Accounting, Bookkeeping, Business Advisory Services, Cloud Computing, Consulting

ExpensiCon II – 5 Insights Gained

Bora Bora - #ExpensiCon II
The picture postcard South Pacific Island of Bora Bora – Home to #ExpensiCon II

There are occasions in life when our experience completely transcends our expectations – ExpensiCon II has been one of those moments.

A “Contrarian Conference” held at one on the most exotic locations on earth (Bora Bora – the small picture postcard Tahitian island literally in the middle of the South Pacific) was the most amazing Accounting Technology event I have ever had the privilege of attending.

Whilst the invitation list was limited to under 100 delegates, it was by no means elitist, without exception you could sense that everyone attending embraced their role and responsibly to converse, collaborate and contribute to the profession that has given us all so much. My hope is that by sharing some insights gained at ExpensiCon II it will help you further commit to, and enjoy, your journey in the Accounting | Bookkeeping | Technology professions and continue to create partnerships that impact others in a positive and constructive way.

So what made ExpensiCon II such an Amazing Experience and how can it benefit you?

The following are my top 5 components (from an attendee’s perspective) that the Expensify team completely aced at ExpensiCon II.

1 – Creating Community

Expensify carefully curated an audience of diversity from around the globe, with each of us sharing a common connection of Accounting & Technology.

The moment you set foot on the island it was like walking into your favourite sports team’s club room. There were so many people I have admired, respected and grown to know (mostly online) in the room (or in this case on the beach). In our online, “pseudo connected” world there is genuine magic to be made when people meet in real life (I must admit that on more than one occasion I was chatting away to someone thinking we had met before only to discover that this was the first time IRL). Sort of embarrassing but at the same time amazing that we know so much about each other and share so much online that sometimes we forget that we have never actually met. There is always so much more to discover about someone’s story beyond what appears online.

What I have discovered is that no matter how connected we think we are in the online world the real connection occurs when we have the opportunity to greet each other in person and have the time to ask questions and listen intently to the answers, each and every one has an amazing story within them and one which we can always learn and benefit from. Thank you, Expensify, for bringing the Accounting | Bookkeeping | Consulting | Professional Association and Technology Vendor communities together at ExpensiCon II.

2 – Collegiate Collaboration

At first glance you may think that the gathering of 100 leaders from various fields within a profession may be a risky thing to do. Business can often be seen as competitive, win and lose, scarcity, protective and proprietary of ideas and methodologies, with the occasional egocentric megalomaniac thrown into the mix. ExpensiCon had none of that. Hats off to everyone for checking the ego at the door and fostering genuine collaboration, and to all fellow delegates I thank you for your inclusiveness with a collegiate and collaborative mindset. There was a genuine sense of a pioneering spirit, friendship, creating abundance of opportunity for all in our professions by sharing experiences and insights gained over decades of commitment to the craft. What I continue to experience is the more you get to hang around those of greater experience and attitude the more we are inspired to raise our standards and set a course for continual improvement and refinement via life-long learning.

3 – Contrarian Approach

ExpensiCon is different to any other conference I have ever attended (100+ over the past 20 years), not that other events haven’t been worth attending, in-fact all have had unique moments and have been special in their own way and I have always gained something from attending each event. Most have the recurring theme that long after the content has faded the memories remain, and upon reflection these moments are anchored by the experience of human connection. The breakfast meetings, the catch up over coffee or the extended (and often entertaining) post dinner conversations at the bar where most of the challenges of life, business and the profession are solved and sometimes created. What I loved about the way in which Expensify approached the creation of ExpensiCon is by throwing out conventional wisdom about events (such as, large scale for maximum short-term impact, content rich, sales and marketing based at a convention centre location) to instead focus on laying a foundation for collaboration within and outside the profession, a long-term view, a balanced agenda in an idyllic location focused on the attendees obtaining maximum benefit from the shared experience. Next time you are looking at running a client event think about how some of these facets could be baked into the DNA of your event.

