NVE, a brand experience agency based in Los Angeles, learned that even for a business that generates revenue from its creative output, managing its financials can get complicated. The company was founded in 2005, and for almost two decades has produced integrated marketing campaigns, original branded content like websites and mobile apps, strategic communications and custom virtual experiences for a broad range of clients. It also manages roughly 250 live events held annually around the globe.
Like many companies, as it grew NVE realized that its existing QuickBooks accounting software couldn’t scale. “When we started, we were a much smaller shop that was producing far fewer events,” said Kyle Ruebsamen, executive vice president of operations for all of NVE’s brands.
NVE’s individual producers manage the finances for their projects, and QuickBooks couldn’t give them a consolidated view of that financial data and operational performance. Producers running events needed to track a wide array of costs, including things like travel and expenses for staff coming onsite for events, internal and external creative, onsite purchases and more. They also needed to be able to access that information throughout the project lifecycle, from the point they deliver an estimate to the customer to the period close. It was becoming a major issue for the company as it expanded.
“We were struggling to get real-time data from the teams in the field and extract actionable insights from that information,” Ruebsamen said.
Initially, the company turned to Advantage Software, an agency-specific ERP solution that required extensive customizations and ultimately didn’t fit NVE’s needs. So the company brought in Appficiency, a NetSuite Alliance partner, to help it implement NetSuite.
NVE isn’t alone. Many growing creative agencies find themselves outgrowing QuickBooks(opens in new tab). Here are four signs that show businesses like these when it’s time to turn to a robust, cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution:
- Outdated and unreliable financial data. The lack of a consolidated view of financial data and operational performance was inhibiting corporate growth. NVE was experiencing a severe lag in its financial reporting—a problem that kept it from making strategic decisions. Producers onsite wouldn’t have they data they needed to make decisions about last minute changes like moving a venue or adding capacity. Meanwhile, the reporting delays also impacted management’s overall decision making.
- Lack of project-level reporting. “We’re a services agency, so our entire business model is project-based. We needed a solution that had a deep granularity of project reporting,” said Ruebsamen. For instance, producers had to be able to capture time and expenses for specific projects and then run comprehensive reporting on burn rates, overall profitability, project profitability and other metrics. “The project module within NetSuite(opens in new tab) wound up being a great solution for handling that,” he added.
- No integration with outside applications. Creative agencies need good operational and financial visibility across their multifaceted operations. But every time they add a new application to their technology portfolios, that visibility suffers. NetSuite solved this problem with its open application programing interfaces (APIs) and SuiteCloud integration platform(opens in new tab).
Working with Appficiency, for example, NVE integrated its Box.com secure file sharing app with NetSuite. This allowed the company to maintain files associated with certain projects right in its ERP system. “NetSuite lets us leverage other pieces of software to optimize our operations,” said Ruebsamen. “That was key for us.” For example, in addition to Box.com, NVE has integrated a CRM system, tax management, business intelligence and other software.
- A system that can’t handle international expansion. Prior to implementing NetSuite, NVE was operating from a single office in Los Angeles but looking to scale globally. NetSuite OneWorld’s native multi-subsidiary, multi-country and multi-currency functionality helped the company expand its operations. The platform also helps NVE—which has since opened a London office—manage international tax compliance.
Avoid the One-and-Done Approach
Pleased with the results of its NetSuite implementation, NVE now has a platform on which to run its multifaceted, global operations. “We’re constantly evolving,” said Ruebsamen, who tells other creative agencies to avoid taking a one-and-done approach to ERP implementation(opens in new tab).
“Continue to evolve your ERP and tailor it to get it exactly where it needs to be,” he added. “That’s truthfully what we've done. Any time we encounter something that we wish we would have done differently, we make the effort to change it and get it to where it needs to be.”