Interview - Nick Buchanan

Entrepreneurship
Operations
M&A
198

Today’s guest is Nick Buchanan. Nick started his career at Deloitte. Upon leaving, he forwent the traditional accounting path to start something new. Read on!

Contents:

  • Leveraging data
  • Recruiting Big 4 talent
  • Learning resources
  • Filtering out noise

Can you tell us about your background?

I attended KU for my undergrad and studied accounting. That led to getting my masters at the University of Michigan. I met people who were going to take jobs at the Big Four and I got into the recruitment process early. Everybody talks about it being a great place to start a career. It made sense to me. I was young, got to travel and work with smart people. So I accepted a job with Deloitte’s audit practice in Portland.

How was your experience with Deloitte?

It was great. I started with a class of 25. I was on a lot of technology clients and was exposed to acquisitions, companies going public, etc. I had the opportunity to travel quite a bit, spending time in Alaska, New York and Dallas. I got to work with a lot people with very different backgrounds. Getting thrown into a fast-paced, work hard/play hard environment is a great experience when you’re first starting out. You have a lot of responsibility and I think it’s a different experience than if you go straight to industry. I really enjoyed it.

What went into deciding to leave Deloitte?

I spent 3.5 years in Portland and then moved back to KC and did one more busy season. When I moved back, I was working in Topeka on the WestStar engagement all the time. Having to commute everyday got old. And coming from technology clients, working on a public utility wasn’t nearly as interesting. I decided to move on and was interviewing with a wide variety of companies. At the same time, my dad was doing a little consulting and had a needed help on project. I was considering a job at Lockton, but their controller advised me to help my father instead and just see where that goes. That's what led to starting BUCSanalytics.

Tell us more about BUCS.

Back then, BUCS was doing similar work that you see now with fractional CFOs. Helping clients better understand cashflow, looking at gross margin, working capital terms, etc. We’d help them understand profitability down to product, vendor and customer levels. That taught us how to be very good at integrating data points at a very granular level across non-related data sets. That led to where BUCS is now, where we offer software that plugs into every application that a business uses and applies those principles of integrating different data points together. On average, our clients have 8-10 applications that house data. Each of those are storage points for data that are important for making decisions. BUCS enables the integration of that data to help organizations understand what’s going on and drive decisions from there.
When we started, we were helping people understand finance and accounting in their businesses. Now we’re helping companies rapidly aggregate data across all their different applications so they could see what's going on in their business. That's gotten us into the private equity and M&A world. We’ve worked on acquisitions this year ranging from $3 million to $750 million in top line revenue. When firms (who are BUCS clients) send an LOI to buy a company, we're there on day one, integrating with the target’s data and connecting it into our platform. This allows the buyer to have ease of access to everything that's going on so they can understand their business and develop their models. Those models are automatically updated and they're not spending a lot of time rebuilding them. The integration of all those data points allows them to have insights into the business that they’ve never really had access to before. And we’re rapidly providing that information to them.

Once an acquisition is closed, does the client continue to use your platform?

Yes, from there our software turns into an automated FP&A resource. Traditionally, FP&A departments have had to pull data out of many different applications and get it into Excel. That involves a lot of copying and pasting, usually into multiple spreadsheets or multiple tabs. If one cell gets messed up during that process, it can create chaos. We automate that process which allows (expensive) FP&A employees to spend their time interpreting and driving insight from data. Companies who hire Big 4 alum to run complicated spreadsheets are going to lose that talent. If they use BUCS to simplify and automate the aggregation and disbursement of their data workflow, that talent will be freed up to drive value for the organization and increase job satisfaction.

How do you get talent to leave Big 4 and join BUCSanalytics?

We're still a small organization that has high goals. From the client side, our guys coming out of the Big 4 get to work with CEOs and owners. They help drive business decisions and really learn the ins and outs of running a business. On the internal side, they are getting to see how BUCS continues to grow. They’re exposed to marketing, sales, recruiting, pretty much everything. They would never see the breadth and depth of what goes on in a business if they went to a big organization. We aren’t a company that works 40 hour weeks. But if you believe in yourself and can help us succeed, your resume is going to be pretty impressive with a few years at BUCS. Our role is to create future business leaders. As they go forward with us, they’ll have opportunities to be pulled away. Our job is to provide the best opportunity for them to advance their careers.

What do you look for when hiring?

We typically hire people with 2-4 years of experience. So experienced associates or senior associates. Coming in at that level, they have a solid foundation for our business. In addition to that, we look for what drives someone outside of work. There needs to be some sort of creative outlet. Public accounting can be anti-creative. In audit, you’re very much controlled by accounting standards. So we need to see something that shows they think outside the box. It could be traveling, a sport or hobby, volunteering, a number of different things. But something that shows they have a desire to do more.

What are some of your favorite learning resources?

There are many podcasts and books that can provide a great foundation. I listen to Invest Like the Best every week when it comes out. Another important resource is peer groups; I'm in a couple that I meet with regularly. They include people who are in a similar position to you in life. Those people can be anywhere in the world. You can just jump on a Zoom call, share ideas and have people who challenge and motivate you. These groups have been unbelievably valuable to me. We just try to help each other solve problems in our businesses. Last but not least, I’d advise that you look for mentorship. These are the people that have gone down your path before and they can continue to challenge you and push you even further. They will have invaluable insight into specific things that you are to deal with.

How do you balance constantly improving with everything in life?

I think this is something that a lot of people struggle with. But first, I try to set up a foundation of eating healthy, working out and prioritizing the right things. If you're tired it's just harder to absorb as much when learning. You don't have as much time or energy to do all that you want to do. From there, I try to make sure there’s purpose behind everything that I do. That helps me decipher what information I need to take in or what meetings I need to take. COVID has been a good thing for that, because it’s removed a lot of noise. It’s driven me to analyze what’s really important and to cut out more and more of what’s not meaningful. Over time, you’ll learn what’s relevant and what’s not. I try to focus my time on the people and resources that are honest and helpful. That includes having the right team, investing in them, and having everyone spend more of time on valuable activity for the organization.

What motivates you?

On a personal side, I like challenges and problem solving. When I'm home, I like to always be doing something. I have a very hard time just sitting down and watching TV. I'm always wanting to read or learn or do something. With BUCS, it's the same thing. I think we've started to create something that clients find valuable. So I’m focused on making it bigger reaching a bigger audience. That's a challenge that I don't have an answer to and we're constantly seeking it. I find that fun and engaging. Throughout our organization, I think everybody finds that they have ownership in our success. All of that drives me to make BUCS a better organization, a better company. I like the challenge and that there isn't a single answer. Nobody has gone down this specific path. That drives me to try to figure out how to accomplish those goals.

Any specific goals you would like to share?

In the short term, my main goals are to fulfill the promises that we’ve made to our customers, employees and shareholders. We want to provide great careers for our employees and offer valuable tools to our clients. Long term, I want to find different avenues to challenge me. That could include starting another company or helping support one that already exists. But ultimately, I want to continue working in a place that I like to go to everyday, that motivates me, drives me to learn, and challenges me to become better.