Industry: Energy & Utilities
Location: West Point, GA
GL System: NetSuite
“Planning Maestro is very easy to use in that regard because we can download a set of drivers or set our operating costs, tweak them as necessary, then upload them back into the system. And in no time at all I have a working budget for the new contract in just an hour.”
Streamlined Planning and Analytics Saves Time and Provides Greater Visibility into the Future
Founded in April of 2010, Amwaste, LLC is a full-service waste and recycling company with operations in Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana. Amwaste began serving in the Birmingham market with its roll off (demolition removal services) and landfill operations and has since expanded its service offerings to include everything from residential garbage collection to recycling to portable toilets and holding tanks.
Amwaste is a collection of multiple entities, organized by state and landfill, each requiring its own budget and forecast. Additionally, an overall budget and forecast is needed for the parent company, Matter Management Enterprises.
Complicating matters further, each service offered has unique business drivers that shape the companies. For instance, in the residential pickup business, revenue is driven by the number of homes under contract or serviced, while expenses are driven by days in the month (the longer the month the more pickups required). Roll-off customers are charged based on the number of services provided, while commercial front load customers are charged a fixed monthly fee, but the longer the month, the higher the labor costs.
Originally, Amwaste had just three entities, each of which had its own QuickBooks database and budget. To create an annual budget, Amwaste’s CFO, David Carlisle, pulled data from the three QuickBooks databases and manually re-entered it into three separate Excel spreadsheets. Once the spreadsheets were completed he rolled them up to a single budget for the company.
As the company began to grow, however, Mr. Carlisle wanted a more streamlined and accurate way to manage the overall budgeting process. He was familiar with Planning Maestro, a robust FP&A platform, as he purchased it for a former employer. He was eager to bring the same benefits to Amwaste. “Planning Maestro does a great job in handling our drivers. We can put everybody on a regular, odd day, 40-hour week schedule, and then apply an overtime rule based on the type of job we have. It works really well,” Mr. Carlisle explained.
Mr. Carlisle particularly likes the advanced reporting features part of the platform, which provide accurate and reliable graphical representations of Amwaste’s financial data, and integrates with its GL. “I see great benefits, from both the planning and analytics side – the reporting functionality in particular is a huge time saver.”
Rolling Budgets Provide Insight into the 18 Months Ahead
Using QuickBooks and spreadsheets Mr. Carlisle was able to cobble together a two-year rolling budget. But he wanted a five-year rolling forecast, with a particular focus on the 18-month horizon. “I’m not as concerned about years three, four and five as I am with what the next 18 months look like for the business,” he said. Eighteen months is the sweet spot for Amwaste because it’s far enough into the future to plan for critical drivers, such as labor costs, and fine tune each company plan based on new contracts as required.
That’s not to say that the forecasts beyond 18 months aren’t helpful. Mr. Carlisle considers them “a gift.” While forecasts are more or less predictions, or educated guesses, it’s nice to know that, based on current actuals and existing contracts, where the company is likely to be in the mid-term future.
For companies that rely on spreadsheets, monthly forecasts are a luxury that require countless staff hours to compile. It’s one of the reasons why Mr. Carlisle was eager for Amwaste to get up and running on Planning Maestro. Now, once monthly actuals come in, he easily updates the forecasts for each entity, enabling him to monitor each company’s health, as well as the overall financial picture for Matter Management Enterprises. This process, which takes about an hour, sharpens his vision of what the future holds.
Accurate Proposals in 60 Minutes
Amwaste still relies on spreadsheets to build sales proposals, but for complex ones, such as responding to an RFP from a municipality, Mr. Carlisle will first build a budget in Planning Maestro using all of the correct drivers and actual costs. The result is a more accurate proposal, a critical criteria for long-term contracts. Underestimating costs can result in long-term losses. If they’re wrong, they’re wrong for the next five years. “Planning Maestro is very easy to use in that regard because we can download a set of drivers or set our operating costs, tweak them as necessary, then upload them back into the system. And in no time at all I have a working budget for the new contract in just an hour,” said Mr. Carlisle. “It’s the same with operating costs. It just doesn’t take very long to forecast.”
Easier Business Planning
With all of the financial data in Planning Maestro, Amwaste always has a “snapshot” of the business, which Mr. Carlisle can use as a starting point for creating next year’s budget for each entity. What once was a long and arduous process is now just a matter of tweaking based on contract status.
Easier Quarterly Reporting
One of the biggest benefits for Amwaste is the ease with which Mr. Carlisle can create quarterly reports for their banks and investors. “All I need to do is press refresh and Planning Maestro pulls all the data from relevant sources and populates the report. Back when we used QuickBooks this took me days, but now I can produce them all in an hour. It’s a huge time saver.”
Superlative Support Staff
Implementing new solutions is always a challenge, and success is often driven by the vendor’s ability to troubleshoot and respond quickly. In this regard, Mr. Carlisle has nothing but praise for Centage. “The support staff is fantastic. We’ve had issues on our end, but our Centage team has helped us resolve them quickly.”
Like many companies today, Amwaste’s financial team is short staffed, leaving existing team members with more responsibilities. The automations and intelligence built into Planning Maestro means the team spends far less time on creating proposals, delivering quarterly reports and producing monthly forecasts — time that can be used to focus on other tasks.