This episode is sponsored by Bookkeep

Episode Summary

Truly Financial’s Mike Milan joins Dawn Brolin to discuss the benefits of digital banking through Truly Financial, and highlights how banking, wire transfers, and implementing company spending cards can be made easy for everyone, including small businesses! Listen now to find out how Truly Financial can benefit your business, as well as how accounting professional can help save their clients money! 

Episode Notes

What is Truly Financial? 

Mike Milan of Truly Financial joins Dawn Brolin to discuss how digital banking can be beneficial for small businesses, and how Truly Financial helps save their clients hundreds of dollars in wire transfer fees and account minimum fees.

Truly Financial is a digital banking service that allows companies to have international purchasing power, even if they can’t compete with larger businesses around them. Truly Financial solves the currency exchange problem, and keeps the transaction local, rather than across borders. 

Mike even compares the ease of their wire transfers to using Venmo—transactions are made quick and easy.

Implemented Truly Financial in Your Business

Opening up an accountant with Truly Financial is easy, and can be done online! You provide them with basic identifying documents of you and your business, and they do the rest. 

Truly Financial Spend Management Cards

Truly Financial also provides you with spend management cards that you can distribute amongst your employees, rather than having to reimburse them. You are able to set the spending limits, see all the transitions that are taking place, and these cards can even be used for employees who work overseas. 

Mike highlights how you as the business owner are given up to 2.5% cash back on most purchases, even on the purchases made by your employees; they also have no minimum account fees! 

“We’re trying to bring the perks of the big bank down to everyone.” says Mike.


Learn more at


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Dawn Brolin 0:06
This episode of the DM Disruption is sponsored by Bookkeep. Bookkeep provides automated bookkeeping by posting sales and reconciling payment deposits from Square, Spotify, Amazon seller, and more to QuickBooks Online or Xero, automatically. What is great is that the Setup is easy and nothing needs to be done. Once it’s set up. After that it’s set it and forget it. Bookkeep will do your job from that moment forward. You can even have historical transactions posted, all you have to do is ask, stop stressing about posting these simple but voluminous transactions and start letting Bookkeep do the work for you. Check them out at today!

Hey everybody and welcome back to the DM Disruption, myself Dawn Brolin your designated motivator is here to help you come up with solutions for your firm, but most importantly for your clients because they’re here for you to be the trusted adviser to guide them in the right direction, and we have one of my very favorite people I’ve known for a long time. Mike Milan, is here today from Truly Financial, an interestingly awesome product, that we’re going to kind of give you a little bit more detail about what Truly Financial can do for you and your firm, but also for your clients. So, Mike, thanks so much for coming. I love you, you’re like one of my favorite people, we it’s like you’re like a brother from another mother. Right?

Mike Milan 1:28
I will tell you, I’m motivated right now, I’m already motivated, right? So if you’re if your job is to motivate me, you did it even before we got on the call,

Dawn Brolin 1:36
Bang! That’s what we’re here to do. Because really the end of the day, we just want to solve the problems of the world. And one of them is, with regards to banking, and being able to make payments and to be able to collect money and to have, you know, your employees being able to have cards and you know, doing all these things so that we can run loose, you want to make business work better, faster and smoother. So Mike, tell us all about Truly Financial, let’s get this going.

Mike Milan 2:02
And I gotta tell you what I mean, when you look at it, and I’ve got 15 years of now banking experience, you know, talking with banks, teaching bankers, talking with small business owners, and it kept coming back to the same thing of, it’s getting more and more difficult to do business globally. And it and I don’t know about you, but when I went through the MBA program, I read a book called The World is Flat, and it predicted the globalization of the economy, which is saying, you know, even the smallest business and Galesburg, Illinois, you know, could do business in India, or Pakistan, or China or any of these other places. But it’s so difficult to do that, right? It’s so difficult to do that. And not only that, when we started talking about, especially after COVID remote teams and working with other people and getting the best talent. Well, the best talent is no longer just contained in a geography, you know, inside a border. Right? It could be anywhere your best player could be in Toronto, well, how do I work with that person, when they’re the best, you know, key player. So what we’ve done is, is build products that help you not only be a hyper local, small business, but have an international beef or, international flair if you’d like that, and expand your business globally.

Dawn Brolin 3:17
Yeah, an international presence that somebody that is a smaller, smaller company, like you said, can’t kind of compete with the cost to do business globally. And I think that that’s one of the key pieces is that well, how do I even open that door? How do I even in most people would be like, well, now I got currency translation issues. I’ve got this. I’ve got banking fees, I’ve got that. So Truly Financial is opening up that door to allow people to be able to maneuver in that space. Right?

Mike Milan 3:46
Yea, you know, what’s funny about that is I mean, it said at you lose up to 5% of an invoice just by doing business internationally, maybe because you you do have that you do have maybe a currency exchange problem where you’re forced to convert at the time of the transaction? Well, you know, we’ve done away with that by being able to hold multiple currencies in one account, so I can exchange money when it’s good for me, I don’t have to do it exactly when the transaction takes place. The other thing is, is that a lot of like international wire, sometimes go through multiple steps where you know, you can’t go from, you know, some of the African currencies like SETI into the Japanese Yen. I know that’s kind of a big problem here in Texas, we’d have a lot of that. But as an example, you have to convert it to US dollars first, and then back into Yen. Some of there’s some of them that just don’t have a direct exchange, you have to use an intermediary. And that costs money, right? Sometimes $40 to $60 per transaction. So we want to help you save money by making it just instant.

Dawn Brolin 4:48
Okay, and so, so tell us something like that. So, if you’re a if you’re a practitioner, and you have clients that are you know, maybe even already in that global world or they’re already you know, doing A lot of transactions of business in Canada, let’s just say right, because I would think, you know, a lot of us have have businesses that have, you know, activity in Canada. So, walk through a simple scenario and how what, what is the Truly product actually do to improve that process for the client? If you come up with an example for me?

Mike Milan 5:19
Yeah, so I mean, I mean, normally, there would be a cross border transaction, right, which which you know, where the people in Canada, even though you want to send money in US dollars, they have to either receive it in US dollars, and then make a conversion to Canadian dollars, which is, again, another pain in the butt for them. That’s kind of a typical thing, right? Where you’re paying them or you’re receiving money from them the same way there’s this conversion charge. What we’ve done is we’ve created a way to conduct that transaction locally. And it’s more like a Venmo transaction, and it happens instantly. So let’s just say that I’m in Toronto, you’re there. And it was a Connecticut?

Dawn Brolin 5:55

Mike Milan 5:56
Okay. Yeah. It’s at one side of the world that I don’t know very much about.

Dawn Brolin 6:02
It is mysterious out here!

Mike Milan 6:03
That’s right. So, but think about it, like a Venmo transaction, where you can just say, I want to pay @ Mike, and I send it into Toronto, the same way that you would, you know, me with a Venmo transaction now. So what we’re doing is on the back end is, is creating a transaction that happens locally, rather than across the border.

Dawn Brolin 6:22
Got it. Right. And that’s perfect. Because that’s really, at the end of the day, what we want to do is we just want to either get paid or pay, we don’t want to have to go through, like you said, dealing with exchange rates and how to make sure that that’s all done correctly. And you know, any accounting software tries to do that. It’s not always successful, but, but just that facilitation is what you’re solving for.

Mike Milan 6:45
Right? We’re like a Sherpa, right? And then international funds, Sherpa, right, we’re gonna guide that transaction all the way through. And it’s basically, because I tell you, anybody that tries to do an international wire right now, there’s no visibility, you don’t know what happens, you don’t know when it even changes hands to another person. Sometimes it takes up to two weeks, and that could delay your goods. You know, just because no one’s gonna send it until they receive the money. So what we’re doing is we’re walking that transaction all the way through for you at the speed of banking.

Dawn Brolin 7:15
Right? So yeah, within a 24 hour period, or whatever that may be, right? Because you got that

Mike Milan 7:20
Sometimes instantaneous, sometimes it takes a day or two.

Dawn Brolin 7:23
Yeah. So now, so a client comes to you, or, you know, business owner comes to Mike and says, “Hey, I want in.” What do I have to do? How do I get how does this all get set up? Because that’s what a lot of times people will say, Well, how hard is it to get this implemented? Right? That’s typically a normal question. So tell that process,

Mike Milan 7:43
if you’ve ever opened a bank account is the same. But what we’ve tried to do is take away the, you know, the requirement to walk into a bank, sit down with a bank loan officer and go through every single process, and I forgot this paper, and then I gotta go ping pong back and forth, we email or private things. We’ve built in automation on most all of the verification of a business, right, because there’s a couple of regulations, we have to go go, you know, go by, as one is know your customer, the others know your business. And that way, we know kind of what’s happening in the business. So we have to verify who you are. And we have to verify who your business is. And that’s really done with, you know, your EIN will say, for US business, we can verify that your real business, we look at the website to make sure that, you know, if you have a website tried to determine what business you’re in. There’s certain businesses we can’t do business with, right? So and then then of course, your as a person, it’s a copy of your ID and then just gain your thing like I did with Alexa yesterday. So now like Alexa even recognizes me. So it’s really that easy. It does take a few minutes, it might take, you know, five or 10 minutes to go through the process, but it’s really point click, type in your EIN and we we go gather all the data for you.

Dawn Brolin 8:52
Which is awesome. Because I had an experience, just I would say, I think it was like last maybe May, April or May. And I was going to set up a new bank account, right? And with Bank of America, you can you can set up a new account online, you know what? The process is awful. The process is brutal. Any of your banks, your, what we’ll call your “historical native banks” that we’ve had, you know, at the corner of, you know, Main Street for years, even they haven’t solved for exactly what you’ve already solved for. You know, you go you set up the account and you give them some stuff, but then you got to wait for the signature paperwork to come. So you can they they’re not even using E signature of Bank of America for this process. But you’re just like what, so the big count takes like three to four weeks to just set up because they’re gonna mail you the papers to sign and then you mail them back. And I mean, it’s just insanity. Like it just doesn’t make sense. So that is a huge solution that truly financial is solving when people want to set up a bank account. Bang, just go on there, get it set up, and then go Talk about the card. So we got businesses who have employees who, you know, need to get paid and need to pay for things or whatever. Tell us about the cards and the card process.

Mike Milan 10:08
Yeah, I tell you, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s one of those things, it’s, it’s the new way of doing business, right, it’s a way for you to not only give your team some authority, some responsibility, but also help them be accountable with Spend Management cards, right. So it’s, it’s, it’s as easy as just typing in your name, and sending you out a card, then I set the transaction limits that you can spend per month, per category, per transaction, I can set all those limits for you. But I can also, you know, have visibility, and I can see what you’re doing instantly. So as you make a transaction, I see it happening as it as it works. So you can do that across your team. And what’s interesting is that we can also issue cards across the border. So if you find that perfect employee in Canada, or, you know, Warsaw, Poland or Singapore, you can actually bring them on your team and and pay them much like you would in their local currency or in your own. Right. So it’s one of those things that we’ve really solved for that way. What I do like about it, is that our corporate cards, right that these these SmartLink, we call them smart link, which is linking my employees to my account, right? So SmartLink is our spend management system. But our corporate cards are unlike any debit card. So think about the debit card, where you just go use it for your everyday purchases. And that’s kind of our tagline is, you know, your everyday domestic and international purchases, right? That’s kind of what we’re, we’re working with. You actually were given cashback up to 2.5 % on everything. You can’t get that with a debit card, right? That’s one of the reasons why we give you a corporate card. And believe it or not, if you go try to apply for a corporate card, most banks have minimum requirements, they got minimum, so much on daily deposit or so much on your annual revenue. None of that, right. We’re trying to bring the perks of the big bank down to everyone. We’re really what we’re trying to do. It’s like getting a discount on every single thing you buy. Right? So..

Dawn Brolin 12:01
I’ll fight you for the quarter in the parking lot like you and I will be fist fighting for that quarter.

Mike Milan 12:10
Yeah, here’s, here’s the cool thing. Remember, the SmartLink accounts? Yep, everything your employees are purchasing rolls up to the main account. So they’re not getting the reward, you are right, even when they’re out, they’re spending on your behalf.

Dawn Brolin 12:22
And that is really powerful. Because if you think about it, umm, having employees, like, you know, say, Okay, we’ll just reimburse you. So a lot of companies do that. So if you have clients out there, people were listening, you have clients out there that are that have employees using a personal credit card, and a lot of like you said, a lot of the smaller businesses, and I’m saying smaller, a million and under people who are a million and under who have employees, and they use their own credit card, you reimburse them. They’re getting that either cashback depending on what kind of card they have credit card, on a credit card, they’re getting cashback and they’re getting or and or points or something. Right. So and I think that that’s a really big deal, the business owner, should be the one enjoying those perks, and those that cashback and how that all works. Because really, at the end of the day, that’s their money. Right? And so and they’re paying for them, and make the purchase. So they’re, they’re getting paid to go make the purchase, and now they’re getting cashback on their cars or points. Now we say no, I’m paying you to go do this thing. But I’m going to enjoy the reward, which is that the cashback?

Mike Milan 13:30
You know, it was fun is that a company I’d worked for prior, they took all of the money and then put it towards the party at the end of the year. Right. I mean, the the employees ended up getting it back in one way or the other. But I thought it was a great way to finance a, you know, company perks with those types of purchases.

Dawn Brolin 13:49
Absolutely. And I do I love also the fact that you don’t have fees, because that is what I mean statement fees. And just if you don’t have your you know, maintain your minimum balance, you’re going to get a fee for that. And then then the payments. Okay, let’s talk about the fees for when you pay somebody, right? You don’t have fees when you pay somebody.

Mike Milan 14:09

Dawn Brolin 14:10
And that’s it globally, your the wire transfer fees, if you’re doing wire transfers, or doing any of those kinds of things, you’re paying 50 bucks, 75 bucks sometimes for those transfers. So if you have clients that are doing that, what’s beautiful about it, not only are we are we opening up the ability to do that global economy and global global payments, but being able to take clients that now already do that I thinking of one of my clients, he’s uh, he does a lot of work in Canada. And so he’s selling like these huge structures and things like that. For him to be able to pay for the goods and things that he’s doing, he’s going to be the next phone call that I make because he’s he could really benefit from this product for sure. So I want people as they’re listening, think about the clients that are working globally. And that are you you’re going to be doing tax returns soon. Then those of you who are listening, that are bookkeepers that are watching these fees come through, pay attention to the fees, because they are they can get big me. Some people will say to me, I don’t want to accept credit cards because I gotta pay fees. Well, you know, here’s your solution. We got it, we got solved already done.

Mike Milan 15:18
There you go, there you go. But, you know, it’s when all of our prices are listed right on the website, you know, I And mostly, everything’s free. Now, we got some value limitations, right. I mean, there’s only so many, you know, international wires that you can do in a month. But our limits, I think, are probably more than I would do anyway, you know, you know, between then I can look it up to be exact, but we’ll say you get 10 free, right? Who’s doing 10 of those a month? I mean, yeah, so, but we have to two programs. One is the free program where the limits are a little bit smaller, right, you may be three transactions here are 10 transactions there. And then we have a $25 month per actual fee and a bank account, we charge you $25 a month, but you get a lot more of those free transactions, you know, like 25 or so a month. So I mean, more than most people do anyway. But $25 a month, one time is a lot better than what you just said, $50. Every time.

Dawn Brolin 16:15
Exactly. Exactly. And you know, you know, Truly Financials and business make money to people, it’s, you know, we all are, that’s what business is about. But it but the cost that cost that reduction in fees, is going to can be substantial for some of your clients. And so you’ve got to, you know, and I was on another podcast with Allison Ball with Liscio. It’s client experience that we need to be more aware of. And I mean client experience in that, what can we bring to the table to them to say, Hey, listen, we’re going through your taxes, or I’m doing your books, and I’m seeing all the wire transfer fees that you’re paying, we got to do something different here. And so, you know, that is where we become the hero to our clients. And here’s a great example of where you can bring this product to your client say, Hey, listen, we watched all your fees, we gotta, we gotta do something different here for 2020. Great place to start with Truly Financial for sure.

Mike Milan 17:11
Well and I’ll tell you, I mean, I know I should be transparent. We’re saying, Okay, well, we’re giving you all these fees, right? We’re just we get a lot of different free transactions. And you say, Well, how do we make money? Well, if you look at our card, we’re a visa partner. So every time you use it, you know, we’re getting a piece of that transaction, which doesn’t come out of your pocket, it comes out of your vendors pocket, right. If you go to Walmart, if you go to Exxon Mobil, I mean, we’re getting a piece of that transaction, you know, through Visa.

Dawn Brolin 17:37
Yep. And you know, it’s interesting, too, because people don’t think of that, like the merchant fees. They think, Oh, I’m just Visa just gets my 3.2% or whatever, whatever the fee may be. There’s so much there’s a lot of components built into that 3.2%, and Truly Financial happens to be one of them for the Visa. But again, you’re not It’s not like your rates are going up. It’s not that’s not the situation. So it’s just the Visa is got this partnership. So it’s I think it’s an awesome solution. I think it’s something that we should be, we should have this in the forefront of our mind as we go through tax season. And as we go throughout the year, I mean, you can save your client two grand, that’s a lot of money, you save your clients, in some cases, probably five $6,000 in fees that they’re paying now. And so keep that in the forefront of your mind as you move forward through taxes and move forward through 2022 to keep it in the forefront. Like any last thoughts?

Mike Milan 18:29
Hey, we want to be your bank. That’s where it is.

Dawn Brolin 18:34
We want to be your bank. Truly Financial Mike Milan, we can sing my land is your land. That’s how I know. In my mind, every time I land is your land. Will you ever said that to me, I was like I’ll never pronounce your last name wrong again. Mulan, which I think is a Disney movie or something. But it’s Milan. So like, so much for spending some time with us today. Again, the DM Disruption is all about shaking your coconut and getting you to think about doing things differently. And yes, period. The world is changing. You can either fight against it and get left behind or you can join the fight and make changes in your business and with your clients. And Truly Financial is one of those components that you go we gotta shake it, put it in your head, so you’re thinking about it. And thank you again so much for listening. Mike, thanks so much for coming here today. And we will see you on the next DM Disruption. Thanks again, everybody. Thanks




Episode Summary

Fishbowl’s Senior Director of Integrated Services, Bev Lang, shares her journey within the accounting industry, her experiences “coming up to bat with Brolin,” and why Fishbowl feels like family, and is a key member in Team Brolin’s Starting Lineup!

This episode is sponsored by Fishbowl.

Beverly’s Introduction and Why We’re #BetterTogether

Beverly shares how difficult it can be to collaborate effectively, especially in the QSP industry, and talks about her passion for teaching others how to do so. She references QSP’s moto is “#BetterTogether”, and acknowledges how important it is to seek help when you need it, and be willing to help others when they are struggling

Beverly’s Journey and Experience with Fishbowl

Beverly started at a QSP, and after attending her first Scaling New Heights in 2009, she decided to take a chance starting her own QSP. She chose to go all in a few years later, and ended up having huge success!

Beverly talks about meeting Fishbowl at Scaling New Heights a few years later, and fell in love with the software that they provided. Beverly became their top seller, and Fishbowl eventually offered to buy her company. Now, Beverly and all of her employees have a Quickbooks channel at Fishbowl.

Beverly also talks about how Fishbowl has consistently outperformed similar programs and software, and shares her appreciation for the company as a whole.

Importance of Partnering in Payroll

Beverly talks about how she built her own empire, and how she has always been one of the top providers of payroll. She also talks about how important it is to become certified in payroll to show your knowledge to your clients.

Dawn agrees, and talks about how important it is to be in compliance with payroll, and how important it is to find a good partner to assist you. 

Clients Success Stories with Fishbowl

Beverly talks about a medical equipment company she recently worked with, and how Fishbowl was able to not only provide excellent inventory management to their company, but also help in other aspects of their business, including all the medical requirements implemented by the FDA. 

Beverly also talks about how many clients come to Fishbowl in desperate search of a system that provides them with what they need, but does so in an affordable way.

Impact of Covid on Manufacturing and Importance of Inventory Management

Dawn also talks about the importance of having a virtual or cloud based system that allows companies to implement new inventory programs without having to have a representative come in person.

Beverly agrees, and talks about how quickly Fishbowl pivoted their program to provide virtual solutions, and how Fishbowl has developed integrations with online businesses programs like Shopify, Amazon, and Etsy.

Dawn also discusses how important it is for businesses to partner with inventory management programs because it can be very difficult to project future inventory costs without proper assistance. 

Beverly agrees, and shares her passion for educating customers on how to correctly understand their reports, and how an accurate understanding of inventory can lead to future savings and business success.

Beverly’s Current Work Life and Inspiration

Beverly talks about the difference between going from a business to an employee, and talks about the feeling of needing to prove herself. She also talks about trying to improve her work-life balance, and her desire to be able to have a team of people that work efficiently, without having to work 80 hour weeks.

Beverly also talks about how she found her initial motivation from her beginnings in the QSP community, and now finds inspiration from her former English college professor and best friend, Holly.


Want to listen to this episode? Click here!

Want to hear more episodes? Listen here!


Find Dawn Brolin’s Latest Book, The Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals, on Amazon!

Follow Dawn Brolin!


Subscribe to Dawn on Youtube



Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level. Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program become the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping Up With payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

Hey, everybody, and welcome back to the designated motivator. We’re here to not just motivate but put stuff into action and I’m so excited. There’s somebody else I’ve ever learned from in my career. It is from Beverly Lang, who is a doer she is not a talker. She is a doer, and she is at the forefront of this industry making things happen. Today’s sponsor of this episode, as you can just imagine, fishbowl fishbowl the absolute best Inventory Management System period that you will find and the person that I go to and I refer to as Beverly Lange because she knows all those things. And you know, I want to be an expert at the things I’m good at and that’s just not my area. So I hand it over to somebody who is an expert and that’s Beverly, so Beverly Lang, thank you so much for coming today.

Bev Lang 1:34
I’m so excited to be here. Love my son Brolin love rolling with Brolin. So anytime we can jump on that the train there or what is it? Come up to bat, so to speak with Brolin?

Dawn Brolin 1:47
Let’s go, let’s go. Run’s with Beverly Lang today. And I’m excited because Beverly, you have done amazing things in your career. You’ve gone from here to there to there, and now you’re at the top of the world. And most importantly, Happy belated birthday from the Dawn Brolin. I was so excited for you. You ended up going somewhere. What was your little plan? What did you do?

Bev Lang 2:09
We actually went yesterday with my son and his little friend, we went and played Top Golf and I have laughed so hard. It was the best day ever. It was overcast, it was cool. There was a breeze blowing and I had two quirky teenagers and we just had a ball.

Dawn Brolin 2:26
I love that. That’s awesome. And you have historically done a lot of fun things with your son like getting in your in your RV and traveling all over the place and drive wherever the heck you want. Right. So that’s an awesome.

Bev Lang 2:39
Have a laptop, will travel. So I can work from anywhere with technology even before COVID I was completely mobile, and wasn’t going to leet, let work keep me from being able to do the fun thing. So yes. Well, you know, we just sold our RV though. So we got new adventures coming, just bought to 15 acres of land. Have our own little domicile there and see what comes with that.

Dawn Brolin 3:04
And I love that. So you’ve been so people always ask about the life work balance thing, right? And it’s kind of like, you know, my whole thing was, well, I’m going to go coach a softball team during tax season, because that makes sense. And you’re hoping you’re part of what you’re all about is again, this that mobility perspective that people like we knew this before. COVID. Right. And so now it’s like, people talk about work life balance, and how do you do it? And it’s like, you know what, you have to make a decision, and you just got to go do it.

Bev Lang 3:33
That’s it, you know that’s it.

Dawn Brolin 3:34
You can’t talk about it. And so you have you have done some amazing things for many people in the industry. And I will say definitely, for us a powerful accounting. Amanda was your biggest fan. Although I say I’m your biggest fan. But red, red was all about Beverly, I mean, but you were instrumental in helping us understand we were in the Q SP program. Previously, we’re not any longer but when we were we just we really struggled to figure things out. And I felt like you were able to give us Mote the motivation to do better. And you were there to support us and that’s tell me about how you feel about that. Because that’s really important for all of us in this industry to realize that we are all here for each other and we can do great things for each other.

Bev Lang 4:18
We, we have to be. So I mean there’s let’s be honest, in the QSP environment, there is that clique-ish high school mentality. There’s some people that don’t play well with others. But the way I see it, there’s enough work out there for all of us. And so when read come to me and said I don’t know how you do it. Well here let me help you that that’s what I like to do is teach people how to do what I do. It’s very easy to be able to go out and talk to a customer about a product you love a product that you feel confident in and sell the customer and support the customer using said products. So I feel like we should be able to call each other and there’s been many times late late at night you and I’ve been texting or Facebook message Okay, what do I do about this Dawn, and you’re telling me how to handle something and vice versa? We got to be there for each other. Otherwise, you know, as cliche as it is our motto in the KSP industry is hashtag better together. And we are absolutely, we can’t always be rockstars at everything. That’s why we got to find your niche and find those people. That compliment us like you and I.

