Episode Summary

This episode is sponsored by Truly Financial. Learn more at https://trulyfinancial.com/

Scott Scarano joins the DM Disruption! Tune in to learn about his own podcast, Sons of CPA’s, the importance of succession planning, and how improving the productivity of your firm may not be as hard as you think. Listen now!


Episode Notes

Post Covid and Importance of Staying Present

Scott and Dawn discuss how this post-covid season is affecting their firms. Dawn brings up how the tax atmosphere has now changed, and CPA’s are expected to be doing more than ever before. Scott agrees and says that trying to get a hold of the IRS is even more challenging than it used to be, and how waiting for the IRS to respond is taking up a lot of their firm’s time. 

Scott brings up how he no longer has the notifications turned on on his phone, as he found that his time off work was still spent doing work related tasks. Dawn adds that she now uses Liscio to converse with her clients and never gives out her personal phone number to her clients; this has helped her spend more quality time with her children. 


The Sons of CPAs Podcast

Scott is the host of the Sons of CPAs podcast. Scott says that he and his colleagues are the next generation of CPAs, and that they are focused on presenting new ideas and new ways to run a successful firm. He remarks that many accounting firms may not see issues that are causing them to lack in productivity, and his podcast can help firm owners and CPAs be exposed to new ideas that may help the performance of their firm.


Dawn also talks about how she partners with other accounting firms to split certain costs and save on business expenses. She also says that it gives her a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, and it allows her to learn new ways to improve her practice.


Succession Planning for your Firm

Dawn and Scott also discuss the important step of devising a succession plan for when you choose to retire from your firm. Scott says that he sees a lot of single entrepreneurs who own their own accounting practice fail to create an easy transition for the person that either buys or takes over their firm. Many accounting firms also use old or outdated technology and refuse to update their practices, which can lead to issues when trying to grow or expand the productivity of your practice.

Scott’s Motivation

Scott also shares the story of meeting his wife while working at the same restaurant in college. He shares that she is the biggest motivation in her life, and credits her for giving him the motivation to pursue his current career path.


Check out Scott’s Podcast, Sons of CPAs



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Dawn Brolin
Hi, I’m Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator for accounting professionals. Today I want to introduce you to Truly Financial. They’re a digital bank and you can visit them at TrulyFinancial.com. They are part of the team rollin starting lineup, which is the best of breed roster for technology solutions and partners that I use in my own accounting practice, Powerful Accounting, Inc. In fact, my entire ecosystem or playing field, if you will, is called Truly Financial field. Here’s why. Banking the right kind of banking is essential to everything you or your clients need to do when it comes to money. Truly financial is changing the banking game. For starters, they’re a digital bank, no more going to the bank for me, those days are over. I can do everything online, and so can your clients. Partnering with Truly Financial helps you offer clients and their customers frictionless collaborative banking solutions anywhere in the world. Truly financial provides accessible all in one banking that gives small businesses superpowers that were previously only available to larger businesses. When you or your clients open a truly financial account, you get multicountry corporate Visa cards, local and international bank accounts and the ability to send or receive payments seamlessly. I use Truly Financial to help the business owners I work with grow without getting slowed down by high fees, or big bank bureaucracy. Learn more about how truly financial is changing the game for accounting professionals and their clients. Be sure to check out their partner program for accounting professionals to at TrulyFinancial.com Thanks so much for listening.

Hello, everybody. And welcome to the DM disruption. Another episode here really excited to talk to Scott Scarano. Most of you probably have heard of Scott, he’s out there. He’s, you know, forging the way as an entrepreneur and doing a lot of really great things. We have him here today to talk a little bit with me about motivation and how we can kind of he seems like he’s like a little bit down today. So we’re gonna pick him up and drag him along and shoot for that motivation for him today for this episode. So Scott, thank you so much for joining me here today. Let’s talk about Scott Scarano. Otherwise known as Scotty to his friends sometimes, or Beam me up, Scotty. We can even have that do that.

Scott Scarano
Yeah,we got the new Sopranos that just came out. Usually draw the comparison. That yeah, the higher brow people on sopranos a soprano. And the the typical everyday man is usually things soprano. So I’ve noticed this in my life. And I just started noticing as I was watching that new one, it’s like, you know, I usually say soprano, Soprano tomato tomahto.

Dawn Brolin
Exactly. So there’s another good like now your high brow?

Scott Scarano
That’s where you get this Scarano right. That’s in my accounting world. It’s always Scarano.

Dawn Brolin
So I love it. I love it. So Scott, talk to me, tell me what’s been going on with you. What’s, what’s this? What’s this kind of feel a little down? What’s happening in your world?

Scott Scarano
I think this, this new posts COVID, going back to the world is what’s getting me down. Okay. I think it’s trying to marry the reality that was created during COVID that I very much enjoyed. So now, I think the rubber meets the road. And there’s more going on. Everybody just wants things done now and I got to actually get back to work. Like that’s, that’s ultimately why I’m down is, is I can’t just be absent from the firm to like, I was enjoying I have a podcast of doing other things besides just working. I feel like a CEO now. But yeah, see, you actually has to do some work. And, you know…

Dawn Brolin
It’s so true. Right. So so clients are kind of coming out of the woodwork a little bit more. And I definitely see of course for us as a CPA is the the atmosphere of tax right now is so frustrating, really, at the end of the day. It’s frustrating, mostly, I think, because the IRS, which I had a great conversation with Matt Fulton on Friday, just talking about, you know, the new tax bill and all the spending and all the stuff that’s going on. And I said to him, I said Matt, dude, I can’t even get through to the IRS for an amended return from two years ago. Nevermind, slapping on more stuff that’s going to be coming down the pike here as we go through the fall and then into January. So I can see where your, you know, who wants to I call it reentry. So we have to re enter into that mindset of madness really a little bit, right? So I can see where that that challenge is here for you for sure.

Scott Scarano
I mean, you know, you and I both know that anything like, like you said, like two years ago amended return, like anything that we’re sending to the IRS, first we have to mail it, and everybody knows that, you know, or fax it. And it’s just gonna sit there like we’re dealing with, you know, S corp elections and things like that. And it’s just, you know, it’s back and up. We don’t know if they’re accepting it or not. It’s just anything here and there. So what we’ve done at our firm, at least is just add a line item to everybody’s monthly prices, IRS correspondence, protection, anything that comes up, we’ll handle it, otherwise, they’re getting bills every time. You know, that’s, we’re not billing my time. But yeah, I mean, you do a lot of IRS, don’t you do a lot of representation and different, you know, aspects of that. So, you know, from a practical standpoint, you’re still going to deal with long phone calls, you know, anything. So, I don’t know how you personally handle that. Or if you have people that do that. And it’s yeah..

Dawn Brolin
No, I for the representation, I need to handle 100% myself and, and I use something called actually one of those supporters of our podcasts call ENQ, call E N Q. And so that gets you into like, the front line, there’s a lot of on social media, there’s people who are like, that’s just not right. You know, it’s bad enough, blah, blah, blah, I’m like,

Scott Scarano
Well, you pay extra for it, right?

Dawn Brolin
50 bucks a month. I’ll take that. And it puts me You know, I say faster. But I’ll tell you what, you know, it’s really interesting to Scott, I have a client who has like an identity protection letter that came in regarding their 2020 return. And of course, he’s got a nice $25,000 refund coming. You call that 1-800 number you can they actually say due to high call volume, call back another time. We’re not even going to put you on hold.

Scott Scarano
Not even yet. It’s a courtesy. Sometimes it used to be a courtesy hang up. Now. They’re just not even putting anybody on hold like that. Sorry. Got your order. Yeah…

Dawn Brolin
I’m just like, what I mean, it’s crazy. What’s happening. So when it’s true to Scott, like, we just had that reentry issue. It’s like, you know, I personally enjoyed the last year and a half of not meeting with people. I’m much more productive. I’m turning returns over faster, because I’m not having that one hour…

Scott Scarano
And just anything else. Yeah, like, you have more control over your day, I think. Yeah. When Nobody’s interrupting, you know,

Dawn Brolin
Yeah. Which is almost never, which, you know, I mean, it’s, it’s constant, right? So, and you think about it, over the course of a day, when you’re having a normal workday, you’re probably communicating with, okay, people say, Oh, I’ve talked to this many people, but you’re probably communicating with 30 to 40 to 50 people a day, between texts and phone calls and emails. And well, thank goodness for

Scott Scarano
Sometime more, yeah.

Dawn Brolin
Which is, which is funny, because one of the reasons our firm moved to Liscio, which we talked a little bit about Chris Farrell, before we started the episode, but, you know, that has given us the ability to consolidate all communications with the exception of a phone call, but texts and emails and everything going into one place, where we’re not having to go to, you know, which cell phone here and look at…

Scott Scarano
Well, there’s less misinformation, there’s less duplication of communications, like, you know, it’s just like now at our firm, it’s text call and email, when you need to tell them something or reach out to them, because we don’t know which ones they’re gonna respond to. Right, like…

Dawn Brolin
And that’s it. Yeah. You know, it used to be like, from a communications perspective, used to be communications meant, you know, alright, you send out an email, and hopefully someone get back to you in the next day or two. But people it used to be a text was almost like an emergency, like a text was, hey, I need something now. But now, texting is so common. I was like, I’m not giving out my personal cell phone. I am not doing it. There’s nothing that important. I have Liscio on my phone if I decide to open it and communicate. But I’ve decided I want it to be the driver of the communication. I didn’t want to necessarily be interrupted when I’m on a boat, like, like we were talking about before, right? Because I want to be present when you have three kids, right? So you have three kids, when you’re with your kids, you want to be present with your kids. Because like you said, we know we work all the time. We’re workaholics of sorts, right? So we work so much that when you do get that time you want to spend with your kids, right?

Scott Scarano
I think we in to me, I’m trying to marry the idea of of workaholic versus wanting to help to write like a lot of us always say that’s what we want to do. We want to help. You know, the first part I always say it’s money first, you got to make money first, it’s about money until it’s not. And then when it’s not, then it’s about you know, whatever it might be and I think managing the interruptions to like I think I’m gonna call this episode The DM interruption, right. And that’s usually because I’m always interrupting people not and that’s another out of context statement, but this is more Yeah, more and more in the sense of, you know, managing the interruptions. And I’ve turned off notifications for everything on my phone, which is a big deal, because I don’t even get notified if I get a phone call, or anything else. So I really have to, and this is part of what what brings me down is like to have to turn those back on now. Like, am I getting? Am I missing some calls? Am I not scheduling my day, right are missing an important text or an important email? It used to be a notification for every email that came in. And a lot of people might still have that. And to me, by turning that off, it just creates more anxiety when I do go into the emails now. So it’s like, you can’t win.

Dawn Brolin
That’s interesting. Yeah. Okay. You know, and I love that mentality, though, what you’re saying, is to shut off notifications. I had a client in here on Friday, and he was saying, you know, I want to I don’t want to leave my phone on vibrate, because he’s a plumber. So he would have people, you know, texting and calling at 530 in the morning, and he’s like, he just has newborn babies. Like, I can’t be having that. And he’s like, Well, what do I do? If it’s like, I want obviously, if my what my wife is with me, but let’s say she’s away or something like that, I want to be able to get that notification at 530. In the morning, I said, That’s what favorites are for. You set up your favorites on your phone, and you shut off notifications from anybody but your favorites. And so that’s a good tip. And I like that because obviously I have kids that are home with me. So I need to be able to be available for them. But you’re right, the notifications, stress me out, stress me out. And so I don’t allow notifications on my phone either. Because I’m like, Okay, I’m going to check my tax. I’m going to check my emails, I’m going to check my phone calls. And yeah, you know what, Scott, you might miss a thing or two. You know, you’re like me, we’re both people pleasers. You know, and I think accountants are, I think most accountants are people pleasers. We’re in the service industry, we’re working with people…

Scott Scarano
It’s the forward facing ones are the ones that want to be put in the back room and just do the work thing that they’re not always people pleasers, they’re usually people displeases, but you got to put your to put somebody else with them to make it work. And I usually the firm owners that I speak to probably as well that we mingle with, they’re the front facing ones, they’re the ones that want to talk to clients. And usually you’ve got somebody on your team like them to you know, it’s, this is the one I want to put in front of when a client is upset or when something’s going on. That’s important. Yeah, put them in front of this employee. Right. And we’ve, what we’ve tried to do at the firm, and I’m, you know, dive into those details, but it’s like, we want to figure out, okay, what pairs of people can work well with clients, and then usually with that pair, you can get a lot of the front end overhead, and just really, you know, most of that client facing aspect of the work that we do. Right, then maybe we have an outsourced team to handle some of the lower level work, but it’s like marrying those type of employees to work together as a team, sort of like in a pod, you know, so to speak, in this remote work atmosphere like we did, we had an office, and we don’t anymore since COVID, like we’ve sold their office, right. And now, part of me to is that have been down for the past couple weeks is like, I want to go back, I want to go back to the office. I’d have three kids and my son was out of school for three weeks when they have year round school, so everybody’s on a different schedule for years. But not in school, obviously, nothing like that. I could still hear footsteps above me. My daughter in high school. And that’s just a regular schedule, like everybody, you know, has she has a summer office, and then year round school for my son and elementary. And that’s like, they get three weeks off, and then they go for a quarter. And then they get another three weeks off. I think it’s a quarter. I don’t know what it is. Right. Yeah. I mean, that’s, we used to like that, because they were on the same schedule. We go on a trip, you know, middle of the year, not that busy. You know?

Dawn Brolin
Absolutely. Yeah. You know, it’s interesting that you say that, because, yeah, I have an office on my property. So I’ve had a an office in New Haven about an hour drive from here and decided that just was too much. But you’re right. I mean, the flexibility that we have been able to enjoy over the last year and a half has made things a lot better. And you’re right about the forward facing person. So I have Tracy in my office, she’s a gem. She’s one in a million. She handles all things clients, she loves to talk to the clients and not that I don’t because I do. I like to talk to the clients. But really, at the end of the day, I got to have the head down, keyboard shuffling, we’re just like, bang hitting away. And really, when you’re right when there’s a conflict or an issue, she handles it so much better than I do. She really does. You know, so she’s she’s able to do that. And I think, you know, having the ability to have somebody she’s works 20 hours a week between 20 and 30 Maybe in tax season. But for the most part, you know, she just handles that stuff and boy, it just takes a huge burden off of me.

Scott Scarano
Have you seen a split between like she’s doing she got her head down for 20 hours and then 20 hours she’s like communications are just about 20 hours.

Dawn Brolin
She only does she works about 20 hours a week total. All she does is client communications.

Scott Scarano
So she is that whole front facing for most of the front, is she more of Like your clients access specialist, what do you call her?

Dawn Brolin
Absolutely, absolutely. Without her, you know, she, she handles follow up on client organizers, which we do all digital anyway. But, you know, she handles all of that she handles, okay, you know, I let me just make sure that this bank accounts, right and whatever. And so she’ll just, yep, let me give him a call, she’ll set all my appointments, I’m not allowed to make appointments, because I just got all…

Scott Scarano
I’m dealing with that today, like, I can’t make my appointments, because I’ve missed them, like, I’ll double booked them, you know, all kinds of things. So, yeah, we get to that, we usually do pretty well, because it does have the team approach, you know, and, you know, just round robin type things, but then when it comes to me, you know, a proposal follow up of double. And that’s important.

Dawn Brolin
And those are important. So tell me more about like, you’re out there helping other CPAs moving forward, right, and helping them get past it. Tell me about that. I want to hear about that.

Scott Scarano
So I don’t take the motivator approach. I like the way you’ve really framed it very well, for us, it’s just very conversational. Right. So that’s the podcast. And that’s, that’s more of like, you know, we’re the next generation, we call it the sons of CPAs. And we’re the next generation of, I’m not even a CPA, but like accountants and CPAs, that are taking a charge in this, you know, industry that’s been going through a lot of change, and we’ll go through a lot more. We’ve got, you know, people doing things, one way, that’s traditionally speaking way, it’s always been done. And then a lot, you know, not a lot, but a subset of firms out there that are doing things a lot different, I think, you know, you’re probably very acutely aware of that. There are some that just, you know, that are just in their own bubble. And I think, you know, to a certain degree, we’re all looking to change and do things better. And do you think our clients, so it’s like, what are the best practices, and nobody really has any generally best practices that somebody else doesn’t do differently? Like, everybody’s doing things a little bit differently. But when you look at the traditional, so to speak, it’s very much the same, you know, hourly billing, we’re doing this, we have this partnership model. And this is, and then I know that you in particular, to have a very unique approach to that partnership model. Right. And I think that’s, you know, that speaks to this next generation of people doing things that kind of work for our current world, right?

Dawn Brolin
Yeah, totally. I mean, like, so I have, I have packed partners, okay. And they are, you know, we formed this partnership, we’re all our own CPAs, we all have our own clients. But we decided partnering together, splitting the cost of software, having a firm license together, having that ability to bounce things off of each other without invading or impeding on the way we want to run our practices. And so that’s been a really great marriage between the three of us, it’s been really awesome. And so you’re right. I mean, I think that that, and I love what you do for the, for the younger part of the profession where we really need those people desperately. And yeah, at the end of the day, they’re not going to do it the way we all did it, I should say, I didn’t really go the traditional route myself, I never went to a big firm, I had a small partnership with, with a couple of CPAs that were on staff. And that’s where I got my experience. But you know, a lot of people, you don’t have to go be owned by the man, which is what happens a lot of times in those bigger firms. Not ever, but that’s not for everybody. And so having some non traditional approaches is important. Right?

Scott Scarano
increases for flex, I mean, for flexibility. And just for decision making, right? Do you? Do you guys have to have a committee to make every decision? Or like, because that’s, that’s a big difference. And a lot of these bigger firms is they don’t ever change anything, because they have to all agree. And a lot of times, you’re not very agile, if you have to, you know, it’s not if one person is not at the helm, and it’s one person making the decisions. And usually, they shy away from that, because who knows why, and it’s just typically done by committee, when it’s a bigger, you know, under one umbrella. Now, do you guys operate as different firms? Or do you?

