When Chris Herbst founded his Stellenbosch-based business, he was still in university, finishing a second degree in computer science. He aimed to create a company that combined his passion for finance with a love for technology.
CH Consulting was born. Chris set out to transform SMEs in South Africa with solid financial guidance and the right business system development. Fast forward to today, CH Consulting now has a 240-strong client base with plans for further expansion.
His mission is to use technology to create more time for what matters – build his business through tough economic times and help SMEs do the same. Here’s how Chris uses Receipt Bank to power the local economy.
A patchwork system
CH Consulting focuses on everything from accounting and payroll to valuation services and business consultation. Before using cloud accounting, Chris relied on a patchwork system of cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive to organise the onboarding process for his clients.
“I used to set up files on Google Drive for clients’ invoices and expense paperwork. When we onboarded new clients, we’d then share these folders with them. That only worked so well, because clients were finding it very time-intensive to scan invoices with an actual scanner and then upload these to the drive. Sometimes they took pictures, but that didn’t always work out. The biggest problem was tagging. When invoices were processed, you had to open multiple folders to find the right invoice. Clients also added external documents and it became even more disorganised. At the end of the day, when you have a file structure like that it becomes a mess.”
Chris realised he needed a platform that could extract and organise invoices for him but still live in the cloud. After considering and testing multiple alternatives, he decided on Receipt Bank.
“At first, it seemed too good to be true, but I tested the platform for less than a month, then I started onboarding every client we possibly could. It didn’t take long. The full transition was two months or so.”
Fuelling industries step by step
Introducing cloud accounting technology has its challenges, particularly when a high percentage of your client-base is constantly on the move.
“Some remote clients like farmers are never at their laptops yet always have a mobile phone and know how to take a picture. When you tell them all they need is an app to do their invoice entry, they love it. Onboarding someone onto a cloud-based accounting platform is harder.”
“We try to think of our clients first when building their tech stack. We don’t want to add another app to their lives unnecessarily, so we look for software that adds a lot of value. Once they’ve familiarised themselves with it, we can then build strong integration pipelines and keep developing their skill sets.”
Thanks to professionals like Chris sharing tech know-how with different industries, the momentum for new ways of working is building.
“Boards of directors are starting to fill up with people who have a better feel for tech. Compared to the UK or US, we are behind but we are catching up. There has been a big uptake in cloud accounting recently.”
“SMEs are driving the economy but they’re just not getting the help they need. All they can afford is a bookkeeper or accountant, and many in South Africa only know compliance. We want to train our staff to be more than that for SMEs. We want them to be forward-looking.”
Chris sees technology as fuel to move industries ahead, step by step.
You need all the time you can get to add value to your business in South Africa. Something like Receipt Bank may be a luxury in some places but here it’s a necessity.Chris Herbst
All together now
Since introducing Receipt Bank to his business and clients, Chris estimates that CH Consulting will spend between two to three hours on 500 invoices. Before it would take days.
Features like Supplier Rules, which automate the categorising of repeat suppliers, have transformed his former process by automating the entry of repeat suppliers like an invoice for your standard Uber or food delivery – all in one place.
“We like that you can now set up supplier rules, scan the invoice and it’s published automatically. We never see the invoice aside from it being in the general ledger.”
Not only does the new system save time on menial tasks, but it’s also a prime selling point for his business.
“It has been a very good selling point for us. Usually, when you sit in proposal meetings, it’s all the boring compliance stuff. This is what we are trying to move away from. When prospects come to us because they have problems with their tax and compliance, we tell them about Receipt Bank. Our clients love the ease of it because no one enjoys collecting invoices. It also doesn’t create overhead for us to train clients because it’s that simple to use.”
Paying it forward
The end goal for CH Consulting is to become a financial advisory powerhouse for South African SMEs and add more value by transforming their business systems.