Founder of SOBI Analytics Brenda Jordan shares her life and business lessons.
Brenda Jordan is the founder of SOBI Analytics, an Irish business that specialises in identifying the key drivers in a business, by analysing financial and non-financial performance indicators, delivering easy-to-interpret insights into the health of all areas of the business.
Utilising AI technology to interpret the behaviours and trends within the business, allows SOBI to deliver rolling budget and cashflow plans, together with invaluable scenario or business model building.
“One of my proudest accomplishments is that 98% of clients I worked with going into the 2008 recession all came out of it. Their businesses may have looked very different, but they survived. Most went on to thrive”
Prior to starting SOBI Analytics, Jordan was the founder and CEO of CloudKPI.
Tell us about your background, what journey did you take to arrive at where you are?
I qualified as an accountant while building my management accountancy practice, as well as raising a young family. I can share lots of stories – and hacks! – on how to pass your CGMA exams on no sleep.
For more than 20 years, I ran my own accountancy firm.
But we were an accountancy firm with a difference. As well as delivering ‘traditional’ accountancy services like payroll, bookkeeping and year end reporting, we focused on providing bespoke Key Performance Insights to all our clients, which resulted in a massive uplift in their profits.
One of my proudest accomplishments is that 98% of clients I worked with going into the 2008 recession all came out of it. Their businesses may have looked very different, but they survived. Most went on to thrive.
With the advent of generative AI, my spreadsheets and frameworks could be translated into a tech platform that scales.
And SOBI Analytics was born!
“SOBI Analytics has been mostly bootstrapped, with a small seed round with several global investors”
Why are you doing what you are doing? What need are you meeting? What’s your USP?
Everything that we do in SOBI is focused on improving the survival statistics of startups! Currently nine out of 10 start-ups fail within the first five years, and we believe that this can be changed by giving them access to the insights they need to make proper, timely decisions.
We do this in two ways. Firstly, we are helping small and medium sized businesses to understand what their data is telling them. This goes way beyond forecasting and reporting. There are already a number of software tools that do this available on the market. Where SOBI Analytics is in a class of its own is in the business insights element.
Secondly, the accounting field is changing. Many “traditional” accounting services have now become commoditised, as a result of advancing technology, which is directly impacting revenue streams.
But, at the same time, the demand for client advisory services (CAS) is surging. Clients want their CFOs and accountants to proactively advise them on how to grow their businesses, from an operational and strategic position.
Most accountants and Fractional CFOs recognise that they need to implement CAS, in order to compete in the market, but many struggle to find the time and resources to embrace the opportunity.
The numbers show the size of the opportunity here.
According to Research and Markets, the accounting services global market value is expected to reach $735.94bn in 2025.
29% of clients expect to receive advisory and consulting services from their accounting practices.
Client Advisory Services (CAS) practices reported a median growth rate of 20%, better momentum than the 15% projected and a significantly stronger performance than other practice areas.
SOBI is positioned perfectly to help firms to embrace the opportunity, by using our expertise in this area to offer bespoke hands-on support , with a built-for-purpose platform to automate most of the process.
“From the start of my career, I have always been determined to change the odds of success for businesses”
How did you fund and start the business and what are your growth plans?
SOBI Analytics has been mostly bootstrapped, with a small seed round with several global investors.
What are your key skills and qualities that set you apart?
Many people, especially my husband, have commented on my tenacity throughout my life!
From the start of my career, I have always been determined to change the odds of success for businesses. With my particular skill for quickly understanding what business trends mean, and the impact that they will have on future business performance, finding a way of bringing this to a larger number of businesses is my life goal.
What (or whom) has helped you most along the way? Who was your greatest mentor/inspiration?
A lot of people have helped me along the way. Too many to name. Some were never even aware that they were helping me, but I have always found that when I am seeking an answer to a problem, someone joins my journey with the right answer for that moment.
“As a female founder, I would be remiss not to add that the woeful statistic of 2% of available global investment being invested into female founders also plays a huge part in the difficulty of this part of our journey”
What was the greatest piece of business advice you ever received?
I read the book ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ many years ago, and that has remained my mantra.
What circumstances/qualities/events can mark the difference between success or failure in life or business?
Resilience is imperative. Good and bad things happen. That is life. Picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and getting back into the game of life (and business) is what matters.
