I was raised in a family of entrepreneurs. In the 1980s, my parents started their own technology company, Computan, which equipped shorthanded marketers and businesses with tech support.
You can imagine that the tech landscape 30 years ago was nothing like it is today. So along with my brothers—and my father still as President—we’ve transformed the Computan family business into an international firm, which helps to meet the very different tech needs of marketing agencies and short-handed marketers today.
If we look back 30 years ago when this all started, the use of cloud-based software for business was unimaginable. When I think back to how my father ran the business in the ‘80s, I picture stacks of 5 ¼ floppy disks, motherboards and hardware.
At that point in time, simple software wasn’t even a thing. Thinking of installing software on a computer? Pack a lunch! You’d need to sit for a good hour or two (depending on the program) popping in disks to install something.
Knowing that we had to find a way to manage our business’ accounting, my father didn’t search for a piece of hardware to buy—he built his own. We used it to document our service-based projects for the next 8–10 years.
It was a great piece of software and we were proud of what we made. We debated this in the office a while back and I’d say our in-house accounting system was the second best thing to come out of the 80s. (With Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust being #1. Obviously.)
As the business grew into the 90s and 2000s, so did the needs of our accounting. To support the administrative areas that our homemade accounting system couldn’t support, we turned to a Microsoft-based program to handle the documentation and auto-billing of our subscription-based, recurring projects.
I’ll admit, for years that was a match made in heaven. That was until we took a look at what the program cost us and the hole it burned in our pockets.
We’ve been lucky to have grown over the years. Today our family-run business has expanded and welcomed 40 employees, located in 9 countries around the world. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun. Our team-wide conference calls feel like a UN gathering of nations.
There’s a method behind the madness though. As a web and software development company, we work with marketing clients across the globe, so we didn’t want to limit our staff to the confines of the small Canadian town we’re based in. Instead, we wanted to make sure our staff was close to each of our clients to help better meet their needs.
That said, managing a growing company in the ever-changing tech space isn’t easy. I often tell people that most businesses are like mullets. They are generally neat and tidy in most places, but clearly needing attention and work in certain areas. Ours is no different.
So in 2013, we did a complete audit of the company—including the tools we were using (a.k.a. hardware). We knew we couldn’t afford to ignore change this time, so we had to retire our old accounting solution. It was a necessary turning point for Computan, but we inducted the system into our legacy software hall of fame so it’s contribution to our business can live on forever.
When searching for a new solution, I stumbled upon FreshBooks after reading through a vendor’s invoice—I remember that day as clearly as I remember the color of my socks yesterday! To say the least, switching to FreshBooks was a clear upgrade.
At the start of a project, we send clients a service-level agreement and request a retainer. Having ongoing, subscription-based clients means we’d need an effective way to regularly invoice them. Luckily with FreshBooks, the recurring payments feature allows us to do that.
Once we’ve built the client’s trust and moved them to a recurring payments structure, we can pretty much set it and forget it. It’s perfect because we can continue to provide our clients with the on-demand development work they need, and not have to worry about spitting out invoices.
We certainly know how to develop things for marketers, but we are probably the exact opposite of accountants.
The fact that we can automatically import business expenses from our bank account and into FreshBooks is a lifesaver. Sure, ‘lifesaver’ may be a strong word, but that’s how I feel about it since it really feels like it prevents the end of days.
Without it, we’d have to manually input the data on a recurring basis, which leaves a lot more room for error. Come tax time, we no longer have to worry about inaccurately capturing expenses, which is a huge relief.
In the last 4 years, we’ve tripled in size and FreshBooks was just one piece of the pie that helped us get there. They’ve helped us improve our receivable turnover ratios with a feature like late-payment reminders, and offering multiple payment options. Without getting into specifics, FreshBooks has helped us save valuable time.
I have recommended FreshBooks to several of our customers mainly because it’s a good fit for them. I know our customers pretty well and I’d bet that the best part about their day is anytime they don’t have to think about accounting and invoicing.
The beauty about FreshBooks is that it’s kind of made for people who hate accounting. You just go in there, input your invoices in a really simple way and send them out. It’s comforting to know that after 30 years, we’ve found a sole system to do all of the grunt work for us.