Making Accountants Digital: Nomoshobo

On 15th March 2017, I was invited to Murray Pullin’s Making Accountants Digital event at the TecHub Swansea, where I witnessed the first demo of his new invoicing app, Nomoshobo (https://nomoshobo.com).

Making Accountants Digital

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Murray, Founder and CEO of Nomoshobo, opened by asking the audience of around 25 accountants how they currently manage their client’s bookkeeping.  Most of the room have clients who are paper based or use Excel, with two-thirds also having clients using cloud solutions.  Only two used online communication or storage solutions to manage their clients.

Asked how they rate their client’s ability to manage their finances online, there were zero votes for 4 or 5 stars, six for 3 stars with the rest of the room split evenly between 1 and 2 stars.  Murray’s research has found that the average rating is 1.8, a number which I found shockingly low!  And deeply worrying with Making Tax Digital fast approaching…

The final question was how many apps do you use.  Only six accountants said they use more than one.  Murray observed that those who used more apps themselves were likely to rate their clients higher.

Nomoshobo

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Murray’s solution to this problem is Nomoshobo (No More Shoe Boxes). As a former ‘digital’ accountant, Nomoshobo is built with an accountant frame of mind.  While the app will be used primarily by small business owners, it’s written from the perspective of an accountant, seeking to minimise the errors that clients make.

Further research was quoted which said that 95% of clients keep on top of sales invoices, but only 70% expenses.

Murray showed the beta version of Nomoshobo integrating with IRIS OpenSpace and Kashflow.  There are plans to add all Xero, QuickBooks, SageOne and Exact in due course.

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After logging in – and giving the top tip of adding the login page to your own website to increase your ‘Google Juice’ (or SEO/page ranking as the rest of us would call it!) – Murray showed client setup and data transfer to Nomoshobo.

A photo of a receipt was uploaded to Nomoshobo and then an expense record was created.  It all looked very simple.  Around the room, roughly a third of the accountants currently do this type of processing, a third is done by bookkeepers and a third by the client themselves.

Finally, the data was transferred to Kashlfow for the accountant to complete the record keeping and match with the bank record.

Summary

Nomoshobo is an interesting take on an age-old problem; how do accountants motivate small business owners to keep on top of their bookkeeping?  Nomoshobo has a good clean user interface and from the demo, seemed simple to use.

There are dozens of invoicing and expense apps on the market already, with even more coming to meet the demands of Making Tax Digital.  Murray has ambitious plans for Nomoshobo and it will be interesting to see how it fairs. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it to try it out for myself.

If you’re interested to find out more for yourself, you can sign up to the launch list for Nomoshobo at https://nomoshobo.com.

About Octopus Blue

Octopus Blue help small businesses optimise their processes and software, enabling them to operate in the most time efficient and cost effective way.  We empower small business to laser focus their energy on what they do best.

Octopus Blue are uniquely independent, whole of market, business software experts.  With dozens of years of experience, our consultants will implement and configure the whole software stack.

Octopus Blue.  The business software experts.

 

 

 

QuickBooks Connect 6&7 March 2017

Earlier this month I attended QuickBooks Connect, Intuit’s first such event in the UK, with fantastic keynote speakers including James Caan, Lord Sugar, Bruce Dickinson and Mary Portas.

Throughout the event, there were a few key themes which kept coming up:

  • Becoming a Trusted Advisor
  • Find your niche.  Do what you do better than anyone else
  • Build your software stack to maximise productivity

Day 1: QuickBooks Updates

The event was opened by Rich Preece, VP and leader Accountant Segment and Dominic Allon, Europe VP and Managing Director, who presented some impressive stats.  There are now over 300,000 QuickBooks Online Accountants globally, with over 200,000 of these Pro Advisors.  Over 1 million small business have asked QuickBooks to find them an accountant of which 14% were successful.  This is lower than the average (30%) for a matching platform, and Rich conceded there is work to do there.

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Of Intuits suite of products, QuickBooks Self-Employed is growing quickest, with over 180,000 customers globally.

Rich cited research that accountants spend 60% of their time managing clients and tasks.  Intuit are launching Practice manager in a few months as their solution to this.

Trusted Business Advisor

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We then met firm of the future winners Alan Hemingway and finalist Fiona Fraser.  Alan’s practice, Hemingway Bailey, is fully cloud based, with all clients getting QuickBooks as part of their fixed monthly fee.  They use social media hands on – Alan said that it’s important to be human to build the trusted advisor relationship.  While he did increase fees slightly as he moved to the cloud, customers were happy to pay for the improved service.

