In conversation with Caroline Plumb OBE, founder and CEO, Fluidly
Cashflow management software Fluidly has always existed to take away some of the uncertainty associated with running a business. We chat to Caroline Plumb OBE, the founder and CEO, about how the pandemic has made planning and forecasting more important than ever.
How have the past few months been for Fluidly?
We’ve been busy. Business owners are always concerned about cashflow, of course, but the pandemic has amplified those anxieties, and so the issue of cashflow has never been more important. A lot of software systems tell you all about your financial past. Ours helps you predict the future so you can make the best decisions possible for your business. With 60% of SMEs expecting a 50% reduction in turnover, and 65% strategising for survival, knowing what’s around the corner is power.
What we do, via our AI-powered intelligent cashflow software, is help people look into the future and decide what the next best course of action is for them.
Can you talk us through the key issues facing businesses and their cashflow in the current climate?
Cashflow is a key indicator of business health. Depending on reserves, survival in the current environment could require drastic cost-cutting or the acquisition of additional capital, for example. Long-term survival is dependent on being on top of what’s coming in and what’s going out, so business owners and financial managers need to measure cashflow on a regular basis to determine crunch points and take the necessary steps to ensure survival.
What we do, via our AI-powered intelligent cashflow software, is help people look into the future and decide what the next best course of action is for them. Whether you want to hire a team member, downsize your office space, invest in new equipment, or simply pay an upcoming bill, it’s important to know you have the cash to afford it. Having a clear picture of the financial future is essential – whether that’s an accurate cashflow forecast or an understanding of the funding options available to you. Without this knowledge, it’s hard to take the decisions that count.
Can you tell us a bit about the early days and your relationship with Without. Why did you approach them in the first place?
It was 2016 and I had just started Fluidly after 15 years heading up a recruitment consultancy called FreshMinds. We already had the name but we hadn’t yet hit upon a way to communicate what we were all about. We knew it needed to be different and to stand out to appeal to as broad a market as possible, so we called Without and asked them to help us pin down our brand identity and find our place in that space.
Accounting software brands can look a little impenetrable – graphs, charts, complex messaging, all in safe corporate colours. Without helped us to hit upon the water metaphor, which informed the design language, tone of voice, illustrations and palette. It’s all about flow, with lighthouses to guide you to safety and umbrellas to protect you from unexpected downpours. It gives consumers a primal sense of the benefits. People are emotional beings, and where other brands may have treated accountants in a bit of safe, corporate way, we wanted to bring more feeling to it. Without encouraged us to be brave and take a more quirky, noticeable approach, to move into the ‘white space’.
What did you want to achieve and why?
We wanted a business that puts people first. The brand strategy works bring Fluidly to life, adding levity to a serious subject and making it more accessible by using a blend of function and emotional benefits. Brands like Slack are brave and have become part of work-life culture – we were inspired by and wanted to learn from that. Brands explain the why and the what and shape people’s perspective of your business.
Without blends the commercial and creative… Mapping the market and taking a brave stance from the outset means you’re less likely to be lumped in with all the rest.
What role did brand play in achieving that ambition?
We achieved high brand awareness in our sector fast. The brand’s look and feel and the tightly focused messaging have worked very well for us online and, pre Covid-19, at major trade events, achieving brand recognition with influential marquee clients and progressive firms.
Without blends the commercial and creative, so it’s not too zany or too dry. Mapping the market and taking a brave stance from the outset means you’re less likely to be lumped in with all the rest.
Talking about looking into the future, what does it look like for Fluidly?
Cash is king, so as businesses look beyond the pandemic and into the coming recession, planning for recovery and survival has to be top of the agenda. We’ve are helping businesses access funding though our new panel of lenders and specialist finance support advisors; and our Scenario Planning Tool enables people to understand the implications of any decisions they make. It allows business owners to view their current financial position and then model the impact of different scenarios on their cashflow. It’s a handy way to look at how to make the necessary adjustments to move forwards safely.
And for the fintech industry in general?
Well, the fintech sector is no stranger to crises, but this time around our role in helping to support businesses, the economy and the wider community is clearer. Our agility and ability have put us in a good place to help business of all sizes weather the storm – to continue with the watery metaphor!
Many financial institutions are in a position to help get the country back on its feet through the use of innovative technology. Those tech solutions will have an even bigger role to play as businesses shift and pivot in order to shore themselves up for the future.
How has remote working suited the Fluidly crew?
We are fully in the cloud so remote working has been pretty seamless. We probably won’t go back into the office until next year, and then 75% or so will only do so part-time. I do think about the impact that will have on our team culture and people’s emotional response and mental health. How that pans out remains to be seen.
What would you say to a brand cynic to turn them into an advocate?
Brand shapes people’s perspective about who you are and encourages them to see you as the perfect fit. And not just customers; the wider market, too. It influences the talent you attract to your team. And it represents your values and purpose as a business, which is increasingly important. Business and financial branding doesn’t have to be staid and safe. Democratising the messaging isn’t the same as dumbing it down – it’s about making yourself accessible saying you’re here to help.