Dawn Brolin
Yes, well, we have a firm rolling in Koba. Yeah. You know, so we have our E fin and all of our, we have insurance together, everything’s all together, we just build separate. So really, at the end of the day, we file is Anderson Brolin, and Koba, but then when it comes to the bill is powerful accounting. It’s a powerful accounting. So you know, and so we just cut checks to pay for the, you know, that, like I said, the insurance and our website and that kind of stuff. And really, at the end…

Scott Scarano
And then it just goes to your management company, almost like that’s, your your you pay a management fee to powerful accounting to handle the rest of it, and then your tax return is separate. Okay.

Dawn Brolin
Yeah. So we just, you know, we kind of took a different approach. And I think that again, like you said, for the Son of CPAs, for those younger entrepreneur minded CPAs, who don’t, or are going to be CPAs, who maybe don’t want to take a traditional approach is really great to have, you know, resources such as your podcast to say, Hey, what are other people doing out there? That may be different that I may be interested in, right?

Scott Scarano
We gotta go plural with that sons of CPAs because it’s not just me. I’m not just the son of a CPA. He’s also Yeah. And, you know, we kind of, we have different firms too. And we don’t even take that kind of approach where we don’t really work together in a firm, but we, we see eye to eye on a lot of things. So we both said, you know, I think in different conversations was just like, let’s eventually do a podcast. And this year was the year we eventually did it. And we have sons were both sons of CPAs. And so the name came by accident, actually, it was just during the third episode, it was another son of a CPA, we were all on one call. And it was just like I said, as a joke that they were the sons of CPAs. And he was like, that’s pretty good title…

Dawn Brolin
That’s kind of a good name. And yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, it’s like, we have this ability, especially, and I see this a lot of social media, where they’re solopreneurs. Like, they’re only they’re one practitioner. And at the end of the day, those practitioners, the more you can band together, like you are with other CPAs, or with other sons of CPAs. And be able to have that collaboration is so important, when you’re on your own. Right, because you are the one making all the decisions, you are the one you’re relying on yourself 100%. And so if you can get that collaboration and find those mentors, like Scott and his co host and other people that are coming on to his podcast, now you have some some ability to relate and ability to you know, I’m sure that you guys answer questions, you can, you know, send in questions and things that you are interested in learning more about…

Scott Scarano
I gotta start doing that. That’s, that’s a good idea. Yeah, I would like to create a type form one day and just have send, you know, send listeners submit a question. Yes. Questions.

Dawn Brolin
Yeah. And, you know, a lot of times I what I find myself doing is if I’m either giving a webinar, or attending a webinar, being able to watch the questions that are coming in from the audience will also help you see, hey, what are the questions people are asking? They’re not just on social media, but even when you’re in those events to pay attention that stuff? Because that’s what people need, they need answers, they need answers, they need, you know, whatever kind of support that they can get. And that’s, that’s what’s awesome about what you’re doing what we’re doing here at theme disruption, just trying to help and give back and you were saying that before me, that’s what we do. We’re people pleasers, we work a lot because we want to please a lot more than anything, right?

Scott Scarano
Yeah. And to scope it out and scope it back in, like, I’m part of a franchise. So Paget Business Services is a alpha is traditionally speaking, it’s a very old franchise. They’re going through a lot of change management internally, and we’re, you know, they just hadn’t hired a new CEO, you know, a little over a year ago, we’ve got a new COO, and, you know, are off my office in particular has been upside down, compared to the model and the traditional model of how things were usually done, and I was making decisions on my own. And it was like, Am I doing the right thing or not. And I looked to the community outside of Padget, to kind of get some guidance, so now looking back in, things are changing, there’s Domino’s, and there’s different, you know, apps being adopted, there’s different processes being adopted, there’s different ways of doing things that have been adopted in this change management. And it’s a big deal, because we’ve always done it the same way. There’s a lot of Boomer owner, you know, franchise owners, that are doing things the same way for you know, 20 plus years, 25 plus years. They don’t want to do any differently. They’re about to be out the door. So then how do they pass that baton, and make it easier for the next generation?

Dawn Brolin
So I love that because that’s exactly it. So in the second book that I’ve got going right now, we talk about succession planning. And for those people who are not changing and not adopting and not making shifts in their practice, got to start thinking about succession planning, you know, I here’s what I’m gonna do. Here’s my password to LastPass all my passwords are in there, all the secret sauce is all that stuff is in there. There’s no files for you to get to go to smart vault, get all your documents, you know, everything you need, is a turnkey, here you go recover 360s are hosting solution. All you got…

Scott Scarano
Take the clients and go yeah, take them. That’s your plan. Yeah, I can the keys over here you go have fun. Yeah. Well…

Dawn Brolin
And talk about value of your firm when you can do something like that, as opposed to oh, come on in. I got 300 clients, here’s all the file cabinets. No, you’re gonna have to come here and get all that it’s like, no, here, done. We’re done. And the value that that provides. So sometimes people think of okay, yeah, we’re going to bring up that next generation. But let’s bring them up in the way they should be brought up. And without as many obstacles as possible, right. So we go through tax season, we’re making notes all through tax what was painful, what was not painful, we should change the organizer to say this say that. And we do that throughout tax season. And then we make changes like this year, our big change was liscio. Adding liscio on so we had better communications with our clients. We needed to do that we need to streamline it. So there’s always room for improvement. And that’s what I think, like you’re saying…

Scott Scarano
My runway for adding liscio is eventually like, right now we’re actually trying to utilize the most we can out of carbon two, biggest change this tax season, or at least this past year was adding client tasks. And just, you know, the auto reminder that you have embedded in there and no huge carbon to like, oh, you know, that that one thing, they think we’re emailing and they’re apologizing, we’ll get it to you. And it’s effortless for the team to have, you know, okay, they’re preparing this number of tax returns, they don’t want to always have to hound anybody down. So it usually builds up till the end, you turn that auto reminder on, it seems like a very simple thing, but it’s just part of the process part of the task list. And that’s the next one to come in. Just, you know, rig that up. Have that go. And then now I was on coast. Like, I don’t know, it just seems like it changes the mindset of everybody too.

Dawn Brolin
And it’s just so and it was something that was simple to implement, right. And so I love Ian over at carbon. Ian’s doing a phenomenal job. And yeah, we use Karbon,

Scott Scarano
Ian’s on the next episode of our podcast that I actually recorded it like two and a half months ago, but finally releasing it this next week. Yeah…

Dawn Brolin
That’s awesome. And Ian’s great. I mean, even I’ve met Ian Intuit Right? He was into my one of my Intuit bet buddies, just like Andy Anchetta was was actually my first introduction, pretty much my first introduction to intuit outside of Lesley cap jetty. And so, you know, they’re doing great things because they’ve…

Scott Scarano
Your team green, right? That’s like, I’m a team blue. Like, I’ve got my blue shirt on. But you know, you don’t see the all the zeros stuff behind me right now. Right? Yeah. Like, it’s really just for like, and I think you agree to most, you know, you choose a one, stick with it. And that’s the one that you typically are going to use at your firm, you know, give or take.

Dawn Brolin
And that’s what I tell people like, listen, they’re like, what, what accounting software do you use? I’m like, I use QuickBooks because it’s what I know. It’s what I’m best at. And that’s what worked for me. I don’t I don’t need to support any other accounting software, because I’m just not an expert in anything else. And so, and, you know, I think a lot of times, too, when we get to that point of acceptance, maybe we’re like, you know what, I don’t want to do payroll anymore. That’s what I got to a point. I was like, Oh, my goodness, I have. And I did two years.

Scott Scarano
And I was like, Okay, get as much of it on run as we can and then send payroll, and then now now it’s a split between those and payroll turned to gussto. Now, it’s like half, you know, actually, now the majority is on gussto. But most of the larger clients, all ADP, and that’s just we can’t do after the fact I’m sure we probably were doing after the fact payroll at some point. That’s that’s just a headache to think about.

Dawn Brolin
Yeah, I had a client this morning. I so I sent him his tax return any questions? You sent me this book of questions, which is fine. Some of them are pretty funny. But he said in there, he’s like, oh, so I do I really have to pay $600 a year to have my payroll done. Can I just do it myself? Like I said, bro, listen, that’s nothing.

Scott Scarano
You’re only charging six. Oh, man!

Dawn Brolin
Whatever solution he was looking at. And I said, dude, spend the $600. Like, do it yourself, I can promise you, you might as well just cut a check to me for 10 grand for all the problems you’re gonna create. Yeah, that’s what’s gonna happen. And so it was it’s just a no brainer. And then we just I didn’t want to deal with deadlines anymore. I don’t want to deal with notices like, I don’t make that’s for me. It’s not a moneymaker. Some people may bank on payroll!

Scott Scarano
Well, now I’m trying to you know, I’m trying to reverse engineer, like, Okay, we went from making money on payroll now. It’s like, I would much rather just hand it off to gusto, have gusto, handle almost all of it. And we just support right now. Now I’m like, we’re leaving money on the table. Now, if like we’re acting as a middleman for gussto support. It’s like now let’s call it, like, gusto is calling it people advisory. And now we can start branding things in this other payroll arm that we’re calling, you know, it’s more of like a showmanship like we’re not necessarily doing payroll, but there’s a lot of, you know, things that we can do to help them with their picture.

Dawn Brolin
Yeah, and I so I do ADP. And I, one of the biggest reason well, there’s two reasons really, the accountant connect functionality. And I’m sure you because you’re using run as well..

Scott Scarano
Our ADP is our personally, like, I love the new updates, they just came out with like the AI that’s giving you ideas of what could be wrong on there and just giving you the tips there. And then the the notice notices from the IRS, or any state all being in that queue of just maybe update their service line and update the I just really had a couple issues with that. But I love that they’re in there and they’re not mailing them to us, like we would get those in the mail all the time. It was just back and forth can’t keep so

Dawn Brolin
It’s beautiful. And I love the commission, honestly because like you’re right, you’re 100% Correct. We are the middleman. Regardless if you’re doing the payroll, you’re outsourcing the payroll whether it’s ADP gussto doesn’t matter.

Scott Scarano
They get to notice this further taxes like everything. Right, they see a notice from the state. I got a notice from the IRS, they see that notice and say, Oh, that could be payroll related. We’re not really doing your payroll. Yeah, it’s an Notice for my taxes, right? And they just, all right, well, we’re gonna have to support this now to do so.

Dawn Brolin
And so that’s why I try to tell people like it’s, it’s we’re not making money from the client on that we’re making money from ADP. And because they pay commission, it makes up for that time we do spend, I’ll say scanning and uploading that document service request, but but it does compensate us for setting up payroll, you know, the clients don’t set the payroll up, we set the payroll up, meaning entering all the EIA ends, and the withholdings and the Department of Labor, and the employees and doing all this stuff…

Scott Scarano
You facilitate a lot, we still make sure it’s correctly done. Because if they did it on their own, they may not even know the first thing about it. And they’re, you know, at the level of what they’re gonna get with ADP, they don’t have that full 360 view of the client, you know, what they should do? And what’s the runway and you know, what are they? How many employees? Are they going to, you know, in any kind of situation? Or where, which dates are they going to need?

Dawn Brolin
Exactly. So, that’s a good thing that we can we can be in on those types of conversations. So I want to shift now, Scott, we’re going to shift a little bit. Sure, I want to shift I want to hear, like, one of your motivation moments or a time in your career, at one point where you found so and so really helped lift me up or, or you in the work that you’re doing, when you were able to pick somebody up and help them through a situation. Give me let’s give me some kind of an example of that for you.

Scott Scarano
A situation. So we were just talking recently we talked because, now whenever,

Dawn Brolin
When you were five? Sure, so about Scott!

Scott Scarano
so a situation where somebody’s really helped me out, like kind of move forward. So I think, I think to a certain degree, obviously, it’s my wife, right, that’s the first thing that’s going to come to mind. And I think that she saved me as a person, like I, I went got a pretty deep area to look at, but it’s like, I went through some issues in college, you know, I was at UNC I was at Carolina, I, I started doing things that I may not be proud of now, got the trouble with the law, got kicked out of Carolina, and then ended up and really, just to be clear, I don’t really don’t shy away from talking about it, but I was selling drugs. That’s all it was. So I’m in school, you know, I was I was I was actually doing three price options, too, it was a lot of a lot of threading the needle of what we do now, and giving value, you know, actually delivering, you know, I love it. Okay, not, you know, that’s, that’s a dark. So I know, to a certain degree, though, it’s like, so then I ended up going from there to, I’m working at three restaurants, I’m finishing up school on my own, and, you know, trying to pay off other debts. And just, I was in a, I was in a place where it’s like, okay, now I’m trying to reroute things back to the track that they were on. And then I find her, she didn’t even speak any English at the time, too. And we were working together. And we just worked very well to get out of one of the restaurants. I was working at Maggio’s and it was a just a very good relationship. And so, you know, this speaks to somebody being of assistance and helping without even the language to it was just wow, you know, we had this connection. And it went deeper than just talking about the weather or talking about what was going on. We did communicate, and we did talk she you know, she knew enough English, I knew enough Spanish. We you know, and that’s sort of what was the foundation of our relationship still. And that was like 17 years ago. So that’s awesome. You know, and that’s it to metaphorically, I guess, well, or however you want to use a metaphor, but it’s like, yeah, the the way that our relationship did you know start was she, she is a helper, she helps people. And that’s what she does. And that’s how it’s always been in our life. And I think that she brings out the better in me to it to a lot of degrees. Like it was before that it was always me trying to help myself. And now I see, you know, I have a lot more empathy. And I can really relate to anybody in any situation because of, you know, what, she’s, what she’s brought that other level of, I think that changed my whole life, obviously, you know, and, you know, to all other aspects of it. I didn’t really plan on talking about that. But you were asked, and I brought it up.

Dawn Brolin
Yeah. So I love that. And I love that, you know, and I think there just does come a time in everyone’s life at some point where you’re like, man am I really like doing what I should be doing or whatever the case may be, and you have that person, whoever it is that just comes into your life and like, changes you for the better. Right? And, you know, sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard to accept that help, right? Because you’re you’re wanting to help yourself. You’re like, I got this I’m in control. You know, I’m a type personality. I’m the boss of everything.

Scott Scarano
Oh, yeah. Well, it took me falling off of all that to be able to accept help, right? Like, at that point and I know that mindset to like that was the mindset that I always had. I don’t need anybody to know everything. But I you know, I kind of forced myself into that role of I need assistance anywhere I can, you know, I can get and I think that that kind of helped. Moving forward to, that’s awesome.

Dawn Brolin
And I’m sure like, as you watch her with your kids, like, that’s probably one of the most beautiful moments in your life is to watch your significant other for you. It’s your wife to, you know, be caring for those kids. And we were kind of joking before about how they live this long, right? Yeah, I know, you give her all the credit, but I’m sure that, you know, I’m sure that you are showing your children, which I think is part of what my role was in our family, just like you as the as the breadwinners, and things like that, that they want your work ethic. And then what’s your commitment, right?

Scott Scarano
It’s the actions, right, like, you know, I can’t really speak to what I tell them to do, but they can, they can model their behaviors off of mine. And I think I’m a good enough example and example of somebody who maybe learned from past mistakes, or somebody who currently is trying to do the right thing in most cases, right. And so I think I see that my daughter, she has a really good work ethic. And she’s, you know, she worked really hard. She’s studying at night. And most people might say, you know, ease up on the study and things like that. But she’s, she’s, you know, exactly. And it’s not just that she loves it, she likes the reward tiers, like, she’s, she’s showing us her grades. And she’s, like, pretty proud of herself there. And it’s like, you should be very proud of yourself, because you worked hard. You know, that’s great. So we’re not even telling you like you have to do your work or trying to stay on top of any of that. We’re just letting it go. And I think it’s the actions, right, it’s the shore that they model off of that behavior. So yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I had a lot to be grateful for. And sometimes when I feel down, I gotta kind of think of what are the good things that are going on and everything too.

Dawn Brolin
Yep. Yeah. And it’s, it’s that glass half full mentality. And it’s not every day, the glasses glass is not half full every time I’m just overflowing. Right? Like, sometimes you’re like, Whoa, yeah, what is going on? But

Scott Scarano
Or its fully empty? Yeah. And you need some something to drop in there somebody else to drop some stuff.

Dawn Brolin
Somebody throw something in my glass, I need it. Right. So, you know, and that’s really what it’s about. Yep. And that’s what it’s about as all of us being able to help each other and help others through the journey of life. And the journey of you know, the accounting industry,

Scott Scarano
Drives this metaphor to like the refill and pouring into the glass. So she was a, she was bussing the tables. And one thing that was really, you know, just impressed me it was, there was never any other bus or at any other restaurant that would actually make sure that table was without them saying anything. waters were always full tick plates that were empty, were always clear. And it was just anticipating the needs of the end and always got better tips when I was working with her too. So it was like, you know, we both worked very well together to anticipate that without a lot of talking. And no excuses. There’s never an excuse for anything if you just do it. Right. So that’s right. I think that’s, that’s with our life, too, you know, to a certain degree, you know, when the glass is half full, somebody else could fill it up, or you can get up and fill it up yourself. But if you’re at a restaurant, you’re not expecting to get up vote yourself. So

Dawn Brolin
Exactly, exactly. Exactly. Well, Scott, listen, we try to keep these to about 20 minutes keeps people happy that way. But other than that, yeah, no, you’re awesome. This was a great conversation. And, you know, just keep on doing what you’re doing Scott, and, you know, go out there, go hug your kids, hug your wife, and, you know, stay positive, and keep on helping people. And I want to thank you on behalf of those that you have helped. And those that you will help. Because really, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. And I appreciate you and thanks. Thanks again for coming. Any last words anything you want to throw out there?

