Temi Vasco on Finance Automation and the Month-End Close
In this episode of The Role Forward, Temi Vasco of Gem joins our hosts Joe Garafalo and Joe Michalowski to discuss why automation has been a game-changer in the accounting space. They also touch upon the importance of a healthy relationship between accounting and finance teams and emphasize that transparency is the key to every fruitful collaboration.
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Temi Vasco on Finance Automation and the Month-End Close
Finance and accounting teams play a significant role in every organization. Their job is to provide relevant and dependable information that helps department heads make the best decisions. But, being an accountant or finance expert is more than a technical role; it is also a strategic role.
The success of these two teams depends on the quality of the workforce and the technology in use. In addition, having the right tools in your tech stack ensures efficiency, prevents repetitiveness, and mitigates mistakes.
In this episode of The Role Forward, Temi Vasco of Gem joins our hosts Joe Garafalo and Joe Michalowski to discuss why automation has been a game-changer in the accounting space. They also touch upon the importance of a healthy relationship between accounting and finance teams and emphasize that transparency is the key to every fruitful collaboration.
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Temi has experience working with various industries, including Real Estate, Energy, and the Big Four. Since day one, her job has been to help business owners make the best decisions for their companies. Now at Gem, she’s finding ways to make accounting a strategic asset to the business.
- If the financials aren't done correctly and your close process is mismanaged, you get too much, too late.
- Accounting and finance teams should work in lockstep — not be separated by forward-looking and backward-looking tasks.
- When building finance and accounting teams, make sure the individuals share the same values and that they all align with the company culture.
Episode Highlights from Temi Vasco
4:00 — The Future of Work is Automation
”I think it is a great background to have — being able to peek into all these different microcosms. You get to go to these different companies, and you see how everyone’s trying to achieve the same thing, but they’re doing it in such unique ways.
For me, being on the other side of it, that experience was very helpful in shaping my idea of what should work. You’re receiving the reports at the end and wondering why it is taking so long.
Once I got into the industry, I figured out why things take so long and why it was so complex. It’s hard to get some things done without the right tools. And so, I started doing a lot of research and trying to figure out ways to make my job and my life easier, and hopefully, make the company’s life just a little bit better.
[…] If you think about your phone. You can improve documents, sign documents on your phone now. Ten years ago, that would have been unheard of.
And then, there’s huge pressure on CFOs now to not just be funding sources but to also be true strategic business partners. And accounting has a huge part to play in that because the job is to provide relevant, dependable information so that we can make those decisions for the business.
And so, especially when you look into historical data, there’s no reason — other than lack of resources or lack of knowledge — to not automate most of the things that we do.”
17:52 — But What If Some Processes Can’t Be Automated?
“We try to automate parts of it. So there are parts of it that we can’t control. We use Floqast, and Floqast has come out with this reminder feature, which is essentially a way to send emails to your vendor.
The other part is being in touch with our numbers and knowing what’s supposed to be coming down the pipeline, and that’s hard to do in a silo. So it does require partnering with all of the other departments and all the teams and knowing what the plans are. […] So a lot of it is constant communication, just trying to get ahead of things.”
32:18 — It All Comes Down to Using the Right Tools to Maximize Efficiency
”We use Mosaic for board reporting, and that’s been helpful. We’ve also been using it for our fluxes since a lot of our data goes directly in there. Floqast has been a game-changer for us. We implemented that in April, and every month it keeps getting better.
[…] With Mosaic, our board reporting was done within a day; earlier, it was a beast.
We were at ten working days for close — from beginning to issuing our reports — but now, with Floqcast, we’re at eight. In good months, where nothing happens, we’re done in six.”
Table of Contents
[00:00:00] Temi Vasco: Make sure you know what your unique talents are and that way you can bring it to where you work, because that’s what adds value. It’s not just having this body of knowledge and being a CPA and doing all these things, it really is that unique aspect or perspective that you bring that’s really going to help your company grow.
Temi Vasco Introduction
Hello and welcome to another episode of The Role Forward podcast. My name is Joe Michalowski, and this episode is brought to you by Mosaic, a strategic finance platform that transforms the way business gets done. Joined as always on the podcast by Joe Garafalo, our COO and co-founder, and today our guest is Temi Vasco, the Controller at Gem, a recruiting platform that acts as a talent acquisition CRM. Temi, thanks so much for joining today.
[00:01:09] My pleasure. Happy to be here.
[00:01:11] Joe Michalowski : Awesome. So, before we sort of get rolling, Temi, can you just give a quick background on who you are, what are your experiences, what you do at Gem, things like that.
[00:01:21] Temi Vasco: Okay. Well, I am the Controller at Gem, and I’ve been there for now for about two years. I’m very proud of the fact that I’m, like, the first accounting hire. So, background, my achievements have jumped, have come really fast. So, the first year we were focused mainly on compliance and bringing our accounting in-house because it was outsourced, prior to me joining the company. And, we also spent some time layering some complexity in our financials, like, just putting in departments and cost centers and things like that, you know, big, big company moves. This year has been mostly focused on just regulatory compliance. So, sales and use tax, making sure that our benefits taxes are creating structure around our close process, try to get our financial reporting all squared away. So, a lot more internal facing work has been going on. Prior to that, I was the Assistant Controller at Checkr for about a year, another SaaS company. If you don’t know Checkr, check them out. Pun intended. But prior to that, I’ve worked in so many different industries.