4 – Cultured Confidence

Sometimes our futures can be hamstrung by the successes of our past. Thinking we must conform to how we think others see us, making sure we don’t take risks and playing it safe within the industry tram lines. What I noticed (again) about Expensify is an unassuming inner confidence, like they have taken the time to discern their future and are diligently and confidently working towards making it a reality. Whilst this confidence can sometimes foster aloofness and even arrogance, this is not something I have ever seen at Expensify; and going back to the contrarian conversation, it’s as though they have recognised this possibility and have made a conscious effort to move in the opposite direction. What I continue to learn is that the inner confidence game is always worth playing and seeking to master, and the good news is, it’s a single player game in which we control the ultimate result.

5 – Care Free Attitude

Having fun isn’t something that we need to reserve for our after (business) hours life. When work is enjoyable, much of the other parts of our day also become more enjoyable. It’ s as though increased irreverence brings even better business / work results. With our hyper distracted worlds and increased time being devoted to learning the art of being present, perhaps we could benefit from caring a little less about ourselves and more so on the contribution we can make to others. Caring Less (about our expectations) to Gain More (Understanding of others and their needs). The vast conversations at ExpensiCon had two recurring themes, discovering more about the other person (both attendee and Expensify team members) and what are the needs of the people who we are looking to serve. The amazing thing is when focused in these areas we are present on the needs of others and naturally enter a shared discovery mode as opposed to going straight to solution mode, perhaps worth remembering next time we have a conversation with a client.

People sometimes ask me how do you get to go to something like ExpensiCon? and the short answer is I don’t really know (it’s certainly not something I ever expect), however perhaps some of the answers are in these 5 key elements that Expensify created and delivered to perfection at ExpensiCon II.

Mauruuru (Thank You in Tahitian) David Barrett and Team Expensify for the incredible honour and privilege to be a part of this truly unique experience.

Clayton

Oh by the way Expensify make a really cool app that takes care of expense management, you can discover more about ExpensiCon II and Expensify

 

Accounting, Bookkeeping, Business Advisory Services, Cloud Computing, Consulting, Roadshows, Technology Identifier

What I discovered by connecting with Bookkeepers & Accountants at the #GetConnectedAU Roadshow

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Roadshows are both a Marathon and a Sprint!

They are also engaging, repetitive, exhausting, invigorating and enlightening ……. providing an opportunity to deliver/receive direct unfiltered communication from the audience to the organiser.

I have an affinity to roadshow events having presented at more than 100 of them over the past 15 years, they are my favourite way of connecting with an audience. Whilst we have organised many of our own here at QA Business, its always great when someone else handles the logistics and fills the room and that is exactly what Intuit Australia did over the past 3 weeks.

It was my privilege to present the Keynote session at #GetConnectedU and share some thoughts, experiences and stories that hopefully helped (ABC’s) Accountants, Bookkeepers & Consultants re-discover some Confidence about the industry direction, gain Clarity on their relevance in it and create deeper Connection with others who will be a part of their extended team to enhance their client experience.

#GetConnectedAU (held in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane) saw hundreds of ABC’s invest a ½ a day in learning about industry trends from Trent McLaren, Website design tips from Wayne Schmidt, company and solution updates from Nicolette Maury, Meagan Wood and Luis Sanchez from Intuit, Shark Tank Style pitches from App Eco system partners and a Power Panel of Peers sharing insights on building their Accounting & Bookkeeping businesses.

It has been a great Roadshow that reinforced for me a continued shift in mindset in the market, as the frenetic pace of having to learn all apps in the accounting tech eco system (which created overwhelm and inertia) is beginning to settle down to a more considered approach to discerning what to learn that will be relevant to the clients you are looking to serve and the business (firm) you are building.

3 noticeable takeaways I observed were;

Renewed Focus on Strategy

ABC’s, no matter how long they have been involved in the profession, have a renewed focus (and are taking the time) to devise their future, based on discernment as to what the market needs are, combined with learning new skills to compliment current and emerging demand. Technology is a tool that is here to stay and whilst there is no doubt there will be a continual evolution (and perhaps consolidation) of solutions there seems to be a propensity for advisors to absorb a broader array of solutions and discern their relevance and application to their client’s business and their own.

A Viable Profession of Choice

I was both surprised and encouraged by the number of new entrants to the profession (within the last 5 years). People choosing Accounting | Bookkeeping | Technology as their vocation of choice. From diverse backgrounds, including Corporate positions, unrelated Small Business, Education and even the Trades. These new Tech Savvy, Enthusiastic (Baggage free) entrants are also coming with a plan, creating and building a business that will afford them lifestyle choices and fulfilling work as they serve clients with a model they have designed to service the customer and themselves.

