World-changing innovations often have small beginnings. In 1999, Salesforce was just three guys with a big idea, working out of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Meanwhile Apple and Microsoft sprang to life from a garage.
But innovation needs the right conditions before it can transform lives and livelihoods. Research costs money and the payoff is often uncertain. Which is why governments worldwide use tax incentives to encourage companies to engage in R&D and to bear the risks of creating potentially valuable IP.
MoneyOak, a Belgian consultancy founded in 2016, is the innovator’s innovator: a pioneer with a new approach to ensuring that research-active companies get the tax incentives they need to thrive – and keep innovating.
Salesforce has been a critical part of MoneyOak’s recent expansion beyond Belgium to Spain and France within just one year. As Hans D’Olieslager, Partner at Money Oak explained, “After examining the alternatives, we soon realised that Salesforce was the only complete solution with the functionality we needed to grow. We implemented Salesforce in the thick of the pandemic – just five months ago – and we’re already seeing results. Before Sales Cloud, a sales cycle might go through as many as 19 stages. We’re now closing deals in a quarter of the steps taken previously.”
Instead of merely focusing on the legal aspects of a company’s tax position, MoneyOak digs deep into a company’s research portfolio to surface eligible projects. Its multi-disciplinary team of PhD-qualified scientists, accountants and legal counsel offer a complete service that begins with scrutinising R&D projects for the relevant tax breaks, and continues all the way to assembling evidence and submitting applications to the relevant tax authority.
The difference MoneyOak makes is huge. According to Hans, one of its largest customers was shocked to discover that over a hundred of its R&D projects were eligible for unclaimed tax benefits. And because MoneyOak operates on a ‘no cure, no pay’ basis, even smaller companies and start-ups (that tend to struggle with the administrative burden of claiming tax reliefs for innovation) can afford its services.
When Hans joined MoneyOak in January last year, the company had already saved €120 million in tax for more than 100 research-active Belgian companies. Given the similarity of European tax regimes, there was an obvious opportunity for European expansion – which the company seized. By the end of 2020, MoneyOak had new offices in Madrid and Paris.
Like many lean companies, MoneyOak had been getting by with an ad hoc approach to CRM, and crucial customer details were still floating around in salespeople’s heads. If it was to scale effectively, it knew it needed a single point of reference for all its contacts and sales activities so tasks could be passed from one colleague to another.
Hans has nothing but praise for its Salesforce implementation partner, Novera Solutions. “Because of COVID, our implementation took place entirely via video calls, but that didn’t seem to hamper Novera Solutions at all. They understood what we needed immediately and soon showed me that they knew our business as well as we do.”
An important part of what MoneyOak needed from Sales Cloud was a route to the C-suite. Salesforce’s native integration with the company database Orbis – which MoneyOak uses to prioritise the most suitable companies – was an important factor in choosing Salesforce. Today, a new salesperson who logs into a Salesforce account can swiftly access a whole page of relevant company information via Orbis. And thanks to the ease with which Salesforce can be customised, MoneyOak was able to introduce special sections within each account that identifies a contact’s language preferences, affinity with certain events (golf tournaments or wine tastings for example), and even their birthdays.
But it’s not just about finding the right company – MoneyOak’s sales team also needs to connect with the right person (usually the CFO). Salesforce’s integration with LinkedIn makes the path to that all-important introduction much smoother. “We’re now able to quickly identify the right person to approach and reach them through recommendations from peers. For example, if we notice that the CFO at one of our customers is connected to another CFO via LinkedIn, we ask our customer for an introduction,” explained Hans.
MoneyOak is also a big fan of Salesforce Inbox, which connects email and Sales Cloud. Salespeople use email templates from Inbox to send standard sales messages to prospects. Then, when the contract is ready to be signed, another native Salesforce integration – this time with DocuSign – lets customers sign on the dotted line, digitally.
MoneyOak now has a cockpit view of its entire sales process and the various deals in play. “Our Executive Committee Dashboard is right at the heart of how we steer the company,” said Hans. “It contains the largest deals in play and the contracts signed so far, and allows leaders to drill down to individual lists and opportunities if something catches their eye.”
Besides enabling the executive team to pilot the company based on the latest facts and figures, the cockpit crucially flags contracts that are up for renewal. Before Salesforce, MoneyOak was only able to identify between 20 to 23 such contracts each year. Having all its customer data centralised in Salesforce and flagged via the cockpit has made it easy to spot opportunities for renewals and get in touch with customers. The result: the number of contracts identified for renewal has doubled to 46 this fiscal year.
Since implementing Salesforce in February this year, MoneyOak has been focused on Sales Cloud where its salespeople are building opportunities and managing the entire sales pipeline. But in the very near future, both its customers and delivery team will also have access to Salesforce. The delivery team will soon be able to track the time they’re spending on projects via a timesheet system that’s being built for them within Salesforce. And customers will be able to monitor the various stages of their engagement with MoneyOak via Community Cloud.
The transparency Community Cloud offers is going to be crucial for customer satisfaction. At present it’s difficult for customers to track the progress of their engagement with MoneyOak and the tax authorities, and spot when they need to provide MoneyOak with more information. There are even plans to use Community Cloud to gather customer evaluations of MoneyOak’s services.
Hans is excited about the possibilities ahead: “Salesforce has dramatically changed the way we work. It’s been a critical element of our international expansion and will only grow in importance in the future. The end goal is to put Salesforce at the heart of our operations and port all customer-related activities to Salesforce, including our project management. We can’t wait to start the next stage of our journey with Salesforce.”