[00:02:23] I started out in oil and gas and chemical, chemical manufacturing of all places. So, highly regulated industries, right? And, I did work with a company that did deep water drilling as well, but my star was really at KPMG. I started out auditing public companies as well as benefit plans, so it gave me a really wide range, customers, quote-unquote clients, to look at. And, in addition to that, I’m a wife and mom of two kids that are growing way fast.
[00:02:58] Joe Michalowski : Awesome. I totally forgot that you are, Joe is also a K, KPMG alum. I think we’ve talked about those before.
[00:03:04] Joe Garafalo: That’s right. right.
[00:03:05] Joe Michalowski : Totally forgot about that, so awesome to have that little mind-meld going on at the beginning of the podcast. Love it. So, cool. I, thanks so much again for, for joining. You know, the, the, the idea behind having you on this podcast, aside from, you know, just your background and the great work you’re doing at Gem is that, you know, we did a webinar a while back and it was about, like, future-proofing, the finance function, and one thing that you really lit up about was bringing automation and tech in a fit–like greater efficiency–to the work you do in accounting, the work that the larger finance function does. And so, just like to, to start things off as we talk about this topic, I’d love to hear, kind of, your mindset around why you love that topic so much, why you love efficiency? Like, what, what it is about that side of things that, that you really love working on?
[00:03:55] Temi Vasco: So, okay. So, like, back, you know, public companies, one of the things that I think it really is a great background to have is being able to kind of peek into all these different microcosms and you get to go to these different companies and you see how everyone’s trying to achieve the same thing, but they’re doing it in such unique ways, right? And, for me, that experience was very helpful in shaping my idea of what should just work, being on the other side of it, right? You’re just receiving the reports at the “Why is it taking so long?” Well, once I got into industry, I figured out, you know, why did things take so long, and why it was so complex and why… So, from just my experience and having pain points personally, I’ve been a staff, I’ve been a senior accountant, I’ve been an accounting manager supervisor, like, it’s just hard to get some things done without the right tools, right? And so, for me, I started doing a lot of research and trying to just figure out ways to make my job easier, make my life easier and hopefully make the company’s life just a little bit better,
[00:05:05] and I really believe that the future of work is automation. We have it so much in just our everyday lives. When you think about the last hundred years, where we were then and where we are now, how we have so much information out there. You could literally get a degree by watching YouTube videos
[00:05:23] Temi Vasco: now. Don’t do that. Nobody should do that, but my point is there’s so much information readily available that it really does shorten the curve, right? When it comes to scaling and growing. There’s a joke at Gem, where we call ourselves Team Skynet because we’re like, “We want the bots to literally come and do all the grunt work, so then we can literally uplevel.” So, and then we also have, you know, just the way things are now, not only reason technology and just the little things if you think about just using your phone, you can improve documents, signed documents on your phone now. Ten years ago, that would have been unheard of, “What? You don’t have ink?”
[00:06:06] And then, there’s also the, you know, there’s a huge pressure on CFOs now to not just be funding sourcers, but to be, like, true strategic business partners, and accounting has a huge part to play in that because our job is to provide relevant, dependable information so that we can make those decisions, right? For the business. And so, that part of the puzzle, especially when you look into historical data, I mean, there’s really no reason other than lack of resources or lack of knowledge to not automate most of the things that we do. And also, my personality had a little bit to do with it. So, if you’ve ever taken any of the Meyer-Briggs personality tests, I’m INFP. So, intuitives are mostly focused, not always, but we tend to think about potential possibilities, like, “What’s possible?” If you give me a process, I’m happy to do it your way the first time, but as I’m doing it, I’m like, “What? This doesn’t really feel great. Why can’t we.” So, I guess that’s why I had to get out of auditing, so.
[00:07:15] Temi Vasco:
[00:07:15] It’s not really good when your senior starts questioning how you did things last year or the year before, and, “Why don’t you just do this?” And everyone’s like, “No, you follow, you follow the document.”
[00:07:25] Joe Garafalo: Same as last year.
[00:07:27] Temi Vasco: Same as last year.
[00:07:28] Right? And, I, it’s one of my pet peeves. It’s just, it doesn’t always work. Yes, last year was fine, but think about even now with COVID, pre-COVID, how we had to change how we work, in such drastic, in such a drastically short time. Right? We had to really, really pivot quickly. Imagine not be able to do that because we just didn’t have the technology resources. Right?
[00:07:54] Joe Michalowski : Yeah.
[00:07:55] Temi Vasco: So, yeah, I’m just passionate, you can tell I love it. I think it’s just, it’s the wave of the future. Right? And, I still think there’s room for us too, like, even with, if the bots come, they can do the grunt work, but you’re still gonna need someone
[00:08:08] that’s going to look at all those exception items and make decisions, and be able to do that in a way that’s not just repetitive or programmable because they might not always have the context, right? The broader context of the business of what has changed in the business. So, I think there’s room for the bots in us, frankly.
[00:08:25] Joe Michalowski : I, I love all that. I’m a proud INFJ over here. I write for most of my time, and so, bots try to take over my writing job as well, and there will be room for me here.
