Brian Shanahan is CEO and Founder of Informita. Brian reveals to IIBN that Informita is a working capital and procurement consultancy that operates globally in many different sectors. We are different from almost all other consultancies in that we do not charge day rates and have no need to inflate our prices to pay for the academy of inexperienced consultants, the plush office or the partner perks. We charge flat rates that are extremely reasonable, usually on an annualised basis, are very flexible with scope and endeavour to deliver the best comprehensive solutions for our clients. That doesn’t mean we fall short on results. In fact, we tend to out-perform our rivals due to our comprehensive range of methodologies. We operate with three brands:
Informita.com – This is the core working capital and procurement consulting business
TermsCheck.com – A payment term database with more than one million entries where you can compare your supplier and customer payment terms
Bonavido.com – A service that helps corporates use the best available algorithm to forecast their short-term cash customer receipts and supplier payments.
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
The only goal we have is to serve our clients to the best of our ability. That means staying ahead of the pack in terms of methodologies and insights. We are continually developing new analysis and implementation methods. Bonavido is the latest example of this approach, but others would be our approaches to spare parts inventories, customer collections, supplier payment runs and corporate level working capital benchmarking.
What are your biggest challenges?
Our biggest challenge is name recognition versus our very large competitors. We are constantly looking for new channels to market what we do and deliver for our clients. We regularly post content on our websites and on LinkedIn, have published several books on working capital, procurement and change management. (See Here) and now have The Working Capitalists Podcast. (See Here)
How has your business strategy been adapted in the context of the Covid-19 crisis?
Not that much. Most of our work is done remotely. The lockdown has been more of the same for us in terms of how we operate.
What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
The consulting industry has changed a lot in the last 25 years. Outside the public sector, the days of multi-million euro assignments are largely gone and the value of assignments keeps getting smaller for the big guns. This puts far more pressure on their very high cost base. You should expect the number of consultants to reduce and the ones that are left to have real specialisms.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
There a lot of consulting and software firms that have just woken up to the working capital issues of 2020 and are working hard to associate what they do with working capital. Unfortunately, most of these people know nothing about the subject and are just using the latest marketing buzz-word. That clutter makes it more difficult for Informita to get our message out.
How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?
Brexit has had its impact already for Informita. As a services company, we will not suffer in any way from the potential for a no-deal Brexit. But it has been a policy since 2016 not to invoice transactions in sterling in order to protect us from any exchange risk.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
Ultimate success is having happy customers. We have been privileged to work with some great companies over the years and have delivered real value to them that they appreciate.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
A man with cash in his pocket will always have choices.
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
The first was launching The Working Capitalists Podcast with my good friend Lane Burkitt. Lane and I first worked together back in 2007 for a major Formula 1 team. It was a great piece of work to do and Lane and I have been friends ever since. Our nature is to debate the topics that are of professional interest to us. We had been talking about doing this for the last few years and for a number of different reasons it didn’t happen. We launched in November last year and are already developing an avid following. As of today, there are 16 episodes available and we have 4 more coming soon.
The second was launching Bonavido.com. Short term cash forecasting is a very difficult subject for many treasurers and a subject I have been exploring for more than a decade. Earlier this year I was faced with a client who had a severe problem with forecasting customer receipts for the first 3 weeks of their forecast. There was a lot of data and no obvious pattern that would suggest why the forecast error was so high. I tested a range of algorithms before hitting on the right one. I then tested the methodology on other clients and the key finding is that no two situations are the same. There is no golden algorithm that works for everyone. The key is to understand what is driving the variability in your customer payment behaviours. And the methodology works for payables too.
What’s next for your company?
One advantage we have is that we already work remotely in 98% of situations. That means that we can work worldwide very easily. On one day we started with a client in Jakarta and later in the day were speaking with someone else in Eindhoven and then finished up with a customer in Buffalo, NY. One result of the pandemic is that clients expect less on-site interaction and many are liking this new way of doing things. That helps us to work with several clients in parallel.
What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020/21?
2020 is an unusual year. We call it the year of survival. We are lucky that our services are in demand but the focus for many, right now is mitigating against the risks they face as a result of the pandemic. Hopefully, this phase will be over later this year and then 2021 will be about resetting to whatever the new norms turn out to be.
Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
From a business perspective, the next year will be about being ready for an increased level of activity. In 2020, we have had several clients postpone work due to the pandemic. These will return later in the year. In addition, many companies are learning the errors of their ways and will be eager to develop sustainable solutions to those issues.
For the brand(s) it is a constant challenge to innovate and then be recognised. Since starting in 2012, there has never been time to take the foot off the gas. We don’t expect that to change.