A Q&A with Tom Edwards, CEO of OASYS, led by Scott Miller, Founder of Scott's Add-ins.
SCOTT’S ADD-INS: Tell us about how you came to be CEO of OASYS.
Tom Edwards: Well, I swore I would never become an accountant. But I soon realized I liked solving problems and helping others. This led me into the arms of accounting and the wonders of Excel.
SA: Tell us about OASYS.
TE: OASYS is an accounting firm, founded in 2000, that specializes in serving the hospitality industry. We work with entrepreneurs who have a vision, and need specialized financial help that is tailored to the restaurant and hotel industry. The entrepreneurs have historically been beaten to the punch by larger organizations. We help level the playing field for them.
SA: What are some of the ways you help level the playing field?
TE: Given our deep understanding of the drivers of hospitality, we can provide KPIs, financial models, and insights that are uniquely tailored to their businesses. Then, as the owner is contemplating growing organically or through acquisition, we ride along with them, advising on the financial considerations of these decisions.
SA: I would think that advising restaurants would come with some perks, no?
TE: Well, yes. I try and time my meetings around lunchtime at the restaurants, and show up looking hungry. But seriously, folks in the hospitality industry are fun people to work with, and very appreciative of our help.
SA: What are some advantages of focusing on a niche market like hospitality?
TE: Everybody knows everybody in this industry. So, if you do good work, the word spreads rather quickly. Almost of our business is by referral from existing clients.
SA: Let’s shift the conversation to talk about one of the tools OASYS uses to power the Advisory and Interim Finance Director practices.
TE: Typically, people who run restaurants may not be so financed based, so we need to present information to them in a way that works for them, and everybody has a different way they want to look at KPIs. A fine dining restaurant will be interested in how long they can keep the table and sell more bottles of wine, whereas a street food vendor is all about the volume and getting the number of units out.
We use Excel combined with Scott’s Add-in to give the operators the reporting they need to watch over the business. The reporting may take the form of monthly accounts, weekly profit, or even a three to five year business plan. Using the =SCOTT functions, we can create beautiful Excel reports linked to Xero data, that can be refreshed at any time.
To expand on this, we generate KPIs like average sales per week, labor percentages, and food cost percentages. While Xero is a fantastic accounting system, it doesn’t give you the depth of information you can get by building it in Excel. We’ve also experimented with off-the-shelf reporting/dashboarding apps, but keep coming back to Excel and Scott’s Add-in, as the tool of choice for giving clients exactly what they need, and making OASYS a differentiator in the marketplace. Some clients like graphs, others tabular reports with an accompanied narrative. It’s about tailoring your offer to the audience.
SA: What do you like most about Scott’s Add-in for Excel and Xero?
TE: Frankly, there a number of things that really stand out. First, the tight integration with Xero data. It does exactly what it says it can do. Once we build an Excel sheet, we can refresh it with new Xero data in seconds. No exporting, importing, etc. When I first installed the add-in, I watched the three minute video, then started building my first client workbook. Ten minutes later, I had something to share with the client. The add-in is super intuitive, in that it uses custom Excel functions like =GL, and =RANGE to do its work.
We’ve had great adoption throughout our firm due to the ease of getting started with the add-in. The task pane lists all of the functions, and spells out in English, exactly the logic of what you are trying to do.
SA: Does OASYS use Xero Tracking Categories for client coding and reporting?
TE: Yes. We use tracking codes for different restaurant locations. We use the =XTRACK functions to create a P&L by location, with comparative analysis between locations so the owner can see how the locations perform against each other.
SA: I’m assuming that OASYS has built an Excel template using the add-in, that you re-purpose for different clients?
TE: Exactly. We have a control tab on the template where we simply change the Xero organization, tracking categories, and reporting dates. The add-in does the rest, by pulling in and summing up all the Xero data that is required. It’s super easy to change from one client to another, once the core is there.
SA: Last question. What would you say to some accounting professionals that may not feel completely comfortable with Excel, and building these models?
TE: I get it. In reality, I am probably well below average in Excel skill, but in terms of what we need it for, I’m pretty good at it. And you can pretty much Google any questions you might have about Excel and find the answer. Lastly, Scott’s provides a bunch of get started templates on their site, which is a great place to start.