QBOA - Order and Satisfaction

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Turns out that QBOA and my grandfather’s workshop have a lot in common.  My Paw Paw always liked to have each tool in its proper place. He was an electrical engineer who knew there was a right tool for every job and the tool better be ready to go when the job calls for it.  After finishing a project, he would lean back, look at his wall of tools – a smile of satisfaction across his face – then he’d turn out the light and head upstairs for supper.

That’s QBOA for me – my clients all in a column – with reminders and status updates.  I can survey my client landscape from a wider perspective than I could a year ago.  By making the commitment to convert my firm to “all-in QBO” – we are stronger and more profitable.

My daily work cycle used to be splintered by on-site client visits using desktop-based accounting systems.  The quality of my work was severely limited by intermittent access to the client’s company file and a task management flow I tried to manage on Workflowy, Evernote and emails to myself.  

Over the past year, the MoneyFit Team (Stephanie and I) moved all of our clients to QBO.  I can attest that the firm has been truly transformed.  QBOA has significantly improved our efficiency and the quality of our services.  The QBOA interface offers a global perspective of the business and a more granular look at each client.  We can plan the weeks ahead and are reminded of tasks left undone.  Best yet, we have reclaimed an enormous amount of time.

The reclaimed time means we connect more deeply with our clients and their financials.  By working remotely, we can spend the travel time differently – there is time to LISTEN to the changes happening in the profit and loss statements.  (Yes, I mean listen – because the company is talking if you take the time to hear it.)  By spending less time chasing from one data entry and reconciliation appointment to another – we can breathe, take a moment and consider what those numbers really mean. 

And that is where bookkeepers go from good to great.  Sometimes it’s more like being a foreign language translator than a financial consultant.  We connect the business owner with the message of his or her company’s statements.  We have the chance to create UNDERSTANDING between an owner and the business.  Bookkeeping is not about grinding numbers into a format usable in a tax return.  Bookkeeping is about facilitating the communication between owner and company. 

Going from good to great through QBOA has also generated financial benefits for my company.  By using the integrated client interface we have been able to accommodate more clients and charge more for the improved services.  The ProAdvisor dashboard connects us with training and support resources we use daily.  We apply the training to our daily processes and immediately improve product quality and efficiency.  Using the workflow management tool we can collaborate on files in the QBOA application.  We are looking forward to watching the development of this recent addition to the QBOA platform and seeing what it brings!   Lastly, apps integration is vital for us.  All of our clients employ workflows that require seamless and uninterrupted connections between QBO and partner applications.  The added connection for QBO and app onboarding has significantly improved onboarding and maintenance of these connections.

As a business owner, I understand my grandfather more profoundly than before.  Using QBO and a consistent workflow process, I feel a deeper satisfaction for my work.  As Stephanie and I end our day, we bear our own smiles of satisfaction – lean back and survey the orderliness of our tools – before we turn out the lights and head home.

Return to QBConnect - Diving Back In

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QuickBooks Connect 2017 is bound to be exciting.  Sometimes I wonder why the event is such a rush for me.   I think it’s because I’m always living a split personality – sometimes as the Clark Kent bookkeeper and other times as SuperMom. My days are rich with grocery store runs, taking kids to and from everywhere, and endless loads of laundry.  I love being SuperMom, but I also ADORE the chance to be all-in Clark Kent – to have the opportunity to break out of my routine and immerse myself in all things QuickBooks Online, apps and firm-building strategy.

I started my bookkeeping business, MoneyFit, when my second child, eleven-year old daughter, Cate, was born.  MoneyFit, a small shop in Traverse City, Michigan, has grown and matured as my children have.  However, without Stacy Kildal’s StacyK Academy and the Firm of the Future updates, I would be completely disconnected from the wider accounting community.  Those resources transformed my business throughout 2016 and continue to keep my product knowledge up to date.  And then….

There was first trip to QBConnect in 2016 – it was like jumping in the ocean.  It’s quite something when you can hear and feel a community of like-minded professionals – a let-your-hair down, but keep your shirt tucked in crew.  Be yourself, but be your best self.  Loved it. 

Last year at QBConnect 2016, it was all about me -- I wanted to squeeze all the juice out of three days in San Jose.  Consumed by the urge to “maximize my investment”, I planned my agenda and vendor visits nearly to the minute.  In hindsight, my approach was a little too intense.  I mounted an attack strategy to build the best practice workflow I could.  Picture this – a wild-eyed, Mid-West bookkeeper running around at top speed while staring through a long gift wrap tube.  Try it – you’ll fall a few times and probably poke yourself in the eye socket.