The Opportunity to Automate the Month-End Close
[00:08:37] So, I’m glad there’s room for all of us as we automate these things. I think, you know, I, I know that you could go on and on about a thousand different things we could automate or manual tasks that we could do, like, fix in finance and accounting, but I wanted to zero in on specifically, like, a big pain point for accounting teams. Especially as we come to the end of the year here, it’s a, the close process, and, you know, we can talk about, like, the month-end close. And really, I think where I wanted to start was like, why, why is the month-end close specifically, like, so right for automation and efficiency, like, why is this kind of ground zero for accounting teams to automate stuff?
[00:09:16] Temi Vasco: So, I think any, anytime you try to automate anything, they’re typically specific things I look for. It’s a repetitive, so are you doing the same thing the same way over and over again. If it’s repetitive, odds are you could find a way to automate, if not the whole thing, then maybe parts of it. The other part is, does it require structure? And, accounting is one of those, it’s just one of those, not just the industry, but the work itself does require some structure to it because every change you make has to be somewhat auditable. You, you have to be able to follow the breadcrumbs, right? To get to the financials at some point. So, when you have those two in tandem where it’s repetitive and it requires structure, then having some form of automation around it, it lends itself to that naturally, right? And then, it’s also everyone’s problem. Like, if, for I, I literally tell people all the time, like, one of the great things about the accounting industry is that there’s such huge job security.
[00:10:18] Like, even when a company is ramping down and they’re shutting down the doors, they still need at least one accountant to say, “Yes, they shut it down.” Right? So, there’s always the need. Right? And, it’s every business you have has an accounting problem. They might not know it yet, or they might be punting it down the line, but it is part of the process.
[00:10:37] So, and with that, where I mentioned YouTube, how you could literally get a degree with YouTube videos, don’t do it, again, but my point is we’re so used to getting information when we need it, immediately. There’s this sense of urgency when we want information and we want it right now. And, the close process is a part of that because essentially we’re providing you information on how we did, how close are we to our goals, right?
[00:11:07] Think of your burn or even just you use gap or you’re filing stuff with the SCC, 10-Ks, 10-Qs. I shouldn’t say stuff. I’m trying to be more specific in my language. But my point is you will have that issue at some point, and so if you have a repetitive task that everyone is waiting on, they want that information now and you require a structure, right, to present it, why, it literally is begging for that, you know?
[00:11:38] Joe Garafalo: Yeah. And, I’ll add to that too, Temi. I think it’s, it’s kind of, like, this hidden secret that every, everyone has their own bespoke process and feels like they need to reinvent the wheel. join a new company as an accountant, you, you create that month-end close calendar and checklist and you, you do all these manual processes, but if you can zoom out for a second, you can realize, like, there is structure and repeatability that that software may be able to help automate.
[00:12:06] Joe Michalowski : I love all that. I think, you guys are obviously spot on. Like, it’s, I love that idea of, like, this being a bespoke process because from the outside looking in, it just seems like something that would be, especially if we’re talking about, like, repetitive tasks, automation, that it would be pretty standard.
[00:12:22] Like, there, I could just say, “What’s the checklist?” And, you could give me the rundown, but I like that we’ll be able to get into in a little bit, like, what, like, how to build that bespoke process, and like, what the kind of standard pieces are. But I think, like, one thing I want to ask and get context about is, like, what, what is the pain point?
[00:12:40] Like, when your close process is inefficient or if it’s slow, if it’s taking you too long to close the books, like, what is, how does that inefficiency hurt the company? Like, where, where do you need to improve to, like, add value to the business? Like, how does it hurt?
[00:12:57] Temi Vasco: I’ll say, first of all, it’s just, if the financials aren’t done correctly or the process is mismanaged, I was, call it, “you get too much too late.” Like, you have all this information that comes all at once, but it’s kind of whatever the issues were that you were trying to resolve, or even to maybe change your trajectory, it’s so far down the line. The error has now become embedded. Right? So, if you think of trying to make decisions for whether it’s funding, you’re trying to check do you have enough money to pay bills, right? Your financials don’t really help you if there are three weeks down the line because you needed to make that decision three weeks ago.
[00:13:48] So, how, like, how does that information help you make better decisions for your business if it’s so far down? And, most close processes are, at least when I started with Gem, and again, it was outsourced, we didn’t have our close done until 15 working days, right, after. So, imagine three weeks, three weeks for you to adjust a limbo, and you just do what you’re doing. If you had to course-correct any issue, it would literally have gone on for three weeks. Right? I mean, so think about it that way. And, for a small nimble, right? We’re no longer that small, but for a SaaS company that’s nimble and really prides itself on enabling people to make really good decisions based on data and data-driven, that’s a long time to wait. That’s a long time to make the same mistakes over and over, right? Or even not course-correct. So, it’s all, and it’s usually, like, all of a sudden everything’s done, closed, it’s done. Boom. Everything goes out and people are like, “Wait. I now have to fix something, but now I’m not just fixing last month.