Scott Scarano
Oh, no, I just want to work on you know, work on being more like you on this because I think I could you know, I only really take that mindset approach of really helping people it’s just more of a commerce getting the conversation started. But then you know what kind of other advice can be given without interruptions so it’s like I brought up earlier that the DEM disruption in ours is the sons interruption because that’s all I do is interrupt people on the podcast. I get to work on that. So

Dawn Brolin
it’s all good, Scott. Well, you’re doing great things. And thanks again, we appreciate your comments. Thanks, everybody for listening to the DM disruption. We look forward to seeing you next time. Take care




This episode is sponsored by SmartVault. Learn more at https://www.smartvault.com/

Episode Notes

Ian’s Beginnings

Ian describes the time when he was the head of a company in the late ‘90s, but talks about how he was not as well versed in finance as he should have been. He went back to grad school, and recognized there was a need to develop a software that could power and integrate all the other applications everyone already uses. After he left Intuit, he realized there was a huge need for this kind of software in the accounting industry, and he sought out to develop what became Karbon.

He talks about how, back in the day, if accounting professionals wanted applications to integrate, they had to do it manually. He also saw that there was no easy way to view all the tasks each of your team members were working on. After seeing all these issues, he knew a dedicated software to manage all these integrations and tasks would help accounting professionals tremendously.


Karbon’s Solution for Communication

The driving force behind the development of Karbon was the need to implement better systems of communication within each firm. Ian says that one of the biggest pain points he saw in accounting firms was the lack of effective communication, not only within each accounting firm, but also between them and their clients. Ian says that Karbon strives to marry each form of communication so you can spend more time giving quality service to your clients, rather than spending hours figuring out what tasks need to be completed.

Karbon’s Passion for Integration

Dawn expresses her love for Karbon by praising its use of integration. Karbon integrates with many popular applications such as QuickBooks, Lisico, Ignition, and more! Ian says that Karbon is always striving to be at the forefront of technology, and is constantly moving forward to integrate with new applications that will solve pain points in many firms.


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Dawn Brolin
Hi, I’m Dawn Brolin, CPA, Certified Fraud Examiner and the author of the Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals. Today’s episode of the DM Disruption is brought to you by Smart Vault. My go to solution for secure, completely paperless document storage. Smart Vault was built with unique needs of accounting professionals with bank level security, completely customizable folder structures, plus native integrations with tax software, such as a cert and pro series, as well as popular practice management tools. It even has an integration with DocuSign right in the software for maximum efficiency. I’ve been using Smart Vault to keep my practice running paperless ly and profitably for more than 10 years. That’s why I consider them an MVP in my Team Brolin starting lineup, check them out and get a demo at SmarVault.com today.

All right, hey, everybody, and welcome to another episode of the DM Disruption. And we are here with the one and only Ian vaison. Which by the way, it’s impossible to get a hold of this guy, because he and Karbon are out there crushing it. I mean, crushing it to the point where the hype at Scaling New Heights was overwhelming about what Karbon is doing in the industry and for the pro advisor community for the tax community for this. And they weren’t even there. But I can tell you, they were there because they’re integrating with Liscio. And they’re integrating with SmartVault. They’re integrating with Lacerte, they’re doing such amazing things. And I’m honored because I’ve known Ian, when he was back at the Intuit days, right? And he just busted out of there and just went out and just went out swinging, and came in as a co founder of Karbon. And Ian is awesome. So Ian, thank you so much for spending some time with me. I know you got a little raspy voice, but like I said to you off off of camera. It’s hot. Okay, not that I’m saying that you and I are like whatever. But it’s a raspy voice is a hot voice. It just is what it is. So if you appreciate it, love it. So hello, Ian.

Ian Vacin
I’m super excited to be here, it won’t sound like it from the voice. And I can’t really express as loud as I want to go. But I’m gonna try my best. I appreciate that. Yeah, we are, we are trying our best. We’re we’re out there kicking some butt. And we’re hoping to kick a lot more. So I’m super thrilled to be on here. And I’m ready to tackle about motivation and a little bit about me a little bit about Karbon.

Dawn Brolin
I love it. That’s what we’re here for it. So we’ve since we do go way back. And I happen to know a little bit about eon. So knowing that you came, I just want I think the audience wants to hear your story. And I know a lot of people know you a lot. I know you from Intuit from the Intuit days, because you made a mark in now a lot of people have been at Intuit, they’ve done things, but you’ve left your mark at Intuit. And you left there and embrace this new concept of helping the accounting professionals in a different way than you were helping them before. So tell the story all about and we want to hear all about you.

Ian Vacin
So I’ll give you guys a little bit of history and why I ended up where I was I actually started a company or I’d taken over a company in the late 90s, which, you know, that was a very different era. And long story short, I basically I had a situation where I don’t think I was competent in the finances. And we just got caught really flat footed. And I had to lay off a lot of people and we shut the company down. So I went back to grad school, I thought, if I could figure out how to make the the financial products that power, whatever one works on, then I could really make a difference. And I could ultimately be able to do what I’m doing today successfully. So that’s why I chose to work at Intuit on my way out. Now, when I worked there, I didn’t understand the accounting channel, it didn’t exist back then. It wasn’t until Microsoft decided to come in that we really took notice. And that’s where I played a part of it. And ever since then I realized that the way that I can make an impact here positively and this is something we have a Karbon is if we can help the accountants out there, be able to do what they do, then we can influence so many small businesses by being supportive of the broader community. And that’s what that’s what my passion has been since then. So in Intuit, I worked in every version of QuickBooks worked a little bit on the Quickin side. Then I picked up the pro advisor program worked in the accounting division. And then fast forward. I’m now here at Karbon and we’re here trying to make lives easier everyday for all of you.

Dawn Brolin
Well, and so that’s really I mean, obviously, the accounting industry is a kind of a different breed of kind of people, right? There’s a there’s us crazy people. And then there’s the oh, we call it the traditional route of the, you know, suit and tie and everything like that which there’s nothing wrong with, there’s nothing wrong with either of them. But you know, you had an impact into it. And you had the ability to connect with pro advisors with accounting professionals like myself, and you did that. And so now in this, I’ll call it the new roll, or the bigger and better roll or whatever you want to call it, because you saw the need, and you understood the pain, and you didn’t necessarily see the best solution out there for us to be able to manage, you know, our workflow and how we are actually running our firms, right.

Ian Vacin
Yeah. So we, you know, the start of Karbon for me began when I was in the pro advisor program where there was all these different systems, but there was no way to really manage them well, and really be able to know what one person was doing versus somebody else was on the same team. And if you remember, back in the days, used to be if you wanted to had an integrated suite, you had to do all the work yourself, you had to maintain it all. And the technology just wasn’t there. But then my next role, I basically partook in buying an you know, one of these workflow solutions. And when it came in, and was so rigid, you couldn’t change it. And there was the lesson learned that the problem that we all have, as accounting firms and counting professionals is, you can guarantee what you want to do an engagement letter, but it just takes one email to change and up end how you’re gonna have to serve that person. And so when we started this company, we, you know, there’s the founding group of us and the first few employees, we actually spent time working in accounting, and we sat there and lived the we walked the walk. And we observed it with the hypotheses that we had at the time to really understand why is it so hard that even if we are in a situation where five of us were shoulder to shoulder, sitting in the same office, how come we don’t know whatever, right. And that was the birth of this particular company,

Dawn Brolin
You know, and I love that because I had worked, I was out, I worked…I was a partner in a firm years ago. And one of the things that I found really frustrating for me was that weekly meeting, okay, the weekly meeting kickoff the week, what’s everyone working on, you know, what has to be billed what hasn’t been collected, yet, we spent like Monday’s doing admin day, it felt like, and I didn’t know what they were working on. They didn’t know what I was working on, people made assumptions on who was working on what and it was just a discombobulated disaster, and a real waste of time. So as like a managing partner who wants to go see, okay, what Sally been working on what she’s sitting there, ready, what’s ready to start for her, you know, where she’s struggling or whatever, we couldn’t get that insight. And you’re right, you’d have to go, it’s like, okay, emails are over here. And then we’re pushing them into certain folders. So then when I go to work on John, I gotta go to his folder, and outlook and everything was just so disconnected. And that’s how we operated, right. And so and when, when carbon, tell me a little bit more about someone carbon first started, you understood, you went into these firms, and you looked at the workflow, or you watch what they were doing, and you’re like, there has to be a better way. And so what was like the main focus of that of that initial maybe five thoughts on what you were going to do?

Ian Vacin
Well, we weren’t building workflow, we, the first problem we had was communications was the problem. So we had to solve the communications issue in the fact that you may deal with somebody, but you don’t just deal with them as a, as a business, you have to deal with them as an individual, they may work for, they may have a charity that they have, they may have family members that you have to serve. And so the the multi representation of an individual, and how you’d have to serve them, combined with all the methods of communication, you need to work with them. And that, only then can you get enough of an understanding to actually be able to work with them. So we start off trying to marry communications and work together. And that’s really the two kinds of pieces of the pie that we had to do, we didn’t start from the traditional sense of, oh, we’re just going to build what the work and writing was, because the work engine would just be too rigid. You know, if you look at the heritage of things, we started off with a triage piece. Then we built tasks we just redid we just reinvented that literally last week with my a week, which was on the oldest pieces of the product. And then we start to do the workflow, the work engine, the scheduler, and then all the other pieces that go on top of it. So that’s kind of table stakes. And one of the things you brought up was one of the one of the travesties I think is going outside your lane. And for us it was understanding that communications and work at the center point of what we do, and there’s so many things that we have to interface with, which is why we never use the practice management tagline until literally within the last year because And even in that we’re a best of breed product. We’re not everything 100%. And we don’t plan to be.

Dawn Brolin
That’s, that’s the beauty of it. And at the end of the day, and I try to tell as, as I’m working with other practitioners on, they’re trying to figure out how to how to put this all together, what does this all look like? And it’s like, okay, so QuickBooks is meant to do accounting software, QuickBooks is not meant to be a client and practice management solution or, or a client communication tool. That’s not what it was built for. It’s built for accounting. And, but get the beauty of having the ability to integrate, which I think is really important. You know, the enter one time scenario I had, I just literally had a client in the office and, and he’s, he’s like, you know, I feel like I’m always having to do everything two or three times. And I’m like, That’s because you are, like, let’s just call it what it is, man, you are doing things two or three times, because you’re not looking at solutions that integrate in interface. So Karbon handling that, you know, client, you’ve got all the practices all working within that one spot. And then once you’re done with that, then you need to get that information into QuickBooks, and you just sync it, it’s just like, hello, is that mean? Why are you entering it in Karbon than entering it here and then entering it there? Same thing with…I mean, one of my favorite things, my favorite things is the Lacerte integration, right? And having the ability to not just think emails, like that’s what we think we think Karbon that’s going to manage our emails, it’s going to manage our work. And but we’re gonna have to manually do manually do all of that, well, no, you don’t have to manually do all that. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to have Lacerte to open to look at the what the status is of a tax returns right within the work, which is where you should be living, right? With the timeline. And in the, you know, time management, the budgeting, and those kinds of things. And I do have to say, one of my favorite other favorite features, we could do Don’s favorite feature, conversation. But when I go in, and I have a we have a status called Tax ready to start, that means the tax return, we’ve got everything we need, it’s ready to go. And I go every morning, I pop in there, and I usually do a little bit of my scheduling through that too, to make sure I know what I gotta make sure get things done. But I love the budget, when you put in the amount that you’re charging them for the tax return, it’ll tell me if I finish all these returns, I’m going to 10 grand in my bank account, like it’s a simple insight, but how powerful to motivate which is what the DM Disruption is about, to motivate me to want to get the work done. Right? Yeah, it’s so exciting.

Ian Vacin
Yeah. And then as a team member, I might have 100 things, which the ones that really matter. Those are the ones we look at the budget, or maybe you’re gonna look at it from the importance of a client, maybe you’ve got that tagged in a certain way. I mean, that’s what you know, we spend a lot of our time focusing on the clients who shouldn’t deserve our time. And so it’s to help all provide that sort of clarity, so that the individual or the firm can make those determinations of where value should be spent.

Dawn Brolin
Yes, absolutely. And one of the great things that I tell people this is probably on every episode, because it’s it’s a fact it’s true. And it’s what we we as the practitioners have to watch for. So Karbon is a tool that is always improving I and I said this when I was at Scaling, I did a couple sessions. And I said, what you have to watch for is the application moving forward, because if they’re not, they’re moving backwards. So if you’re not seeing improvements in the product, or releases latest releases, that are coming through, like the multiple clear triage that just came out this morning, I believe, wonderful, Sara always is ended up in my in my little chat thing to tell me what’s going on. But we’re seeing Karbon at the forefront and the leader in this we call positions in Team Brolin Starting Lineup in the position of practice management, and workflow and tools associated with that. You are the leader 100% in this space without a doubt. And so I think that I advise people on what to choose for the different technologies, do they integrate? Are they looking for feeback? Will they will they accept feedback? You know, do they have a roadmap, and you’d be surprised at how many don’t, and they haven’t had a release for you know, a year or two? Like, that’s just not gonna work.

Ian Vacin
I think I think it just comes back to a little bit of how it just the personality of the company. So we take everything we invest about him and myself, Stewart, John, and the staff here at Karbn we’re not, we’re not happy with the fact of we always want to go faster. We always want to deliver more. We hear I see every piece of feedback that comes in everyone that goes into that help and feedback. I read every single one of them and so is the PM team. And we prioritize that. And if you don’t listen to your customers you did. Secondly, if you’re not investing every effort that you have to make everything better, you’re going to fall behind and we don’t want to be complacent. I appreciate that. You say that, you know, we’re doing well within the space. But that doesn’t matter to us. because I’m not looking at where my competitors are, I actually don’t care, I look at where we can be, and what we need to be to support all of you what you need to do. And, you know, frankly, we’re not a purple squirrel, we don’t have all the features in there, and we never will. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to get them all in there. So I agree with you, you need to look at the case of things, I have been on the road with vendor over vendor over the last 20 years, and heard about what feature is going to come when it’s going to come and watch it never bite. And so I want to stay away from that. But we get asked a lot about our roadmap. So we’ll tell you what’s coming in next three months, because it’s in the queue, it’s being worked on. Outside of that, you know, there’s a bit of prioritization ups and downs. And so we generally don’t go beyond that, but I think it’s proof is in the pudding. And hopefully that comes out.

Dawn Brolin
There’s no doubt. Now let’s just talk about the acquisition of one of your one of your, your team members, because I gotta call everybody a team member, right? One of your team members who is well known in the industry and has a and I think that this speaks to like you were saying the character of the company, in and of itself, does it feel right in your gut? Like, does it do you feel like they have the right mission in place, so they really have the right people in mind. And so for you to acquire Andi Ancheta, who is one of the most amazing people that I have ever met. So knowing that you’re, you’re stacking your staff, you’re stacking your key components of your company, and you chose Andi. Right. And so you guys worked a lot into it together. And it just, it just happened, right. And I think that’s another piece is if you remember, and you know, you do that the days of the tea sheets, right? Where, you know, Jen Hetherington, Kelly, and Kelsey Medal. And of course, Matt, but it was it was those girls, those ladies who put the fire and passion into what t-sheets meant to them, and how the culture of t-sheets behaved and portrayed in there, when they come to conferences and things like that, and you couldn’t help it, you couldn’t help but be drawn to that fire. And I feel like Karbon has that same profile of professional positive people who are just out there trying to make it happen. And so it has to be part of what your culture is. So tell us a little bit about like Karbon’s culture, you know, what is what are you guys standing for, and, and people like Andy Anchetta, you, you can’t deny how awesome she is.

Ian Vacin
So we’re very particular on who we hire, especially over that last, you know, these last seven years or eight years now that we’ve been doing this. And, you know, a couple of the things are, you know, we’re very intentional, and very pragmatic. And from a culture standpoint, we persevere. And there’s resilience within that. And so for instance, Andy, I’ve known for a long time. And I think for a lot of folks listening into this, there’s a lot of people that you know, and you respect, and you can go down the list. But the list isn’t that long, unfortunately. And the good people are, they’re amazing. So for Andy, and again, in the history that I’ve, I’ve been doing this in the professional industry. There’s a group of folks that we all recognize and appreciate. And so Andy was, the person who I, I’ve chatted with, probably once a month, every two months, we’ve always been in touch. And it was always a situation where if you ever want to come if you ever want to go someplace, just call me up and tell me what you want. And, and Andy is fantastic. We’ve got a lot of other folks that we brought on this team that are amazing. But what we don’t do is we don’t fall into the fallacy of hiring people who have been in the vendor community for a long duration of time, that haven’t been able to be recognized by the industry, by all of you, the folks that the practitioners that do all the hard work, because we don’t really want to have that within our in sort of our sort of corporate culture. So we taught we typically a lot of times I’ll hire folks who are not within this, but have a high level of customer really, have a high level of thinking about how to do problems differently. Because we need to be able to reinvent what’s being done without falling into the traps of well, this is what the last guy did. And last company, we should just do that. We don’t do that’s why I said it’s intentional and pragmatic. When we deliver functionality we’re not just checking off a box we really understand why that was a pain point. And how they interweaves with everything else not just within the carbon landscape but within the products that everyone uses. And so it’s a hard recipe to deliver on but again that’s what you know to get those right folks to come in. You got it you got to have a bit of magic a lot of luck and hopefully there’s appreciation what we’re trying.

Dawn Brolin
Yeah, no doubt and and with saying that so going from your stat… I have to I just have to name drop Andy like I just can’t help it.

Ian Vacin
Andy’s amazing! I mean, she is the heart and soul of what we have on our customer team, which I get to be a part of.

Dawn Brolin
She’s just, she’s just always had a soft spot in my heart because she’s the reason I believe that I ever got on the Intuit Accountant Council. She was my interviewer. And I just like, I’ll never be able to thank her for the opportunity that she helped me achieve with that. And it’s really, the beginning of my story of accounting really was was with that first experience with Intuit, which was awesome. But so now if we shift a little bit, let’s talk about integrations for a hot second, like you said, I mean, things are built apps are built for a certain purpose. And then when you realize that, oh, well, you know what, maybe we can all play in the same sandbox, which is the way I put it, it’s like apps that integrate, understand where their lane is, and they understand how they can help the team. If we’re thinking about Talladega Nights, right, shake and bake, we got the car coming up from behind, so that somebody else can be the winner of the race, you know, and unfortunately, you know, shake and bake, it’s all good. Magic Man, you know, came from that as well. So you’re you guys are forward thinking and you’re also evaluating pretty critically who you want to play with, right?

