Paul Grey is the Founder of A2X, a fast-growing software service that automates accounting for e-commerce businesses that sell across multiple platforms. A2X posts a seller’s Shopify, Amazon, Walmart, and eBay sales and fees directly into QuickBooks or Xero in summaries that match the payments in their bank account.
In addition to his work at A2X, Paul is also the Founder of ExportX, an innovative export e-commerce company that represents 50 brands in North America, Europe, and Australia. He was also previously the Co-founder and CTO of Peace Software where he designed, built, and implemented customer information software products for gas, electricity, and water utilities.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Paul Grey talks about his early experience with FBA and why he decided to build his accounting software, A2X
- How Paul grew his software into a scalable SaaS product
- Paul’s advice to Amazon sellers about accurate and effective accounting
- How does A2X help e-commerce business owners improve their financials?
- Paul explains they determine FBA inventory valuation using Average Cost Per SKU
- The impact of COVID-19 on A2X and its users
- Paul shares his thoughts on how current e-commerce brands are changing their outlook about the Amazon platform
- The emergence of e-commerce accounting as a specialist discipline
In this episode…
Are you confident about your e-commerce business financials? For most Amazon sellers, balance sheets and financial statements can be complex and hard to trust—and many business owners disregard their Amazon accounting for this reason. But according to Paul Grey, bad accounting can lead to serious issues down the line, and this includes problems ranging from tax compliance to difficulties in transferring your business.
Luckily, Paul has created the perfect solution for e-commerce sellers struggling with their accounting: A2X. As an automated accounting service, A2X posts a seller’s Amazon, Shopify, Walmart, or eBay sales and fees directly into Quickbooks or Xero. This way, business owners can trust their numbers and make better business decisions on every e-commerce platform.
Join James Thomson in this episode of the Buy Box Experts podcast as he chats with Paul Grey, Founder of A2X, about the importance of accurate and effective accounting for e-commerce businesses. Paul shares the motivation behind his e-commerce accounting software and how it helps Amazon sellers vastly improve their financials. He also gives insights on effective accounting, specialized outsourcing, and why you should be selling on Amazon. Stay tuned.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Buy Box Experts
- Paul Grey on LinkedIn
- Find an e-commerce accountant on A2X
- Click & Mortar Accounting
- ECommerce Account LLC
- Catching Clouds
- Disruptive Advertising
Sponsor for this episode…
Buy Box Experts applies decades of e-commerce experience to successfully manage their clients’ marketplace accounts. The Buy Box account managers specialize in combining an understanding of their clients’ business fundamentals and their in-depth expertise in the Amazon Marketplace.
The team works with marketplace technicians using a system of processes, proprietary software, and extensive channel experience to ensure your Amazon presence captures the opportunity in the marketplace–not only producing greater revenue and profits but also reducing or eliminating your business’ workload.
Buy Box Experts prides itself on being one of the few agencies with an SMB (small to medium-sized business) division and an Enterprise division. Buy Box does not commingle clients among divisions as each has unique needs and requirements for proper account management.
Learn more about Buy Box Experts at BuyBoxExperts.com.
Welcome to the Buy Box Experts podcast we bring to light the unique opportunities brands face in today’s e-commerce world.
James Thomson 0:18
Hi, I’m James Thompson, one of the hosts of the Buy Box Experts podcast. I’m a partner with Buy Box Experts and formerly the business head of the selling on Amazon team at Amazon, as well as the first account manager for the Fulfillment by Amazon program. Today’s episode is brought to you by Buy Box Experts. Buy Box Experts takes ambitious brands and makes them unbeatable. When you hire Buy Box Experts you receive the strategy optimization and marketing performance to succeed on Amazon. Buy Box Experts is the only agency that combines executive level advisory services with expert performance management and execution of your Amazon channel strategy. Go to buyboxexperts.com to learn more. Before I introduce our guests today, I want to send a big shout out to the team at Disruptive Advertising. For off Amazon advertising, Disruptive Advertising offers the level of service highest in the industry, focusing on driving traffic, converting traffic and enterprise analytics. Disruptive helps their clients increase their bottom line month to month. Check out disruptiveadvertising.com to learn more. Our guest today is Paul Grey, the CEO and Founder of A2X accounting software firm that posts online sellers’ Shopify, Walmart, Amazon and eBay sales and fees directly into QuickBooks or Zero in tidy summaries that match the payments to the sellers bank account. Paul is also the founder of ExportX, a firm that specializes in celebrating New Zealand brands by making them available around the world. Paul is bringing his expertise to us today sharing best practices on how to turn proper accounting into a vehicle for better understanding overall decisions that need to be made. So welcome, Paul. And thank you for joining us today on our Buy Box Experts podcast.
Paul Grey 2:05
James, thanks for thanks for having me on the show.
James Thomson 2:09
I’ve known you for several years when we first met through the Prosper Show four or five years back. For the first time I met you I’ve been impressed by your serial entrepreneurial spirit, you sell online and you support firms that sell online. What led you to find opportunities in the online marketplace space?