Fiona’s approach was slightly different with Fraser+ Accountants, as you might expect from someone who lives in a castle with a blue sheep called Marmite!

Fiona offers fair value pricing and found that transitioning those clients who wanted to move to the cloud were able to do so without a struggle.  Her aim is to stay ahead of the curve and outsources tasks like social media marketing where she is not an expert.

Specialise and Grow

Former Dragon’s Den star James Caan was up next speaking about his illustrious business history, the challenges he faced and his many successes.  He challenged accountants in the room to determine what differentiates your practice and to focus on this.  A specialist can charge a premium above a generalist.

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And of course, in response to a member of the audiences’ question – yes, James does use QuickBooks!

Lord Sugars interview was a tremendous walk through his business history, from humble beginnings selling car aerials in a market stall, to the serial entrepreneur and Apprentice star.  Lord Sugar’s business model was to sell cheaper than others, but not to settle for a standard markup.  He finds a price the market will pay that is slightly cheaper than the alternatives, generating a significant markup.

The afternoon was spent networking, meeting the many great partners exhibiting and attending breakout sessions.  Followed by drinks and canapés! Yum!

Day 2

The second day was hosted by Gabby Logan, who introduced Sasan Goodarzi, EVP and GM Small Business who presented Intuits vision of the future.  Intuit believe:

  • You will serve radically different customers
  • You will face a new age of competition
  • Your business will be smarter
  • Accounting will be disrupted

Build Your Business Software Stack

Sasan continued by telling us that on average, SMEs use 15 apps to run their business.  Accountants use 5.  He presented a vision of QuickBooks as an open platform, with indispensable connections to build a personalised experience.

This message was reinforced by the strong presence of partners such as Receipt Bank and Expenisfy, Taxfiler and Paypal, the importance of your software stack and not just a single solution to act as a panacea spoke volumes.  Even a mighty company like Intuit cannot do everything.  They focus on their core booking and business management application, working closely with partners who specialise in other areas – together they are stronger.

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QuickBooks are not unique in this – competitors Xero, Exact, Sage and others all have strong app marketplaces.  The battle is now to become the platform of choice, rather than just the software of preference.

Sasan presented a vision film where a business woman was picked up by a driver and talked to QuickBooks using natural language to review accounting data and raise finance, along with the help of her accountant.  When she departed, the driver asked his device questions about his earnings as a driver and a designer and how best to spend his time.  It was a fantastic vision of the future and I was personally delighted to see many of my suggestions from Business Tech Trends 2017 in use.

Echoing James talk, Sasan summarised; specialise, find your niche, focus on what you do best.

Next up was a panel of entrepreneurs hosting by Gabby Logan:

  • Will Butler-Adam, CEO Brompton Bikes
  • Melissa Hemsly, Real Food Entrepreneur
  • Ben Towers, 18 year old award winning tech entrepreneur

The questions and responses were varied and interesting – notably that Ben’s communication is almost exclusively through social media, no email and definitley no letters!

The same idea ran through the discussion again…discover what you do best and focus on that to build your successful business.

Run to the Hills!

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Bruce Dickinson came next and mixed it all up…not least by being the only guest to walk on to his own music!

As Lead Singer of Iron Maiden, his experiences differed in many ways to the other speakers.  As a rock star, he has to be on 24-7, someone always wants to meet him or catch him out.  Then switching to become a commercial pilot and a different sense of satisfaction and getting the chance to clock off.  Followed by launching his own aviation business where meeting deadlines and expectations is critical.  A plane which is out of action for a day cost of £50,000 in lost revenue.  While he didn’t speak of specialising – who said rock stars had to conform – his message of “Never do anything you’re not passionate about” rang true.

Mary Queen of Shops

The final speaker brought her own personality and humour to the day. Mary Portas worked her way to the executive team of Harvey Nicholas before the age of 30.  Believing she had to work harder and be stronger than her male colleagues she fought her way to the top, before realising it wasn’t the way she wanted to do business.  She created her own organisation and set the culture of the organisation with a vision of openness and trust.  You need to have the right fit and skill to work together, and sometimes that just isn’t right.  Hire slow, fire fast.

Summary

QuickBooks Connect was a great few days with interesting and varied speakers, an opportunity to learn more about some of QuickBooks partners, and a fantastic opportunity to meet and talk with like-minded accountants and entrepreneurs.  I’m looking forward attending again next year!

To find out more about how Octopus Blue can streamline your software stack, allowing you to focus on what you do best contact andy.bailey@octopusblueuk.com 07974 717713.