Ian Vacin
That’s true. We don’t and we don’t usually go down to the traditional the traditional route is if I want to go integrate with somebody and I’ve got more strength and in the relationship, then I’m going to extract rents, or I’m going to take a little bit off the top, from another vendor. We don’t play by these rules. Whenever we work with somebody, it’s mutually aligned incentives. And for most people that we integrate with, there’s uncomfortable overlap. And the reason why that’s a good thing is two systems can’t integrate together if there’s not a common area by which they have they transfer, data workflow, or whatever it might be. And so a good a good analogy is you start off with QuickBooks, right? Well remember that Karbon is not where you do the work. It’s how you do the work. So we’re a springboard for all these other places to do the work. And finances overlap. When you get to things like time and budgets, you get to again, what work you’re actually pursuing. And so QuickBooks, there’s QuickBooks Online accountant, right, right, is it? It does a little bit of a we do, but that’s great, because it’s a starting point for folks who can’t understand what you want to do. But then you need something more professional. Great. That’s what we’re here for. You talked about Liscio, right with Liscio is fantastic. Chris is a great guy, Chris is in the same sort of mantra, you know, we have overlap. People ask us all the time, well, if he’s client, you know, basically client facing client management 2.0. and you guys have client features, then how does that work? Well, we’re they took it as a place that we’re not going to take it, we’re not going to go to that mobile first only, you know, dealing with text messages and all the other things, but we overlap on our contacts, we overlap in those vehicles. And that’s what makes it work. And they did a fantastic job of making those pieces integrate. You talked about SmartVault, that was another one and and your group, right? Well, we do talk in management as well, because we intercept every communication. And we have to do that in order to context of work. But we’re not a document management system, we never wrote. And so the key is, is we’re a short term data store, to ship all those documents to the proper vendor, they’re the professionals. And so that’s where that integration really matters. And when you think you can do everything for everybody, or you decide that you’re going to try to bite off more of that puzzle, that’s when you end up flailing.

Dawn Brolin
And, and that’s a natural, that’s a natural movement over to the Lacerte conversation, right. So having Lacerte be able to tell how to work, which is Karbon, how do I get the work done, ie tasks within the work, which is the whole customization of that is phenomenal. And we what I what I pride us on here powerful accounting is we’re constantly looking at our workflow and our task list and how are we establishing that so it makes sense that there’s not a lot of disruption, although this is the DM Disruption, we still don’t want disruption in our workflow if at all possible. And and being able to customize and recover it and make it work forward is awesome. But you’re right. It’s like when when someone sends a document, whether it be via fax, because this blog type will get a fax notification from us by fax comes through, and we attach it to a work that communication is attached to a work when we go to do the work. It’s telling us how and you’re right, those documents are right there to grab. But they’re also there to download and stick in what we call our permanent document storage, which is SmartVault. And so I think that, that you’re right, you’ve got to try to figure out for you how all that works best. And we just implemented Liscio. So we’ve been using it for a couple months. Now. Our clients are like, oh my goodness, this is so easy to use. But Licio isn’t how I’m going to do the work. It’s just me being able to communicate with the client, so that I can say, hey, I need this document, I need a password and it’s secure the communication secure, and they don’t have my cell phone number. Thank you very much. Right. And so that’s where I know Lisico fits into my playing field where Karbon is going to tell me how I’m going to get all of it done. And when and how we had a meeting this morning we agreed Staff meeting this morning. We’re like, Okay, we got November and December to get books ready for 1099’s things like that we don’t do a ton of bookkeeping, but we do enough that we’ve got to manage it. And so in Karbon we went through and it’s like, we revisit it, when we see there’s something we’re maybe not and it’s not Karbon, it’s, it’s powerful Accounting has control over carbon, which, which gets in the way, our control gets in the way, because Karbon is meant to do things in a certain way. So I just find that you know, with the staff, it’s just so easy to be able to see everyone’s communication, when with the work when you’re going to figure out how to get it done. And that’s what we love about it. But the Lacerte piece, tell us what stem that like, I know that there’s Intuit practice management, or you know, that’s really kind of geared with carbon. Tell us about that relationship?

Ian Vacin
Yeah, so I mean, obviously, if you’ve got long roots into it for myself, and Andy and others, right? Well, one of the biggest things on tax was, you know, there’s just a lot of volume. And with the volume, you really need to have a very, very good process to be able to get through that seasonality. And from the Intuit side, you know, they just haven’t had a product that’s able to fit within that gap. And when, when they were looking around for who to partner with, and I’m sure they looked at the entire set of folks, you know, they also saw where we were headed in the focus that we had, we have no intentions of ever building, we never would, I mean, but what we do is we help make tax understandable and easy. And again, where the book ends on that main process, we are, we are there to help get the engagement going, we’re there to make sure all the pieces come together for talking about a business tax return. And then we’re there to be able to put that in place and allow for you to use the product of a Lacerte, and then monitor where the statuses are. So you’ll see it become more and more intertangled, where again, we can do the pro form rollover, you can create the return on the fly, you can see the statuses as it goes through, and it ultimately gets finished at the end. And then we’re monitoring the statuses for return statuses, e filing and so forth. Now you add that in with the other integrations that are currently underway, with document management and things of that nature. And it just gets a lot more sexy, right? But he is is we’re there to help book in where they’re at helped give visibility across the peers scale of you know, if you’re a firm of four or five people, you probably do in five hundred returns, it’s a lot of returns. And by the way, if you’re not a cabin, close eye on it, it’s going to be this wall, this mountain that’s going to hit you as you hit March and April. So you need to flatten the curve, but you need to pull the work in you need to systems and pursue it, chase down the clients and then help bring that seasonality curve under control. And that’s where we fit well.

Dawn Brolin
I love it’s not just how I’m going to do the work, but who’s going to do the work. And I think that you know the ability to assign a task within a work. So for instance, a great workflow that we go through is the engagement letters go out, Tracy’s in charge engagement letters, she gets the organizers, she does the payment making sure we have payment information, I do the quoting. So in every single work, we have the same process for every client assigned to the right people. Because we found that when I started getting involved in the organizers and doing that stuff, Tracy’s like, please stay away from it. You are not good at it. Like this is not your wheelhouse. Let me be in control. And it’s crystal clear to anybody like where are we in this work at this point? Oh, I go, I pop in maybe client has called me or something. And I’m like, John, you didn’t get treated the client organizer. You’re not even in line yet, buddy. Like, so you’re able to really at a click of a button to see where does this guy stand? Because he’s calling me and say where’s my tax return? I need it. Well, you haven’t even started with step one yet. Don’t skip over Tracy’s process because she let you through the line, man, right?

Ian Vacin
Yeah, well, it comes down to I stay in my lane, you got to stay in your lane, right? So it’s understanding what everyone’s lane is and supporting that. So yeah, you’re the least efficient person to be at the front of that process. And it’s the most expensive person, you don’t want that. So you want to be able to have that separation of duties, being able to the roles. Just because there’s a title doesn’t mean anyone’s more important. It just means when we’re on a conveyor belt, because that’s where I come. I’m an industrial engineer, by trade, that’s what I know. And that’s what this is about, which is you’re putting the right people on the right spots, to be able to create the most efficient end result for everybody involved, which is including the client. And so when you’re able to do that, then you have a magical moment, then you have peace of mind, then you have high returns in terms of gross margins. And literally you can you can do as much as you can with the staff you have and whether you want to where you want to go from there. It’s up to you as the owner or the firm/

Dawn Brolin
Yeah. Well, I you know, so just to so just to kind of wrap it up we’d like to keep it within 25 minutes people get bored with us although you and I think a pretty freakin awesome I think people will want to listen for forever. But are there any like, do you want to tell us any roadmap things that maybe are not not NDA type of stuff, but some things that maybe people have to look forward to here in the next few months?

Ian Vacin
Well, we’re pretty transparent on your site, and you can see where the road is going forward. You know, because we’re not really worried about, you know, if we can inspire our competitors to fall, sure, it’s just going to make everyone successful. Big, big thing coming up at the end of the turn of the year is file management integration. And so that allows for all the documents to flow to your document management store crossings. Calendar is the biggest one that has been on the roadmap and the requests list for ages. And that is currently in development speak. So that creates the magical moment of oh, I’ve got all my communications, now I got my calendar. And I can do time box, and I can see my colleagues and what they’re working on, those folks will actually move next year into what we call team capacity planning, which is pretty darn cool, which is, I can see what I’m doing in the next month or so I can move everything around. We have a new component, which is really on our client requests, just making that a little bit tighter, big thing that I’m super excited about, which you’ll see next year, is our industry cloud concept. And this allows for you to have all the reporting capabilities you could ever dream of, by bringing in all the data stores that you want. And I’m giving you the flexibility of how you want to report on Google, we get criticized a lot people go like Where’s all your reporting, we do work view. And the only thing the problem is like if I create a canned view for somebody, or I create this report, it’s gonna work for like four people. And the other 500 would be like, that’s not working for me. So the idea there is give me what you want, like you know the panacea to play with it, give you some guardrails, and then let you do what you want to do. So that’s a really big, and then integrations is the mantra of next year. So you will see this become fully integrated with all the different tools that you’re looking for. So it’s really on, on, you know, unraveling what we do. And there’s another sneak surprise. And I think that’s, that’s it.

Dawn Brolin
Well, I can tell you right now, the scheduling, I’m super pumped about everything, we’ll be able to see what other people are doing. And we had that meeting this morning and said, Listen, okay, we’ve got the work all figured out. That’s all good. Everything’s all tight. We’re good. Everybody’s satisfied. Okay, cool. Now we can make it recurring, because we got the templates the way we want it. And then it’s like, okay, now go to Outlook. So now you’re gonna go outside of Carbon, and you’re gonna go put in your calendar, when you’re gonna work on these certain things, right? It’s just, it needs to be better than that. So we’re definitely excited about seeing that feature come out, internally here powerful accounting. But I would just be an your like, I don’t know, you’re like a brother to me, man. And I’m just so glad that you I was able to, I know how busy you are. And I really respect your time, and I appreciate you, and what Karbon is doing to help firms across the across the world, you know, get it together, and become, you know, a better more powerful firm, which is what we need to do. So any last words?

Ian Vacin
No, I appreciate the kind words just so you know, we’re here to serve all of you, and you guys do the hard job. We’re here in the background. And hopefully, you know, I think the thing that I would appreciate is, give us your feedback. Whether you use us or not, that’s up to you. But you know, you need to you need to really push your vendors push those that are in your ecosystem to help you out every day. Push them to do more for you. Because I think that’s that’s the kind of the situation we’re in that we need to have better. suppliers, for lack of better words, we have better partner. Because right now, you know, it’s a hard hard job out there for small businesses and accountants are the heroes. So anything we can do to push you further to be a hero. That just makes everybody win. So I’m super blessed to be on here. I’m not that busy. Don, I’m all I’m always got time for you. And I really appreciate you being nice enough to share the love.

Dawn Brolin
We love you guys. And like I say, my whole goal is to get the starting lineup to play in the same sandbox together. Because the better we are. And it’s I know it’s corny, but they say better together. It’s the truth. It just says we can all be pushing each other. Because the more we push each other, the better we all become at the end of the day. It’s not just about Dawn Brolin, it’s not just about Karbon. It’s about all of us working together to have a better experience in our profession. And so that’s been awesome. But thank you everybody, for listening. It’s been a great episode with Ian Vacin, co founder of Karbon, just an amazing person, and I’m honored to be caught to call him a friend. So thanks, everybody for listening and we’ll get back to you next time on the DM Disruption. Thank you so much.


This episode is sponsored by Liscio. Learn more at www.liscio.me


Katie Thomas, CPA and Founder of Leaders Online, joins Dawn to talk about her motivations, how to find work life balance, why your firm needs to have an online presence, and more! Listen now to learn how your accounting skills can benefit you in other aspects of your career, and how you can achieve both personal and professional success!

Show Notes

Katie’s Beginnings

Katie begins her conversation with Dawn by sharing her background in accounting, and shares her experience as a CPA and a public accountant. She shares that although she doesn’t practice accounting now, the skills she gained as an accountant have been invaluable to her.

“I didn’t realize that, with an accounting degree, you could really do a lot…those skills are really transferable and they also give you a lot of credibility.”

Katie started her career in accounting at Ernst & Young, but quickly learned she wasn’t finding the fulfillment she was looking for. She knew she had a love for marketing, and was hoping she could pursue that at EY, but unfortunately was not offered the position.

It wasn’t until she experienced a health scare where she really began to reevaluate what she wanted her career path to look like.

Katie also encourages listeners to take that leap of faith if they want to make that career adjustment or change, adding that there is no “right time” to make one.

“And then I realized that there’s no, really, ‘signal’. It’s like, it’s got to be up to you.”

Katie’s Motivation and Developing Leaders Online

Katie eventually left EY, and pursued a career in marketing—specifically in the accounting/business industry. She also shared that shortly after she quit EY, her husband ended up needing a major surgery, and that served as a huge motivation to get her business off the ground. 

Katie also shares that she’s always had a passion for marketing. She even helped market her father’s business when she was just 16 years old, and talks about how that experience helped bolster the trajectory of her business. 

While she loves the accounting industry, she did not find joy in tax returns and bookkeeping, but knew there was a market for the services she could provide to practitioners, which ultimately led to the creation of Leaders Online.

Why Your Firm Need to Get Online

Katie’s business, Leaders Online, is a marketing and consulting service that can help businesses increase their online presence. She can help with developmenting a social media presence, creating a new website, branding, and much more. 

Katie says she often finds that accounting firms are hesitant to share their achievements online, and prefer to rely on references to gain new clients. The problem with only relying on references is that your pool of clients can remain quite small. By putting yourself and your firm online, you are able to reach a wide range of clients, and you are able to choose exactly who you want to work with. Even if your firm is not looking for new clients, putting your firm online can even attract new staff who may want to work for your business.

Importance of Work Life Balance

While it is important to find joy in the work you do, Dawn and Katie both agree that it’s important to have goals outside of your work life.

Dawn shares that even though softball season is during tax season, she always makes time for it because it gives her something to look forward to, and ensures that her work hours are productive.

Katie agrees, and shares that she started scheduling horseback riding lessons, and that it’s important to find other activities that you can define yourself by, rather than just your career.


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Dawn Brolin – Liscio Ad

Hi everyone, my name is Dawn Brolin, I’m a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, a president of Powerful Accounting, Inc, and the author of the Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals.

I’m here today to talk to you about one of my favorite new application implementations. And that’s with Liscio. We were finding that we were chasing clients and wasting a lot of administrative time chasing them for documents, for information for answers to questions as we’re going through tax season. And we found that we really could be working a lot less hours if we could solve for that pain point. So we found Liscio. And because of implementing Liscio, we were able to save hours of time every single week chasing clients. Not only was it the time that we were spending, but it was the frustration of trying to get in touch with them. And for them to securely send us documents and information so we could prepare their tax return in a timely fashion.

No more picking up and putting down tax returns, because we don’t have everything we need. What I love is that it’s one central place for us that all of us in our firm can see all of the communications, whether it’s via text, or email, or a document that we’re looking for anyone in the firm can go grab that document or that communication, and know exactly what’s going on with that client at all times. What’s even better about it is that it does integrate with our project management and workflow solution, as well as our accounting software. So we’re entering contact information for our clients in one place and pushing it out to other solutions that we use. And I find that application integration is critical. But being able to save us that time, so that I can be on the ball field coaching in the spring, or whatever else it may be being with my kids, whatever it may be. But we found that we were being so unproductive, doing that administrative chasing that we were just like it’s not the clients fault, it’s our fault, we have to offer them a solution that’s going to work for them. And what we found was as we were implementing Liscio, with our clients, the best feedback we would get in this was almost every single client was wow, that was easy. And that’s what we need it to be in order for our clients really get us what we need. And it’s got to be secure. We need cloud to cloud secure document exchange and secure communications. We no longer give out our personal cell phones, which is awesome. I don’t want to hear from a client midnight. If I happen to hear from them through my Liscio app, then that’s cool. Maybe I respond, maybe I don’t, but it gives me that flexibility and that time of peace and quiet when I’m not in the office. So I’m telling you go out, get yourself a demo of Liscio, implement it for your business you have a successful upcoming 2021, 2022, 2023 and beyond tax season. Thank you so much for listening. And I wish you the best as you move forward.


Dawn Brolin

Alright, everybody, hello, and welcome back to the DM Disruption. My name is Dawn Brolin, and of course your host and I’m here with somebody that I just met really like a handful of months ago through you know, the electronic world, we’ll call it. But I was Katie Thomas here now it is…lifetime online co– help me,


Katie Thomas  

Leaders Online.


Dawn Brolin  

Leaders Online! I’m such an idiot. But really Katie has one of the sweetest souls of people you know, you know, you come across people in your life and you’re like, is she really there’s no way she’s this sweet and nice, but yet she is! And she’s intelligent. She’s got motivation. She’s got drive, her story is so awesome. I’m excited to share that with you. So, Katie, thank you so much for coming today. I mean, you’re out there changing the lives of accounting professionals, and we want to hear all about it. So tell us who you are, what you’re doing, why you started what– your story is so great! And tell us just about yourself.


Katie Thomas  

Well, thanks so much for having me on done. I’m super excited to be here. And I’m a CPA, an accountant like a lot of people who tune in, so I can relate to a lot of what you guys are going through, have gone through with school, and if you are a CPA and took the exam, I feel you but I took a little bit of a different path, once I had worked in public accounting for a little bit. So this is an interesting part of my story because I didn’t realize that with an accounting degree that you could really do a lot and that just the foundation of those skills are really transferable and they also give you a lot of credibility. So that’s something I want, like all accountants to know is like, there’s so many options for me. I do marketing and public relations. But you can go into technology, you can go into consulting, you can go literally into anything. And if you have a background in this industry, people automatically–they want to hear from you because you understand businesses.


