The right tech stack can really alleviate stress, save time, and maximize your firm’s throughput, but only if you have a clear vision for each solution you are using. There’s a buffet of options out there, that’s for sure, and they all cost either time to implement or money to buy (or both) so it can be stressful to even think about which solutions to use. I get it and I want to help, that’s why I am sharing my softball strategy to help you build a tech stack that works with your firm not against it!
Imagine if hitting a home run when it comes to the profitability of your practice was as easy as watching a ball game. To me, it really is—running a profitable and highly efficient accounting, bookkeeping or tax practice is no different than coaching a softball (or baseball) team. Here’s a brief overview of how you can use softball strategy to knock it out of the park when it comes to your practice productivity and profitability, too.
You see, in softball, you have positions on your team that you have to fill. In addition, you have players that you need to recruit to fill those positions. Let’s stick with the defensive side of the game. You have a pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, etc. Imagine if hitting a home run when it comes to the profitability of your practice was as easy as watching a ball game. To me, it really is—running a profitable and highly efficient accounting, bookkeeping or tax practice is no different than coaching a softball (or baseball) team. Here’s a brief overview of how you can use softball strategy to knock it out of the park when it comes to your practice productivity and profitability, too. nd baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder.
As a coach, you need to know what the positions are and you need to seek the most talented players to fill those positions. From an accounting, bookkeeping, or tax practice perspective the game really is no different. You have certain positions to fill in order to run your firm, to create an amazing client experience, and to complete client work.
Every accounting firm has some positions that are necessary no matter what you provide for services. Then there are the tools you need that are specific to the services you provide. In other words, in order to pick the right software, you need to also accept that no one piece of software is going to solve everything.
Here are the solutions that I have chosen (Click on the name of each one below to get the overview of benefits):
However, you really need to choose your own based on your needs and by looking at the solutions and how they align with the problems you are trying to solve. Start by downloading the Team Brolin Starting Lineup Playbook here.
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
Daniel Fritz, SmartVault’s Director of Products, chats it up with Dawn Brolin, CPA CFE, about the importance of setting personal and professional goals, plus provides insights on how to help your team work like a well-oiled machine. He also shares how SmartVault’s passion for creating happier and more productive accounting professionals is at the core of their commitment to creating the ultimate document management solution for your tech stack.
Daniel’s Story and Motivation
Daniel begins the conversion by sharing his experiences as a new graduate, and how his first boss, Nancy Ward, was the catalyst to help him actively pursue his personal and professional goals. He talks about his current professional goals being improving his team and scalability. He also shares that he finds joy when those around him also achieve success, and love what they do.
SmartVault and Going Paperless
Dawn discusses her admiration for SmartsVault’s ability to secure and hold important tax documents, and how many accountants operate completely paperless now.
Daniel also talks about how SmartVault’s goal is to go completely paperless, and how they are on the cusp of doing so. Daniel shares that over 1.5 million CPAs use SmartVault’s services, and how they had over 13,000,000 documents that were uploaded and processed through their service.
Dawn also expresses her appreciation for SmartVault, as they are alway striving to integrate with new programs and software, and their growth as a company has never been static.
SmartVault’s Integration, Current Changes, and Company Growth
Daniel begins by talking about how SmartVault has completely redesigned their entire billing system to allow them to bill in local currency. He also talks about DocuSign’s new subscription based model that is more affordable than their DocuSign counterparts. And lastly, he discusses revamping their UI in their web portal and other programs.
Dawn also shares how SmartVault makes communication between her and client easy, and makes sure she can do her job efficiently and efficiently as a practitioner.
Daniel adds how SmartVault becomes your central document depository; practitioners and clients are able to access all of their documents quickly and securely.
Importance of Outsourcing and SmartVault’s Flexibility
Dawn also talks about how important it is to outsource tasks to companies who specialize in them; you can’t do everything in accounting, so stick to the things you like doing, and outsource the ones you don’t.
Daniel talks about the flexibility of SmartVault, and how they take into account what their clients want and need. They also keep in mind that accountants aren’t the only clients they serve, and are always striving to make their program more accessible to businesses of all types and sizes.
Today Not Tomorrow
Daniel talks about his experience as a salesman, and how many relationships he established back then, he still has today. He also shared another former boss’s valuable advice of TNT, today not tomorrow, and shares that SmartVault strives to maintain that value as well.
Dawn agrees with Daniel, and expresses how important it is to implement knowledge you learn in your firm today! Not only will this allow you to help your clients gain success, it will also help you achieve your personal goals.
SmartVault and Their New Developments
Daniel talks about SmartVault’s past operations, and how they needed someone on the inside to directly oversee new product development. They onboarded Daniel to try and implement these changes, and he shares how they have scaled their team from just 2 developers, to now 7 developers, and a team of 15 people. He talks about how they made small changes at the beginning of 2020 to cut ambiguity and increase efficiency.
He talks about how they are so close to developing a well-oiled machine, and now they are focused on slowing down, taking their time, and implementing more automation to make their workflow more streamlined.