Bookkeepers & Accountants are collaborating

Accountants and Bookkeepers alike are continuing to partner and collaborate to serve the small business community. Traditionally there has been some “Us and Them” mindset on both sides but Technology seems to be assisting by breaking down the barriers. With so much change occurring in the industry, professionals in both camps are recognising that more can be achieved by utilising the unique skills that each party has to offer each other. Coincidentally this dovetails perfectly in a session I’m presenting at #QBConnect in Silicon Valley next week on why “Accountants & Bookkeepers Go Together just Like Peas and Carrots” 😊

Thanks again to the Intuit QuickBooks Australia team for enabling me to be a part of the Roadshow and delivering a platform for ABC’s to Learn, Connect and Collaborate.

The next major event for Intuit is the Australian edition of #QBConnect which has been extended into a 2 day event to be held in Sydney May 24-25 2018. I would encourage all independent professionals who have an interest in the future of the profession and the impact of technology on it to attend – I know I will be.

– Clayton

 

Business Advisory Services, Cloud Computing

Luck (Success) is When Opportunity Meets Preparedness !

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This blog post is probably more for the ABC’s (Accountants | Bookkeepers | Consultants) out there who provide services to those of us in SMB (Small to Medium Business) land. Although business owners and/or operators are certainly welcome to read on for a sneak peek into the future services that ABC’s will be offering you and your business, and perhaps not before time too!

But first some philosophy – Lucius Seneca (first century philosopher and tutor to the young Nero) has a famous quote: “Luck is what happens when Preparation meets Opportunity”.

We have been brought up to believe business success is achieved through hard work, customer service and going the extra mile, not really on Luck. So what about this notion of preparedness meeting opportunity? How applicable is it right now to us – the Trusted Advisors who champion the small business community?

As ABC’s we are all facing an Inflection Point (Opportunity) which has the potential to finally deliver on the long standing promise of providing true Value Added Business Advisory services and solutions to our clients. However as Seneca put it, Success (Luck) is reserved for those of us who are truly Prepared.

So what are Business Advisory Services? And how can we best prepare for this unique opportunity? In order to answer this it is perhaps best to have a look at what Business Advisory Services are Not !

Business Advisory Services are not compliance work e.g. Tax Returns, BAS Preparation, Payroll End of Year, Software Conversions, Compulsory Audits or providing Reactive Business Advice requested by the client. So perhaps it is worth considering that all services/ solutions offered by ABC’s to SMB’s that is not compliance are in fact Business Advisory Services.

We have all heard the doomsday predictions that ‘Compliance is Dead’ and whilst I don’t fully subscribe to this fear driven notion, I do believe that Compliance work is fast becoming a commodity, the value of which is being eroded. I don’t meet too many young budding ABC’s that want to spend all of their time in the compliance world. They’re keen to move through this level as quickly as possible to get to the real fun and meaningful roles which are found in the Business Advisory space.

Business Advisory has not just arrived with “The Cloud” (Take it from me this really does feel like Groundhog Day from 1990’s with the Windows, Desktop PC explosion). Now more than ever the tools are becoming available to realise the opportunity. It is important to remember that whilst technology is certainly the Enabler, it is not the solution……YOU are the Solution! (always have been). It is your willingness to take the available technology and deliver it in a way that achieves the overall Goal of delivering true Value Added Business Advisory services that clients actually want.

So, what if you are currently not prepared for this opportunity – what do you do? Well my advice to you is to do whatever it takes to get prepared and quickly! It really is an amazing time in history to be an ABC working with SMB’s.

Cloud Computing, Cloud Integrator, Technology Identifier

Opportunity for Accountants and Bookkeepers to play the role of Trusted Technology Identifier for their clients?

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With the pace of change accelerating for small business who do you turn to assist with charting your course into the digital future?

Much of the technology adopted in business today has traditionally centred on the Accounting, Payroll and Administration systems; however there is a transition underway to further extend from this hub to cater for more of the overall business processes.

