The inaugural #AppyHour Camp came to a close a few days ago and I have to tell you, the experience was epic! A huge shout out to Liz Scott and Heather Satterley for having the vision to bring so many top-tier accounting profession educators, upcoming rockstars, and dedicated solution providers together.

It was an honor to be the MC for Appy Hour Camp and as The Designated Motivator, it was truly inspiring to see a whole new level of peer-to-peer motivation be ignited. I brought along my Starting Lineup of technology solution providers, too, in the form of these cool new #DesignatedMotivator blackout t-shirts. You can bet that Appy Camp is just the beginning of where you’ll see these! 

As I mentioned prior to my departure for Appy Camp, I knew there would be some amazing takeaways from the talks given and the time spent unplugged for the most part, really connecting in the most human and creative sense with my peers. It was an amazing experience and I came back primed to do even more to support all of you and to help others in this profession do the same.

I know that there are so many #DesignatedMotivators in our midst, each day we have the opportunity to take on this role and lift each other up whether that is on stage, in our firms, or in other organizations we belong to (family systems included!). As we head into busy season I see it as my role to keep being #TheDesignatedMotivator and this includes working with my Starting Lineup of apps and technology solutions to share how they support a better quality of client experience, workflow, and overall firm management capabilities. 

I truly believe that my partners including  ADP®, Bookkeep, Canopy, Fishbowl, Jirav, Liscio, Smartvault, Swizznet, Corpay, RCReports, and Truly Financial are not only technology providers but motivators for us all, too, to keep us accomplishing more with less effort and enabling more balance on all fronts. 

Let’s tackle the next quarter of the year like it is the last of 2022, because it is! And because with all of us in the accounting profession participating in the #MotivationMovement we can keep nurturing the spirit of collaboration  that we started at events such as Appy Camp so they continue through #QBConnect and all of the other places we go in the next few months.

For those of us running public accounting and bookkeeping practices, we are continually called on to be a trusted advisor to our business clients, a credible conduit between the government and the rest of society when it comes to communicating and interpreting the tax code, plus a dedicated “doer” of the work. Oh, and that’s all before breakfast! Some days it seems that way, doesn’t it? 

Here is what I know: this feeling of being overwhelmed and out to sea has become our new normal, and to me, that’s not the way anyone should live because life is too short. I’ve been there and done that, it’s stressful and soul-sucking.I know I am not alone in this view, but for too many other peer professionals, burnout is inevitable. Or is it?

If you are feeling like your options are to 1)keep doing what you are doing and burnout or 2) abandon the ship of an old-school firm I want to introduce youtube a different mindset. Engaging in a community of peers.

Does this seem too simple to work as a strategy for beating burnout? The truth is, we all need to have other people and perspectives to help us cope. Whether it’s professional or personal, or a mixture of both, having others to bounce ideas off and collaborate with can be life-changing. It’s not just a theory, either. A study by the National Center for Biotechnology  Information  shows that the more we connect with others who have similar experiences in a supportive way, the happier, less stressed, and prone to burnout we will be. 

In fact, this week as I am surrounded by other accounting professionals with similar goals and mindsets as mine at Appy Camp, hosted by two of my favorite peers, Heather Satterley and Liz Scott, I am reminded of this fact. I hope you’ll make a mission of finding yourself a supportive peer group this week, too. 

Here are a few accounting communities to consider:

Ecomm As You Are, The Designated Motivator Community, the Woodard Membership Community, and of course, attending events online, connecting on social media and, if you can, going to conferences in person is another great way to meet new supportive peer professionals.

It’s so important for accounting professionals to remember that you are not alone. It may feel that way when you get mired down with work, clients, deadlines, and then the life you have to manage outside of your firm. However, you can make a choice to think differently and see connecting and taking the time to nurture relationships as a critical part of keeping your productivity high and purpose for doing what you do front and center. Both of these benefits of engaging in community will ensure that you beat burnout and achieve the goals you have for yourself and your business.