Dawn Brolin 5:21
Absolutely. And that’s, like, I mean, you think about the people who have like you, I’ll say you’ve grown up with we’ve all kind of grown up with each other in a little bit of a way, right? I mean, you know, thinking about the days of the Q SP, we’d like Rebecca Brandenburg, of course, she’s with Avalara. Now, and you know, what she was able to do for that program. And so many other people that came before her Simon and all kinds of different people who add into it, I find that it’s so easy to build those relationships, because they, I feel like Intuit doesn’t hire jerks, if that makes sense. Right? For the most part, I would say…

Bev Lang 5:56
For the most part, there’s been a few, but for the most part, they really, truly want to see us succeed. And they really want to work with us. And so yeah, I mean, I started with Simon pass, back in 2009. He signed me up, he, you know, he left the channel and went, went on his merry little way. And now he’s come full circle back to being part of the channel. So you know, and I never lost that relationship with him,so…

Dawn Brolin 6:23
And really you know, and so, of course, we’re going to definitely shift into the conversation of Fishbowl, because, you know, I went up there to do the filming for the Summit. And I’ve an even since I met the fishbowl called the Fishbowl guys, for the most part there guys, except for Kim. Now we see Kim a little bit more, which is great. But it’s like, I feel like I Intuit was my first real introduction to applications, accounting software, whatever. But I’ll say vendors for lack of a better description, where I like was like, these guys are like a family like these people. I feel like I can really count on these people when it gets down to it. And I need something. And I had the same feeling about the fishbowl guys, I say the visual fishbowl environment. Very, very welcoming, very, very intense when it comes to serving their clients and their customers. And I think that that if you’re in so for people who do listen to the show, a lot of people are looking for what are those apps we should be looking for? What are the good, the bad, the ugly of what we should be considering? And for me, one of the biggest things is can I work with them? Are they accessible? Are they willing to have a conversation if we’ve got an issue, or if we’re just, you know, looking for some help on how to maybe close a sale or whatever. And they’re always so open to have that conversation that’s so important to me. Now you have an amazing relationship with fishbowl. And I do want to hear like the history of Beverly Lange, from when Beverly started back when she was a baby baby because she’s only like 32 as of yesterday. So I mean ish. Like, forget it, right? 24 I know, I was really, I mean, I felt like I needed to be, oh, you’re still a baby. When you hit once you hit the top of the hill, man, that’s where I’m at.

Bev Lang 8:09
I’m still climbing the hill!

Dawn Brolin 8:10
Climb it, climb it, climb it! But I want to hear about Beverly Lange’s journey. And a lot of people like to hear the journeys because it’s relatable. And tell us some of the good, the bad and the ugly that you’ve gone through since your inception of, you know, being in business for yourself, and in this space of accounting.

Bev Lang 8:27
Well, I started with another key USP and at the time, I didn’t know what a key USP was. I was working under him selling, selling a lot and didn’t have a clue that he was getting paid for every sale that I made. Okay. And when I found that out, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I was like, wait a minute, like you could have at least told me what we’re doing. And we could set the structure. And so he took me to my first scaling new heights back in 2009. Okay, wow, I met Simon pass and found out about the reseller program. Okay. And I said, You know what, at that time you had to pay to play it was a grant to sign up. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna take a gamble on me. Yeah, and the other chsp who shall not be named just like you can’t do that. There can’t be two of us in high school. I was like, watch me. He says you’ll never make it. Here I am today, selling a million dollars plus, and he still sell on the 100 150. So who made who do Am I work with? I worked with Simon and I just dug in. I worked a full time job for the first two or three years and started making a little bit of money. I was like, You know what, you can really do this. You could really make money just selling QuickBooks. So I quit my full time job and went all in and got a new cam, which was staff and we grew 578% The next year. I agree. 332%. And so over the course of three years, I’ve built my book of business to where I am. I met fishbowl at scale. New Heights Bahamas which was what, five, six years ago? Yes. Took them kind of it with a grain of salt. It’s like a It’s another software I’ll check it out. I really like the guys. They seem very personable. Okay, close was a great guy Kendrick, and so got to learn a little bit more started making a couple sales. I was like, You know what, this is really good software and I don’t have a whole lot in my partner stack. It was QuickBooks, Fishbowl, Avolera. That was it. And, you know, I wanted to be really good at all of those became their reseller for the last three or four years. And they finally came to me in May. They’re like, You know what? We’re like ice cream, and whipped topping, like, you’re the cherry, we got to put it all together, how do we make this one company? And I jokingly said, You know what, you can’t afford me, you know, this ain’t never gonna work. He’s like, throw me some numbers out two months later, I’m a full time employee that required my company, all of my employees, and we now have a QuickBooks channel at Fishbowl.

Dawn Brolin 11:00
That is so awesome! And because QuickBooks and fishbowl are buddies like, right? It’s a natural, it’s a natural conversion from thinking that QuickBooks is going to manage all of those inventory leads correct. And I’ve always said, listen, QuickBooks Enterprise is phenomenal. It is awesome. It’s, it can do so much for you, it gets to a point where it can’t. And so and maybe that is just not the right fit. So I find that like, and I’m sure you do, too. When you’re working with clients, you’re trying to help them with the solutions that you know are the best for them. I always tell people, I try to meet them where they are, and then bring them into, “Hey, listen, are you ready to be a legitimate company?” Yeah, right. “Are you? Are you ready to run this right?” And I think that that’s where we, as the consultants run into sometimes challenges because we have this conflict conflict of, oh, I don’t want to spend all this money. Well, number one, Fishbowl is extremely affordable. Let’s be real. I mean, honestly. But not only that, it’s not just affordable. It’s what the client needs at the end of the day. And it’s not an expense, it’s an investment. And I have this conversation, right? With the clients, you’re not spending money on fishbowl, you’re investing money in your inventory, which by the way, it makes you that is your product, man. Without it, you’ve got nothing you’re out of business.

Bev Lang 12:20
Well, just like they say you have to spend a little money to make money. And that’s true, if you really want to take it to the next level. We as consultants have to look at the customer and where they’re at today, and where they want to be in six months, 12 months, 18 months. And if it means okay, we need to push them in fishbowl because that’s where they want to be in 18 months, that’s better than putting them on QuickBooks now, then having to cater to what it can and can’t do, and then turn around and having to push them too quick to fishbowl again in a year. So that’s not the best for the customer. Now I love into it, I am number one into it fan into it. and QuickBooks is capable of meeting the needs of the drivers. That’s where I’m going to stop. But nine times out of 10. If they’re heavy manufacturing, or they’re into the three PL or they’re into distribution, QuickBooks just doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that are needed. And so the best solution out there that I have found, and I have tried them all is visual, whether they’re quick, yes, desktop or cubio. And so then we can even reduce them, maybe they don’t need enterprise anymore. Maybe they just need QuickBooks Online. So because all the heavy lifting is going to come out of fishbowl, right. And so we really want to look at the customer and right fit the customer, whatever that means.

Dawn Brolin 13:34
Right? So now if we think back, we pull back a little bit, and we think of the 2009. And the experience you had with the Q SP being a partner and things like that, it was easy for you to be motivated to kick ass. Let’s just be honest about that. Right. So So with that, as your journey went on, I’m imagining that your MO, a lot of your motivation came from being able to fulfill the needs of your clients, right?

Bev Lang 13:58
Absolutely, absolutely.

Dawn Brolin 14:00
I mean, without clients, we have nothing, we’re consulting with no one, if that even makes sense. But but at the end of the day, you built yourself an empire and you were the lead in that. And how many employees did you get up to at one point?

Bev Lang 14:14
Umm, six.

Dawn Brolin 14:16
Six employees, and they were implementing…

Bev Lang 14:19
QuickBooks, Fishbowl, filled service management, payroll, because I’ve always been one of the top providers of payroll. I think Cary Kahn and I go back and forth quite a bit. But yeah, for the for a long time. It was always me in the payroll industry, right. I work hand in hand with Intuit on product development for both enterprise cubio payroll. We just had a Payroll Certification release. I don’t know if everybody knows that. But there’s a new certification, a new badge. It’s bright pink. Everybody’s gonna love it. But it’s payroll. And it I wrote I helped write that. So everyone needs to go learn that because it talks to the product and it talks about being a payroll specialist. So if you want to provide payroll, go get certified so that you can show your knowledge and your wealth to your customer.

Dawn Brolin 15:07
You know, and I love that you talked about that, because I did see an email that had come out that that was coming down the pike and knowing that that’s out there. If there’s anything that it’s that is important, when it comes to us as consultants or bookkeepers, or CPAs, it doesn’t really matter what it is, the biggest things are compliance, right? So having that, that being in compliance at all times payroll is a stinking nightmare. If you want to provide payroll services, you got to obtain every ounce of knowledge that you possibly can certainly with Intuit having that relationship with Intuit, whoever your your contact is there with regards to payroll, and making sure that you have that conversation. Because payroll, guess what, here’s one thing that I’ve realized about payroll, no matter how well you do it, how often you do it, how good you are at it, you’re going to get notices.

Bev Lang 15:56
Yes. Different, right, wrong, or indifferent. That’s it.

Dawn Brolin 16:00
Yep. And the client is going to look to you as the payroll provider, whether you outsource full service, whatever that may look like for you. Or if you’re actually literally doing payroll, handling quarterly things like that, which the cost of the technology these days, and the ability to have that full service is a no brainer. But still knowing how to set them up knowing where they need withholding registrations, because no payroll service that I’ve seen, are actually providing the service to those withholding registrations and Department of Labor and they hire a new employee in another state, you don’t know about it, and there’s no withholding and no unemployment, or if there’s no holding, if it’s applicable. But that’s just such a big thing. And with Fishbowl, the compliance area that we’re concerned about a sales tax, right, we’ve got distribution, we’ve got all of this crossover…

Bev Lang 16:49
Postal, drop ship, you need to know where there’s tax, and that’s where Avalara, as you mentioned before, comes in, we have a great integration tool. And Avalara is the leader, by far in the industry of maintaining compliance with both sales tax use tax, and keeping your sales tax exempt certificates in compliance so that you know which ones are dated and which ones are out of date. So yes, compliance is a big issue in the manufacturing in the wholesale industry. And we have solved by that by using Avalara.

Dawn Brolin 17:23
Absolutely. And I find that, you know, certainly for me, my compliance area that I deal with is tax returns and tax representation. I don’t want it to go any further. So that’s why I partner I personally partner with ADP, and I partner with Avalara. But Intuit just the same, it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re partnering with somebody who again, I think the most important thing about the vendors and I mentioned this before about fishbowl is the relationship you have with that vendor. Right? Right. Because if you can’t get problem solved timely, there’s penalties and interest involved here, and we’re talking significant. So having that ability. So tell walk me a little bit through what is your who is your ideal fishbowl client, like if you were to say, okay, here, these are the ideal people, they’re out there, obviously, anybody that’s like you said in distribution or manufacturing and things like that. But you know, give, I would love to hear a case where you’ve got this client, and they were just a train wreck, because that’s usually how we get them. We don’t get them because they’re doing great!

Bev Lang 18:23
If they’re doing right, no. We get ’em because it’s a mess.

Dawn Brolin 18:28
It’s about… so talk me through one.

Bev Lang 18:30
I had a customer in Seattle, Washington medical manufacturing, didn’t have a system in place, decided to go with QuickBooks, we looked at QuickBooks and decided that it wasn’t robust enough. So we implemented Fishbowl. Customer has been up and running for a year, and they they absolutely love it, they have grown, it has grown with them, it has allowed them to create specific processes for each division within within the receiving within the inventory control within, you know, quality, outsourcing it to other third party vendors for value add. And so it’s allowed them to keep track and because they’re in the medical industry, they are so heavily regulated by the FDA, that it keeps all of that reporting that’s required allows them to track by lot number, serial number, whatever they need to, so that they can do a recall if necessary, which knock on wood, there hasn’t been one. But it gives them that capability. And so it has really helped this company come full circle with their inventory management, and making sure that they’re ready to grow as quickly and growing, so a great solution for this company.

Dawn Brolin 19:43
Yeah, and so interesting, too, because you’ll find that clients come to you and there do you find that they’re more price conscious or they feel like you know what, we’re ready to get a system that we know is going to work because they’ve been stumbling with workarounds which by the way, we are kings and queens have workarounds, right? But when you can get a real true system like Fishbowl, it’s always the better solution. Always.

Bev Lang 20:08
I would say they’re about 50/50. Most of them come, they’re mad because they’ve been stumbling. And they can’t find that one system that works. But they’re still price conscious. So fishbowl has done a really great job at increasing the features, making sure that everything is as robust as it can be, but still a price point that is palatable, something that I can afford to do something that the mom and pop onesie twosies can afford, as well as things. We try to offer bundled pricing with implementation QuickBooks support, because they need to integrate the two systems, we want to teach them upfront before it becomes an issue. And so we do some bundle packaging. And then we usually have some great financing offers, you know, 0% down for 12 months or whatever to hell, right, that small business or that price conscious customer or cashflow with cash flow issues, to still be to afford the software that they need. And then right like you said, you’re you’re only as good as your support, we can sell the greatest product in the world. Let’s sell a Lamborghini. But if you don’t put that key in, in the engine crank, it don’t matter how pretty it looks it run. So we have to be able to support and we do we have multiple support divisions and teams. We want to make sure the customer is taken care of we’re working hand in hand with the Fishbowl rep on the QB side to make sure that everything is talking the way it’s supposed to.

Dawn Brolin 21:32
Yeah. And so that’s a good question too. I want to ask you, as far as, like implementation, when somebody comes to fishbowl like, obviously I said everything to Beverly, because why would I go work around anywhere else, right. So you can also anybody that’s listening, if you want to hook up with fishbowl and get some more insight into that just reach out to Beverly, she’s all over the place, social media, you name it, she’s there, she drives around an RV that she just sold, which is going to build on a property, we should probably have some kind of a retreat for all of us to come to. But in the meantime..

Bev Lang 22:03
Yeah we could do that! Once the house is built. we can we could have a, what would everybody do? We can just all are out on the property?

Dawn Brolin 22:11
Well I think that’s what we’re also excited about Scaling New Heights is actually be able to get to be face to face with people.

Bev Lang 22:15
What seeing somebody? Yes, because it’s been what two years now?

Dawn Brolin 22:18
Tt has been two years! I went to engage. And it was great. I got to see Deb Defer, I got to see, I’m just Todd was there and just a bunch of people, Amy Selleck, from ADP, just a bunch of people, it was kind of like, oh my gosh, like Todd Robinson, who I love very much. Just being able to get to be in front of people, again, was just like, we’re real people. Again, I kind of forgot right now. And now I think if you think about COVID, and the impact of COVID on those manufacturers, wholesalers, all those kind of people who it’s 100% touchless. And it’s in a little bit of a way, and it has been for a year and a half, almost two years now. That’s something that people need to take into consideration when they’re considering what am I going to do about my inventory supply chain, or being able to distribute and get things out and not have to have that human human touch, unfortunately, right. So so tell me a little bit more about how that kind of plays in and what you’ve seen over the last year and a half with regards to, you know, the COVID response from for those that industry.

Bev Lang 23:24
Well, fishbowl pivoted very quickly after COVID hit and designed some really great virtual implementations. For those that couldn’t go on site. We also have developed quite a few more integrations, we’ve seen a lot of spike in people having websites or online presence, so that they could sell their product. And so for that fact, we have integrations with Shopify, you know, webgility, we have other shopping carts that we can work with so that we can bring that information down into fishbowl verify that the inventories there, process the order and then push that over to QuickBooks. With the training and support, we’ve really gotten some fine tuned processes in place, so that we can make sure the customer is still taking care of even though it’s virtually through a computer. And we’ve been very successful at implementing Fishbowl virtually. And so that makes the customer happy. It’s cheaper on the customer, the quality is still just as good. And getting up and running. We’ve seen us I would say we’ve seen a spike in the number of people that are moving to fishbowl because during this COVID time, people actually have time to stop and look at their accounting and what’s not working and actually fix some of those issues so that when we come out of this tailspin, they’re already set for success. And that’s what we’re hoping to see is our customers just sail through with great sales moving forward.

Dawn Brolin 24:49
And you know, I think certainly with because of the COVID pandemic having that it’s got to be good information, more than it ever has had been before. Although we’ve always we’ve been talking about this Ever as in the accounting industry of, you know, I was saying yesterday to Gaynor, I’m like, Listen, if you’re not recording, you are not properly reporting. And it’s just like anything else with inventory. You know, from a tax perspective, there’s tax implications when it comes to your inventory. You know, I had this one client, they happen to be a liquor store, and he would at year end, buy a ton of inventory. He’s like, I’m getting it on sale, it’s gonna be great. And I also can reduce my costs, I can reduce my bottom line. That’s not how inventory works, buddy!

Bev Lang 25:32
No that’s not how it work! That’s perpetual.

Dawn Brolin 25:35
Inventory is perpetual, it’s gonna sit on that balance sheet, and it’s not going to affect your cost of goods sold. He didn’t understand it. And so I feel like people are now starting to give inventory the right attention.

Bev Lang 25:51
Right. There’s a lot of customers that don’t really understand why buy and sell it. But there’s so much more that goes into that. There’s so they like, what are all these journal entries? Well, it doesn’t just go straight from I bought it, I sold it, like there’s a lot between, you know, so you know, educating people, which is what I enjoy doing is teaching them how the system works, and how the two work together so that they can understand the reports they get.

Dawn Brolin 26:18
Yeah, and they’ve just got to realize that that value of inventory is from a succession planning perspective, which a lot of people I just find that people don’t think about. What are you gonna do with the future that inventory on your balance sheet is going to help you sell you’re, hopefully, hopefully we see inventory turnover ratios turning and turning and churning, right? Because without that we’re sitting on dead inventories. Also No, good, right. That’s no good. So I think that again, like you said, I think people are starting to say, hey, I really do need a good inventory system, I need to make sure that I’m understanding what my numbers are, that they are accurate…

Bev Lang 26:55
Absolutely, trends. What did I do this time last year? What do I need to you know, budget for in the next six months. So you can look at cash flows you can look at during the analysis, and you can see exactly what you’re return is.

Dawn Brolin 27:08
Absolutely. And being prepared for this coming holiday season, which I think I’m hoping that those who are selling products online, because like you said, people are moving more online, because it’s not so brick and mortar anymore. People need to be able to get to your store. But they also don’t want to get to your store online, and buy something that isn’t in stock. And if you don’t have your inventory system up to date, so that you know, you have 10 in stock, and you actually do have 10 in stock, because you can go to a bin and check it that people are in line are being discouraged because you never have stuff in inventory. And that’s not because of anything other than I would say, lack of investment in the business that you’re trying to be successful in. You know..

Bev Lang 27:52
That’s correct. Especially with all these that I’ve picked up Amazon and eBay, and Etsy as resellers, we have plans for those so that we can help manage that Amazon. While it’s probably one of the the most common selling platforms, it’s very intimidating for someone who doesn’t understand how to reconcile because there’s a fee for this a fee for that, you know, so having the knowledge to understand and have that talk to to Fishbowl so that your inventory value stay correct imparitive to keeping your financials accurate on the QuickBooks side.

Dawn Brolin 28:28
So now, Beverly, now…

Bev Lang 28:31
Now Dawn!

Dawn Brolin 28:32
Now honey..

Bev Lang 28:32
Now honey…

Dawn Brolin 28:34
God I love you, Beverly!

Bev Lang 28:35
I love you, too.

Dawn Brolin 28:36
So now that you’ve made this amazing transition from owning your own company, having it been acquired, and that whole process, how do you like how is your life today as opposed to what it was say five years ago? Even? Like, just in general like your, your Do you? I mean, I can I know you I know how excited you are about being at Fishbowl. And I know that you have, obviously they know you have what it takes to take their company to a whole nother level which you already have done in a very short period of time. And I think a lot of that is because of your experience, and your compassion and your passion to solve these problems for people because I think I forget who I was talking to the other day, we really are people pleasers, right. And so here’s what do you what do you find has kind of changed for you as, as anything changed.

Bev Lang 29:28
A lot has changed. I mean, it’s a complete different mentality going from business owner to employee. So I feel like now I have to kind of prove myself even though I’m putting that on myself, because I’ve already proven myself. But I still have a stress level. I still work but now I have like six or seven under me that I need to make sure you’re taking care of our team is phenomenal. We’re like family and we are growing by leaps and bounds. We’re adding another employee next next week. Okay. And so I’m hoping I’m giving myself six months, another couple of weeks, a couple of months. And I’m hoping that the the work life balance shifts. And then I’m back. Sure even more even playing field because I’ve got all these great people around me like my great Tina and Maracore. Tiffany and Casey, all these great employees that, you know, I’m teaching, not that they don’t know how to do it, but just teaching them what I’ve learned in my years within teacher, my best practices, and then we’re finding our best practices. And I think we can grow this team without us all having to work 80 hour weeks.

Dawn Brolin 30:36
Sure, sure. Which is obvious. I mean, you have a young one, you just have a son, right?

Bev Lang 30:42
Well, does my ex husband count? So then I have like, two?

Dawn Brolin 30:48
You can never you can never change that. And so being able to spend more time, oh, he’s 14, right. I knew he was a teenager. So because you’ve made the reference to the golf outing. But are you finding like, alright, I like for myself, even having that ability to spend that quality time with him is like priceless. And, you know, your motivation, I’m sure is to continue to provide for him in ways that, you know, he needs right as a teenage boy, I’m sure there’s plenty of I had girls, so I can’t imagine I mean, the boy thing.

Bev Lang 31:21
My situation is probably a little bit different. Noah doesn’t want to spend any time with me. He’s at that age where moms are not cool unless he needs money. Okay. But Noah was also diagnosed with narcolepsy at 12. Okay, okay. We have we’re really not sure what the future holds. We’re still trying to figure that out as we don’t right. But we actually went looking for him his first car yesterday. And yes, I know. He’s only 14. He’s fixed to turn 15. But I drive an Audi that he drives an Audi. He ain’t driving our cars. So we gotta go. We gotta go get him a car. So you need a leader. That’s what we were looking for something that he can learn to drive in? Because he’s not getting in mine.

Dawn Brolin 32:04
He’s not touching Mama’s car!

Bev Lang 32:07
I don’t think the Gator counts, because I don’t think you can drive that on the road, the little aka utility vehicle. So but yes, my whole thing was I wanted to set myself up for retirement. I have said for the past few years, I wanted to retire at 50. I’m now set to retire at 52.

Dawn Brolin 32:25
That I love that. That’s yeah, my goal is 55. So my goal is to retire 55 Because my dad retired at 55. It’s it’s more of a personal goal, because I want to be like my dad, right? We all have that. So for you, Beverly, if you think back in the history of your career, or your life or whatever, who was somebody who inspired you motivated, you picked you up when you were down? Whatever that case, may be you have a person that that fills that role for you.

Bev Lang 32:58
I do I have a couple of people actually. So motivation comes from two different places. I have the one the key USP that I work for at first that told me I couldn’t and I don’t like to be told I can’t do anything. That’s all you know, that lit a fire because I’m like, I’m going to show you and I think yeah, but then I have a probably my best friend Holly who was my English professor in college. Oh, we connected because I got my first essay back and I only got a 90. And I wanted to so I asked for a meeting. And I wanted to know what I had to do to get those other 10 points that I wanted to a plus not a minus. And she’s like, Are you kidding me? You’re the only student asking me how to get a better a. So she worked with me so that I got an A plus in that class. And we just hit it off. And we’ve been friends for years. So but she’s, she’s like my voice of reason. Whenever I’m starting to go off the deep end or I’m spinning out of control. I call her it’s like okay, I need you to talk me off the ledge like, help me here. What do I do? And she’s always got my back and she’s always got the right words of wisdom just when I need them.

Dawn Brolin 34:11
I love that, and just so you know you are that person for other people. I know for sure for me, you have always inspired me to like be better do better. I almost kind of think of it like what don’t I know more than anything? It’s because you know, obviously we know what we what we know. You are a very big inspiration to Amanda. She really looks up to you still does we I text her every once in a while and she’s always asking me if you see Beverly and I can’t wait to send her a picture. We’ll have to do that. Yes. We’re gonna text her a picture for sure.

Bev Lang 34:43
You know, I could say the same about you Dawn though. I have a ton us Rebecca Branberg. I still call her, Jamie Dimon and Avalara. Like, there’s so many of us in our community that we’re so tight knit, Gina from Intuit. Oh, like we’re just family and like if nothing happens Like I could pick up the phone and call you in the middle of the night, you didn’t answer the heartbeat, I do the same thing for you. And so there’s, you know, there’s so there’s those few that we have connected with. yet. I think we, we build on each other, you know, and we have other and that’s the way it should be. There shouldn’t be this whole USP, I can’t talk to you, because you might steal my client. Look, if I can take your client, they weren’t your client to begin with. Bang, done that. I’m not looking for you to steal your client like right, you know, but if I can, they weren’t yours to begin with, so…

Dawn Brolin 35:34
It’s it’s funny you say that too. Because Mama said to me, mama, mama still miss mama, that Mama, she’s never going I told her you have to be dead before you leave me honey, because she keeps this whole company moving forward. And I said to her the other day I said, Oh, my I It’s so strange. We haven’t been getting any leads this week. Because we’ve been getting since COVID. started, we’d get in one to two to five a week, we have new either people with issues with tax returns or need to get tax prep, or whatever the case may be. She’s like, Oh, I’m a little worried. I said, Mama. I don’t remember the last day I came into the office and called you and said, Hey, I don’t have anything to do. Like that just goes to the whole, like, there’s so much work out there that we can all help each other. Right?

Bev Lang 36:18
That’s right. That’s right, there’s enough work for us all. And is enough, I believe if QSP’s would lean on each other a little bit more, we can all have a better work life balance. Because there’s things that I don’t like to do that I would gladly pass off to someone else. Absolutely. My customer was safe, and that they’re just going to do this work. And they’re going to come to me for whatever, because that’s how I would treat other people in their customers. Like if you ask me a customer for Fishbowl, I’m only going to talk to them about Fishbowl. If they need QuickBooks, I’m going to come back to you and say, Hey, this is what your customer needs. Can you go sell this customer that? Like I’m not gonna steal–

Dawn Brolin 36:55
Beverly, could you just handle it?

Bev Lang 37:00
I’m not gonna like a sale, sale. There’s too much out there for me to build a retai– or reputation like that I wanted your own for being honest, loyal and helpful. Nothing other than that.

Dawn Brolin 37:10
Absolutely. Absolutely. So listen, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with you. Is there are there any last words you want to want the listeners to hear from my dear friend Beverly Lang.

Bev Lang 37:22
Just if you have inventory needs and QuickBooks is not cutting it, rr you think maybe QuickBooks is not the best solution. Reach out to me at Fishbowl. I’ll be happy to try to answer any of your questions. And then make sure you go pick up a book for Dawn, pick that book up and show him one more time, Dawn, and I’m waiting on my autographed copy. I’m sure I’m right.

