At the start of 2020, RVezy founders William Thompson and Michael McNaught were preparing for a year of unprecedented growth. The Ottawa-based entrepreneurs had finished their Series A and secured the interest of venture capitalists. They were making plans to expand operations to the U.S. Their online RV rental marketplace, featured on season 12 of Dragon’s Den, had grown from 70 RV listings in early 2017 to well over 3,000 by the end of 2019. With a promising year ahead, they hired more staff and began to look at their technology and workflows.
Similar to Airbnb, RVezy’s business centers around an online platform through which owners can list RVs and travelers can rent them. Knowing technology was an important aspect of their business, Thompson and McNaught invested heavily in R&D and were the first amongst their competitors to launch an owner/renter app in October 2018. But while RVezy’s technology team had always been very much an online operation, other aspects of the business, particularly their bookkeeping and accounting processes, were not.
Thompson knew that RVezy’s projected growth in 2020 necessitated an overhaul of their financial infrastructure.
“When you begin a start-up, you can’t afford a Chief Financial Officer,” says Thompson, “but you need to have CFO-ready processes. Most small businesses or start-ups have certain strengths, but not all will have strengths in accounting. People might be good at technology, sales, and marketing, but lack the accounting knowledge and best practices.”
Where those best practices were missing at RVezy was expenses. They’d gone through three iterations of payment processing without landing on the right system. They were using a mix of email, Excel, paper receipts, and Expensify to manage their documents and receipts. Not only did this result in unallocated expenses, but it limited their ability to clearly assess their costs. What RVezy needed were tech-savvy, agile processes that would not only grow with the business but empower Thompson and McNaught to make informed business decisions based on the most accurate financial data available.
Blueprint for Success
In February 2020, RVezy began working with Blueprint Accounting. The first step for Blueprint was to gain a thorough understanding of RVezy’s business model and workflows, and then recommend cloud-based apps and accounting software programs suited to their needs.
“Blueprint didn’t try to force us to fit their workflow,” says Thompson, “they aligned with ours. If we’d had a chance to have Blueprint analyze our needs and make a recommendation earlier, we’d probably have gotten to the payment processing program we needed in one go!”
Blueprint helped RVezy build new processes for their chart of accounts, pre-purchase approval process, payments process, and expense management. The focus was on creating an integrated, cloud-based system that would scale (at least for a time) with RVezy as the business grew. This included converting their manual document and expense tracking process into a paperless one. The process involved moving them to Receipt Bank, and helping them implement ApprovalMax to manage purchases of their dedicated insurance product (the first insurance product created for the sharing of RVs).
Using cloud-based accounting programs and apps enabled RVezy to automate many of their processes and workflows. Management and approval of these processes could be handled remotely, and Thompson and McNaught suddenly found themselves with instant access to up-to-date information on their costs and expenses. The timing of RVezy’s work with Blueprint, as it turned out, was fortuitous.
In late March, when Canadians were told to work from home and shelter in place in order to stop the spread of COVID-19, the travel industry suffered. Old bookings were canceled, new bookings dried up, and no one had any sense of when things might return to normal. “The interruption was as severe for us as for every other travel company,” says Thompson.
A retired military officer, Thompson’s instinct was to start developing contingency plans. First, he built out the worst-case scenario: COVID-19 shutdowns continuing throughout the entire summer (what he called “The Winston Churchill Plan”). Then, he built out models and cash flow projections for the next least worst case, and so forth. “We came up with about four scenarios,” says Thompson. “No bookings in April, no bookings in May, no bookings in June, no bookings in July. And then made plans. Like, if these two months are gone, this is what we’re going to do.”
The accuracy and accessibility of RVezy’s new cloud-based financial data were vital to the development of these projections.
“We had a much better handle and visibility on our costs,” says Thompson, “which put us in a strong position to make models, plan business decisions, evaluate our eligibility for government subsidies and grants, and submit applications quickly.”
To B2B and Back Again
Another significant benefit to RVezy’s early collaboration with Blueprint was time. With cloud-based systems already in place, they didn’t have to spend time figuring out how to shift manual bookkeeping and accounting processes online as many other companies did. Instead, they were able to focus their energy and resources not only on contingency planning but on a creative B2B pivot.
RVezy shifted its focus to supporting emergency workers, giving doctors, nurses, hospital workers, and first responders the option to self-isolate in an RVezy RV at no cost. The initiative mobilized the RVezy fleet, gained encouraging support from RV owners, and gave the RVezy staff something positive to focus on.
After the first eight weeks of shutdown, RVezy adopted a position of cautious optimism. Many provinces in Canada had successfully flattened the curve and were discussing reopening plans. As the need to provide self-isolation options for emergency workers lessened, RVezy turned back to their B2C operations.
“Once we really understood the crisis, and looked at our modeling, it became important to pivot our team to thinking about the future,” says Thompson.
Dubbed “Operation Slingshot” by the team, RVezy’s focus became preparing for the recovery and the pent-up demand that they knew was just over the horizon.
Though no one can be certain what the future holds, for now, there’s cause to be optimistic. RVezy now has over 5,000 RVs listed on its site, and Canadians keen to travel within their own provinces this summer have started to place bookings.
Says Thompson, “You can never foresee sudden crises, but you can build forward thinking and contingency planning into your business.” He adds, “Our experience with Blueprint has been so positive. We feel Blueprint is a partner that we can come back to and engage with about our workflows and processes as we grow.”
SUMMARY OF KEY OUTCOMES
By working with Blueprint to move their bookkeeping and accounting to a cloud-based platform earlier this year, RVezy was in a better position to innovate and adapt to the new realities and challenges of running a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ability to automate processes, workflows, and approvals, as well as to remotely communicate and share data with their bookkeeper and accountant enabled RVEzy to smoothly transition to working from home.
Up-to-date and accurate financial data gave RVezy an improved understanding of their costs and expenses, enabling them to develop projections that informed crucial business decisions during an unprecedented crisis.
Building a cloud-based bookkeeping and accounting ecosystem in February freed RVezy from having to develop those tools in the middle of the pandemic. This enabled them to dedicate their time, focus, and resources to planning their B2B pivot and preparing for the recovery.
RVezy: Canada’s Largest And Most Affordable RV Rental Marketplace
Rvezy offers RV rental Canadian locations from coast to coast. Their mission is to bring together like-minded people who help create an ecosystem that allows travel and vacationing in an RV to be accessible, reliable, safe and easy. Visit Rvezy’s about us page to know more about them. To book an RV or to list your RV with RVezy, click here.
Blueprint Accounting’s commitment to help
Blueprint will do everything we can to ensure that businesses have the accurate and up-to-date bookkeeping and financial records they need in order to speed their applications for benefits, financing, and lines of credit.
Whether you’ve fallen behind in your bookkeeping, or would like more information on how to prep your books and your business for the reopening, Blueprint is here to help. For businesses struggling to implement the CEWS (75% wage subsidy) or the Temporary Wage Subsidy (10% subsidy), apply for the CEBA loan ($40K loan), we are here to help you do so as fast as possible.