Customer Stories >

How Creative Planning Business Services supercharged client relationships with solutions from BILL

Customer Stories >

How Creative Planning Business Services supercharged client relationships with solutions from BILL

Creative Planning Business Services (formerly BerganKDV) is a leading professional services firm with a contagious culture where growth is fostered and making a difference means something. 

The firm delivers comprehensive business, financial, and technology solutions, including business planning and consulting, tax, assurance and accounting, technology, wealth management, and turnaround management services.

The challenge: Highly regulated nonprofit clients saddled with archaic accounting practices 

As part of their book of business, Creative Planning Business Services works with nonprofits, including many charter schools in the state of Minnesota. Serving these clients can be a challenge due to government regulation, antiquated systems, and lack of awareness around modern accounting solutions. 

“Our charter school clients are mandated by the state of Minnesota to use certain finance systems.” explains Jennifer Klos, Supervisor Staff Accountant, Accounts Payable, at Creative Planning Business Services. “So they don’t use typical accounting software like QuickBooks or Sage Intacct.”

When working with these clients, the firm is often forced to use technology workarounds. For example, they have to upload features via spreadsheets to bring invoices and payments into mandated finance systems or use manual entry processing within those systems.

And to make matters worse, many of the schools rely on paper-based accounting practices. “We often have to cut paper checks,” says Klos. “We are sending them with a mail stamp machine, the whole 9 yards. It is labor intensive.”

Audits have been a heavy lift, as well. “We have to take a big long list of credit card expenses, spend hours plucking through the computer file system, trying to find the expenses and backup to send to the auditors,” Rebecca Williams, Supervisor, Outsourced Business Accounting at Creative Planning Business Services, explains. 

Expense management is also a challenge for their school clients. For example, the lack of coordination around statement closes and autopay meant that many schools go through the month carrying almost double balances. And clients had no way to effectively issue more cards, so expenses were being run through one card shared by many individuals. This made figuring out which person made what purchases difficult. 

The solution: BILL provides transparency and efficiency for accounts payable and expense management

BILL Accounts Payable, BILL Accounts Receivable, and especially BILL Spend & Expense have helped bring these nonprofit charter schools into the modern era. 

For one thing, BILL has eliminated the need for tech workarounds. “The upload spreadsheet features within BILL are a godsend compared to what we had before,” she continues. “Due to government regulations, we can't streamline with their accounting software, so we make up the time and efficiency on our end with BILL.”

“The upload spreadsheet features within BILL are a godsend compared to what we had before.” 

“With BILL Accounts Payable, you can easily see when ACH payments go out,” says Klos. “The follow through and transparency have allowed us to set more meaningful, intentional payment times.”

“Once clients get rolling on BILL, it is so much better. They stop duplicating expenses, they stop overpaying.” says Williams. “Everything comes into BILL. Clients can see it. And we can put together a really nice review process for them so they can approve all the invoices before they get paid.” 

BILL Accounts Payable also provides great follow-up for grant management. Invoices are easily searchable, and locatable notes can be added in as needed. “Our grant advisors can pull the specific invoices if they need to submit for reimbursements,” says Klos. “It was a huge game changer to be able to store invoice information in BILL.” 

Auditing is an important part of servicing nonprofit clients, and BILL has made the whole process better. 

“Minnesota specifically has a very intense set of fund-based accounting regulations. The level of detail with BILL, having everything being in one spot, is so valuable in terms of auditor access, which has been a huge request from clients because they get audited every summer,” Williams says. “With BILL, we can allow the auditors into the system with the appropriate access, have all the records in one place, and just streamline that piece prior to the audit.”

BILL Spend & Expense allows them to overhaul expense management for their clients. “One of the biggest things that sold us on BILL Spend & Expense was the fact that we can customize the chart of accounts,” Klos says. “There are not many software solutions that allow you to customize to that degree.” 

“BILL’s user friendliness and flexibility allows the solution to be what it needs to be for each client, which is really nice,” she continues.

“BILL’s user friendliness and flexibility allows the solution to be what it needs to be for each client.”

The firm benefits: Major efficiencies and more time for advisory services

Advisory services are an important part of Creative Planning Business Services’ offering because many of their clients have a knowledge deficit when it comes to accounting in a highly regulated industry. More robust information from BILL helps them advise clients and steer them in the right direction. “In terms of advisory work, BILL has really provided the insights we need to be able to visualize our clients’ business and help them plan,” says Williams.

