30 April 2024

Case Study; Sheffield based businesses partner up to provide industry leading forecasting software

Clearview For New Businesses Hero Image

The Idea

One of the largest obstacles companies face when raising new funds, or trying to keep a business afloat, is when owners are asked to prepare financial forecasts. Sheffield-based Steve Carroll heads up Porterdale, a business advisory service who saw many new clients during Covid dealing with this very challenge.

During the Covid lockdowns in 2020, the number of businesses Steve was supporting grew as businesses started to face cash flow challenges. Many business owners and entrepreneurs were either on the brink of insolvency, or at the start of something new and exciting.
Knowing that he had the knowledge and expertise to help, Steve made it his mission to help as many business owners as possible. He was passionate about making business finance less daunting and more inspiring.

Steve Carroll, Owner of ClearviewHub and Porterdale

However, helping clients understand the importance of forecasting and planning became a challenge. Cashflow forecast spreadsheets were simply not up to the job, being error-prone and difficult to keep up to date. Sending out a tailored spreadsheet to each client was also not feasible.
Steve was inspired one day when he found out that even large and established companies still kept old PCs and often used obsolete forecast packages to undertake this task. Steve looked for newer alternatives and couldn’t find any, so he decided to build one himself!

He started by sharing an excel model with Doctor Chris Roast at Sheffield Hallam University. He also recruited financial specialist Lindsey Owen to oversee the project. They both saw first-hand just how overwhelming navigating the financial landscape was for new or struggling business owners.The challenge with the newly created spreadsheet was protecting the formulas and the workings behind the model – as well as making it easily accessible. As the technical complexities grew, the idea of a cloud-based version that could be maintained and accessed remotely became more attractive.

Steve’s goal was to create an online tool to help businesses get a clear picture of their finances by providing industry leading forecasting software designed by finance experts. From there the ClearviewHub was born.

In the middle of June 2020 Steve decided to accelerate the idea and asked for Expressions of Interest on a local forum hosted by Sheffield Digital. Several local companies got in touch, and he was impressed by the strength of local talent. Having spoken to many, he started working with Sheffield based software consultants, The Curve in November 2020.

If it doesn’t exist, build it!

From the very first call, The Curve’s enthusiasm and knowledge shone through. As a relatively new business themselves, they understood the challenges ClearviewHub was looking to address. From very early on it felt like a genuine partnership.
Steve says, “It felt as though they understood and were excited by the project. They came up with positive suggestions, not just blindly doing what we asked.”

ClearviewHub software

During the onboarding period, The Curve followed a structured approach, ensuring that they fully understood and documented the scope of the project. Sufficient detail was provided to agree what was needed, without thousands of pages of technical information. ClearviewHub and The Curve were able to use the spreadsheet developed with Sheffield Hallam University as a guide and example, which the team ran through when needed to ensure there was a full understanding. Sitting down around a table was the preferred approach by both sides. There thorough consultation, and the excel model was recreated using Steve’s extensive knowledge of financial forecasting as well as the expertise from The Curve on the technical side.
Steve continues, “They were responsive and good at communicating, and at critical points we had daily stand-up meetings with them. I was also pleased that many checks were built into the model to ensure integrity.”

When the team came up against any challenges during the project, they worked collaboratively with the ClearviewHub team to skilfully realign it via a constructive and pragmatic approach, maintaining this mindset until the project reached its conclusion.

The result so far: –

ClearviewHub has helped over 300 users so far, and feedback from current users has been positive, with customers saying that they love having an integrated forecast with all the important financial details in one place.

The benefits for ClearviewHub customers include: –
• An integrated cloud-based p&l, cashflow and balance sheet forecasting tool
• Seeing at a glance the difference between profit and cash.
• Understanding how healthy their cashflow is.
• Understanding what profit is being generated, and if not, why not.
• Helping businesses to decide what to do next.
• Helping businesses to influence investors or funders to agree to investment, grants and loans.
• Full reassurance that users are always using the correct and most up to date version.
Since launching ClearviewHub, the team have realised that their customers have related financial knowledge gaps and requirements, including a wide variety of financial topics such as how to calculate redundancy pay or easy access to funding information.
Therefore, ClearviewHub has recently evolved to become a go-to community hub for all things business finance. As with their sister company Porterdale, both Steve and Lindsey at ClearviewHub are dedicated to empowering businesses with the knowledge and expertise they need for growth by providing resources and tools that are free forever.

Looking to the future

Steve envisions a time when business owners will be able to make better business decisions faster, using the latest technology, and that more business owners will have the confidence to build their decisions based on forecasts and data rather than hearsay and guestimates. Now that ClearviewHub includes extensive templates and useful links, he hopes it will empower business owners to build on their financial understanding and learn to love business finance.
Steve has great ambitions for ClearviewHub going forward. He’s looking to introduce more and more features and templates. In fact, the newly created “community hub” is just the beginning.

Steve added “Our business runs on recommendations from the local area, and we like to do the same back to other local businesses. During our project we’ve seen The Curve grow from a few staff to where they are now and that’s testament to how good they are.”