The Secret Chocolatier Simplifies Back Office Operations
David Ostrowe credits the Eagle Scouts and the US Navy for making him the man he is today. But he’s always felt an inner drive to excel.
It’s what led him to become a pilot, flying P-3 Orions to keep a fleet of Russian submarines in check. So there’s nothing David hates more than feeling chained to a desk.
When he returned to civilian life and got a call from Taco Bell about an executive position, he almost blew off the interview.
“The pay was great,” David said, “but they expected you to give up everything for the job. By the time my daughter was 18 months old, I had spent a third of her life in hotel rooms. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave the corporate gig for franchising, but I needed to be home for her. I just had to make it work.”
Trading hotel rooms for a mountain of paperwork
Starting in a 150-square-foot office, David built O&M Restaurant Group into dozens of stores across 2 states, under 3 brands, with separate property companies and 20 accounts payable departments managing over $50 million in revenue.
He had traded hotel rooms for a time-sucking mountain of paperwork.
When one of his companies paid another, he had to enter that data manually as an invoice, then enter it again in a different system to capture the payment, then again on the physical check, then reconcile it on both sides.
“I would get angry whenever I saw bills,” he told us. “Especially if we got one that was wrong. I would pull it out of the stack and hand it to someone, and it would disappear from the accounting process. A few weeks later, the vendor would rebill it as past due, and we would pay it anyway!”
David was visiting a trade show in Las Vegas when he met the BILL team. Intrigued by the promise of an intelligent business payments platform, he downloaded the app.
The next day, when he landed in Moab to refuel his plane, he used BILL to move money from one business to another to pay the invoice—registering the payment in both companies from his mobile phone.
“It was so easy, I was almost stunned,” he told us, “but it wasn’t until the pandemic that I understood how much BILL was going to mean to my operations.”
Using BILL to guide a $50M+ enterprise through COVID-19
“In the early stages of the pandemic, we saw two months of double-digit decline back to back,” David said. “O&M keeps the lights on for about 1,000 employees. We were bleeding, but I didn’t want to let anyone go. We had to find another way.”
Whatever he was going to do, he’d have to figure it out on the move. Before COVID-19 hit, David had started serving pro bono as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration, and the state had never needed him more.
“I was working 10- to 12-hour days, 7 days a week, managing the state through that process.
They needed me, but so did O&M. I had to run my own company through my phone
in any spare minute I could find. Dozens of restaurants. Twenty AP departments.
All needing my attention. BILL made that possible.”
—David Ostrowe, President of the O&M Group
One of the reasons David had switched to BILL was for its extreme visibility into cash flow across all his operations. He used those insights to make some quick decisions. Without laying anyone off, he slowed hiring practices and ramped up delivery operations—a huge risk in the restaurant industry.
“Cash flow is the lifeblood of the company,” David told us, “and delivery just isn’t profitable. Overnight, our delivery expense jumped 4,000%. Before BILL, I would have shut the whole thing down. I watched those cash flows coming in and out every day through the app like I was watching a heart monitor. It wasn’t profitable, but it kept enough coming in to meet our payroll. I could keep my staff employed. And we could keep the lights on.”
Using BILL to get great financing in a tight market
Thanks to David’s quick pivots, revenue was only down about 5% despite the catastrophic year. Some smart refinancing bridged the remaining gap.
“Banks were tightening up,” he told us, “preparing for loans to default. Preparing for toxic debt. But BILL gave us an edge, helping us refinance at an unbelievable rate.”
How? By providing extreme transparency.
BILL creates a digital audit trail for every transaction, with access to every invoice and vendor document. David gave the bank direct, read-only access to his BILL account while they considered his application.
“Those company-to-company transactions are captured perfectly now,” David told us. “100% of our transactions go through BILL no matter who we’re paying. Money never leaves the system without an audit trail.”
The bank was impressed, refinancing the entire organization in about 2 weeks. “With terms locked in at a rate I couldn’t touch if I dreamed it,” David said, “for 7 years.”
What’s next for David?
“We’ve been extremely fortunate,” he said. “O&M will keep moving forward, and so will the state of Oklahoma. I’m just grateful to be able to help. Without BILL, I wouldn't be able to give back at the level I’m giving back.”