Founded in 2005, Premier Trailer Leasing has experienced tremendous growth. “When we started, we had about 2,500 trailers,” says Tori Geer, VP and controller at Premier. “To date, we now have about 52,000 trailers and 37 branches across the United States.”
Yet in contrast to the company’s overall expansion, Premier’s accounting team has stayed small.
“Our team is very, very lean. We have two people in Accounting, two in Accounts Receivable, three in Accounts Payable, two in Inventory, and two in Tax,” says Geer. “We have to work very hard to make sure everything is done on time because we don’t have 10 accountants. We have two—and they like to take vacation, too.”
The company’s outdated, paper-based close process created ever-increasing manual work for the already stretched team. Journal entries were particularly challenging.
“There was paper, paper, and more paper. We would print out journal entries and take them to get signed. From there, we would post the entries and then scan all of the paper back into the books. And then shred the paper,” says Geer. “It was all very manual—and very time consuming.”
In 2016, Premier was acquired by Redwood Capital Investments. The private equity company not only helped leadership “see the greater potential of Premier,” says Geer, but encouraged investment in financial close technology to address efficiency and visibility and free staff from manual close tasks.
In the search for a new close solution, Geer and the team vetted three vendors, including BlackLine. During the review process, BlackLine stood out for several reasons. While functionality and ease of use were key, BlackLine’s Journal Entry solution “was one of the main reasons we wanted BlackLine,” says Vesta Lot, director of Accounting.
“Journal Entry differentiated BlackLine from competitors. We saw how it would streamline our journal entry process. We thought it was impressive and would be an advantage in shaving time off our close.”
Premier had just started implementing BlackLine Account Reconciliations, Task Management, Transaction Matching, and Journal Entry when the 2020 pandemic began.
“Our entire accounting team ended up having to work from home. We all have kids, and we were just trying to adjust to a new normal, in addition to implementing BlackLine and another platform,” says Lot. “BlackLine was great in extending all of our deadlines and working with us through our new time constraints.”
Lot credits two BlackLine implementation consultants with enabling the “smooth and easy transition” from their paper-based process to BlackLine during a chaotic, uncertain time. “They were really with us throughout the entire process, holding our hands, helping us implement. We were really grateful.”
Saved time. Since implementing BlackLine, Premier Trailer has reduced close time by 15%.
“We have trimmed two to three days off our month-end close,” says Lot. “This gives us more time to sit back and analyze and look at what we could be doing better. We finally have an efficient month-end close system.”
Adds Geer, “The time savings has been huge for us. Before BlackLine, we were running about 17 days on a good month. We’ve reduced that to 12-15 days.”
The time savings are especially valuable as Premier Trailer must wait until billing is done to close the books.
“A lot of companies get billing closed on the last day of the month, but for us, because we're billing time, it’s not quite so easy. We have to make sure that we wait until the very last day to start billing so that we get all of that data captured,” says Geer.
“For us, billing won't close until day four or five, which pushes our close out a little bit longer. For us, shortening the close by two days is a huge, huge help. Redwood has been super happy having that extra time.”
Improved visibility. All of Premier’s close data is now immediately available and searchable within BlackLine.
“We can go in and see the entry and all of the backup. That's a huge plus for us,” says Geer. “You have your entries, you have your tasks, and you have your journals all in one place. With BlackLine, it’s one source of truth.”
Adds Lot, “Before BlackLine, everyone had their own folder for journal entries. If you needed someone’s backup, you had to send an email. Now everything is in BlackLine. You can see everyone’s journal entry. It’s a plus.”
Improved visibility will also streamline future audits, and Geer and Lot anticipate giving read-only permission to auditors. “With BlackLine, auditors can sign in and see whatever we want to share with them,” says Geer. “That will be a huge, huge help.”
Empowered staff. Eliminating time-consuming manual work from the journals process hasn’t just improved efficiency—it’s improved morale.
“Taking the printing, scanning, and shredding process out of the close has made our teams happier. They feel like they’re doing more important work because they’re focusing on analyzing the data, instead of scanning the data,” says Geer. “We like it better as managers because we're not giving them mundane tasks. We all have better things to do.”
Because they’re no longer managing copious amounts of paper, teams can be more detailed in their analysis—and more proactive.
“We have our corporate financials, and we send out 37 branch financials on top of that,” says Geer. “With BlackLine, we now have the time to really analyze those branch financials to make sure they are accurate and complete, instead of sending them out and waiting to see if the branches identify any issues. We’re proactive, instead of reactive.”
Streamlined task management. Previously, close tasks were stored in a rarely looked-at Excel file. Today, tasks are centrally managed from within BlackLine. Leadership has immediate visibility into pending and overdue tasks and users receive ongoing reminders of upcoming items.
“In the past, I would write tasks on my whiteboard so that I knew I wouldn't forget one,” says Geer. “Now, I love being able to log into BlackLine and see all the tasks that I need to do.”
The close calendar is also within BlackLine. “With the calendar, I can see where we are, what still needs to be done, and who is holding up the process.”