Recently we held our inaugural CFO Day – a day of celebration and networking with other CFOs, like-minded leaders, and Catalyst® users. It not only allowed us to get a closer understanding of the latest trends, challenges, and solutions relevant to the marketplace today, but it also gave us additional insight into how we can continue to grow our products to better serve your future needs.
During this event we sat down with Jeff Jacobs of Sweet Harvest Foods to discuss all things Catalyst, turning sales leaders into CEOs , and honey. Join us as we recap some of Jeff’s most revealing comments.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi there, I’m Jeff Jacobs. I work for Sweet Harvest Foods as SVP of Finance. I run our FP&A and pricing department. I’m also the Catalyst administrator – I run everything front to back there.
Tell us a little bit about Sweet Harvest Foods.
Sweet Harvest Foods is one of the leading natural sweetener companies in the country, specializing in honey. We buy honey from all over the world, bring it into our facilities, blend it to the customer’s specifications and then send it out.
Could you tell me a little bit about your processes before using Catalyst?
Everything was Excel based. We did have a BI tool that would sit on top of our ERP, but it was pretty archaic. You spend all your time massaging excel to make it readable. By the time you get to what you want, you’ve already wasted so much time that you’re sacrificing moving on to the next thing…
What drove you to use Catalyst?
I had used Catalyst at a company prior. My biggest selling point is the ease of use and user adaptability rate. You find that with other tools, when they’re challenging to use, companies abandon them pretty quickly. With Catalyst, there’s simplicity. It sticks! In the end, the success rate is much higher.
Is there anything in particular that you like about Catalyst?
The self-service side of it, but also what this tool does that others don’t. You can understand customer and margin profiles down to specific items. And so, really understand the margin structure, the cost structure at the customer item level, being nimble enough to allow you to allocate variances to that level and then use that information in the decision-making process to know, ultimately, what are we good at.
How did Catalyst change the business?
When I came into the organization, it was all volume driven. All we cared about were pounds out the door. Once we got Catalyst up and running, it was easy to see – not all pounds are created equal. Catalyst provided visibility into whether sales would be profitable for the business. And so, when we got in there and started digging in, looking at the customer items set, identifying low-margin items, negative-margin items, and customers that needed to be fixed, it opened a lot our eyes.
How has that affected the business?
From a focus perspective, we’ve elevated our sales team to understand the business better. Catalyst allows them to be ultimately the CEOs of their customer sets, to have the full slate of information to know whether or not the decisions they’re making or where they’re pushing are good for the business. Now we’ve elevated sales to understand everything from gross to net sales, understanding their trade and their discounts and deductions, allowance, and rebates that all flow through their customers – it is one version of the truth, and the sum of the parts equal the whole, so you know what’s right.
How does Catalyst help you reach that one point of truth?
It starts with your ERP, your book of record, how you report: balance sheets, cash flow, and income statements. With the automation in place, that feeds into Catalyst. In the background, you can set up logic to allocate variances to the customer items based on any sort; any level of metrics you want to do, whether it’s on volume or sales or even manually. And so, being nimble enough to get that translated correctly in a system that everyone has access to and can see and analyze all the same data is crucial. Pre-Catalyst, it took a lot more effort to get it to that level of granularity, so much more that it really wouldn’t get completed at the level that it’s happening now. It’s all right there.
How are you spending all this free time?
We’re now spending our time not building the reporting package. We’re spending our time analyzing the reporting package – we were surface-level before. Now we’re diving deeper in there, finding the answers and digging deeper than we could’ve gotten.
Did you ever consider a different solution?
I did not. I was excited to get back to the Catalyst environment. Catalyst is much easier to use and much nimbler. I mean, the Catalyst tool would be the first on the list. I think someone would have to come up with a pretty good solution – blow my socks off for it not to be the tool of choice going forward.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like Catalyst has really helped your organization.
I think so. It’s allowed us to make decisions faster and have a lot more confidence in those decisions, backed by data. The decision-making cycle has shrunk.
So, what advice would you give somebody in a similar starting situation?
It depends on the size of the business and where the business wants to go. Still, any tool that allows growth in an organization – quickly and reliably, without having to overstaff and have a ton of people behind the scenes running all over the place to figure it out, is worth looking at. And with Catalyst being the most nimble and easy-to-use tool I’ve found, take a look at Catalyst if you’re looking at anything in that space.
What have you concluded from using Catalyst?
The most significant conclusion would be that having reliable data and the organization’s confidence can’t be overvalued. It makes it so much easier when everyone can see the same profitability analytics, the same operational analytics, the same KPIs, and they’re consistent and trusted when you make decisions. You say, “we’re making these decisions because we believe these things here that you can see modeled,” and then that’s what happens.
It just brings a confidence level up across the organization, and everyone feels empowered to put forth what they’re seeing and come up with ideas and solutions; versus, if you have imperfect data, it’s a little bit of an art sometimes and a little bit of a hope strategy and that’s just not a strategy that works in most cases.