Dawn Brolin 37:44
Okay, I’m bringing it to you. But the new book is going to be out by scaling. Yes, designate motivator for accounting professionals. And really, it’s all about helping pick the industry up helping people see that there are other things you can be doing if you don’t love what you’re doing. Beverly loved what she was doing, but found she could do bigger and better have she joined forces with fishbowl and sometimes that’s a great move as well. Right? Right. Right. So Well, thank you so much for coming on. Beverly, I love you dearly. What would Beverly do? Reach out to Beverly if you need anything for fishbowl or call me and I’ll send you to Beverly, whatever, whatever you may need. But that’s what we’re here for. So thanks again for everybody for listening to the VM disruption and we’ll talk to you next time and go out there. Figure out that work life balance and enjoy yourself. That’s what we’re all what life’s all about. Thanks again. Everybody was ready, honey. Let me fly back.

I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Episode Summary

Robin Hall, Owner & Principal of VARC Solutions talks with Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE, about proving the naysayers wrong, and the importance of developing a proper work-life balance, and how to set expectations and boundaries with your clients.

Robin’s Introduction and Motivation

Robin Hall is the Owner & Principal of VARC Solutions, an Intuit centric firm that handles all aspects of the software, including training and purchasing software. Robin talks about how the motto of her company is “helping companies get back to their business.”

Robin shares that her designated motivator is everyone who said she couldn’t do something. Robin also shares that Dawn is also one of her designated motivors, and shares her admiration for Dawn’s enthusiasm about accounting. But most of all, Robin credits a lot of her motivation from seeing her clients succeed, and knowing she had a hand is making that happen. 

How Does Robin Support Her Team?

Robin not only tries to implement team building events, but makes sure she’s taking action everyday in the office to make sure all of her team members feel heard and appreciated. Robin also remembers having negative experience at previous work environments, and actively tools steps to push against those office practices, even if they were considered the norm. 

Robin also talks about one of the initiatives she implemented is “Summer Hours,” where employees work 9 hours Monday-Thursday, and then only work a half day on Friday. Another thing she did was take her team on a sailboating retreat, in order to further develop their relationship with their team members. 

“The more that they have fun together, the more interpersonal communication becomes stronger,” says Robin.

Accountants Aren’t Doormats

Dawn shares an unfortunate experience she had with a client, and talks about her decision to fire the client in the end. “We need to realize as practitioners, we are not doormats,” says Dawn.

Robin and Dawn share their current frustrations with the IRS, and how this is causing strained relationships with current clients.

Robin also adds on to Dawn’s previous comment, and shares that clients need to realize that their practitioners are doing so much behind the scenes, and that they are often solving problems the client was never aware of. She shares that it is unfair for the client to unload their frustrations onto them, and that respect should always be upheld.

Robin also shares that many times, accountants bend over backwards for clients and overextend themselves, which then in turn lead to the client taking advantage of their time.

Maintaining a Work Life Balance

Robin talks about how COVID-19 actually helped her manage her work-life balance better by forcing her to delegate tasks. She shares that she was able to scale down the amount of hours she was working, and shares how our biggest resource is having access to our own time.

Dawn agrees and shares similar sentiments about taking time to reevaluate what’s important in her life, and where she wants to spend her time. 

“I’ve stopped being busy…and I’ve started being productive,” shares Dawn.

Robin adds how she stopped just tracking her billable hours, and now tracks all aspects of her work. This allows her to see areas where she may not have been as productive as she could’ve been. She shares that even if you are on salary, you need to be tracking where you are spending your time to show the areas of the day you could be more productive.

Dawn adds how important it is to set your boundaries with clients so they know what to expect and how to treat you. She adds that when you as a practitioner always make yourself available, it sends the message to the client that they have full access to you.


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Dawn Brolin 0:02

Okay, well, Robin Hall is here to help us learn about motivation. Robin has been actually a designated motivator for me for many years. Robin is the owner of VARC solutions. And she’s gonna tell us, actually Rob, you just tell about yourself, you know more about yourself than I do.

Robin Hall 0:25
You tell it pretty good, Don. But I’m Robin Hall, the owner, Principal Consultant of VARC solutions, we are coming up on our 22nd year in business are completing that 22nd year. So I’m very proud that we are Intuit centric, firm. And so anything that touches QuickBooks, then we handle for our clients anywhere from purchasing software, training on the software, outsourced CFO, anything that they need to do that, really let them get back to their business. So from day one, we’ve had kind of a motto, that’s really fit and taken us over the last 22 years of letting you get back to your business. So anything that the client needs to make them get back to their business, that’s what we’re here to do.

Dawn Brolin 1:12
And I love that. So you have been in the industry for a long time. And with that you’ve met many other accounting professionals, right? You have, you have made it in a lot of ways, your mission as part of your mission of your company, at least there’s just as Robin Hall’s mission in life, is you’ve helped so many other practitioners, other accounting professionals to you know, improve their business, grow their business, and it felt like it doesn’t want to be like Robin, right? That’s the way I see it. And you’ve helped me tremendously over the years for sure. So, you know, motivated, motivated me in a way that, you know, I’ve wanted to be as good as you are, as a consultant, I’m probably 1/10 of the way there. Because you have been doing this for so long, and you’re providing your clients with the right solutions that that, you know, work for them. And so, you know, tell me, Robin, I want to know who your designated motivator is, like, who through your life, it can be a couple people, whatever, that has motivated you to be as successful as you are, was it that somebody believed in you? What, like, what was it?

Robin Hall 2:22
So a couple of things. So one is, actually my designated mode. motivator is actually everybody that said, you couldn’t do it. And my goal in life is really to prove them wrong. And so for every No, I got that just drove me a little harder. And so, you know, in the accounting world, most accountants like to sit behind their desk and do their numbers and not talk to anybody. And, and, you know, you’re a little bit of my designated motivator, because I go to these conferences, and I’ve been going to him for a long time. And, and you see, and we’re all there and learning loads, but then you see this spark running down the aisle or running up on the stage, and just being loud and proud about accounting. And it’s like, well, I can do that, too. And so you’ve kind of motivated me to take that passion, and really just move it forward. And so I think that’s one of the things that’s motivated me is the passion for helping people and the passion. And so I don’t know that I have one designated motivator it when I see that the look on my clients face from just distraught despair, and I can’t do this, and I don’t know how to do it, and my spouse started a business and he making me or she’s making me do this, and they’re just tormented by this. And then we break it down to simple terms, and then they come out. And, you know, back when we used to go see clients, and you’d get a hug at the end of the appointment. That’s what made me motivated to do more. And to to, that’s what gives me my shining star. And so that motivates me. And then the people that said, you know, when I first started out, it was like, Well, maybe you need to go and do a little bit more education on this and maybe you need this and so I had worked in all aspects of accounting and I’m like, you know, I can do this I can I can do this and so all again, all those naysayers just made me want to do it more and I think with everything I’ve done in my life, if somebody tells me No, I’m just gonna go and do it anyway. So you know that that’s one of my you know, my awesomeness is probably got me a little farther. But, and then again, Dawn, people like you that I see out there, going and doing it and it’s great to be up. I love to stand up in front of a class, and just be crazy, because it’s okay to be crazy. and talk about accounting, it gets dull and boring. And it’s, it’s those things that just make you perk up. And it’s more than just knowledge. And I think, way we do our business and the way that we take care of people, it’s, that’s what drives me to do more. It’s the passion for what we’re doing.

Dawn Brolin 5:23
Well, and that’s one of the things like from a, as a practical, logical accounting mindset that I’ve always thought of, like, I’ve watched you do classes at scaling, new heights, or QB Connect are on webinars, or wherever the heck you happen to be. And I think for me like to watch you is your knowledge. Right? So obviously, you’re super funny. We’ve always had a great time together. And that’s definitely a thing. I didn’t you motivate a lot of people because in certainly for many reasons, but you know, you have success, and you’ve committed to your team, and you can see that in the longevity, with your, with your, with your players. That, who are looking for we’re all looking for that perfect balance of I run a company, and I’ve got to be educated because I got to know my shit. Like, that’s always good. We got to know our shit. Right? You can’t fake your way through that stuff. It just doesn’t work that way. But I just find like, what, give me a couple of things that you do with your team, because you do a lot of things with your team, your team var, see, you’ve got shirts to prove it. Your your people are proud to wear them. And you know, what, what are some of the things that you’re doing with your team that that seemed to be working for you.

Robin Hall 6:44
So we try and do different things, we have a lot of team building events and stuff that I try and do things, little things in the office as well. But one of the things that I’ve learned, you know, I read a lot of books, and I don’t follow any one person’s philosophy. I say, I kind of I’m in the buffet. So I take a little bit from everybody’s and I take the pieces that talk to me. And, you know, I make sure and I kind of build my own little culture with that. And the other thing that I’ve done is I worked for, you know, some not so healthy places, they weren’t the best work environment. And so I took all those rules that were rules for the sake of being rules and threw them out and said, I take care of my staff, my staff will take care of the clients. And that’s the ultimate goal. So with every decision that I make about my staff, then we try and make sure of is the client getting taken care of? Can I be flexible in this? If so then yeah, go ahead and do it. So you know, when that’s served us well. And so, like right now, we’ve small thing, but we’ve instituted summer hours. And so what is that Monday through first Thursday, we work nine hours, and then on Friday, we are working a half a day. But the caveat is if a client has to have something Friday afternoon, then and they do it in advance, not last minute, Susie, but we take care of them, but we’re giving them in the summertime when their kids are out of school and all that, you know, a half a day extra on their weekend. They’re not having to burn vacation. They’re not having to rearrange things. Everybody knows, we’re kind of training our clients for that. But we they know if we’re if we need if they need something we’re here. So a couple other things, you know, you know, the we just did a team building where it was I took them out on sailboats. And so for we were in two different teams. And so for the first two hours, they taught us how to sail, some of us didn’t learn quite as well as the others. And then the last two hours, we had a race. And so you know, and leading up to that they all know we’re doing an event, but I like to not tell them what we’re doing. And then the week before, I’ll just kind of drop hints. Well, you might get wet. Yeah, might need some sunscreen, you know, so I’ve dropped hints and somebody asked, we were swimming with sharks. And so the next step was there, there shouldn’t be any sharks, but I’m not making any promises. So you know, I just try and make it you know, a little bit fun and games. One of the things that we did for to build our teams, because I like to do the teams different every time and I don’t let people if they’re office mates, I don’t let them be on the same team because I want people to mix it up. And I had them draw and I gave them two different games. And, and one of the games was like lists all the 50 states and the other one was it was like 24 Ah, in a in a D, and you had to say what it was. And there were 50 of those. So it’s 24 hours in the day. So that little riddles and so they got to look at those. And then I said, if you don’t like your option, then there’s option C, but it’s a one time trade, you can’t can’t give it back. Right? So I had a couple people go for option C. And option C was like these horrible history questions and these horrible math questions and all of this stuff. The first line of the thing said, make sure to read this completely. Before answering any questions. So Dawnn, I’m sure you know what’s coming next. The last was write your name on your paper and turn it back in, like, donate there any questions. So you know, I got some, you know, you’re a mean, on the bottom of a couple of those. And one of my top guys just started going to town on the math questions. But part of that was the high staff redirection, the people giving you directions, they’re there for a purpose. It’s not just hot air, read the directions. And then they, I gave them time to work together and stuff like that. So, but I brought lunch in, and we all did that as a team. So the more that they have fun together, the more that those interpersonal communications get stronger. So if somebody says something, and they’re like, they’re being mean, or if you know that that’s not their personality, and you have a personal relationship, and not just a working relationship, yet, you don’t take that as personal. And so we’ve I’ve found, since we’ve been doing a lot of team building, and I do one, about once a quarter. But they’re not scheduled. And it’s just wherever Robin feels like it, but it’s about once a quarter. Because I don’t want people to have the oh, well, we’re doing this this weekend or something like that. So, but they always have fun. We never, we’ve never repeated in any of our team building stuff. And so but they’re learning how to work together. So that’s the important part to me is one, I expect them to work hard, but I want them to play hard. And I want to give them the environment to do it and do it together.

Dawn Brolin 12:23
Right. And that’s, you know, as we’re, at least I know, I’ve talked to a handful of people and been watching social media on the struggles that a lot of practitioners are having right now. And it’s, it’s kind of sad, you know, a lot of them are like, I don’t know, if I want to do this anymore. I don’t, you know, why did I choose this route for my career. One of the things that we’re the perspective that we’re trying to give them is or that I’m trying to message to them is, we got to try to not focus on the client side, drag us down, because what’ll happen is you’ll get an email or get a phone call from a client, it’s just not a pleasant experience, and it ruins the rest of the day. Right? And, you know, I have an example a couple of weeks ago, or maybe it’s been a month now, I don’t know, I think it’s about a month. And we acquired that we we did a huge project where we are kicking butt taking names, basically running for companies for him for locations of his of his business, where which wasn’t necessarily part of the the agreement, but we you know, scope creep, but we’ve charged him for every moment. And it was, you know, a couple 100 grand over the last year and he popped off on us so hard, like just went sideways for absolutely no reason. And we fired him. And I think that sometimes we have to realize as practitioners, we are not doormats, right. Right. You know, I mean, are you seeing because that’s, that’s, I think what we’re seeing is, obviously, with the IRS and all their ridiculousness right now, and not being able to keep up with things,

Robin Hall 13:51
What They’re being ridiculous? I did not notice that Dawn!?

Dawn Brolin 13:57
You know, that’s why prior to having this being on the podcast would be I didn’t want to disclose that because I thought you would be you’d be so shocked and maybe wouldn’t want to come on because you disagreed with me. They are out of control and the clients are going bananas. And that’s not just the IRS but the law you deal with a lot of sales tax. Right and trying to get through to those people and those people are brutal in the first place.

Robin Hall 14:26
Yeah, yeah, we’re we’re finding that that states are going a little crazy to we just had in Texas, they finally just released the unemployment rates for starting January 1 of 2021. Oh, my goodness. Yeah. So we get to go backwards. So it’s a fun time over here. And so, but here, here’s the thing. I want to go back to your doormat comments. You know how like our kids. They’re more they’re well behaved when they’re with others. but not so much when they’re with us. So I think clients get comfortable. And they figure we’re part of their minions, staff of minions, and so they can just pop off at us. And it’s okay. And, you know, they forget that that we are an extension, but we are separate. And so we do deserve the respect. And they don’t get to, because there’s something else going on in their world pop off of that, because we are out there fighting those battles to them, and sometimes doing things that they don’t necessarily understand the depth of what we’re doing. So when we have to call the IRS or call something on behalf of payroll, they don’t realize the hoops that we’re jumping through, they just know that, you know, it got fixed, and they don’t understand what it takes to do that. And so I think with them popping off, sometimes it’s just like our kids, they’re more comfortable. And so they feel like it’s a safe environment to do that. And they forget that we’re do that respect as well. So you can be a little bit of a sounding board. And you can you can grumble with me, but not at me. Right. So and when you take it, you know, it’s a fine line, when they cross over it. It’s, it’s almost an uncrossable that they can’t get back.

Dawn Brolin 16:26
Right? Right. And you know, when I think more than anything, and I totally, I can totally sympathize and empathize with people because all we all get that from the client. At the end of the day, the way I kind of look at it is, you know, we have this one that a bad apple here and there, and we’re all gonna have them, that’s nothing you can change. But what you can do is change your focus and like focus on those clients that you’re like, Oh, my goodness, whenever to call I love them. I didn’t example when I had you was going through this firing process with this large client. I have this this client that came in, they had to sign a power of attorney 2848 because the IRS can’t decide what they actually will accept a signatures or not, because we know they said they will. But then like half the agents won’t. It’s just you just want to go to the phone and grab them by phone,

Robin Hall 17:13
And if it’s a Tuesday or Thursday as well.

Dawn Brolin 17:18
Yes, definitely not a Friday.

Robin Hall 17:21
Yeah, no, definitely not a Monday either.

Dawn Brolin 17:23
No, no Monday and Fridays, you’re not gonna get that cooperation. So, so this wonderful couple came in there. And you know, they’re not a large line by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re probably two of the nicest, kindest people you’ll ever meet, right? We all have a ton of clients like that the bulk of our clients are good people, they care about you, as much as you care about them. There’s a reciprocation in the relationship. That is, you know, that makes sense. And then you just have those plants that are not like that. So I have this, this couple come in, and, and they were they you know, oh, you know, I know, we just here sign this, but we have some questions. Should we make another appointment? And I’ll go, heck, no, let’s talk now. And they were just so I mean, after every sentence, I thought, I swear they said, Thank you.

Robin Hall 18:07
So yeah, like, those that you just want to just can can I have 100 of you? Can I you know, is do you have friends that are just like you, I want those clients. Here’s another lesson that I’ve learned with that Dawn, is, you know, those clients that are really in desperate need and really need a little bit more by our nature, and I know you do this as well, you and I’ve had conversations over the years, we try and bend over backwards. Yes, I can work like, Oh, I’ll come in on Saturday. Yes, don’t worry, it’s a five o’clock appointment is I’m not going to charge you any extra for it being after hours. All of those things that you bend over backwards for. Those are the ones that seem to take advantage down the road, whereas the ones that you’re like, No, our hours are 830 to five, and it’s by appointment, we booked up about a week in advance. They make sure they have their shit together. And and so sometimes we’re our own worst enemy by trying to be that bend over backwards hopeful, because it comes back later and bites us.

Dawn Brolin 19:14
Yes, I totally agree with that. And as a matter of fact, I had a conversation with Chris Farrell, about similar to this conversation. But I said to him, I said, you know, sending those emails out at 11 o’clock at night, like I mean, I used to I used to work at 14-15 hour days, and I was hardcore for it. I was all about it. You were bad. You think you’re cool. When really in the end of the day, you just don’t have your shit together. Right? So. So here we’re talking about that 11 o’clock 11pm email that you send out. That email just told whoever you sent it to that it was okay to talk to you 11 o’clock at night? Absolutely. And that is setting yourself up for failure.

Robin Hall 19:55
So, so I’m going to I’m going to before we got on the podcast, you and I were talking A little bit about COVID. And I’m going to tell you, if there’s one thing that came good out of COVID is before one of my goals. So, pre COVID, one of my goals was to get to a 50 hour work down to a 50 hour workweek, not to but down to a 50 hour workweek and to be home by six o’clock, two or three nights a week. For years, I had that goal for years, and I couldn’t hit it. I couldn’t make it. It was there was always something I was here till seven or eight o’clock, almost every night. And so, you know, those 12 1314 hour days were very common. And so, one when COVID had one, I went down hard. And so I went down for three weeks. And so even though I have a very, very, very competent staff, there was things that I was holding, and then I wouldn’t delegate. So I had to learn to delegate because I was on my couch for three weeks, and I wasn’t moving. But then also, I learned, like, since we’ve come back, and my staff has all been back in the office for about a year now. But it I’m going home about six o’clock every night. And so I’ve learned how to separate that something happened in there where it was either that delegation I did, he has either stuck, or I’ve learned to say no, in my day is done at six o’clock. Now there’s a rarity that I’ll stay later and do something but I’m not working on weekends. And I’m really not saying past six o’clock on a regular basis anymore. So there was some shifts in where we had that work disruption. That actually was good for me because I had to reassess and, and we allocate my resources. And our biggest resource is our own time.

Dawn Brolin 21:55
Yeah, that’s definitely I mean, as far as COVID I mean, obviously, such a terrible situation and terrible thing that’s happened. It’s like, I mean, for me, I guess, I just realized what was most important, I think a lot of us had like a little bit of a reflection time, I would hope that you can’t take things for granted. You don’t have any idea. You know, what is tomorrow gonna bring? We don’t know, it was like, almost like a moment to moment, are we gonna ever be able to leave our houses again, like, this whole reflection of truth of you know, what it was mostly Robin, I think it was out of our control. And we can operate, that’s a big deal is a big deal. And we had to shift and we had to adjust and we had to realize that listen, you know, I don’t have control. So what I did this one of the things we teach the girls softballs kids call them what in this in the book, what’s important now when philosophy it’s not about winning, quote, unquote, white for now. And that’s something that we all I think struggle with in one capacity, like, What’s tomorrow gonna bring? You know, who cares? What’s gonna happen tomorrow? Let’s, let’s focus on where we are today. We’re, where are you be in your shoes, we say, be in your shoes, wherever your shoes are, that’s where you are. You’re not 10 steps ahead or sense. 10 steps behind, you are where you are. And I think that that reflection for a lot of us, you know, I realized I don’t need to be in here. You know, people say, Oh, you’re busy. You know what, I’ve stopped being busy. You know, what I started to do? This is a big deal. I started being productive. Right? Right. If this if this big ass is in the seat, she better be making some money, solving problems doing something, right?

Robin Hall 23:37
So a long time ago, I used to just track my time for what I was billable. And then now, I mean, I am absolutely real. Like, I get paid a salary. I don’t I don’t get paid by the hours that I work. But I am religious about tracking my time. You know, we’ve dealt with with T sheets. And so it’s very easy clock in clock out. But I track all of my non billable time. And so I can go back and go, Why did I have 20 hours of VARC time? What was I doing? And Was I being productive? So everybody in my company for me down? We track everything that we do. And it’s it’s for that very reason. It’s like what were you doing? Were you just there filling a seat? Or were you working on something trying to make things better? So it’s, it’s, it’s amazing how much that can open. And so I’ve talked to a lot of solo practitioners that it’s like, well, I’m all on fixed fee and just me and I’m not paying anybody by the hour so there’s no need to track my time. I’m like that is the most important time to track your time because you don’t know what those timestamps are. You know, the one of the things that I pulled from somebody else’s you We instituted, and I can waive it if I so choose, but the, the you’ve had these two dogs. So I just have a quick question, you can get quick question to death. And, you know, we’ve instituted that we have a minimum charge, and for my clients that I know, we’re gonna have that quick question, then we’ll do it for the month, and then we just build them at the end of the month for, oh, you had an hour’s worth of quick workings for the month, we’ll just bill you for an hour. Right. But they understand that that I bill, they understand that my time and my education is worth something. And so a lot of times, we give that away, as consultants, we give that our education away. So when we go, and we spend that valuable time at scaling new heights are the QB connect, and all those webinars and learning all about the PPP, and all of those things that we had to just instantly learn and know about and become experts on that actually took a whole lot of work in the background. And so when I can give you an answer on PPP, or the ffcra, often, that’s because I had 20 hours worth of figuring it out and learn and, and talking to other people and educating myself so that I can give you that two second answer. And you’re not having to do 20 hours worth of research.

Dawn Brolin 26:23
Exactly. Exactly. And I think what is one of the most important things that you said, I think the people who are listening should definitely take this one away, is setting the expectation with the clients they know expect. So saying, Okay, you got a quick question. That’s fine. Or like I love times, people, obviously, they want to know some tax information, or they have questions around tax. And Tracy knows, first of all, one of the things and I love the delegation conversation, Robin, because it’s like, I would Yeah, no problem. Give me a call, you know, I’m just sitting here, blah, blah, blah, whatever it was like then, then then because the way I presented Oh, you have full access, and you don’t worry about it became a problem, right? To get work done, because all I did was answer those quick questions or give that advice over the phone on the phone all frickin day or answering 7000 emails about it. It’s like Tracy, so if you want to talk to me about this, you want this kind of help or whatever, you got to set up an appointment, because number one, I suck at my own calendar. You’ve got to mama, right yeah.

Robin Hall 27:20
Because you and I are our own worst enemy.

Dawn Brolin 27:23
Oh, we are!

Robin Hall 27:25
So stop that people! I actually make it a joke with my clients so that they’re they don’t…1.) I don’t like it, and I know a lot of people do this use like Calendly. And it’s like, go to my signature and make your appointment on my calendar. I have somebody in my office is like, no, let me find a good time. Nope, that doesn’t work, what what fits on you, and then doing overtime zones and all of that. I like that personal touch. We don’t have anybody, we don’t have voicemail here. So, you know, somebody always answers the phone. You know, that’s another thing. But I joke with my clients, and I go, let me get you Denise, if she’s going to set an appointment, she doesn’t let me touch my calendar, because I’ll just overbooked myself, or I’ll, you know, do it wrong. So I want to make sure you get taken care of so let me have her make sure. And then we I train them to go to her instead of coming directly to me. And so now even if they email me, they copy her because they know or if they if they don’t, then I say yes, I can help you with that. I’m going to copy Nancy needs to call you and or I’ve copied Nancy, she’s gonna call you and get a time setup, we’ll get you all taken care of. And so I don’t answer that question right then and there. Because again, it’s setting a precedent to I give them the behavior that I want, go over here to Nancy so she can set it up. And to I’ve defined that as an appointment, so that they know that it’s billable, and they have respect of that time.

Dawn Brolin 28:58
Exactly. And that you’re that setting experts and that may help people who are listening, like realize it’s okay for you to determine how you want to operate. That’s like one of the hardest things like you want to make everybody happy you’re doing all those people pleasing, but the same time you’re making yourself miserable. So set some set some boundaries for yourself and for your, for your firm and for your staff and, and just you know, you can make the experience a much better experience for everybody all around once you start realize you got to do that. And so, Robin, I can’t thank you enough for coming on, because I just knew you have to come back. Sure.

Robin Hall 29:35
Absolutely. Dawn, I will see you at any point you whether you knew it or not. It’s funny that you said I was one of your motivators. You’re one of my motivators. So maybe that’s why sometimes we just look like we’re going in circles. No, I’m kidding. It really okay. I learned a lot from you. And if you pick up things from me then not just that just builds me up and just like my clients gives me power and passion that that made my day you telling me that so I would love to come back and visit you at any point.

Dawn Brolin 30:07
I love it. It’s and it’s the truth I don’t lie I’m not a liar just just is not in my, in my blood. And, you know, I just I do appreciate you and I know there’s a lot of other people out there who appreciate you Robin because like I said, You’re you’re a, you’re a such a thoughtful presenter, a thoughtful person, you’re always willing to give your time and then we talked a couple weeks ago about sales tax together and, you know, I was like, I need your help. And you were on, you know, ready to jump right in and, and you know, that’s, I think that’s just one last message for people who are listening if you’re out there and you’re struggling, grab on to somebody who’s doing it who’s getting it done. And we all want to help each other so never be too shy or or whatever to reach out to somebody we’re here for everybody. So Robin Hall VARC solutions can find you you’re you know you’re out there doing all kinds of amazing things you can still quit things consultants are doing all kinds of crazy stuff but what, Robin, is that right?