Dawn Brolin  

Right? Absolutely. And so being a CPA yourself, I’ve always said, I try to tell this to like the application providers and the different companies of vendors that we work with that listen, honestly, I’m going to listen to Katie, before, I’m going to listen to maybe one of your salespeople, or one of the people that are in your marketing department. Because I trust Katie knows where I stand. She understands she’s been through the CPA exam, which is one in and of itself. I was watching on social media this weekend. And a young man had you know, passed the CPA and I was just…it brings you right back to when, if you remember, Katie, I don’t know about you, but I don’t even know how I passed this thing. Right? And so the last exam comes through and you’re like, Oh, my goodness, if I pass this I’m in. I’ve done it, right? And you’re, you don’t want to push that button. Right? It’s terrifying.


Katie Thomas  

Oh, it is. Every time you feel like you failed, at least I did. And then you’re like, okay, yes, I passed.


Dawn Brolin  

I will tell you okay, this so funny, because you’re just a little itty bitty baby. I mean, in very respectfully, by the way, your experience and what you do, but compared to this old lady, you’re just just, you’re just, you’re just a beautiful young lady. Anyway, I don’t know about you. But when I got my first result, my first exam, I got a 75. And I was like, 75 is passing, I swear, I printed 100 copies of it. I’m like, they can’t take it away from me print print print, like I was freaking out! Like, there’s no way they could take this away from me. And, you know, being able to encourage other accounting professionals as they’re going through that journey, because that journey, and I don’t know about you, when I when I took the exam, which wasn’t really that long ago, honestly, I think I think it was 2012 when I finished up. And so it was later for me, right? So I didn’t do it when I was young. And I just remember that process, it was a two year process, and every weekend, my husband would take the kids somewhere and either take him to his brothers, or they would go hiking, or they go to the playground, so Mommy could study. Right? And that was my big thing. So but to the encouragement now, there’s the social media areas with either whether it’s Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Twitter or whatever it may be where there’s these groups that encourage each other, right?


Katie Thomas  

Yep. Yep. Lots of encouragement and collaboration and just basically a community.


Dawn Brolin  

Yeah, it really is. And we need each other support. And so I remember I read through your story, which I think is fascinating, by the way. And I love the fact that you felt like you were kind of in a corner on your, I want you to tell us the story because it just shows the the true result of being motivated. And whether it’s a negative motivation, or positive motivation, or whatever it may be, or just this, I love that you have a dad like I have, I had a dad that passed away. But his inspiration, his work ethic that laid the path for where I knew I needed to go professionally. So I want you to tell that story, because it really is inspirational, and it’s motivational, and so tell us about that story, because I really enjoyed reading it.


Katie Thomas  

So I was–I had just gotten married at this time, and I was working at one of the big four firms. And for me, I always knew I wanted to go out and do something in like, the more creative space. So I did marketing for–it actually my father’s small business growing up–from time I was 16–I was working with them, and really helped them all up until I started at EY. And so I was super familiar with that space, and I loved it. But then I got into accounting because people said that’s the Language of Business, and long story short, I was at EY, I had just gotten married, and I came down with this weird sickness that I was in the hospital for nine days, the doctors were telling me that my heart could stop at any minute. I mean, I was perfectly healthy. And then all of a sudden I wasn’t and people are, you know, doctors are like, we don’t know, really what’s wrong with you. And when I got out of that, I really realize that, whatever you want to do, there’s never going to be a time. So I remember I would sit at EY, and I was like, I know, I’m being called for something else, like I feel it in me. But you know, am I too young? Am I smart enough? Is anyone going to take me seriously, I have a good job. And so I was just kind of like waiting for a signal. And then I realized that there’s no really signal. It’s like it’s got to be up to you. And so I was like, Okay, I went back to EY and I went to one of the partners and I was like, you know, I love doing business, business development. I love doing marketing like, is there a role in this company for me? And they basically said, “Hey, no, like you’ve got to be you know, a lot further up in the company.” And I totally respect that, so I said, okay. I see this with accountants, like, I know accounting, I know like what we do, maybe there’s a spot for me in the accounting industry doing this. And so I left. And I thought, okay, we’ve overcome one challenge. Well, just a few short weeks later, not even a month, my husband found out he was going to have to get a 13 disk spinal fusion, going to be off work for many months, the foreseeable future, and we’d have to go to New York for this. And so it was a crazy time, but it was, so it was exactly, I sometimes I feel like things just happen for a reason. And this one, it was like, Okay, you made this decision to go out on your own. Now you have an even bigger motivating factor, because your husband’s not going to have that second job of income, you’ve got to produce and provide for yourself and your husband, and we’re gonna find a way to make this work. And sometimes when your back’s up against the wall, that’s when you’re like, it’s go time, I’ve got this, I’m going to find a way. And so that was like, for me, that was like my motivation success story, and here we are today.


Dawn Brolin  

I love that. And so I and I truly believe that. And so, I think I totally believe things happen for a reason 100%, you close one window, and another one opens, a door doesn’t matter, right? And that’s kind of how we’re, I think a lot of it too. Like, I love the fact that your your dad has his own business. And, you know, you were in the weeds of that when you were 16, which I feel like, you know, I’ve been in business when my kids have seen you know that what that work ethic takes, because it’s one thing, I just I do this as my total opinion. And you could tell me, people could tell me, I’m nuts, which I kind of am. But to say that, you know, when you work for yourself, and you’ve done accomplish something like passing the CPA exam, I believe the CPA exam is part of what prepares you for the future for success in a profession, even if you don’t follow through and do traditional CPA work, right technical work. But that does the discipline, and the commitment, and you know, just that 18 months, or however long it takes people, some people takes less, it took me the exact I mean to the day 18 months, which because I’m a risk taker, apparently. And so but you know, you’ve learned that discipline, through that process, it gives you that ability, like you said, you had no choice girl, you were gonna bust out, and it was there was your backs against the wall. And guess what, you either have two choices, you can give up, cry about it and stay miserable at EY. Or you could bust out and say, you know what? I’m going to fall down, I already know it get a bunch of band aids and a bunch of bags of ice, because you’re gonna fall in your face, you’re gonna get beat up, you’re going to doubt yourself. And that’s what the CPA exam to me, that’s what it did. It prepared me to understand I failed one part right? Out of the four I failed when I had to take it again.


Katie Thomas  

That’s good!


Dawn Brolin  

Right? It’s not, there’s nothing wrong with that. And so where you are right now, you’re advising and consulting and working with accounting professionals, you have a book club, as a matter of fact, and other things. So tell me like, what’s, what are your clients telling you? What are you seeing in the profession? Like what is our biggest need? What are people screaming for?


Katie Thomas  

So it’s interesting, because as accountants, we’re really competent, and what we do, and how we help businesses, and our our set of skill set. But whenever you’re, you take the a lot of these accountants and I’m speaking generally not for everyone, not like you, Dawn, if you ask them to start sharing about that online and putting yourself out there and talking about some of their accomplishments, how great and awesome they are taking some of those skills and just putting them out to the public, they clam up. They’re not confident in it. And the thing with this is, they’re really, one, they’re not attracting as many like clients for their firm or some a lot of firms actually, you know, they’re like, “We don’t need any more clients right now, after COVID, we’re busy”, but they want new staff, well, they’re not putting their self out there and their brand out there, so then they’re not attracting that talent that they really could be. And it’s, it’s so cool to witness someone that is so awesome, and they’re lacking this confidence to really put themselves out there and help them do that, and then what comes from it, like more clients, more staff, maybe it’s they get an award like Top 100 Accountant or 40 under 40. It’s it’s really cool what comes from that and it’s not, they’re not conceited, they’re not bragging, it’s just creating a brand and a voice which they have. They just need to expand that and make it louder, put it on the microphone.


Dawn Brolin  

Yeah, and that’s such a good point too, because people will say to me, “Well, how do I get this type of work?” I want it you know, in in the in the new book, that Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals, we do this reassess your success conversation to say, listen, are you even servicing the right clients? Are you actually performing services that you love? Or are you just doing it because it feels, you know, fills the payroll bucket when you need to pay payroll. And I found and I try to tell people listen, you’ve got to find something you love, because you’re going to work for a long time. And you you at least, and you may not, you know, I started out doing bookkeeping, you know, I didn’t go to EY or to a bigger firm, that just wasn’t the route, I stayed fairly in the smaller firm size. And then I love you know, kind of love them, like, Oh, I’m really good at this. I feel like I’m really good at it. And then I was like, I feel like there’s so much more I can be doing. And then I kind of shifted to tax and now tax resolution, a lot of that’s because of Eric Green. I hope you’ve heard there.


Katie Thomas  

Yeah, of course!


Dawn Brolin  

Eric is…Eric has steered me in a direction that I can’t be more thankful for. I kind of feel like if I had him, when I just graduated college, my life would have been very different. Not that I would change anything, because I wouldn’t, but he really helped me steer in this direction of passion of motivation, what I want to do to help people. And so I think that you’re right, like, be loud and proud. And you know, you don’t have to be like, it’s not even about being cocky. It’s about being knowledgeable and sharing that knowledge with other people who need to hear that knowledge. And when you do that, you make that loud voice, people are gonna go, oh, I need somebody for a QuickBooks data cleanup. Oh, I know who that is. Because I see them on social all the time, or somebody to do you know, employee retention, credit calculation, right, or r&d, or whatever. When you make yourself known that that’s what you do, you will get you will get referrals, and you will get clients that you’re looking for, right? And I’m sure you’ve seen that with people, right? They’re there. Are they servicing clients? They maybe maybe shouldn’t? And are you having those conversations with? With your people?


Katie Thomas  

Yeah, it comes up a lot, because a lot of times they are not currently serving exactly who they want. Or maybe they’ve made that transition, but they still have, you know, a handful of clients over here that they’re like, I need to replace that revenue. And it’s like, okay, but if no one knows you, then you are just relying on your existing clients to pass along the referral. Whereas if you have an online perception and brand and people know you maybe those people seeing you all the time, those aren’t your clients, but it’s like, “Hey, my friend over here, who has a similar business is looking for this. Have you seen Dawn online, she clearly knows what she’s talking about. Like you should check her out.”


Dawn Brolin  

Right? Yeah. And I think as you would probably can testify to this, too, there’s, there’s enough work for everybody. I kind of every once in a while I giggle I’m like, trying to remember the last time I went into my office, and I sat down in my chair, and I said, Boy, I just don’t really have anything to do today. Like, I kind of, I kind of have that as a goal personally, is to be able to like work myself out of work, which is what I try to tell my clients, listen, I don’t want to be on your dime, 24/7 I want to get in, I want to do really good work for you, give you great advice, and help you move your business forward. But at the same time, you know what? I someday would love to catch up. I would like every November and December, that’s my goal, right is to catch up on my work. So I can maybe take a couple weeks off, imagine. And so so with that shifting a little bit to helping people that you’re working with these these CPA firms, CPA owners, a firm owners and things like that, that’s your primary people in the firm owners that you’re talking to?


Katie Thomas  



Dawn Brolin  

And so to help them understand that, you know, there can be work life balance, and people throw “work life balance” around. Now, there’s never, I mean, I just don’t see us on a teeter totter words ever even. I think that we have tax season. And we’re doing a lot of that. But I also find like for myself, and you read the first book the Designated Motivator, taking the step, a leap of faith to say, “You know what? Yeah, I know softball is during tax season.” And so what is that? Is that the end of the line for me, because I’m a tax preparer, and I can ever be involved in something like that, right? So for me, it’s it’s not equal. I don’t not at softball the equal amount of time I’m working, but it gives me that ability to have a clear mind. And I think it’s really helped me focus better. And so are you finding your practitioners, the firm owners that you’re working with that they really struggle with that with being able to do something they love to do outside of the office?


Katie Thomas  

Oh, yeah. I mean, I think that for a lot of us, too, just the personality of our profession. Again, I’m generalizing here, but we’re very motivated, very dedicated to what we do, and to our clients and our, our team members, that it’s a challenge for us. Um, and I think though, for a lot of people, it’s like, it takes something significant to pull them out. For example, I know one firm owner I work with, she realized that her son was graduating this year and she was like, “Oh, my gosh, like, I’ve been working his whole, you know, high school” and so she way pulled back I was just like, I don’t know why this just hit me. So I think it’s really cool like you telling that story that you know, you took on coaching the softball team and stuff. And it wasn’t like that was something you know you had to do, but it kind of it was a moment to like, pull you back and make you realize, like, okay, I can do this. And I can rearrange my schedule, or sometimes I think, too, when you put something like that on your schedule, at least I’ve just found personally, it’s like you, you make it work like time just expands how it needs to expand. And that’s not to say you can only work one hour a day versus like, you can kind of give yourself deadlines and speed things up or move things around to just make it all work.


Dawn Brolin  

Yeah. And I think too like, for me that it’s one of my examples is okay, I know I have practice at 3, and I don’t want to miss practice. So I know I have to shut my email off and shut my phone off, and I need to focus on these five tax returns, however many it is, in order for my reward to go to practice. Now, if I don’t hit the goal that I know after practice, I’m coming back to the office because my my goal for the day was these five tax returns. And so when you set in, you’re right, that it’s that that sense of urgency, where if you have listen, I can fill a 14 hour day with work, no problem. But how productive am I really being?


Katie Thomas  



Dawn Brolin  

Because I have this big expansion of time, right?


Katie Thomas  

Exactly. And I know I do the same thing, even though I’m not doing tax returns now. I, I’ve always been into horseback riding and I kind of especially when I started my business, like, let that not be as much of a priority. And so like as soon as I put it back on my schedule and scheduled lessons again and like really devoted myself to being committed to doing it. It was like, you have that reward and you’re going to work towards it and take the time away.


Dawn Brolin  

Absolutely. I feel like you know, I just what I have another thing that I can go and it’s like clearing your mind really the other day and I love that you horseback ride a very dear friend of mine. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Heather Satterly, she’s out of Rhode Island. Heather is she and Liz Scott run the Appy Hour?


Katie Thomas  

Oh, yeah. Okay, of course, Heather!


Dawn Brolin  

Yeah, you Heather. She’s, she loves horseback riding. And so she started to, yeah, she you got it, you guys would say oh my goodness, you guys would love each other. She started horseback riding, you know, maybe six months ago, maybe I don’t know if it was longer than that. She was renting a horse. She now has bought a horse. And she goes horseback riding. She’s got this group of friends and everything. And it just you can see a person’s world change when they are embracing something that they’re passionate about outside of work. I mean, we all love to where people pleasers accounting. Sorry, you are. We do have this stigmatism. And I think you alluded a little bit to it, where people are like, “Oh, well, I’m in the accounting profession, and so I’m supposed to be professional and I’m supposed to be in my suit all the time. And I’m supposed to be doing tax returns. And don’t talk to me during tax season.” And even at Scaling New Heights, I have to say, I think it was Veem had the best t shirt award at Scaling New Heights and it said “I’m sorry for what I said during tax season.” And that just like, righ?, I thought was that was creative. Um, but to think about that is the attitude. It’s like, well, we just don’t, you know, like, my friends will be like, “Oh, we don’t bother you during taxes.” I was like, Dude, I’m still a person. Yeah. And you know, I can still go out to dinner. I can still eat.


Katie Thomas  



Dawn Brolin  

So you can’t let–people go ahead…


Katie Thomas  

Oh, I was gonna say you can’t lose your identity to a job or profession. And it’s hard to not lose it sometimes, which is sad. You have to be intentional about it.


Dawn Brolin  

Absolutely. And I love what you said about your client who realized, oh, my goodness, my kid’s going to graduate. And I feel like the like was in softball. I always try to teach the kids and I try to drill into their heads, listen, do not have regrets. Life is shorter than you think it is. And it’s busier than it’s ever been before. But if we don’t stop for a hot second and say, Listen, the work will be there, you’ll get the work done. But to understand that you don’t want to look back and go, Oh my goodness, I wish I’d done this or my kids now off to college. Now they’re gone by, you know, they’re out of here. And it’s like, I missed that whole opportunity to be a part a big bigger part of my, my kids life. Now listen, I understand. There’s some people that listen, this is what you do. I’m not this is not a judgment. So let’s, right Katie?


Katie Thomas  



Dawn Brolin  

So let’s, let’s you know, preface the fact that we’re just trying to give you some motivation and some encouragement to stop for a minute. I mean, either just sit for five minutes and be like, what do I really want out of this life? I mean, I’m 51, okay, I’m not on the upslope I’m not on the upslope, okay, I’ve hit the peak, coming back down. But what do I want that ride to be like? What do I want that exit strategy of life, which nobody wants to talk about? Because it’s, you know, gloomy, but really, at the end of the day, there’s only two things you have to do you have to die, you have to pay taxes, right? Those are the only two things you have to do. So if those are the two things that are not really that pleasant, right, let’s see how we can fill our lives, even if it’s just an hour a day, an hour a week, two hours a week, that you can really feel good about something for yourself. And guess what? Here’s the thing, Katie, I’m sorry, I’m talking probably more than I should know. But I just I just connect, I really connect with you. Like, it all makes sense to me. And I look back and I say, what if? What if I had done these things? And what if I took some time to myself? Because I know it re-energizes me. And I know that listen, I’m going to have regrets. There’s no doubt everybody’s going to have them that’s inevitable. But can we minimize the regrets? And what does that mean for you, there’s a commitment thing, or there’s a, you know, continuing education, whatever that may be, but to look outside of all of this professional work, and I’m a CPA and all this stuff, and say, “You know what, I’m also a person,” and you’re going to lose, I lost staff for when I made that decision. People quit people, they were like, you’re not in the office enough. I mean, I don’t know if this is the truth, because I never really told me, but it’s like, why, what was the problem? I wasn’t in the office 16 hours a day, which is the you know, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. Or, you know, you didn’t feel like I was I was working as hard as you were, it’s like, okay, and you’re gonna have that negativity, you just have to be willing to accept it. Right? At the end of the day.