We are seeing the role of your Accountant and/or Bookkeeper evolving too. The traditional compliance (tax return) and data entry roles are becoming commoditised and streamlined, with some new generation software systems removing entire swathes of work previously undertaken by each party. This change is providing the opportunity for your Accountant and/or Bookkeeper to take on the role of Identifier and Connector. They can identify which business processes could benefit from using technology and then connect you with the provider(s) who specialise in those solutions.

Adoption of further technology in your business leads to increased efficiencies and systems that streamline your business operations; however it is important to get it right.

The Accounting and Bookkeeping professions are working feverishly to identify the solutions that will serve their clients (you) in building stronger businesses for the future. We can see the world becoming further specialised in this space with Accountants and Bookkeepers continuing to favour 1-2 core accounting solutions and building on their skill sets to identify the add on solutions that connect with the core accounting system.

So what solutions will help round out the use of technology in most small to medium sized enterprises? Let’s start with a “Big-6” pack of solutions that may be appropriate for many small /medium sized businesses;

  1. CRM (Customer / Client Relationship Management Systems, Email Marketing, Time Billing)
  2. Web Store Integration (Connecting your Online Store with your Accounting System)
  3. Electronic Document Management (storing and linking documents)
  4. Payroll Portals (Including Rostering and HR)
  5. Advanced Inventory (Including Manufacturing & Distribution)
  6. Dashboard (KPI) Business Intelligence Reporting

Whilst all of these areas may not apply to your organisation it’s highly likely that some do and here is an opportunity to identify and assess which may be appropriate – now and in the future.

So who do you turn to for advice? Your Accountant and/or Bookkeeper. They know your business, are a great place to start and have strong vested interests in seeing your business develop integrated systems that work effectively. Whilst it is early days in the professions, we are also starting to see specialist consultants who can integrate the “Big-6” solutions (and beyond) into your accounting system.

Cloud Computing

Should Accountants Really Know Accounting Software?

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Now before you start screaming at the page, with an answer that seems blindingly obvious – let’s take a moment to explore this question a little deeper.

Like many small business owners and operators your accountant was possibly the one who suggested your current accounting software solution to you, which in many cases has proven to be a perfectly suitable recommendation.

However there is a dilemma facing accounting firms in working out how far they go in recommending, consulting in and ultimately supporting specific software solutions and many firms are currently assessing their role in this entire process.

Whilst many see this as a totally appropriate service for our accountants to be offering, there is the issue that it requires a commitment of resources to a totally new business division.

Accountants (and I am one so will hopefully get away with this comment) have been traditionally viewed as “Someone who knows a little about a lot of things!” – a generalist, who has some broad knowledge in the various components of business (there are a lot of components and thank goodness someone takes on this role). So perhaps it’s a tad unreasonable of us to expect our accountant to know all about Accounting Software Solutions, even though they may have recommended it to us in the first place.
I am not suggesting that your accountant doesn’t have a role to play in your software selection process – they certainly do, it’s likely they have had some exposure to many of the commercially available software products (both Desktop and Cloud) and can be an important piece in the puzzle of choosing an appropriate solution for your business. But don’t expect your accountant to be the absolute authority on all available software solutions, that would be unfair.

Most accountants would certainly view your business software as a necessary tool and it’s an advantage if they have a strong working knowledge on how to use it, but just like driving a car there are not many of us who know exactly how the engine really works. Just like your vehicle when it needs some repairs we don’t always take it back to the salesman who sold us the car, especially if the best mechanic in town is located somewhere else.

So with the current transition to Cloud Computing we see accounting firms having to make a fundamental business decision – either commit to building a Software Consulting Division or partnering with trusted specialists who already provide this service. Either way this is just another example of how your accountant continues to be one of your most trusted advisors and a vital cog in the wheel of business.

Cloud Computing

Accounting Software – Entering the “Twilight Zone”

Caught Between Desktop Software and The Cloud

Just like the good old manual cashbook (c’mon you remember those) – desktop accounting software may soon have had its day due to the rise and rise of Cloud Accounting Solutions.