“I find Irish firms have an open mind to utilising new technologies. As a small country, we punch way above our weight on the global stage, and a lot of that is due to our innovative mindset”
What was the most challenging aspect of either starting or growing the business?
As a SaaS start-up, funding the business is a necessity, and a continuous challenge, made even more difficult over the past couple of years due to economic issues. As a female founder, I would be remiss not to add that the woeful statistic of 2% of available global investment being invested into female founders also plays a huge part in the difficulty of this part of our journey.
How did you navigate your business through the pandemic and what lessons did you learn?
I founded SOBI Analytics after the pandemic.
But running my previous business during the pandemic was a masterclass in adapting quickly.
Thankfully, remote working tools such as Zoom helped keep the show on the road for team members and clients.
For me, the pandemic highlighted a need more for improved processes and ways of working rather than just new tools.
How has digital transformation been a factor in your scaling journey and do you believe Irish firms are utilising digital technologies sufficiently?
CAS (Client Advisory Services) itself is at the very beginning of its digital transformation journey.
This is one of the reasons why I’m so invigorated by the role SOBI Analytics can play in the field of accounting and advisory services
I find Irish firms have an open mind to utilising new technologies. As a small country, we punch way above our weight on the global stage, and a lot of that is due to our innovative mindset.
Any business owner will tell you the learning curve is steep. There’s also occasionally the need to kiss a few technology frogs until you find the solution for you. But we all get there as we drive our businesses forward.
If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would listen to my intuition more closely, and be very careful about who I bring on the journey with me.
Who inspires you in business today?
Terry Clune of CluneTech is definitely up there as a role model for me. Not only is he a hugely successful fintech entrepreneur, from very humble beginnings, his colleagues describe him as being down-to-earth (‘Mr Ordinary’), in the midst of all that success.
What advice/guidance do you give new hires and how do you nurture talent in your organisation?
Communicate with me and the team. If you have a problem don’t hide it, ask for help. I love to see members of the team taking ownership of their area, and pride in their work. I make sure that everyone has a ‘voice’. All opinions are listened to and recognition is given for successful contributions.
What business books do you read or would recommend?
I am currently reading ‘The Genius Code: The Twelve Pillars of Creative Genius’ by Jerry Lodovica which came highly recommended from a number of associates and friends. Definitely worth a read (and an open mind).
What technologies/tools do you use personally to keep you on track?
I couldn’t function without Slack, Jira and Trello to manage teams and communications. Office 365 and Calendly are my time management tools, and of course, SOBI gives me my regular business insights updates, which dictates where my attention is most needed at any given time.
“Generative AI allows us to offer advice to business owners based on their own data, and the release of this technology has allowed us to power SOBI to the next level, much quicker than we thought possible. So, yes, we embrace it”
What social media platforms do you prefer and why?
LinkedIn. I am building a community of accounting and CFO professionals in the USA, UK, Ireland and Australia on this platform.
What are your thoughts on where technology overall is heading and how it will apply to business generally and your business particularly?
Generative AI is obviously the big news at the moment. There is a lot of fear about what this means for our world, rightly so.
My thoughts are that this is a natural part of our evolution, and must be managed. It will bring a lot of good (think medical technology, positive climate impact, agritech, business insights), but it must be managed and have limitations or it could be dangerous. A big worry is the loss of jobs, which is indisputably going to occur. Most of us can deal with reduced working hours, but not reduced income, so this has to be figured out.
The release of the OpenAI technology last year was a huge champagne moment for SOBI. We have always planned to add ‘prescriptive analytics’ to our platform, and built it to capture all the data relevant to a business requiring performance and planning insights (financial and non-financial).
Generative AI allows us to offer advice to business owners based on their own data, and the release of this technology has allowed us to power SOBI to the next level, much quicker than we thought possible. So, yes, we embrace it.
Are you planning to scale the business?
Yes, we are currently serving businesses in Ireland, UK and USA, and have also recently started working with clients in Australia. We will expand both geographically, and in terms of our software and service offerings.
Our Generative AI ‘Ask SOBI’ will be released early 2024, which will significantly broaden our user base. We are also expanding our service packages to include bespoke ‘change management’ packages for Accountants seeking support in initiating Client Advisory Services into their service offerings.
Finally, if you had advice for your 21-year-old self – knowing what you know now – what would it be?
Be patient. Listen to your intuition. Don’t worry so much about what others think. And last, but not least, surround yourself with people you can trust.