I almost didn’t go to Accountex 2017. With everything going on at work and home, it would have been easy to say no.
But I’m really glad I did!
Every time I go to a conference, I learn something new. Sometimes I learn more than one thing. And that was definitely the case at Accountex 2017. Plus it’s a great opportunity to meet and reconnect with some of the most innovative accountants and bookkeepers in our profession.
Here are the highlights from my conference experience (along with a bit of commentary — hope you don’t mind).
Accountants Need to Be There for Entrepreneurs from the Start
Daymond John (of Shark Tank fame) said in his keynote address that he could have really used the help of accountants when he was starting his business. In fact, cash flow problems nearly shut down Daymond’s amazingly successful hip hop clothing line FUBU when it was just getting started.
Daymond had borrowed $100,000 from his family for his first production run after securing $300,000 in orders. He spent it all right away on making clothing, not realizing that giving 60 and 90 day terms to his customers meant he wouldn’t be making any deposits for months.
Fortunately, Daymond was able to secure financing in the nick of time, but it was a very close call. He might have been able to avoid nearly going broke if he’d had an accountant helping him with some simple cash flow forecasting.
Back then, Daymond couldn’t afford an accountant. But now with the efficiency of cloud technology, there’s no reason why accountants and bookkeepers can’t offer basic services to entrepreneurs while they’re still in startup mode.
Every Person Is Now a Media Company
Randi Zuckerberg, former Director of Market Development and spokesperson for Facebook, talked about how Facebook and other social media platforms have democratized the media landscape.
Now, thanks to the cameras in our phones, every one of us has the ability to create content potentially viewed by millions of people — at no cost. You can use the internet and social media to build your own personal brand. It can bring clients, help you in your career advancement, or both. The benefits can be huge.
So why aren’t more of us doing this?
Five years ago, it used to be somewhat difficult to put yourself out there online. But now you can publish articles for free on sites like Medium or LinkedIn, which have a built-in audience thirsting for knowledge. You can stream live video to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You just need a smartphone, not a complicated camera setup. You can use apps like Snagit to record “how to” screencasts and publish them to YouTube where prospects will find them and then come to you for more help.
If you aren’t doing any of this, I strongly encourage you to pick one of these channels and give a try. Try it for at least for six months. You may be surprised by the results.
Even Bookkeepers Can Build a $Million Firm
I was very excited to hear Melanie Power speak because she hails from all the way from Australia, and I’ve been following her for years online. Her private Facebook Group, Bookkeeper Revolution, provides a wealth of knowledge about technology and how to run a bookkeeping practice.
In her session, “The Million Dollar Bookkeeper,” Mel shared how she built her own firm bringing in over a million dollars of annual revenue with just three people.
She was able to do it by:
- Leveraging cloud technology
- Narrowing her focus to a niche
- Focusing her product offering
- Having a clear methodology, and
- Knowing how to communicate her value
Time Sheets Are ‘Immoral and Unethical’
I’m a fan of anyone who applies economic theory and philosophy to how accounting firms should be managed. And that’s what Ed Kless does on a regular basis. He also enjoys being a tad controversial — also something I tend to enjoy.
Case in point: During a panel discussion called “Evolution of the Accounting Technology Ecosystem,” the topic of time sheets arose. Ed happily shared his view on time sheets, which is that they’re “immoral and unethical” when required of professionals — AKA knowledge workers.
That’s because time sheets can be used to help you or hurt you, depending on how a manager feels. And because all intelligent professionals know this, they all “manage” their time to somehow come in on time and budget. That’s why time sheets are mostly useless from a project management perspective — they aren’t real.
Another argument from Ed: You can’t value knowledge in terms of hours. It’s the wrong measurement. So why do we sell it that way?
The App Ecosystem Is the Future of Small Business Accounting
In his session “Zen and the Art of Application Integration,” Ryan Watson of Upsourced Accounting demonstrated a real life example of the Xero “app ecosystem” in practice.
Ryan uses six applications integrated with Xero to provide a superior customer experience. They are:
By implementing this tech stack, Ryan and his firm were able to eliminate tedious physical bank statement reconciliations, printing and mailing of paper checks and invoices, using spreadsheets to track employee hours, manual pay runs, and a whole pile of receipts.
The result was better cash flow and visibility into company performance.
Needless to say, Ryan will have this client for a very long time.