Float, a cash flow forecasting and scenario planning app, has proven to be very popular during the coronavirus outbreak – with a six-fold increase in demand compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The company’s software helps struggling businesses make tough financial decisions and forecast future scenarios. It proved particularly helpful for businesses applying for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
We spoke to Colin Hewitt, CEO and founder of Float, about how the Edinburgh-based business has handled the dramatic increase in demand.
What has changed for the business since the coronavirus outbreak started?
“Unlike some competitors which have furloughed staff due to the economic downturn, we went the other way, made several hires and offered an extended free trial to business impacted by coronavirus. We also recently opened a new office in Australia.
“We’ve traditionally focused a lot of attention on inbound sales and, particularly now, with a higher demand for cash flow forecasting, we’re finding that’s where a lot of our focus is. We also have a dedicated customer success and support team that is online to answer any small business customer questions and also an account management team that works closely to support our accountant and bookkeeper partners.
“Between February and March we experienced a 65 per cent increase in sales – or at least customers trialling Float. It’s during this time, particularly in the UK, that the impact of coronavirus was truly beginning to be felt amongst our small businesses. The free trial period is coming to an end soon and we’re working hard to retain as many of these new customers as possible.”
What has been central to securing this new demand?
“With such a huge increase in demand, and a bigger demand on our team’s time, we had to adjust strategy pretty quickly – ensuring we had increased customer support resources available, developing more educational material and delivering more training webinars instead of one-to-one calls. We know that other businesses in our industry furloughed staff as a way of cutting costs and mitigating the effects of the economic downturn, but we recognised that cash flow would be in even greater demand during these difficult times.
“We’ve invested more in our team as a result and have actually made four new hires entirely remotely since March, bringing us to 26. We were in a fortunate position where, because we knew we had a healthy cash cushion, we were able to continue growing our commercial and customer success teams to better support our new and existing customers. Our biggest focus right now is making sure that the team feels supported working remotely and are not burning out.”
How are you stress testing big decisions that are being made now to ensure you are not left over-exposed in the future?
“About 18 months ago we hired our current COO, Jen Given, a former accountant and all-round financial whiz. We’ve always kept on top of our cash flow with Float – it would be hypocritical not to! But Jen has really helped us to map out the exact future we want, and we’ve been able to plan for it as well as for any other ‘what if’ that may come our way.
“The ‘big decisions’ that we’re making now are things we’ve been planning for a while, and we’re in a fortunate position where we’ve been able to move ahead with them, despite the situation. We’ve been conscious and cautious about not being too reactive and overextending. It’s been so great to see real-world proof that planning ahead can truly make a difference. I’m seeing that internally within Float, and in our customers’ businesses too.”
What have you learnt about yourself and the business having had to deal with a significant increase in demand during this period?
“The first thing I’ve learnt is that you can plan for most things, but not everything, and that some kind of plan is better than no kind of plan. I think something that we’ve all learned is that small businesses are so important to our economy and local communities – and they should be protected and supported, particularly now.
“I’ve also realised, more than ever, how valuable it is to have good people around you in a crisis and the importance of good leadership. The team at Float have really rallied and supported one another, and although we’re all working from our respective homes, we’ve never felt closer as a company.”