[00:14:51] I’m literally fixing last month and the three weeks for this current month.” So, it’s not always helpful. And then, the second part of it is really just having wrong information. If your close process isn’t standardized or you don’t have specific paths to follow, something might fall through the cracks, and when it does, you can’t make back decisions based on that. And, in all fairness, you’re making the best decision based on the information you have at that time, but your information is wrong, then odds are your decision is, even, even if it’s not wrong, it’s not the best. Right? So, it becomes, like, this crap shoot. And so, for me, from my role, I feel like my job is to make sure that I provide information for people to make good decisions for the business. If my close process is inefficient, it really doesn’t help me do that job. Right? And then, it’s a failure on my part. And, nobody wants to fail. Nobody wants to fail, Joe. Nobody wants to fail.
[00:15:54] Joe Michalowski : Totally. Joe, is there anything, like, you’ve seen this from both sides now, now, like, as the founder role or the sort of C-suite versus, like, when you were doing operational finance, like, what, what have you seen, now running Mosaic, like, as, as the challenge there? Like, are there inefficiencies you notice now as COO you maybe didn’t notice when you were on the finance side that are hurting or not helping Mosaic?
[00:16:22] Joe Garafalo: Yeah. When, when I was on the finance side, you’re, you’re so much closer to the, the transactions, the daily transactions and what’s happening, like, you know, beneath the surface. And, when you get the financials, you can, you can easily look at them, but you actually don’t, you may not know what’s missing. Right? So, like, one area that always gives me a lot of trepidation is, like, accruals.
[00:16:41] It’s like, what, what bill didn’t come in that I know is probably not on the financial statements and is what the financials are telling me accurate about what we spent or, like, you know, what we, what we earned from our customers over the last month or quarter? So, just, just being able to rely on the financials for accuracy and giving you that rhythm of the business is sometimes hard if there’s an inefficient close or a close process that, that maybe you can’t trust fully.
[00:17:09] Joe Michalowski : Totally. Absolutely, it leads right into the topic that we were discussing earlier and that we wanted to bring up was, you know, there’s, we’re obviously going to get into some of the tech side of this and the automation. I know that’s what’s near and dear to your heart Temi, but there are pieces of the close that you can’t automate, and accruals, sounds like it’s one of them, is, like, there’s just, there’s not going to be a tool that you can just solve for that problem that Joe was just talking about. And so, can you talk a bit about, what the process is for you at Gem? Like, how you handle accruals? When’s the right time to start accruing expenses? How do you handle that more manual approach when your instinct is to automate and make everything as efficient as possible?
[00:17:52] So, for me, we try to automate parts of it, right? So, there are parts of it that we can control. We, again, we use Floqast, and Flqast came out with this “remind” feature, which is essentially a way to send e-mails to your vendor. So, you have the vendor list, right, for recruit vendors, and remind them, “Hey, can you send me your invoice or can you tell me what’s past you?”
[00:18:17] Temi Vasco: You, we have a summary as well, so we’ll put in reminders that way, to kind of say, “Hey, do you need to check this?” So, parts of it we’ve been able to semi-automate, but it’s still not by any means the best process. I think, for our purposes as well, the, other part is really just being in touch, touch with our numbers and knowing what’s supposed to be coming down the pipeline, and that’s really hard to do in a silo.
[00:18:44] So, it does require really partnering with all of the other departments and all the teams and knowing what the plans are, right? One of the things that we were able to do was get, like, a marketing calendar going. So, like, we can see, we don’t have to go pink cell and say, “So, what’s happened with marketing this month? Can you tell us, can you tell us?” So, our discussions a little bit more advanced in terms of, “Hey, we know these events are coming down the pipeline. Can we get an idea of what the vendors are?” And then, we can be on the look for that, look out for that, or, “We know what your budget is. Are you, are you going to maintain that budget?”
[00:19:25] So, a lot of it is constant communication, right? Just trying to get ahead of it. There is a tool called Crawlify that is supposed to help with that. I haven’t used it, but again, this is, I read it, this is what I do on my time off. But their goal is to essentially help with that process of trying to make sure that you kind of have your arms around what you need to accrue of what invoices have to come in. The only shortfall I see with that is that it would need to be somehow embedded into some kind of approval or purchase order or, budgeting process for it to really, like, take off the ground. Otherwise it’s literally, you just move it from Google Sheets to a tool, essentially.
[00:20:22] Joe Garafalo: Yeah, purchase order has helped us so much at Palentier when we didn’t have them. It was, it was hard ’cause you had to have all those one-on-one conversations with all the different department heads every single month, and if you miss one of those conversations, there could be a hole in the numbers.
[00:20:37] But as soon as we got everything on purchase orders, the problem got a lot easier. But that is, like, a big company-wide process change that takes, like, almost a year to it, to probably get through the correct way.
[00:20:49] Temi Vasco: I will say there are, I’ve seen some tools that have, like, a light here purchase order process. It’s not as rigorous in terms of three-way matching and it’s not always exact, but at least they get, they kind of get ahead of the curve in the sense that people can start putting in, you know, what I called the wishlist. “Hey, this is going to come down,
[00:21:10] Joe Garafalo: Yup. Yup.
[00:21:10] Temi Vasco: can I get approval for this?” Issue with those though, is that so far, it’s been vendor-specific and I would love to have something that is not just vendor specific, but also maybe, like, for marketing. You might not even know who your vendor is, but you have a budget, “Can we have something that would.” Anyway, I, I’ll start getting into the nitty-gritty but yeah. A purchase artist.