Daniel’s Personal Motivation
Daniel credits his wife for his personal motivation, and shares how her intellectual guidance has been crucial for his success. He also talks about being inspired by his Dad’s work ethic, but also the devotion to his family.
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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.
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All right, well, hey, everybody, welcome back. My name is Dawn Brolin, the host of DM Disruption. Also the author of the Designated Motivator and the Designated Motivator for accounting professionals. I’m also a Certified Fraud Examiner. I’m also a mom. I’m also a volunteer assistant coach, I could go on for days, but it’s gonna be more fun to talk with our today’s guest, who’s going to be Daniel Fritz from smart ball. Now if you know me, you know I love smart ball period. Okay, it does the job it needs to do for me and my clients and I love it. So Daniel Fritz, I could tell you what I would have to intro you. This is the Wizard of the Wizard of Oz. And smart ball. This is the guy and you want to talk to if you ever see this guy at a conference, grab him, nail him down and talk to him. Because he’s brilliant. And he wants to hear what you want to know what’s coming down the line for smartphone, all that stuff. Daniel knows it all. So Daniel, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you doing? And I’d also like to say Shazam, Team rolling. There we go SmartVault theories. Let’s take this thing.
Daniel Fritz 1:51
Thanks a lot, Dawnn. Yeah, super glad to be here. It’s really, really kind of you not only to have you on the show, but also those kind words. Yeah, absolutely. We’d love everything smart vault, everything you have you see me at a conference, let’s talk like we can talk for days. You know, security and smart vault is completely built into my DNA. I joke with my my team members all the time that, you know, I one time yelled at my product manager. Why didn’t you do that? Well, you never told me this I know I told you to do they found out that I totally told him to do that in a dream. So I live eat sleep and dream smart ball every single day of the week. So here’s somebody that says I absolutely love smart ball. Nothing on this planet makes me happier. So thank you,
Dawn Brolin 2:29
I’m your girl, Dan, I love SmarVault, it what it does for me and my productivity level is through the roof. My profitability is even further and adjust, you know, I’m able to do my job for my clients, which is all I just want to do is get it done for them. So it’s great. But you know, we had a great conversation last week on a totally separate call. And we talked a lot about where, where your motivation comes from. And you had some awesome stories of, you know, a former company that you worked for, and how you had some management or some so other people in that company that really just fired you up and motivated you and I want to hear all about that.
Daniel Fritz 3:04
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I have to give a shout out to my very, very first boss, Nancy Ward. She truly took me out of my shell, I was this, this kid, honestly, right out of school. And she brought me the first time we ever sat down, I worked completely remote. This is back, I worked for an EHR company called Sage. And people today will know that is Greenway, one of the biggest EHRs out there. And anyway, Nancy sat me down. And she said, look, the most important thing to have is to keep you motivated as a salesperson is to always have a personal and a professional goal. And, you know, just kind of trick for anybody ever interviewing with me? That’s a question I’m going to ask you. Because I think it’s really important that you stay motivated, both personally and professionally. And, you know, the very, it’s funny how things change over time, because whenever I first heard that, I thought, Oh, well, I want to get engaged to my wife now of nine years, Sam, and then my professional just like, Look, I just want to be as good as the person that I was replacing, because she was on that sales trajectory path before me. And you know, it’s funny how it evolves. Because now here at Smart ball, my personal goal is, you know, I want to pay off a little bit more debt because I want to get a boat, but it’s gonna take some time. Yeah, no, we talked a little bit about your, your awesome Grady White over there. But uh, on the professional side, for me, it’s all about my team and their scalability. Because I, they, my team hears me talk about all the time that we want to become a well oiled machine. And there’s an old video out there of either Secretariat or one of the other famous things in the guy back in like the 50s or 60s just saying, like, look at this incredible machine that’s going down. And that’s, that’s what motivates me, is it seeing we’ve got some new devs that have joined on our team and just to see those guys contributing? see them having impact on what we’re doing. That’s just so exciting to me. Because when I joined, we were such a small team, under invested and no one really knew what they wanted to do and how they wanted this to be a vision. And it’s it’s been great to see that growth because one of our more experienced developers told me a couple, like, about a month or two ago, he just said, we’re working on hard problems early in the morning 745 before most people are in the office, and we’re sitting there going back and forth. And he just at the very end, I was like me, I really appreciate you, Jacqueline, this thing, thank you so much for the extra effort here. He’s like, man, I just love my job. And that there’s nothing that beats that as far as like satisfaction, because you can work anywhere. But you know, getting to work on the cool stuff that we’re doing innovative stuff that we’re doing the SmartVault is is awesome.