There are so many people who shine bright in this profession who are ready and willing to help you. This is why I fundamentally believe that the more connected we are as people in this profession the greater the opportunities are for each of us. So don’t wait on the sidelines. Reach out to someone, be human, be humble, ask for help if you need it. And always remember, together we rise. 

I am super excited for Appy Hour Camp coming up September 19 to 21! Who wouldn’t be? It’s going to be a fun adult camping experience hosted by Heather Satterley and Liz Scott, and me, The Designated Motivator, as the M.C.  Let me assure you, however, this isn’t going to be all s’mores and camp fire songs! In fact, what I am most excited for (beyond the fact that we are going to be staying at the same place Dirty Dancing was filmed!) is that it’s going to be a truly educational experience.

Liz and Heather invited many thought leaders and educators in the accounting space to support us as intentional educators and to serve as an incubator for the next round of aspiring educators in the accounting space. I know with the lineup of speakers and contributors this is going to be an awesome camp!

According to Appy Camp headquarters, “the entire educational, inspirational and entertaining retreat will be a co-mingling of established accounting industry educators, up-and-coming educators, and app developers. All camp attendees will be immersed in the sessions and activities together in a shared space to facilitate community and collective innovation.”

In other words, we are going to get some of the most brilliant minds in the profession together and learn from each other about new ways to engage and expand the knowledge base for all of us. From talk to technology, I am planning to come home with some really inspiring action items that I can share with all of you.

I know whenever I get together with peers like entrepreneur wizard Melinda Emerson, Ted Callahan from Intuit, Misty Megia (can’t wait to hear her speak!), Virginia Lacayo, a business coach for thought leaders, Dan Gertudes from GrowthLabs, Ian Vacin from Karbon, and Mariette Martinez, Accounting Strategist the learning opportunities will be immense!

I am so looking forward to packing up my camping gear and heading to Appy Camp in just a couple of weeks. I don’t travel light to camp, either! I will be bringing along my entire Starting Lineup of apps and technology solutions to share with everyone including ADP®, Bookkeep, Canopy, Corpay One, Fishbowl, Jirav, Liscio, Smartvault, Swizznet, and Truly Financial. These are literally the solutions that have allowed me to create a cloud-based firm that is so efficient I can actually take four days to go to Appy Camp and not feel stressed about it, knowing that my team can use the system we have created to manage the workflow and my clients are still completely taken care of.

While I’m away, I’ll be posting on my social channels so please follow me so you can be part of the whole camp experience, too!

Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE was recently welcomed as a new member of the Intuit Tax Council. The Intuit® Tax Council, a group of forward-thinking tax professionals who help lead positive change in the professional tax community, and provide inputs and insights that help shape the Intuit ProConnect™ business strategy. You can read Dawn’s interview about why serving on this council is so important to her as she works to help other accounting professionals succeed.

 

Bookkeeping and time-consuming are synonyms in my mind (I can think of a few other choice words, too). Seriously, there is absolutely no need for manual bookkeeping any longer…and no, adopting this modern mindset and automating the process is not going to put your firm out of business! In fact, it will help you grow it exponentially, if that’s your goal.

Consider how many businesses there are today all using ecommerce payment apps, almost every business uses at least one or more, likely three or four. There’s no way to accurately and efficiently track all of the transactions into accounting software. And why would you want to handle this manually? 

I don’t. I use Bookkeep for all of my clients’ ecommerce payment transactions. This app was literally a life-changing discovery I made a couple of years ago at a conference. I met the awesome Bookkeep team, learned about the amazing QuickBooks and ecommerce integrations and I was sold! In case you are wondering, it’s completely affordable and the implementation took maybe 10 minutes. That’s all it takes and, as I can personally attest to, Bookkeep’s automation saves on average at least 20 hours per month per client. Seriously, it’s freaking amazing!

When you use Bookkeep you will be able to master multi-channel ecommerce payments for any business from brick and mortar service-based businesses like restaurants, medical offices, hair salons… the list goes on, plus all of those ecommerce businesses. If you are handling any of these, you know what a nightmare it can be to sort through transactions from all of the various apps, payment processors, and sales platforms.