 

Networking: The Follow-up

In my blog 6 Steps to Successful Networking, I gave an introduction to networking:

  1. Consider your business objectives and chose the right event
  2. Research and reach out to the hosts and attendees via social media beforehand
  3. Arrive shortly after the event starts
  4. Talk to people! And listen to what they can offer
  5. Exchange contact details
  6. Get in touch with the people you met

It’s this final step, following up with the people you meet, which is where many entrepreneurs and business leaders fall down.

Who Do I Follow Up With?

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You could meet dozens of new people at a busy networking event, but not all of them will become mutually beneficial connections.  Networking and meeting people is time-consuming.  Unless you want to become a professional networker, identify the most important contacts in some way.  At the event, or soon after, make a brief note on the card or fold the corner over so that you can easily find them again later.  I place business cards into different pockets in my jacket depending on whether I should follow up immediately or simply add to my network.  You will now have a smaller group of people who you made strong connections with, who you could potentially collaborate with in the future.

Back at the office, I stack the business cards I into 3 piles; the ones for immediate follow-up, those I can offer an introduction for, and those who I would still like to connect with, but the mutual benefits are not immediately obvious.

Use Email or LinkedIn to Engage

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Now you have a focused list you can start to contact the people you met.  Email and LinkedIn are perfect for this as you can give your new contact a  brief reminder of why you should talk to each other.  Calls are good too, but don’t be offended if the person at the other end of the phone does not recall everything about you straight away!  In addition, due to the high numbers of unsolicited PPI and accident claim calls, many people no longer answer the phone to unrecognised numbers.

You’ve met lots of people, right?  So have your new contacts.  Remembering who everyone is and why you want to follow up can be hard.  Try to add something personal to your initial contact.  Include a note of how you can be of assistance to them and make sure you include a call to action.  For example:screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-11-03-21

Some of the best leads I’ve had from networking events are the friends of friends.  I spoke to someone this week who, after I introduced myself, told me that he has a friend who is also an ex-accountant how is now building software for accountants and offered to introduce me.  We had a call yesterday and will be meeting up to talk about collaborating very soon.

Record You Conversation and Goals

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Even if you had a great conversation and you think you’ve found your perfect customer/connection, don’t worry if they don’t reply right away.  They’re probably very busy people, who have taken time out of their day to attend an event or conference and will have things to catch up on.  At the same time, you don’t want to just fire an email and forget!

This is where a great contact management process will help you.  I use a combination of HubSpot CRM, Evernote, LinkedIn and hand-written notes to help.  Here’s my process:

  1. I add the contact details of the individual and their company to my HubSpot CRM system. I can then use this to track interactions with them and add notes.  You can also use the contact details for sending mailshots with newsletters and promotions etc.  I’ve seen people do this with paper files too, but at Octopus Blue we aim to be as paperless as possible.  We also travel a lot and need the data to be available wherever we are, so cloud CRM is perfect for us.
  2. I also connect with people via LinkedIn. It can be hard to remember everything you talked about and everyone’s background.  A quick look at their profile can help to jog your memory and maybe you already have mutual connections you did not already know about.
  3. Next, I send an introduction email, similar to the example above.
  4. I write a brief note on the business card, for example:
    • LI – connected on LinkedIn
    • HS – added to HubSpot CRM
    • Email – introduction sent
  5. Take a photo of the business card. I then save them to Evernote (you could also add them to HubSpot, but I prefer Evernote for this).  At this point, the card can be recycled.  Feel free to store them, but they’ve served their purpose now and they’re just adding to clutter!

Meet Up!

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When you meet up, continue your conversation and learn more about your new connection.  However, unless you specifically agreed, this is not – I repeat NOT – a sales pitch.  Talk about the virtues of your business – you’ll almost certainly be asked about them anyway, but give first.  Don’t expect anything in return.  This is about building connections, not making sales.

Of course, once you understand your new contacts problems and requirements and you have identified that your product or service can fulfill that need, defiantly arrange a sales meeting!

Summary

Networking is a great way to build new connections, but that is all wasted if you don’t follow up.

Focus on who to follow-up with and send a friendly, personal message by email or LinkedIn.  Make sure you record your details of your contacts and make notes – use your organisations best practices. Remember, think about what you can offer – give first.

Finally, enjoy meeting up and building your business!

Octopus Blue will help you to expand your business network, with consultancy and advisory services to help define and monitor your company vision and mentoring services to assist you and your team achieve them.

Contact andy.bailey@octopusblueuk.com 07974 717713 to discuss further.