Katie Thomas  

Yeah. Yeah. And I think something that about that is like, so powerful to do, and then have grace, if that changes, because like what you think brings you joy, like maybe right now, you are really focused on your career, and like, the thought of doing some sort of project or taking on extra work is like, that really does give you a lot of joy. That’s great. But then you, you know, a year changes, and now you’re having a family or something like that. And it’s like, Okay, I’ve got to take a step back. And maybe your life looks different, or your view of joy looks different now. Like, that’s okay, too. I know, that’s been something I’ve experienced is like, accepting that your wants needs, desires are going to change. And that doesn’t mean that you as a person aren’t as committed, or anything like that. It’s just like, no, like, you’re in a different stage in your life now, and priorities do change. And that’s okay. You’re still a committed person to your job and your profession.


Dawn Brolin  

I love that. It’s like I say reassess your success, but reassess your joy. Like it sounds corny, but it’s true. Like, you don’t want to be that person who’s on this shirt that said, “I’m sorry about what I said, during tax season,” you don’t want that to be your message.


Katie Thomas  

No, you don’t.


Dawn Brolin  

It’s funny, but that is not what I want to be perceived as is like a tax season we’ll ever we will see Brolin for three months. And yet I’m like, so you know, and this is super funny, too. And then maybe you go out, you know, to watch a game in a bar with your buddies, like on a Friday night or something and you go, you show up and they’re like, What are you doing here? It’s tax season. It’s like, what?


Katie Thomas  

I’m a human!


Dawn Brolin  

I’m still person. What do you mean? And it really is powerful when you can, you can determine and in like, set the stage for your success in whatever that some people are like, Listen, I’m going to work. I want to work 60-70 hours a week, 80 hours a week, and I’m just this is my time to shine. And I’m going to pump through it because then I take the other seven months off eight months off. That’s okay, too. Right? And and like you said to you, mate, I grinded man, I was the breadwinner. I had just like you were when you had your husband, right? And laid up, which by the way, when you wrote that up, it said, so my new husband, and I gambled about that. I was like, Oh, she got rid of one!


Katie Thomas 

(Katie Laughs) Nope! Still same one!


Dawn Brolin  

One and done. I always say I don’t want to retrain man, I have my one guy. I’m gonna keep him. I don’t have to retrain. But but it just, it just is. And it’s something that you just have to reflect back on and say, I think this is what’s best for Dawn Brolin. And that’s where I think it’s hard for us because we do want to please everyone else before ourselves, but over time, that can beat you down. So tell me about what are your what are the things that you can offer to the to the people that are listening now, what you you are doing coaching with these firms, you’re helping with marketing, you’re helping with branding, tell us about what you’re doing. So we can you know, people have a need for what you’re doing. So tell us a little bit more about that.


Katie Thomas  

Yeah, so if you’re a firm owner, and you feel like right now, you aren’t being seen online as the expert you are, then that’s where you’re the perfect candidate to get some help. So maybe you don’t like your current website. Or maybe you feel like your social media presence is lacking. Or maybe you see people getting featured in articles and you, you want to be featured to you want to share your knowledge and your expertise, then that’s exactly where we can help you and we can come in and work together to create a plan on how to take you from where you’re at now to where you want to be. And we’ll work together and do it. It’s we need a little help from you as the practitioner because you’re the only one that knows your story, your voice your brand, but we try to do all the heavy lifting like all the content, writing, creation, all that’s done for you.


Dawn Brolin

And I love that and we need that. And I love the fact that you’ve been a CPA and you are a CPA and that you’ve been in our industry and worked for the bigger firms, you’ve, you’ve worked with accountants, just in general and clients, you understand what the client needs to hear as well. So, so what what let’s just because we’re gonna wrap it up, but what’s the website that people can come find you?


Katie Thomas

You can go to Leaders dash, so little hyphen online.com. And you can learn more about what we do there schedule a time to talk. And then I’m on social media, Katie Thomas, CPA pretty much everywhere. So you can I send me a DM.


Dawn Brolin  

Definitely. So well, it will post the link, the link will be right there on the on the homepage of the podcast, you’ll be able to click links and go listen to Katie, I just have to say that I I’ve met you for a very short period of time. And it was almost like an instant connection that I felt like you like got me like you figured you understood me and I and you could hear me and that kind of thing. And I think we as practitioners need to get that voice out there. And if you do want to be someone who wants to get on the stage, and you want to, you know, teach and speak and write and be part of the community educational program, which is really what we’re all there to do, especially the online presence, let people find you people need to find you. You want them to hear your voice. And so Katie is a phenomenal human being number one, and number two, just she’s got it figured out. And I think you know, definitely take a look. Get on a call with Katie and see how she can help you improve that online presence in your voice. So Katie, I just want to thank you so much. Like I said, I really enjoy just interacting with you at any time. And if there’s anything we could do, we’ll probably have you back cause I want to hear more about how are your obviously your clients, we don’t know who they are, but what are they doing over the next six months or so and so we’ll we’ll definitely have you back on the show. So any last words you want to leave with people?


Katie Thomas  

Well, I just wanted to say thanks for listening to this episode and you could have been doing anything with your time and you chose to spend 25 minutes hanging out with us so I really appreciate you.


Dawn Brolin  

Awesome, Katie, thank you so much. And we’ll be seeing everybody again on the DM Disruption next time from Dawn Brolin from Windham, Connecticut, everyone have a great rest of your day. Thanks so much!



Episode Summary

Liscio’s Alison Ball joins Dawn Brolin to discuss how Liscio is your all in one solution for better communication with your clients, a hub to receive important tax documents, and a place to track all your messages and files in one place, all with top-notch cyber security! With more and more practitioners moving their firm to Liscio, listen now to see how they can help you and your clients work better together, and help achieve both of your goals easily and efficiently!

Get to know Alison:

Alison Ball is the Director of Marketing and Influencer Strategy for Liscio, Inc. She is passionate about helping firms to differentiate themselves by providing Client Experience 2.0TM to their clients. Before joining Liscio in August 2020, Alison spent 15 years leading accountant influencer programs at Intuit, and prior to that she was an accountant herself. In her spare time, she grows amazing backyard vegetables and loves hiking in the San Francisco Bay Area. She believes that life is too short to spend it with mean people, and any day she can help someone else be successful is a good day indeed.

What is Liscio?

Alison describes Liscio as “a collaborative environment for you and your team to work together along with your clients.” 

Liscio is an all in one communication platform for tax practitioners that makes communication between them and their clients incredibly easy. With both an app and browser based software, Liscio provides you with a messaging platform to communicate with your clients, and helps keep all the information they share with you in one place. They also make it easy for clients to share their tax documents with you, and even send reminders to your clients when they are behind on sending you important tax information.

Why Email Communication is Not Serving You

Alison and Dawn share their frustration when having to use email to communicate with their clients, and share how they have both been stuck digging through their inboxes to find the one piece of important information. 

When Liscio is implemented, you can completely avoid this, shares Alison. Liscio keeps all your messages and client documents in one portal, so you can access them from any place at any time! No more lost messages, and no more digging or sorting your inbox!

Liscio also offers integrations with your favorite apps such as QuickBooks Online, SmartVault, Adobe Sign, and more!

A Better Work Life Balance

Dawn and Alison share how many clients prefer to text their practitioners for information, rather than through email. Alison talks about how this can be a problem, and how texting can feel very invasive on the practitioner’s end, and make them feel rushed to answer their clients’ questions. 

With Liscio, clients can still have the convenience of contacting their practitioner directly through their phone, and practitioners can know that all of their client’s messages are already sorted, and will be easily accessible during working hours, rather than having to track the messages they receive while at the dinner table.

Learn more at www.liscio.me


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Dawn Brolin 0:05
This episode of the DM Disruption is sponsored by Veem. Veem provides a convenient way to manage AR and AP was superior reporting, a mass pay option, payment tracker, invoice capture and more. Veeam also provides a start to finish approval process to minimize the risk of fraud, a common occurrence in business today. At the end of the day, Veem is an all in one business global payment solutions for clients of all sizes, visit them today at www.Veem.com.

Hey, everybody, and welcome back to the Designated Motivator, DM Disruption today and our podcast, we’re really excited today to have one of the greatest people I’ve known in the accounting industry for so so long is Alison ball. And many of you know, Alison, Alison is with Liscio, which is an application that is solving for pain points with your clients. And I think the message that Alison I want to bring to you all today is that we as the firm owners, and in the practitioners, and the technicians sometimes need to step back and think about what the client is experiencing. And we love to solve for ourselves because that’s natural, but we really want to make sure we’re keeping the client in the forefront of our mind. And in order to do that, and in order to be successful in that experience, we’ve got to have tools in place to keep that experience positive. So Alison, welcome back. We’ve had you on before, and you’re always a blessing.

Alison Ball 1:28
Thank you, Dawn, it’s just amazing to spend a few minutes here here with you and your audience. I loved how you introduced this this chat that we’re gonna have today, because I think accountants and bookkeepers are so heart led, that you know, because you can’t you join the profession, because you want to help your clients be more successful, right. But somewhere along the line, you know, somewhere along the line and get bogged down in this friction with you and your clients. And I hear people say, you know, well, I, I’d like to fire all my clients, or I, you know, this is the year I’m gonna make, make my clients, you know, get their documents on time. Or, you know, you know, this is the year that I get to do things differently somehow, and then get we never do. And we endure these busy seasons, right? These busier seasons, and the stress mounts and things. And I think the reason I found Licio so incredibly fascinating is that Chris has uncovered a, a solution to a problem that many people just don’t even know exists. And that’s how they’re how they are allowing their clients or how they’re asking their clients to work with their firm in a digital fashion. So that’s what I’m really fascinated about. And that’s what I want to talk about today is how if you nail that, if you remove that friction, how all boats can rise?

Dawn Brolin 2:53
Absolutely. And, and I know obviously, as a practitioner, I hear from let’s say, even new clients that are referred over to us. We’re listening to them as they, you know, well, why did you and I asked the question, I think it’s a great question to ask a new client. Why did you switch to me? Like, why were you looking for another accountant? And I would, I would probably, I could say 85 to 90% is communication. Yeah, there’s a lack of communication. And I just got a new client from New Jersey who was like, you know, you’re in Connecticut, I’m in New Jersey, how are we going to communicate? And that was my biggest problem with my prior account, and I couldn’t get a hold of them. And, and certainly, we can go down the email road, Allison. We can talk about emails, because emails are the death of everybody. Right? And it’s, it’s really wasted time, no value there. And there. They are a standalone type of communication, we need a one face one stop one way to communicate with the clients. And that’s why we chose Liscio, we needed to communicate with the clients. And I and that said this before, they love it. It’s so easy for them to use. They’re all on cell phones. I think I have two clients with Star Trek phones, I call it their the flip, they still may text by hitting, you know, to get to see, to get three times. That’s that’s not the norm. And so I think a lot of times and I know people, oh, well, people aren’t going to want to add another app to their phone. People have a bazillion apps on their phone, they can’t even find half of them. They don’t know to put them in folders and things like that. Right. So that assumption, I think is a challenge for practitioners. Yeah,

Alison Ball 4:31
I think like Well, let’s start with the email thing because I think most people think of email as the best way to communicate. And it certainly is easy in the moment. You can type an email and kind of forget about it. But what you have to understand is what is the downstream effect of that email. So if I send an email, let’s pretend you’re my client. If I send an email to you with a long list of documents and a link to my portal because I want you to send them securely and you get this on you’re probably going to get it on your phone. You are probably nowhere near a scanner. And you’re in, you’re busy, you’re in the middle of your busy day. So what happens to that email, you open it, you go, Oh, Alison wants something, okay. And you immediately close it, you probably mark it unread. And then your day takes over and it goes down, down, down, down, down into the inbox, right? Now, eventually now, okay, then Dawn saying, hey, Alison didn’t send her stuff. Send me another email. Same thing happens. Oh my gosh, don’t you know now Tracy’s asking you “Hey, hey, Dawn, Alison didn’t send her stuff.” So, okay, now you got Tracy on you. So then Tracy starts emailing me. Okay, now Don and Tracy can’t see inside each other’s inboxes. Right? And so then okay, then I answer one of them. One of those emails that got sent, right. And so then I’m, and maybe I’ve got some questions in my email. And so everything is all like, and then there’s no way for your team to see in each other’s inboxes the client gets lost, they lose the string, they can understand what they’re doing. So what Chris created with Liscio, Chris and Sekhar the two co founders is a system of it’s it’s a collaborative environment for you and your team to work together along with your clients. And so what happens is that the client is, you know, at the closest analogy I have done is the way that you work with your online bank. Right? When you go to send a document to your bank, what do you do you just snap the picture, but you send it like your deposit a check, right? Liscio is that easy. So you just so you said maybe clients don’t want to put an app on their phone. Cool thing is they don’t have to just like a bank, they can log into their browser, right? But the magic happens when you bring everybody into that same quiet space. There’s no email, strings, there’s nothing, there’s no waiting through anything, the staff can see everything for that one client. So you and Tracy can see everything that you need from me. And it’s and it’s all like there. And then the system auto reminds if I owe you something, the system auto reminds so magic happens, and I think what’s really interesting is is that people need to walk in their clients shoes to understand what the experience is. And I just don’t think that email and the link to a portal is making anybody’s firm, more efficient, move faster or look good. And so I’m on a mission to change that.

Dawn Brolin 7:33
Absolutely. I wouldn’t even take it a step further. So we’re emails Absolutely, they those numbers, you know, on the daily they start dropping down no matter how much you make it be, you know, tag this to junk email, you don’t want to look at it. I find not only emails which I can’t stand emails more, which even becomes more of a problem. Texting. Oh, now we’ve talked about texting. Oh, yeah. The texting. The texting has turned into email, honestly. Yeah. And people are goosebumps talking about it, but it’s demanding.

Alison Ball 8:07
But it’s demanding, it’s it’s like it’s like it’s like email in your face. It’s like, Oh, my God, I’m gonna get, where’s my camera? I’m gonna get you right here in the face, like poke in the eyes email.

Dawn Brolin 8:17
And you know what? It’s like, okay, you text me. If I’ve read it, you don’t want to read it, the text. And now that text from somebody ends up over the weekend in 20th position. And I’ve replied to them, because I know that like you said, it’s in my face. And they want an instant reply. I go, but what…

Alison Ball 8:36
Which we love being interrupted and family dinners, and yeah, we’d love that. Right.

Dawn Brolin 8:41
Love that. And so, you know, clients expect to be able to text you. And they in so I actually this phone right here, this is my personal cell phone. Now only the special get this phone number, because this is my this is my personal phone, I have a phone in that office over there. That’s the business phone. And that does not come out of the office. That’s for authorization codes, that’s protected from clients. Because and I don’t give this to out to my clients. I have some friends, obviously, our clients by telling them if you text the personal phone number, you have been voted off the island. Oh, can note you’re gone, you’re out of here. So what Liscio will do for you and like like Alison was saying, it only has the important information in there. So you’re not having to, you know, sort through emails or go back to your text and go scrolling and looking for all the work you just promised you would do over the weekend. And you’re you know, now it’s Monday and you’re like, oh, did I text somebody over the weekend it was you know, football, whatever. So when having things in one place, you’re going to minimize that I just call it wasted time.

Alison Ball 9:53
A tremendous amount of wasted time to look for things and to search for things and to look across platforms. And the other thing Don is I don’t know about your clients, but I hear frequently from practitioners that their clients will text them documents, pictures of documents. Now, yes. Now, if you have a client who is texting you, and especially those that are taking photos of documents and attaching them to a text, they’re giving you a really clear message that they want to work with you using their phone. It is the clearest message you could have. So those clients that are texting you, if you move them off text, and you move them on to Liscio, they will be delighted. And your communications with them. And the way that you work together with that client will be elevated 100x And B, it’s so much better, because the client will be like, Okay, I have one place, oh, if I need done, I go here, right here, right here on my phone. And and again, people don’t have to use the phone app, they that’s that’s it’s just like dealing with your bank, you can use the browser or, or your phone. But we’ve found that that is a really big, a really big thing. And then what happens is when you’re getting those documents quickly, and your team is on the same page, and everybody can see what’s happening with that client, all those communications, the documents, the signatures, what else we talked about the tasks, the all the things that have to do with the with the tooing and froing, between your firm and your client. Everyone can can move faster. And your work gets more accurate. And and all these missteps that sometimes happen. Like you never have to worry about a foot refer as a firm owner about being blindsided by something. Because maybe you were out of the loop out of the communication loop because a staff member was dealing with them, and maybe they didn’t deal with them in the right way or, or they said something that wasn’t communicated back to you. And then you had a misstep, you never get those blind sides never happens. Because anybody can go in and review the history of it. Right, of that client?

Dawn Brolin 11:59
Definitely. And I think another kind of component that we don’t I don’t think we really think about all the time is that everything being in that one place, having all the firm have that access, eliminating emails, because people this is one thing that people don’t think about either. And that’s what this whole conversation is about is the client side of it. And on the client side, so many clients, especially if you’re dealing with individual tax clients, they don’t live on their email.

Alison Ball 12:26
No, they’re they’re doing their businesses, right. They’re running their businesses.

Dawn Brolin 12:30
And so you know, we happen to sit at a computer all day. So we have I’ll call it just carte blanche access to emails. But our clients don’t my contractors aren’t going home at night sitting down and reading my email with my questions. But if I text them throughout the day, previously texting them that I get an answer from them right away, I can keep moving in my work with you’re doing that with Liscio and tell them either notifications on by the way, because that those notifications aren’t going to pile up like an email notification.

Alison Ball 13:02
No, they just they just get it they just get a little ping with “Hey, Dawn has a question.” “Oh, Dawn has a question.” *ping ping ping*, and they answer back.

Dawn Brolin 13:09
And that’s, that they so here’s an I think that this is even more powerful than anything else. Right? They know if there is something that comes through, they know that that is their accountant, their tax accountant on a text, they don’t post you on an email, ding, they don’t know it’s you. And they and they get so many of those dings that they don’t care anymore. Where when you when you have one specific application that is specific to your taxes to your business, and direct access to your CPA, they are going to tell everybody about that. Because no one else has you know who else is doing it? Well, hopefully everyone is because everyone gets on Liscio.

