ÅBEN launched its first beer, Brew 61, in 2017, a name that reflects the number of attempts it took to perfect the recipe. Since then, they have been busy. ÅBEN has expanded its presence by opening new bars in Aarhus, Roskilde, Copenhagen and Copenhagen Airport. Also, ÅBEN is behind the beer festival KALAS and the music festival O Days.
In 2023, ÅBEN entered into a partnership with Francis to streamline their budgeting, forecasting, and reporting processes across all of its business areas, which are now handled through eight separate entities.
Two years ago, Mia Lysemose joined ÅBEN as the finance manager during a period when the company faced rapid growth and was making significant CAPEX investments in new production facilities.
Originally, ÅBEN had developed an Excel model for budgeting and forecasting. The primary focus was on cash flow monitoring, recognizing that the CAPEX investments would have substantial effects on their liquidity.
However, the Excel model became too big and complicated, leading to a few problems
Ownership and changes over time: Although Mia was responsible for the financial model, it wasn’t straightforward. Many people had worked on it over time, each making changes. This led to the model slowly drifting away from how it was originally set up, making it difficult to track down why the numbers sometimes didn’t make sense.
Complexity leads to 'excel paralysis': The Excel model was big and complicated. It had everything - tabs for each part of the business, data imports, different forecasting scenarios. Every time they added a new part to ÅBEN, it had to be added to the model. This meant new financial details and tweaking the whole system for any overlaps with our other businesses. The team also had to update the model regularly for the banks and creditors. But with each update, there was a bigger chance of making a mistake because of all the complex formulas they had to adjust.
“Our Excel model was very manual and updating it was a frustrating task. I’m done with that Excel model.”
Lack of integration with the ERP system: Manual data entry for actuals meant there was no assurance of their accuracy. Furthermore, when developing models for new entities, there was no efficient method to guarantee that all items from the chart of accounts were comprehensively included.
As ÅBEN began to expand its finance team, the upgrade to modern financial tools became a priority. By the fall of 2023, it was clear that it was time to update their budgeting software.
"Every accountant seems to push for using PowerBI and similar tools, but they can feel outdated and too focused on reporting. At ÅBEN, we’re looking for web-based, up-to-date tools. Francis fits the bill perfectly, assisting with both the actual budgeting process AND providing a user-friendly reporting format.
We assessed various FP&A platforms and conducted demos with several providers. We chose Francis because it's modern, user-friendly, and handles consolidations exceptionally well.”
The finance team has developed a single financial model within Francis for all eight entities. Each entity has its own tab, mapped with its specific chart of accounts, enabling automatic import of actual figures. Moreover, an additional tab is dedicated to consolidating all the data while also removing inter-company transactions. Overall, the entire model consists of just nine tabs, since functions like versioning and data imports are integrated within the platform itself.
During onboarding, Francis held weekly check-ins with ÅBEN conducted over a month. Mia, ÅBEN's finance manager, highlighted the check-ins as an excellent method for learning the tool. The sessions focused on addressing the particular obstacles the team encountered, while also making sure they were making consistent progress.
We initiated the onboarding process by constructing a model for ÅBEN’s most straightforward entity. The first model served as a proof-of-concept, that the finance team could then reference going forward. This process entailed:
1. Developing the P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.
2. Linking these financial statements to the appropriate chart of accounts.
3. Implementing control checks for the balance sheet and cash flow statement.
After having successfully implemented a proof-of-concept for the first entity, ÅBEN was able to continue independently. The finance team used the initial model as a reference point for guidance in case any questions arose.
"I was surprised by how straightforward it was. In my mind, I had made it out to be a complex challenge. But once you actually sit down with it, it's quite manageable. For instance, when I needed to consolidate our balance sheet, I decided to work from home to avoid any interruptions. And there I was, just an hour later, thinking 'Is that it?’.
I think I've reached out to support maybe two or three times, mostly for issues where the control checks indicated there were errors. But I've also felt a sense of accomplishment in resolving the issues that the control checks brought to my attention on my own.”
The ÅBEN finance team has identified six key benefits gained from utilizing Francis:
Resource savings: In the past, the finance team dedicated an immense amount of time to updating their model to meet their specific requirements. For instance, they would spend one to two days each month just on report preparation, which involved adjusting figures and time frames for both budget and forecast versions across all entities. Now, with Francis, these reports can be generated instantly. "The resource drain was indescribable. In my previous Excel model, there were times I'd grapple with an issue for days before eventually bringing in our accountant. With Francis, that's no longer the case.”
Ensure correctness: With native data connections and built-in versioning, the finance team now trust the numbers. This allows them to provide management and stakeholders with all the necessary information more swiftly and with greater confidence. “I feel much more secure updating my model in Francis than in Excel. Since it is connected to our ERP and I’ve set up control checks, I’m assured that it’s set up correctly, which is a huge relief.”
Flexibility: In addition to the main model that includes financial statements for the eight entities and a consolidation, there is also significant potential for tailored analysis. Since Francis functions like a spreadsheet, the finance team can effortlessly compute custom KPIs and enhance their model with additional analysis. "Our stakeholders have different reporting needs, so I'm genuinely enthusiastic about the adaptability that Francis offers, allowing us to tailor our model exactly as we need."
Improved collaboration: Prior to adopting Francis, the finance team had to create an Excel template for bar managers and then manually incorporate their input into the main model. With Francis, bar managers can now have direct access to their most recent figures through the platform, reducing the resources required from the finance department. Additionally, by assigning collaborators as viewers, the finance team can maintain control and prevent any unauthorized alterations.
Enhanced insights: The new model allows the finance team to inform budgeting decisions with historical data. For instance, in formulating the 2024 budget, they chose not to project values from 2023 but instead to use actual data from Q3 2023 as a reliable benchmark. Concurrently, they now have the capability to contrast fixed budgets with ongoing forecasts and display the variances through charts that update in real time.
Scalability: With their new FP&A system, ÅBEN can quickly set up new entities as they grow and add new ideas or opportunities from the management team with ease.