At five years old, Cera Stribley is an emerging practice, as far as architecture firms go. Based in Melbourne, Australia, the business began with four staff members, and now has over 40 — a huge amount of growth in such a short time.
We got chatting with Kat Lethbridge, the studio operations manager for Cera Stribley.
With their rapid growth, the management team found they weren’t able to get true insights into what their day-to-day financials looked like.
In the beginning, when the business was small, processes were able to be largely informal — “it was easy to say to a colleague, across the office, ‘Hey what are you doing? Where are you up to?’” says Kat. The exponential growth meant that these processes had to be formalized.
As well as dealing with such an exciting upward trajectory, the typology makeup of Cera Stribley’s projects has been changing. When the practice formed, the projects were predominately residential renovations. The growth has expanded their services into high-end multi-residential and major commercial jobs.
The company was initially using Synergy Practice Management (Total Synergy’s older desktop version) when they set the practice up. It was a small team at the time which made that perfectly manageable.
As the team grew, founders Dom and Chris found they wanted a more flexible way to do timesheets. So, they started using a generic timesheet software, but in terms of reporting and how complex it can get, it wasn’t really giving too much insight beyond timesheets.
Cera Stribley continued invoicing in Synergy Practice Management (desktop) because that’s where the historical financial data was, and the timesheets were done in the timesheet system. When it came to the end of the month, a total invoice was pushed into Xero, so there was a record of cost and invoicing.
This went on for about 18 months until they moved from invoicing and recording all financial data in Synergy (desktop), to separating their timesheet records – but this software lacked the Xero integration required.
In September of 2018, Dom and Chris attended the Synergy product roadshow. It was timely for the business, and the new product development seemed an exciting leap forward for the software in the way it could assist processes to be managed. Their migration process to Synergy cloud began in early August of that year.
Cera Stribley wants to be a leader in setting standards and procedures. It’s about creating consistencies and building efficiencies. Synergy cloud has provided the perfect vehicle for them to do just that.
Now, when they do monthly invoicing, they use Synergy’s WIP reports. Getting those bi-monthly WIP reports helps the business manage productivity. Kat says they are excited about rolling out use of earned value management (EVM) features.
“Fees are not always going to be reflective of the work required. Whether they’re lower because it’s a marketing opportunity, or perhaps your stages are weighted differently,” Kat says. “EVM is really great for our senior leaders to have a realistic figure to measure their team and project performance against”.
It’s about finding a place where all of this information can be consolidated and
The Synergy planning board for forecasting and resource planning have taken over from Cera Stribley’s old spreadsheet system. This enables the resourcing and forecasting data to be accessed much more easily by everyone, and automatically calculate availability, and all those things that were previously calculated manually. The time savings are huge.
Cera Stribley continues to learn. They’re exploring Synergy’s new features while managing the firm’s exciting growth. They’re building a growing team and continually developing staff’s knowledge around processes and procedures, like how to get the most out of Synergy.
“That’s why it’s really important to us that everything is centralized — in one place, where everyone can access it. So we can make staff development and growth as quick and as easy as possible. Synergy is giving us that”
More time for growth, more time for learning,
more time for design. #Winning.