Dawn Brolin 5:52
That is awesome. I was just talking to a room Mather with ultimate ultimate quest. And they do a lot of education for CPAs. And he told me a story about how so if you’ve listened to this episode already, it’s okay. If you haven’t, you want to listen to it. But anyway, he was wonderful. And he talked about how he went into this customer. He’s his former CPA, and he does practice now. But he saw the sign on the wall. We walked into this executives offices at TGI M. And it goes right along with what you’re saying. And usually we say well, tgi fridays, Friday Hello, yeah, maybe they said, right. Like, that doesn’t make any sense. Like who knows that. And he said, That’s exactly the point. What the guy wanted to do was create a culture that the people that worked for him and worked at that facility would want to come in on a Monday morning, and they were excited to come back to work because it was a place that they love to be. And that’s exactly what you’re saying with your guys. And just being able to, you know, create that culture. And like you said, it’s a, it’s a well oiled machine. If you think about a CPA firm, if there’s any other place, and he’s a well oiled machine, it’s at a CPA firm, because we have compliance deadlines, we have security, you know, things are requirements we’ve got to pay attention to so we have to be as much of a well oiled machine as anybody else. Right. And so that’s, again, one of the things about smart vault, allowing that and having that secure portal for your clients to be able to jump in and grab what they need whenever they need it. You know, we started charging people for paper copies of their return. We said, you know, we send them their quote, and we have little checkboxes optional. paper copy, 20 bucks, that’s 200 bucks, right?
Daniel Fritz 7:29
That’s right, there you go.
Dawn Brolin 7:30
I might have had one person check that box this year. And that’s it.
Daniel Fritz 7:36
That’s the goal that we’re completely going for honestly, the paperless revolution that’s been trying to happen across multiple industry, I’ve worked in the healthcare industry, I’ve worked in the tax industry, I’ve actually, there was a small stint where I worked in the entertainment industry.
Dawn Brolin 7:53
Oh, we don’t get to hear about that!
Daniel Fritz 7:58
But uh, but you know, everyone wants to go there, everybody wants to be paperless. And here at SmartVault, that’s, I really feel like we are right on the cusp of truly getting there and just like you don, you’re able to go completely paperless. But you know, as we as we release some of these features, yeah, it’s just hey, person, we need these documents. And then you guys take those documents, put them through your well oiled machine, Don, and then provide them right back out to the portal. I mean, that’s, that is completely paperless, the idea that the only piece of paper is just getting sent down from the employers from the banks and all those things that you have to just take a picture of, you know, and that’s where we’re adding a lot of efficiency and usability when it comes to smart ball because we want your clients which we have about 1.5 million clients of our CPAs it’s Marvel 1.5 million that are using this I think some of the crazy stats, I should have grabbed some of those stats before I jumped on but we had over 13 million documents uploaded I mean, I mean it’s it’s crazy that the amount of documents we play with and just making that so much easier for the for the team members for you guys to deal with makes it to where to truly is paperless. And that just there’s there’s no like, yeah, you’re at your office, you don’t have the just file cabinets of old documents. You guys are like “No, it all on SmartVault, we don’t have to worry about it.”
Dawn Brolin 9:26
Exactly, you know, and I think that one of the things i i made beat a dead horse and it’s just too bad because my podcasts and I can’t if I want to write like cry if I want to. It’s my birthday. Who cares? So one of the things that I just want to hammer down into people’s brains two things. Number one, having applications are awesome, but they’re even awesomer which is a word. They’re awesome. Okay, if they integrate with each other, they can talk to each other. The second thing that I say about applications are are they growing? Are they forward thinking? Are they always looking for the next better way to do something or better technology? To solve a problem, and that’s why I choose Smart ball, they’re always on the path of improvement. And they’re always, they’re always thinking of open API. I think, for example, liscio is a great example, the way we’re integrating with carbon assert, and other software’s. And I think that that’s so important. So you obviously, a lot of things coming down the pike, some new release is here in the last couple of months you guys have put out there. Tell us about that stuff.
Daniel Fritz 10:25
Yeah, so some of the most recent things that we’ve done is that we are completely redesigned our entire billing system, we don’t want to be experts in billing, we want to be able to bill in local currency we want to do like ACH payments, and all of these things. And so we had to completely just break part of our software that’s been there for 14 years and plug in something new, we have a new way of using DocuSign, you can now just use it as a subscription model, use as much as you as you need. And it’s just a per user per month cost. That’s, by the way, what’s more affordable than our DocuSign counterparts. And the biggest thing that we’ve done in the last about three or four months is changing up the UI. So the UI was very dated, especially in the web portal. And what we’ve done, we’ve actually added something called Request docks. So you as a CPA can just type in Hey, Fritz, I need some documents from you, it takes if you know what document you’re looking for, I can create a template of 1520 documents that are recorded in about a minute, if I’m just typing down, I need this because they’re free text fields, you put in whatever you want in there, and they’re like, Hey, Don, I need your W two, I need your 1099, I need your IMTS, I need all of your DIVs. And I need a picture of your dog, I need a picture of that great wine, because I love boats. And you can say that the required ones that are in there. And so you get to that point. And you say like, Alright, I’m going to name this just, you know, prints this template real quick, because it took me a minute to make. And I just pull over and I say alright, Fritz, and I can add a little message in there. So usually I need these things. And then when you’re done, the little submit button in the top corner will light up. Because that was really important, because you talked about, you know, being innovative and things sometimes the smallest pieces, I have to quote my she’ll be embarrassed if I give her her name, but my lead QA person, she really talks about the last 5% all the time, she’ll kick something back in the tabs. You know, we have her her name proof code is what what the developers strive for at this point, and we want to make sure that she doesn’t kick it back. But she talks about the last 5%. And that that submit button is it’s just one of those things that just makes us just that, you know, just ticks it because you can have it to where your clients could upload documents, and they could just hit it. Well, what if they didn’t miss? They didn’t upload a couple of them? Mm hmm. Well, then you have to go through the whole wringer again, where is it? The button is not even clickable. It’s it’s it’s just a blue button that has the dark black letters of submit in it. And once you have uploaded or said, Hey, this, this question doesn’t apply to me that for the last required question, that thing lights up. And that’s the that’s the difference of having a team that really thinks about how that inner interaction should occur. So we don’t even allow people to make the mistake of like, Oh, crap, I didn’t answer that. Last question is, Hey, I can’t Why is this not working? Oh, I didn’t. And I got a scroll down. There’s more questions down here. And that saves time on your your end? It’s key.
