Classical goes digital

Classical goes digital

How A2X helped Ficks Music focus on growth

Ficks Music has carved out a very specific niche for itself. The business sells high-quality, well-curated classical sheet music online. Because so many brick-and-mortar music stores have gone out of business, they provide an essential service for serious classical musicians.

Ficks has its own online store, but the business is increasingly focused on selling through Amazon. The platform allows them to reach a wider audience and even manages their shipping and warehousing. But as owner David Friedman explains, selling through Amazon - and using Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) in particular - makes the money side of the business much more difficult to manage.

After trying several other options, David settled on A2X to help him streamline his Amazon accounting. As he explains, the software handles the money details, leaving him to focus on more important work.

“It feels great. My role right now is to grow the business and I need to trust that the details are correct to do that.”

Complex and time consuming

Amazon’s sales reporting is notoriously complicated. Amazon supplies monthly reports detailing a huge range of taxes and fees, which then need to be entered into accounting software - like Xero or QuickBooks Online. The way Amazon records sale dates can be confusing as well - reports aren’t always broken down by month, which can make accounting more difficult.

Many business owners find the level of detail supplied by Amazon time consuming and complicated to work with - and David Friedman was no different. Because Ficks Music also buys and sells in multiple currencies, the accounting is even harder to understand.

David puts it like this: “We buy in multiple currencies, importing from the EU. There is some complexity there. Amazon adds to that.”

For David, that meant he had little visibility over the way his business was really performing.

“For example, I didn’t have a clear sense of seasonality. You may expect May to be a smaller sales month but then if your April money’s hidden in May, it gives you a false understanding.”

When Ficks Music moved into Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) they ran into almost the opposite problem. FBA reports folded all costs into one, so David no longer had information about warehousing costs or shipping fees. This meant he couldn’t really analyse his overall costs and work out whether FBA was right for the business.

“Their reporting offered no visibility of what the real costs were. What does it cost us to do this with Amazon vs ourselves, including refunds, materials, and space? We had no idea what it was costing.”

That’s where A2X comes in.

A simple ‘graceful’ solution

David Friedman admits that balancing the books is not his favourite job - particularly when it involves wading through screeds of minute, almost pointless detail. But he understands that maintaining good, clear accounts are an essential part of running a business. After struggling with complicated Amazon reports and manual entry into QuickBooks Online, he started looking for a simpler solution.

“I don’t have the resources to dig through detailed, insane reports - nor do I care. I’m focused on growing the business, I don’t need that detail.”

David trialed another well-known provider, Entriwise, but found that it made the problem worse - one click imported thousands of mostly useless line items into his accounting software. He ended up needing to delete these manually, so after fifteen hours of pointless extra work, giving up on that software solution was a no-brainer.

A2X’s simple, user-friendly approach turned out to be far more manageable. David appreciated that the software allowed him to check his data before it was imported to QuickBooks Online - so he knew it wouldn’t create more work down the line. He liked that he could view essential details on every transaction, without having to wade through endless data. He also liked that it sorted out the date issues coming from Amazon, regardless of when he entered the data.

“I was super pleased at how gracefully A2X handled that. It did the right thing - the money and expenses from May went in May. All of a sudden my monthly reports made sense.”

Changing the business

It’s safe to say that moving to A2X has made a big difference in the way Ficks Music works - in fact, David says so himself. By simplifying the accounting side of the business, A2X has freed up time for him to focus on higher-level strategy. He works on growing the business, while A2X takes care of the sales details.

It’s also helped him make decisions about profitability. Ficks Music was using Amazon’s FBA for a time, but it turned out that this option was actually more expensive than managing shipping and storage themselves. Because Amazon’s reporting was so complex, it was difficult for David to see this at the beginning. A2X helped break down the various expenses over time, making it clear that FBA wasn’t right for them.

Ficks Music provides products for a niche audience, but that doesn’t mean it won’t grow bigger. In fact, David has been surprised by how much demand there is. As the business continues to reach new customers and sell more sheet music, their accounting will no doubt become more complex. With A2X in place to manage the details coming in from Amazon, the business should be well set up to deal with their growth.

David Friedman puts it like this:

“A2X has changed my business more than anything else. It’s easy and clear. It’s simple. It does what it’s supposed to do, the right way, and it does it all the time.”