Paul Grey 2:29
What led me to find opportunities in online marketplaces? Well, really the origins of A2X the software service used by so many 1000s of Amazon sellers now go back to well, the early days of FBA, you know you just mentioned you were you were heavily involved in that and and I remember that too, you know, back when FBA was a an experiment in a corner of Reno, one right profess and, and I shipped some products in there and received perfectly and made that first sale through through the amazon.com marketplace. And then, you know, a couple of weeks later got that first settlement payout. But of course, the dollars that got paid out did not exactly match the sales that were made. So the next question is What’s going on here? There’s clearly some fees and some other transactions, how do we account for that that settlement period spanned a month ends and a quarter end. So some of it must have related to the previous financial period and you know, the dollars were small with your first settlement payout. But in my mind, there’s only one way to do that financial side of running a business and it’s to do it right from the beginning. And so I waded through that, you know, downloaded that settlement file, and I thought, What on earth have we got here? Alright, and that worked out how to do it in a spreadsheet as probably so many people do. And we build a process around that to automate that using spreadsheets, and then we switch that into clouds free cheat, so we could automate it further and, and that kind of stuff. But it was pretty clear that that was not the way to run a business. That was going to be anything other than a very small ecommerce business. Look, spreadsheets are unreliable. There’s curveballs that turn up in those data files and spreadsheets would break. By then we were selling also with Amazon in the UK and Europe. So you have multi currency challenges and accounting. And, and so as software engineers, it was pretty natural for us to build some Way to automate that that would be robust and reliable and automated, that could handle all of that.
James Thomson 5:07
Building building technology to support your own seller business is very different from deciding you’re going to become a SaaS operator. So how did you make that shift? And say, we’ve got something here, that’s good enough that let’s figure out how to sell this and make it available to 1000s of sellers?
Paul Grey 5:25
Yes, yes, it is. I absolutely second that, you know, lots of us can build tools for our own use. But commercial grade software is a whole different thing. I guess I had the advantage going in that prior to starting selling with Amazon and getting into e-commerce, I’d had a 20 year career, building a software product company, and taking that international, etc, etc. The big thing that, so I had an idea and running a software team of 500 people, 250 of them engineers, you know, you get an idea of what real software it looks like, and how to do it properly, how to do it at scale or so. And so how did we make that transition? Well, I think what actually happened is, you know, I probably mentioned what we were doing at one or two conferences in Seattle, and here and there. And some, we started to get inquiries from accounting firms in the United States had heard about what we were doing. And that was saying, Hey, can we use what you’ve built, because that’s what we need for Amazon. And so we made a version that people could use I, I decided to call it more than a prototype, looking back at it, but it was really when, you know, it went from, you know, one to to 50 to 100. And we said, Hold on a second here. Our theory all the way through had been that, as an early Amazon seller, we would see the challenges in running an Amazon business and be able to automate some of them with software. So I guess we were looking for that opportunity, there were a number of tools we built and some of the others people love, but didn’t want to pay for some of them, people didn’t see the same need that we did. But with A2X. That was pretty clear. You know, we were just people were asking for it. And so that was the decision to then take that prototype as the starting point and invest in rebuilding it as a commercial grade, high quality, highly scalable, secure SaaS products that would be able to support you know, not just hundreds or a few 1000s of transactions, but millions of transactions. And so we took that decision, we invested we built that. And then we launched it properly, I’m going to say in in 2016,
James Thomson 7:58
just about the time that we met. So let me ask you this fall over the last decade I have worked with I can’t tell you how many Amazon sellers that do shamelessly bad accounting of their Amazon business. And while Amazon hasn’t always provided the most user friendly financial files for sellers to use, how do you coach sellers on the need for good accounting and what to expect from Amazon financial data?
Paul Grey 8:23
Yeah, I mean, like you I think I’m continually amazed and impressed at how well so many Amazon sellers do without accurate financials, you know, whether they’re doing cash accounting, or no accounting at all,
James Thomson 8:36
okay? shoebox accounting at the end of the day, it’s, it’s
Paul Grey 8:40
incredible. It’s so impressive how far people can get, sooner or later, something’s going to happen. And they’re going to have to address what’s going on in the back office, or even perhaps start a back office function or outsource maybe to an accounting firm that can do it for them. And you know, some of those situations are things such as well, a really obvious one tax compliance. And, you know, in Europe, it’s VAT compliance comes first even before income tax compliance. And you can get a certain way with cash accounting, but once you’re above certain thresholds, you’re basically not legal if you’re not doing proper accrual accounting. So that’s one of the triggers. And people sort of realize that. Another one is, when people go to look for funding, maybe they’re looking for funding for growth, inventory or building, building growth into their business. You know, a lending institution is going to want to see proper financials. Otherwise, your borrowing options really are limited to those really expensive cash flow funding options, which you know, can be a double double edged sword. And another one is when people are thinking about, you know, they’ve maybe built build value in a brand Especially under that, you know, private label FBA seller model, if it’s about building a brand and brand value, and maybe thinking about exiting their brand. The valuation is predicated on accurate financials. So if you, if you, you know, someone’s just looking to interested in purchasing your brand from you, and they’re going to ask for your financials, if you don’t have accurate financials, they’re just going to draw a line through the valuation divided by two or divided by five. So that’s another one of the things that we see people have, you know, it can be it’s an emergency, you know, we need to get our financials up to date, which sometimes has to go back years of reconstructing what’s actually been happening.