The Relationships Between Finance, Accounting, and Department Heads
[00:21:38] Joe Garafalo: Definitely. And, you mentioned something there too, Temi about, like, budgeting. It sounds like you’re, you’re probably pretty close with your finance team along with your different department heads. Can you talk about what a good relationship between those three teams looks like?
[00:21:51] Temi Vasco: Oh, my goodness. So, it’s, it’s pretty much hand in glove, right? If you have a really strong finance team that partners really well with accounting, it would really make, gives, it really gives the department heads a seamless feel in terms of getting historical information and looking at forefacing a forecasting. And, that’s been tricky. It hasn’t always been the case. I’ve lucked out, our now CFO, used to be our VP Finance and she’s very, very good about transparency. That’s one of Gem’s values, by the way. It’s just making sure that the information is out there and you know, what your budget is. You understand what the ramifications are when you’re making those business decisions of, you know, “What do I, what do I, do I have?” It’s not, “Do I have enough money to spend?” This is, “I know what I have to spend. Will this actually fill the need that I have?” So, she’s been really great about that. But I would say that the hardest places that I’ve worked that has been really, really difficult for me, has been aware of finance and accounting just are siloed. Without that deep connectivity in terms of communication, transparency, constant communication, the department heads have a really difficult time really getting that full picture that I want them to have. And so, yeah, it’s invaluable, Joe. I don’t, I, those I’ve left those places. That just tell you everything, like, it, if it’s not going to work. And, it really is a culture shift too. The controller and the VP finance working together, it has to trickle all the way down, otherwise it’s really difficult to shift the needle. If it’s not a culturally-embedded ideology.
[00:23:40] Joe Garafalo: I love that. How often do you guys meet with your finance teams to set like a, a bi-weekly, weekly, monthly cadence?
[00:23:47] Temi Vasco: I Slack everybody all the time. I wish I could say, so, one of the things that I really appreciate about COVID, the idea that it brought to everyone’s forefront this idea of, like, meeting fatigue. Because you’re on the screen, but even before screens, I’m also one of those people where I’m like, “Can we have a short coversation, do we need a full 30, 45 minutes to discuss something and will it be a working meeting?” ‘Cause my, I break out in hives when someone says, “Oh, let’s meet for an hour, and there’s no agenda. I haven’t, I have no idea how to prepare it.” It really, it stresses me out. So, we don’t actually have a cadence for meeting because we’re constantly meeting.
[00:24:38] And, I think even if we did get to the point where we had structured meetings, I’d probably be one of those people who say, “What’s on the agenda?” What do we need to read before we show up? Can we look, like, let’s prepare so that when we meet it’s as productive as possible. I don’t want to sit here while you’re still talking about the poss, possibilities.
[00:24:59] Temi Vasco: Let’s get together and work.” And so, let’s just say at this point, if I had to look in my Slack to see what I can find, everything in Slack. And, that’s another thing about meetings too. Sometimes it’s helpful to come together and work on something and have something productive, but rarely do we come. My thing is I want an action list. I want, “What are we doing after this?” Right. When we leave, we should know who’s doing what when and the timeline for that. And, in the past I’ve been burned with this sloppy, sloppy meeting rigor. So, when we do meet, it’s typically productive, we’ve worked through it.
[00:25:41] We have a summary checklist on, what, who’s doing what when and we’re good to go. So, for me, continuous meetings are pretty much it, but it’s easier because it’s literally via Slack or via email. And, when we do meet, I’d say maybe every two weeks, but sometimes we don’t even need to meet because we’ve already talked about this off, whatever it is, it’s already good to go.
[00:26:04] In terms of meeting with department heads, we tried to do that at least once a month, but honestly, once COVID hit, it was literally, “Here’s your financials. Here’s your budget. What do you think?” Back and forth on questions. Review a couple of things. Done. Okay. Maybe we didn’t need that one-hour meeting.
[00:26:27] Joe Garafalo: Yeah.
[00:26:28] Temi Vasco: But yeah.
[00:26:28] Joe Garafalo: All of that.
[00:26:29] Temi Vasco: Better. You know what? It works. It works. I wouldn’t say it would work for every company because I realized the larger we get, the more invested people might be in having that communication and having more touch points, but right now I, I’m trying to set up on demand.
[00:26:49] Right? So, you have the information, you get it, you come to me, if you have specific questions, but we’re not going to do that “Well, how am I doing this month?” Like, the worst thing you can tell an accountant. Especially before close.
Breaking Down an Efficient Month-End Close Process
[00:27:01] Joe Michalowski : Exactly. I, I just, I love hearing you both talking about, like, systems, processes, and obviously if we’re talking about automation, like, that’s, that’s a big part of it in just making sure that you have that on-demand information in place. And so, I want to, I want to use this to roll into what I know is the loaded question that I wanted to ask, which is like, what, what is the typical month-end close process for Gem? How do you go about it? And, I know it’s, it’s, like, an, almost an impossible question to answer, but just to help, like, high-level, like, what’s the checklist of things you’re doing, like, to make sure that you stay on track with getting that information to the right people at the right times. Like, where do you start? And, like, how do you walk through that monthly close process?
