Enkel Helps Cornerstone Planning Group Get the Insights They Need to Grow
Cornerstone Planning Group (Cornerstone) is a consultancy specializing in strategic planning for public sector organizations; in particular, strategic organizational planning and the infrastructure requirements that support them. Cornerstone has been in operation since 1974 and their typical strategic planning projects include facility/functional programming, feasibility studies, needs analyses, space planning, organizational and operational reviews, long-range master plans, and phased development strategies.
The Cornerstone Model, developed over 50 years of doing business, focuses on resources as an interconnected system, and on activities as the driver of space. The model is anchored in the belief that every organization works to achieve its mandate with five core resources – Human, Facilities, Equipment, Information, and Financial. The resources are interdependent meaning that changes to one, impacts all the others.
Cornerstone projects span sectors from health to education, communities to operations, and justice to fire halls. They work with partners in government, Indigenous communities and organizations, and the private sector. The Cornerstone team members and partners are each committed to providing clients with the tools they need to make informed decisions about resource requirements that will meet their mandates in an ever-changing environment. The relationships from their projects often continue for decades.
Quentin Talbot-Kelly is a partner at Cornerstone. He is a classically trained mechanical engineer who started his career doing heavy industrial design work in Fort McMurray, AB. After several years, Talbot-Kelly came to the realization that what he enjoyed most about his work was the planning aspect of the jobs. He moved to Vancouver and started at Cornerstone as an intermediate associate, and after 4 years, was made a partner alongside Melanie Roskell, David Hill, and Cornerstone founder Dave Whetter.
Being a small firm of just 15 people with a 50-year history, Cornerstone had developed and continued to utilize some “old-school” practices that weren’t optimal for a modern workplace. They had limited visibility into the financial performance and a challenging time reconciling the books at the end of every year.
Cornerstone had historically hired administrative personnel who performed back office activities like bookkeeping, payroll, and accounts payable, as part of their role. They did not have formal training or experience and oftentimes learned on the job and worked within existing processes and practices. Errors and mistakes were fairly commonplace, making the year-end reconciliation that much more difficult.
The combination of inexperienced accounting staff, an outdated accounting program, and no documented workflows and processes made their overall back office function cumbersome and inefficient. Despite attempts to upgrade the tool set, the absence of an experienced specialist who understood best practices and the most optimal workflows left a big gap in the organization. Hiring experts who could manage all the different functions was cost prohibitive.
Instinctively, the team at Cornerstone knew there was a better way to work and needed someone with expertise to take them through the process. Talbot-Kelly’s sister introduced them to the concept of outsourcing core accounting functions, and the team started to interview different firms who could help them out. After a rigorous review of service providers, Cornerstone decided to go with Enkel because of the team of professionals and the overall service offering.
Cornerstone needed expertise in more than just Bookkeeping. They needed Payroll and Accounts Payable support to round out their back office functions. Enkel was able to provide specific expertise in each area, even though the hours required to deliver the required services were far from full-time. Not only are they getting the skills they need in optimal amounts, but the Cornerstone team are learning everyday from Enkel and collectively have a better baseline understanding of finance/accounting best practices.
It was out with the old, and in with the new. Not only did Enkel bring best practices in the form of proven processes, established workflows, and monthly checklists, but they provided the software and systems that form the backbone of an efficient operating ecosystem. The teams communicate and stay connected via a core accounting technology stack, holding all stakeholders accountable at all times.
Cornerstone has grown significantly in the last 4 years in part because they have insights they’ve never had before. They are better able to forecast, plan, and orchestrate their next move. Over the years, they’ve made adjustments to their workflows and processes, evolving with their business needs. According to Talbot-Kelly, “one of the great things about working with Enkel is that they are open to change when change is needed, and they don’t charge an arm and a leg to do it.” Some of the more notable results Cornerstone has seen after working with Enkel for 4 years are:
- Accurate revenue and cash flow forecasting
- Large cost savings from a reduction in internal accounting personnel needs
- Financial insights to plan for growth
- Notable time savings, especially from expense management processes that are now fully automated with technology
- Space savings. Everything is in the cloud and there is no longer a need to house and store financial documentation
Talbot-Kelly’s advice for other organizations thinking about outsourcing their back office functions is to just rip off the bandaid and do it. “Enkel works with you as a team versus forcing you to shoe-horn into their processes. They provide a standardized service that is customized to your business and unique needs.
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