Bookkeep seamlessly takes all of the transactions from just about any digital point of sale payment app including Square, Shopify, Grubhub, Amazon Seller, Squarespace, Stripe, and many more. The app takes all of those thousands of transactions (including up to five years of historical data in QuickBooks) and automatically syncs them with QuickBooks, which means it can all flow to wherever you need it to go next such as your tax, reporting, or other software for sales tax returns, tax preparation, and profit and loss reports, to name just a few engagements where this data is critical.

Another thing that is so important when selecting apps is the quality of the partner you choose. Bookkeep is the leading provider of summarized financial automation and deposit reconciliation for retail, restaurant, cannabis and ecommerce businesses and they have invested in deep integrations with accounting systems like QuickBooks, Xero, Sage Intacct and NetSuite. 

So if you haven’t already stopped reading this blog to immediately implement Bookkeep to manage your mess of manual bookkeeping, why the heck not? Ecommerce clients should not eat away your efficiency! Do not let this happen, go get Bookkeep now, and stop the insanity of multi-channel ecommerce bookkeeping with a single app! 

The secret to maximizing the takeaways from any professional education event is to have a plan of action when you return home, especially if you are planning to go on summer break.

Here’s my plan for taking all of the connections, education, and opportunities I gained at the conferences I attended in the spring, that you can use it as your guide to putting a post-conference plan for you and your practice:

1. Cultivate the Connections You Made

I hope if you were at a conference you made some new professional friends and deepened your current connections with your peers. Make those connections count by connecting on social media, following through on actions you discussed and, checking in regularly- long after the conference is over. Keep the conversations going! You can read the full plan for doing your homework the right way over at Accounting Web: Doing Post-Conference Homework Before Summer Break | AccountingWEB

The right tech stack can really alleviate stress, save time, and maximize your firm’s throughput, but only if you have a clear vision for each solution you are using. There’s a buffet of options out there, that’s for sure, and they all cost either time to implement or money to buy (or both) so it can be stressful to even think about which solutions to use. I get it and I want to help, that’s why I am sharing my softball strategy to help you build a tech stack that works with your firm not against it!

Imagine if hitting a home run when it comes to the profitability of your practice was as easy as watching a ball game. To me, it really is—running a profitable and highly efficient accounting, bookkeeping or tax practice is no different than coaching a softball (or baseball) team. Here’s a brief overview of how you can use softball strategy to knock it out of the park when it comes to your practice productivity and profitability, too. 

You see, in softball, you have positions on your team that you have to fill. In addition, you have players that you need to recruit to fill those positions.  Let’s stick with the defensive side of the game.  You have a pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, etc. Imagine if hitting a home run when it comes to the profitability of your practice was as easy as watching a ball game. To me, it really is—running a profitable and highly efficient accounting, bookkeeping or tax practice is no different than coaching a softball (or baseball) team. Here’s a brief overview of how you can use softball strategy to knock it out of the park when it comes to your practice productivity and profitability, too. nd baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder.

As a coach, you need to know what the positions are and you need to seek the most talented players to fill those positions.  From an accounting, bookkeeping, or tax  practice perspective the game really is no different. You have certain positions to fill in order to run your firm, to create an amazing client experience, and to complete client work.  

Every accounting firm has some positions that are necessary no matter what you provide for services. Then there are the tools you need that are specific to the services you provide. In other words, in order to pick the right software, you need to also accept that no one piece of software is going to solve everything.

Here are the solutions that I have chosen (Click on the name of each one below to get the overview of benefits):

ADP

Bookkeep

Canopy

Fishbowl

Jirav

Liscio

Smartvault

Swizznet

Truly Financial

Veem

However, you really need to choose your own based on your needs and by looking at the solutions and how they align with the problems you are trying to solve. Start by downloading the Team Brolin Starting Lineup Playbook here.

