BetterSpaces focuses on growth and avoids the cost and time required to build and manage their own finance operations by subscribing to AcctTwo’s Managed Accounting Services.
Keith Angell, BetterSpaces’ Co-founder and CFO, was kind enough to sit down with Peter Wagner, AcctTwo’s Director of Marketing, to talk about what led him and BetterSpaces to outsource, rather than build, their finance function.
Tell me a little about your background and why you co-founded BetterSpaces.
Keith Angell: I spent 15 years right out of college working in institutional sales and trading derivatives for Global Banks like Credit Suisse, where among other things I financed some of the most successful hedge funds in the world. I’ve also helped founded and run several startups over the past 10 years.
In my experience, I’ve learned that if you make friends at work and feel engaged, you're going to be more likely to stay at a company. That means reduced churn for the company. A happy, engaged employee is more productive which adds a tremendous amount of value.
My BetterSpaces co-founder Stephen and I founded BetterSpaces to rethink the workplace of the future. Stephen owns sustainability consulting company that does engineering and sustainability work for 500 of the largest commercial office buildings in New York City. And we thought: What if we use the scale of these large office buildings to let employees at smaller companies have access to great curated programs and experiences, similar to what Google does but at a fraction of the cost?
At the same time, we knew the workplace was being disrupted by WeWork (and similar establishments like The District, Regus, Neuehouse, etc.) and that Landlords needed to provide amenities like these in their buildings to retain their Corporate Tenants. That’s how the idea for BetterSpaces was born.
Do you do long-term subscriptions or one-off events?
Keith Angell: We do both. I just spoke with a company that has 60 employees. They want to do wellness programming for their team. They understand the impact of having healthier happier employees. The Return on Investment is huge as happier more engaged employees increase sales, productivity and make fewer mistakes. Our program costs less than $25 per employee and saves HR teams time. All the programs on our platform are curated to be office appropriate and are already being used by Fortune 500 employees today.
Tell me about the “whole employee” concept.
Keith Angell: It starts with thinking about things from the employee’s point of view, everything from the eldercare and childcare to taking mental breaks and boundaries - all these things are needed for us to be successful in our roles. One of the biggest challenges right now is loneliness, which is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day to our health. Especially during the pandemic, employees need social connection. They need exercise to release endorphins. Endorphins make us happier and it counteracts the LDL that our body creates. We think about the whole employees need for physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing, a healthy physical environment and purpose. Employers looking to bridge culture and demonstrate to their employees they care about their well-being both at work and in their personal lives are offering them the BetterSpaces platform.
Peter Wagner: Very cool. Clearly, you have a lot of passion on the topic. We started using BetterSpaces at AcctTwo and I'm excited to see how we can take advantage of it. You're right, our team has tried over the years to piece this kind of thing together. We’ve done a lot of employee events in our Houston headquarters, but BetterSpaces has allowed us to spread this out to all our remote employees. Due to the pandemic, we’re now all remote employees, essentially for the foreseeable future. If I’m a property owner, or company, where do I find out more about BetterSpaces?
Keith Angell: Check out our website at www.betterspaces.com!
From an accounting perspective, what brought you to AcctTwo?
Keith Angell: When BetterSpaces launched, my co-founder had a couple of businesses and we were using their infrastructure, which included QuickBooks. I was going to stick with QuickBooks because it had our company history and there was no extra work to just stay put. However, it had a lot of downfalls. We paid bills by signing checks so one of us always had to be available to sign the checks. The reports out of QuickBooks were pretty stale – the system didn't let us report by location. There was no way for me to slice and dice my P&L. There was no good structure and not enough control features. We tried to get month-end reporting done within three weeks after end of the month, but it was super challenging.
I sat down with Marcus Wagner, AcctTwo’s Founder & CEO, and he showed me your customized dashboards and how AcctTwo can help businesses like BetterSpaces. I wanted everything that you have! You’d already thought through expense management, controls, and Sage Intacct was way more sophisticated than QuickBooks.
