Tom Achor: At the Intersection of Cannabis Accounting and Technology

Portrait of Tom Achor

Better information through automation is his goal.

By Liz Gold

Tom Achor, CPA, CITP, isn’t your typical CPA. While he still keeps up his license in Oregon, he spends his time consulting at the intersection of accounting and technology.

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And more on the cannabis niche at CPA Trendlines

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And while he doesn’t market his firm, Revolution Accounting and Advisory, as a cannabis-specific CPA firm per se, he does work with larger cannabis clients – helping them find and optimize the best technology for their needs.

An accounting systems consultant for 25 years who has worked in various capacities including controller and managing IT for companies, Achor started Revolution Accounting in 2013 when he turned his focus to purely cloud applications.

“We started out to do cloud-based outsourcing of accounting services and we had one cannabis chain retailer that kept adding stores and had completely lost control of their QuickBooks environment,” he said. “What we did was put them on a single instance of cloud software so they could operate each store as a unique entity but still see them all together.”

He said his ideal clients are those who have “passed the QuickBooks stage of their development and need something more robust.” As a Sage Intacct consultant, in particular, he said his focus is on dispensaries and labs – but those that want to have multiple locations.

“I’ve talked to some successful stores and they don’t want to get beyond one location and if that’s the case, the owner is there all the time,” said Achor. “That’s not a circumstance where our software is going to make a big difference. But where you have an increasing number of locations or vertically integrating with a grow or maybe processing, now there’s a management team that can’t see everything that is going on and having 15 QuickBooks files doesn’t help them.”

Achor added that using more sophisticated software can be helpful for investors who are looking for audit-ready financials with more information than a typical QuickBooks income statement.

One of the most critical facets for dispensaries in Oregon is to have their inventory controls in a system that integrates with the state’s Metrc tracking system.

And while there are a variety of cannabis-specific point-of-sale (POS) systems on the market, most have limited connectivity to existing accounting software.

“With an open API we can integrate all the different POS systems from all the different stores into our accounting system to get one view of the finances,” he said. This allows more data to be seen, more projections to be made and more nonfinancial data to be taken into account. “We can create a dashboard with quick performance views, for example, on how sales are going by square foot and get more ratios and more views of operating and financial data.”

Achor wants to essentially work with larger cannabis retailers that already have a CFO and help provide them with better information through automation. And though Sage Intacct hasn’t created a cannabis-specific system, Achor points to the company’s philosophy of building a high-quality open financial system that lets you customize and connect industry-specific applications.

“We put our cannabis client on a cloud-based payroll system, so in theory each store manager could put in their payroll data, but unfortunately, a lot of the financial technology is connected to banks and the banks have pressured software companies to stay out of the cannabis business,” he said. “We picked up one client that had been on a major cloud accounting provider and they had been given 60 days’ notice by the vendor to get off their system because they are a cannabis company.”

Achor describes his role as the chief technology officer and said that because the cannabis industry is so new and emerging, that makes its technology new as well. That means there is next to zero in new development being put into on-premise software.

“Cloud is much more secure,” he said. “It seems counterintuitive but the vendors I work with, this is all they do, so their approach to security for their systems is super focused. I’ve had two clients – one in cannabis and the other in another industry – where their QuickBooks files melted down and they thought they had a backup but that was corrupted. That can’t happen with the servers we are dealing with. Backups are happening minute by minute.”

It was an intern who initially brought the idea to work with cannabis clients to Achor. “He was like, ‘Man, why aren’t you all over this?’” So, Achor started to go to Women Grow chapter meetings and networking events throughout Oregon to learn all about the different emerging companies.

“I named the company Revolution Accounting and wanted to do something outside of what my traditional counterparts are doing,” he said. “There is so much good coming out of cannabis and legalization. It makes me angry that there are people who are trying to make it illegal again or impossible to fund research. We just want to support positive enterprises to counter that.”