So… a year later, I realize who I forgot to consider – my clients.  It was easy to do, really.  Swag and apps feel so Christmas-y.  This year, I want to think about how I can use QBConnect 2017 to connect more deeply with what my clients need. 

With several weeks left before the conference, it is time to start meeting with my clients and asking THEM how I can best use my time in California.  I want them to know that I am always thinking of them when I think about my business.

Some questions I am asking:

  • What has your company been saying to you recently?  I am really asking them if they are reading and understanding their financial reports. However, if I ask them, “Are you reading your reports?” it will sound like I’m asking them if they have done their homework. 

This question is especially big for me this year.  Last year’s QBConnect encouraged us to evolve into the role of trusted advisor.  Answers to this question will help me understand if my company has been gaining or losing ground on this front.

  • What do you like (and hate) about your current workflow?   My clients reclaim time and great data from improvements in workflow efficiency.  Just because I LOVE certain apps doesn’t mean my clients do.  If they are looking for new or different flows, this is the best time for me to shop for them.
     
  • What am I missing?  Often clients see things that I do not.  Even with an armory of checklists, there is always something out of scope.  Print all the recipes you want to take on the camping trip, but no recipe reminds you to bring the pan and firewood.  As a bookkeeper, I am often in the weeds of detail and need a way to get back up to 30,000 feet.  My clients can give me that perspective.

The idea of being an ambassador for my clients allows me to see QBConnect differently this year.  If I am armed with an understanding of what my clients are looking for, I will be afforded a greater clarity when choosing how to select seminars and spend my research time.  Selfishly, I am just as excited to go as I was last year.  Granted, I’ll pick up some cool T-Shirts – hard to resist – but I really hope to return with new tools and strategies to deliver what my clients have asked me to bring home.

The Most Powerful Person in the Room is Not Always Who You Think

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She is the most powerful person in the room and you may not have even seen her. She’s in the back – between the shredder, fire exit and main switchboard. During the most sophomoric periods of my life, this woman has eaten my figurative lunch – and had every reason to do so. She doesn’t even have a title – mainly because she is omnipotent – but also because a title would be too limiting. Like Jim Craig, the Great Wall of China and every black hole in the universe, nothing gets past her.  

Her name is Milly, and you should never forget her.

If you ever hope to partner with a company – and you are only selling to the CEO, the owner or the company president – and you haven’t gotten Milly on board, your proposal will be dead in the water right after you hit “send.” Here’s why.

Year in and year out, all industries enjoy innovation. In our little corner of the world, I often get pretty impressed with the new accounting and bookkeeping processes. As they have evolved to include QuickBooks® Online and its related applications, I invariably make the mistake of getting cocky about it. I start thinking things such as, “Can you believe people use paper checks? Ha!” or, “You use Excel to do your forecasting?” That’s when Milly catches me rolling my eyeballs at a system that she has taken years to build. At that moment, I lose her trust and any potential for a great relationship with the client.

Beware of the “Trap” – When we are in a moment of change, we tend to call it “innovation.” We are so rapt by the newness that we leap to the conclusion that new is always better. I remember swearing I would never drink anything but Zima. But, Milly knows better. And, the owners of the company know that Milly knows better. Any new procedure or product must get her stamp of approval. Here’s why:

  1. Milly is not impressed by “new.” She wants to be convinced that there is a quantifiable value delivered to the company. And, by quantifiable value, she wants to see actual savings, in dollars and in time, right now.
  2. Milly puts the company first – always. Owners love her for this. Milly doesn’t need swag, referral credit or cookies. She just wants the company to perform better.
  3. She can tell if you are unsure or untested. And, she can really tell if you are full of it. Don’t even try.
  4. At one time or another, Milly has been involved in every aspect of the company. She can recognize potential issues stemming from the interdepartmental use of the new idea or product. Milly says things such as, “Marketing may want to buy your new program, but customer service is going to hate it because .…”

What should you do differently?

  1. Redefine “Decision-Maker” – It may not be the person sitting in the corner office, or the person with the fanciest title. Find out who the gatekeepers are and which employees have the most at stake if your product or idea is implemented. Never forget that you are selling to them, too.
  2. When you find a Milly, get her on your team. If Milly likes you and your idea, she will do all of the selling for you. She can be a great consultant for your other projects. Her insight is gold – keep her in your Rolodex.
  3. Put on Milly’s glasses and review your own systems to identify and correct weaknesses. Ask her for feedback. She will offer you great information about how your company and product can make improvements. Then, remember how she thinks. Consider her point of view.

Milly is a valuable ally, and a formidable foe if you don’t play your cards right. So, play your cards right. 

