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Business Planning for Uncertainty: How 5 Companies Successfully Navigated Economic Instability With Vena

July 7, 2022 Vena Solutions  
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How do you succeed in business planning for uncertainty? With a pandemic, a war in Ukraine, rising interest rates, inflation, a supply chain crisis and employee layoffs, there’s so much for you to navigate. What does success during economic uncertainty even mean now? While some companies focus on avoiding further significant losses, others are concentrating on retaining their workforce. Now, success requires determining—to the best of your ability—the short-term and long-term impacts of these uncertainties on your business and moving forward with the now.

In this blog post, you’ll read about how five companies—with Vena—successfully navigated the economic instability of recent years and are more prepared for the uncertain times ahead. From avoiding major financial losses to managing interest rate risks to calculating the impact of COVID-19, here’s how they did it:

1. Meats By Linz

Meats_By_Linz

Meats By Linz is a family-owned food distribution company that specializes in dry aged beef and high-quality meats. With Vena, Meats By Linz uncovered new revenue streams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before Vena, Meats By Linz had no budgeting, forecasting or monthly reporting process. They couldn’t report on their sales volume by territory or their operating expenses for their distribution centers in real time. Without reliable revenue targets, they couldn’t respond to evolving demand trends or allocate resources efficiently.

With Vena, they generated ad hoc reports in five minutes. They created one source of truth for their company-wide financial data to support their operations planning, workforce planning and inventory management. In just three months, they grew three years’ worth of expected e-commerce sales.

“I used the ad hoc reporting function and quickly analyzed, ‘Okay, if we’re down 80% in this segment, what will that mean long term? How can we keep our employees safe? What investments can we make to drive sales elsewhere?’ … I don’t know how I would have done any of that without Vena. It would have taken months if I was still using spreadsheets … We thought it would take three years to add this many B2C customers, but we did it in three months,” said Bart Vittori, CFO at Meats By Linz.

2. Young LifeYoung_Life

Young Life is a global Christian nonprofit focused on ministry and community support programs for youth. With Vena, Young Life avoided major financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before Vena, Young Life transferred their spreadsheet data manually through slow and unreliable monthly reporting and forecasting processes. They couldn’t report on key metrics—such as gross margin per customer—before the figures became outdated.

With Vena, they completed reports—that once took days—in seconds. They created a new report on contribution margin per customer that was ready for distribution as soon as the books were closed each month. This report gave their management a better understanding of their most profitable customers and market segments.

“Vena has been a total game changer for us … As things got worse and revenue continued to plummet, we created some custom templates so stakeholders could communicate their revised targets and show us where they planned to make spending cuts. That way, we didn’t have to sit around and wonder what was going to happen … As we stared down major deficits, Vena really helped us determine which pieces to move on the chess board. It helped us stave off some major losses because we were strategic, not reactionary …

“We often talk about ‘agile planning’ in the FP&A environment and I think that’s especially important now. As society advances and technology becomes more prevalent, we have to adapt our business models. Young Life is no different—and that’s what Vena has helped us with,” said Brandon Combs, Director of Camping Budgets and Finance at Young Life.

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3. Citizens Advice

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Citizens Advice is one of the largest and most influential nonprofits in the U.K. With Vena, they built more reliable scenario models for their workforce planning.

Before Vena, their finance team was largely siloed and spent hours on spreadsheet work with multiple versions of the same template floating around. They couldn’t efficiently allocate their staff.

With Vena, their finance team became strategic business partners and began working closely with their budget owners. With up-to-date numbers available on demand, Citizens Advice made better use of their funding by creating more informed and data-driven headcount and OpEx budgets.

“It frees up time for the finance team to collaborate with each budget owner to determine what their headcount numbers should actually look like—and why … This is the platform we needed to help us better manage our finances, better manage our workforce and ultimately make a positive impact on the communities we serve every day,” said Josh Weinberg, Head of Financial Systems and Change at Citizens Advice.

4. Olympia Federal Savings

Olympia_Federal_Savings

Olympia Federal Savings is a community bank based in Olympia, Washington. They have eight branch locations and nearly $800 million in assets. With Vena, Olympia Federal Savings better managed their interest rate risks.

Before Vena, they had only one person—who used nothing but offline spreadsheets—aggregating all their budget inputs. They couldn’t quickly compare interest-earning assets and liabilities at the product level. They also couldn’t reforecast net interest margin on demand or provide a real-time measure of profitability.

With Vena, they accelerated their budget consolidation times by 50% and generated net interest margin forecasts in minutes. They also accelerated their monthly financial reporting from two hours to 30 minutes, which is now ready for distribution just two days after month-end close.

“Our HR team, for example, is running new headcount numbers regularly. Now that we have a dedicated HR cube in Vena, the team can just upload an Excel file from our payroll software right into the database. It’s a much more accurate way of budgeting because we can truly budget by the month instead of allocating new salary expenses across the entire year …

“If this COVID year has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen six months down the road. But now, if something drastic happens, we feel more prepared to adapt and change with the tools and information we need … We can just look at our template quickly and say, ‘Okay, if rates go up or down, this is the impact it will have and this is what we’re going to do,’” said Kristina Ware, VP, Controller at Olympia Federal Savings.

5. Tanger Outlets

Tanger_Outlets

Tanger Outlets is a leading developer of retail outlet centers. With Vena, Tanger Outlets calculated the impact COVID-19 had on their business so they could adapt quickly to uncertain market conditions.

Before Vena, they had time-consuming reporting processes, with workflows of up to 179 actions. They had to manually key in their general ledger data. When account reconciliation entries arrived late, they had to re-save Excel spreadsheets as PDFs, before once again verifying the check marks on their list.

With Vena, they accelerated their historical occupancy reporting, as well as their month-end close time by 50%. They also automated their adjusted EBITDA reporting for their variance analysis.

“Our CFO uses Vena’s Same-Center NOI report to assess the performance of recent property additions … The Same-Center NOI report allows Tanger to calculate and compare NOI growth between properties with greater accuracy,” said Michelle Canada, Director of Financial Reporting at Tanger Outlets.

Business Planning for Uncertainty

While business planning for uncertainty is difficult—especially when it feels like the only constant is change—it’s important to not focus on making the “wrong” decision, but rather on making the “best” decision. With your three- or five-year plans out the window, what does your next year look like? Determine the impact of these current events on your business and prepare for the next uncertainty. Move onward and upward, and focus on making that best decision now.

With Vena, these five companies analyzed their ecosystems holistically and strategically toward making their best decision. They calculated that impact, avoided significant losses and even uncovered opportunities. Now, they’re agile, they can make strategic, data-driven decisions and they’re prepared for whatever comes next.

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