Alec Davidian is the CFO of Wag!, an on-demand technology platform that supports dog walking, pet sitting, veterinary care, and training services across 4,600 cities and all 50 states. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Wag! lost a large portion of its business overnight, as pet parents stayed home to walk their own dogs.
Alec speaks with an air of quiet thoughtfulness and a subtle British accent. But beneath his mild demeanor lies the iron grit of a survivor. As the great-grandson of Armenian refugees, Alec fought hard to get where he is today.
“When I started school, I was horrible at numbers. And I was horrible at English too because English wasn't my first language. So my dad sat me down, and we literally went through numbers. We started learning numbers together.”
Thanks to his father’s math drills, that 6-year-old kid grew up to spend 14 years with a Big Four accounting firm, helping startups beat the odds. Still, something was missing, and Alec was yearning for more.
“It's fun consulting with startups. But it's a different ballgame doing it yourself. I wanted the opportunity to help a brand grow. To develop a business, look back when I retire, and say, ‘I helped make that happen.’”
When he first started at Wag!, Alec used BILL to run AP single-handedly while he built his accounting team
When he joined the company in December 2018, Alec was tasked with a big project: to rebuild a complete accounting team from the ground-up.
With the help of BILL, Alec handled all the company’s accounts payable tasks while putting together his team and simultaneously building more integrity into the company’s numbers.
“BILL is a great tool. Taking advantage of all its features
became a key part of transforming the company.”
— Alec Davidian, CFO of Wag
“Getting people in and hiring accountants. Training them. Breaking everything down and rebuilding it in a way that could scale. That was hard work but it was an awesome challenge,” Alec told us. “BILL is a great tool. Taking advantage of all its features became a key part of transforming the company.”
Alec also wanted to empower the 11 department leads to take responsibility for their costs—and their profitability
Before the pandemic hit, Wag! had expanded into 11 lines of business. They were all operating independently and without real-time systems and tools, making it challenging for department leads to see and take quick action to make good business decisions.
“Immediately, I knew we needed to increase visibility into department costs and profitability, in addition to freeing up employees' time,” said Alec. “It was also a goal of mine for LOB leaders to debrief on their business more quickly, and allow those business reviews to deliver more effective outcomes.”
When Alec came on with Wag!, like many start-ups, it took the company 25 days each month to close their books for the month before. Alec looked for ways to shorten this process to help enable Wag! make quick and nimble business decisions as the company grows.
“A 25-day close makes it tough for the business to move quickly,” Alec told us. “The next month is almost over before you have the numbers. You’re always responding to last month’s situation. BILL helped us bring that close down to 4 or 5 days.”
That extra time would prove critical when COVID-19 threw the world and the company into a global health crisis.
When COVID-19 hit, Wag! needed to evaluate costs and make strategic investment decisions quickly -- ultimately deciding to add new digital services, practically overnight
The moment that shelter-in-place orders were announced, every Wag! department lead knew the global health crisis would impact the company, but there were so many unknowns. People stuck at home didn’t need a dog walker, and dog-walking was the lifeblood of the business.
In response, every department started evaluating costs, and shifted time, energy, and investments as fast as possible.
“The department leads needed to take immediate action to adjust to COVID,” Alec told us. “They all knew their cost structure, and it allowed them to adapt very, very quickly.”
Within days, the company had cut costs by more than 60%, but that only bought them time. It didn’t solve the revenue crisis.
“The Pet Caregivers, as small individual business owners, depend on Wag! to find new dog walking leads. We needed to help them keep going. We had to find new ways to bring in money -- new things for them to do.”
As the the #1 partner to busy pet parents, Wag! scrambled to learn what those parents needed in a world that had turned upside down.
“We're a scrappy company,” Alec said. “Everyone banded together and got to work. We reached out to our customers. We pored over support logs to see what people were asking. To find out what they needed.”
Wag! learned that pet parents were having trouble getting food and medicine for their pets. They were having a hard time getting vet appointments. And new pet owners needed help with training.
In a matter of days, Wag! Pet Caregivers became pet chauffeurs and delivery people. Wag! also reached out to veterinarians, connecting them with pet parents who wanted virtual appointments.
“Between BILL and the efficiencies we've developed over the
last 12 months, we’re in an awesome position to capture
the opportunities of the post-COVID transition.”
— Alec Davidian, CFO of Wag
“Thanks to BILL, we could see our costs in real time, so we were able to design the new services around price points that worked for everyone. We launched immediately, serving 5 times more pet parents daily through Wag! Health, pet care advice, and remote training.”
“But the biggest thing,” Alec said quietly, “was to help the service providers keep the lights on. To keep the team together based on the new digital service offerings.”
What’s next for Wag!?
“Digital services aren’t going away. They’re still convenient, and they’re still cost-effective. And dog walking is picking back up,” Alec said with a smile.
“Between BILL and the efficiencies we've developed over the last 12 months, we’re in an awesome position to capture the opportunities of the post-COVID transition.”