After you complete an After Action Review for your firm post busy season, it’s time to really figure out which of your processes work and which ones might need to be reviewed and improved. 

Below I have broken down all of the key action items you may have once you have completed your AAR and how to prioritize, plan, and progress through each one.  Once you identify and prioritize each item that needs to be worked on, then you need to assign a leader to each task. The best way to get something done, is to make it someone’s job, after all!

Step 1. Assign staff to each area that needs to be improved, and then have them take a deep dive into this specific area of your process, suggesting improvements along the way. Once a new process has been discussed and vetted, it is important to share this with the whole team. When you share this, it’s a good idea to do a dry run before the next busy season hits!

Completing this process right after your busy season (like tax season) is critical. This way, we capture everything when it’s fresh in everyone’s minds and we do something about it before 

We get stuck in a cycle of facing the same problems, challenges and frustrations each year.

Step 2. Identify the topics you want to address. This part of your process often takes the longest. Maybe you have missing documents? Or poor communication between client and firm? Or maybe there are too many places that you have to go to find all your information.

One of the more common things that can lead to late nights and stress is that you get to January 1st and you realize you don’t have the information you need, in order to do the 1099s. If you don’t have all your ducks in a row, it is a hectic scramble and that’s when mistakes are made. Now is the time to determine how you will avoid this!

Another thing that firms are often wrestling with, especially now that we are (mostly) all working remotely, is that data exists in silos.  This happens when data is coming in too many ways.  Plus, if you have data silos, staff have to check too many places for all the relevant information they might need. This causes lots of stress, and lots of wasted time.

All throughout this process, everything needs to be documented to make sure all the new procedures are easy to follow consistently and you can onboard new staff easily when needed.

And of course, the underlying theme with all of this is security – anything you roll out, change, or do in your firm must be secure. So emailing your clients, asking for their W9s won’t fly anymore.

 

Step 3. Look at best practices to solve for the issues you have identified. If you are struggling to solve an issue, it’s a good idea to expand your potential pool of solutions by seeking help from a peer (like me) or a reputable source such as a solution provider.

The first problem we used as a common example is one I can help you solve: your missing W9s. The easy response is to update your year end files as you go. Create a centralized, secure place for all your digital files, this way everything can be easily located while staying safe. I like to use SmartVault for this! Each month, make sure you receive your W9s from each client – Liscio templates make these requests fast and easy as well as giving clients a secure way to send them. Using the QuickBooks Online AP lists as a guide, you can ensure that you have a complete set of documents from each of your clients.

Another issue many firms find themselves wasting time on is getting their clients to communicate effectively. Most firms request documents are sent via email. Not only has email become a serious bottleneck in many firms, it’s also super unsafe!  

Here’s what I suggest instead: Think about the client’s day to understand why they don’t respond instantly. Many times, your client will receive your email via their smartphone. They don’t have access to the documents they need or a scanner and they definitely don’t want to try logging into your online portal using their smartphone. 

If they don’t receive your email while they are on the go, then they get it when they are at work. Good right? Wrong. They have their own clients in and out the door and on the phone all day. Their priority is on making money and serving their clients. Your email will sit in their inbox until the link to the portal has expired and they have to ask for help to log in. This stalls all your work on this client.

So how can we solve this? Think like the client thinks! If they are texting you, it means that they are more likely to do business with you via their phone. Many millennials ignore emails and don’t own scanners or printers. Your solution is to match their mobile lives.

Set yourself up for success by adopting some or all of the policies I have shared with you, and make dumping email a very high priority. 

There are a few easy solutions to some big problems your firm may be experiencing. Schedule a demo with Liscio so you can see how much faster your firm can move when you are working with your client’s needs. Get your documents sent in on time.

Now it’s time to put your AAR learning into action…

Repeating these steps with all of the areas you want to improve based on your After Action Review will help your firm become more efficient for next tax season and ensure your clients feel cared for and can provide what you need quickly and easily. That’s a win for everyone and another reason to do your AAR now.