What’s also nice is that I don’t need a full-time controller. I just needed somebody that understands where things go and can make it all efficient. We do a 30-minute call once a week with my AcctTwo controller. That's all I need. When I need more, she's there for me. That resource is incredibly valuable to me.
As a Founder and CFO, I need to raise money, close deals, find great talent, and build a business. There's so much to do. If I can get it down to such a low cost of time, it’s incredibly valuable to me. AcctTwo saves me my time and that is more valuable than anything.
How was the transition from QuickBooks to AcctTwo?
Keith Angell: The transition from QuickBooks took time, but fortunately Andrea Low, AcctTwo’s Corporate Director of Accounting and Client Controller, and Merilee Howell, AcctTwo’s Head of Managed Accounting Service FP&A & Process Improvement, were fantastic. They worked through everything for us. We started closing P&L within seven days of month-end. They also automated processes and payments. I was able to outsource control features to AcctTwo and it saved us so much money.
And it’s so nice knowing what the best products are – you’ve already curated what that experience should be like, so that a CFO or founder like me can focus on higher-level tasks. It’s so nice to not do the analysis on expense management systems, like Nexonia. I don't care which one I use. I just want it to work well and be reliable.
Does that mean BetterSpaces doesn’t have any accounting resources on staff, other than your own experience as a CFO?
Keith Angell: We have an operations person, who helps with some of the finance work. We used Sage Intacct this year to set the budget and he and I worked on that together. He is responsible for making sure that all the expenses get into Nexonia. We review it together to see how we did against budget and how we did for the month.
Our CEO has access to Sage Intacct so that he can check to see how we're doing with accounts receivable or payables. We use the system as a way of reporting back to our leadership team on how things are going.
What other platforms/technologies are you using in your finance and account technology stack?
Keith Angell: We also use Bill.com – I built a payment company prior to BetterSpaces, so I knew a little bit about payments. I also know several Bill.com board members. I liked them and since AcctTwo already works with them, you solved my problem from a payments perspective.
Any last thoughts on the idea of outsourcing versus keeping finance operations in-house?
Keith Angell: Well, what ends up happening to a lot of founders is that they are working a full-time job and then have the idea to start a second company. Most of the work is done on the side, at night, and on the weekends because they're working hard and because they're committed, but they're not sure if it's going to work. They try to reduce their costs by doing everything themselves. But they’re not thinking of their own time as their most valuable asset.
Instead, there can be a tendency to not spend the money, to do it themselves, to hire a low-cost bookkeeper or get a friend to do it for $1,000 or less per month. But then what happens is they build up all this technical debt and they end up scrambling to pull things together for tax purposes or to raise money. And so, whether they’re doing the accounting themselves or they’ve hired a low-cost bookkeeper, at some point they end up pulled back into accounting and financial reporting, which can't possibly be the best use of their time, otherwise they started the wrong business. So, they need to value their time much more and invest that time where it's going to have the biggest long-term impact on their company: adding customers, taking care of customers, building and taking care of their team, working on product. That's where they’re really going to drive value.
Outsourcing processes like finance and accounting that aren’t core to your business gives you so much more scale and so much more time back leading to a better opportunity to be successful.
About BetterSpaces and Keith Angell
BetterSpaces is a digital and in-person workplace well-being solution. As the way people work evolves, BetterSpaces provides the next generation of tenant amenities for landlords and enterprises through curated programming, community engagement, and thoughtful, well designed spaces. All interactions and decisions are powered by the company’s award-winning technology and robust data.
Keith Angell is BetterSpaces’ Co-founder and CFO. Keith’s innovative mindset and creative entrepreneurship are at the heart of BetterSpaces. With fifteen years in senior executive roles, Keith is a virtuoso in financial and capital markets. He has founded and operated multiple impact focused companies and is passionate about creating the office of the future.
Visit, www.betterspaces.com to learn more!