The story of RBP Methods, a look inside the establishment of a great company.
RBP Methods was born from a deep-rooted love for the work of nonprofits. On a shoestring budget Kent and Lynne Arnold, owners of RBP Methods, built their company on the belief that an easy to understand, levelheaded view of technology would be helpful for nonprofits. Through specialized expertise in nonprofit accounting and administration, they set out to provide accounting technology and training to nonprofit and governmental organizations and have successfully been doing so for over 25 years.
A Solid Foundation Built on a Piece of Good Advice, and the Right Expertise
The very beginning of RBP Methods’ story starts several years before its inception when Kent made the decision to go back to school. While Lynne provided for the family through her job with nonprofit in Flint, Michigan, Kent sought to study what he thought would be a computer based curriculum. However as often happens in life, Kent came across one of those rare pieces of advice that would forever change his course. He explains, “I had a teacher tell me to go ahead and get my computer and system design degree, but that I should also get my accountancy degree, and then take the CPA exam, then I could do whatever I wanted to do…and for one of the first times in my life I listened to an adult!”
After receiving his teacher’s wise council and graduating from Walsh College of Accountancy and Business Administration, Kent began working with a CPA firm in Flint, Michigan. Their primary focus was auditing nonprofit and governmental entities as well as a traditional tax practice, but they also had a software consulting division. With Kent’s natural knack for computers they asked him to learn a software program that they planned to implement for a township the following week – which he did. Later, the software publishing company, American Fundware, sent trainers to coach some of the firm’s clients and they ended up offering Kent a job working with them! He agreed to take it, and moved the family to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Kent explains, “This opportunity provided us with some great experience. However the most valuable thing it did was lead us to the realization that what we really wanted was to work directly with nonprofits.” Lynne adds, “With my understanding of how nonprofits functioned from the front end office, and Kent’s knowledge of how they function internally we made a great team…and that’s how it went – that was our business plan!” Every business relies on a little bit of luck in order to achieve success, and Kent will tell you that luck is the reward for ‘good planning and the right timing’. While they may have started out with the simplest of business plans, what they did have was a communication plan and a series of connections to the right people.
The Right Brained People Method
As Kent and Lynne set out to create their consulting firm, they needed to pick a name. They decided to meet with a marketing friend for lunch to try and come up with some ideas. Kent remembers the meeting well and explains, “We eventually came up with Right Brained People Methods, or RBP Methods. Nonprofits tend to be much more right brained – more ‘feeling’ types of organizations based on the very nature of what they do. This can make computerized bookkeeping and fund accounting difficult to grasp. Therefore we decided that our niche would be in helping right brained people understand left brained technology.”
When RBP Methods first began they handled the consulting and training which happens to be one of the most valuable services among RBP clients. Kent reflects, “We really enjoy teaching and making learning fun. I’ve been on site with our clients where we’re laughing so much that people peek their head in the door and say, ‘I thought you were implementing software – not having a party in here!’” Lynne adds, “We love to make learning enjoyable because accounting can be so droll! Nonprofit finance departments rarely get to go on business trips because companies usually focus dollars on programs rather than educational opportunities for administrative functions. Therefore we try to give them the best experience for their dollar so that they not only learn, but can enjoy the experience and have fun at the same time!” RBP has found that clients enjoy learning and will learn more when they are visually inspired. People learn best by doing, rather than by being instructed. Kent explains, “Tactile and visual stimulation go a long way in imprinting memory and have been the basis for our training methods from the beginning. We use a combination of visualization, practice and easy to understand formats that communicate the left brained logic into straight-forward concepts for right brained people.”
Success Built on the Solid Foundation of Trust, Integrity and Loyalty
RBP Methods values long-term business partnerships with personal relationships built on trust and honesty. “Our clients appreciate that we are up front with them right from the beginning. Many organizations don’t realize that there are supplemental costs involved in addition to the software, and we will lay it all out for them. We want them to be prepared for each step along the way and recognize the various components that make up an implementation. I want to make sure they can see the big picture before they establish a budget. We’re not going to just quote them the software and installation without going over other additional middle-market investments that will be necessary for them to achieve success.”
One of the unique things about RBP Methods is that they don’t have a set methodology for every client. Instead, they recognize that each nonprofit and governmental organization has its own specific needs. Kent uses what he calls ‘mind mapping’ to determine the true requirements of each potential client in order to give them the most personalized service, solution and training possible. A great example of this was when RBP Methods put in a bid for a nonprofit RFP. After reviewing 5 bids, three of which offered the same software as RBP Methods, the agency chose RBP. When Kent asked what set them apart from the other software providers the client replied, “You were the only one who asked me questions about our organization! Everyone else just told me what they were going to do. I knew that you truly cared about the success of our implementation and that you would make sure it met our specific requirements.”
Nonprofit Software Specialists That Stand the Test of Time
“Any consultant who deals with technology should at least be current with the trends that are or will be affecting their clients,” emphasizes Kent. RBP Methods is committed to furthering their education and staying abreast of what’s coming in the industry. From keeping an eye out for up and coming technology trends, to continuously attend seminars, webinars and reading articles, RBP strives to continually add to their knowledge and expertise. This enables them to provide the best service and advice possible to the organizations they serve.
“We want to say to our clients that we have been honored to be your choice of trusted advisers. The world of nonprofit technology is often a fast moving and screwy path and we are happy to be your guys,” says Kent. As for the next 25 years, Kent and Lynne hope to continue on the path they have started even if retirement looms! But one thing they agree on – they wouldn’t have done it any differently! Being in the position to establish strong relationships with, and provide service and value to the nonprofit and governmental industry has been an incredible, blessed journey.