Dawn Brolin 13:29
Oh, it’s key. Right. I mean, revisit. I mean, I don’t know how many times Tracy historically, just be like, she’s like, I think everything’s there. And then I go in, I’m like, nope, they don’t even they give me zero information on their for rental properties, I have nothing like what. So having this ability to ask and request that information and have that go right into their smart vault folder without us having to deal with it. And knowing once they submit, it’s that we do have everything that we asked for. Right. And that’s, that’s a time saver, and it’s for the client. Here’s the thing, people, this is important to know, how you’re reacting or how you’re how you’re communicating with your client, the way you communicate with the client, the easier you make it, the more they’re going to love you. They don’t want to be bogged down. Nobody wants to deal with this crap or deal with it. They don’t want to do it. They don’t want to have to deal with taxes. Like, oh, God, here we go. Another year goes by which it seems like it goes like that. And it’s back again, tax season returns. And so for the practitioners who are listening to this, just think about your workflow and how you’re communicating with your clients. We just implemented liscio a great tool to use with clients, right? I mean, if you if I’m if I’m doing that, if powerful accounting Inc, is sending requests and having communications through liscio and working with smart ball and they’re everything that they need is at their fingertips in a lot of ways, right? Especially on their phones, they want to have things on their phones. If you’re not doing it, they’re going to find somebody who is absolute right and I don’t want to take your clients I have enough of them. I love I love Almost all of them and many of my clients are listening, not sure which way you go, hopefully, you’re going to in the happy development section of our client list, right. But that’s the key is the is the interactions that you’re going to have with your clients has to be has to be workable. I know that clients say to me, they thanked me for smartphone, you know, they thanked me because they don’t have to ask me for a copy of their return. It’s right where they’ve always live, which is in SmartVault from day one. Right?
Daniel Fritz 15:28
Yeah. And that’s in that right, there is one of the really big benefits that you know, you you sometimes run into a lot of people, it’s like, oh, well, I, I have that. And I printed it out, it’s here and I haven’t physically in like my safe at home. Whereas the SmartVault, digital copy, fullback, you know, fully protected every single alphabet soup of acronym from sec to FINRA, to GDPR. All of those acronyms, you’re covered. Because we we have that in there, we have a complete audit log that you can see everything that has happened that document from the beginning of time. And and that is so key, because when we talk to some of these accountants like look, no smart vault truly becomes your central document repository. This is the brain center. Yes, you have those tools, which awesome. I was just on a phone earlier today with Chris from Liscio. Love Chris girl, well, yeah, me and him are doing a Happy Hour, in a week or so. But like, that’s the thing is like, you know, to the point of the whole, like billing thing we talked about a minute ago, we don’t want to be experts, smart nuts. You don’t have to be good at everything, to make money in this world. And then that’s something that I learned whenever I was working in the entertainment industry, the software I sold was, was very niche. And there was like this very specific kind of person that would pay a lot of money for it. And so that’s how I feel about smartphones is like, look, we are the document storage location, we don’t need to be this beautiful app that liscio is the communicator they are 1000 times better than we are at client communication. And we own that, that’s why we decided to integrate with them and said, like, Chris, you don’t want to be I sat on the phone with his CTO, when we were first talking about the integration. And he just said, I, I don’t want to build a document storage solution on this, right? He’s like, we want to stay in the UI on the front end where it’s beautiful. And and we said like, look, we could never compete with you in that world. But we’ve got a document storage system that is, you know, the equivalent of Fort Knox over here. Why don’t we just connect those and then we’ll just kind of like, hey, you need a document storage system. Oh, you need some communities, go to Liscio is very similar to the like you said, with Karbon, the conversations that we’re having with carbon are going to be the very same thing that practice management with Licio. With us that starts that best of breed. In that way. You’re not in this like locked ecosystem, because when you try to be good at everything, you’re good at nothing, you’re mediocre at best. So yeah, that’s definitely where we want to go.
