Terrell Turner is a NY Times featured CFO and a 40 under 40 CPA, who has worked with Fortune 500 companies to early stage startups. He is now the co-founder of TLTurner Group, which is an Accounting and Fractional CFO service to SMEs and Law Firms across the States. We’ve gotten to know him over the last few months and thought his story and perspective is nothing short of inspiring, so we reached out to feature him in this week's case study.
Terrell was the first to graduate from college in his family. After working 3 jobs simultaneously to fund his way through college, he knew he wanted to break into business and after hearing Warren Buffet’s famous quote ‘Accounting is the language of business’ he decided to pursue a masters degree at the University of Notre Dame on a scholarship from a big 4 accounting firm.
What did you learn in the early years of your career?
I started my career in a big 4 accounting firm, working in audit for a few years. That’s when I really started to understand the importance of processes and understanding them end to end in detail.
Understanding every step of a process in detail allows you to identify problems before they occur and implement a solution which you know won’t disrupt the process as a whole and in turn, keep your business running.
I then moved around for a few years, from being a financial analyst to working in investor relations at Fortune 500 companies that were raising capital and acquiring businesses. Taking my previous experience of identifying and solving problems in current processes to redesigning the financial models these companies worked with.
Processes are super important, especially in finance. What led you to starting TLTurner Group?
Throughout these years I was doing some consulting for some SMEs and whilst they wanted me to work full time, they couldn’t afford to pay me a full time salary. That’s where I realized, there’s a huge gap in the market for SMEs who want access to CFOs.
I started TLTurner Group as an end to end finance solution for SMEs, hired a team to run bookkeeping services and offered accounting and fractional CFO services.
Impressive! That resonates with our mission at LiveFlow where we aim to support SMEs in bringing clarity and increase their productivity when dealing with their financials.
What would you choose - Excel or Google Sheets?
Google Sheets all the way. It has evolved a lot over the last couple years. One of the main reasons I use Google Sheets is because it’s cloud-based and you can track version history pretty easily. One of the companies I was working for was in a hyper-growth stage and after closing a funding round started acquiring other companies. They lived in Excel.
The CFO was getting ready to present a model and ended up presenting the wrong version as we had over 200 versions of the same model in Excel that we constantly updated. Using Google Sheets is a much easier way to share and manage data.
Although Excel can store more data, clients expect you to use a tool which you can collaborate on easily. There’s also the misconception that you can only connect different spreadsheets on Excel but you can do it with Google Sheets too.
That’s quite the story 😅! How do you use Google Sheets with your clients?
Since we’re becoming more accustomed to remote working, Google Sheets makes sharing data much easier. Some of my clients operate in different time zones, so if we were to use Excel we’d constantly be going back and forth sharing updates spreadsheets via email. The problem with that is, if my client wanted to work on the spreadsheet whilst away, they’d have to wait until I’m back to share the most updated version.
With Google Sheets we can work and comment on the spreadsheet simultaneously, at any time.
I also work with quite a few law firms who are pretty used to using Excel and sharing reports on PDFs. Once I showed them their data on Google Sheets using LiveFlow, they were impressed that they could comment on figures and see their data updated in real time, without having to chase me for updates.
Optimizing for productivity! How do you use LiveFlow’s Google Sheets Add-on?
At first I used it for reporting and research. For example, a new client of mine would ask how the current figures in the reports came about. I’d pull detailed reports using LiveFlow and use the drill down feature which would allow me to see every transaction that led to said figure. This was great as I didn’t have to go back and forth asking my clients questions or digging into Quickbooks.
Another time saver was, whenever the chart of accounts change, I don’t have to recreate reports from scratch. They automatically update in LiveFlow, with real time data being pulled in, which the clients can also see. I’m saving around 14 hours a month by automating these manual tasks. My reviewing time has been cut down significantly over the last few months, which means I’ve now doubled my capacity for my bookkeeping clients.
Recently, I’ve been using the live data pulled in using LiveFlow to build models for companies who are raising capital. Which not only adds value to my clients but because of the time saved from manual tasks, I have more time to actually explain what the reports actually mean to my clients. I think this is key for any CFO, to take the time and explain what the reports and models actually mean and start forecasting different scenarios.
What advice would you give to Accountants who are trying to become Fractional CFOs?
I think one of the key skills a CFO should have is being great at reporting and finding a way to streamline the reporting process. Reason being, is what’s actually most important is having the time to analyse and actually explain what it all means to your clients, that’s what they’re paying you for.
Your clients should understand the financial health of their business and make operational decisions based on this.
What’s next for you?
I want to make my business more scalable and actually start a service that provides financial and operational data using automation. The end goal is for me to work less, as I’ve been working 16-18hrs a day since I’ve started pursuing my career.
I want to spend more of my time creating educational content for finance professionals, which is something I’ve already started by building out the Business Talks Library.
Want to to try out LiveFlow too? Install it for your Google Sheets for free here.
Still have questions? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear from you!