The journey of a company doesn’t begin at the date of incorporation. The real journey begins when an idea is brewing inside the head of an entrepreneur whose focus is to bring that idea to life. To understand the journey of SkyStem, we must first begin with the story of its founder. Shagun Malhotra, Founder and CEO of SkyStem, is a CPA and CIA by trade, she started her career in the travel and hospitality industry, and through her experience in audit and investigative accounting, she ultimately fell in love with the world of audit, controls, and the accounting process.
A troubled financial services giant asked Shagun to spearhead the year-long remediation effort due to broken internal controls around the month-end process, upon which she successfully delivered a clean audit. From this experience, she saw first-hand the multitude of problems and risks accountants face when employing manual methods to close the books and complete reconciliations. She also realized that existing platforms with automation in this area were not suitable for all companies and were often priced quite high. This meant that automation was beyond reach for many mid-sized companies that could benefit from automation during the close, but lacked the resources to make a large software investment and undergo a multi-month implementation.
This experience motivated Shagun to found SkyStem, a SaaS provider that aimed to create an affordably priced solution to help mid-sized companies automate the month-end close process. SkyStem’s flagship solution, ART, was brought to the market shortly after.
Customer First Approach
Founded in 2009, SkyStem delivers a powerful month-end close automation platform – ART – that is easy to use and fast to implement. ART helps accountants reduce up to 40% of reconciliations every month and eliminate up to 90% of administrative activities around the month-end close process. This is accomplished by automating various month-end activities such system reconciliations, digital workflow and signatures, intelligent calculation schedules, recurring checklists, real-time dashboards, and ready-made reports. In some cases, it has helped customers successfully shorten the time to close the books by up to 50%.
SkyStem strives to bring soul to software by providing intelligent and intuitive solutions that eliminate redundant work. It provides customers the opportunity to focus on more dynamic and fulfilling work. The company emphasizes the human touch so that customers get the best of both worlds – cutting-edge technology paired with fanatical customer service. SkyStem works to make its customers’ lives easier. “The satisfaction that we gain from a truly content customer is priceless. This means being responsive, alert, and proactive with our customers,” mentions Shagun.
The customer-centric approach has helped the company deliver a best-in-class product to the market. ART is affordable, easy to use and fast to implement. It provides an efficient way to perform the month-end close and focuses on the quality aspect of the work with unique features that set it apart. The company offers three packages that allow ART to be customizable to the customer’s needs and budget based on the features that will benefit them the most. Putting the customer at the core of the product has always proven beneficial to the company’s success.
A Different Kind of Entrepreneur
Generally, it is more challenging for a female entrepreneur to build a company in a male dominated industry. It is important to stay the course even with these challenging situations. Shagun, who has an unconventional background, spent the first few years of her childhood on a ship, as her father was a captain in the merchant navy. Shagun shares, “My mother homeschooled me at sea until we settled in Egypt when I was about seven years old. That was actually the first time I stepped into a traditional classroom. I finished my primary, secondary, and university studies in several different countries, and upon graduation, I fell into the world of accounting.”
Prior to founding SkyStem, She worked at Fortune 100 companies such as Marriott and Freddie Mac. Her work focused primarily on internal controls and risk mitigation in both international and domestic arenas. The challenging situation throughout her life has led her to become a different type of entrepreneur. She makes a conscious effort to ensure female presence is represented throughout all departments at SkyStem and has always encouraged women to take on growth-oriented roles regardless of the industry. “I aim to put a dent in the gender imbalance in the tech and finance industry and have continually advocated for minority women in the workplace. As a minority woman myself, I personally understand this issue by seeing it through my own experience as an auditor,” says Shagun
Distinctive in the Industry
The success of a company is highly dependent upon the team and its leadership. No successful business can be built alone, and having a good team is as essential as other things. The SkyStem team is supportive, creative, and customer centric and have helped model the company into the successful business it is today.
Shagun doesn’t believe that there are only a few magic attributes or formulas that leads to success. She defines success as how happy the customers and staff are. She feels fortunate enough today to have employees with her since the founding of SkyStem. She notes it’s important to have passion, patience, and a strong commitment to customers. The company is distinctive in the industry in that it offers white-glove customer support service free of charge. In addition, they also aim to have a significant number of enhancements derived from the existing customer pool. This has helped the company to create a strong and loyal customer base.
“I am also very personally vested in encouraging female leadership in my community. My personal involvement in many aspects of entrepreneurship such as being a member of a Department of State panel for women entrepreneurship and being a judge for the New York City Business plan competition has really helped demonstrated my commitment in this area.”
Continuing to Inject Intelligence
Predicting anything now is very difficult especially with the recent challenges of the pandemic. Automation around various accounting processes is inevitable and the need to upgrade and infuse automation has never been higher. The new remote and hybrid work environment will demand this. Considering this, Shagun wants to continue to build and refine the current product to mirror what the customers need. “As we continue to acquire customers, we are always amazed at and grateful for how many great ideas are delivered to us by our customers. Continuing to inject intelligence into our solution will enable our customers to do more with less, and we want that vision to be a constant focal point,” concludes Shagun.
Quote: “ART helps CFO and Controllers streamline the month-end close and eliminate up to 90% of manual activities while strengthening internal controls and corporate governance.”