Dawn Brolin 18:06
Well, that’s one of the messages I’ve been trying that part of this the purpose of the podcast, right is to take motivation, put it into action. And one of the things that I look at is when you like we have a reassess your firm mentality. And so taking, and we’ll have this up on our website, at some point is to take an assessment of your of your firm, because at the end of the day, exactly what you’re saying, Dan is, really, what are you good at? What do you love to provide for services? What are the things what are you doing right now that you don’t like to do? You know, I know for a long time you know, when you first start your firm’s we’ve talked about this many times, you’re like, you’re kind of like an accounting whore. I know, that’s not really the right term to say in business, but you are, you will do anything to make money, you’re gonna you’re gonna take on payroll, you’re gonna take on sales tax, you’re gonna take on, right up work, you’re gonna take on tax returns, whatever it is that you’re just going to take on all these things. And then he makes eventually, after you’ve fallen on your face enough times to say I suck at this. It’s okay to say that, by the way. And I did that I was like, I don’t want to do payroll, I don’t want to be a payroll person. ADP, you’re my full payroll HR solution. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to worry about it. You’re doing it. You’ve got a great partner program this great line myself up with that smart ball. Okay, smart ball. I want to duck storage. I want the best doc storage, I can find smartphone. I think I’ve out of all the apps I use besides into it because I started with QuickBooks back in 1999. But I think smart ball is the application, the solution that I’ve had the longest, you know, because you you go through your firm’s growth pattern, and you’re like, Okay, I’m gonna try, you know, this app, or I’m gonna try Google Docs or on the truck. And then you come to this one, you’re just like, Oh, my God, this is my lifelong app forever. Yeah. And that’s what you do you go through over time, but then you get this well oiled machine. And you’ve got things integrating, and everybody in the firm knows, we do the same things, every single client, we onboard, every single one of them matter what we’re doing the same way. And guess where they always start. So number one thing, SmartVault, because what we do is we create this potential clients folder, right? Because not everybody’s a client automatically. It’s kind of like what we do with keep, we put that you know, person into keep. And then once they upload their, their prior year return, we use quotient, we send them a quote, they accept it great. But they have to upload their prior return, the number one thing they have to do is upload their prior returned a SmartVault. So guess the first app they deal with with us, the very first app is SmartVault. That’s how it’s done.
Daniel Fritz 20:46
That’s the way to do it that. And you know, as those as those things go through, you know, you mentioned all those different things that we can do. That’s because we have that flexibility, when it comes to the folder structure, because you’re just in your case, Don, you’re using that as a potential client, and then you probably apply some more templates to it. But as you think about those things, it’s the flexibility of smart bolt is really where a lot of that value comes into play. Because, and honestly, that kind of makes it harder on our side, you know, not harder, just a little bit more fun, if you will, because you whenever we make a change to the software, we have to consider not just what it’s done once, even though she has like 90% of the roadmap locked up, like she knows what she wants. But for those other 10%. You know, we have to think about it. And that’s really prevalent in the way that we did some of the new files and folders, you know, when we released this new look and feel to it, there’s now a breadcrumb instead of this, you know, 1995 windows tree on the left. I you know, it’s funny Don is to laughing about that we literally had a design that was skinned and beautiful. And it took me and me and Danya to say like, Guys, no, there’s some times when you just have to let something die. And we just and the funny thing is, is that one of my CSM people they came over, and they just said they were just concerned. Like, they trust us. We know what we’re doing. We’re talking to enough customers. But she was very much like, are you guys not sure about this one? Because you just get so used to it. But that’s, you know, we really thought about it and said like, look, yes, accountants work that way. But a plumber, a potential pool company that could definitely benefit from smart vault, they can, you know, get those quotes from quotients. And kind of run it the same way, hey, we’ve got these bids for some pools. We need XYZ documents from you because and we’re going to provide you some documents cuz you got to give that to your HOA to make sure that they’re not going to tell you to rip up the hole in your ground. And, and it’s a those are some of those just that flexibility. But when you’re talking about like, hey, yeah, we use this this way. It’s just it’s so unique to hear. But that’s what we that’s the innovation. That’s what makes our life fun. Is saying like, how are we going to make this work? Yeah, we’ve got, you know, of our 7000 customers and our 1.5 million guest users. We, yeah, how we’re gonna make this because the big Yeah, the big majority of about 5000 of them are accountants and say, like, we’ve got to break that mentality. And that’s one of the things that whenever I came in, I really instilled on the team like look, kind of like you said, you reassess your practice, like we kind of had to reassess how we did development here. And I had had a couple great mentors through the years that taught me valuable lessons in that realm. But what we ended up on is just like, hey, no, we’ve got to consider that and we have to stop pump the brakes. And hopefully, you can’t see too much more back here. It’s a little insight into my mind a little bit, but we we will whiteboard everything. I’m, I have two whiteboards here, I have an entire wall that’s on the other side of this. That’s just it’s a whiteboard wall. And awesome. We’re always thinking about how’s this gonna work, we got to make sure it works for Dawn, but we also have to make sure that it could work for the potential landscapers. Bang, right that wants it to do, because if we just narrowed our focus, and we only did tax, you know, there’s a lot of great tax programs out there that are just that. But if you think about it’s like, they’re really rigid, it’s like, well, what if I’m a CPA, but I also kind of do this other thing, right, it would really be really hard to enforce one of those to do something.
