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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 07974 717713.