This piece, written by Natalia Hurt, originally appeared in Oregon Business Magazine on June 2, 2020.
When Geffen Mesher launched its Client Accounting Services one year ago to help companies adapt to new realities, it had no idea what 2020 had in store or how prescient its new solution would prove. The new practice area was proving so valuable to clients, that the firm made the bold decision to expand the practice into a branded division under Geffen Mesher called Forward/Slash.
Like many of the firm’s services, Forward/Slash developed organically as an answer to specific client needs. Whether real estate developers, law firms or startups, these companies rely on constant evolution – from scaling up to managing crises.
“Our first client in this space was actually a business that my wife is the CFO for. The quickly growing co-working business was opening new locations and experiencing increased accounting demands,” explains Graham Petersen, Shareholder, Geffen Mesher. “We took the load off of their plate, so they could flex up and down. As they grow, we can scale with them.”
Since that first project, Forward/Slash has been Geffen Mesher’s fastest expanding team. Though its first use case was a story of growth, clients choose accounting support for numerous reasons: peace of mind, expertise, data insight, exceptional circumstances, cost cutting, improved cash disbursement controls or space to focus on their core business.
“We have a longtime client whose controller was out on medical leave and they didn’t have a viable option to support that position,” Petersen adds. “They were thrilled that we were able to fill that role for a few months.”
Seasonal businesses equally benefit from this recurring, short-term support and the convenience of working with a trusted partner year after year. A flexible, outsourced accounting team automatically adapts to any changes in a company’s size: Zero lag time means no wasted labor costs. Removing this corporate pain point frees management to focus solely on navigating its core business.
But how exactly did an 86-year-old firm become an innovation leader in accounting services? Geffen Mesher has always left just enough flexibility in its structure to allow new ideas to take root. They credit their successes over the years to a combination of the right people in-house and the right partners. Developing Forward/Slash hinged on identifying and integrating the right technology. Platforms that rapidly aggregate and organize data let the firm utilize its expertise for analysis and strategy rather than information input.
Its client accounting tool produces real-time transactional data that then informs uniquely future-oriented solutions. AI-based technology “reads” invoices, populates spread sheets and detects variances, which can then be analyzed by the team and conveyed to the client via a recommended action plan.
“Traditionally, bookkeepers come in weeks or months after the fact, get the data caught up and then come back and do it again in a few months,” Petersen notes. “They don’t receive any actionable information with which to implement improvements, so these companies are flying blind. Our goal is to offer real-time data, so they can make better business decisions.”
Operating as an extension of a client’s team immerses Geffen Mesher fully into their business, letting the firm advise on strategy and identify internal inefficiencies rapidly and seamlessly.
“That’s all way easier to do if we’re already in the weeds with clients handling their accounting,” says Beth Morgan, Assurance Manager. “For example, because of our involvement in day-to-day transactions, I can relay information to our tax team in real time on behalf of the client, solving the burden of communication.”
The current stay-at-home guidelines have introduced entirely new burdens overnight as businesses struggle to transition their internal accounting tasks to a remote work environment. At Geffen Mesher, the whole client accounting process was already digital, Petersen explains: “Due to the technology we use we can process everything remotely so it’s no different for us, and we can help clients design systems to do that too.”
Though Geffen Mesher mainly serves privately held middle-market businesses and high-net-worth individuals in the Pacific Northwest, Forward/Slash can support clients across the country. Covid-19 reinforced the importance of such solutions and encouraged the firm to expand into Forward/Slash with a new Cash Flow Planning option.
This cash flow package will help businesses survive, not only the next few months, but any future circumstances they face by calculating critical expenses and forecasting actual cash receipts. Companies can model all expense scenarios in real time then pair that insight with the firm’s experience and guidance.
In the last month, Geffen Mesher’s focus has shifted to helping clients navigate this economic shutdown – for example, by securing their Paycheck Protection Program loans. Thanks to Forward/Slash, the firm already has a framework in place to rapidly and remotely respond to client needs in times of crisis.
While the future remains uncertain, with the right data and support companies can adapt and, even in the worst conditions, make the best possible business decisions.