Dawn Brolin 24:29
Right. Yeah. And that’s, you know, one of the so, you know, we talked in the beginning and you mentioned briefly that it was Nancy Ward was the name of the of the lady right. So I remember you telling me about some other like tidbits of that of that company that you worked for and and some really great stories there. Like, what other kinds of people were around you that you just loved and…
Daniel Fritz 24:49
Oh, just you know, when you’re a young sales guy, you you really get to kind of like meet a lot of people and just all my different teams. They had profound effects on me. And I still keep those relationships going today, some of the other big throughout the years of me being out and about. One of the best quotes that I learned early on was no matter who’s copied on the email, the truth doesn’t change. That was one of one of the best. And then bajas Dan was my boss. When I was at Azalea, I was the VP of product, and he really, he really instilled on me and I absolutely love Baja. He instilled upon me, TNT–today, not tomorrow.
Dawn Brolin 25:36
I told that story, Dan! you told me that one last week. I told the coach, I told the coach on Friday, I said I learned a new one today. Go ahead, keep going with that, I love that.
Daniel Fritz 25:47
And that was the thing is like I was the VP of product in you know, we were in a rural health care, really underserved areas. So you have all the big monolith hospitals in downtown’s and the medical centers and everything like oh, this massive Hospital, a lot of people forget about the random little hospital that’s three hours away from anything, right. And, and that’s what Azalea provided and you know, they’ve gone on since since I got wooed away to come over here to smart vault. They’ve gone on they’ve they’ve acquired a couple companies. But the thing is that always was instilled in me why bajas like let’s do make the change that they need today, not just wait on it. So we had several instances where, you know, healthcare is always changing, but it’s like, oh, this new customer, we only had about 40 or 50 of these smaller hospitals. But we were constantly changing that. And just having that as a as a motivation behind me is, you know, he’s like, Look, man, like your wishes what it is, but we can take an action, let’s take that action today, not tomorrow. Because we’re just kicking the can down the road, we’re never going to get anything done. And so we we use that mentality here at Smart vault as well. We try to be as efficient as possible and like, hey, if we find something like QA, find something, we’ve got to take that action today, and not just kick it down the road, because someone’s going to find that bug, someone’s going to find where that doesn’t, that that error message doesn’t describe what you have had, you know, what mistake has been made.
Dawn Brolin 27:16
That’s, you know, so T N T. Today, not tomorrow, if you want if you’re listening, if you’re listening to this podcast, I’m telling you right now, if you take nothing away from this conversation with Dan, today, is today, not tomorrow. And that means in your firm, we go to conferences, we watch webinars, we listen to podcasts, we read books, we do all of these education, and then you know what we do with it? Nothing thing. And you just have to say, What am I going to implement today, I’m not going to wait until tomorrow, I’m going to implement this one solution for my firm, because it’s going to help my firm, it’s going to help my clients, it’s going to make me happier, it’s going to make them happier. And with all of those little things, you will be more profitable. You can go buy yourself a great 22 foot Grady White like hey, go that’s or whatever it is that you want to do you want to spend more time with your kids at games or whatever, you know, and that’s something dandy or the culture at Smart ball people. It’s smart ball that work with you. You were talking to me last week a little bit about, you know, you grew from a very small number of developers. And now you’ve got quite a few more which one body is a big number, by the way? You get one more developer that’s like, Oh, my goodness, two more hands. And one more brain. I’m in! So tell me about that.
So yeah, when I joined the team, we were we were being overseen by the smart vault is owned by a company that’s actually traded on the London Stock Exchange called Get Busy. And so we were we were being they was kind of being run by those guys. But they weren’t here in the business. That’s why they decided to bring me in this looked like they wanted somebody who has, you know, kind of done that before, has a decent track record, and whatnot. And so that’s, that’s what I came in, and it was me and another product guy. We have one QA person. And actually we only had two developers when I first started because one of them was on paternity leave it so there’s about five of us. And now we have we are about 15 people strong. We have scaled the team. The QA team is now three different people. We have a content writer on staff, I have two product people that help just build this engine. And then not to mention the seven developers and we have a couple more openings that we are we are actively hiring. We have two people that run our development operations area. So we’ve we scaled from this tiny little group. And all of that was we kind of had to sit down and I sat down with my team. I said, Look, guys, we have to do development differently. And I was telling you no dumb we talked last week I kind of mentioned is like look at what you remember changing. It was these little changes for the last couple of years in smartphones, like they move to AWS and then they just kind of just worth, you know, just plugging in just time and just saying like, hey, let’s just get these couple of things. And they made an investment the the board made an investment and let’s let’s have this smart ball could actually grow gangbusters over here. And that’s honestly what we’ve done. So we had four really small releases in 2020. During the pandemic and everything I instilled my processes we have a way that we like tickets to be written for our development teams so that we cut ambiguity and increase efficiency because even us, one of the six pillars of Smart Vault is BSU, it’s about blow shit up and that’s on. And, and the thing is, is that that’s I kind of just reiterated that, you know, some of these guys have been doing this my right hand guy, Himashu has been a smart vault since the beginning doneness.
Daniel Fritz 28:58
I love that guy. He’s just like, teddy bear, you just want to hug him.
