How many frozen mice does a zoo have to buy each year to feed the residents of its reptile houses? How much fly spray is needed to keep a herd of giraffes comfortable? How much money needs to be raised from generous donors to compensate for a drop in visitor admission revenues resulting from a global pandemic?
A good person to answer these questions is Kim Pridgen, CFO of the Nashville Zoo, the ninth largest facility of its kind in the United States in terms of landmass. After a career mainly spent in the healthcare industry, Pridgen joined the zoo two years ago – around the same time she welcomed a new grandson, who will no doubt grow up believing her grandson to be. mom has the coolest job in the world. FYI, his grandmother agrees.
That said, it was clear to Pridgen at the start of his new job that urgent changes needed to be made to the zoo’s financial systems. The first month-end close, she recalls, really opened her eyes to the issues and risks associated with operating many legacy financial management systems:
It was so problematic. Seeing how accounts payable were handled at that very first month end close, I was amazed that our systems were still running on a daily basis. I immediately said, ‘I need funds to tackle this’, and I think I scared everyone by sounding the fire alarm and saying,’ It’s unacceptable to continue like this.
But the Nashville Zoo’s management team listened, she says, and quickly rallied, agreeing to an upgrade to Sage Intacct. This decision was made after conversations with CFOs at other zoos in the United States and after also considering Microsoft Dynamics GP, Oracle NetSuite, and Blackbaud. Intacct’s Accounts Payable, Cash Management and General Ledger modules were implemented by local company LBMC Technology Solutions and went live just weeks before the lockdown went into effect in 2020. C ‘was a fortuitous moment, says Pridgen:
We would never have been able to work remotely if we were still on our old systems. On the one hand, our AP process is now paperless, thanks to Intacct, and when we started working remotely, we were able to immerse ourselves in everyone’s work on the system as if we were in the office, to find the documentation associated with a journal entry, or supplier invoice, or cash deposit. This transparency and ease of use has made the transition to working from home so much easier for all of us.
Facing COVID and reconnecting with growth
Overall, the Nashville Zoo has halved the time it takes to reach month-end close, from 10 days to five; days off for the preparation of monthly reports for the management team; and saved thousands of dollars through better expense analysis, without compromising animal care.
Pridgen was able to check cash flow weekly instead of quarterly, which was of great help during the uncertainty of the pandemic, and to perform budget projections to enable financial planning in the event. where there would be another stop.
But more importantly, she says, Sage Intacct provides a solid foundation for the zoo’s ambitions to revive expansion plans that necessarily took a step back in 2020.
On his to-do list is the addition of statistical accounts, such as gatekeeper hours and visitor attendance, in Sage Intacct. She is also working on creating role-based dashboards to monitor overall performance and demonstrate program impact. Finally, she plans to implement the Sage Intacct purchasing module, which will help the organization adopt centralized purchasing practices and fully prepare for re-launching growth when the time is right:
It will be a huge win-win for us as we will save staff time and cost when we can negotiate with suppliers on wholesale and discount basis. Instead of ten people buying fly control products, there will be one person buying fly control products for the whole zoo and doing it at a discount. Or we can buy both toilet paper and cleaning products for our toilets from a supplier who offers us better prices. This type of thinking has enormous potential here.
With the introduction of new animal habitats and unique visitor experiences on the agenda – including the development of over 40 acres as an African themed area over the next 10 to 15 years – the The Nashville Zoo’s financial team must be able to think it through. large:
We are all so excited to come back to these ideas we had before the pandemic. We’re back in growth mode, so we need to be able to figure out how to prioritize the many projects vying for funding over a number of different time frames. We couldn’t have done this before. Now we are ready to get down to business.