganized and much too laboring,” he explains. “Many of our website clients ask us to build in a payment option on their website to allow their clients to pay their invoices. To that we often simply recommend they move their invoicing to FreshBooks.”