Yes, absolutely he is he’s absolutely been instrumental in my success. And I, I owe a lot of that to him. But I also feel like we’ve kind of taught him because it’s really fun. The first year we hear you’re the new guy in town, you’re like, Oh, we’re gonna do it this way. He’s like, No. And now the funny thing is, is here we are about two years later, and he’s just like, we can’t do that. Because we haven’t followed the process. We’re not doing these things. And this is gonna turn into a mess. Yeah. And that’s what the evolution is now seeing. We have structured feedback sessions, we have customer validation, we have this massive multi page document that we put in this work. So that structure to say like, okay, we’re thinking about doing something, let’s write an executive summary about it. What are the market requirements? What is the cost? Like, what would this if we decided to do this thing? So I’ll give a little bit of a insight here. One of them is a document approval workflow, like, what if I wanted to say, in your case, Don, you want to Tracy to approve something, or trace or vice versa? Tracy is like, I want to send this out, but I need Don’s approval. Hey, assign it to don don. And you get a little notification. Hey, Tracey assigns you this thing do you approve or deny? That’s one of those things that we’re considering right now. So we have to go through what competitors. And the best part about it was like I brought that up, I hamachi. Just said there’s no way we have enough time to do that. Now, now that we have gotten into that we have scaled from those two developers, we now have seven developers. And it is very much a it’s still just me and him honestly, for the most part writing those. My next guy, my new guy starting next week. Oh, great. But that’s, yeah, give us a little give us our little bit of our lives back. But that’s the thing is when you’re writing those and you just create like I said that well oiled machine, we’re not quite there. I always tell my seems like we’re almost there. We’re on the path. And I think everybody can see that. And we were having conversations around like pace right now. It’s like, let’s, okay, guys, let’s tap the brake. We’ve been like pedal to the metal, we need to calm it down a little bit. Make sure that we follow these processes and what is realistic, sure, we can sprint and like really get a thing, but we should calm down. And and just take our time, let’s make sure that we get these efficient, efficiently out, let’s make sure that QA does the right thing. We’ve kicked off automation. It’s all these really cool side initiatives that we’ve been wanting to do for so many years before I even got here. But now like we got there, we have the process. We have the personnel like we’re scaling to that. And so we’re really close to that like Okay, now we can calm down, get our pace, add a couple more people to where we’re not ever in crazy. 12 hour day mode. Like a CPA is during tax season, right? It’s just like, hey, no, like, this is now life. This is my, this is my job. And we’re doing some really cool stuff. And that’s what’s so exciting.
Dawn Brolin 33:54
Yeah, that’s awesome. And, and so, you know, I want to bring it in a little bit personal for you right now. Right? So we love smart ball smart ball. It’s my favorite. I can’t I love them enough. But I want to I want to hear from Dan the man Where’s gonna be Dan, man. And through your just Was there somebody in your life? Like for me? It was my dad. I mean, that’s a lot of a lot of girls will say that. Right? So was there somebody in your life outside of your professional world that that really helped you help? You know, guide you?
Daniel Fritz 34:24
Oh, absolutely. It’s my wife. 100%
Dawn Brolin 34:26
I knew you’re gonna say that. I knew it. Oh, yeah. To meet this woman. She sounds like an angel.
Daniel Fritz 34:32
She is She is brilliant. She is hard working. And she has it the priorities. Right? And I’ll take her word from whenever like we got married almost 10 years ago. My brother was the best man. He gave a speech and he kind of mentioned like the positive things that happen to my wife and just in his species like oh, yeah, no, like this has just been a godsend. She’s here and in honestly like she’s the biggest cheerleader but she’s also just so many intellectually smart that she’ll listen to me and like, what do you think about this? And should I should respond and just kind of give that guidance? Like, no, you can truly do that. No, you’re being a little crazy. Yeah, sometimes it works. So, um, but yeah, like with her, it’s, it’s she’s always the one that is just right there to give you the right a bit of motivation. You know, I’ve made a couple switches. And she’s just like, No, let’s just go for it. Like, this is an opportunity. Like, let’s let’s do it. Especially when I jumped to smart ball. I was like, I don’t know, like, do you think guys like I’ve I had left health care before. And she says, Look, every single time you’ve done something different, you’ve learned it, and you’re, you’re more excited about this than you have been on any of the other changes. And so she was very much a cheerleader through that entire process. So she’s her and then, you know, my dad is I have to say, my dad as well. He goes my pops in there. Yeah, so So pops. You know, he, he was an engineer, so he always, and he’s as Black Belt Six Sigma kind of guy. And he really showed that, you know, work is for work and life is for life. I mean, he coached my basketball team, which I’m terrible sports, by the way.
Dawn Brolin 36:19
That’s okay. He needs to be typing. We don’t need to be out there hittin’ things.