Using BILL has increased the comfort level of their AP staff when dealing with day-to-day tasks to the point that they feel confident to take on more of an advisory role without needing extra support.

“Our staff used to have to work a lot with spreadsheets, pulling bank statements for review, those mundane tasks,” recalls Klos. “With BILL, it's all laid out in front of them, they know the system's doing the math for them.” 

In addition to the expansion of their advisory role, BILL solutions have saved time for staff. “Before BILL, when we were working manually, the max a junior accountant could handle was probably about 5 clients comfortably. Now, they can each manage between seven and nine clients,” Klos says. 

“Before BILL, when we were working manually, the max a junior accountant could handle was probably about 5 clients comfortably. Now, they can each manage between 7 and 9 clients.”

They also spend much less time on the monthly close. ““BILL Spend & Expense really speeds up our close at month end, just through efficiencies alone, and then gets the client involved more with their credit card transactions,” says Williams.

BILL has also enabled the firm to better manage client cash flow, giving them better visibility into the cadence of bills. That transparency provides much-need clarity when making financial decisions.

“With BILL, we’re able to see all the invoices in real time. If something unusual happens, we are able to see the changes very quickly,” Klos says. “We can plan for any situation. And BILL definitely streamlines conversations about cash flow, because everybody is on the same page.”

The clients benefit: Streamlined expense management that saves time

BILL Spend & Expense has eased the burden of expense management for the firm’s clients. 

“We've been able to put the responsibility back on the people who are spending to give us the details of the categories for their expenses, put it in layman's terms plus accounting terms, and then export the information in that format,” says Klos.

“BILL Spend & Expense is a huge jump forward,” Klos says. “Many of our clients were using credit card systems with a shaky dashboard and just-OK reporting, whereas BILL works with the touch of a button, any way you want it.”

“Creating a chart of accounts has been really beneficial, too. Rather than having to guess what they purchased at Target this month,” Williams adds. 

The new system has also saved their clients time. “Clients on BILL Spend & Expense have had nothing but good things to say about it and how much it has saved them time,” Klos says. “They don't have to collect the receipts anymore, or code the transactions.” 

“Clients on BILL Spend & Expense have had nothing but good things to say about it and how much it has saved them time.”

The firm’s  clients can also categorize expenses by property when they're recording receipts in BILL, rather than us having to reach out to them with 100 transactions.

Overall, their clients are loving BILL. “All I hear from even our most reluctant clients is how much BILL solutions have freed up their day,” said Klos. 

Summary: Happy clients, thriving practice 

“The excitement and confidence in what we're bringing to our clients is the biggest win for me,” Klos says. “At the end of the day, my job is to make these schools run more smoothly and help make their jobs easier. BILL has made it so we can serve more clients, which is always a huge win. But that look on their face and just the pure joy of, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm not gonna despise doing the credit cards anymore—that has been a huge win.’”

Firm

Creative Planning Business Services (formerly BerganKDV) is a leading professional services firm that offers customized business, financial, and technology solutions to address the most complex challenges that businesses face. The agency’s strategic approach helps clients reduce costs and operate more efficiently across a variety of fields and services throughout the Midwest, including business planning and consulting, tax, audit and accounting, technology, and wealth management.

Industry

Charter schools, nonprofits, and for profits

Number of employees 

628

Headquarters

Bloomington, Minnesota

Customer since

2018

Solutions
  • BILL Accounts Payable
  • BILL Accounts Receivable
  • BILL Spend & Expense 
BILL integrations (accounting software)

QuickBooks Online

Challenges
  • Clients lacked insight into cash flow due to paper-based processes and archaic technologies.
  • Clients had multiple, unorganized credit cards and expense management systems.
  • Finance departments often suffered from manual errors and missing data during month-end reporting.
  • Unwieldy processes limited capacity for firm growth.
Key outcomes
  • Real-time insight into cash flow, enabling the firm to better advise clients 
  • More meaningful, intentional payment times with digital AP
  • Automated, continuous close takes only a few minutes per client.
  • The firm’s staff accountants have increased their capacity from five clients to up to nine.

Related Customer Stories

Dashboard mockup

Ready to get started?

Join the millions who pay or get paid with BILL.

Get started