Alison Ball 13:51
And we have had so many new firms come to us because clients use Liscio with a different practitioner. So we’ve had bookeepers, we’ve had them use, like for example, let’s say I’m let’s say I’m the client and I’m using Liscio with my bookkeeper. And then I go to my CPA firm and I say “Wait, you don’t use Liscio.” And then the CPA firm says, “Well, what do you mean?” And so and then they show it and then they’re like, oh, so we get so many referrals from the client actually driven from the client, because the clients really love it.

Dawn Brolin 14:21
Absolutely. And that that mindset of, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, I was wanting an app like this, I wanted to develop a powerful accounting app that do this communication with for years, I’ve wanted to do it. And now I’m like, well, guess what, I didn’t have to do it because someone else did. And now I like it.

Alison Ball 14:45
It’s very reasonably priced. And it’s very reasonably priced. So you don’t have to go through all the app development. Yeah. And I think the other thing done just you know, I’m mindful we’re going to be up at time pretty quick, but I I think the other thing is just the security and you touched on it. But the but email is such a scary place. And texting is scary. And you know people have to if you have a PTIN, you’ve you’ve had to fill in your Wisp and say that you have that written information security. Is it plan or protocol plan? I don’t want the P stands for. But you’ve actually verified that you’ve got that in place. And so if you’re using email, then you don’t have it in place.

Dawn Brolin 15:25
Yeah, the PTIN. is actually the preparer tax identification numbers what the PTIN is.

Alison Ball 15:30
With the, with the risk.

Dawn Brolin 15:33
And you’re checking a box, man, when you say, Yeah, I’m secure. I’m good. You know, people say, Well, you know, the IRS is never going to come ask for a copy of your plan. Well, you know what, never say never. Because you know, what they want the IRS right now they need money. And you know, how they’re going to get money by finding people, period. So, you know, be be aware, and and think a little bit more about it. I think that’s what we’ve got to do. We just got to step back for a hot second and say, what are the most important components of my firm? Number one are my clients because without them, I don’t have a firm. And so if they really are in the forefront of your mind, if your clients really are that important to you, then you’re going to want to take the steps that you need to implement in an application, Liscio to communicate with them securely. That because here’s it at the end of the day, they’re not thinking about security, they’re not they don’t think about it at all. They’re like, you know, I have somebody, oh, let me just shoot you an email with my W2. And I’m like, No, it’s like, you’re not thinking how you just want to get it to me. So we have to be at the forefront thinking of the security 100%.

Alison Ball 16:40
Yeah, and well you know, it’s just Liscio just makes it very easy for people to do that. And I think if I wanted to leave one thing with you is it’s just really walk in your clients shoes, when you think about the technology you ask them to use an email is probably causing a lot of hurt and harm in your firm. So rethinking mail for sure.

Dawn Brolin 17:00
Yeah, absolutely. And just think about what you hate it because I totally do. I totally do. Um, you know, everybody wants a clean inbox. Yeah, and including your clients, right, including your clients. So, but yes, Liscio telling you to collect communications, make it seamless, make it easy for people to communicate with you. Because if you don’t, someone else will. And that’s the that’s really the takeaway, just get it together. It’s not hard to implement. This is not like trying to implement some kind of new technology that we don’t even understand. It’s something you’re doing already. Do it in one place and do it with Liscio, period. So Alison, thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure to have you on.

Alison Ball 17:40
Thank you, Dawn!

Dawn Brolin 17:40
Everyone, we will see you on the next DM disruption, we’re going to continue to bring you insights, knowledge, practitioner tips and tricks and all the things that we can help you grow your practice to be more efficient, more effective, and most importantly profitable. Okay, so thanks again. We’ll see you guys all next time



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.


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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 DawnBrolin.com in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Episode Summary

Nate Flake, VP of Operations at Fishbowl, joins Dawn Brown, CPA, CFE, to talk about his upcoming summit, and to discuss the inventory management services that Fish Bowl provides. Listen now and learn why investing in the right software, connecting with industry professionals, and having a strong team working behind the scenes of your business can lead to its success! 

This episode is sponsored by Fishbowl.

Fishbowl Summit and Nate’s Motivation

Nate talks about the upcoming virtual summit that Fishbowl is hosting and shares his excitement to have a dedicated conference to discuss inventory management. He talks about how the conference will cover everything in an SMB toolkit to give business owners the knowledge and resources to help achieve their company goals.

Importance of Proper Inventory Management

Dawn and Nate discuss how important it is to have correct inventory management to have a successful business, and cutting corners will cause more problems in the long run.

Nate discusses how Fishbowl, his Inventory management company, can help businesses save time, money, and can be installed locally on your desktop.

Benefits of New Hosting Service “Quarium”

Nate also discusses another branch of his company called Quarium, which provides businesses with a hosting service to run Quickbooks and other professional accounting software.

The service also includes a “partner portal” which allows accounting professionals to easily access information from their clients without headache or hassle.

Dawn adds how she appreciates the security that Fishbowl and Quarium can provide to businesses.

Nate also talks about how investing in the right technology in your business early on can benefit your company in the long run. 

“There’s hundreds of companies that are making the right steps and investing in the right technology, and they’re blowing up. It’s crazy.

Importance of Building a Foundation for Your Business-:19:42

Dawn talks about the importance of having a solid foundation in your business, and falling short on areas like inventory, can greatly hurt the growth of your business. Investing in the correct software can greatly improve the structure and flow of a business.

Nate agrees and shares how he appreciates Dawn’s integrity when it comes to working and fighting for her clients.

Partner Program at Fishbowl-26:34

Nate also discusses how Fishbowl has implemented a Partner Program that connects accounting professionals to other industry professionals that can help streamline productivity and increase the success of a business.


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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 VARCSolution.com, 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.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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.

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.

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 DawnBrolin.com in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode Summary

Dania Buchanan, President, SmartVault Corporation, talks about embracing the hybrid working culture, work life balance, and how SmartVault is helping accounting firms make the most of all of the new opportunities available to them.


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Dawn Brolin 0:05
Alright everybody. Hello and welcome back to another episode of the DM Disruption with myself, Dawn Brolin is your host and I’m here with Dania Buchanan from SmartVault. Now if you know me, you know, I’m a SmartVault girl, because I’m smart. So I use smart vault. I don’t use dumb vault, I use smart vault that makes sense. Right. SmartVault was a great presence at Scaling New Heights didn’t you know, amazing? Yeah, you know, I think four or five people there anyway. And it just, it was awesome. But we really missed, I’m not gonna lie.

Dania Buchanan 0:34
The team was excited to get on the road for sure. The team was very excited. I think that was the biggest conference we’ve been to so far. I think the sales team went to one of the Florida CPA conferences last week. But they all said Acaling New Heights was wonderful. And it really makes me happy. Yeah, that everybody came out. Yeah.

Dawn Brolin 0:55
Well, there’s such so many really great things that are happening. And you and I kind of just talked a little bit before we went live here, but just talking about people getting back together again, and how important that is. And, you know, just been through like you say, normal. Tell me tell me what you said before because it was perfect. Like just normal. It’s normally just over the top.

Dania Buchanan 1:15
Yeah, I think people are desperate for physical connection with other people. Because this is a service oriented group. Right, right. Accounting, accountants, professional accountants provide a service. I know, they don’t have to provide it live. But they’ve built their practices in their businesses on relationships. So they are relationship driven in their core, no matter if they do it remotely or in person. But I do think the tribe of accounting professionals is a really tight knit group. So I think they were looking for a chance to go give each other some high fives, and in, in a fun way, but I think in a more meaningful way, just to give each other a hug and say, hey, you know, I’m sorry, for the hard time that you’ve gone through, I think, no one, you know, this has been a shared experience globally. And there’s no one no human that has been left untouched by by some component of it. So I think there’s also that which is makes the whole tribe such it’s such a cool bunch, man.

Dawn Brolin 2:25
And we did, we had a really good time. And it was, again, just great to see each other and, you know, seeing I mean, really smart. Like you guys are all part of our families, right? So we all want to say, like gravitate to certain applications in their teams, because of who they are. And you’re like, Oh, my goodness, it’s so good to see you like IV. I hadn’t seen it in a while. So it was great to be able to see him and he’s just such a great a great sport. And we did have a great interview. So Fritz and I and IV and I had a couple short short recordings that we did that we’re gonna be able to get out there onto the DM Disruption as well, yeah, so we just…

Dania Buchanan 3:02
Both good talkers, yeah, both great guys.

Dawn Brolin 3:04
Just intelligent. We talked a lot about like customer service. And, and just being there and having that for drive like smart ball. You know, and I don’t I, I’m not gonna say anything, because I’m not really sure Fritz told me I could or couldn’t say anything. But, you know, just knowing you guys have acquired a couple of additional applications that might be moving in some new directions. Not new directions. But…

Dania Buchanan 3:24
Yes, yeah. So we bought last month, we did two technology acquisitions. And we looked, we just we just literally whiteboard workflow, we whiteboard upcoming professional workflow, like, where could we plug in features that will augment and make the workflow more efficient? So we came up with two one? You just mentioned quoters, right, which is a cloning feature, which is brilliant. So if you’re not using an electronic quoting tool you need to be so we’re gonna bundle one in natively. So there was a little technology acquisition we did there and the other one was dock down, which is form fill, which IV will tell you, Daniel will tell you we’ve been asked about for years now. Right, which is this profession in any other professional services profession is going to have want someone to fill in a form, right? And they’re going to want to know that part of their DMS. So both of those pieces of technology. We’re hoping we’ll do a proof of concept hoping by mid next year, so once every one emerges from tax season, maybe have a couple of beta features for customers to try and then into production towards the end of next year. Yeah…

Dawn Brolin 4:44
Super exciting, it is super exciting. And like I always say to people, listen, if your software providers are not moving forward, they are moving backwards so they’re not looking for, you know, what problem can they solve next, right, you’ve already got the document storage nailed down. That’s just solid like you can’t beat that. and being able to move to another sector or another segment. And I think you’re right, you’re not using quoting electronic quotes, like, you know, and I teach a lot about that in the book is to say, listen, you know, you got to be sending out quotes, you got to have a place people can go get their tax returns, and I tell people this, I charge 100 bucks to print your tax return. If you can’t go in line, log in and grab it yourself, then come on, man, like now you’re just thinking I’m your mom or something. Right?

Dania Buchanan 5:27
But that is an example of not valuing your time at zero, your time is not valued at zero. So your time has a value on it, you have now provided an assisted way where customers can go get their own information. If they don’t want to go that route, then your time is still not valued at zero, right? I’m happy to go print it for you. It’s $100. Yeah, good for you. Yeah, we’ve been encouraging customers to figure out how to pass on the charge for smart light, you are providing a service so that at any point in time, I can go look at the K1 that I uploaded in my vault from 2013. That is a service you’re giving your customers that document portal that secure. That’s a service that’s not valued at zero in mind, right?

Dawn Brolin 6:14
No, it’s not, no it isn’t. And people will, you know, they’ll email me and say, Oh, hey, I need a copy of my 2019 W2 , and I just go click, send link, done. Yeah, like that. If you can’t, if that doesn’t work for you all I need you to go for I don’t even remember, honestly, last time, somebody asked me to print it for them. But I also I charged them on every quote that goes out for tax returns, they get a $35 technology fee, everybody pays it, no one’s ever complained. I’ll say no one.

Dania Buchanan 6:43
So done. When you go by your when you bought your red sox tickets, you did it online, you were charged a service fee, a convenience fee, a ticket fee, whatever, you were charged for the technology that allowed you to buy your ticket online. This is common practice. But what I think happens is typically some of the accounting profession not all have been have shied away from charging for a valuable service that they provide. So again, it’s like where do you value your time, your time is worth something. So and it’s nominal fee, and most will pay that for the convenient convenience fee. That’s the, that’s my favorite word that they charge.

Dawn Brolin 7:28
Okay, it’s true. It was convenient, you know, darn it. You know, you don’t want that. But you do so yeah. And I mean, over the last year and a half, when we do talk about this a lot about what you know, what changes, we all had to make a change in some capacity. Everybody did, whether it was okay. My customer, my client doesn’t feel comfortable coming to the office. So how are we going to sign documents like, thank goodness that I had already had that all nailed down with, you know, Lecert, Smart Vault to DocuSign. So I have a system, and I was good, but there were so many that weren’t. And I watched them on social media, you watch the people who are like, I don’t even know if I want to do this anymore, which is a funny segue to talk a little bit about your son, because people have made shifts and made changes and did something totally different than they were used to doing. So tell us about that, this is awesome.

Dania Buchanan 8:19
So for your listeners, right, my son, I think he came to two conferences, which no one will remember I don’t remember but anyway, long story short is he graduated University of Texas as a film student he went into filmmaking documentary filmmaking To be specific, had a had a short couple of years of getting documentaries made and out there. He came to a couple of the accounting shows as the videographer to film customer interviews and things were which is where you and some others have seen him. Anyway, long story short 2020 hits, right he is has three I think productions in flight all came to a grinding halt. Well, he’s not he’s early in his career so he doesn’t have a big tranche of money sitting in a savings account he can go draw from right so not knowing when there’s an end to all of this he decided to go back to school got himself into a UTS grad program and Masters of Public accounting and will sit for his CPA next spring so who graduated in May which is I have this very right brained kid this filmmaker kid but if for any of you don’t know the five minutes or five second version of documentary filmmaking when you’re on a fairly low budget million $2 million, right he did all the accounting work himself. You have to start an LLC, you have to pay payroll, you have to hire people, you have to file quarterly taxes on any they get grant money, they get donation, money, etc. And so I was just telling Dawn before we started recording, the class they should teach you in film school is how to manage a film, a low budget film. They don’t teach you that. So anyway, long story short, his big pivot is going back and getting his CPA so that he can support the media and entertainment industry, primarily the independent filmmakers. And those guys, really, they end up losing money. They don’t know what to do. They’re a little lost in the business side of it, they can all make a movie for sure. They’re all super talented. So that’s an example. Like you were saying earlier, none of us escaped impact from this the smart vault business. Like many employers, right, we sent everybody home may, March 13, I think Friday the 13th, when everything started unwinding, we ordered monitors for everybody be set up at home and thinking it was going to be a couple of months. Who knows. We ended up hiring. I think it’s close to 30 people just over the pandemic. Wow, people we know buddy shared physical space with. So no. So we definitely, you know, grew right that we provided a service that all of a sudden was a core part of the tech stack. Not not a nice to have a must have must have. So yeah, I must have. We had odd industries coming into we had ISD’S and school districts coming in we had sold to universities and colleges in the past, but not not at the ISD level. But of course, you’ve never had a time where teachers and administrators were sent home and they still have to process new hire paperwork and just a million things. Yeah, so this work has changed forever. I think employee employers like us will continue with a hybrid or remote policy. I’m sitting, we’re sitting in the office, I’m sitting in an office today, we have a really cool office down in the middle of the Houston Heights area, which for anyone who’s ever been to Houston, very cool area of town. But we have I would say maybe 60% of everybody hear you know, everyone comes in maybe a couple days a week. And some weeks, you know, some weeks not. So we have very, very flexible hybrid schedule. And that meets the needs of our think there’s we have such a young workforce too. They like to hang out together and eat together, you know, socialize together. So I think kind of the hybrid seems to seems to fit us but yeah, some some tough decisions along the way, for sure. And some pivos.

Dawn Brolin 12:34
Definitely. and that’s amazing to me, and I honestly never really thought about it before. But you’re right, like a school system, or just anyone who needs to be managing documents when you can’t be physically in front of each other handing them out.

Dania Buchanan 12:48
And they’re notoriously paper based, right? They have administrators with big rooms of filing cabinets and all these papers file. And, you know, there’s the whole FERPA thing with being able to protect your student information. And that is certainly a compliance mandate, right. So they had to get comfortable, they had to pull their IT guys and they have very legacy systems. For all of the accountants that might watch this, you think you’re behind like the ISPs way back, and they’re not even on this. I’m sorry, any ISD is watching this…

Dawn Brolin 13:23
It’s just us being honest, we’re always honest on the DM Disruptions, so don’t worry.

Dania Buchanan 13:27
Face your truth, face your truth!

Dawn Brolin 13:29
Face it, it is what it is. And the great part about is you can shift and you can change and you did that you they do that that was a really difficult time. You know, think about the school system and the kids and just, it’s been wicked. I know, for us from the you know, college level, even that, you know, we’re still Yeah, still getting through that, you know, with all these mandates that are going on, and too many places, in my opinion, whatever, but not not going to get into that but just, there’s just so, everything is just

Dania Buchanan 13:57
It feels very chaotic.

Dawn Brolin 13:59
I mean, kid and I see it kids are struggling going back to the classroom, even at the college level, I can’t even imagine a younger level, where they’re just like, I just can’t go to class, like I just don’t, I just don’t not comfortable. It’s not even really that they’re afraid, but it’s just they’re just, they’re just uncomfortable. You know, it’s like, it’s really tough to watch that, you know, and they have it’s really tough, you know, I mean, I just love sports, I love to talk about sports, but we’re really the college level really got hit hard, you know, at the professional level or even the D 1 level they had money coming out their ears, they could do different things to battle the challenge there right and for us we’re D3 levels so we just don’t have the funding support. You know, we raise all of our own money to do everything, I mean to buy a pair of shoes we all we have to everybody buys our own right.? So that’s been really hard to watch and you know, think about 15, 20, 30 years from now and you know, I’m not even here but one of those ports, you know, they got to maneuver and it’s hard!

Dania Buchanan 14:57
It’s hard I, we have seen Well, I talked about my son who’s now going to be an accountant. So anybody want to offer him a job next summer? He’s,….

Dawn Brolin 15:07
He’s up for it! And he knows he knows remote technology.