Now that working with remote teams is the new normal of business, many of us are learning about the challenges of making sure everyone has the tools they need to work effectively.

One of my Starting Lineup Members, Truly Financial, has got your back (and your clients, too!) when it comes to supporting the banking needs of a remote team. 

Truly Financial offers more freedom, by offering physical and digital Visa cards to any employee, anywhere In the world. This means businesses can now attract, hire and support the best employees, no matter where they live. 

This is a critical advantage, especially for small businesses that aren’t always able to qualify for corporate cards at traditional banks. Truly Financial allows a business of any size to qualify, and doesn’t include an asterisk noting a daily minimum spending number.

Often times, banks will make it hard to see the actions of your entire team in one place. Maybe there is someone across the border or there is a limit on the number of accounts you can open. Truly Financial has a dashboard where you can see all of the transactions that all your employees have made in one convenient location.

Pretty cool, right? Well, it gets even better because Truly Financial also allows you to forget the frustration of waiting for money to be exchanged into different currencies or a large payment to go through to clear with the bank before work can begin on a project. 

Another reason why Truly is an amazing partner? They work hard to earn trust with their partners and clients. All you need is your recipient’s bank account details and you can send one-day payments to over 40 countries. Or, if your supplier is in a country not on Truly Financial’s Express Network, if they are also using Truly Financial, they receive your payment in one day as well!

Now that I understand just how significantly banking needs to change for all of us, especially with remote work and globalization in the here and now, I am even more passionate about telling my peers and my clients about making a change to a bank that can help you leverage these trends to your advantage. Truly Financial is the change we need and our clients do, too. 

Take a tour of Truly Financial here.

I know, I know, we are in the final stretch of tax season and you may be thinking, Why the heck is Brolin blogging about events now? Doesn’t she know that the tax deadline is just days away? I can’t even…

 

I hear you! Yes, this is a beyond busy time for many of us, believe me, I know my tax prep work queue is my priority right now!  However, I also just finished booking my room for Accounting Web Live Summit, which is coming up in only a few weeks. I am pumped to attend, not only because I am participating in some amazing fireside chats, panels, and other parts of the program, but because together with my Starting Lineup team members and partners, we are hosting the Home Run Happy Hour in the exhibit hall on Tuesday, May 10 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. There will be food, beverages, music, prizes, and a lot of opportunities to tune up your tech stack…plus we have some cool surprises so be sure to stay tuned! 

 

You can sign up here to get the Team Brolin Starting Lineup Homerun Happy Hour event details right to your inbox and we’ll also be giving you the option for text updates soon.

 

Of course, Accounting Web Live Summit in San Diego is the first of quite a few events to consider attending this spring and summer. From the AICPA’s Engage conference, to Scaling New Heights, through to any number of the virtual events such as Insightful Accountant’s Future Forward Conference there are many venues available for accounting, tax and bookkeeping professionals to network with peers and solution providers; to learn best practices and new strategies for optimizing workflows, profits, and productivity; earn some CPE; and of course, just have some fun away from the office!

 

Coming out from under the cloud of Covid-19, I have found that connecting in-person with colleagues and partners has been really refreshing and rewarding, even if sometimes it feels like I don’t have time to do so before I go. After the fact, I am always glad that I did because the insights and ideas that I come away with are worth their weight in gold. Not to mention, it can be extremely reassuring and stress-relieving to feel the support of a larger community of accounting professionals. I think it is important to really have that face time with each other so we feel less alone, expand our networks, and learn from each other. 

 

The support I receive from peers like you is simply priceless! I think most of us would agree that making the time and effort to attend accounting profession events is well worth it. So take a breather between now and April 18 to register for at least one virtual and one in-person event happening this summer, it will give you something to look forward to and once you are there, I have no doubt you’ll benefit from being reinvigorated and inspired, which is exactly the type of motivation we need to make the remainder of 2022 a home run personally and professionally.

I hope we can connect soon at an event. Check out some of the Team Brolin opportunities, too, to start your post-tax season event and networking plans!

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