Robin Hall 31:03
That’s correct.

Dawn Brolin 31:05
I love it, VARC solutions, obviously Rob is all over LinkedIn, all over Twitter all over Facebook. She’s just everywhere, and crazy. So I appreciate you, Robin. I love you so much, buddy. And I look forward to talking to you soon.

Robin Hall 31:16
Absolutely. And I’ll see you at Scaling I’m sure in a couple months.

Dawn Brolin 31:19
You know you will I wouldn’t miss it.

Robin Hall 31:21
Alright girl, thanks.

Dawn Brolin 31:23
Okay, talk to you soon. Bye bye.

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Episode Summary

Learn how to streamline and transform your transactional practice to create a proactive practice with these PowerSHIFT strategies from The Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals, Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE, and Sean Duncan, CPA, Founder of SMD Consulting & Accounting, LLC.

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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of The Designated Motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.

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Hello, everybody, and welcome to the DEM disruption. We’re here at Scaling New Heights live very exciting times this week, and I’m here with Sean Duncan, the owner, CEO, President, you name it. He’s it at SMD Consulting and Accounting, and one of my very best friends who’s my conference boyfriend, which I think is totally fine to say!

Sean Duncan 1:07
Hey, my wife said it’s okay.

Dawn Brolin 1:09
We got permission, I mean, it makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. It’s all good. So we’re excited here to today we’re gonna talk to you a little bit about how you can go from somebody that’s like a tax practitioner, and move yourself into advisory. And so Sean is is leading the way. When it comes to advisory work with clients. I’m still dying over this lady over my shoulder right here. Because I can see it’s almost like we’re connected. We’re like, twins that are connected. But that’s something different. Anyway, so excited to talk to you, Sean. So Sean, your story is amazing, because you didn’t start out wanting to be an accountant. Nope. What happened to you?

Sean Duncan 1:44
Oh, my God. Talk about shock when I was a child, no. So I originally went into accounting because I was going to go into the FBI. Now, that really wasn’t the original journey. I was lost, not sure what I was gonna do for a career. But the FBI struck me as a calling. And that’s an important thing, because it wasn’t just I want to go do a job it was calling. And law, language and accounting are the easiest three ways to get the bureau. So I happen to be sitting in an accounting class, congratulations. I’m an accountant. I’m the first kid my family to get a college degree. And so I’m certainly the first to get a master’s degree. And so fast forward 2003, I’ve got my final interview scheduled with the Bureau, I’m going to fly up to Kansas City, Missouri for those interviews. I’m gonna head down to Austin, do my physical fitness test, Dallas coordinator says Shawn, you’re my best candidate. Just go through the motions in the next three to four months, you’ll be in the bureau, you’ve made it. And then the second epiphany, the first epiphany was I was going to go into the bureau, second epiphany, unfortunately, 10 years after college and all the stuff like I’m, I’ve done it, I realized how badly I wanted to be a husband and data. And so this is the weird moment is like if I go into the bureau and I go pursue hostage rescue team, which is their SWAT cuz I’m kind of a dumb meat head. I wasn’t gonna be around. Your investigations, you’re traveling. And it just my my value proposition for that declined immediately when it really struck me how much I wanted to be a father and a husband. So I turned them down. And so here I am, 30 years old. And I have a master’s degree in accounting that I don’t want.

Dawn Brolin 3:17
I don’t want it!

Sean Duncan 3:19
I mean, come on, who chooses accounting. No, seriously, guys, I didn’t intend to be a CPA in the traditional sense. I wanted to pursue this dream, the CPA, the accounting that was all part of the path. And then no joke for two years completely lost. I was in lost soul. I was depressed. I had no clue what I was going to do. Do I go back to school? What do you do? My wife is amazing and supportive. In that journey of the two years, it occurred to me why the beer was so compelling. When I was looking at the career, it was about how the job matters. When I’m doing what I’m doing the job actually has to mean something when I’m laying on my deathbed 400 years from now because I I will be part robot. I want to make sure that when my old Tron self looks back and says, Did it count, right? All the hours we spent I mean, we all spend a lot of time at work. Are you doing something that fulfills you and adds value? And that was it. That was the moment and I realized I had all these skills that help business owners that help individuals and helping others achieve success? Well, that’s it, it doesn’t have to be the bureau, it just has to be something that has meaning. And that actually was where SMD consulting and accounting started. I wanted to lead with SMD Consulting and Accounting. It’s named in order on purpose because we wanted to be that CPA advisor that actually gave advice to small business owners because there’s brilliant practitioners out there. But it’s hard to do advice if you don’t know where to start. And that was where my skill sets were and all the career that I built. So started the firm and I wanted to go do that. So that’s the FBI piece of it is focusing on how we add as much value as possible to people and their families.

Dawn Brolin 4:57
And so, in addition to that, Your whole thing was like you said, like, I want to, I want to be a dad. I want to be a family, man. And you knew that that path wasn’t going to be there for you. Now, fast forward after that. You became a tax man.

Sean Duncan 5:14
Yeah, I did. I did.

Dawn Brolin 5:15
And you did tax work. And you did tax work, tax work, tax work. And what were you able to do? Like you were just tied down? It was almost like you were in the FBI, but in the tax world…

Sean Duncan 5:25
Okay, so there’s these epiphany moments that keep having these moments, right. I’m sitting there on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in my office, and I got the window seat, and it’s like, two in the afternoon, and I’m working on a return. It’s 75 outside. And I get a text from my wife again. Sunday afternoon. Yes, it’s tax season, of course. Her and my wife is texting me pictures of her and the kids at Six Flags. Wait a second?

Dawn Brolin 5:50
Oh, I want to go on that roller coaster!

Sean Duncan 5:52
Yeah. And so I turned down the FBI, before I had kids. Now I have them and I’m not with them. And it was, it was absurd. I was just one of those. Okay, this is clearly not working. And oddly enough, we’re sitting at scaling new heights, in scaling new heights. 2017 is when the final kind of bridge got into place. The camel’s back. That was it. I’m sitting at the conference. And it dawned on me, I don’t have to do taxes, my skill, our team skill, the value proposition is advice. Let’s just do the thing we’re amazing at because unfortunately, the dang tax returns are taking us away from the families not not just me. It was taking us away from our club, my employees, families, it was taking us away from the advice on the client. I mean, if you’re a client, and it’s April 14, and you go, Sean, I’m going to sell my business for 10 million bucks. Oh my God, I need help. My answer was awesome. Can we talk in May? Exactly. That’s not and we can. We were staffing up like crazy. I’m my office is in Frisco, Texas, one of the fastest growing cities in the US a phenomenal city. We were the largest firm in town. So we were successful. Unfortunately, our success was keeping me from my success. My success was to be the best husband and dad, my employees, I wanted them to spend time with their family. I wanted us to give value to clients. Because again, that’s why we started the firm. And we were disappearing from our clients taxes were getting in the way of achieving achieving our definition of success. And so I said enough’s enough. And I literally fired all the textbooks. off he went. And now we all we do is advise we do bookkeeping work, because the bookkeeping gives us the data that we need to do the analysis. But we focused on advice and then had to completely create a whole brand new model. And it was it was a journey.

Dawn Brolin 7:37
It’s a journey, and I want to talk about that journey. Because with every with change comes pain, just know that’s gonna happen. But you know what? That success is that you have after the fact that you have today in here and now, way outweigh those pains. But absolutely. There were pains and I want to hear, give me if you want 123 however many you want to give me pain points that you had when you were transitioning from tax to advisory.

Sean Duncan 8:04
Well, Dr. Dawn…

Dawn Brolin 8:07
Lay down on the couch! It was one day! I was crying!

Sean Duncan 8:16
I screwed up so many times. I screwed up because I was creating something completely. Again if y’all are accountants, you know what it’s like, you know, our industry have a pattern. This is the way it’s always been done. And here I am saying no, we don’t do tax prep, we just do advice. First pain is I underpriced now that’s a common theme here. We don’t charge enough. Well, you don’t, I was creating something new. So I kind of looked like I was beta testing on everybody. Right? And you can’t leap into the feet I could have. But and I should have I foot I went into low. And then scope creep happens in things that that hurt revenue dramatically because I had taken a big giant meaty seif to two thirds of my revenue. Yes, again, I was killing it.

Dawn Brolin 8:57
No guts, no glory, buddy.

Sean Duncan 8:59
And so when in of course, there’s the financial pressure, you’re trying to juggle and make ends meet. And so I had to be very clear and confident. And I will say that cutting all those clients, I never had doubt that that was the weirdest moment is I mean, if you can imagine you’re going to go to your firm and say, we’re getting rid of two thirds of the revenue. Let’s do this. It’s a terrifying Oh, absolutely. And I I never had doubt. And we’ll talk maybe if we had time about what vision plan and goal and and how I worked backwards in my strategy, but it was never a question that I was making the right choice. I was now seeing my family more and I was doing the things we need to do. We were helping people with more meeting but mistakes, absolutely underpriced and that that really created a whole new pressure.

Dawn Brolin 9:40
So underpricing of advisory work?

Sean Duncan 9:42
All of it.

Dawn Brolin 9:43

Sean Duncan 9:44
Everything, especially the advisory because it was really trying to feel out where the market was, who was on I was going to serve and how that works. Second, we we tried to be customized like, John, what do you need because what you need is different than what Nick needs but Nick needs something different. So we created this own ellaborate checkbox system of all this terrible, terrible, no one knew what we did because we did try to do everything. We then brought that down to the good old Mark wicker Sham, you know three choices of versions right I got the bronze silver platinum, because I skipped gold, who needs gold?

Dawn Brolin 10:16
Who needs goals? So overrated?

Sean Duncan 10:20
Well, we, that was too much, right? Because then clients were looking at well, I thought I signed up for this here, and you can show them the contract. So then we had to boil it down again. I mean, no joke for two plus years, we were trying to invent the methodology and just kept screwing up. But there’s an old Chinese proverb that says, You’re going to fall down seven times get up eight. And that was it. It was the resilience just kept getting up. So I kept screwing that up. And there were lots of other different things like the the challenges that we have with communication, making sure the client really gets it. But there were, there were a lot of hurdles, a lot of hurdles the market is still isn’t ready for you. I mean, imagine all the people that come in and say I need a tax return. Okay. I don’t do that. But I can save you $100,000. Yeah, but I need a tax return.

Dawn Brolin 11:06
I need that done. Well, in order for me to refinance my mortgage, or whatever it may be.

Sean Duncan 11:10
I’ve had somebody that we’ve modeled out and said, if we do these three things, we will save you $100,000 This year, yeah. But if you’re not gonna do my return, well, we can find you somebody that’s amazing at preparing, we’ll build the strategy. And they’ll prepare. Yeah, I need it all in one roof. And they go to the other person who doesn’t give advice. And so they’re the smartest thing, they’re happy to pay the 100,000 in taxes for that convenience. So we have to solve for that and make it as frictionless as we can. So it’s, it’s a journey in the key to this really, for me is, this is what I wanted to create for my clients, for my employees, and honestly, selfishly for myself. Sure. And so we were creating what we believe to be right listening to the marketplace as much as we could, but it was, it was rough. Some moments, you’re sitting there going, am I just the dumbest person in the world. But then you knew we knew we were adding value, we knew we were helping, we knew we were lifting up. And I knew that this is where the industry is going. I mean, we’ve talked about this off here a lot, oh, my gosh, where our industry is going, you must be advising. Now. That’s how I chose to advise. But a lot of people will do advisory live and stuff like that. So I can tell you all kinds of terrible stories..

Dawn Brolin 12:12
Well, I’m sure but but really, at the end of the day, okay. So the successes don’t necessarily happen through the journey. And the because the journey always has the bumps and bumps and bruises. And you know, you get your butt kicked and stuff like that. So because a lot of listeners, we talk about advisory all the time, right? So it’s advisory advisory, you’re like, well, what the heck is that? Really? So So can you out for me? Can you dumb it down for me to say, these are the types of things, pick a client and say, This is what we do from an advisory perspective for this client. So any client, you think you’re not to mention their names and like that? Or if they have a family? We don’t care about that. But just what do you what is your process? So I come to you? And I’m like, Shawn, I’ve got this business, and I need help. What do you what do you say? What do you do?

Sean Duncan 12:57
We start with a lot of fact finding, we got to find out who you are, because what your pain is different than somebody else’s pain. So we’re still listening and customizing. We have a standard pricing model and methodology because the more the more you standardize it, the simpler it is, I understand. But I gotta know what you need. Because I actually may walk out of that meeting and say, You don’t need me, you’re good. You know, we’re giving you two pieces of advice that go with the challenge. And this is really the hurdle we run across a lot advisors and and I’ve had, I’ve actually had people stop me at scaling and engage in other conferences, and say, How do you know what to tell somebody? I will say this to the audience. Y’all are really smart people. You know what you’re doing, you know how the entities your work, you know how the books work, you know how to do tax savings, you know, that mileage is a tax deduction. I know that sounds rudimentary. But clients don’t know that true. And so it could be just as simple as scanning the tax return and going to did you know, you can write off your cell phone, boom, there’s $1,000 tax deduction. It’s the simple stuff that we take for granted, the client in the public doesn’t know. So actually honestly start there. We look at what’s going on and going, Okay, let me hit the low hanging fruit that creates an immediate value. And then if I’ve got to look at something more complex, I go into kind of the arsenal of whatever I’ve got in my head and I start analyzing entity formation, or do you have a will we do full estate planning? So it gets into even more elaborate if we need to? What does Dawn need what is Don’s pain? And this really comes back to the heart of it is what is success for you will almost always ask, What do you define success to be is what your success is, is what we should be working toward? Not some contraption that I come up with. I’ve had plenty of clients that like they just want scoreboard, I want to make as much money as possible. Sure, cool. Nothing wrong with that. I want to take as many vacations as possible. It’s a different model. And so we’re listening to how we can create the solutions and honestly, you just help. If you go in and help. Yeah, you’re making them better. You’re adding value. Congratulations, you’re an advisor and you’d be shocked. The things that a client will value would be the stuff you’re like, well, that one was obvious, right? Wait, wait, so I can I can write off that conferences. business expense. Yeah. That’s why you went right. But if so, so is all the alcohol the conference, okay, that might be maybe sorta oh, what kind of conference was it?

Dawn Brolin 15:18
It depends on how much you…no…we will get into those things but, another thing too that I find interesting. And a great maybe a good example is 2021 and 2022 meals and entertainment well, meals no more meals are 100% deduction. How many of you that are listening right now have told your clients? Hey, guess what, go spend money at the local restaurant because it’s 100% deduction? Yep. Like that’s, that is advisor. That’s advisory services right there. If I’ve ever heard of it!

Sean Duncan 15:45
Or just telling what the new tax laws are. We don’t know what the new tax laws are. But you have an inkling? Sure. That’s proactive. Okay, by the way, you guys are I have lots of real estate clients. I have a lot of position clients. Hey, real estate client? Did you know the 1031 exchange is possibly at risk? Yeah, maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But if you’re giving them the heads up, they can start thinking it and they’re telling their friend Oh my gosh, my CPA or EA told me this. And if it doesn’t pass, you celebrate the victory and say, Hooray, we don’t have to worry about it. But if it does happen, they knew it. And they’re not feeling like they’re blindsided. So sometimes you’re you’re telling them information you don’t even know. You’re there to share and help. And that’s what and honestly, that’s where I get a little selfish is I love helping. I love that fulfillment. I know you guys do to everybody. The accounting profession is full of people that are people pleasers, and they want to help and you said this in your session. We want to help people be better. Yeah. And if you just have this information in your head, and you’re not sharing it, it doesn’t do anyone any good.

Dawn Brolin 16:40
Well, I think part of it too, is that what we’re doing is we’re getting, we’re getting them what they need a tax return, we’re getting them what they need their books reconcile, we’re getting them what they need. But with those things are not giving them that vision that they need to plan ahead and be ready for what’s happening in the future, not behind you. And so I want to transition a little bit to of course, we’re sitting in the ADP booth, because we love ADP. And so you know, one of the great parts about ADP is their accountant Connect portal, because your talent your set, we’re gonna we’re talking about how can you advise your clients? What tools can we use simple tools to advise our clients, reasonable compensation, you know, go Google that there’s a billion different ways you could go, there’s no definition. It’s just like, what? And so, you know, ADP gives us that information through accountant connect. And I mean, personally, accountant Connect is turning into an advisory hub, it really is. It’s amazing. I mean, between between what they already have in benchmarking industries, you know, in various industry reports, and now the strategic partnerships that they’re doing with Gerard and, and biz equity and things like that, where they’re, hey, listen, guys, we’re opening our API to give the information to these third party vendors, if you will, because we’re all playing in the same sandbox. So if you’re sitting here, you’re listening, you’re like, Well, you know, everybody talks about advisory advisory advisor, I don’t know how I can start with advisory, how do I do that? You know, what you could take step one, take one client that you currently service, and start to do more than reconciling, do more than on, you know, a tax return, or whatever, and say, You know what, I’m going to take this client to the full end of the earth. And I’m going to actually start advising, it doesn’t have to be, we don’t have to go so extreme, as Sean did immediately, and I’m selling tax, and I’m going over here, and but you know, what you can start with the clients you already have. But you’ve got to have access, the key is you have to have access to the tools that give you that information to be able to advise. So if you’re out there, and you’re like, oh, yeah, I’m logging into five different payroll services. And so I’d have to gather that information to be able to give insights, well, you know, you might want to think twice, right? And that’s a one example. But, you know, I think for people to get started, is that a good start? Is that a good suggestion?

Sean Duncan 18:58
And actually was really funny, I didn’t tell you this earlier. I just realized that here at Scaling, I’ve had no less than three different CPAs come up to me from prior conferences and thanked me about the advice and tips I gave them on the change how it changed their business in their lives. And I’m like, I this was the stand aside of the booth. And we’re chit chatting, right? Love that. It doesn’t have to be big. And this is really, really, really important. Okay, so let me roll back to advisory. What is advisory and you can be this intimidating umbrella of the universe of I got to get their entities, right. And I’ve got to tell them the right technology, and I got to tell them apps stop. When you do a tax return. Do you stop for five minutes and go? Is there anything else I see they can do here? That’s advisory. Now some of you do that. Some of you don’t. We all know plenty of practitioners that just go and throw it out. And they say, Well, if there’s a did you miss something? It was like they didn’t give me the form. So I don’t know. Well, that’s not who we want to be. Pause, look and go. Do you want to do a retirement account? Hey, did you have mileage just Take a moment. That’s the incubator for an advisory. Then when you go, you know what, guys, it’s been two and a half years now and you still have never done a retirement account or you’ve never written off a vehicle or you’ve never done the Augusta rule or whatever you want to say whatever you think. Tell them how they can do that this year, you switched it to Proactiv. You know, great software, you hate that software, you love this software, and you tell them why you’ve advised them on software, you have all this wonderful insight, just start telling them, just start finding a way to help them now if you bill by the hour, it’s really easy. You set a meeting, you discuss it, you build, we do a fixed fee service, we do a subscription service, and we do project stuff. So we have a different pricing model, but it’s whatever fits what you’re trying to accomplish. And I would then say before you go completely nuts and try to give all the advice and Accountant Connect is amazing. The tools that are out there, you don’t have to even use a tool. Now we do we love going into accountant connect and noodling up a number and saying, Hey, all this metric. But it’s, it’s just using knowledge and sharing it with your client to start with. And then as you get going, and this is extremely important. You talked about this in your session is who’s a good client? What’s Who are you trying to help? And Who you trying to serve? If you want to help everyone, you’re really helping No one. Who are you best suited for? Do you happen to have accidentally have a ton of knowledge in trucking? Go help truckers, it’s Who do you want to help? You know, I really like beer. So I think I want to help some breweries. Breweries man, great. I love helping physicians. I love I know what the impact they make in other people’s lives, how many lives they literally save how hard they work, they make good earnings. So don’t get me wrong, it’s still there’s a business model. But it’s if I help a physician be more successful, they can be in practice longer, which then can help other people. And it has this extrapolation effect. So we’re working on building a model where we can coach and teach CPAs this business advisory, not there yet, hold tight. But we’re trying to we’re trying to build our procedure manual in a way that we can give it to a CPA and help them and my theory is and this is my big angle version. If I help one CPA in my career, started advising all of their clients. How many clients that guy have look at that report? 300? Yeah, I helped 300 families by helping one CPA. Absolutely. That comes back to my mission. My mission is, if and you we’ve talked about this before, if I’m at work, it has to matter. What’s my barometer of matter? If I’m not with my wife, and kids, it pet her freaking count. Yes. And so if I can go in and help, that’s why I speak that’s why I go on stage, I can help 500 people, it’s not because look at me, it’s right. I’m in a room and I can help 500 people in one shot. That’s impactful in my work matters.

Dawn Brolin 22:50
That’s world changing. You know, at the end of the day, that ripple effect goes hard.

Sean Duncan 22:53
Oh, yeah. And you could be you stood up in front of the room ago, did you know short term rentals are actually considered active income? Wait, what I thought rentals were passive, not subject to the passive loss rules. Did you know that? Did you not know that? Guess what, you know what? Now, you can use that to tell someone. And it’s this constant little cycle of learning. And it’s again, I get excited about it. Because every time I learn a little gem of something, I’m thinking about who needs to know that it’s advisory. That’s all it is. It’s not it’s not this massive project. Just start helping people. And you were an advisor. Congratulations, you’ve graduated to advisory because he gave somebody suggestions.

Dawn Brolin 23:31

Sean Duncan 23:32

Dawn Brolin 23:33
Advisory, I think came from the word advice.

Sean Duncan 23:36
I believe it’s from its Latin roots of ad-vice…

Dawn Brolin 23:38
Advice. That’s the that’s the acronym for the whatever. So anyway, yeah. So So with that, too, I would imagine what’s really nice being able to do the adviser people, putting clients in the best position you can help them be in. And for us, we were at people, it’s all good. Doesn’t matter. But for us, I mean, I don’t know about you, we’ll just talk for a hot second about rev share. But I don’t know about you, Shawn. But listen, number one, I don’t want to deal with payroll. Some of you that are listening, love to do your own payroll, you’ve got your own payroll service going and you love it. And, and I love that you love it. And that’s fine. But for people who are more driven on that advisory work, or, you know, just want to ship their business, and I’ve talked to some people here who are I don’t want apparel anymore. Great. I look at it that listen. I’ll refer clients to them. I would still want my hands on it. I want my eyes on it still, but I don’t want to do the actual technical work of the payroll. Not only that, but ADP will pay me to bring them clients and customers. Now for me. I love that because when a client calls me and says or sends me Hey, Brolin, I got a notice from the Connecticut Department of Labor which by the way is so freakin far behind in the filing I chugged my choke them out. And so I get the notices from Canada. I get it from my own payroll, but I go in and I go and enter that service requests. But when I do it for a client, I don’t charge them for that. Right? It’s not it’s not that’s not a value added service to deal with that. So ADP pays me referral fee for for bringing them business and that covers any of that extra work I may need to do. And it also can help you buy a boat! I don’t know if you knew that.

Sean Duncan 25:19
Apparently it is!

Dawn Brolin 25:20
It’s an alleged thing!

Sean Duncan 25:21
A little extra money seems to be available to use for whatever you choose to do.

Dawn Brolin 25:25
Whatever you’re just it’s so weird, like, I don’t know.

I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by

Episode Summary

Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE joins Jody Padar, The Radical CPA, to talk about how Jody used social media to connect with her community, and how she’s a motivator to those around her. They also discuss how everyone can improve their professional relationships by assuming trust within their colleagues and business partners. Listen now to find out how you can be a better motivator, and how developing trust in those around can better your community as a whole!

How Jody Built A Team of Motivators

Jody talks about how she was an early adopter of social media, and how through that, she was able to foster connections and motivators very quickly. 

When you start connecting to those motivators, then all of a sudden it starts to snowball. So like instead of just being snowflakes now, all of a sudden, you’re really a force to be reckoned with,” says Jody. She credits social media for her success, but specifies a lot of that success comes from the motivators she was able to connect with online.

She also talks about her love for teaching, and how social media has allowed her to teach more people than she ever thought possible.

Getting Back to One on One Connections and Assuming Trust

Dawn talks about how making personal connections can be hard and how many people are suffering in their work relationships. Jody agrees, and points to the issue of not having a developed sense of trust in those you work with, and says the way to solve these issues is to stop assuming people aren’t going to respect you.  

“I think it starts with going into that conversation, assuming they have trust, and assuming both sides are trustworthy,” says Jody.

Jody’s Motivation Success Story

Jody shares her biggest source of happiness is being able to teach so many people, and hearing success stories from people she didn’t know she had an impact on. She shares a story about a person who messaged her on LinkIn, who said they were starting their own firm all because of her advice and teachings. She shares how she never thought it would be possible that her ideas would make such an impact on the people in her community.

Jody also talks about how she still needs motivation from her support team to help move her forward in her life and with her career goals. “Sometimes you need someone else to believe you in before you can believe in yourself,” Jody also shares.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of The Designated Motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.

Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did not work with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program became the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping up with payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. You consider outsourcing before reconsider today, choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

Jody, tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? What do you like?

Jody Padar 0:53
Hey, Dawn. So I’m Jody Padar the radical CPA, I’m one of probably only few branded CPAs. that’s out there. Right? I didn’t know that he pays could have a brand, but I created one. But I’m a longtime practitioner who has recently joined kind of the other side, right? So I was one of the early cloud adopters, and really early social media enthusiast and really kind of, I’ll say defined or pioneered what the new firm would look like in the cloud. And I did that for 14 years evolving my own firm and, you know, helping other people get to their firms. And to kind of like, I’ll say, again, define what Cloud firms look like. And last year, I joined bot keeper as Vice President of Strategy to take it to the next level. Because like, like, What’s radical? Well, cloud isn’t radical anymore. And the next level radical is artificial intelligence and machine learning. So now, it’s my job at bot keeper to help really firms make that transition and learn how machine learning and artificial intelligence is going to change their firms just like Cloud did so many years ago, so it’s couldn’t be a more perfect job for me. So because I’m always out there teaching and, like sharing. So pretty stuff.

