Professional services firms live and die by two things: Their relationships, and their data. The two are closely connected, but every service firm is unique in terms of what that connection is. These are exactly the kinds of cases where Claris FileMaker shines: It is flexible enough to handle the unique workflow of any professional services business, plus it has the added benefit of allowing you to fully own your own data.
Commander Financial Services, LLC (hereafter just “Commander Financial”) provides a great example of a business using FileMaker to increase efficiency in serving other businesses.
Commander Financial exists to help used-car dealerships maximize their profits and run sustainable operations, no matter what the current economic climate is like. This includes lending money to used-car dealerships in order to secure inventory to sell (also known as floor planning), and helping those dealerships track and manage those loans.
Although Commander Financial sounds like a financial firm—a not-entirely inaccurate description!—its model is unique in that it offers a more personal kind of lending and loan management service for dealerships. Partly for this reason, Commander Financial’s needs are more in line with those of other professional services firms.
Indeed, for Commander Financial, service is everything. They stake their reputation on prompt communication and accurate information. And even though each franchise has just a dozen or so clients, each client needs to have a large number of transactions processed each week.
Before Commander Financial was started, the owners tried to create a spreadsheet (using Apple Numbers) for critical calculations. But it quickly became clear that entering and updating the needed data would be a bottleneck. So one of the owners, Josh Tarbet, sought out help from the local Apple Store. Realizing the scope of what needed to be done, the salesperson there wisely suggested he reach out to Skeleton Key to build a custom application to handle these transactions.
“Lending to used-car dealerships is a very niche business. Skeleton Key took the time to figure it out and build an app for what we needed. It works, and it makes us extremely efficient.” —Josh Tarbet, Co-Owner of Commander Financial
The first thing Skeleton Key did was listen to Josh in order to thoroughly understand his business and its day-to-day workflow. Because Commander was in a niche business, and because customer service was so important, we wanted to make sure we understood all of the details, instead of making assumptions.
Using what we learned, we were able to create a custom database and front-end portal for his dealership clients. Those clients can enter their information with the easy-to-use portal and manage their loans from within it, saving them time and cutting down the chance of human error.
Because of those conversations and our collaboration, we were able to “get inside the heads” of the owners and employees at Commander Financial and produce exactly what they needed. The ending application proved its worth in increased:
- Efficiency. The application cut down their estimates of the effort that would be required to manage each client and their related transactions, and streamlined their process. The user interface made day-to-day interactions with dealerships that much easier and less prone to human error.
- Scalability. The application has proven that it can work even with a dramatic increase in the number of clients or transactions. As Tarbet says, “The app is so scalable, I’m not worried at all about growing my business!”
- Ability to franchise. Once Commander Financial proved that their business model could work and be supported by the application, they began to grow the business through franchising. Because the application was built to be somewhat customizable, it was easily adapted for other franchises, providing a supportive but flexible structure for the business.
What Can Your Firm Build With FileMaker?
Whether your firm is starting from the ground up, dissatisfied with an off-the-shelf solution, struggling with spreadsheets, or just looking to upgrade an older version of FileMaker to meet its more current requirements, Skeleton Key can help you build a custom application to improve your workflow (and let you keep ownership of your precious data).
Here’s just a small sample of the kinds of things professional services firms can do with a custom business application built using FileMaker:
- Plan multiple projects and allocate personnel resources
- Track clients and keep their accounts up to date with a custom CRM
- Create an easy-to-use self-service web portal for customers
- Streamline billing and account aging
- Categorize, store and search for needed documents
- Track billable hours (billed to your firm or a client)
- Use data dashboards for easier business intelligence decisions
- Automate financial, operational and compliance reporting
Does this list spark some ideas for business processes and workflows you would like to make more efficient? Or perhaps highlight some areas where your own firm is experiencing a “work rut” that makes it inefficient? The team here at Skeleton Key would love to discuss those ideas and help start you down the road of a unique, customized solution. Simply fill out the form here for a free consultation.