When Bart Vittori joined Meats By Linz as CFO in 2018, data-driven FP&A had never been well established at the Illinois-based meat purveyor. The company’s owners had done a great job managing accounting functions, but they still relied on “static, back-of-the-napkin financial statements” to support their strategic decision making.
“We didn’t have much of a budgeting, forecasting or monthly reporting process at all when I got here,” he says. “And that’s because the company had only ever experienced growth up to that point. I guess you could say steady growth was always the plan—but when it came to actually laying it all out, analyzing the numbers throughout the year and guiding the business based on analysis, we just weren’t very consultative.”
As a result, Bart had a hard time reporting on key KPIs—such as sales volume by territory and operating expenses for distribution centres—in real time. That made it difficult to respond to evolving demand trends and to allocate resources efficiently based on a reliable set of revenue targets.
“Any reporting I could do was done with just Excel, which would take a long time to pull together manually,” says Bart. “So when I did manage to produce reports, those numbers would already be outdated. Our balance sheets were always strong, but we were a bit slow to pick up on things if there was an opportunity to make more money somewhere and really improve the business.”
Having previously worked at public companies with more mature FP&A functions, Bart was eager to implement a planning platform and take Meats By Linz to the next level. He was drawn to Vena’s Complete Planning solution for two primary reasons: 1) the familiarity of the platform’s native Excel interface and 2) its integration capabilities with Canopy, which is Meats By Linz’s ERP system. Together, these features allowed Bart to build one source of truth for cross-functional planning data—and ultimately empower leadership with real-time insights into business performance.
“I needed to get budgeting and forecasting off the ground fast, and what I loved about Vena right away is that I can do those things in Excel. The data just populates automatically,” says Bart. “With other systems, I’ve always found that I’d be going back to Excel for reporting and analysis anyway. It's pretty great to have all our data integrated in a familiar format.”
Extended Planning with Vena also made it easy for Bart to simplify sales planning, workforce planning and KPI analysis with dashboards. Now he’s got stronger partnerships with stakeholders across the business—and that’s because he communicates business results in a language that everyone can understand.
“The big thing with Vena is the speed. I can look at our data and crank out ad hoc reports in five minutes,” he says. “Our sales reps have their own dashboards too so they can see what’s performing and give us some context about what’s happening in the market. All of this just makes it so much easier to sit down as a team and say, 'This is where we’re headed, and this is what we need to do.’”
Now that he’s working with Vena, Bart is fulfilling his role as a strategic partner to the business, leveraging agile reporting and analysis for more confident, data-driven decision making. This was especially crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic as Meats By Linz grappled with the consequences of restaurant closures across the country. As the company pivoted its operations strategy as a result, Bart was always looking ahead with Vena and charting the best path forward. That’s the real benefit, he says, of having company-wide data at your fingertips.
“We’ve definitely been hit hard, but Vena made us more comfortable because we can really trust the data,” he says. “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.”
One of those sales-driving investments has been in the company’s e-commerce channel. Now Meats By Linz delivers “care packages” to consumers directly, which has really helped fill the revenue void and balance their inventory surplus.
“The reports in Vena showed us that e-commerce was our only viable revenue segment through all this, so we doubled down on our marketing spend and started to make it work. We thought it would take three years to add this many B2C customers, but we did it in three months,” says Bart. “Now we’re seeing the fruits of that labor in our Vena dashboards. Everything else might be down but e-commerce is going up—and Vena helps us tell that story in a really powerful way.”