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Butternut Box is a fresh dog food and direct-to-consumer subscription business based in the UK. They want to change the pet food industry for the better, helping dogs live healthier, happier, and longer lives while leaving humans smiling after every interaction. We got a chance to speak to Charlotte Kelly, the FP&A Manager at Butternut Box.

Charlotte started her journey by joining the Mondelez finance team before moving to onefinestay, a luxury vacation apartments and homes rental company, as an FP&A analyst. There, Charlotte fell in love with the FP&A and commercial side of finance and found her real passion as she enjoys working with stakeholders, helping people understand their numbers, using numbers to tell a story, and making business decisions.

However, Charlotte was still looking for a company that felt like her forever home, and that's when she discovered Butternut Box. She started at Butternut Box as an FP&A analyst. Then, after a few months was promoted to FP&A manager and was fortunate enough to lead up the function and the process of hiring.

When I first started, Butternut Box had around 7,000 dogs that we were feeding on a subscription basis. Now, we have about 70,000. So it gives you an idea of the growth over the last few years, and you can imagine how much reporting, forecasting and budgeting has had to evolve over that time.

Charlotte Kelly — FP&A Manager at Butternut Box

Charlotte's job is to shape the strategy of what FP&A entails. So everything that has to do with budgeting, forecasting, planning, and strategic analysis. We discussed how they use Layer at Butternut Box to manage their spreadsheets and automate their reporting workflows.

How Butternut Box Uses Layer to Automate Reporting 1

What Challenges Did You Have at Butternut Box?

I have been with the business for about three years now. I joined at a time when a lot of our financial data was in inboxes, Excel spreadsheets, and Google Sheets. So I have been desperately trying since I joined to tidy things up and implement a more robust process, particularly around how we budget and forecast.

So I did some research back in August 2020. I was looking to see what was out there in terms of different FP&A software solutions in the market. I looked at quite a broad range of tools considering the offering, the cost, and the commitment level for our business size. We wanted something for the long term since we are a scale-up and our growth projections are pretty big. We wanted to make sure we were getting something that would scale with us for the next few years.

As part of that research, we came across Layer, and we decided that it was by far the best software that we could find for data collaboration. It allows us to work with different stakeholders, collect lots of different inputs from various people, and create one central source of data and one master spreadsheet, which was definitely a pain point.

We have quite a flat structure, which means that we have so many different stakeholders inputting data into our different budgets and forecasts. So that's how we came across Layer, which we thought would be a great way to fix some of these processes.

Which Teams Were Affected by Those Challenges?

Currently, the budget is run centrally through the FP&A team, so it was mostly me affected. However, given that we plan to grow and launch international markets in the near future, we saw this as a tool that could potentially help many teams further down the line.

How Butternut Box Uses Layer to Automate Reporting 2

Did You Try Any Other Solutions?

Yes, we tried quite a few. We had several hands-on sales pitches and virtual demos from several different businesses presenting us their tools, what they could do, and giving us access. Eventually, we decided to go with Layer and DataRails because the two come together really well. DataRails is suitable for storing our data in a clever way and producing nice spreadsheets and excellent data visualization. At the same time, Layer is perfect for the collaboration element. So for us, they work pretty well as an in tandem tool.

Why Did You Choose Layer?

Layer was definitely the standout in terms of data collation and information sharing. We have many spreadsheets and models where you've got multiple tabs, and each tab is for a different stakeholder. A lot of our budgets and forecasts were already set up in a way that would be super compatible with Layer. While DataRails has been great, we have had to shift how we structure things to fit with the way their databases organize data. However, Layer was really low friction, and you could get started with it straight away.

When I was getting started with Layer, it was towards the end of Q3, and we were coming into our budgeting process, and it was effortless to get it live for that budget. Whereas DataRails, while we now use it, and it's great, it took the best part of three or four months to set it up.

Layer was just so easy where the team could get things going. It doesn't require everyone to have a user or to log in. So we didn't have to worry about access, the number of users, and who's approved or not. You can just send someone a spreadsheet, they receive an email, and submit the updated version back. I had very little, if any, pushback or confusion from the stakeholders I was working with, as it ticks many boxes for what we were looking for.

In terms of cons, I knew that Layer wasn't going to be a one-stop solution for everything I wanted for myself and the organization, which is why we've ended up with what we feel is a perfect combination of both tools.

The thing is that many of these expensive tools promise you the world, but nothing comes with the core package, and you end up paying extra for everything you want to do. Then, you're looking at a six-month implementation process, and everyone has to have an approved login. With Layer, it was just so easy and quick. The Layer team hopped on a call with us to explain the process, and we got started straight away.

How Butternut Box Uses Layer to Automate Reporting 3

What Made You Continue Using Layer?

We stayed because I could see that Layer is really interested in getting our feedback. Not only to help us as a user understand how to use the tool and get the most out of it but because the team wants to learn from their users and improve the product accordingly.

I think that was something that we could relate to because that's precisely what we do here at Butternut Box. It felt like quite a like-minded business, and it's always lovely to work with people on the same page regarding approaching business and customers. So we didn't have many reasons to leave.

What Type of Spreadsheets Do You Manage With Layer?

We use Layer as part of our budgeting and forecasting process and any inputs for the rolling forecast for the biannual budget process that we go through.

Another thing we use Layer for is our hiring plan. We have an Excel spreadsheet with a tab for each team, and Layer allowed us to be able to send each tab separately to the head of each department and ask them to submit their hiring plans over the next few months and update any salary adjustments to their team members. That has been very helpful because it makes data collection for me so much easier.

For these spreadsheets, we have around 10 to 15 of our team members continuously contributing and submitting data.

How Often Do You Use Layer?

It varies. It depends on what's happening within the business in terms of the budgeting and forecasting need, as these are our predominant use cases. For example, when we're working on the budget, I'm on Layer daily, sharing Flows, going back and forth with contributors, and reviewing and approving different submissions and bits and pieces of data.

It is such an important process and comes around more often than you would like. So it's a situation where if you can remove any room for manual error and speed up the process, you can then invest that time in what matters. That includes reviewing the numbers, analyzing them, and working with the stakeholders to understand them and challenge them rather than worrying if I have got the latest version of the spreadsheet, if I copied the numbers across correctly, and whether I broke any formulas in the process.

When you add up how many people are involved in the budget, it becomes quite an expensive process. So if you can even cut off half an hour to an hour for each person every week, that's certainly a lot of time and money saved for the business.

How Butternut Box Uses Layer to Automate Reporting 4

How Has Layer Improved Your Operations?

Personally, Layer reduced my stress levels quite a lot. Overall, it improved the data collation aspect and significantly reduced the manual errors as a result of copying and pasting data between different spreadsheets.

Also, I don't have to chase people for input anymore. Whenever someone hasn't submitted any necessary data, they would automatically receive reminders from Layer without any intervention from my side.

In many instances in the past, we wouldn't even share the spreadsheets for input. We would have the data sorted verbally because of the complication of sending and compiling the data, especially with the hiring plan. Whereas with Layer, we now have a system that allows managers to have full control of their departments and data, which has definitely improved accountability and ownership.

I've really enjoyed working with Layer so far. Everyone I've interacted with has been super nice and reactive to customer feedback. It's definitely been a game-changer for a number of our processes and I have recommended it to quite a few people who have said the same!

Charlotte Kelly — FP&A Manager at Butternut Box

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Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has 7 years of experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Aug 24 2021, Updated Sep 9 2021