“[LivePlan's dashboard] is fantastic because it's integrated and easy to drill down into...it's much friendlier and easy to understand for
non–accountants.”

Bruce Carr wasn't new to the software industry when he started Web Ninja.

In fact, he'd already been involved in the creation and sale of a successful software business, Exonet Business Software. After the company was sold to MYOB, he was looking for a new challenge.

“[I was] gleefully unemployed, and I had to think about what was next, because we'd done a lot of accounting software, and we'd been doing that for many, many years,” says Carr. “We just thought, ‘Well, ecommerce is going to be the next thing; over the next 15, 20 years, it will be a really interesting space.’”

So, Carr began creating Web Ninja, an Australian web–based service that integrates businesses' online storefronts and accounting software.

Bruce was seeking a new challenge.
Bruce was seeking a new challenge.

Starting a new business from scratch with LivePlan

“We started very, very slowly,” says Carr. “I had no money for a couple of years, building what became Web Ninja. Simply because we [had] built accounting software and people trusted us, a lot of other accounting companies and software companies started sharing their data with us.”

Web Ninja grew out of this data sharing.

Having been part of a team that successfully started, scaled, and sold a company, Carr knew that having a solid process in place for tracking metrics and milestones would be integral to Web Ninja's success. “We quite like processes and all that sort of stuff, but we're always on the lookout for improvements,” says Carr.

“I just fell in love with the look of LivePlan.”

He discovered LivePlan while attending a trade show in the United States. “I just fell in love with the look of it,” he says. “I mucked around with it a bit, and it integrates with Xero and QuickBooks Online.”

When he decided to set up a business in New Zealand a few years ago, he did so with LivePlan in mind. “I thought, ‘Oh, well, I'll use Xero as the accounting application in New Zealand because that's where it comes from, and that way we'd plug it into LivePlan, and we'll build the plan out using LivePlan,’” says Carr. The convenience factor was a big selling point–since LivePlan integrates with both Xero and Quickbooks, there's no double data entry, and you can compare actual financials with projected numbers.

Monitoring business health with LivePlan

With his business background, Carr knew he would use LivePlan's financial dashboard feature. He wouldn't simply create a business plan once and then put it on a shelf; Carr uses LivePlan to forecast and monitor how Web Ninja is performing on a daily basis.

“I loved the plan, and I loved the forecasting tools in it, and the fact that it did some really clever stuff around your attrition rates and really made you think,” he says. Carr notes that while using LivePlan to write a formal business plan for funding is valuable (and necessary) for many businesses, Web Ninja gets the most value out of LivePlan in terms of monitoring overall business health.

“We haven't had a vision in the past. We'd just sit there and go, ‘Hey, good quarter.’ That's why I love LivePlan and the dashboard.”

“It's the fact that it's keeping us honest,” he says.

Since he's using LivePlan on a regular basis to track key milestones, Carr is able to hold himself and his team accountable. “I take [the plan] to lunch and say, ‘Hey, this is what we thought 18 months ago. What's changed? We thought we'd do this.’ Or, ‘We've actually exceeded it. We're smacking it out of the park.’”

In essence, Carr uses LivePlan for Lean Planning, or making nimble adjustments to his strategy and business planning on a regular basis. It helps him and his team to respond quickly to challenges and take advantage of opportunities in real time.

LivePlan's plug and play with financial software lets the team easily track and forecast Web Ninja's health.
LivePlan's plug and play with financial software lets the team easily track and forecast Web Ninja's health.

The benefits of collaboration and increased accountability

For Carr, using LivePlan to touch base with his team on planned versus actual outcomes is a common occurrence. Carr brings LivePlan with him on the go; its mobility even helped him expand his business into New Zealand.

“So we went to the pub for lunch, and I just handed around my tablet, getting the team to put in this year's milestones in their own plans,” he says with a laugh. “So we're sitting around having a sandwich and a coffee for lunch, and popping the milestones into LivePlan. And that made it quite a creative session because it was just so easy to sort of say, ‘Oh well, I'm committing to something here. I'm committing to get X done by X day. It's in the plan. Let me get reminded, and it's all part of the bigger picture.’ So it's made our New Zealand entry much, much quicker.”

Creating a roadmap and measuring success

For Carr, the biggest roadblock has not been attracting more business, but clearly defining plans for growth.

“It's never been a challenge to get business, because we're well respected, well trusted, and we look after our customers,” says Carr. “But our challenge is articulating what we want to do, and then writing the plan up so that we can get the appropriate people involved or the appropriate funding.”

“Our challenge is articulating what we want to do, and then writing the plan up so that we can get the appropriate people involved or the appropriate funding.”

In order to paint a more defined picture of what he hopes Web Ninja will achieve, Carr now captures plans and ideas and develops action steps right in LivePlan. It helps to “tease everything out of you and write it up, put some milestones, get committed to it, get your core mission, your values, and all that stuff articulated so that everyone on the team knows what you're doing. Then you can go out and execute the plan because you've told people.”

Being able to articulate Web Ninja's plans and goals–and share these with his team–has been a huge benefit. “We haven't had a vision in the past,” says Carr. “We'd just sit there and go, ‘Hey, good quarter.’ That's why I love LivePlan and the dashboard.”

Bruce uses LivePlan to collaborate with his team.
Bruce uses LivePlan to collaborate with his team.

Using LivePlan's dashboard to monitor key metrics

For Web Ninja, LivePlan's greatest value is the dashboard feature. The LivePlan dashboard is a visual dashboard that helps you track the health of your business at a glance, so you can see how your business is performing against key metrics.

The dashboard makes it easy for Carr and his team to see how they're doing compared to their projections. “Rick, who's our general manager, lives in the dashboard, looking to see how we're producing against the plan for month, quarter, year to date, et cetera.” Carr says Rick isn't an accountant, so “he just finds that a little bit friendlier than diving into a general ledger or a P&L statement.”

“[LivePlan's dashboard] is fantastic because it's integrated and easy to drill down into, and it gives you some numbers we don't get out of Xero,” says Carr. “The forecasting numbers and bits and pieces are just easier to find.” He also adds that “it's much friendlier and easy to understand for non–accountants,” as it eliminates the need for cumbersome Excel spreadsheets and hours of data entry.

LivePlan offers an added level of communication

“The plan gets people talking.”

Using LivePlan has helped Carr and his team communicate better than ever. In fact, he cites increased communication as the biggest change in their business process.

“That's what it does for your business; [using LivePlan] has got us all talking and much more engaged about what we are and what we're trying to do,” says Carr. “When you get all the moving parts in a business plan and articulate for people what you're going to do, they talk about how they feel a heck of a lot more passionate toward the company.”

It's also helped improve accountability for Carr and his team. “The plan gets people talking,” he says. “You say, ‘I'll commit to do this, this, and this.’ Or, ‘Have we thought about that? Let's have a discussion. Put a milestone. Put someone responsible to it.’ It's wonderful.”

Bruce at work.
Bruce at work.

“We can’t live without it.”

Carr has been able to leverage LivePlan to track the health of his business, clearly define his vision, and set milestones to hold himself and his team accountable.

It's an integral part of his business process. He plans to continue to use LivePlan to help him track his success as Web Ninja grows. “That's how much I like it, and that's how much a part of the business it is,” says Carr. “We can't live without it.”


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