Dawn Brolin 2:04
Absoultley, definitely! And you’re right. I mean, the artificial intelligence conversation wasn’t even a thing 10 years ago, I mean, it’s suitable for you smart people, you for thinkers, of course, right. But you know, and that’s probably one of the interesting things is trying to get this industry we’re like, it’s like push our rope sometimes with them. And, and the whole goal is, we’re not telling them that because we want them to invest in more time and money into something else. We want them to be ahead of the curve. And that’s what you’re doing. You’re doing that and do it very well.

Jody Padar 2:31
For sure! And I think it’s not even about like, everyone thinks that, oh, we’re adopting tech for tech sake, or whatever, because we’re supposed to, but ultimately, it’s about building a lifestyle and having the ability to kind of put time back in your firm and actually get to go home early, or do whatever you want to do grow it, do whatever else because I think so we we get so caught in that, oh, we have to work all these hours. But if we step back, and we automate a lot of stuff, a lot of times we don’t have to work all the hours and we can actually go home on time, which I think is kind of nice.

Dawn Brolin 3:02
Yeah, getting your life back is key. And I think that that’s, you know, if we’re talking about motivation to learn this stuff, whether it’s technology or the AI, the whole entire AI conversation, it’s because we want you to be motivated, not because you’re gonna make more money, like people are really out there saying, I want to make more money, what they want to do is they want to grab their life back. 1% Yeah, if that’s what’s exciting. So with this podcast, my whole goal is to get great motivation messages out to people, and especially in the accounting industry, we really, we need it, we need to remember why we’re doing this, and who we’re doing it for things like that, but really changing lives one person at a time, right? Which is different than motivational speaking, where you’re talking to a big 1000s of people, we’re just trying to get to one person at a time, because that will multiply itself all in of itself. So give us you know, tell us about some motivational moments that you’ve had, that you know that you’ve gone out and help someone else.

Jody Padar 4:00
Well, so I’m gonna take it back to like, my early days and social media, because a lot of people think that social media, like I just came up with 600,000 followers, because I didn’t, right? Like you don’t get 600,000 followers overnight. And in my early days, in Twitter, that’s what I was doing. I mean, I truly was we were connecting with other professionals, but we were motivating each other and we were pushing each other to change and grow and adopt. And I think that’s where, like, I kind of got my, my space that I really love. And it’s because like I have the heart of a teacher, right? And so when I can motivate and teach that I’m happy, and what happens is is you don’t realize that it has such a snowball and a multiplying effect because like you teach someone else and then they teach someone else and then they teach someone else. And I think when you think about even an industry or you know a profession, when you start connecting to those motivators then all of a sudden it starts to snowball. So like instead of just being snowflakes now all of us On, you’re really a force to be reckoned with. And that’s like how social really kind of evolved me and really helped me help move a profession. But I think, again, motivate the profession, right? Because it’s not about selling, it’s never been about selling, it’s about how do I change my firm so I can have time back, right? And what can I do so that I like my job better. And I think if you, if you started from that perspective, then it’s really easy to motivate and help people realize, yeah, we can get through it, if we’re having a struggle on it. Because we know that there’s something better at the end of it. And if you see someone who’s gone before, and you’re helping them, or like they’re helping you, you know, it just keeps going. And it’s funny, because, like you do it, you do it, you do it. And then all of a sudden, you start getting pings back saying, oh my gosh, thank you, blah, blah, blah. And then it’s people you don’t even know who are like telling you that you changed their lives. And you’re like, I, you know, I don’t believe it, right? Like, because you because you didn’t actually touch them, but because you touch someone who touched them. Now, all of a sudden, like you’re making a difference. And to me, that’s kind of what keeps me going, right? Because everyone’s like, well, especially in the early days, I didn’t get paid for any of the social media stuff that I did. It was always just, it was a labor of love. And, and, and that’s what it becomes. Because like when you start affecting people’s lives, then they want to give it back. And then they tell you, and then you know, you kind of feed your ego and you’re like, oh my god, I gotta help more people, because you’re like, like, you have the heart of a teacher. And so then it just becomes a thing.

Dawn Brolin 6:35
Right? Absolutely. And you know, and that’s, that’s one of the things that I find, you know, especially like, you teach a lot of conferences, you do a lot of webinars, you do these things, and you get in front of a lot of people at one time. And you don’t realize the effect, I know that, you know, I’m sure this happened to you too. But I’ve been at a conference, and I’ve done to some kind of a course or class. And you know, we put our heart, soul body, mind, you name it, we put it into what we’re presenting and providing for education, right? And people will come up to you after the session is over. And they’re crying. Like, why are you crying? For like, because I need to hear what you were saying to me. And it’s like, I didn’t even realize I’m just teaching some stuff about fraud. I mean, I don’t know, you know.

Jody Padar 7:17
And I think too, because you put yourself out there, right? So you’re opening yourself up, and you’re sharing. And I think we do it on stage. And we do it in social. But I think when you take it back to if you’re just sitting in your firm, and you do it to the kid sitting next to you or the like the younger professionals sitting next to you, and you help them understand something, it’s the exact same thing, but you’re just doing it at a different level. So, you know, these, these principles can apply to everyone. It’s not like you have to be a speaker or social media person or whatever, you could just be helping the person in the cube next to you. So are like, on the zoom across from you, right? And helping them really understand what what’s happening, because I think too often we get caught in Oh, we got to get it done. And we don’t spend the time to really teach anymore, which is it’s a loss for both sides, because I think it hurts the people who don’t get to receive the teaching. But you know, if you can teach something, it means you really know it too. So it hurts the person who hasn’t had the opportunity to teach because when you learn how to teach, you learn your stuff so much better.

Dawn Brolin 8:23
That’s so totally true. And I love what you said about like the person next to you. So I see, you always talk about the firm of the future. And we talk about the firm of the future and technology and AI and all this, which is important. Don’t get me wrong. But to have a firm that has someone inside of that firm, even if it’s two people, three people, one person, it doesn’t matter. Someone that can be that teacher, in every aspect, say, Liz, I may not be the expert that that Jodi is in AI. But I can certainly ask her how her weekend was and check in on her and say, Hey, how are you doing? Right? And like really having that two, three minute conversation. They people are so thankful for that kind of attention. And that’s where our technology has drawn us a little bit away from that. And I think that they’re the people are suffering, right? They’re suffering. So how can we cause a disruption, which is why we call this podcast with the disruption because it’s about doing something totally different that may be out of your comfort zone, or you never even really realize or recognize that motivation comes from person to person. So tell me tell me what, you go ahead, finish what you were going to say.

Jody Padar 9:32
Well, no. So I think it starts with trust. And I think that’s hard. Right. So I think, ultimately, you know, I think sometimes not everyone is programmed to go into the world trusting everybody else. And I think I’m kind of sometimes I’m at a fault because of it because I’m going to trust you unless you do something to show me that I shouldn’t trust you. Whereas I think there are a lot more people who are more skeptical, who who aren’t so trusting, right? And so if you can go into these relationships, work relationships, social relationships, trusting people before they kind of burn you, right? And they’re not going to burn you. But you, because I think we sometimes have this feeling that, you know, if you meet 100, people 99 are going to burn you, no one is really going to be trusting. But I think in reality, 99 of them are going to be awesome to you, they’re going to respect you, it’s going to work, and only one of them is got a little bit of a sneakiness to him, right. And so I think if you can switch that mindset, and go into kind of your work relationships, these other relationships with a little bit more trust, that I think we’ve kind of guarded ourselves, maybe from the past or whatever, then you can be that designated motivator, and you can also receive it a lot more. So I think it sometimes even goes deeper. Because, like, we don’t, we don’t have the trust. And so we don’t share. And so how do you how do you kind of build that trust? And again, I think it starts with going into that conversation, assuming they have trust, and assuming both sides are trustworthy. And then you can kind of you can have those conversations, because if you don’t, then you’re never going to get beyond that, or to that motivation, because, like everyone’s got their guard up.

Dawn Brolin 11:18
Right, you won’t have the opportunity because they’re not letting it in. Right, right. That’s a good point. That’s a really good point. So on a trust factor thing real quick. I’ve just got to tell you this weekend, I have a little Mazda Miata. It’s my little fun car, you know, it gets like 7000 miles to the gallon. And the prices these days, like mice will use it. So I was driving down Main Street, and there was a man walking on the sidewalk, and I kind of pulled up because there was a light and he’s like, Hey, nice car. And I just looked over at him. older gentleman. I could tell he wasn’t he was I would say displaced. Should we say that way? Might? And I was like, Oh, thank you. I love Yeah, I do. I love this car. And he goes, Are you going to Walmart. And I go, I’m not but I can for you get it? And so I gave the guy a ride to Walmart and I think back and he and I had a little conversation about you. You’re obviously you ask for rides and you’re very, you’re very trustworthy. Like how, like, how did how did you Why do you feel that way? And, you know, he’s like, Oh, I hitchhiked across country back in the 60s and blah, blah, blah. I mean, this guy’s name was John loved him. And so um, but you know, the, his trust in me to invite him into the car, and my trust in Him to invite him into my car as a woman. Right? So I was just like, You know what, I don’t I don’t care. Like I trust this. I don’t want you know, if you Oh, my God, I can’t believe you do that. Are you kidding me? Somebody gave birth to that guy. Like, that’s what I always think in my mind. Somebody gave birth to that guy. And I just had this trust. trustful feeling. Come on, let’s go for a ride. So it’s kind of a similar thing to that. Right.

Jody Padar 12:52
Right. And, and I think too, if, again, if you can go into work relationships, if we’re talking about work, right? If you could go into work relationships, assuming trust, until they prove you differently, then you’re going to be okay to give and receive these kind of DM things. If you go in with your guard up, if you’re never going to get there, because you’re not going to be able to receive it and you’re not going to be able to give it and it’s funny because like, again, I think that’s starts with a mindset, right that I trust them until I until they proven to me that I can’t trust them. Right. And I think a lot of times, not everyone goes into into work relationships like that, right? That’s like kind of a mindset. So I would start there. And for me, that’s, that’s that I’ll say, that’s one of my superpowers, right is like I trust them sometimes to a fault, right. But that’s where the authentic relationships begin. And that’s where you can actually kind of get closer to them, right, a little bit more intimate with them in a professional sense. And kind of, you know, motivate them or really understand their point of view and where they’re coming from and give them that motivation that actually applies to them, as opposed to the generic, great job, or that was amazing. Because, to me, if you just say that’s amazing to everything, that’s worse than saying nothing. Because maybe that’s um, and I don’t want to go into Millennials are not millennials, but to me when I hear that’s amazing with everything. It’s like so it’s like that participation award. It’s like I’ve already like, I just counted it.

Dawn Brolin 14:26
Oh, yeah. Participation certificates. No, no, no, no, no. Right. Right. You’ve got to be all in man.

Jody Padar 14:33
And so you have to be specific and you have to be and you have to be, it has to be really related to who they are and what they do as a person. And if you can do that, then I think, you know, that’s, that’s leadership, right? That’s truly leadership, to have the ability to do that and influence them and to, to to have them understand how good they are and what they can bring to the table.

Dawn Brolin 14:58
Absolutely, yeah. So tell us, tell us a story of you. Because you’ve done so much. I mean, again, even, you know, you’ve taught you teach you, you know, all kinds of levels and things like that. Give us an example of a time where you felt like you really connect with somebody, and were able to give them that motivation to, you know, do something they never thought they could do, or whatever.

Jody Padar 15:18
I think it comes back to a couple of stories. And again, it’s where people reached out to me that I didn’t know that I had an impact on them, right? And then they reached out to me after, right, so like we’d had this, I’ll say, this ongoing, remote relationship, where I didn’t think it was not to say it wasn’t that big of a relationship, but it was like, I don’t know, it was just a regular kind of relationship. I didn’t think that I was having the impact, right. Like, I didn’t think that I was having the impact. And then I got like, an E, I think it was through LinkedIn, and a DM or whatever, telling me that they were quitting their firm, and they were starting a new firm. And it was all because of me, and that they had made the decision to go out on their own. Because the things that I had been talking about resonated with them. And now they were ready to make the leap instead of the jump. And, to me, that’s cool, right? Because, again, it’s one thing to talk about it. But it’s another thing to have that person internalize it so much to know that now they can be successful, and start their own firm, and take the take the leap, right. And I like nobody was there for me when I did it. So it was kind of cool to be there and be like, Oh, I can help you. However, I can, blah, blah, blah. But I think that’s, you know, that’s the neat stuff when when you actually it goes beyond just the compliment, or it goes beyond just the receiving of it, that now they’re actually changing their life because of something you said or did. Right. And that’s what’s cool. And I would say the same thing has happened to me, where, you know, early on in my career, there were some supporters of kind of what I was doing on social and everything. And they had a lot of clout in the accounting industry. And they stood up for me, and they gave me a stage. And they said, Jodi, you go up here and you you talk right? And we’ll make space for you. Right? And when they did that, it gave me an opportunity, right? And so to them, they were my motivation, because I would have been like, oh, no, I don’t like I can’t do that my ideas aren’t that great. They’re like, right, but they were the ones who said, No, your ideas are going to make a difference. And we’re going to make space for you on the stage to talk about it. Right. And so for me, that was where I was motivated by and these were some pretty influential CPAs. They’re still out there. But I would have never like, never thought my ideas were good enough. Other than like to be on the stage, right? Like, Oh, fine, I can talk about them on social, but I’m not going to be at a big conference and talk about them. And they were the ones who said, yeah, no, the profession really needs to hear them, we’re going to, we’re going to make a place for you on the stage. And that was like the motivation that I received. Because it was like, wow, like they actually they believed in me, right. And that was, that was the turning point. Because sometimes you need someone else to believe in you before you believe in yourself. And you can talk all you want, but it’s your own self that holds you back. Because until someone else tells you, that’s a really good idea, and I support you, you you kind of shy away, right? Or you don’t you don’t make those bold moves, right. And then when they say that all of a sudden, it’s like they’re holding your hand, even though they’re not on stage, but they’re holding your hand on stage. So you know that you’re not going to fall, right? Because they’re behind you. And that’s what it does from the other side. Like I’ll say that’s, that’s who’s motivated me, and given me that opportunity that, you know, because everyone thinks, I don’t want to say they think that you just you’re born like this, but you’re not born like this, you have the same fears, the same, the same insecurities that everyone else does, and you need that motivator to stand behind you just as much as you’re standing behind or helping you know, a professional as well. Because that’s how you grow in your career. And if you don’t, like you’re gonna stay stagnant.

Dawn Brolin 19:08
Right. Well, it’s a simple like, it always is. If you’re not moving forward, you are moving backwards, you’re not standing still, there is no such thing as standing still. Right? Um, yeah no, and I really appreciate that because I know for me, I watched people like you I watched Jeannie White House I was I mean I could name all 7 million people. Well listen, we’re saying within our typically 1520 minutes we try to keep it short so people actually watch it and listen to us the fun stuff, but I can’t thank you enough God for coming on as always have fun talking to you. We’ve been on some recent webinars together which has been super fun. And so yeah, so our next episode we’re gonna have James Upton James Upton is the President CEO of Upton accounting great guy. We’re just gonna talk about some struggles through the COVID process and how the industry is just you know, bent affected by it, and see if we can go out there and solve problems with people that are out there struggling. But, Jody, thank you so much for coming and spending time with me. And so we’ll see everybody out there on social and everybody keep your heads up. We’re going to motivate you as much as we can.

Jody Padar 20:11
Yep, keep motivated, thank you!

Dawn Brolin 20:13
Go! Motivate! I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by

Episode Summary

Daniel Fritz, SmartVault’s Director of Products, chats it up with Dawn Brolin, CPA CFE, about the importance of setting personal and professional goals, plus provides insights on how to help your team work like a well-oiled machine. He also shares how SmartVault’s passion for creating happier and more productive accounting professionals is at the core of their commitment to creating the ultimate document management solution for your tech stack.

Daniel’s Story and Motivation

Daniel begins the conversion by sharing his experiences as a new graduate, and how his first boss, Nancy Ward, was the catalyst to help him actively pursue his personal and professional goals. He talks about his current professional goals being improving his team and scalability. He also shares that he finds joy when those around him also achieve success, and love what they do. 

SmartVault and Going Paperless

Dawn discusses her admiration for SmartsVault’s ability to secure and hold important tax documents, and how many accountants operate completely paperless now.

Daniel also talks about how SmartVault’s goal is to go completely paperless, and how they are on the cusp of doing so. Daniel shares that over 1.5 million CPAs use SmartVault’s services, and how they had over 13,000,000 documents that were uploaded and processed through their service.

Dawn also expresses her appreciation for SmartVault, as they are alway striving to integrate with new programs and software, and their growth as a company has never been static.

SmartVault’s Integration, Current Changes, and Company Growth

Daniel begins by talking about how SmartVault has completely redesigned their entire billing system to allow them to bill in local currency. He also talks about DocuSign’s new subscription based model that is more affordable than their DocuSign counterparts. And lastly, he discusses revamping their UI in their web portal and other programs.

Dawn also shares how SmartVault makes communication between her and client easy, and makes sure she can do her job efficiently and efficiently as a practitioner.

Daniel adds how SmartVault becomes your central document depository; practitioners and clients are able to access all of their documents quickly and securely. 

Importance of Outsourcing and SmartVault’s Flexibility

Dawn also talks about how important it is to outsource tasks to companies who specialize in them; you can’t do everything in accounting, so stick to the things you like doing, and outsource the ones you don’t.

Daniel talks about the flexibility of SmartVault, and how they take into account what their clients want and need. They also keep in mind that accountants aren’t the only clients they serve, and are always striving to make their program more accessible to businesses of all types and sizes.

Today Not Tomorrow

Daniel talks about his experience as a salesman, and how many relationships he established back then, he still has today. He also shared another former boss’s valuable advice of TNT, today not tomorrow, and shares that SmartVault strives to maintain that value as well.

Dawn agrees with Daniel, and expresses how important it is to implement knowledge you learn in your firm today! Not only will this allow you to help your clients gain success, it will also help you achieve your personal goals.

SmartVault and Their New Developments

Daniel talks about SmartVault’s past operations, and how they needed someone on the inside to directly oversee new product development. They onboarded Daniel to try and implement these changes, and he shares how they have scaled their team from just 2 developers, to now 7 developers, and a team of 15 people. He talks about how they made small changes at the beginning of 2020 to cut ambiguity and increase efficiency.

He talks about how they are so close to developing a well-oiled machine, and now they are focused on slowing down, taking their time, and implementing more automation to make their workflow more streamlined.

Daniel’s Personal Motivation

Daniel credits his wife for his personal motivation, and shares how her intellectual guidance has been crucial for his success. He also talks about being inspired by his Dad’s work ethic, but also the devotion to his family.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.

Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program become the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping Up With payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

All right, well, hey, everybody, welcome back. My name is Dawn Brolin, the host of DM Disruption. Also the author of the Designated Motivator and the Designated Motivator for accounting professionals. I’m also a Certified Fraud Examiner. I’m also a mom. I’m also a volunteer assistant coach, I could go on for days, but it’s gonna be more fun to talk with our today’s guest, who’s going to be Daniel Fritz from smart ball. Now if you know me, you know I love smart ball period. Okay, it does the job it needs to do for me and my clients and I love it. So Daniel Fritz, I could tell you what I would have to intro you. This is the Wizard of the Wizard of Oz. And smart ball. This is the guy and you want to talk to if you ever see this guy at a conference, grab him, nail him down and talk to him. Because he’s brilliant. And he wants to hear what you want to know what’s coming down the line for smartphone, all that stuff. Daniel knows it all. So Daniel, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you doing? And I’d also like to say Shazam, Team rolling. There we go SmartVault theories. Let’s take this thing.

Daniel Fritz 1:51
Thanks a lot, Dawnn. Yeah, super glad to be here. It’s really, really kind of you not only to have you on the show, but also those kind words. Yeah, absolutely. We’d love everything smart vault, everything you have you see me at a conference, let’s talk like we can talk for days. You know, security and smart vault is completely built into my DNA. I joke with my my team members all the time that, you know, I one time yelled at my product manager. Why didn’t you do that? Well, you never told me this I know I told you to do they found out that I totally told him to do that in a dream. So I live eat sleep and dream smart ball every single day of the week. So here’s somebody that says I absolutely love smart ball. Nothing on this planet makes me happier. So thank you,

Dawn Brolin 2:29
I’m your girl, Dan, I love SmarVault, it what it does for me and my productivity level is through the roof. My profitability is even further and adjust, you know, I’m able to do my job for my clients, which is all I just want to do is get it done for them. So it’s great. But you know, we had a great conversation last week on a totally separate call. And we talked a lot about where, where your motivation comes from. And you had some awesome stories of, you know, a former company that you worked for, and how you had some management or some so other people in that company that really just fired you up and motivated you and I want to hear all about that.

Daniel Fritz 3:04
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I have to give a shout out to my very, very first boss, Nancy Ward. She truly took me out of my shell, I was this, this kid, honestly, right out of school. And she brought me the first time we ever sat down, I worked completely remote. This is back, I worked for an EHR company called Sage. And people today will know that is Greenway, one of the biggest EHRs out there. And anyway, Nancy sat me down. And she said, look, the most important thing to have is to keep you motivated as a salesperson is to always have a personal and a professional goal. And, you know, just kind of trick for anybody ever interviewing with me? That’s a question I’m going to ask you. Because I think it’s really important that you stay motivated, both personally and professionally. And, you know, the very, it’s funny how things change over time, because whenever I first heard that, I thought, Oh, well, I want to get engaged to my wife now of nine years, Sam, and then my professional just like, Look, I just want to be as good as the person that I was replacing, because she was on that sales trajectory path before me. And you know, it’s funny how it evolves. Because now here at Smart ball, my personal goal is, you know, I want to pay off a little bit more debt because I want to get a boat, but it’s gonna take some time. Yeah, no, we talked a little bit about your, your awesome Grady White over there. But uh, on the professional side, for me, it’s all about my team and their scalability. Because I, they, my team hears me talk about all the time that we want to become a well oiled machine. And there’s an old video out there of either Secretariat or one of the other famous things in the guy back in like the 50s or 60s just saying, like, look at this incredible machine that’s going down. And that’s, that’s what motivates me, is it seeing we’ve got some new devs that have joined on our team and just to see those guys contributing? see them having impact on what we’re doing. That’s just so exciting to me. Because when I joined, we were such a small team, under invested and no one really knew what they wanted to do and how they wanted this to be a vision. And it’s it’s been great to see that growth because one of our more experienced developers told me a couple, like, about a month or two ago, he just said, we’re working on hard problems early in the morning 745 before most people are in the office, and we’re sitting there going back and forth. And he just at the very end, I was like me, I really appreciate you, Jacqueline, this thing, thank you so much for the extra effort here. He’s like, man, I just love my job. And that there’s nothing that beats that as far as like satisfaction, because you can work anywhere. But you know, getting to work on the cool stuff that we’re doing innovative stuff that we’re doing the SmartVault is is awesome.

Dawn Brolin 5:52
That is awesome. I was just talking to a room Mather with ultimate ultimate quest. And they do a lot of education for CPAs. And he told me a story about how so if you’ve listened to this episode already, it’s okay. If you haven’t, you want to listen to it. But anyway, he was wonderful. And he talked about how he went into this customer. He’s his former CPA, and he does practice now. But he saw the sign on the wall. We walked into this executives offices at TGI M. And it goes right along with what you’re saying. And usually we say well, tgi fridays, Friday Hello, yeah, maybe they said, right. Like, that doesn’t make any sense. Like who knows that. And he said, That’s exactly the point. What the guy wanted to do was create a culture that the people that worked for him and worked at that facility would want to come in on a Monday morning, and they were excited to come back to work because it was a place that they love to be. And that’s exactly what you’re saying with your guys. And just being able to, you know, create that culture. And like you said, it’s a, it’s a well oiled machine. If you think about a CPA firm, if there’s any other place, and he’s a well oiled machine, it’s at a CPA firm, because we have compliance deadlines, we have security, you know, things are requirements we’ve got to pay attention to so we have to be as much of a well oiled machine as anybody else. Right. And so that’s, again, one of the things about smart vault, allowing that and having that secure portal for your clients to be able to jump in and grab what they need whenever they need it. You know, we started charging people for paper copies of their return. We said, you know, we send them their quote, and we have little checkboxes optional. paper copy, 20 bucks, that’s 200 bucks, right?

Daniel Fritz 7:29
That’s right, there you go.

Dawn Brolin 7:30
I might have had one person check that box this year. And that’s it.

Daniel Fritz 7:36
That’s the goal that we’re completely going for honestly, the paperless revolution that’s been trying to happen across multiple industry, I’ve worked in the healthcare industry, I’ve worked in the tax industry, I’ve actually, there was a small stint where I worked in the entertainment industry.

Dawn Brolin 7:53
Oh, we don’t get to hear about that!

Daniel Fritz 7:58
But uh, but you know, everyone wants to go there, everybody wants to be paperless. And here at SmartVault, that’s, I really feel like we are right on the cusp of truly getting there and just like you don, you’re able to go completely paperless. But you know, as we as we release some of these features, yeah, it’s just hey, person, we need these documents. And then you guys take those documents, put them through your well oiled machine, Don, and then provide them right back out to the portal. I mean, that’s, that is completely paperless, the idea that the only piece of paper is just getting sent down from the employers from the banks and all those things that you have to just take a picture of, you know, and that’s where we’re adding a lot of efficiency and usability when it comes to smart ball because we want your clients which we have about 1.5 million clients of our CPAs it’s Marvel 1.5 million that are using this I think some of the crazy stats, I should have grabbed some of those stats before I jumped on but we had over 13 million documents uploaded I mean, I mean it’s it’s crazy that the amount of documents we play with and just making that so much easier for the for the team members for you guys to deal with makes it to where to truly is paperless. And that just there’s there’s no like, yeah, you’re at your office, you don’t have the just file cabinets of old documents. You guys are like “No, it all on SmartVault, we don’t have to worry about it.”

