Going with your gut works for some life decisions, but it’s not the best strategy for running a business. This innovative consulting firm used Accelo to transition to a data-driven approach.
Realize Strategies, founded in 1998, is an award-winning Canadian consulting firm with a fresh take on organizational design, change management and leadership development. The passionate team helps its clients achieve purpose by optimizing people and culture.
CEO John Kay loves inspiring his executive clients by supporting them to drive meaningful strategic change.
In 2021, John realized he and his fellow leaders had no visibility over utilization or capacity, and his team was approaching burnout.
“We were often challenged in managing our timelines and workloads, but other than my gut feel, it was hard for me to identify how much of our team’s time we were using,” he explains. “I needed to be able to make better decisions about what we could take on at any given time.”
They were using six or seven disconnected systems, including Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Teams and Clockify. In an attempt to consolidate, John tried a few new platforms, including Harvest and Basecamp. He found they would solve one or two problems, but none offered an integrated solution.
John and his colleague, Organizational Development Consultant Gillian Harper, spent a lot of time onboarding and training their team in these platforms, only to find out that they didn’t address the core issue: a lack of visibility.
Frustrated after engaging in a lengthy and expensive trial-and-error period, John began searching for software that would help Realize Strategies with project planning, time tracking and sales lead management — and seamlessly integrate with Dropbox.
John describes his thoughts upon discovering Accelo.
“When we looked at all of our user requirements and every part of our internal processes and we stacked Accelo up against them, it had everything we needed,” he says. “It was a perfect fit.”
He and his Finance Director were also thrilled with the value of the implementation program for the investment. Realize Strategies started working with Accelo’s Professional Services team in early 2022.
“The implementation process was a dream — one of the best I’ve ever seen. A lot of the heavy lifting is done for you by Accelo’s team,” he explains. “Having those group trainings will save you a ton of headaches down the road — and I was blown away by how reasonable the cost of implementation was.”
John even offered to pay for one-on-one training for anyone on his team who may need it, but they haven’t had to take him up on that offer because, as he points out, the platform is so intuitive.
The Realize Strategies team now uses Accelo to move leads through the sales funnel, create proposals, convert them into projects and build out and manage those projects. They’re currently using a large project to test out new workflows and create a precedent for managing each type of client work more efficiently. While they’re not yet invoicing clients through Accelo, John says that’s on the horizon.
He especially appreciates the Microsoft 365 integration, which allows him and his team to easily access meeting notes and capture the time they spend in meetings.
Realize Strategies clients have also noticed a jump in efficiency: They like the convenience of the client portal and ease of signing proposals.
In less than a year, John has already seen his team experience tremendous administrative time savings. He estimates that he’s personally recovered 15% of his time.
Because the business uses fixed pricing and wasn’t previously tracking rates, they didn’t have a great handle on costs before Accelo. That has changed, John says.
“The ability to plug in rates on a project plan has given us a much better understanding of what the cost of a project should be.”
He’s recently started referring to Accelo’s profitability dashboard and is excited by its potential to help him definitively determine when it’s time to hire. Knowing how much time they can afford to spend on non-billable time will also help John’s team develop a more efficient consultant onboarding process. The robust reporting now available to leadership will produce a clear picture of average margins over time, which could help them hone and improve operations.
Perhaps the most consequential improvement Realize Strategies has experienced is a positive change in mental health and overall wellness. There’s no more risk of burnout because John can see the exact workload for every person on his team. Given their hybrid work setup, this is essential for supporting employees.
John is looking forward to the further advantages Accelo will afford his business.
If we can all utilize the platform fully, I’m confident that it can give us much better information to manage our business and plan for the future. We’ve gone from frustration to optimism and joy.
John Kay, CEO
What insights could Accelo provide your team? See how the platform works for consulting businesses.