The rapid uptake of “Cloud / Online” Accounting solutions is partially due to the fact that so little of their Desktop Counterparts overall capabilities are actually being used. Desktop software vendors seem to have also stalled in the innovation of their existing solutions. This is perhaps making it easier to entertain a transition to internet based systems that promise so much but in reality are still being built out to the levels of functionality of their current Desktop competitors.

You could argue that current Desktop Software is only ½ used whilst Cloud Accounting software is only ½ built!

Although early adopters have taken the leap, the masses are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the market to validate who are the suppliers of choice. Like all technology adoption life-cycles there comes a “Tipping Point” when the product becomes mainstream (seemingly overnight to the uninitiated) and this is where Cloud Accounting is fast approaching.

Although the future destination is clear we seem to be approaching an uneasy “Twilight Zone” where both solutions exist and neither dominates. Software providers are feverishly building their solutions to achieve this “Base Camp” level where feature sets can be easily compared between solutions. Once this phase (often described as the “End of the Beginning”) is complete the discussion will move from comparing features to philosophy and tangible long standing business benefits (both for Clients and Advisers) which is far more emotive and compelling.

It’s fascinating to watch how long standing software corporations are grappling with the process of continuing to enjoy the rewards from their established Desktop software products whilst knowing that their future lies in providing Cloud solutions. Whilst this Twilight Zone exists I wouldn’t expect any new ground breaking enhancements to your Desktop software, the developer’s interests and passion lies firmly in the development of cloud based solutions.

So right now you have 2 choices: Continue to finish implementing efficient business systems using your current Desktop Accounting Software as the base (whilst devising your cloud transition strategy). Or, take a leap of faith to the New World.

However be warned – if you approach the Cloud Solutions roll out in the same (incomplete) ways as your Desktop days then don’t expect to get a different result. Incomplete systems fail to deliver the potential benefits whether on your desktop or in the cloud. Worse, you could be taking a backwards step, particularly if you haven’t articulated what you wish to achieve by transitioning to the Cloud. This transition will often involve Re-learning a completely new program and paradigm in the way you work whilst hopefully tying down those efficiency loose ends which remained in your Desktop software set up.

So whilst the destination is set the course and duration of the journey is unknown – one thing for certain is that we all need to – Prepare for and Embrace – Change!

Cloud Computing

Clouds Have Different Shapes !

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Cloud Computing is a term business owners, operators and advisors need get their heads around – and fast.

Simply put “Cloud Computing” is the ability to access your information and applications (often stored on mainframe computers in a Data Centre), using the Internet. Giving you mobile access to your business anywhere / anytime via an internet connection.

Whilst the term “The Cloud” may be new the fact is that many small / medium sized businesses have been operating in the cloud for many years. In our own case we have been using the internet to access our server (located in our office) and work remotely for nearly 10 years. So why change now?

Anyone who uses a computer knows that when they work they are fantastic, however when they stop it can be a disaster. The Cloud is being sold on the offering of a more reliable service, greater efficiency via mobile access from various devices, enhanced security, constant backup, a platform to collaborate and connect various business applications and generally a more cost effective solution than maintaining computers in your office.
So let’s look at the 3 main types of cloud models on offer:

“Pure Cloud” – This interface is built around the use of web pages to navigate and process your accounting information. Access is from any internet enabled device (Safari, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer etc). Think of Facebook, Internet banking and Gmail as examples of pure web based applications. The ‘Pure Cloud Version’ will appear very different to your desktop accounting software even if they are produced by the same major software company.

“Hosted Cloud” – Taking all of your current business software that you have on your server and storing it on the servers maintained by the “Hosting Provider” and you just use the internet to access it. This is an easy first step to the cloud as you just take all of the programs you are used to and put them in the cloud. This sometimes requires additional login details and possibly loading software onto your mobile device to enable access.

“Hybrid (Sync) Cloud” – This requires you to load an application on your device and store information online. At first glance it looks like you are stuck in the middle of both the old and new worlds and appears to be a convenient transition product for the software supplier. It is sold on the basis that you can work online and offline (no internet) and the data sync’s when you get back online.

Whilst each of these cloud solutions have similar characteristics in so far as your business data is ultimately stored on a computer somewhere and that you can access it. There are some very specific pro’s and con’s of each cloud model so feel free to talk to us before you make the leap to the cloud.

For further information contact 1300 289 846 or visit the QA Business website