[00:27:49] So, we started out or I started out mapping out our close process just based on the larger tasks. So, each day we tried to pick something that we kind of walked through, and I’m a big believer in, like, when you’re closed, it’s your closing reconcile. It’s not we close the books,
[00:28:06] Temi Vasco: and we reconcile, then we do, like, everything, I tried to have everything done at once, so we’re not constantly going back, right, to the same issues. So, for us, day one, day minus one, so the day before close when we’re sending out emails to people say, “Hey, we need, remember we need this by this day.” We send emails to our vendors. We typically will check in with our sales ops to make sure that there’s nothing that’s gonna, kind of, hang, up in terms of revenue. So, we’re pretty much just prepping. We’ll roll forward off files, do all this fun stuff and full cast. The first day is typically cash, so we review our cash, we make sure it’s reconciled. We use a lot of tax-clearing accounts, so we make sure things are bucketed in the right. And, if there’s any cash in transit would make sure we know what it’s related to and where it’s gonna go. Day two is typically accounting ops. So, our AR, AP making sure that’s a reconcile, making sure that if there’s anything hanging in the balance, we resolve them.
[00:29:08] One of my pet peeves is having a reconciliation to assess there’s an issue that’s been lingering for, like, months. So, whatever issues that were last month, they need to have been resolved by that. Right? So, day three is typically accruals and estimates. We typically will do prepaids at the same time,
[00:29:25] so all of that. Day minus one, we don’t do anything that’s already set up. So, depreciation, anything that’s a recurring transaction, we just have those posted automatically. Thank you, Nancy. And then, day five, we do our preliminary view, as well as review our 606. So, for revenue recognition commissions, we’ll spend time just going through that to make sure we already have, we already have tool. We already have tools that work for that, so it’s mainly just reconciling and making sure that things are the way they’re supposed to. We also do it, we also do any of our reasonableness tests on that day. So, typically by day five or day six, we have our financials in front of us. We’re doing a preliminary work walkthrough.
[00:30:16] We’re looking at our different departments, making sure things are where they’re supposed to be bucketed. Then, day six, sometimes it goes as long as the aid, especially on the quarter ends. That’s when we’re doing our fluxes. So, we’re flexing our financials. So, we do month of a month, quarter of a quarter. Sometimes we’ll do year per year if there’s something that looks really odd in there. That’s when we typically will find some adjustments that we need to make. So, typically by work day eight, we’re done, dusted, our financials are done, treat up when we’re ready to issue it out. That’s the high level, right?
[00:30:54] It’s, if my senior, my senior she’s going to be like, she’s going to be like, “There’s a lot more to it.” But typically, that’s what we’re trying to cover on those days.
Finance and Accounting Automation Solutions
[00:31:03] Joe Michalowski : Awesome. I, so I want to dig into some of that and just ask, like, I’m sure there’s many different systems and you thanked a couple of the tools that are helping you do some of these things, but I just wanted to ask, like, what are, what are some of the tools that you’ve invested in to help automate aspects of those days? You know, we talked a little bit about which ones really can’t be automated, but I’d hear, like, what, what tools you’ve put in place, how you think about the ROI of those tools. Like, what, what do you look for as you, as you invest in things that can help you with this process?
[00:31:36] Temi Vasco: So, for ROI, I’m an accountant, so of course it all comes down to the cost. How much of it is a saving us? So, in terms of the days, typically I’m getting a tool, I’m looking at how does this
[00:31:54] replace what I’m doing right now, how much time does this save my team, and then what’s the value-add?
[00:32:01] Hopefully it has a value-add, right? We’re not just replacing my time with a tool where actively doing something better or hopefully doing bigger and better things. So, I tend to look at it that way. In terms of the tools we’ve used, we’ve, we use Mosaic for board reporting and that’s been really helpful.
[00:32:21] We’ve also been using it for our fluxes as well, since a lot of our data just goes directly in there, so it’s easy for us to do comparisons with. Flowcast has been a game changer for us. We implemented that in April as well, and every month it just keeps getting better, frankly. We have RevLock, now called RevRec, for 606, so a lot of the headache. Again, repetitive. We have a rule in place. We know what, it just does that for us, and it pushes our entries directly, so there’s very little human intervention there. And, that saved us, between Mosaic, our board reporting sounded, like, within a day. Before that it was a beast, okay. For Flowcast, we were at, I think, 10 working days for close, from all the way from beginning to, like, issuing our reports. Now we’re at eight. On good months where nothing happens, we’re done at six. So, we’re still trying to standardize that process as well. I want to get it to five. want to get it to five.
[00:33:23] Joe Garafalo: Props. That’s
[00:33:24] Temi Vasco: I keep telling people, like, “We want to get into five.” And, they’re like, “Oh, boy.” But I really do. I think it’s definitely doable. Right? For Revlock, for our, we do, like, a reasonableness test for revenue, just to make sure that it’s working or it’s moving in the same direction as our ARR. That way we can spot any issues that way. And, that RevLock took that from, like, more than a day,
[00:33:53] usually took me, like, a day plus sometimes trying to figure out what happened here there. We’re now down to, like, two hours with that, with the reporting there.
[00:34:03] Joe Garafalo: Nice.
