If you rely on a ceiling fan to keep you cool on hot summer nights, there’s a pretty good chance it was made by Hunter Fan Company. The Memphis-based manufacturer is a fan industry titan—which poses some unique challenges for the firm’s finance and accounting teams. In order to maximize profitability with a true understanding of Hunter’s revenue drivers, monthly reporting and forecasting need to be quick and reliable processes. But prior to working with Vena, that just wasn’t the case.
“Everything we were doing was really manual,” says Jeremy Vance, a Senior Accountant at Hunter. “I’d download reports from Spreadsheet Server, but I’d still have to manually input it all into this Excel template. We have about 90 departments here, so doing that for each one and getting it all out on time for forecasting was very tedious and time consuming.”
This made it difficult for Jeremy to report on key metrics—such as gross margin per customer, for example—in a timely, detailed fashion. Even if he did manage to create an in-depth report, the numbers might already be outdated by the time it was ready to go. Hunter’s decision makers were flying blind sometimes as a result—because with no easy way to know which customers were the most profitable, they couldn’t forecast revenue or focus their resources with any real confidence.
“It used to take us a whole week to put together a contribution margin report,” says Jeremy. “We couldn't really tell how accurate it was either. We would just throw numbers here and throw numbers there with no real idea of how to split it all up between customers.”
When Jeremy teamed up with Vena at the end of 2018, his top two priorities were to streamline monthly forecasting and standardize internal reporting—ultimately setting the stage for more reliable revenue planning overall. With Vena’s Complete Planning platform, Jeremy automated the flow of data between his ERP (JD Edwards) and a central planning database, creating a single source of truth for accurate, up-to-date financials.
“One of the big selling points for us was the ability to stay in Excel and interact with the Vena database that way. It made this a lot easier to roll out,” he says. “Our upper management has been absolutely thrilled with Vena. We’re doing things now that we never thought were possible.”
One of those breakthroughs is a new report on contribution margin per customer, which is ready for distribution as soon as the books are closed each month. Vena maps each revenue transaction back to its corresponding GL account code, then the data is consolidated neatly in a pre-built Excel template. When it’s time to refresh the report, all Jeremy has to do is just click a button in Vena—saving him days of manual work and a lot of unnecessary headaches.
“Instead of copying and pasting all the time and spending days on each of our reports, everything we need is always at our fingertips in Vena,” he says. “With the contribution margin report, now we can easily tell which customers we’re making the most profit from and pinpoint where we are financially at any given moment.”
Now that Hunter’s management has more insight into the company’s revenue drivers, they’ve been able to allocate resources and nurture customers more strategically. Also, because Jeremy and his teammates are producing reliable forecasts faster, they’re spending a lot more time actually analyzing the company’s revenue streams.
“Vena gives us accurate data, which gives our managers more confidence in the numbers. If they can see we’re making profits in one area but not so much in another, it helps them figure out where we should put our resources,” he says. “Our e-commerce segment is a good example of that, because it really soared last year as folks did home improvement projects during COVID. Now we can report how much money we’re making in e-commerce and plan accordingly.”
As Hunter Fan Company continues to evolve, Jeremy is looking forward to introducing Vena to other business areas for things like CapEx, headcount planning, supply chain management and more. He says Vena’s flexibility with Excel is one of the platform’s biggest strengths—because Vena gives him the freedom to work the way he thinks.
“I think Vena is one of the best investments we’ve ever made at this company,” says Jeremy. “It’s saved us a ton of time and helped us get more accurate numbers. Just a fantastic solution overall.”