James Thomson 10:42
So Paul, what are some of the biggest misperceptions that you’ve seen Amazon sellers have about the financial information on their businesses? Put a little bit differently, once a seller becomes an A2X accounting customer, what positive changes become most obvious to them?
Paul Grey 10:57
Yeah, I think, I think perhaps the number one is that often, for the first time in their business history, they can trust the numbers that they’re seeing in the profit and loss statement and the balance sheet. And just to give some context, that and I know this from my own experience, if you get from your bookkeeper, a profit statement that says, Oh, you made 60% margin on sales this month, and then you get the next one, and it says, Oh, you made only 10% margin as well. In the next one, it says 25%, you just go? That’s not right. None of those numbers are right. So I can’t trust any of those numbers. And why does that happen? It’s because, you know, often an accountant will use the same accounting model for e commerce that they use for another retail business, you know, a corner store. But e commerce is different. It’s a different accounting discipline, there are a lot of timing issues. And the thing is running a business, you need to know what that gross margin number is, firstly, because it’s fundamental to your profitability, you don’t want to be selling it, margins that are too skinny to cover your overheads. Don’t leave any profit for you. And, and, and secondly, you need to be able to see the trends for that to happen, it needs to be accurate. And so one of the things that A2X will do to achieve that, to achieve that trust and the profit and loss statement is firstly, it will separate out the balance sheet items that are coming through in those feeds from Amazon, there are a lot of balance sheet transactions in an Amazon settlement, you know,
James Thomson 12:39
single order, you could have three or four different line items.
Paul Grey 12:43
Yeah, and on top of that, sometimes you’ve got Amazon lending transactions, and then you’ve Well, for a start, you have sales tax transaction these days, right? Those are balance sheet items, not revenue or expense. And then now, especially with the newer seller accounts, you have the hold back periods, right. So when you get a payout, often it’s a payout for transactions that happened, you know, up to a month ago, and there’s a match carried forward. And so you’re almost running a sort of a semi receivables balance. And those transactions need to be put in the right financial periods. A2X takes care of all of that. And then that’s on the, you know, what’s your actual revenue and your actual variable selling costs. But the other big component of gross margin, the calculation is what is the cost of goods sold in that financial period. And it’s, it’s, it’s, and this is where a lot of maybe conventional retail accounting goes astray. In e-commerce. There are, you know, long, often long international supply chains, you place an order for inventory today for $100,000. You know, that’s not an expense in November’s profit and loss. Now, that’s actually a prepayment. And then when the inventory arrives, whenever it arrives, it becomes an inventory asset on your balance sheet. Those are balance sheet transactions. And then, you know, in February, if we sell 1000 units, we want there to be a cogs number in our profit and loss statement of what the cost was for 1000 units out of that $100,000 that we spent this month. A2X will do that and by its ability to match up the cost of goods sold number with the revenue number that’s in split out all the things that balance sheet items. That’s how you get an accurate margin number. Now once you get an accurate margin number, month to month, now you’re cooking on your financial side, right because now you can see a true gross margin. And you can start to look at your overheads and you can see about sheet position and you can have financial confidence and make decisions about your business with from an informed financial position. It just eliminates that whole financial thing. blonde, a problem that so many people are finding themselves having to do.
James Thomson 15:05
One of the challenges we have with so many brands that are new to Amazon is they show up, they put all their catalog onto Amazon, they treat it as one blob, like a one total entity. And being able to break things out and look at individual p&l is by SKU. That’s a concept that’s completely foreign to them. And yet, the competitive landscape is going to be different and every one of those SKUs. And so being in a position to know, how many products Am I selling, were the only person making money as Amazon. And maybe I should exit those products, you know that that kind of situation, you know, we run into an awful lot. And it’s challenging for brands that don’t necessarily have good distribution control. And there’s unauthorized sellers selling their products competing against them driving prices down, creating situations where they’re actually the brand is not in control of what ultimately will be the retail price on their products on Amazon. And lo and behold, they’re losing money every time they sell one of their units or product. So I mean, these kinds of situations are foreign to most brands that haven’t participated in a competitive marketplace like Amazon. I’m curious if there are other unexpected ways that Amazon sellers can make better decisions now that they have accurate, updated accounting? Have you seen some clients do some things very clever things that would never have been possible without this kind of granularity?
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