[00:34:04] Temi Vasco: So, just because we have these tools in place, keeping in mind that we were doing all of this in Excel before, has really helped us, like, scale.
[00:34:14] And, remember it’s me and it’s senior. So, like, we’re this, Flowcast was like, we’re, like, their smallest accounting staff that they have ever worked with. And, we’re going to grow obviously, but it’s just that we can do so much because we have this technology helping us and we can focus on those really important things, right? Like, you know, serving our customers whose pretty much everyone in the company, and making sure that we’re partnering with them better. But I don’t think it would have been possible if we didn’t have that.
Keys to Building an Accounting Team
[00:34:49] Joe Michalowski : I love, you, you mentioned one thing that I have written down as a, as a question that, that Joe brought up as something he really wanted to ask you about, was just, like, the makeup of your team. And so, if you’re the smallest accounting team that Flowcast is working with, I guess the, the question is like, how do the right hires, make your close processes more efficient? Like, what advice would you give anyone to, to build out that team? It sounds like you’re, got your one, and it’s like, I know you’re going to build more, like, what’s, what’s the process there?
[00:35:17] Temi Vasco: Right now I have a senior. She’s experienced, she’s done closes before. She’s familiar with NetSuite, really familiar with the tools. It’s not that I wouldn’t hire someone that didn’t have that experience, it just gives them a little bit more of a bump, right? This, the learning curve is a lot shorter.
[00:35:35] They’re more focused on Gem issues then, like, learning a new system, which, you know, third mini job is hard enough when you have new systems in there. It just takes you a little bit longer to ramp. Right? So, that’s one of those things. I, going forward, I, I’m hiring for people that have that same bent, that want to make things better. I’m definitely not perfect, and I, I literally love it when my senior comes and says, “You know, we should fix this.” And, I’m like, “Yes, go ahead.” Because that’s what we need, right? Someone that can have that bias for action. Not just taking what is being done, but can say, “You know what, there has to be a better way.”
[00:36:18] Or if we haven’t found a better way, can I spend some time figuring out how to do this less, with less human intervention or even if there is human intervention maybe present it better or give more information with less of the lift. And so, that’s my bent, whatever, whatever the role is, if you’re curious about what you’re doing, and you have that desire, not just to do what you’re told, but go above that, I’m all for it because that makes me better, right? Then all of a sudden I’m going to be learning about all this new, new stuff that I never knew about simply because you have that same bias. And, that’s the goal. I don’t care what role you are. I just, I just want people that have that innate curiosity that says, “Why are we doing this?”
[00:37:17] Joe Michalowski : Yeah.
[00:37:18] Temi Vasco: “Tell me, explain yourself to me.”
[00:37:24] Joe Michalowski : I think that’s a great explanation. I, and I know Gem’s team is going to grow more and, more, and I, I, I know that’s what we look for in, in our team. We love people that can come in and proactively solve problems rather than just, like, looking to be, especially in, like, a startup. So, something like that, I know that’s near and dear for, for ,Joe as, as we grow quickly here at Mosaic.
[00:37:43] And so, I mean, I just looked at the time, we’ve been going for a bit, so I, there’s two higher-level of questions that I wanted to get to, that I wanted to get your thoughts on. The first is, we’ve talked a lot about automating as much as you can, getting out of the grunt work, team skynet, I hope you get as much out of the way as you can. I’m curious from, from your role, we talk a lot about strategic finance here, but it’s not just, like, the finance team looking forward. How do you think about what you’re able to do because you, you’ve made these processes more efficient. How does that make your accounting team more strategic to the business?
[00:38:19] What are you able to do because you’ve taken these steps?
[00:38:23] Temi Vasco: I think, I’ll use an example for, like, accruals, right? If you have a system in place where you know what this man is going to be, you become that source of not just data, but information, actually. Something that’s actionable, that people can actually do something about before it even happens. And, I think that’s the potential accounting has in not just being the source of historical data, but being able to use systems to capture just a little bit, just a little far in the future, right? To be able to say, “Hey, is where we’re going to be.” I think in the past, that’s what had been missing with some of my roles is that there was that huge silo, right?
[00:39:05] This is where you stop, and this is where finance starts. And now that, you know, the future of work is people don’t care about the silos. They just want information to make better decisions. And, if you’re partnering really, really strongly with your finance team, you’ll find out that there’s a lot of give and take there too. And so, I tend to think of us as where the assumption start before, you can, finance can sensus assumptions, and start triangulating, you know, three, five years in the future, they’re going to need something that’s really solid to start on. Because if your assumptions are wrong, it doesn’t matter when you extrapolate, it’s going to end up in the wrong ballpark anyway.
[00:39:48] So, I think there is that. And then, there’s also the rigor that I think most accountants really bring to just data analysis. I’m not a data analyst by any means, I promise, but I can tell you that because I look at the numbers so much, if someone brought me information that didn’t make sense, I would probably be one of the first to be like, “Well, can you explain that a little bit more?”
[00:40:12] I tend not to say, “That’s wrong.” I just want to know more so that I understand the context a little bit better. And, that is helpful, right? Because if you, If you, if you’re not constantly looking at that, it probably would have just been, “You’re good to go.” And, nobody would be the wiser. So, in that sense, I think not just supporting finance, but also making sure that our team lead’s just, “Look, you have a budget.