Dawn Brolin 9:26
Exactly, you know, and I think that one of the things i i made beat a dead horse and it’s just too bad because my podcasts and I can’t if I want to write like cry if I want to. It’s my birthday. Who cares? So one of the things that I just want to hammer down into people’s brains two things. Number one, having applications are awesome, but they’re even awesomer which is a word. They’re awesome. Okay, if they integrate with each other, they can talk to each other. The second thing that I say about applications are are they growing? Are they forward thinking? Are they always looking for the next better way to do something or better technology? To solve a problem, and that’s why I choose Smart ball, they’re always on the path of improvement. And they’re always, they’re always thinking of open API. I think, for example, liscio is a great example, the way we’re integrating with carbon assert, and other software’s. And I think that that’s so important. So you obviously, a lot of things coming down the pike, some new release is here in the last couple of months you guys have put out there. Tell us about that stuff.

Daniel Fritz 10:25
Yeah, so some of the most recent things that we’ve done is that we are completely redesigned our entire billing system, we don’t want to be experts in billing, we want to be able to bill in local currency we want to do like ACH payments, and all of these things. And so we had to completely just break part of our software that’s been there for 14 years and plug in something new, we have a new way of using DocuSign, you can now just use it as a subscription model, use as much as you as you need. And it’s just a per user per month cost. That’s, by the way, what’s more affordable than our DocuSign counterparts. And the biggest thing that we’ve done in the last about three or four months is changing up the UI. So the UI was very dated, especially in the web portal. And what we’ve done, we’ve actually added something called Request docks. So you as a CPA can just type in Hey, Fritz, I need some documents from you, it takes if you know what document you’re looking for, I can create a template of 1520 documents that are recorded in about a minute, if I’m just typing down, I need this because they’re free text fields, you put in whatever you want in there, and they’re like, Hey, Don, I need your W two, I need your 1099, I need your IMTS, I need all of your DIVs. And I need a picture of your dog, I need a picture of that great wine, because I love boats. And you can say that the required ones that are in there. And so you get to that point. And you say like, Alright, I’m going to name this just, you know, prints this template real quick, because it took me a minute to make. And I just pull over and I say alright, Fritz, and I can add a little message in there. So usually I need these things. And then when you’re done, the little submit button in the top corner will light up. Because that was really important, because you talked about, you know, being innovative and things sometimes the smallest pieces, I have to quote my she’ll be embarrassed if I give her her name, but my lead QA person, she really talks about the last 5% all the time, she’ll kick something back in the tabs. You know, we have her her name proof code is what what the developers strive for at this point, and we want to make sure that she doesn’t kick it back. But she talks about the last 5%. And that that submit button is it’s just one of those things that just makes us just that, you know, just ticks it because you can have it to where your clients could upload documents, and they could just hit it. Well, what if they didn’t miss? They didn’t upload a couple of them? Mm hmm. Well, then you have to go through the whole wringer again, where is it? The button is not even clickable. It’s it’s it’s just a blue button that has the dark black letters of submit in it. And once you have uploaded or said, Hey, this, this question doesn’t apply to me that for the last required question, that thing lights up. And that’s the that’s the difference of having a team that really thinks about how that inner interaction should occur. So we don’t even allow people to make the mistake of like, Oh, crap, I didn’t answer that. Last question is, Hey, I can’t Why is this not working? Oh, I didn’t. And I got a scroll down. There’s more questions down here. And that saves time on your your end? It’s key.

Dawn Brolin 13:29
Oh, it’s key. Right. I mean, revisit. I mean, I don’t know how many times Tracy historically, just be like, she’s like, I think everything’s there. And then I go in, I’m like, nope, they don’t even they give me zero information on their for rental properties, I have nothing like what. So having this ability to ask and request that information and have that go right into their smart vault folder without us having to deal with it. And knowing once they submit, it’s that we do have everything that we asked for. Right. And that’s, that’s a time saver, and it’s for the client. Here’s the thing, people, this is important to know, how you’re reacting or how you’re how you’re communicating with your client, the way you communicate with the client, the easier you make it, the more they’re going to love you. They don’t want to be bogged down. Nobody wants to deal with this crap or deal with it. They don’t want to do it. They don’t want to have to deal with taxes. Like, oh, God, here we go. Another year goes by which it seems like it goes like that. And it’s back again, tax season returns. And so for the practitioners who are listening to this, just think about your workflow and how you’re communicating with your clients. We just implemented liscio a great tool to use with clients, right? I mean, if you if I’m if I’m doing that, if powerful accounting Inc, is sending requests and having communications through liscio and working with smart ball and they’re everything that they need is at their fingertips in a lot of ways, right? Especially on their phones, they want to have things on their phones. If you’re not doing it, they’re going to find somebody who is absolute right and I don’t want to take your clients I have enough of them. I love I love Almost all of them and many of my clients are listening, not sure which way you go, hopefully, you’re going to in the happy development section of our client list, right. But that’s the key is the is the interactions that you’re going to have with your clients has to be has to be workable. I know that clients say to me, they thanked me for smartphone, you know, they thanked me because they don’t have to ask me for a copy of their return. It’s right where they’ve always live, which is in SmartVault from day one. Right?

Daniel Fritz 15:28
Yeah. And that’s in that right, there is one of the really big benefits that you know, you you sometimes run into a lot of people, it’s like, oh, well, I, I have that. And I printed it out, it’s here and I haven’t physically in like my safe at home. Whereas the SmartVault, digital copy, fullback, you know, fully protected every single alphabet soup of acronym from sec to FINRA, to GDPR. All of those acronyms, you’re covered. Because we we have that in there, we have a complete audit log that you can see everything that has happened that document from the beginning of time. And and that is so key, because when we talk to some of these accountants like look, no smart vault truly becomes your central document repository. This is the brain center. Yes, you have those tools, which awesome. I was just on a phone earlier today with Chris from Liscio. Love Chris girl, well, yeah, me and him are doing a Happy Hour, in a week or so. But like, that’s the thing is like, you know, to the point of the whole, like billing thing we talked about a minute ago, we don’t want to be experts, smart nuts. You don’t have to be good at everything, to make money in this world. And then that’s something that I learned whenever I was working in the entertainment industry, the software I sold was, was very niche. And there was like this very specific kind of person that would pay a lot of money for it. And so that’s how I feel about smartphones is like, look, we are the document storage location, we don’t need to be this beautiful app that liscio is the communicator they are 1000 times better than we are at client communication. And we own that, that’s why we decided to integrate with them and said, like, Chris, you don’t want to be I sat on the phone with his CTO, when we were first talking about the integration. And he just said, I, I don’t want to build a document storage solution on this, right? He’s like, we want to stay in the UI on the front end where it’s beautiful. And and we said like, look, we could never compete with you in that world. But we’ve got a document storage system that is, you know, the equivalent of Fort Knox over here. Why don’t we just connect those and then we’ll just kind of like, hey, you need a document storage system. Oh, you need some communities, go to Liscio is very similar to the like you said, with Karbon, the conversations that we’re having with carbon are going to be the very same thing that practice management with Licio. With us that starts that best of breed. In that way. You’re not in this like locked ecosystem, because when you try to be good at everything, you’re good at nothing, you’re mediocre at best. So yeah, that’s definitely where we want to go.

Dawn Brolin 18:06
Well, that’s one of the messages I’ve been trying that part of this the purpose of the podcast, right is to take motivation, put it into action. And one of the things that I look at is when you like we have a reassess your firm mentality. And so taking, and we’ll have this up on our website, at some point is to take an assessment of your of your firm, because at the end of the day, exactly what you’re saying, Dan is, really, what are you good at? What do you love to provide for services? What are the things what are you doing right now that you don’t like to do? You know, I know for a long time you know, when you first start your firm’s we’ve talked about this many times, you’re like, you’re kind of like an accounting whore. I know, that’s not really the right term to say in business, but you are, you will do anything to make money, you’re gonna you’re gonna take on payroll, you’re gonna take on sales tax, you’re gonna take on, right up work, you’re gonna take on tax returns, whatever it is that you’re just going to take on all these things. And then he makes eventually, after you’ve fallen on your face enough times to say I suck at this. It’s okay to say that, by the way. And I did that I was like, I don’t want to do payroll, I don’t want to be a payroll person. ADP, you’re my full payroll HR solution. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to worry about it. You’re doing it. You’ve got a great partner program this great line myself up with that smart ball. Okay, smart ball. I want to duck storage. I want the best doc storage, I can find smartphone. I think I’ve out of all the apps I use besides into it because I started with QuickBooks back in 1999. But I think smart ball is the application, the solution that I’ve had the longest, you know, because you you go through your firm’s growth pattern, and you’re like, Okay, I’m gonna try, you know, this app, or I’m gonna try Google Docs or on the truck. And then you come to this one, you’re just like, Oh, my God, this is my lifelong app forever. Yeah. And that’s what you do you go through over time, but then you get this well oiled machine. And you’ve got things integrating, and everybody in the firm knows, we do the same things, every single client, we onboard, every single one of them matter what we’re doing the same way. And guess where they always start. So number one thing, SmartVault, because what we do is we create this potential clients folder, right? Because not everybody’s a client automatically. It’s kind of like what we do with keep, we put that you know, person into keep. And then once they upload their, their prior year return, we use quotient, we send them a quote, they accept it great. But they have to upload their prior return, the number one thing they have to do is upload their prior returned a SmartVault. So guess the first app they deal with with us, the very first app is SmartVault. That’s how it’s done.

Daniel Fritz 20:46
That’s the way to do it that. And you know, as those as those things go through, you know, you mentioned all those different things that we can do. That’s because we have that flexibility, when it comes to the folder structure, because you’re just in your case, Don, you’re using that as a potential client, and then you probably apply some more templates to it. But as you think about those things, it’s the flexibility of smart bolt is really where a lot of that value comes into play. Because, and honestly, that kind of makes it harder on our side, you know, not harder, just a little bit more fun, if you will, because you whenever we make a change to the software, we have to consider not just what it’s done once, even though she has like 90% of the roadmap locked up, like she knows what she wants. But for those other 10%. You know, we have to think about it. And that’s really prevalent in the way that we did some of the new files and folders, you know, when we released this new look and feel to it, there’s now a breadcrumb instead of this, you know, 1995 windows tree on the left. I you know, it’s funny Don is to laughing about that we literally had a design that was skinned and beautiful. And it took me and me and Danya to say like, Guys, no, there’s some times when you just have to let something die. And we just and the funny thing is, is that one of my CSM people they came over, and they just said they were just concerned. Like, they trust us. We know what we’re doing. We’re talking to enough customers. But she was very much like, are you guys not sure about this one? Because you just get so used to it. But that’s, you know, we really thought about it and said like, look, yes, accountants work that way. But a plumber, a potential pool company that could definitely benefit from smart vault, they can, you know, get those quotes from quotients. And kind of run it the same way, hey, we’ve got these bids for some pools. We need XYZ documents from you because and we’re going to provide you some documents cuz you got to give that to your HOA to make sure that they’re not going to tell you to rip up the hole in your ground. And, and it’s a those are some of those just that flexibility. But when you’re talking about like, hey, yeah, we use this this way. It’s just it’s so unique to hear. But that’s what we that’s the innovation. That’s what makes our life fun. Is saying like, how are we going to make this work? Yeah, we’ve got, you know, of our 7000 customers and our 1.5 million guest users. We, yeah, how we’re gonna make this because the big Yeah, the big majority of about 5000 of them are accountants and say, like, we’ve got to break that mentality. And that’s one of the things that whenever I came in, I really instilled on the team like look, kind of like you said, you reassess your practice, like we kind of had to reassess how we did development here. And I had had a couple great mentors through the years that taught me valuable lessons in that realm. But what we ended up on is just like, hey, no, we’ve got to consider that and we have to stop pump the brakes. And hopefully, you can’t see too much more back here. It’s a little insight into my mind a little bit, but we we will whiteboard everything. I’m, I have two whiteboards here, I have an entire wall that’s on the other side of this. That’s just it’s a whiteboard wall. And awesome. We’re always thinking about how’s this gonna work, we got to make sure it works for Dawn, but we also have to make sure that it could work for the potential landscapers. Bang, right that wants it to do, because if we just narrowed our focus, and we only did tax, you know, there’s a lot of great tax programs out there that are just that. But if you think about it’s like, they’re really rigid, it’s like, well, what if I’m a CPA, but I also kind of do this other thing, right, it would really be really hard to enforce one of those to do something.

Dawn Brolin 24:29
Right. Yeah. And that’s, you know, one of the so, you know, we talked in the beginning and you mentioned briefly that it was Nancy Ward was the name of the of the lady right. So I remember you telling me about some other like tidbits of that of that company that you worked for and and some really great stories there. Like, what other kinds of people were around you that you just loved and…

Daniel Fritz 24:49
Oh, just you know, when you’re a young sales guy, you you really get to kind of like meet a lot of people and just all my different teams. They had profound effects on me. And I still keep those relationships going today, some of the other big throughout the years of me being out and about. One of the best quotes that I learned early on was no matter who’s copied on the email, the truth doesn’t change. That was one of one of the best. And then bajas Dan was my boss. When I was at Azalea, I was the VP of product, and he really, he really instilled on me and I absolutely love Baja. He instilled upon me, TNT–today, not tomorrow.

Dawn Brolin 25:36
I told that story, Dan! you told me that one last week. I told the coach, I told the coach on Friday, I said I learned a new one today. Go ahead, keep going with that, I love that.

Daniel Fritz 25:47
And that was the thing is like I was the VP of product in you know, we were in a rural health care, really underserved areas. So you have all the big monolith hospitals in downtown’s and the medical centers and everything like oh, this massive Hospital, a lot of people forget about the random little hospital that’s three hours away from anything, right. And, and that’s what Azalea provided and you know, they’ve gone on since since I got wooed away to come over here to smart vault. They’ve gone on they’ve they’ve acquired a couple companies. But the thing is that always was instilled in me why bajas like let’s do make the change that they need today, not just wait on it. So we had several instances where, you know, healthcare is always changing, but it’s like, oh, this new customer, we only had about 40 or 50 of these smaller hospitals. But we were constantly changing that. And just having that as a as a motivation behind me is, you know, he’s like, Look, man, like your wishes what it is, but we can take an action, let’s take that action today, not tomorrow. Because we’re just kicking the can down the road, we’re never going to get anything done. And so we we use that mentality here at Smart vault as well. We try to be as efficient as possible and like, hey, if we find something like QA, find something, we’ve got to take that action today, and not just kick it down the road, because someone’s going to find that bug, someone’s going to find where that doesn’t, that that error message doesn’t describe what you have had, you know, what mistake has been made.

Dawn Brolin 27:16
That’s, you know, so T N T. Today, not tomorrow, if you want if you’re listening, if you’re listening to this podcast, I’m telling you right now, if you take nothing away from this conversation with Dan, today, is today, not tomorrow. And that means in your firm, we go to conferences, we watch webinars, we listen to podcasts, we read books, we do all of these education, and then you know what we do with it? Nothing thing. And you just have to say, What am I going to implement today, I’m not going to wait until tomorrow, I’m going to implement this one solution for my firm, because it’s going to help my firm, it’s going to help my clients, it’s going to make me happier, it’s going to make them happier. And with all of those little things, you will be more profitable. You can go buy yourself a great 22 foot Grady White like hey, go that’s or whatever it is that you want to do you want to spend more time with your kids at games or whatever, you know, and that’s something dandy or the culture at Smart ball people. It’s smart ball that work with you. You were talking to me last week a little bit about, you know, you grew from a very small number of developers. And now you’ve got quite a few more which one body is a big number, by the way? You get one more developer that’s like, Oh, my goodness, two more hands. And one more brain. I’m in! So tell me about that.

So yeah, when I joined the team, we were we were being overseen by the smart vault is owned by a company that’s actually traded on the London Stock Exchange called Get Busy. And so we were we were being they was kind of being run by those guys. But they weren’t here in the business. That’s why they decided to bring me in this looked like they wanted somebody who has, you know, kind of done that before, has a decent track record, and whatnot. And so that’s, that’s what I came in, and it was me and another product guy. We have one QA person. And actually we only had two developers when I first started because one of them was on paternity leave it so there’s about five of us. And now we have we are about 15 people strong. We have scaled the team. The QA team is now three different people. We have a content writer on staff, I have two product people that help just build this engine. And then not to mention the seven developers and we have a couple more openings that we are we are actively hiring. We have two people that run our development operations area. So we’ve we scaled from this tiny little group. And all of that was we kind of had to sit down and I sat down with my team. I said, Look, guys, we have to do development differently. And I was telling you no dumb we talked last week I kind of mentioned is like look at what you remember changing. It was these little changes for the last couple of years in smartphones, like they move to AWS and then they just kind of just worth, you know, just plugging in just time and just saying like, hey, let’s just get these couple of things. And they made an investment the the board made an investment and let’s let’s have this smart ball could actually grow gangbusters over here. And that’s honestly what we’ve done. So we had four really small releases in 2020. During the pandemic and everything I instilled my processes we have a way that we like tickets to be written for our development teams so that we cut ambiguity and increase efficiency because even us, one of the six pillars of Smart Vault is BSU, it’s about blow shit up and that’s on. And, and the thing is, is that that’s I kind of just reiterated that, you know, some of these guys have been doing this my right hand guy, Himashu has been a smart vault since the beginning doneness.

Daniel Fritz 28:58
I love that guy. He’s just like, teddy bear, you just want to hug him.

Yes, absolutely he is he’s absolutely been instrumental in my success. And I, I owe a lot of that to him. But I also feel like we’ve kind of taught him because it’s really fun. The first year we hear you’re the new guy in town, you’re like, Oh, we’re gonna do it this way. He’s like, No. And now the funny thing is, is here we are about two years later, and he’s just like, we can’t do that. Because we haven’t followed the process. We’re not doing these things. And this is gonna turn into a mess. Yeah. And that’s what the evolution is now seeing. We have structured feedback sessions, we have customer validation, we have this massive multi page document that we put in this work. So that structure to say like, okay, we’re thinking about doing something, let’s write an executive summary about it. What are the market requirements? What is the cost? Like, what would this if we decided to do this thing? So I’ll give a little bit of a insight here. One of them is a document approval workflow, like, what if I wanted to say, in your case, Don, you want to Tracy to approve something, or trace or vice versa? Tracy is like, I want to send this out, but I need Don’s approval. Hey, assign it to don don. And you get a little notification. Hey, Tracey assigns you this thing do you approve or deny? That’s one of those things that we’re considering right now. So we have to go through what competitors. And the best part about it was like I brought that up, I hamachi. Just said there’s no way we have enough time to do that. Now, now that we have gotten into that we have scaled from those two developers, we now have seven developers. And it is very much a it’s still just me and him honestly, for the most part writing those. My next guy, my new guy starting next week. Oh, great. But that’s, yeah, give us a little give us our little bit of our lives back. But that’s the thing is when you’re writing those and you just create like I said that well oiled machine, we’re not quite there. I always tell my seems like we’re almost there. We’re on the path. And I think everybody can see that. And we were having conversations around like pace right now. It’s like, let’s, okay, guys, let’s tap the brake. We’ve been like pedal to the metal, we need to calm it down a little bit. Make sure that we follow these processes and what is realistic, sure, we can sprint and like really get a thing, but we should calm down. And and just take our time, let’s make sure that we get these efficient, efficiently out, let’s make sure that QA does the right thing. We’ve kicked off automation. It’s all these really cool side initiatives that we’ve been wanting to do for so many years before I even got here. But now like we got there, we have the process. We have the personnel like we’re scaling to that. And so we’re really close to that like Okay, now we can calm down, get our pace, add a couple more people to where we’re not ever in crazy. 12 hour day mode. Like a CPA is during tax season, right? It’s just like, hey, no, like, this is now life. This is my, this is my job. And we’re doing some really cool stuff. And that’s what’s so exciting.

Dawn Brolin 33:54
Yeah, that’s awesome. And, and so, you know, I want to bring it in a little bit personal for you right now. Right? So we love smart ball smart ball. It’s my favorite. I can’t I love them enough. But I want to I want to hear from Dan the man Where’s gonna be Dan, man. And through your just Was there somebody in your life? Like for me? It was my dad. I mean, that’s a lot of a lot of girls will say that. Right? So was there somebody in your life outside of your professional world that that really helped you help? You know, guide you?

Daniel Fritz 34:24
Oh, absolutely. It’s my wife. 100%

Dawn Brolin 34:26
I knew you’re gonna say that. I knew it. Oh, yeah. To meet this woman. She sounds like an angel.

Daniel Fritz 34:32
She is She is brilliant. She is hard working. And she has it the priorities. Right? And I’ll take her word from whenever like we got married almost 10 years ago. My brother was the best man. He gave a speech and he kind of mentioned like the positive things that happen to my wife and just in his species like oh, yeah, no, like this has just been a godsend. She’s here and in honestly like she’s the biggest cheerleader but she’s also just so many intellectually smart that she’ll listen to me and like, what do you think about this? And should I should respond and just kind of give that guidance? Like, no, you can truly do that. No, you’re being a little crazy. Yeah, sometimes it works. So, um, but yeah, like with her, it’s, it’s she’s always the one that is just right there to give you the right a bit of motivation. You know, I’ve made a couple switches. And she’s just like, No, let’s just go for it. Like, this is an opportunity. Like, let’s let’s do it. Especially when I jumped to smart ball. I was like, I don’t know, like, do you think guys like I’ve I had left health care before. And she says, Look, every single time you’ve done something different, you’ve learned it, and you’re, you’re more excited about this than you have been on any of the other changes. And so she was very much a cheerleader through that entire process. So she’s her and then, you know, my dad is I have to say, my dad as well. He goes my pops in there. Yeah, so So pops. You know, he, he was an engineer, so he always, and he’s as Black Belt Six Sigma kind of guy. And he really showed that, you know, work is for work and life is for life. I mean, he coached my basketball team, which I’m terrible sports, by the way.

Dawn Brolin 36:19
That’s okay. He needs to be typing. We don’t need to be out there hittin’ things.

Daniel Fritz 36:22
That’s right. And so but but he really just kind of, there’s something that I like to mimic myself is, you know, he was always there. He’s like, look, he never missed a band concert. He never missed a competition or something that we were doing. And my parents had, like, kind of two families is kind of how I look at it sometimes because I had me and my older brother. But we were in college. My brother was in college, when my youngest sister was in first grade. Wow. And they and they were two years apart. So like, my parents kind of had two families about 12 years apart. That went through that. And it’s just he was always there. Every single thing his priority was always family. He was, you know, he also he’s the kind of guy I could just call him. What do you think about this? You know, what should we do here? And he’s just, he’s just a brilliant guy. But yeah, it’s just like the family that people that are around you. He was a grown up. He was he had four kids on a single income. And it’s just, it’s just awesome. Pops. Pops is in general, awesome. So definitely a motivator for me.

Dawn Brolin 37:31
I love that. That is that’s yeah, I mean, in those for us, for those of us who have lost their father, since which I’m one of them. You know what my whole mission is? Listen, I’m gonna work as hard as my dad taught me to work was a guy who was he worked for Pratt Whitney was a tool and die guy. I still have his tools and probably the problem. At this point, I’d love to give them to a kid to start out with in that world. But you know, he just he had guys behind the lions when they had Strikes Back in the day. You don’t see a lot of that these days, but Strikes Back then he was like, I’m not crossing the picket line. I’m not crossing against my guys. I’m not going to have them see me go home to my family while they’re here here picketing for their jobs or whatever, whatever the case was. Yeah. So he taught me Listen, you do whatever you know, is right. That’s right. If you if you it’s funny, you said that about the truth in an email, right? But it’s just yeah. Right. So if you’re, if you put out an email to your guys and say, hey, you know, whatever, whatever. And then they see you driving across the picket lines. They’re like, well, that email couldn’t be true, because look at your drive across, but whatever I mean, I’m using as an example, but that is, you know, your word is the best thing that you could possibly have. You say you’re gonna do something, you do it and and I’m not saying I always hit the mark on that, because I don’t I do the best I can. You know, life is an etch a sketch. I definitely believe in that, that every day you get up in the morning and you start drawing all day. And you’re like, oh, that didn’t come out. Very good. Well shake the thing. Go to bed and get up in the morning you starting over again, anything giant and I think that’s the purpose of sleep, to be honest, it’s kind of like a reset button, a reset button, wash your brain out, get rid of the crap that happened. And you know, we can all only do the best we can do. And that’s why the motivation part of life is so important to me because you know, yeah, I have crap days I have days where I’m just like, Oh, God, I can’t do this again, or whatever the case may be, which also is a really good indicator that probably shouldn’t be choosing to do it. That’s a whole nother conversation. There you go. Right so yes, I agree. Yeah, I reassess it’s like almost every morning like i Yesterday was terrible because of this or yesterday was great because of this. Then I can say okay, well I know what I need where how I need to shift today. I spent all day on emails yesterday I felt so unproductive where now today I come in I do four or five tax returns. I feel great. Because I feel like I’m doing my real job right. So right I definitely find that to be the case but but it’s been awesome having you on Daniel we try to keep these within 30 minutes and otherwise Okay, great. Yeah, ah, people check out they don’t care anymore. And we want them to hear our message because really, at the end of the day, you know, smart ball happens to be a visionary as well. Okay. And like I said, The the, my whole selection of the apps that I support, and that I use every single day, have to be visionaries. They have to be trying to do better every day just like we are. And really, you know, approachable is another kind of a key thing where it’s like, if you can’t get a hold of somebody in support at some kind of an app for an app, we got a problem. You know, I’ve got a couple that I had worked with. And I’m like, I can’t I’m not getting the support I need. What I love about smart ball is they’re on it. They’ll send you out, Hey, listen, we know this isn’t working right now. We’re working to fix it. Like you guys are proactive rather than reactive. True. Yeah. And I found that you know, because you can go to your website, and it’ll even just say, hey, SmartVault’s down, which has I mean, that might have happened twice in the last–

Daniel Fritz 40:45
Eight years.