Dania Buchanan 15:11
Oh certainly he does! Well, we’ve watched this generation, right this mid 20s generation, they’ll change the dynamic of the workforce coming in that I can’t I shouldn’t call them kids. The younger kids Smart Vault work staff, right. Sure come in and they they just don’t accept an old way of doing things right. Data’s always on, everything’s always available. You were talking about college aged kids and professors and I have one of those two, I think our girls are about the same age. Yeah, I had a daughter who finished her senior year in university from her apartment bedroom in Austin, right. That’s not that you were talking about. I mean, that’s, that’s hard. And that is allowed a level of mental anxiety I think for a generation that is, you know, feels robbed. You know, they all lost internships, they all lost. They, their tracks that they thought was so defined was just was just blown away, just blown away. And so they, I think the resiliency that they’ve had to show the coping skills they’ve had to develop will take them the rest of their lives. I told him I no doubt once you have built this level of coping skills, you’re you’re unstoppable at this point on it. Yeah, you’re unstoppable. But you’re talking about sports. I think there’s nothing I’m as a sports person two. And I think we also went and saw some playoff games right at Minute Maid and I think in a climate like we have been in the last two years, nothing brings together a community of people than rooting for a common team. Doesn’t matter. Everything that you that divide, you falls away, right. And everyone fiving and hugging everyone, you’re thinking at the d3, the D one, the the college level two table sports also, like, what do we have to cheer for? What? Where is that unifying element? Right. We missed that for the better part of year two. And I think it all just, it just is a pylon, you know, it’s way up here. And you just, Where’s, where’s all that fun?

Dawn Brolin 17:19
Yeah, absolutely. No, you’re totally right. And I think, you know, with that these kids, this this group that are that are fighting through things we didn’t have to fight through, which I think sometimes which makes us crazy, because we’re just like, Dude, we would leave our house first thing in the morning, we’d be home when mom rang the bell at like, eight o’clock at night for dinner, or whatever it was, you know…

Dania Buchanan 17:38
We would say don’t come home until 5pm. Please stay gone!

Dawn Brolin 17:45
Oh, man, you’re playing a sport because you’re not coming home early from school. You’re not getting out to 10 You’re saying, fine. Pick a sport, pick a club. I don’t care what you do, but don’t come here. And so, you know, for us, I think, you know, and I know because, you know, I have two girls, and they’re 22 and 23. So, you know, just knowing it’s like, they just, I feel like they depend on us a lot more. And I’m like, Dude, I didn’t have to do this for my kids. You know, my dad never did this for me. You know, it’s like, okay, we we got to just understand that we have a gap between you know, those mid 20s, early to mid to late 20s. And then I’m 51. And I’m not afraid to say that. But you know, it’s like we just we don’t have the same thing. So I find that it’s when they were teenagers. It was easy. Right? And now that they’re in college or graduate just graduated as well. Yeah. And she and she went back we set her back to American University. For her senior year she came home right when we, you know, everybody had to go home on March 3, right? Then that next fall? She’s like, I’m like, what are you gonna do? No, in no in classroom at American University, they never reopen the classrooms. They couldn’t even go on campus in 2020. I don’t like and you want the same money? Like okay, get me started on that. Okay, you’re not even your electric bill just went back down by 70%. Because you’re not lighting up all those buildings, your you know, your you don’t need your guys to mow the grass. You don’t let anybody on campus? What’s their look at? So, you know I have some of those phone calls.

Dania Buchanan 19:11
No tuition concession at all, none.

Dawn Brolin 19:13
And I’m just like, so we decided we were going to focus on what was best for her. And so we set her back down, but she had an off campus apartment anyway, she had already been on an off campus. So we set her back because I’m like, you know what, you still need to be around your friends. You need to have challenges with your friends. You need to have, like, you can’t stand each other for a couple of weeks or whatever. That’s what the college experience. That’s part of it how to deal with people. Right? And you know, they didn’t miss a beat with the technology. The kids.

Dania Buchanan 19:41
Oh, no, no, my daughter did. Her job was the incoming freshmen like she was the orientation leader and that her job was the summer before her senior year when we all went home. Right? And so they just told the leaders figure out how to do it remotely. and still deliver a freshman experience. So she just like, hey, I’m gonna figure out how to do it remotely and make the Zoom meetings fun and all of that. And she figured it out. They do. They’re resilient. I think we’re in good hands with this with this wealth generation, like, they’ve never really had a lot of adversity. And then they got a whole bunch of bunch dropped on.

Dawn Brolin 20:22
And I think that that’s a really important point. So number one, the shift of your son moving towards the accounting industry and understand that there’s a need there for that for film and, and theatre and those kinds of those kinds of organizations, which is awesome. So think about this practitioners, you’re listening to the podcast here, right? Guess what you need to be doing, if you’re not doing it already? You need to be accepting into your brain, opening up the coconut and saying, I need to make sure I have the technology in place, because if you want to hire talented people, you want to hire people that can work independently, you better have the tools in order for them to do that. And that’s the whole point. It’s like, you know, I know for myself, I just been striving to get a well oiled machine. You know, since when I was 1999. When I first started, I knew when I had my kids, I wanted to be remote, I was in a bad partnership where they didn’t believe that because they didn’t have kids and blah, blah, blah. So I left there knowing I wanted to spend time with my kids. So that was my main focus was being able to, you know, be wherever I wanted to take a kid to New York City for the for a week of camp, I did that I took the other one out to Seattle to another one down to Florida went swimming with dolphins. Because I knew if I can become more efficient and more profitable, I could enjoy those things I’d have the money to pay for, and I have the time to do it. And so that’s the whole message of the Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals is not just have a well oiled tech stack, so whatever. No, it’s because you know why you need to be living. We have to take and this is a thing, Danny, we all we always say this, I think when there’s change, it’s changes hard. But but what’s at the other end of the rainbow is worth every moment you put into it right?

Dania Buchanan 22:00
Every moment. You only have one one shot at this life. But to your point about addressing the the constituency of your listeners, right. So I have a kid in his mid 20s Who pivoted right interest that that’s only interesting to some people. I think it’s his group of this the that MPA program. So he said a University of Texas, the business, red McCombs School of Business, so super competitive to be in there, this profession is about to get a lot of incoming. My sons, right, right. They’re coming in, they’re tech savvy. And they want so his first couple of questions on all the interviews he went on, right? What’s your remote policy? What kind of tech tea like how am I enabled, they’re coming in, they’re coming in ready to work, for sure. Coming in with high work standard high level of ethics, but they’re coming in knowing that they’re going to bring some change in and if you want to have a smart person on your team, you need to enable them to do their best and most vibrant work wherever they they choose to do it. And that’s what the smart vault team here operates. And my commitment to the team is to I’m just enabling a bunch of smart people to do their work. It’s not all on me, right? More help us. So this is that’s my commitment. I’m here to provide a culture and an enablement path for you to do the best and most vibrant work of your career. It’s not up to me to dictate the place you sit to go do that, right. Sometimes you guys want to come in the office work, play cornhole in the at the end of your day, and go out or whatever. And sometimes you want to do that at home where you can have dedicated focus time. But that’s what this generation is looking for. That is what they’re looking for. So if you’re a forward thinking accounting professional, it’s not just have a tech stack that it creates efficiency for your own practice. But eventually, you’ll have to have a succession plan. Eventually, even if you don’t want to grow your practice anymore, and you’re not you don’t need to be efficient because you want to hire my son or anyone else. Right? That’s 25, he’s actually 27, so..

Dawn Brolin 24:24
He just seems like a little baby still.

Dania Buchanan 24:26
eventually, there’s an eventuality to your own financial planning, right? So I’m sure that when you go value a business, it’s a lot easier for you to go sell your business if everything is nice and tidy. The clients are there their 10 years of documents are there for the acquiring firm. I would say that’s that’s that’s pretty good value there.

Dawn Brolin 24:50
That’s exactly one of my biggest points for me is I’m you know, I’m I don’t want to work until I’m 75. I just don’t I got things I want to do. I know, I know I want to be I want to be out there. I don’t know I want to be on a 45 foot boat that I buy and I can learn how to drive it myself. I don’t want to depend on anybody else, right? So I have things that I want to do I want to, you know, my daughter’s gonna be moving to LA actually because she’s a she’s a musical theater and film major. She graduated with that. So she said, Mom, I’m going for it. I’m going to go out and, she’s leaving in January. She’s like, I’m going to go for it. I just, I if that’s not what I meant to do, like your son. She’s like, the maybe I’m just helping out maybe I’m an Assistant Producer, maybe I’m a maybe I get the coffee. She’s like, I don’t care. I want to be in the industry in some way. She definitely doesn’t want to do accounting, we’ve had her she, I tried. She both of my girls are like Mom, no! Stay away from me!

Dania Buchanan 25:48
She’s gonna work 80 hours a week on some sleppy film set, trust me, versus what you guys are doing? Not working 80 hours a week, right? But providing a service, that’s a professional service, she may change your mind when when the financial equation comes into the picture.

She’s very altruistic Oh, so my daughter who graduated with her, she’s 22. She’s going getting her certification to go teach. Because she sees she feels a little bit called right. I even though I think she’ll probably love the teaching, but hate the parents, but she’s got high school English, right? But you know, you just kind of, you have to encourage them to pave their own way. But you’re gonna want to go see her in Los Angeles and do the same amount of work in Los Angeles. And you can do that, because you’ve got a tech stack and an automation and efficiency in your practice that let you do that.

Dawn Brolin 26:43
Absolutely. And that’s, you know, that’s what we it’s just so true from a value pricing perspective of your business itself. When I’m able to say okay, here you go, here’s my login. They’re like, Oh, but yeah, it’s all right there. And here it is, um, I am very confident that we’ll get more money for my business because of how organized it is, as opposed to somebody walking in with a million file cabinets. And not even knowing which clients in the file cabinets or current clients or old clients were smart ball, I can just be like, oh, let’s move into an archive folder. Let’s get them out of here and archive them away. So that the only thing that’s in my folders are live clients that are these are people you need to deal with. And you’ve got, you know, I’ve got carbon for my workflow. So they can, everything’s in there, whatever thing we’ve been doing, is right there. And so, you know, I think and I think honestly, at the end of the day, the document storage is probably the most important, because it does hold all of that history, it has everything that you need to be able to evaluate a client and move on. And so, you know, for us, that’s just a no brainer. And we’re, you know, so excited to always be, you know, improving our process and bringing on new client bringing on new vendors. I mean, we just found this app called bookkeeper. And it basically it syncs with square, and all your like WooCommerce e commerce types of stores. Yeah. Oh, my God in this, my good buddy, my Tom used to work it into it. He’s part of their crew. Now. He’s so awesome. But I went there. And I went with it with the open mindedness to find some new apps that I might not know about, right. I don’t know everything, and I don’t. So I went there. And I saw this and I’m like, Oh, my goodness, we were just harping over a client, who has square Pay Pal, and all these things. And then we’re going into booking journal entries. And yet we’re, like, my one of my team was not booking it as a gross income and then minus fees. And I’m like, it’s so simple! But why are we someone’s transaction?

Dania Buchanan 28:36
Somone’s problem, right? Someone solved this problem.

Dawn Brolin 28:39
And it was like, automatic. So you know, I and that’s what I love is we’re always looking out for the client, we want to make it more efficient, we want to be more productive, and more profitable. And I want to bring more value, you know, like just them being able to go get their tax return, that adds value for them. You know, they’re not just having their texture and go find it.

Dania Buchanan 28:58
That’s table stakes. Right now, what you’re describing is the tech stack that’s ever growing. We are also a small business, right? We’re just a small business that makes a product called sparkle. But we constantly we have an ops department that is looking at efficiency at every step, right? If we can plug a little piece of tech in, so that we can solve a pain point and make our business more efficient and run faster than absolutely we’re doing that so that we’re not gonna we shouldn’t be debating anymore whether you should adopt tech, right? I think now, it’s an evaluation process. I think that right? Yes, we’re past that 2008 argument. But then I’ll just, but you have to do it. Right? Or you lose confidence in doing it just like what you said, there’s so many like the word app didn’t exist, you know, 10 years ago, like nobody said, apps right? But now it’s like, it’s sort of like working out right. The more you do it, the more confident you are. So always be looking for little tools that you can plug in for a specific part of your workflow to just streamline, even if you only solve it for two clients, and you can find a way to pass that cost along, then the techs paid for and you’re more efficient, you bought an hour back of time, two hours actually high, that goes to your bottom line that is profit for Yeah, from people bring in tech, to drive profitability and growth. The more you do it the easier it gets.

Dawn Brolin 30:29
Definitely, and the client experience is extremely critical. Because if it’s a pain for them, they’re going to go somewhere else, they’re just, if it’s not, you got to make it easy for them, you’ve got to make it, you know, want to be as available as possible to them, but still live a life. And so that’s why you need the tools in order to, you know, satisfy those client needs, but at the same time, be able to take care of yourself a little bit to mentally and physically and things like that. So…

Dania Buchanan 30:53
Are you seeing a change, and I don’t know how I quantify this, I’ll just use you and ice age and younger versus new and ice age and older, older, the younger group, they don’t want to call you. They don’t want it always to be on right. So the older group, so we do, we are sort of in two seasons, I think and a little bit of a transition transitional state when it comes to clients, and what we hear that a lot 20% of my clients are just never going to do this, right. It’s like, I accept that. And maybe that’s acceptable, right? Like, you’re only ever going to get 70% that then every new client that comes in needs to be in the new way of doing business. I absolutely, you know, we have, you know, hundreds and hundreds of customers who tell us that to like, the older clients are just not gonna they want to come in, they want to sign their return and all of that.

Dawn Brolin 31:52
We’ve said greasy, and really amazing adoption from our clients really just, you know, I’m just trying to think of, I think I had, if I had five tax client appointments this year, that would be a lot. That’s, that’s how changed they are. And you know, for those that are still people are still gonna say just lack of a better way to describe it, but they’re still afraid, they’re still afraid of that human contact. And I get that, I get that. So that’s where for me, it’s like whatever I can do to make the experience as best I can for them and as efficient, you know, get quality and value, then that’s what I’m going to do. And we really didn’t we saw, we probably i i was looking at my numbers again the other day, we brought on about 75 new clients in 2020 75. From across the country all over the place all over. Yeah, all over. And it was just like, we’re just we’re looking for somebody that can just, you know, accept our documents and do our tax returns and blah, blah, blah. And it was just insane. And it was awesome. And so now it’s just so automated, I just I can think off the top of my head, I think three people that I pretty sure will come back and come in to the office. And that’s it. And…

Dania Buchanan 33:02
But can 75 become 150. And it doesn’t really tax the firm too much because of the automation? That’s yeah,

Dawn Brolin 33:09
That’s where it goes.

Dania Buchanan 33:10
That’s where you’ve that’s where the payoff is, right is or if if you looked at your whole client base, and you just wanted to work less, right? So it just it just where you’re where your motivation is. I remember learning this early on in my in my career at Smart vault many years ago, where I’m so fueled, because I’ve been in tech my whole life that growth, growth growth, right. And accountants were very quick to say, I don’t want to grow Danya want to work as much like, oh, okay, thanks. Okay, got it. Well, yeah, then you can just work less to if that’s what motivates. Yeah, whatever it is. But I think after this last two years, the work life balance is across the board. Now, I think people now are really got hit with a taste of what is important in life, right? Whether, however, this shared experience happened to all of us, none of us are unaffected. And so I do, it’s made, myself included just re-up on what is really valuable. And work is a component of that, or people wouldn’t work, right, there’s a value that we get out of being needed and contributing in a meaningful way. But those of us myself included, who let work monopolize so much of our of our extra time, that’s starting to get pulled back a little bit. Yeah. And so automation and tech coming in to help you with that balance is really important so that you can go do the things that make you you outside of outside of work. And I think that is been a really big learning if I’m being transparent just for my own personal journey.

Dawn Brolin 34:55
Yeah, no doubt about it. Yeah, I mean, I you know, I just be honest, I don’t Don’t come to work till 10. Like, don’t tell anyone! But I just I’m not a morning person. And it’s not like I just want time for myself in the morning, I literally just want to lay in my bed, watch, Tik Tok, I just do and you know, for half an hour and just…

Dania Buchanan 35:18
But’s that’s your time, right? That’s Dawn time.

Dawn Brolin 35:21
And that’s ok! Guess what? It’s ok.

Dania Buchanan 35:23
That’s right. It is okay. But I think the all of us need to find out whatever that is that balance that that makes us unique and not so stretched, then as a country. I mean, we have an office in London, and I think culturally, you just look at the differences in work ethic is still the same shade just are able to, they put a higher value on their non working life than we historically have. So yeah, just I think to me, that’s a good silver lining for the last couple of years. Just stop back, stop, think what’s important to you, and then structure your life. So you’ve got time for that thing. And technology can help you to do that so easily. Can it really stop pushing the paper man? Yeah, you don’t need to do it.

Dawn Brolin 36:17
Don’t gotta push that paper, which is awesome. Well, Dania, this has been an awesome conversation. I think a lot of people you know, I love the story about your son. I think that that’s just exactly kind of what people need to hear that that’s okay, that, you know, whatever shift people are making, it’s all okay, but we really are all in this together. And, you know, you know, my team role is starting lineup, my whole focus and goal for that is to help all of you out there who don’t have the technology in place, because you feel like it’s a fire hose because you feel like there’s so many decisions to make. Listen, I know what’s working for me, and I’m always looking to improve and improve but you know, it’s really getting that core, that core group those core components of your workflow and within your office and how you’re doing things is what what I’m trying to teach you here on the DM Disruption. So Dania, thank you so much for taking some time with me today. Your you know, we’ve been friends for a long time we’ve been long you know, always always fun to hang out with you. And I did miss you at Scaling New Heights, but I know I will see you in the future for.

Dania Buchanan 37:16
You will for sure! And thanks for having me on any time, love you girl!

Dawn Brolin 37:22
Love you girl, thank you everybody for listening to the disruption will talk to you next time. Thanks so much. Bye bye!

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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.

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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 DawnBrolin.com in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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