Turning Bookkeepers into Bridges

Bookkeepers – that mild-mannered, bleary-eyed army of number-crunchers – is a collection of the most powerful, agile and (may I dare say) underappreciated worker bees in the modern workforce.  The accolades are partially due to the difficulty of the technical work they do. More important, however, is how well they manage their slot in the informational roadway between the owner and the accountant. Allow me to take what may seem like a completely disassociated right turn and I will show you what I mean.

Bridges are the staple image for a connection (So is a staple, I guess, but I digress further.). A bridge spans unfathomable unknowns and brings two places together. Bridges can be as simple as a fallen log over a creek — or as massive as the Mighty Mackinac. When we imagine bridges we usually only really think about what they look like — the red, rising towers of the Golden Gate at sunset or the majestic arch of Sydney Harbour Bridge.  But what does it sound like on the bridge?  What does it feel like on the bridge?  I can tell you from multiple trips to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that bridges are noisy, windy, stressful places. They endure massive fluctuations in temperature and – because they are attached to immutable termination points – must bend and flex to keep the connection intact. 

Most folks only have temporary and infrequent encounters with bridges. They whoosh past in their cars, trucks, and RVs – stopping briefly to pay a toll.  They are transfixed by the vision of their destination or distracted by thoughts of what they left behind.  The bridge itself is rarely a consideration.  But if the bridge weren’t there — they’d notice.  

Bookkeepers are bridges. We transport precious financial information from the smokestacks and turbines of commercial zones to the soaring, glass towers of a city’s financial center.  The best bookkeepers ensure a smooth conveyance delivered with confidence, accuracy, and integrity to the business owners and accountants at either side.  Bookkeepers must serve as the bridge’s architect, the maintenance crew – and ultimately function as the bridge itself. 

So how are the best bridges built?  Here is what the best bridge builders are thinking about:

  • The Terrain – What is the ground like on either side?  Is one side rocky and the other sandy? Is there an elevation?  My guess is each side has a different set of needs.  You have to get to know the TWO lands between which you are building the bridge – For a bookkeeper, this means connecting with the owner and the accountant. Each will offer you something unique to connect with.  Whether it is a shared enthusiasm for Microsoft Excel or a preference for very short-to-the-point emails.  By understanding UP FRONT what the accountant and the client need, a bookkeeper only need to deliver on the predetermined goals.  Bookkeepers often shy away from connecting with the accountant during the early stages of the engagement.  Consider introducing yourself before starting.  Ultimately, it will make your job easier and your work better.  
  • The Support – There’s going to be a lot of traffic on this bridge and it needs to stand up to the pressure.  To set yourself apart and have your own cool unique “I’m-not-your-run-of-the-mill-bookkeeper” style – make sure you know what you are doing.  Strong foundational training is essential to your success.  Beyond knowing the accounting software, you have a good grasp on accounting.  Check out the certification offering through ICBUSA (www.icbusa.org) or research classes at a local college.
  • The Span – Understand how far this bridge has to go.  Imagine the transactions as they on-ramp into your sphere of influence.  Does it start at invoice and end at reconciliation?  Is there A/P, A/R, payroll?  Chart the flow of your transactions through the sections of your bridge and make sure they flow seamlessly.  There are A LOT of apps out there — and sometimes it appears that they are all at a big cocktail party but only talking to themselves.  Pick apps that mingle!  Take the time to enjoy how well the apps interrelate without being distracted by a “bling feature” in a stand-alone. It’s the flow that counts here.
  • The Maintenance – It’s always fun and sexy to build or buy something. But then you have to wash it or feed it or pay interest on it.  Not as fun.  But remember maintenance is like brushing your teeth – maybe not the best part of your day, but skipping it has some unsavory consequences.  Test your app connections.  Nurture your relationships with the terrain at your endpoints (your owners and accountants).  Check your support beams with continuing education.  This is the part where you generate legacy and reputation.

It’s a lot of work, you unsung heroes of the 5-minute desk lunch and elegant pivot tables (honestly, I can’t remember how to do one) –  but you’re killing it! Really.  Keep up the great work…the world is noticing.
Beth Melcher is the straight-shootin’ Wrangler of Financial Chaos and Founder of MoneyFit, a small business consulting company specializing in workflow efficiency. She has spent more than 25 years corralling numbers in QuickBooks and spreadsheets. Beth and her family live in Traverse City, Michigan where they can often be found shoveling snow, building igloos and enjoying those sweet 90 days of summer. Beth can be reached at beth@bemoneyfit.com or on Facebook @moneyfittc.