[00:40:39] You should know where you are. If you’re coming to me to get information on your budget, I have failed.” And so, we should be having those productive conversations of how to get things done as opposed to be “in the know” guys. ‘Cause they’re counting like, “You’re going to say “No.” And, I’m like, “No, I’m going to say no. I’m just asking questions so that you think it through a little bit more.” Right? So, that’s where I think that accounting and finance can really help the business, especially when it’s scaling the way.
Finance and Accounting Career Advice from Temi Vasco
[00:41:14] Joe Michalowski : Awesome. So, our, our, our last, our last high-level question, we ask it to everyone that has been on the podcast and we will continue to ask it. very career-oriented, so we just like to ask, like, what’s, what’s one thing you know now that maybe you wish you knew at the start of your career or that you tell somebody who’s, you know, earlier on the path that you’ve taken?
[00:41:37] Temi Vasco: I would say, I would say take time to really know what your strengths are and what you bring to the table. Coming here, I was an immigrant, right? So, I immigrated here. I started school and then I got the job with KPMG and then met my husband and then never left. But one of the things that I really had a hard time with, apart from culture shock in the first place, it was just not really understanding why I thought the way I did. And, in, in true honesty, very few of my accountings, ’cause I was literally an audit staff, would go to a control and be like, “So, why are you doing this, again?” Like, I just want to understand, I really wanted to understand. And, if you’re surrounded by people who don’t have that, then you do feel, not just different, but you feel somewhat devalued because you’re not bringing any value to that work by then. And so, what I wished had happened to me would be someone say, “Hey, you know what? You have this unique talent for ideation and possibilities, and even if you’re not going to work on this specific audit the way they did it last year, you would be helpful doing this for KPMG.” Right? But I didn’t have that.
[00:42:58] And so, I think if I had had the strongest sense of self in terms of “This is what I bring to the table. I am going to help you be better, dammit” I would have been more motivated, I think. And, speaking out and bringing those obscure thoughts that people didn’t care about and really, really stick into it.
[00:43:21] Right? You know, speak your truth and be like, “You know, this should be better.” So, and this was pre-SoX, too. So, now that we have SoX, I’m like, “I knew it. I knew there were better ways to do shit, things.” But that was time. So, my advice, every time you talk to any accountant or any finance or data, whatever they are, make sure you know what your unique talents are and that way you can bring it to where you work, because that’s what adds value. It’s not just having this body of knowledge and being a CPA and doing all these things. It really is that unique aspect or perspective that you bring that’s really going to help your company grow. That’s my take.
[00:44:03] Joe Garafalo: I can’t wait to add that to our, my list of interview questions for new folks. It’s a good one.
[00:44:09] Joe Michalowski : I,
[00:44:10] Temi Vasco: Oh, really?
[00:44:11] Joe Michalowski : This as a pep-talk, I’m putting it on my wall. I’m going to get the Temi quote and be like, “Great. This is career advice for all of us. Not just, not just finance and accounting.”
[00:44:20] Temi Vasco: I think, I just, I just wish, looking back now, you know, hindsight is 2020, I’m like, I wish I had asked those questions instead of just writing it down and going back and saying it like, “What, what was that again? And why are you doing it?” This, like, not being so worried when people would get really defensive and having those skills to be able to dissolve them and really get to the meat of it. I’m lucky now. I get to add those classes and people are like, “Yes, you should be asking this question.” When I was starting out, it was like, “What the heck are you? Why, how dare you tell me what to do?”
[00:44:55] Joe Michalowski : Awesome. Well, I think we’re just about at time, Temi, if you want, where should people go to learn more about you, if they want to, to follow up with questions or where can they learn more about Gem? Like, this is, this is your time to shine. Where, where can we find you and all the work you’re doing?
[00:45:10] Temi Vasco: So, gem.com. But seriously, gem.com is if you want any information on our company, it’s out there. We pride ourselves on transparency. And so, a lot of our values, what we like to do, what we’re building is literally out there. For me, I’m on LinkedIn, Temi Vasco. It’s, that’s, that’s it.
[00:45:35] Other than that, I like, I’m good.
[00:45:37] Joe Garafalo: Sometimes we get, sometimes we get some Twitter handles.
[00:45:40] Temi Vasco: I am on Twitter, but that’s like, I don’t think I actually use Twitter for anything other than just to like lurk and look at friend invitations.
[00:45:50] Joe Michalowski : Same.
[00:45:51] Temi Vasco: I probably, I would not even think that anyone would reach out to me that way. But LinkedIn is typically, I check that more frequently.
[00:46:00] Twitter is just for fun.
[00:46:02] Joe Garafalo: Awesome.
[00:46:03] Well, Temi, thank you so much again for joining. I thought this was a really great conversation. Appreciate all the time that you’ve taken to chat with us. It was just, it was great to have you on the Role Forward and hope to talk again soon.
[00:46:16] Temi Vasco: Same here. Thank you for having me. I appreciate that.
[00:46:19] Joe Garafalo: It’s a pleasure. Thanks so much.
[00:46:22] Temi Vasco: Anytime.
[00:46:25] Joe Michalowski : All right.
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