Modern CFO navigates economic uncertainties
At the height of the tech boom, SF Ballet saw an influx of revenue that covered a wide range of expenses, including personnel, choreography and orchestra costs, facilities, marketing, and more. But when the U.S. economic recession hit in the early 2000s, the organization was put in a financial quandary: Ticket sales only accounted for roughly half of production costs, leaving a large gap to be filled by donor dollars. With strained resources, it was imperative that the team consistently maintain revenue-expense balance.
"We had to become more cost-efficient," said Carim, who became an integral part of decision-making meetings once executives accepted this fiscal reality. "I'm invited into those meetings to help align the organization because I have a view into performance throughout the business."
Detailing fiscal performance
The organization needed its finance chief to drive greater financial responsibility across all departments. To do so, Carim turned to business financial planning software from Adaptive Insights to help share more detailed financial data with the entire team. By using Adaptive Planning, part of the Adaptive Suite, the SF Ballet can now track profit and loss statements of individual performances by program. It's a level of detail that the team's previous general ledger simply couldn't handle. After adding this capability, the team found that a performance's profitability can vary by up to $3 million— a variance that makes a world of difference when trying to balance a budget.
"My job has evolved greatly over the last eight years, from focusing on tactical bookkeeping to lending strategic insights that help solve our financial challenges," Carim said. "Helping to provide that insight is where Adaptive Planning has been most valuable."
FP&A as seamless as an on-stage performance
Today, the SF Ballet team completes month-long financial planning cycles in one week. They have built a financial model within Adaptive Planning to track its most impactful revenue and expense drivers at a more detailed level than ever before. More importantly, budget managers outside of finance can easily access the most recent financial data relative to their roles, and see the implications of programming changes themselves.
"We can now tell which performance cost us $700,000, for example, and which one made $2 million," Carim explained. "The speed at which we produce and share these results has led to faster programming changes based on what's best from a financial perspective."
Added insights without added headcount
While budget constraints make it difficult to add headcount within non-production departments, Carim has leveraged Adaptive Planning as what she calls a, "virtual full-time employee," in two imperative ways: by communicating the financial story to the artistic side of the organization in an understandable, actionable way; and by providing workplace flexibility for herself and budget managers who work non-traditional hours.
"Because we have a cloud-based tool, I can be a mom and stay up-to-date on financial performance from anywhere, at any time," she said. "For our 75th anniversary, we introduced the new tagline: 'A new way of seeing ballet.' In finance, we also have a new tagline: 'A new way of seeing the numbers.' It's a new approach that will help the SF Ballet maintain long-term financial sustainability, ensuring that generations to come can enjoy our art."