Daniel Fritz 36:22
That’s right. And so but but he really just kind of, there’s something that I like to mimic myself is, you know, he was always there. He’s like, look, he never missed a band concert. He never missed a competition or something that we were doing. And my parents had, like, kind of two families is kind of how I look at it sometimes because I had me and my older brother. But we were in college. My brother was in college, when my youngest sister was in first grade. Wow. And they and they were two years apart. So like, my parents kind of had two families about 12 years apart. That went through that. And it’s just he was always there. Every single thing his priority was always family. He was, you know, he also he’s the kind of guy I could just call him. What do you think about this? You know, what should we do here? And he’s just, he’s just a brilliant guy. But yeah, it’s just like the family that people that are around you. He was a grown up. He was he had four kids on a single income. And it’s just, it’s just awesome. Pops. Pops is in general, awesome. So definitely a motivator for me.
Dawn Brolin 37:31
I love that. That is that’s yeah, I mean, in those for us, for those of us who have lost their father, since which I’m one of them. You know what my whole mission is? Listen, I’m gonna work as hard as my dad taught me to work was a guy who was he worked for Pratt Whitney was a tool and die guy. I still have his tools and probably the problem. At this point, I’d love to give them to a kid to start out with in that world. But you know, he just he had guys behind the lions when they had Strikes Back in the day. You don’t see a lot of that these days, but Strikes Back then he was like, I’m not crossing the picket line. I’m not crossing against my guys. I’m not going to have them see me go home to my family while they’re here here picketing for their jobs or whatever, whatever the case was. Yeah. So he taught me Listen, you do whatever you know, is right. That’s right. If you if you it’s funny, you said that about the truth in an email, right? But it’s just yeah. Right. So if you’re, if you put out an email to your guys and say, hey, you know, whatever, whatever. And then they see you driving across the picket lines. They’re like, well, that email couldn’t be true, because look at your drive across, but whatever I mean, I’m using as an example, but that is, you know, your word is the best thing that you could possibly have. You say you’re gonna do something, you do it and and I’m not saying I always hit the mark on that, because I don’t I do the best I can. You know, life is an etch a sketch. I definitely believe in that, that every day you get up in the morning and you start drawing all day. And you’re like, oh, that didn’t come out. Very good. Well shake the thing. Go to bed and get up in the morning you starting over again, anything giant and I think that’s the purpose of sleep, to be honest, it’s kind of like a reset button, a reset button, wash your brain out, get rid of the crap that happened. And you know, we can all only do the best we can do. And that’s why the motivation part of life is so important to me because you know, yeah, I have crap days I have days where I’m just like, Oh, God, I can’t do this again, or whatever the case may be, which also is a really good indicator that probably shouldn’t be choosing to do it. That’s a whole nother conversation. There you go. Right so yes, I agree. Yeah, I reassess it’s like almost every morning like i Yesterday was terrible because of this or yesterday was great because of this. Then I can say okay, well I know what I need where how I need to shift today. I spent all day on emails yesterday I felt so unproductive where now today I come in I do four or five tax returns. I feel great. Because I feel like I’m doing my real job right. So right I definitely find that to be the case but but it’s been awesome having you on Daniel we try to keep these within 30 minutes and otherwise Okay, great. Yeah, ah, people check out they don’t care anymore. And we want them to hear our message because really, at the end of the day, you know, smart ball happens to be a visionary as well. Okay. And like I said, The the, my whole selection of the apps that I support, and that I use every single day, have to be visionaries. They have to be trying to do better every day just like we are. And really, you know, approachable is another kind of a key thing where it’s like, if you can’t get a hold of somebody in support at some kind of an app for an app, we got a problem. You know, I’ve got a couple that I had worked with. And I’m like, I can’t I’m not getting the support I need. What I love about smart ball is they’re on it. They’ll send you out, Hey, listen, we know this isn’t working right now. We’re working to fix it. Like you guys are proactive rather than reactive. True. Yeah. And I found that you know, because you can go to your website, and it’ll even just say, hey, SmartVault’s down, which has I mean, that might have happened twice in the last–
Daniel Fritz 40:45
Dawn Brolin 40:46
Eight years. I don’t think it’s gone down. But it’s it’s just that ability to find out what’s up and be able to approach them and work with people on their team. So responsive and awesome. So you know, that’s why smartphones definitely in my starting lineup will always be part of my starting lineup, because I just don’t see anybody else outpacing these guys when it comes to document storage solution. So, but I want to thank you so much for taking your time. Daniel, you’re fantastic to talk to!
Thank you, Dawn, and thank you for being such a champion of SmartVault. Yeah, you know, we’re all of us here we live and breathe it. Really excited to see what the next couple years are gonna bring. We’re gonna make it innovative and be that visionary.
It’s gonna be awesome. So and then we have another release coming up here in the next couple to three months. Daniel, we’re gonna have you back. We’re gonna talk all about it. We’re gonna you know, get people to understand even better, and just love smart vault. Smart vault smart people. Daniel, you’re my people. Danya shout out to you girl. I love you man. Daniel, you’re my girl. Danny Buchanan fan was smartphone I think since the beginning if not close to it. Yes. phenomenal person. Rachel Montana. Rachel pay, all those guys. Yeah, all everybody. It’s smartphones. Just love you guys. And again, thanks so much for being here today, Daniel and talking to you soon. All right, take care. You better take care.
I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Feel free to visit 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