Dawn Brolin 40:46
Eight years. I don’t think it’s gone down. But it’s it’s just that ability to find out what’s up and be able to approach them and work with people on their team. So responsive and awesome. So you know, that’s why smartphones definitely in my starting lineup will always be part of my starting lineup, because I just don’t see anybody else outpacing these guys when it comes to document storage solution. So, but I want to thank you so much for taking your time. Daniel, you’re fantastic to talk to!

Thank you, Dawn, and thank you for being such a champion of SmartVault. Yeah, you know, we’re all of us here we live and breathe it. Really excited to see what the next couple years are gonna bring. We’re gonna make it innovative and be that visionary.

It’s gonna be awesome. So and then we have another release coming up here in the next couple to three months. Daniel, we’re gonna have you back. We’re gonna talk all about it. We’re gonna you know, get people to understand even better, and just love smart vault. Smart vault smart people. Daniel, you’re my people. Danya shout out to you girl. I love you man. Daniel, you’re my girl. Danny Buchanan fan was smartphone I think since the beginning if not close to it. Yes. phenomenal person. Rachel Montana. Rachel pay, all those guys. Yeah, all everybody. It’s smartphones. Just love you guys. And again, thanks so much for being here today, Daniel and talking to you soon. All right, take care. You better take care.

I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by

Episode Summary

Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE, sits down with Erron Stark, Division Vice President of Channel Strategy for ADP, to discuss the current challenges many businesses are facing, specifically with hiring staff and employee retention. They speak about how ADP can provide data and solutions for businesses in these challenging times, and allow accounting professionals to provide their clients with a wide pool of information they can use to solve their current business pain points.

Erron’s Introduction

Erron Stark, Division Vice President of Channel Strategy for ADP, is in charge of putting together the program, products, and processes, and does so in a way that can provide value to the accounting community. He acknowledges his passion for helping the accounting community, and knows how valuable that relationship with them can be.

How ADP’s Access to Data Can Help Solve Pain Points

Erron speaks about his experience at Engage, and shares how different the conversations were this year following the pandemic. He talks about how people were hesitant to seek help from ADP, and didn’t want to experience change due to the overwhelming changes they had to overcome following COVID-19.

Dawn agrees, and briefly discusses how ADP can help with benchmarking, and uses restaurant owners as an example of this. She explains that many restaurant owners are having trouble staffing their business, and she explains that ADP can provide the necessary tools and information for business to see what the current hourly wage trends are; ADP has data from everywhere.

Erron adds he’s seen the same trends, and that hiring employees is one of the biggest struggles that many businesses are facing. He says that ADP’s benchmarking data goes off of real time data, and can give businesses accurate information in terms of how to retain employees and also see what local businesses around them are doing. 

Dawn also adds that partnering with ADP allows accounting professionals to give value to all of their clients, rather than just providing payroll. Only looking at payroll data is not enough to keep a business thriving in current times, and it’s up to the accounting professionals to make sure their clients have access to enough information to properly execute plans and procedures to keep their business afloat.

ADP’s Vision for the Future

Nate discusses how ADP strives to always improve the way they present data to their firms. He talks about how it will be a continuous evolution of development, and makes sure they are receiving feedback from the accounting community for how they can best improve. He also talks about how ADP is also striving to help clients with proper regulatory compliance, as this can be difficult for many clients to implement properly.

Dawn also adds that she appreciates how ADP has her back, and can notify her of issues that may arise within her client’s business, such as not properly providing worker compensation and liability insurance.

Erron’s Motivation

Erron shares how he finds his motivation in his family, and also strives to put them in a better position. He also talks about his competitive nature, and credits his experience in sales during college for providing him with his consistent drive. He also shares his passion for always striving to always improve his work, and gets a lot of motivation when he sees success in ADP and in his clients.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.

Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program become the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping up with payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

Alright, so everyone, thank you so much. And welcome to the DM disruption. Super excited today to have Erron Stark from ADP on the show today. He’s just a great guy. We had a really good time at one dinner one time isn’t our best friends. And that’s just how it works, right. But, Erron, welcome to the podcast today. Introduce yourself. Tell us what you do and what you love. Go for it.

Erron Stark 1:12
Yeah. So first of all, thank you for having me Dawn. It’s it’s a pleasure. By the way last week is been a year and a half of being not in person with you is like the culmination of some good things to come. Right. So great seeing you last week. As you mentioned, my name is Erron Stark, division vice president of channel strategy for ADP is a lot of words. And ultimately, what that means is myself, my team, we are responsible for putting together the programs, the products, different processes, and how we can provide value to specifically the accounting community. There are other channels, we’re responsible for some of our executive bank relationships, we work with brokers alike, but over 60% of our business comes in through the accountant, community like people like yourself on so I think my number one responsibility is that came into this role about four years ago was Do not Mess That Up. This is such an important community to ADP, you know the value that we provide the service that we provide the products that we you know, offer to you and your clients, you know, our team’s responsibility is to keep that at a very high level, if not always exceeding expectations. So happy to be here to talk about what we’re hearing and seeing and feeling, you know, within this profession today. Um, and from there, you never know, with our conversations which direction I’m looking forward to.

Dawn Brolin 2:32
I know you know, we’ll we’re always entertaining Aaron, I haven’t have a blast all the time. That’s how we roll. And so ADP is part of Team Roland team role and having our full All Star tech stack of, you know, these are all the positions we have in our firm to run our firm. These are all the applications that we recommend to our clients. And of course, so ADP is number one. I’m disappointed a little bit the fact that when I asked ADP what they want, I’m not surprised by any stretch of the imagination, but which is your favorite baseball team. And of course, Erron and Amy, they’re all I don’t I don’t know what kind of drugs they take on a regular basis. But they’re all about the Yankees, right? Yankee Spanky. So we’ll just get that out of them.

Erron Stark 3:13
You can just grab yourselves and team Brolin, I think that, you know, it gives us a good start. So let’s not get into that, because you…

Dawn Brolin 3:23
It’s so fun. No, you know, and that’s one of the things like we just are trying to make this whole program, the podcast, all of the all star lineup. And that because we will we want to do is help my fellow accounting colleagues, my professionals realize that we have the ability to teach our clients how to run their businesses in a way that we run our businesses. And with that, we want to make sure that we’re implementing best practices, the most value add that we can provide to the client. And that’s one of the reasons why ADP is just a homerun, they’re, you know, they’re the homerun team, a homerun player on my team. I mean, they give me the ability to service my clients, monitor activity within my clients to analyze and things like that. And so I just for me, it’s not, there’s just no comparison to what ADP provides my firm and my clients for service. But, Erron, okay, we were at Engage, right? And we were, it was wonderful to see people that was like, so important to get around each other, to learn from each other to be a look in each other’s eyes again, you know, and so tell me a little bit about your experience at Engage and what did you see from the practitioners and what’s the what’s the hype?

Erron Stark 4:33
Yeah, so finally getting to interat in person, which was amazing. I think it’s, it’s interesting to see since the last thing that we’re in person, and obviously many, many conversations, virtual conversations over the last, you know, 16-18 months, however long its been, losing track, but the reality is everybody’s been talking about and like two different paths, right, you have this thing on top of it. legislative changes path, which you just have to as the frontline, the frontline for every SMB client that’s out there, and where they’re looking for advice and guidance on how to navigate through that. So you have that piece which you don’t necessarily control, which is very taxing and time consuming. And all the regulations regulatory compliance on this report, and then you have, you know, this continuous evolution of advisory services. And I put air quotes in here, because I feel like everybody’s got it like a different definition of it. But no matter how you define it, right, it’s a combination of leveraging technology, leveraging data, being able to present it in an articulate form to your clients that will help and enable them to grow. And hopefully, this is a, you know, a cocktail of all the different definitions that exist out there. But I think one of the things that I learned, and I’ve heard this in a couple of different conversations, not just an engagement leading up to engages, yes, I understand it’s right. And yes, I’ve started to see and learn more about what’s available to me. But I still don’t know how to actually capitalize on it, like, there still seems to be a certain level of hesitation on because people are in the sensitive state, like, how do I profit from the cutaway product? Guys? How do I monetize it. Um, and I think that’s something that, you know, the firm’s that we’re working with, some have figured it out that, you know, definitely on the more progressive side, because they understand the value to it, and how it differentiates them from, you know, the accountant, the advisor, the practitioner down the block, and then there are a lot that just don’t understand how their clients are going to react to it. And it’s giving them a little bit of pause. So, you know, from an ADP standpoint, I think that, you know, we help definitely with some of the technology elements and the tech stack that we can provide to give that data that intelligence, but we’re we’re looking to continuously evolve based on the feedback that we’re hearing is, how can we either develop or partner with, you know, those entities, and that can actually help a firm understand how I can monetize this, how I can introduce it to my clients, where they don’t feel threatened by it, where I’m trying to gouge them during a very sensitive time, versus this is a valued service that is going to enhance your business. And as you are trying to grow your practice. So am I and we’re in this together. Right? Like, I think that that’s something that we’re still trying to figure out. I don’t know if I have it fully laid out just yet. But hopefully, that’s a good summary of what we’re seeing what we’re hearing.

Dawn Brolin 7:28
And you know, Heather and I talk a lot when I spoke with her the other day, we were talking about, you know, the whole concept of the benchmarks of what are other and we use restaurants as an example. We know right now that employers are really struggling finding employees, finding people who want to work, we won’t get political about it, but it just is what it is. Right? So with saying that, what the solution or a resource that ADP is able to provide you as a practitioner through the accountant Connect portal, is that benchmarking? What are people getting paid in Boston, Massachusetts as a server? What are they getting paid? And, you know, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wherever, wherever your clients are with loves, ADP has data from everywhere. And I think that that’s one of the things right now, when you listen to your clients say, Hey, listen, I’m struggling with hiring employees, I can’t get people. What do I do? Well, one of the first things you can do is go into your account, connect resource and go check and see what the comparatives across the country or wherever your clients located for the similar for a similar type of business, and figure out maybe your way underpaying people, it’s totally possible, but you don’t know if you don’t have the resources. And that’s, I think the most important thing to me are the resources that I can tap into the PPP loan, you guys crushed, that, you know, the reporting and the things that we needed to report in for forgiveness, and things like that. And guess what people that’s still going on today’s PPP loan close with it was end of May the second round, there’s still reporting requirements that you’re going to be required to provide. And if you’re just not able to pop those reports out, you know, I’m sorry, but you got to you’ve got to look at something to do something different. And so, you know, talk about if you can era just talk a little bit about what you’re seeing from a hiring perspective, because you guys obviously see all of the industry statistics and the reporting that comes out about that. What are what are you seeing out there with regards to employee retention or even hiring.

Erron Stark 9:27
I want to be really, cause I feel like media, medium without hearing and seeing some of the statistics and the sensitivity around you know, having to retain employees and the taxing exercise that that that includes and listen to the bits that are most important asset are people but people are calling this current time the Great Resignation, 40% of employees are considering leaving their current employer because there’s a there’s a premium out there. cause the amount of jobs that continue to stay open 9 million jobs, right that they’re open right now in the economy. And as good as the jobs reports have been as far as filling them, like there’s an attrition that’s taking place, it’s opening up more, and then there’s just been this big void. And they can see that has built over the past year and a half, that is going to take some time for us to get back to. So employers are taking extreme measures to offer hiring bonuses, premium benefits, different experiences, whether that’s, you know, hiring bonuses or equity within their firms like there is a variety of different tactics that they need to differentiate themselves from the competition or attract them away from their current employer. So everybody’s playing this offense defense game. And to your point that comp benchmarking is what really does differentiated versus some of the other datasets that are out there is that it’s it’s built off of real time intelligence, where you can go look at some of the job boards, and you can go and look at some of the other datasets, but they are an aggregation of information that took place last month, last quarter or last year, based on those different jobs, or potentially what people are being offered in a job board. Right, like what’s on the actual adopters. But that doesn’t necessarily correlate to what people are getting paid and offered at the end state. So what our information does is we’re aggregating and anonymizing 30 million plus employees across the domestic US. And then we’re pulling that in by industry, by geography by job tied by tenure. And that’s what people are getting paid right now. Right? The second and if you take that, and you start to expand it with this, you know, another piece of attracting and hiring talent right now, is the flexibility optionality, when it comes to where you’re going to work, and how often you’re going to work, right? Like you’ve seen many companies instituting four day workweeks, or your instance being you only have to come to the office three days a week, or not ever come to the office at all. So people have relocated from New York, Florida, from Florida to California, from Texas to wherever. And just heard about somebody moving to Montana sounds glorious, like the reality is, what what you’re paying for talent that used to live in New York City, the cost of living is not the same in Montana, right, and being able to have the tools to pivot quickly are, I mean, you could say that that’s important, right? And a differentiator for not just us for the firm, but the firm to that client, right to be able to, you know, identify that. And then all these pieces to get off this model up here, I guess, is also taking a look at the clients that are reaching out to you or one cohort, right? Like that’s one group of people that are proactively reaching out to their advisors, and asking them for a level of consultation and how to navigate this. Is it every client? I promise you, it’s probably not right. It’s not like you have 100 clients, maybe 50 are doing that. Me too, right. But the other 50, the other 98, you have to assume that some of this is taking place within their organizations as well. And if they’re not reaching out to you, it’s either a, they don’t know the questions to ask, ie, they don’t know that you have services or solutions to help me or see the worst answer. They’re going somewhere else for, right. And it’s that some or else that should be just something top of mind for the accounting profession, because everybody’s trying to create these robust suites, where I offer this, and this This, in essence, right. And some of those other this is, we hope and fingers crossed that they’re not going to be accounting services. So Right. So and what we’ve done to take offense to that with our accounting partners in accounting Connect is the new insights application, which actually shows you which clients are adding employees, which clients might have attrition, which clients are opening up or have multiple jurisdictions that they’re adding to their payroll, who should be leading indicators that you could take a proactive measure with your clients pick up the phone and say, I just saw that you added 35 employees over the last 90 days, that’s awesome. But are you putting in the infrastructure to help support them to help retain them, right? So you can stabilize this growth if not accelerated, moving forward? Or the adverse which is, hey, I’ve seen that you lost him people over the last month or two, what’s causing that? Maybe it’s the compensation piece to your point where I’m overpaying, which, you know, maybe that’s not the worst thing, but what if you’re underpaid? And now they’re talking them off the right because you were going off of a different model that 18 months ago made sense, but today is not the same.

Dawn Brolin 14:50
Yeah, and I think that that again, we always talk about adding value, which everybody always talks about adding value and I think, in our accounting profession now, we’ve got to do that more than we ever need. And did before more of thinking outside of the box, not doing the same thing where, like you said, somebody is adding employees? Are they, you know, should they be adding different benefits? Are they let’s say the add employees they have 401k? is did you offer the 401k? To your new people? Did they sign up? Do you have the, you know, they don’t want to sign up? So did you have that letter that says no, I’m opting out? Those kind of like labor force issues that the client may not be thinking of as they’re growing? That Okay, listen, we got to take a look at this, or we got to take a look at that. We got to say, Hey, listen, wait a minute, what if we have employee retention, tax credit, things that we need to address, things that they’re not necessarily thinking of? And, you know, maybe sometimes we’re not thinking of them. But when you relieve yourself from performing services, that are not a value add, and you stop doing those things, and you start moving over to, hey, we got to take a look at this, you know, maybe they’re a new client, maybe they’re, you know, we I got a lot of new clients last year, did I sit down with every single one of them and go, Okay, do you? Do you qualify for the employee retention credit? Do you have tip credits, you have this, like, those have to be in the forefront of our minds. But if I’m focused so much on the performance of payroll, or the integration, or the journal entries on making, which that’s a whole nother ballgame, I lose sight of the value added things I could be doing for that. And I think that that’s my point about about partnering with a solution provider that gives more than just that payroll, blah, blah, blah, it gives you that bigger picture to have conversations with your client that they need to hear. They don’t even know they need to hear them, but they do. And so I think that that’s, you know, been a really great thing. So Aaron, so tell me, for the next, let’s say a year, what is the plan to help to help put these other types of tools in place? And what’s the vision of ADP from a solution providing perspective or support perspective for accounting professionals? That you can tell us about?

Erron Stark 17:01
Yeah, yeah, year, for sure. We keep a couple in the vault. I think it will just continue to be released. We serve up our information to our firms, right. And the feedback that we go we that we’ve already heard. And by the way, it goes without saying, but all of the tools and resources that we develop that we partner with us is is all from solicitation and feedback we get from the kind of community like so our Advisory Board, which you are obviously in the member of, but just the general accounting profession, you know, we continuously reach out to ask, what are the things we can continue to do in order for not just the graded need to be to be the preferred provider, but also to add value, right like to help us professionally and you saw that in what was done during the height of the pandemic and the PPP that you mentioned before. So, you know, we have those tools and resources, feedback through accountant connected, if you see something, say something, right, like we’re always keeping our eyes and ears open. But I think where we’re focused on right now is, again, making sure that we have some of those tools and resources readily available to help navigate the regulatory compliance, because we don’t see that going down. Unfortunately, or fortunately, anytime soon, like some people do benefit from this ever changing landscape, right? You know, it sometimes leads to profitability. But then on the flip side is what am what we really excited about? How do we take this data? How do we take this intelligence and make it actionable, right, where we can actually take that information as opposed to looking at it and looking for it, which is step number one, and we’re there, which is super exciting. But imagine a world where we can take that and proactively provided to you to then proactively provide it to your client. And I’ll use just a quick example. employer hires an employee in a state that has a required mandate for a retirement vehicle. And they do not have one in place today, imagine that a notification goes off, which again, you can look and find this data today, but you’re gonna have to search a little bit. But imagine if just with a snap of a finger ADP is notifying you to say you have a client out of compliance up the hero. And by the way, here’s a solution set that you can easily tap into whether or not you want to use it or not, doesn’t matter. Like, here’s what’s happening, what they should be doing, and solutions if you’re not looking to scour the internet.

Dawn Brolin 19:34
Yeah, and you know, honestly, that’s, that’s the type of thing that, you know, I complained one time I had a client who didn’t have workers comp, they were in New York City, and if you are from New York, and you don’t have workers comp, you know, I got a bill comes through the New York State kind of like goes right at you right for your jugular. But it was like she added one employee and I wasn’t really thinking like, I’m not their insurance agent, right? And so later down line, they get the notice they’re like, you know, you set up payroll, why didn’t you set up workers comp? And I’m like, oh, like it was like a light bulb came on in my head that Oh, I do have to be the insurance agent. Not really. But I have to be the one who says, hey, you know, do you have workers comp in New York City for New York for this employee? Because New York’s pretty, pretty rough about workers comp. And so really, it was at the end of the day, it was my failure in a way that I wasn’t paying enough attention. But, but having ADP say to me, Oh, hey, so and so just add an employee in New York? And hey, do they have workers comp? Do they have you know, do they have a withholding number set up? Are they registered in New York to be able to pay in New York employee? Things like that, that we need to be that person who is thinking forward for the client? And not just be the person? Oh, yeah, they’re on, okay, they got somebody on payroll looks like their payroll went up. And oh, that, you know, it’s in the accounting, who cares? Because really, the clients need us for more than that. And so the more that we can, again, not set them up on insurance, necessarily, unless you’re doing a worker’s comp pay as you go. But even just liability insurance or things like that, that the client has no clue they need this stuff. They don’t have any idea. They go to an attorney, typically, the attorney sets up the entity. And then that attorney is all done. Well, the attorney didn’t think about that they have liability insurance, do they have this all their job was to register their you know, entity, and get them an EIN, they think that’s where it ends? Well, that’s where it begins. And so the more tools and things like that when it comes to the payroll regulations that ADP can provide to the practitioner, and that’s what ADP has been doing. And I think, from a motivation perspective to take action, which is really what this whole podcast is about motivation, turning into action. And that’s what we want, I don’t want to motivate you, and then I’ll be your goal. And you’re like, Oh, that was great. No, it’s like, okay, what am I going to do with the information I learned? I’m going to go do something about it. And so I think that you know, what ADP has in the pipeline is exactly what we need. But I want to I want to go a little bit to your personal side, Aaron, a little bit over here, which will be unexpected, that’s fair. But I want to hear about what motivates Aaron Stark, what, what motivates you to get up every day and do what you do? And I know, you’re gonna tell me, it’s because of people like me, and you love us. And I get all that what I’ve thought about Erron Stark, like, tell me a little bit about that.

Erron Stark 22:17
Yeah. So there’s, there’s two sides of me, the get me up every day and push me probably more than anything. So it’s, what is obvious is my family, right? So father of three, my wife of going out almost 12 years come September, you know, there’s really nothing that I wouldn’t do to put them in a better positioned than I ever had growing up. Um, and, you know, so that’s, that’s first and foremost. But I’m also a very competitive individual, like growing up in a sales organization, put myself through college doing sales. Like, I am always looking at ways in which, you know, myself, my team is exceeding expectations, like when I put on my GPS in the morning, and it says, I’m gonna get to the office at 7:30, I kind of look at it and I drop an expletive. And I say, I’m going to be there at 7:15 right? Like that. That’s either my competitive nature or my psychosis, I’ll let you choose. But you know, it’s just that drive of, you know, never been content with, you know, what it is that we’re doing. And part of what attracted me to ADP is that I think it’s built into our DNA and the fabric of organization, but it’s only five years in the business of, you know, always looking to exceed our expectations and outperform, you know, what our partners, our clients, you know, are looking for an ADP, are we always perfect? No, right? Not, nor am I as a as a human being. But I think when you balance those two sides of the equation, right, having something that grounds you in my family, but then this this, this desire to always be getting better, right? Like, no matter what that is, those are my motivational factors.

Dawn Brolin 23:58
And I love that that’s, you know, that’s, for me, it’s my big motivation right now, at least in my in my professional world is to help other practitioners, but also my clients, I got an error. And this is actually kind of like a timing thing. But I had a client email me this morning, and I finished their tax return and they’re like, can you please split the cost of the taxpayer and two payments, and I’m like, not a problem they’ve been a client for many, many years. I know, you know, I know, they’re good for it type of thing. And I, you know, I make very, very few exceptions to that to the rule of getting paid. But she emailed me and she said, I’ve not told anybody this, but I can’t tell you how much I’m struggling with my family doesn’t know. Nobody knows. My family has been depending on me for 20 years to provide for the family. And I’m just burnt out. I don’t even I can’t sleep at night. And so from a motivation perspective, immediately going into the DM mode, mindset mode. That’s where I go immediately when I hear something like that. It’s like whoa, stop everything. Right, we’re here for a bigger purpose than to process payroll. What we are here to do is to serve clients and give them value, but also understand their where they are as a human. And the work. I mean, I can’t say enough, it’s the worst time from a mental perspective for people. And so the more that I can streamline production in my company, whether it’s through tax returns, things like that, but having the streamlined technologies that I utilize, allow me to stop and say, hey, when can I call you like, this is too important. I don’t care about your money. None of that matters, but the people do. And that’s, at the end of the day, what we’re really about. And so yeah, your family is your motivator, were you and I, Aaron, we are both competitive, we will, we will fight til death bleed to death. We don’t neither of us care, we’re competitive. But at the end of the day, it’s that human that I’m sure you’ve had so many interactions with practitioners who are in a position that they’re just struggling mentally, or from whatever perspective and I think, you know, hopefully, this DM mindset will help people step back a little bit and treat each other more like humans and not robots, and, you know, the efficiency and the resources. And all those things are great, we need them in our practice, so that we can address the more important things which are each other. And so, you know, that’s kind of, you know, I’ll give you I want you to give me last thoughts on that, just kind of on that concept.

Erron Stark 26:27
So, I, I love your, your mission right now kind of find the right word to encapsulate what it is that you’re doing. But it’s a mission, right like this, you know, this motivational elements of what you’re trying to bring is probably a little bit different than what you’ve heard or seen within your profession, right here for many years. Tom, from a historical lens, you naturally get into this proactive lens, but you’re adding in this different dynamic of that motivational factor, which brings in that human component to it. Because I do think that everybody needs a reminder of like, when you ask him this question, what does motivate you had? Because there are some challenging times right now, like we’re still working from home in certain instances. And, you know, not every conversation has this positive outlook on it, there’s probably more of those than we care to admit in certain instances. But like, honing in on what does motivate us, right? And what got us to that point where we were happy and potentially not, you know, reminding ourselves every day, I think is a testament to you know, what you’re bringing to market right now. And you know, the conversations that you’re having, I’m happy, I’m privileged to be a part of it. So thank you for letting me here today. Looking forward to the next one. I remember the first time we did this was in that dingy conference room with a microphone in front of your face, and I wasn’t sure what was happening. But here we are a couple years later, and the conversation just keep getting better and better. Dawn, so goes out with Thank you, and, go Yankees. And just kidding. I look forward to speaking to you soon. This is awesome.

Dawn Brolin 28:01
Absolutely Erron, thank you again, so much. And thank you everybody for listening to VM disruption. We’ll be back again next week for another episode. We’re here to just try to support all of you in whatever way we can. And ADP is definitely a partner that I call my family as part of my team. And critical toast to the growth of powerful accounting. So thank you again, Aaron, and we’ll be talking to you soon so stay out of trouble. Go Red Sox.

I hope you enjoy this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by

Episode Summary

Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE is joined by Jame Upton, President and CEO of Upton Accounting, to discuss how COVID-19 has proven to be a huge challenge for accounting and tax professionals, and how many are experiencing feelings of stress and burnout. Dawn chats with James and discusses the business and personal challenges he is currently facing, and how he was able to bring himself to a better place with the help of Dawn’s new book, “The Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals.” Have similar feelings? Listen now to hear how you can get back on track to achieving the goals you want for your business and your life!

James’ Beginnings

James talks about how he’s been involved in accounting since he was 16 years old, and became the president of his family’s accounting firm at just 24 years old. He’s always felt motivated in his practice, but is feeling major burnout following the start of COVID-19. He talks about his personal struggles, and how it took his business partner to be his motivator and to help keep his practice going.

James’ Challenges Within His Business in Current Times

James talks about how he feels he can’t keep up with the amount of work he has to complete, and shares his frustrations with how far the IRS is far behind in processing material he needs to complete his job. Dawn agrees and shares similar frustrations, saying it appears to everyone else that they are not doing their job.

Why Having a Motivator is Necessary

“Who do you have in your organization that is motivating you?” says Dawn, in relation to discussing the importance of having people around you to lift you up. James finds solace and motivation in his business partner, and credits her for helping to lift him up in times of work and emotional stress. 

“If you are by yourself [as an accounting professional], you need to find [a motivator],” says Dawn.

James also talks about the difference between being a “motivator” or an “encourager,” and credits Dawn’s books for allowing him to understand that being a motivator would allow him to achieve much more success. 

“An encourager makes you feel better in the moment, but a motivator is somebody that’s going to challenge you to make changes that will make you better down the line, all the way through your life,” adds James.

James also adds that adding self care back into his routine has allowed him to gain back his motivation.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level. Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program became the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping Up With payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup. So on today’s show, I couldn’t be more excited because we’re going to talk to James Upton today, James, the owner of up to the county in Seagrove, North Carolina. So James, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming, because we want to talk about kind of what’s been going on in your coconut. And how can we help that coconut feel better? Right?

James Upton 1:09
It’s yeah, it’s great to bet you’re down. Thank you so much for asking me on the show.

Dawn Brolin 1:15
Yeah, you you, um, you’re the reason I wrote this book. You are the reason right? So, um, you know, it’s been quite a rough year and a half for the accounting industry. Just you know, us being practitioners, right? Let’s talk about your store. Tell me what’s going on. Because I am here to do nothing but help motivate you help you take some action and get, you know, kind of bring your life back to you, James, because that’s what I honestly genuinely care about.

James Upton 1:45
Well, I’ll tell you, what, don’t I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. Yes, I actually have been in the accounting attacks business, probably. All my life. Our family’s had an accountant, your tax business. You know, ever since I was born, and I’ve worked in this business since I was 16. I went on and because you have families, I’m in the sale and your route. Oh, yeah, you can you hear? Can you hear it in the horse a little bit? Yeah, I apologize to the listeners out there for burning your ears. But what I was gonna say is here, South is kind of one of those things that people expect you if your family has a business, that you will just pick up the reins, and complete down with that business. So I went to college at Gardner Webb University, and got an accounting degree. And then I went on and got my master’s. In the time between my BS and my master’s, my aunt who had been the, the owner of the farm, she developed stage four breast cancer. And so she ended up having to step away. And I became depressed at the farm when I was 24 years old. So I’ve had to have a lot of motivation in my life. So and, and I felt like for many years, that I’ve been motivator of people, and I’ve been highly motivated. And I’m just gonna be honest with you, the pandemic, and everything that’s happened, has just completely crushed me. I’ve had some personal things also, we actually ended up getting married last year, and when I’m sorry, it was 2019. You know, 2020 is the year that never ended. So we’re still excited last year’s 2019. The last year that we live, you know, it’s kind of like, Apple, like, you know, how we have Anno Domini. And I feel like we need to have another like, I feel like it’s an epic time, like we need to, to create some type of numbering system, decide we’re going back to zero now. And this is the year one, you know. I was gonna say, Yes, I had gotten married. And you know, that’s a huge change in laugh, because I had put my career on my personal lap. So attorney and I get married, then trying to be a newlywed during COVID. And then everything just kind of goes off the rocker. And the last part was tough. I won’t get into that. But in the course of last year, I went through a COVID pandemic, march 15, all my staff is scared that they’re gonna die. I go home. And everybody if you’ve ever been in a accounting practice, march 15th is, you know, it’s the biggest demo of the biggest days of the year. Right? So March 15, all my staff, I have six staff besides my co pilot business partners. So my stay up there in here and they’re like, you know, it’s almost like we’re looking for the asteroid to heat and sun and everybody’s like, let’s go home. You know, these taxes don’t matter. They’re gonna extend every standard this deadline, you know, we’re all gonna die anyway. So it doesn’t matter. You know? Because to begin with, you know, I was almost like a nuclear blast, like, let’s walk outside and take a breath and take and just Dan I have this this light eye on, you know, or when are the walkers gonna start walking down the street, that’s what we’re looking for. And so all the staff gets home, okay, my business partner, we’re like, you know, we still have a farm to run, we still have a base overhead, and we set up returns that have to be done. And so we just continue slogging, it’s gonna be slogging through returns. And we did that up until April 15. Because we, you know, we were used to that. And then we were kind of like, you know, we’re gonna have to have a mental reset. And so we waited till after the April 30 deadline, and I took a week off the first week of May, and just tried to reset it. And then through the course of all that, we just realized that a lot of banks were in a personal office not going well at that moment. And so I ended up becoming separated. It is July 19. So we had July 15. And then July night, I became separated. So what I went through was, from July 19, to September 8, I was at work, but I was just go through the motions. As I was in a fog. And my business partner, she is my motivator, you know, we’re all over. She’s one of my motivators. And when I can’t say if she can motivate me, gotcha. So she steps in, and she says, James,

I need you to do some work. And I’m like, okay, great. And so she thought, I need you to review these 40 corporate returns. And I need you to sign off on these 30 individuals that are connected to these corporates. And she said, when the position and then I need you to get on board with getting another 150 Understand the October 15. So I was like, Okay, sounds like a plan. So somehow, I don’t be and got through it. Right, yeah. You found out probably, I’m a big talker. But at the same time, just out of these from the painting, and the personal stuff, I have lost, I lost a lot of motivation. And, you know, I’m 41. And this pandemic is made began to resemble my career choice, and just everything. Well.

Dawn Brolin 7:35
So Alright, so let’s talk about that for a second. So it’s, it’s the volume of work that is, is what is over, like, what’s killing you from the firm perspective?

James Upton 7:45
Okay, from a farm perspective. Number one, if you think about it, okay, if you take six people that were working, okay, and you multiply six people, times, here in our office, we did generally, like a nine to six, and we had a few that work on Saturdays, but just just for easy math, just say 45 hours. So six people times 45 hours. Okay, that’s 270 man hours each week. And we lost that from March 15 to June 1. And, and what’s so bad was, you know, we really should have kept pork in hindsight, 2020, we should have kept working. Because it was after that kind of back was when everything everybody started saying, Oh, my kids, daycare is closed, or, you know, my husband is, has quarantined his work, or, you know, my wife has been exposed, I’m happy to be out to somebody, you know. And that’s what brought me here. You know, and, and really, I feel like, if it ever happens, again, I know better what to do. But back to the farmer aspect, 270 hours, times, just say, a week, that’s 20 160 hours.

Dawn Brolin 9:00
That’s a whole year’s worth of work for one person.

James Upton 9:04
Right? Yeah. And so that puts us way behind. And then when I faced the personal challenges I was already behind. And even more low balled, right? Yeah. Well, and here’s the thing, I’ll tell you. What’s happened to me is, I don’t have I have a telephone. I don’t know, if you, you probably don’t do that you’re probably smarter than I am. But here the telephone calls that I don’t answer, the staff put them in a Google a good Google Doc, or a Google sheet. And I have all the others and they pose and they say this person is their second call or whatever. Well, here’s the thing, once I’ve spent 10 hours here, and I try to catch some phone calls, but you know, in the course that I might get eight to 10 phone calls. Yes. It’s hard to return those calls. And then I have people that are emailing me, I have work, you know, and I still have people now that want to come in face to face. So I just feel different. Crusher, the volume of work. But what nobody’s talking about is how the IRS is, is set up are behind in processing. And they’re not doing anything for us. Yeah, I’ve got I’ve got probably 10 or 12 cases laying here on Mondays. I can’t resolve because I can’t get Irs on the phone, or they won’t process or mail.

Dawn Brolin 10:24
Yeah. Well, that’s, and I think that that’s part of our problem is that, you know, we’re working our tails off. And, you know, I had a guy who just came in, like about an hour ago, and he’s somebody who didn’t file a 17 return. So we had a paper file to 17. And there’s a refund, I know he won’t get the refund, but there’s a would be a credit on the account, whatever, to offset some future tax and stuff. I think we got it done before the deadline, etc, etc. And he’s talking…

James Upton 10:48
I rush to get one in, I rushed to get one in to, I know what you mean. Yeah.

Dawn Brolin 10:52
I’m like, your board of mail. Let’s hurry up. Right. And so, you know, so we got the clients that are common in their last give me the same freakin question every week. And I’m like, Joe, I called I got an extension to October 13. This guy gave me he’s like, let’s wait to let all the returns process and everything could wash out or whatever. And it’s like, so they think we are doing our job. Right, because you’re and…

James Upton 11:16
And it makes you feel defeated you because I haven’t always, I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a rookie at this. I’ve done this 18 years, I’ve been the president by state Accounting Society. I’m not a CPA, but I’m an enrolled agent, because tax is my specialty. But I do have a master’s in accounting with a concentration in taxation. You know, tacky search was one of my things that I love to make what you say you love to actually search, you’re obviously a tax or but anyway. So for these clients to come in and say, James, you’re just letting me down. And I’m like, you know, I’m, I’ve got the gas pedal down. I’m throwing gas on the fire and no, you know,

Dawn Brolin 11:57
Yeah, so in. And I think that’s why, like, I was so interested in talking to you, because that is definitely, it is very common. And this is how people are feeling right now. It’s like, so the way I kind of looked at it, so we I’m just 100% virtual, always, you know, kind of embraced that for about 12 years. Now. I’ve got all my tax software hosted in the cloud. I’ve got everything I can grab a MacBook. So when the pandemic did hit, we only had three total staff, myself plus three people, two billable ones, my virtual assistant, she’s phenomenal. She’s been with me for like eight years, I was able to say, hey, take your laptops go home, work from home, no problem, right? We have everything’s in the clouds that grab the documents. So we don’t really skip a beat. If anything, we’ve brought on about 70 or 80 new clients last year.

James Upton 12:41
Well, and we have a lot of that in process. The thing is, I had me and say we still have a front desk here. So you know, we lost those people. And I did have two people are working virtually. And then I had one lady that we would, she would come and pick up things and go back home. And you know, because we have pots, we did virtual See, or we do CFO services. So we have to go pick up mail. There’s so much that has to be physically handled.

Dawn Brolin 13:12
Yeah, and that’s really tough. No, it’s really hard. So I you know, I just find like, I think it’s like we just have to have this club of people. A club. And you know, there’s a lot of great Facebook groups out there. There’s I’m a part of what’s called, I think it’s called The Sisterhood of the lady tax pros. And they are awesome. It’s like, you know, they’ll put you know what, I’m down today. And then we see a lot of what you said in your comment. We’re seeing that everywhere. People are just feeling so defeated, like you said, and it’s like, I think it does make you feel a little bit better. You’re not the only one.

James Upton 13:46
Yeah, right. Absolutely. Tax Twitter has really lifted me up. I love tax, Twitter. And because we’re all sharing, you know, the pain that we’re in together, you know, it’s professional pain, and sometimes personal pain, but we’re sharing it, you know, and it’s true.

Dawn Brolin 14:03
It’s true. So I love I love what you said about your part, your business partner who’s your motivator, right?

James Upton 14:09
She has a lot of motivators in my life. But right now, she’s pretty much my motivator, we try to motivate each other because there’s some days, she’ll tell me she’ll say, she’s like, I can’t do this today. And usually, the days that she’s down are the days that I can work.

Dawn Brolin 14:26
It’s perfect combination right there. The how that is just so important right now. And that’s what the message of the designated motivator is all about. Who do you have in your organization who is motivating you who is helping you get through those tough days and we all have them, everyone has them? There’s not one person in this world who’s like every day is awesome. No, it’s not a thing. So and that’s what were the message I’m trying to get out to a lot of the accounting professionals, all of the accounting professionals is if you don’t have the partner that that that you have James Upton’s got his motivator. And James Upton’s business partner has her motivator. Right? All in it. So if you’re by yourself, you got to find one. Because, you know,

James Upton 15:11
I’m gonna be honest with you. And I’ll talk to you about that in just a moment, I mentioned that I had a prison of North Carolina Society of accountants. And prior to having a business partner, I actually, I’ll just go back in time, I think it was 2000. And over was when I that was, it was October 31 2003, was it I took over. So it’s 18 years this Halloween. So anyway, for the first few years, I was alone, my past and I was on my own. And so I had my mom, she had retired from another career, and she was kind of a open, and I’d had my staff, she had two staff. So to begin with, it was just me, and two of my staff, and my mom, that’s so small, we were smaller to start with, you know, the business just started growing. Just the natural outgrowth of just changing, embracing technology, and we were blamed. So I remember, I had not really took part in any associations or organizations. And I kept getting invitations. And, you know, this is something I would share with people that listen to this, don’t forsake face to face organizations and interactions. Our organization was having chapter meetings, we had a local chapter. And I would say, you know, that’s a waste of my time, I can make more money at the office. Well, I remember one day, and I’ll tell you how this happened, this true story. A client o’clock came to me, and they said, Hey, we’re going to be leaving your phone. And I said, Oh, really? I said, why is that? And I said, well said, we were at a meeting, which our local Chamber of Commerce has a Professionals Network meeting. And they met a guy, because in these potential networks, I always have one bit for pension, if you’ve ever heard of it, insurance, I don’t want to turn your account on whatever. Yeah, we would I met this guy at their professional meeting. For whatever reason, he just told them, they said, he said, Who’s your accountant? And they said, James up, and he said, Hi, that guy doesn’t know anything. He’s just a kid. Okay, so I knew he was in this organization. So that’s what I was gonna tell you. So sometimes, you can start out to be vindictive, or have the wrong mindset. And thanks for your work out. And I’m accretions. I don’t believe in karma. But I do believe it, Providence. So let me go ahead and say this, I go to the meeting with the intention that this guy does not even know me. And I’m gonna lecture next time, he says, it’s just a kid, and he doesn’t know anything. And he’s gonna have a face to put with that name. Because I’d never made it. So I get to the meeting, and genuinely great people. And I’m like, while, so through that organization. In my local chapter, I’ve met great people. Then I went to some state meetings, and met people from all over the study. And I met a lady that is actually, you know, a mentor to me. And I have anyone that our time. But there was one account, that was an HSA to consider a mentor to me. When I was starting out, number one, these were two. And number two, I was working too hard, which I’m back to that, you know, that’s what happens. But I remember she told me, she said, Let me tell you, she said you are spending too much work information, people who don’t value you, and that she was my motivator. And something I noticed in your book, you talked about the difference in encourager and a motivator. And in my life, I’ve always encouraged her. But I realized and I’ll read your book, that being a motivator, it’s so much more important. Because an encourager makes you feel better in the moment. And a motivator is somebody that’s going to challenge you to make changes that might be better. Down the line all the way through your life. Yeah. And I never had really great plan until I read your book.

Dawn Brolin 19:31
Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you!

James Upton 19:32
Yeah I will tell you that. But that like, I remember one time I had a project to do. And she told me I called her up and I said, and I’m going to tell you her name is Florence, blacker, and I’m going to give her credit Florence black. Okay. And she’s a wonderful account on North Carolina. And but I’ll tell you what, this tells you how motivators go through generations. She told me she said I learned How to be big and tough. I’ll just use that kind of word. Because when a podcast big and tough from the guy that she started working for, which was a man named Bobby Murphy, and she said, you know, he would do that. And she said, he just owned who he was. And he knew that he was worth his value. And he would say, this is your full evolved, he would say, that’s great. He said, You know, I respect that. He said, I’ve got two other people who are ready to come in here and work with me, thank you so much, have a good day, and even escort about no work. And so I never had been that confident. And she told me, she said, know what you’re doing. He said, You got to have that confidence. And she said, but make sure if you’re going to be like this, deliver the value that you promised. And so that’s, you know, I remember that first project, I had a client and I ended up and I’m sure I’m saying this, but it was, it was a, it was a very, very lucrative engagement, the most lucrative engagement I had ever been involved in. And the client, believe it or not, they did not balk. And they knew it’s worth it. And they believed me. And that was my first time saying, you know, I didn’t lowball. And so that’s one thing that has changed. You know, our firm, we’re almost to a million dollar revenues here in this far mile. I know, that doesn’t sound huge. I mean, I’m in the sale. But at the same time, for me, it was great. It’s a big deal.

Dawn Brolin 21:34
So congratulations, that’s awesome.

James Upton 21:36
And that’s what I was gonna say, three months later, those days made motivators. And then when things started growing and blossoming, no sign people taught me this, Hey, you can’t do this alone alone. And, you know, at night coach me and saying, hey, you know, you need a business partner. And they were also the ones that told me, this is your brand, you build this arm, you need to have a business partner, but you know, majority, and I helped me to allow that planning process. And these people have affected me positively, you know, for the rest of my career. What I got back, is that lady, the motivation she received from her mentor has passed down to her. And now she’s passed that to me, and I’m hoping to do that, as well.

Dawn Brolin 22:24
And you will, James, there’s no doubt about it. Like, you know, just having this conversation with you. Like, I don’t know, I just, I just feel like we we have to just stick together, we really do. And we and you know, you motivated me when when Gaynor reached out to me and told her what had happened. I’m like, get him on the phone now. Get the boy…

James Upton 22:44
Oh, the day I was writing that tweet. I was kind of down and I was just like, you know, under the ball, have no motivation? And I’ll tell you what, that no motivation. Like for me, it’s where, you know, I know. And I just don’t care. You know, it’s where our batteries are completely drying? Yeah. Yeah. And, and I think the whole accounting for patients that right there now, you know..

Dawn Brolin 23:10
I agree, and that’s what we’re going to try to revive, we’re going to try to revive them. And that’s why the, you know, there’s a sequel to that book that’ll be coming out this fall, really specifically for the accounting industry that we’re really that I’m really excited about that we can just help, you know, push people forward. So between you, me, your mentors, other people’s mentors, I mean, we’ve all have them, and people that are motivating us. And that’s that’s the key, because, because talk is talk, but when you actually do something about it and say, You know what, even this morning, today’s gonna be my day, I’m going to go get this day, this is going to be my day, and nothing stopping me. And you just plow through like the guy who goes in with the confidence. And that’s what, that’s the hard part. Because it’s the hard part to just be like, you know, willing to do that it’s so much easier laid out. It’s easier to just stay in your room, for instance, right? I’ve done that. I’ve been there when I don’t want to get up. And then it’s like, you know, the kid pops into your head or somebody you know, pop and you’re like, oh, right, I’ll get up.

James Upton 24:10
Well, I’ll tell you, for me. Something that I’ve realized is because of the pain, deeming I put a lot of self care on the back burner. So part of me trying to regain motivation, has been saying, Okay, I’m taking time for self care. And, you know, I hired a trainer, I met with our Friday, you know, you know, the things that you’ve got to do, because here’s the thing, we’re professional people, we’re intelligent, we’re and that’s what I tell myself. I’m too intelligent for this. And I’ve investigated and invested too much into my development. You know, I love to teach, but sometimes you have to teach yourself and you have to go deep. And you have to say, Okay, this is coming from the inside of me. I’ve got to reach down and motivate myself. Yes, you know, And I know there’s times and you mentioned it to there’s times that, you know, concern for. And I’m gonna be honest with you, I was somebody that I got so overwhelmed that this and I’m going to have an honesty moment here. And I know I’m on a podcast. But you know, I’m doing this because it helped me. There was one day back in March. And now this part ends and she says, you know, you’re not functioning well, what is going on, and she realized that I will sit, you’re having panic attacks, you know, I’d be the thermostat, but I’m saving the file. And I’d be going to get the sweater and put down because I was pretty easy and filling Muscat Prowl and everything. And she’s like, the doctor. So I got the doctor. And I said, you know, this kind of what’s going on, and she’s like, you’re having anxiety and panic attacks. And I’m like, Really, you gotta be kidding me. And she’s like, she said, we’re gonna give you a sample for anxiety. She did very low dives. And within a week’s time, I felt like a brand new person. So that’s what I’m gonna say is, don’t be afraid. This is not a laugh. But there are times and this pandemic, and this work load that we’ve all been faced with. Because here’s the thing. I’m not an unemployment specialist. I’m not a PPP loan specialist. I’m not SBA loan specialist. I’m not important for teacher Credit Specialist. I’m becoming all of those things. Mm hmm. But what people don’t realize is, you know, first of all, we were facing, you know, nice refunds every day, people are dying people die, paper died. But yeah, our job is getting, you know, piled on over and over. And we’re having to learn brand new things, on top of everything we already have today. So, right, accountants have faced, I think, our most difficult challenges and some of the most difficult moments. And at the end of the day, all of us just like me, we all still have our personal lives, you know, and here’s the thing, families, number one, you know, family has to be number one. Even more so than that your own self care. And looking after yourself. Yeah. Because there’s times that you need to be able to say, you know, I’m gonna have to check out, and I’m not saying for all day, but it’s okay. And I’ve had to learn these, it’s okay to say, I’m not answering emails today. I’m not answering phone calls today. Or I’m gonna plan to come in at 11am today, or I’m leaving at four o’clock today. It’s not, it’s not a crime. Not something I’ve done is I’ve sacrificed relationships and things with friends. And you know, especially we didn’t have during the COVID, you’re in COVID times because we couldn’t meet. But now I’m back to where, you know, one of the greatest things I used to do was I used to plan to go have breakfast with a friend every Friday. I’m trying to get back to that you got it’s all self care. It’s all self care. thing is we’ve got to motivate each other to self care and to do all these things we’ve got to.

Dawn Brolin 28:00
Absolutely and Heather Satterly a great example of that. She she went back to horseback riding. You know, I went and coached the softball team, which is why the book even happened. Yes, right. And that’s life is shortly I decided once we got past that May deadline, I work 10 to four, I’m going to do the best I can to get as much done as I can obviously some days I stay till eight or nine. Got stuff, it’s okay. But I feel like mentally it’s like I’m okay with I like I like to just lay in bed, read facebook, watch me some tic TOCs because I love the funny animals I have my newest favorite tic tock are these dogs that are literally howling, but they’re screaming and I cry every time I watch it. Like that’s the stuff I want to fill in my head in the morning, good stuff, happiness, and, and hopefully, you know, one person that I see, you know, throughout the day or talk on the phone too, that I can, you know, step back and even my my guide Joe that comes in constantly out. He’s just got nothing to do, you know, not getting frustrated with him like Joe and trying to get stuff done. So I get out of here and be like, Hey, Joe, what’s going on? Come on in, sit down, you know, yeah, I’m trying. I’m really making a mental decision to be more patient and be more and I don’t pray for patience, because that’s never a good idea.

James Upton 29:14
No. You know, that’s my best financial advice I would give you do not pray for patience.

Dawn Brolin 29:22
So yeah, so I mean, you know, really the end of the day, James, I’m so glad that we got to talk and I hope and I want to continue the conversation with you. I you know, so we can just stay in touch. And, you know, I’ll give you I’ll motivate you and we’ll stick together.

James Upton 29:36
Well, I’ll tell you something, you really have motivated me and reading your book and seeing how because what you’ve done is you took your experience with the with the team and you were able to motivate them. And I think people don’t realize a lot of our job as accountants is to motivate our clients. Absolutely. Because I think we see potential in businesses and clients but maybe they don’t see. And you know, I’ve had clients that were ready to throw in the title and that’s I don’t feel like I’m making any money and I’m like, Yeah, you actually already and you know, this is gonna pay us. And I’ve got clients that stayed in business, because I’ve been able to motivate them. But, but I think we struggle finding those motivators are slightly off sometimes. And so, it’s okay to reach out and say, Hey, I need some motivation, you know? Yeah. And I appreciate you motivating me.

Dawn Brolin 30:28
Yeah, you’re great, James. I mean, you’re on my mind all the time. We’re gonna stay in touch for sure. And I’m will have you I’m gonna have you back on it like a handful of months once you’ve gotten you know, get through this. And then I want to hear more about how it ended up. You know, because your story is always going on. So you’re going to be my bread. And oh, so but thank you for joining the DM disruption podcast today and James, opt in. I love you, man. And I will I will be in touch with you. Okay. Thank you so much. I hope you enjoy this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

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Hello everyone, and welcome to The DM Disruption!

I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of The Designated Motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.

Hello everybody! This is the DM Disruption Podcast! My goal during this podcast is to give out great content from a variety of avenues such as fellow practitioners, as application providers, vendors, who you know, have the secret sauce that comes to helping you run your practice. My goal and my passion is to help every single accounting professional that’s out there, help every single one of you in some capacity. I may not be able to solve all your problems, but over 23 years of experience that I’ve had, in setting up a cloud based anywhere access firm, that can generate a half a million dollars in eight months with three billable people. Imagine what you can do, by changing your mindset, and getting some motivation to make some changes in your practice.

That’s the whole purpose of the DM Disruption! It’s the whole purpose of the book that’s coming out this fall, called The Designated Motivator For Accounting Professionals. I’m going to take my 23 years of experience and jam it into a book that’s less than 100 pages. And I’m going to build a community of people who will come and ask questions, I’m going to be there for you, answer your questions, help you out with some templates, some best practices when it comes to either client interfacing or running your firm with technology, or how to advance in the world of tax resolution or fraud case work, or whatever it is you want to do. My goal is to just take everything outside of this coconut, and suck it out of my brain and shove it into yours. That’s my goal. It’s a whole new level of experience. And that’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking to help those of you who either been in business for a long time, or those of you that are just getting started.

So stay tuned, we’ll drip this out every week, we’re going to have a new guest, or I’m just going to talk to you. I mean, my whole goal is just to be out here having conversations with you, answering questions that I find out on social media or in my own community, and to help you improve your practice to get the best, most efficient, well oiled machine, so that someday when you retire, you can sell that thing for a lot more money than if you don’t have great processes. I’m telling you, the value of your practice is going to be determined by your acceptance of technology and implementing it in a way that will be succession proof. And that’s my goal.

So join me every week as we talk to various guests and again, have conversations with you and I just the two of us if you will, in the DM Disruption Podcast. Thank you so much, I hope you really enjoy this! Feel free to visit my website if you want to be a guest, come on, let’s go. Let’s talk about whatever it is you want to talk about pains, great successes, doesn’t matter. Let’s get this community together, and start supporting each other and motivating each other to have the best firms possible!

Okay, so I hope to see you every week, I hope to see you around, I hope to hear from you on the DM Disruption Podcast. Thanks again! I hope you enjoy this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best!

Have a great day!

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